News archive

November 2014

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Adult female blackbird on garden lawn

What will the winter hold for our birds?

So far the unusual weather of 2014 has clearly driven unexpected highs and lows in garden bird numbers. With another bumper crop of food in the wider countryside, British Trust for Ornithology Garden BirdWatch (GBW) results show that some species have abandoned gardens for the second autumn in a row. However, others are being seen in unprecedented numbers prompting the question: what will happen this winter? With Christmas approaching, why not grab a front row seat for a loved one with the GBW gift pack, so that they can help us find out?

This year has not produced the expected patterns in garden use by birds. During the summer, it looked like garden bird species were returning to normal numbers. The warm, settled weather led to an early breeding season, boosting numbers of birds such as Wren and Goldfinch.

High numbers did not persist. With a bumper crop of seeds and berries in the wider countryside for the second year in a row, there has been a dip in many species, matching patterns seen last year. Chaffinches started off in very low numbers at the beginning of the year, looked like they could be returning to gardens in August, but then dropped off again, and the pattern of Coal Tits is similar. However, other seed-eating species have remained in high numbers in gardens, such as Nuthatch and Jay.

Clare Simm, from the BTO Garden BirdWatch team, commented "With surprising patterns of garden use by birds, it looks set to be an interesting winter for garden birdwatchers. We can only chart the patterns of movements by garden birds with the help of the public, and if you enjoy watching the birds in your garden, you can help add to this vital information."

If you, or someone you know, spend a few minutes each week watching what the birds get up to in your garden, then that is already enough to take part in the BTO Garden BirdWatch. Our GBW gift pack makes the perfect Christmas gift, so why not grab a front row seat for you, or a loved one, to help us find out what the winter holds.

To buy a BTO Garden BirdWatch gift pack, or to find out more information about the BTO Garden BirdWatch, please get in touch by emailing, telephoning 01842 750050, or write to GBW Gift Pack, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU. More information on the gift pack can also be found at

Thursday, 27 November 2014



Thursday, 27 November 2014

Lapwing breeding success

Lapwing breeding success

The declining Lapwing has had a successful breeding season this year in grassland habitats managed by the RSPB.

The RSPB manages a number of sites in lowland England where the species nests, such as Otmoor in Oxfordshire and Rainham Marshes on the outskirts of London. The wildlife charity has been working on Great Bells Farm on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, converting 160 ha of poor-quality farmland into a freshwater nature reserve. In 2014, many of the RSPB's sites were able to announce Lapwing breeding successes thanks to land management based on knowledge built up over decades across the charity's nature reserves in lowland England.

Traditionally known as 'peewits' after their distinctive call, Lapwing has 'red status' in Britain, which means that the speed of their decline is causing much concern. The species has been disappearing from lowland England since the middle of the 19th century, but the most recent falls in numbers are due to changes in agricultural land use. From the mid 1980s, they began vanishing from south-west England and Wales. This year, the numbers of Lapwings breeding on RSPB lowland wet grassland reserves grew, and the higher number of chicks that fledged has given conservationists hope that the birds face a brighter future.

Ground works at Great Bells Farm were completed in 2013 and hundreds of birds immediately arrived for the winter. This year's breeding season at the site included 25 pairs of Lapwing which raised 26 chicks, the number conservationists had hoped for.

Martin Harper, RSPB Director of Conservation, said: "In my lifetime, Lapwing has gone from a widespread countryside bird to one increasingly confined to nature reserves. It's challenging to manage land for the species, so seeing an increase this year is especially welcome. It gives us hope that this engaging bird may in time be able to turn a corner as a nesting species in lowland England, especially if land managers can be encouraged to get the most from wildlife-friendly farming payments."