Atlas Update

Have you seen the latest news pages on the Bird Atlas website? Some really interesting information on progress of the project there. Over 5 million birds counted at the time of writing!

So far in the York Region first visits for 38 TTVs have been completed online, which is a great start after a month's fieldwork. Let's try to double that by the end of the year. Roving Records have come in for 12 of the 15 10-kn squares in the region too.

TTV allocation as it stands should give above minimum coverage in most of the 10-km squares. SE57 and SE73 need a couple of tetrads to meet this level. Tetrads are available still in other squares too so please volunteer. Perhaps you could take on another? If not this year, book one for next.

Remember that you only need to cover the tetrad for one pair of visits in winter and one pair in spring. This means the tetrad is fully covered for the TTV to get abundance data after one year.

Bird Atlas Breeding Evidence Codes

The Atlas website allows entry of breeding evidence codes during the winter period to allow for those few species that may nest early or even all year.

Please consider carefully whether these really apply if you wish to use the codes. Only use them when the birds are showing signs of breeding behaviour during the winter. Once we move on to the Breeding Season then their use will become the rule rather than the exception.

Bird Atlas TTV - let's get them covered!

11 out of the 15 10-km squares in the region now have at least a minimum number of tetrads allocated for TTVs. The others need one or two tetrads to get them up to this level.

Do you live in, watch in or would like to have a look at the following: SE57, SE64, SE73 or SE75? Let me know if you can take on a TTV or two in any of these, please.

The Atlas has begun!

The Atlas fieldwork has now started. The Bird Atlas website now supports online data entry for TTVs and Roving Records. Note also the links to and from BirdTrack - you can register tetrads as sites on this system so your data can be used by both surveys.

Six of the 10-km squares now have at least 8 tetrads allocated for TTVs. Four are one tetrad short of minimum coverage and two need two tetrads. SE64, SE66 and SE76 are lagging behind though. Do you live in one of these, or do they contain your local patch? Perhaps you'd like to visit a new area? Please help to get coverage in these areas.

I am giving a talk about the Atlas after the York Ornithological Club's AGM on Tuesday evening, 6th November. The meeting starts at 7.30 p.m. and the venue is the Friends' Meeting House, Castlegate, York.

Bird Atlas starts this week

Only four days to go before the 1st November when the Bird Atlas fieldwork starts. It's not too late to get involved.

I still need volunteers for Timed Tetrad Visits - especially in SE64, SE66, SE75 and SE76.

Anyone can join in with the Roving Records - in your garden, your local patch, or visiting new areas - to get those dots on the maps.

Send me an email or go to the Atlas website at to request a TTV.

BBS update

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) this year has been very successful in numbers of squares covered. I have so far received data from 27 squares; 18 via the BBS-Online system and 9 on paper forms. This equals the record number of squares from 2005. I am still awaiting returns from 5 squares and all the observers of these have told me that they have covered them so I am optimistic that we can beat the record.

This is a great achievement for a relatively small region.

I have also received data from coverage from last year, which brings the total for 2006 to 24 squares covered in the York Region.

Latest TTV Allocation Status

Allocation of TTVs for the Atlas is continuing. I am trying at his stage to get sufficient tetrads allocated for at least minimum coverage. Not all will be covered in the first year of course, but it means that the pieces will be in place to then expand coverage in subsequent years.

In a similar vein, I am giving all TTV volunteers a Roving Recorder form as well as to those interested only in this method. I will be able to assess how the species lists are building so I can target under-covered squares in the later years.

10km squares needing more volunteers are: SE53, SE56, SE57, SE64, SE65, SE66, SE73, SE75, SE76, SE77.

Allocating Atlas TTVs

I am now in the process of allocating tetrads for the Timed Tetrad Visits for collecting data for the abundance maps. I already have sufficient coverage in SE67, SE63 and SE74. But there are plenty of tetrads available in other squares. Please drop me a note if you want to take part or else request a tetrad using the online system.

One thing to bear in mind is that a tetrad is covered in one winter and one summer season (two visits each) and then is deemed complete. That means that with a commitment of one tetrad a year, you can tick off four for the Atlas.

Several people have already let me know of their interest and I shall be contacting them shortly so please bear with me if this applies to you.

