Thursday, November 30, 2006

Who will it be?

(Prof) Jeremy Greenwood, the BTO Director, has given notice of his retirement from these lofty heights, effective from September 2007. Rumour has it he will be taking up a vacant Regional Reps position, probably somewhere in Scotland, in October of the same year!!
The vacancy has been advertised with a salary of £55-65K. However, the successful candidate will certainly be earning his (or her) money, in directing and over-seeing the day-to-day running of the BTO. These are exciting times, it's certainly the most important decision that the Trustees will have been called upon to make in recent times. Do you fancy the job? closing date is the 12th Jan.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Aquatic Warbler

It must be an RSPB day - don't have them often! - but this is worthy of a mention. They have used £400,000 of yours, and my money, to buy their (our) first overseas reserve - 1,000 acres of Biebrza marshes in eastern Poland. Why? To help protect the Aquatic Warbler, of which there are only about 20,000 worldwide. Biebrza marsh is home to approximately 2,700 singing males during the breeding season and is a major stronghold for this bird - supporting 80% of the EU population. Even in today's technological world we still don't know where these birds spend the winter. Question: if I ever get to Poland do I still qualify for free access as an RSPB member - just a thought.
Picture copyright of Paul Gale,

Billed as a 'little beauty'

If you haven't come across this news item by now the question is: where have you been? From humble beginnings as a picture by John Wright on the Lancashire and District Birdwatching Society website it's grown to be an RSPB Newsletter lead item and a star of BBC news. This unique Bearded Tit - melanistic rather albino (it has coloured eyes and bill) - has managed to survive until this month, possibly because it has managed to skulk around the thick reed-beds of Leighton Moss out of the way of predators.
I 'collect' pictures of birds that appear in this way; you'd be surprised at just how many species have had 'white' forms. A starling earlier this year was one.
Interestingly, although this bird is very rare, one-in-a-million has been quoted, I wonder how many twitchers will be racing off to add this to their tick list. Not many me thinks.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Kestrel added to list...

Each year analysis of BTO Nest Record Scheme results produces a 'Concern List' - those species that appear not to be doing all that well from a breeding point of view. To date there are 21 birds on this list - including Skylark and Spotted Flycatcher. The latest addition to the list now is Kestrel. Since the mid 1970's kestrel numbers have declined. It was thought they had stabilised, but now it appears that some other factors may simply be ticking away with another drop in numbers indicated. Analysis of nest record data shows that kestrels, that once reared broods of four/five, are now only fledging broods of three. Their troubles may not be over and so it is for this reason they have been added to the concerns list so that we may keep a closer annual review on their situation.

Monday, November 20, 2006

NW Bird Fair

Thanks for all those who came and found time for a chat; and for all of those who came and ending up having a chat anyway. I particularly liked the nice young lady from Mersey Basin who told me all about plans for the Ribble, and RSPB Officer Colin Wells who tolerated all my probing about plans at Inner Marsh Farm and surroundings now that the RSPB have purchased Manor Farm.

Raptor Rescue were new this year – a specialist Bird of Prey Rehabilitation Organisation ( who are tying to increase their profile and public awareness of them - phone them instead of the RSCPA. Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Society were present virtually giving away Bird Reports (20p each) as their storage space at Fleetwood Museum has just been lost. Mock ups of the new Birds of Lancashire were available for viewing – due to be published next year – watch for pre-publication offers, but the Liverpool Ornithological Club were absent as they couldn’t be present all weekend as they were all due to be out on Sunday undertaking WeBS and Plover counts (bless ‘em).

Unfortunately none of the bookstalls had a copy of the new Manx Breeding Atlas which I wanted a look at – looks like I might have to buy a copy to see it – but I did manage to get a copy of Ian Wallace’s Beguiled by Birds (brand new) for less than the cover price.

As with these occasions didn’t manage to get out and see the ducks and things – will have to return for another visit when, dare I say it, it’s hopefully quieter.

See you all again next year.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Canaries in the coal mine

A new report from the WWF, looking at climate change, suggests a trend towards major bird extinction(s). The report – Bird Species and Climate Change – has reviewed more than 200 scientific articles to reach its conclusions – that bird extinction rates could be as high as 38 percent in Europe if global warming rises by another 1.2°C.

In the UK seabirds are particularly vulnerable, and their breeding crash in 2004 has been linked to global warming. As a result of a sandeel shortage – due to both warmer waters and reduced plankton abundance – guillemots, skuas, kittiwakes and terns all suffered drastic breeding season failures.

The Director of the WWF Global Climate Change Programme stated ‘ Birds have long been used as indicators of environmental change, and with this report we see they are the quintessential ‘canaries in the coal mine’ when it comes to climate change’.

The full report (free) can be found at:

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Power of the Net

If an example were needed of the value of on-line data submission this would probably be a good one - for results from Octobers Plover /Lapwing survey visits have already been mapped and posted. Obviously this will not be all survey visit results, but it does give a flavour of how observers can be readily linked to the value of the work they have undertaken. The map shown is for Lapwing, a map for Golden Plover and more detailed information can be found at:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The 'meetings' time of year

This weekend is the BTO Regional Representatives AGM in Thetford. In Thetford because the annual conference at Swanwick is primarily a Ringers Conference. More on this AGM in another posting.

The following weekend (18-19th Nov) is the North West Bird Fair at Martin Mere; which is still suffering from Oddie and Humble withdrawal effects. We, myself and RR’s from regions in Lancashire, and Manchester, will be sharing responsibility for a BTO stand – so might see you there?

December 8-10th is the BTO Annual Conference at Swanwick, Derbyshire. Although targeted at ringers the theme and cordially is aimed at all so, if you want to see some other aspects of BTO volunteer involvement, think about going. Although a weekend conference there is still scope for day visitors – I’m only going for the Saturday due to other commitments.

Lastly, prior notice. On 10th March 2007 the, now annual?, North West Ringers meeting (this year organised by South-West Lancs Ringing Group and Hilbre Bird Observatory) will be taking place at Thurstaston Country Park on the Wirral; and, on 31st March at Leighton Moss a North West Members meeting will be held. This is being organised by Jean Roberts, the RR for NW Lancs (Jean