News archive

December 2019

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

December 2019 Newsletter - Edition 97

December 2019 Newsletter - Edition 97

We produce newsletters three times a year and all RSPB Chester Local Group members receive them automatically.

This version includes articles on:
In Memoriam: Robert Cleeves
Not So Well Spotted!
Where Have All the Turtle Doves Gone
Multitasking in Alvor, Portugal
Qanli Gol
Cheshire Willow and Marsh Tits

Field Trip Reports:
Hilbre Island High Tide Visit
Crosby Coast and Lunt Meadows

To guarantee you don't miss out, click on the Join tab and fill in the web form. It is a steal at family £10, Individual £6, Concession (Seniors or Students) £5.

You can download our December newsletter here.

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Monday, 23 December 2019

RSPB Bempton Cliffs Seabird Cruises 2020

RSPB Bempton Cliffs Seabird Cruises 2020

Puffin & Gannet Cruises
Sail around the coast and up to Bempton Cliffs to look at the almost half-a-million seabirds nesting on our cliffs from April to September. Get close-up views of puffin, gannets, guillemots, razorbills, herring gulls, fulmars, kittiwakes and shags.

Diving Gannet Cruises
Sail up to Bempton Cliffs to see the thousands of gannets raising their young on cliffs until September and then experience the unforgettable sight of gannets diving around the boat for food thrown overboard for them.

Pelagic Cruises
Following popular demand, we have re-introduced one of these cruises for next year:
Saturday 05 September at 4.00 pm (with a provisional reserve date of Saturday 19 September in case this is cancelled).

For details of dates and prices see the attached document

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Sunday, 15 December 2019

The Science Behind Big Garden Birdwatch

The Science Behind Big Garden Birdwatch

What happens once you've submitted your Big Garden Birdwatch or Big Schools Birdwatch results? We asked RSPB Conservation Scientist Daniel Hayhow to explain...

Making your results count
After the long build-up to Big Garden Birdwatch, maybe it feels like everything's gone a bit quiet once you've submitted your results.

But at the RSPB UK Headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire, a frenzy of activity is just beginning. It's something I and lots of other people here have been looking forward to all year - the Big Garden Number Crunching Fortnight!

Processing all the data is a big job - luckily I don't work alone! The process involves dozens of people from multiple teams, all with different specialisms.

Once you've completed your results online and hit the 'submit' button, or completed your paper form, licked a stamp and handed it to your local postie, here's what happens:

Stage 1: Results collation
After the Birdwatch is over, we wait three weeks to make sure everyone who participated has had a chance to send in their results. This is where the fun begins.

If you sent your results on a paper form, it goes to a data processing agency who manually enter all of the results into the online system.

These join all the other records from people who submitted their results online (which is much quicker and easier).

Then, the RSPB's computer team - Information Technology - collate all those hundreds of thousands of records into one giant set of data.

Stage 2: Cleaning the data
The Information Technology team scan through everyone's results checking for any anomalies.

It's really important that the data is accurate, or the scientific value of the results would be weakened. So they check for any mistyped postcodes which might transport someone's results from one end of the country to the other.

They check for duplicate entries because sometimes people are very enthusiastic and submit their results on paper and online.

Stage 3: Looking for oddities
This is where I come in.

When Information Technology sends me the data, it is all divided up into the different regions of the UK. I scan through the data looking for birds that are easily misidentified and do not exist in a particular region.

For example, hooded crows and carrion crows are often mixed up. But hooded crows are only found in Northern Ireland and in West Scotland. So if someone has reported one in Cornwall, then it was almost certainly a carrion crow.

I also look through the number of each species counted, using my own common sense, wildlife knowledge, and also data from previous years about the number of species present in particular regions.

It's unlikely, for example, that someone saw 500 robins at one time in their garden. It's more likely that they saw five and in their excitement hit a few extra keys. But we can't be sure how many they really did see, so these records cannot be counted. Again, scientific accuracy is essential.

This process takes a couple of weeks - remember, there are half a million people's results to sift through.

Stage 5: Comparing the results
When I'm comparing the results for individual species, I look at the average number of each species seen in each garden, which gives me an indication of their abundance. I also look at the percentage of gardens that the birds were seen in, which gives me a picture of their distribution.

You can really understand how numbers of birds using our gardens are changing, and get a good idea of how different bird species are doing when you compare their abundance and distribution over several years.

For example, in the winter, if you see starlings, you usually see them in flocks. So someone who recorded starlings in their garden will most likely have seen lots of them. So their abundance could seem high. But this doesn't necessarily mean they're doing well this year.

If you look at the distribution and see that starlings were only seen in 39 per cent of gardens, whereas 10 years ago they were seen in 50 per cent of gardens, then you know there has been a decline in the population.

Stage 6: Publicising the results
After all the number crunching is over, and we've been able to take an accurate health check of the UK's birds, we announce the findings on our website, and we send out press releases to the media. We want everyone to know which birds are doing well and which aren't doing so well.


Because when a species isn't doing so well, such as starlings, which have dropped by 81 per cent since the Big Garden Birdwatch began in 1979, we want people to know that they have the power to make a difference.

These are garden birds we're asking people to monitor. Gardens are an essential part of their habitat. You can help a struggling species by making simple changes in your garden which benefit them.

The RSPB's job is to give nature a home. The best way we do that for garden wildlife is to make people aware that by planting a particular shrub or digging a small pond, they could make a real difference.

The power of Big Garden Birdwatch is that when thousands of people are inspired to make small changes in their gardens to benefit wildlife, then it can really change the fortunes of an entire species.

By being a citizen scientist and taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, you are playing a vital role in the health of the UK's wildlife. Thanks for your help!

Taken from the RSPB site

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Cheshire Willow and Marsh Tits

Cheshire Willow and Marsh Tits

By Hugh Pulsford
Cheshire and Wirral County Bird Recorder
Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society ( CAWOS)
Secretary National Association of County Recorders and Editors (ACRE)


The first willow tit was identified in the field in Cheshire in 1912, fifteen years after the species was recognised as a British bird, separate from marsh tit and this article summarises the changing fortunes in Cheshire and Wirral of the two species. It is taken from a far more extensive article from the 2012 County Bird Report written and researched by Steve Barber and David Norman with a small contribution by me.


With hindsight, it seems amazing that most 19th century ornithologists had not realised that marsh tit and willow tit, quite common and resident birds, were actually two species. If one browsed The Smaller British Birds (Adams 1874), a lavish volume with exquisite painted plates, only marsh tit is elaborately described but the features and song are a mixture of what we know today of both species and the beautiful plate clearly shows a parus species with the facial pattern of a marsh tit but the pale wing panel of a willow tit. It was not until 1897 that willow tit was first distinguished from a specimen collected at Coalfall Wood near Finchley, Middlesex. This discovery clearly clouded the knowledge of the status and range of marsh tit and subsequently it took more than a few decades to work out the relative distribution of the two species, Progress was similarly slow in Cheshire, despite the county's being blessed with two of Britain's best ornithologists (Coward and Boyd).

To continue reading this article, which contains graphs that we aren't able to publlish on this site, download it from the link below

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