News archive

December 2014

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A very merry christmas and a happy new year

A very merry christmas and a happy new year

Just to remind you there are walks on the 27th Dec and the 4th Jan around our lovely harbours (see events page for times and meeting places) to help blow those cobwebs away and for you to show off those new gloves and hats!! (and maybe a new telescope...)

Our next indoor meeting is on the 22nd Jan

I look forward to seeing you all

with best wishes


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Belfast Lough view

Biodiversity indicators

Indicator Update - October 2014

The latest updates of the UK and England biodiversity indicators, based on population trends of wild birds, were published on October 23, 2014. These indicators, calculated by aggregating trends for species or populations associated with particular landscapes, show how the fortunes of birds of farmland, woodland, waterways and wetlands, and marine and coastal areas have fared between 1970 and 2013. Most indicators are based on the results of national monitoring schemes for breeding birds, but the wintering waterbird indicator is based on annual estimates of numbers of wildfowl, waders and other waterbirds using key wetland and coastal sites during the winter months.

The information used to calculate these trends are collected almost entirely by volunteers participating in a number of carefully-designed bird monitoring schemes such as the Breeding Bird Survey, the Waterways Breeding Bird Survey, the Wetland Bird Survey and special species surveys. Results from seabird monitoring by JNCC and its partners are also used. Most of the population trends used are generated annually by BTO as part of the output of different monitoring programmes.

See the link below to find out more.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Boom time for Bitterns

Boom time for Bitterns

Rare bitterns are bouncing back with the highest number of 'booming' males recorded since the nineteenth century, wildlife experts said. The elusive heron-like birds, which were driven to extinction in the UK, have been helped by European conservation measures which have supported the restoration and creation of wetland habitat that they rely on, the RSPB said.
The bird, prized as a medieval banquet dish and hit by hunting and the loss of its reedbed habitat as wetlands were drained, became extinct in the UK in 1886.

It managed to recolonise the Norfolk Broads in 1911, but while numbers rose until the 1950s they then crashed once more to a low point in 1997.

The shy, well-camouflaged bitterns are hard to spot, but mating males can be counted from their loud, distinctive boom-like call which carries several miles across marshland.

The latest survey has revealed there were 140 booming males across 61 sites in 2014, up from just 11 males at seven sites in 1997.

More than a dozen of the sites where bitterns were counted this year are current or former gravel pits, brick pits or open coal mines where reedbeds have been restored, showing the importance of recreating habitat at quarries and other such spots, the RSPB said. New reedbed habitat for bitterns has also helped other species, ranging from water voles to white egrets and rare small dotted footman moths.

The RSPB credits the EU's Life-Nature programme for supporting it and other organisations to recreate wetland habitat. The wildlife charity also said EU protections for birds have helped by requiring the UK Government to take action to boost bittern numbers, designating and ensuring habitat is properly managed for the birds.

Funding from the Life-Nature scheme allowed the creation of more than 300 hectares (740 acres) of new reedbed, an area about the size of the City of London. In addition, more than 350 hectares (860 acres) of habitat were restored across 19 sites.

This year, the highest number of bitterns recorded were at RSPB Ham Wall, inland marsh habitat in Somerset where 20 males were booming. The RSPB said Somerset now had England's largest bittern population.

But concerns have been raised that the EU conservation laws which have helped species such as bitterns could be weakened by the new European Commission.
Martin Harper, director of conservation at the RSPB, said:' Thanks to protection under European laws and key partners working together, bittern numbers have been gradually climbing since 2000. Bitterns needed conservation on a country-wide, landscape scale and without the support of the EU's Birds Directive, which protects all European wild birds and the habitats of listed species like the bittern, this would not have been possible.

'The bittern success story should give hope that it is possible to recover threatened species and that it makes sense to protect the laws that protect nature.'

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: 'The bitterns distinctive 'booming' call is just one way in which it is a truly special bird, and I'm delighted that future generations will have a chance to hear it.

