I have written before about the enjoyment I get from visits to ‘my’ allocated squares for the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), organised by the British Trust for Ornithology with support from the RSPB and Joint Nature Conservation Committee. As well as noticing annual changes in birds, mammals and habitat in my square, satisfaction comes from knowing that, combined with effort in almost 4000 other squares across the UK, my few hours of volunteering helps to track populations of the most abundant birds. Last week saw the realisation of our time well spent with publication of the BBS results up to 2021.
The long-term trends are, perhaps, the most important, informing Birds of Conservation Concern, which assesses the red, amber and green lists. Of the 58 species monitored in Wales since 1995, 28 have increased, headed by the introduced Canada Goose, up 429%. However, populations of the other 30 have fallen, none more so than Greenfinch, down 79%, all in the last decade. Numbers of six other species have more than halved in Wales: Yellowhammer (-75%), Swift (-74%), Curlew (-73%), Rook (-63%), Starling (-63%), all once common birds of farmland. The decline of Goldcrest (-53%) is hard to explain, since counts in England were up over the same period. While numbers of another species associated with conifers, Coal Tit, were down 25%, Siskins have increased by 160%.
There are several other species for which Wales is important but which are not common enough on the sampled squares to create a country trend, but which are falling across the UK as a whole. Among these are Wood Warbler (-83%), Pied Flycatcher (-55%) and Whinchat (-53%).
There’s better news for Cuckoos, whose numbers in Wales have increased by 43% over the last decade to levels only just below those of 1995, and Song Thrush, whose numbers are 29% up over the long-term. Wheatear numbers returned to 2015 levels after several poor years, but remain 28% down on a decade ago. However, House Martin and Swallow numbers are down 47% and 40% in 10 years, and in just five years, Buzzards are down by 15%, Carrion Crow by 10% and Raven by 8%. There’s a wealth of information in the latest report, visit bto.org/bbs to find out more, and to sign up as a volunteer for next year.
Scarcer visitors to the region last week include Black Redstarts at RSPB Conwy, Llanbedr and in a Penrhyn Bay garden, two Roseate Terns at Cemlyn lagoon, and Hooded Crows at RSPB South Stack, Traeth Dulas and the Clwyd estuary.
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A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales.