Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Winter Atlas Coverage

This has been sat in my inbox for a while and has got lost in the crowd. This is the result of coverage in Lancs and Merseyside for the first winter of the Atlas. It represents all the results we have in hand - either from local returns or via the BTO. It is not everything as we believe that some records from the north of the region are still outstanding.
In summary - at least one TTV was done in 341 tetrads (37% of the whole) of which 315 have two visits and 26 only one. The squares equal two TTVs the circles only one.
In addition we probably have enough Roving Recorder returns to produce species lists for another 20 tetrads but this wont, of course, contribute to relative abundance calculations.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

not fast enough...

Bird responses to climate change are being monitored and measured in different ways e.g. early arrival dates, late leaving dates and increased frequency of vagrants. Another way is by monitoring increasing ‘range’ – summer migrants moving further north and winter migrants coming less south. One event that has been missed, till now, is how much of the species population has ‘shifted’ within an already existing range. Ornithologists in France have now attempted to answer this question.

Using the French equivalent of the BBS, together with European climate data to calculate species /community temperature indexes, they have been able to calculate a 91km northward shift in bird community composition - meaning that the bulk of the bird community has moved, on average, 91km further north; and that much of this movement is still within their known range.
Using the same modelling process they have shown, during the same time frame, that the equivalent temperature increase has moved northward by 273km – meaning that bird responses to climate change are failing to keep pace.
These results suggest that birds are experiencing greater change within their range than at their (range) margins. If this is the case then it is far more important to monitor the birds in our back gardens than ever before – much like sparrows and starlings if we don’t, the change may be realised long after it is already too late.

Ref: Proc.R.Soc.B doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.0878 (published on-line).

Monday, August 18, 2008

...and I wasn't away long...

...but it was long enough. Over the weekend the following news was released: New Bird Species Discovered In Gabon, Africa.
What news. Elsewhere we seem to be forcing species to the brink of extinction but nature turns up trumps - and sends us another one. An Olive backed forest robin - I wonder how long it will be before this one is threatened.

Full story at:

Friday, August 15, 2008

stick to the simple stuff...

Gosh this was hard work. The title of the paper was "Performance of climate envelope models in retrodicting recent changes in bird population size from observed climatic change". Yes, my spell checker had trouble with retrodicting as well.
The paper itself was all modelling - not good. The supplementary material was pretty much the same, so thank God for the man at Business Weekly who did it all for me.
The message is reasonably simple - rare bird species in the south are increasing their range north (e.e Cirl Bunting, Dartford Warbler) while winter visitors, paradoxically doing the same, are faring worse i.e. Fieldfare and Redwing are staying further north in colder climes and thus are contracting their range.
Using the nesting information from 42 rare breeding birds between 1980-2004 they used climatic models to predict their changes in range. Their work showed, on average that there is the potential for European birds to shift their range by up to 340 miles (Plymouth to Newcastle).
The message for bird-watchers - more species in the summer, less in the winter (unless you too go further north).
Picture taken from

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Citrus Longhorn beetle in Lancashire

This invasive non-native insect, imported in Acer plants from China (so topical with the Olympics on) is not fully established in the UK, but recently has been discovered in Lancashire.
Although introduced via Acers, it also affects other tree species such as oak, beech, ash, willow horse chestnut, hazel, birch and orchard species.
The beetles develop inside the tree and so are difficult to detect. However large (6-11mm) exit holes, together with wood shavings at the base of the tree (indicating activity of the late larval stage) can indicate their presence.
These large black beetles grow to between 21-37mm long and have distinct white markings and long "horns" or antennae. The antennae are longer than the body and are black with white bands. It could be found on a wide range of trees or shrubs.
If you see one of these distinctive beetles, please isolate it in a sealed container and contact your local Plant Health and Seeds Inspector (PHSI) details of whom can be found on the Defra website - or telephone 01904 455174.
The PHSI should also be notified if there is other evidence of Citrus Longhorn beetle infestation.

Mersey Cruises

Hosted by members of the 'dark side', 207 members of the public (all now recruited to the million member waymark if they weren't already) spent several happy hours cruising the waves in order to find as many larus spp as possible - including all those ones that have yet to be split! The weather turned out nice for them and I'm sure, in the fullness of time, they'll tell us what they saw.
Another trip is planned for today and, I think, another later in the year.

Shown here are the 'dark side', otherwise known as Team Snowdrop (do ask - I had too).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's hip to be a birdwatcher

Now, according to the Telegraph, over 6 million people confess to a 'bit of birdwatching' every couple of weeks or so. As a past-time it now outstrips Fishing (or is it angling) for the number of people involved. So for those of you going to the annual Birdwatching Fair at Rutland this weekend - beware. Organisers are expecting all previous attendance records to be smashed (but not if this rain continues!) and also the amount of money spent to increase - last year it was calculated at approximately £1M per day!

The BTO will have three stands at the Fair - it's general BTO Members stand, one for Garden Birdwatch and another for WeBS. Please take a moment to chat if you are passing.

Now this is good news....

every country should have one.

New $27 million project will protect key pollinators for food security and biodiversity

A new project worth $26.45 million has been launched by the Global Environment Facility to better protect bees, bats and birds that are essential to the world’s crop production.
The project will be coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and will be executed through partnerships with the Governments of Brazil, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan and South Africa in collaboration with stakeholders from different environment and agricultural communities at national and international level, including ministries, research institutions, agencies, academia, NGOs, private sector and farming communities.

See: for the full article.

This on top of a recent University employment of a Professor of Bees (at UEA I think). Governments are slowly waking up to the 'hidden' benefits that a diverse environment brings!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I've been busy and away......

Sorry. As they say on the TV, normal service should be resumed shortly. This is the next project for your consideration.