'This success is down to the hard work of the conservation organisations, landowners and Government agencies who worked together to improve and create new reedbeds for bitterns to breed in

Sunday, 14 December 2014



Thursday, 11 December 2014

Wrens are winning in Northumberland

Wrens are winning in Northumberland

Harsh winters with prolonged spells of cold weather hit small birds hard as they struggle to survive the testing conditions. Thanks to last year's relatively mild winter, Wrens have had a bumper breeding season in Northumberland. What will the oncoming winter bring and how will our garden Wrens fair? The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch needs your help to keep track of things.

Small bird populations are severely affected by cold-snaps over winter and it is not uncommon for garden birdwatchers to notice 'their' garden birds steadily disappearing as winter progresses. Wrens, in particular, struggle to cope with a lack of food and low temperatures during bitter winters, causing a sharp drop-off in numbers by spring.

However, the winter of 2013/14 was mild and this has been reflected in Wren numbers in Northumberland. Garden BirdWatch results show that this year there have been higher numbers of Wrens in Northumberland gardens than in the previous year, with 55.4% more gardens seeing Wrens in 2014 than in 2013.

So what's the picture going to be this winter? Alex Rhodes at the BTO says, "Thanks to the fantastic effort of members of the public contributing weekly observations from their gardens to the Garden BirdWatch scheme, we can keep an eye on what's happening and look further into patterns that need exploring. If you enjoy watching birds in your garden, you too can add to this vital information."

For a free BTO Garden BirdWatch information pack, which includes a copy of our quarterly magazine, please contact, telephone 01842 750050, or write to Garden BirdWatch, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Summer returned in 2014 - but our migrant birds didn't

Summer returned in 2014 - but our migrant birds didn't

The warm, settled weather that graced Britain & Ireland in the spring and summer of 2014 resulted in a bumper bird breeding season. Information collected by British Trust for Ornithology volunteers shows that although not all of our summer migrants returned to take advantage of the conditions, those that did were generally successful in rearing the next generation.

After deluges in 2012 and freezing temperatures in spring 2013, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) volunteers awaited the start of the 2014 breeding season with a little trepidation about what the British weather would throw at them this year. In the end, apart from a short visit from ex-Hurricane Bertha in August, the answer was warm, dry and settled weather for most of the spring and summer. So it was with suncream and hats for company that hundreds of survey participants took part in the Nest Record Scheme (NRS) and Constant Effort Site (CES) ringing scheme in 2014.

The latest results from these BTO surveys suggest that after a washout in 2012 and a truncated breeding season in 2013, birds took advantage of the conditions to bounce back this year. Carl Barimore, NRS Organiser, noted that "This season was a real contrast to 2013's cold start with the fine spring weather encouraging many species to begin laying their eggs 1-2 weeks earlier than average. As the warm weather continued into summer, many songbirds produced above average numbers of young. Voles were also abundant, and species like Tawny Owl, Barn Owl and Kestrel that depend on them all had the most productive season on record, producing between 20% and 40% more young than average."

Results from CES are also indicative of a productive season for both migrants and resident birds. Less encouraging is the news that fewer birds were around to breed this year as Ruth Walker, CES Organiser explains "Unfortunately our long-distant migrant species are still struggling, possibly due to conditions on their sub-Saharan wintering grounds. CES ringers recorded the lowest numbers of Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler since CES began in 1983 and numbers of Whitethroat and Reed Warbler were also significantly down this year. Some of our resident species are also struggling, probably due to low breeding success in recent years. Wren and Robin both appeared to take advantage of the mild winter, however, as their numbers were significantly higher this year."

So, will this year's breeding success lead to there being more birds next season? That isn't an easy question to answer according to Dave Leech, a Senior Research Ecologist at the BTO. "The fate of our migrant birds is dependent on more than just their breeding success. If the conditions on their wintering grounds are favourable then we'll hopefully see a good number of this year's young returning to breed next year. However, many long-distance migrants are in long-term decline, and we need to understand their ecology outside the UK as well as we do on the breeding grounds. Thanks to the satellite tracking work of the BTO and others, we're developing a better picture of where to look."