Bird Atlas Website

The Bird Atlas website - - has been updated today to allow registration for online recording. Also the tetrad request functionality is live.

Breeding Bird Survey

This year's BBS fieldwork finished at the end of June and I am beginning to get results returned to me online and on paper. So far out of 35 possible squares, I have received 17 completed returns: 4 on paper and 13 using BBS-Online.

Please try to get the results done by the end of July. It's always best to act soon after a survey. And remember the OS maps that are included this year, they need to be posted to me even if you use BBS-Online.

Don't worry of you only managed the one visit, bird count data can still be used. It is expected that there will be more single visits this year owing to the poor weather in June.

Bird Atlas 2007-11

Last Saturday I visited The Nunnery in Thetford to attend an Atlas Briefing Meeting for Regional Organisers. This was an excellent opportunity to find out more about the project from Dawn Balmer and Simon Gillings, including a sight of the online system. The birdatlas website is up and running with lots of information including details of methods. New functionality is scheduled for launch at the start of August.

Fieldwork for the atlas will be done over four winters starting 1st November 2007 and four summers starting 1st April 2008. There are two methods of equal priority:
  • Roving Records to build species lists, put dots on the maps, establish evidence of breeding status. These will be supplemented by data from other sources, including surveys such as BBS, Garden BirdWatch and BirdTrack, and also ringing activity.

All records - whatever, wherever and whenever.

  • Timed Tetrad Visits (TTV) to gather data for relative abundance maps by timed counts of one or two hours. The aim is to work out how relatively common or scarce a species is within the 10km square and not to find all birds. The TTV fieldwork scale is the tetrad although the mapping scale is at 10km squares. At least 8 tetrads have to be surveyed in both winter and breeding seasons for each of the 15 10km squares in the region. I will be aiming to get coverage of the same tetrads as the New Atlas of Breeding Birds 1988-91 wherever possible.

The new look BTO News, which should be dropping on your doormats around now, contains an article summarising these methods.

The new features of the online system will allow me to allocate tetrads, allow volunteers to request tetrads, support data entry for TTV and Roving Records and the validation of records. I encourage volunteers to use the online system but there are paper forms for those who prefer these. The BTO will be publishing, at a small cost, a field notebook designed to help surveyors so look out for this.

Anyone and everyone can contibute to Roving Records even if it just a garden or park list. If you wish to cover a tetrad for TTV, or better still several tetrads, please let me know. I am collecting names and will begin allocating tetrads shortly.

Lapwings in Plots (LiPs)

I know that a number of you will have put your names down for this survey, which was being run from BTO HQ. The BTO were unable to pair all volunteers with farms and many farms proved to be unsuitable because of the nature of the habitat or proximity to volunteers. It turned out that there were actually no plots covered in the York Region in the end.

Bird Atlas 2007-11

Having done my final BBS visit, my thoughts are now turning towards the forthcoming Bird Atlas. There are a few questions for me to think about to get the coverage needed but I am already taking names for people wishing to take part. There are two main methods: Timed Tetrad Visits and Roving Recorders. TTV needs a level of commitment but Roving Recorders can be done on a more casual basis, although I will be targetting these as well to cover all 10km squares. Data will also be collected from other surveys, such as the BBS, and from BirdTrack.

Have a look at the website for more information about methodology. Contact me if you wish to put your name down as a volunteer for the York Region.

Breeding Season Upon Us

Seeing some of our summer visitors arriving in the region in recent days makes me aware that we are at that time of the year for turning our attention to breeding season surveys. The early starters have already made the first BBS visits, although most are likely in the next couple of weeks. I am hoping for record coverage this year. The Breeding Ringed and Little Ringed Plover Surveys start in April too and it will be interesting to see how many records we get of these species in the region.

As this activity starts, I will also be thinking about how to organise the Atlas which starts on November 1st this year. You can expect a mailing from the BTO about this project to appeal both for your time and also for funding. This is a huge project that has a very challenging financial target. Please take time to read the mailing and consider how you can help.

Breeding Little Ringed and Ringed Plover Survey 2007

This survey will be running over the breeding season from April through to July. Within the York Region, there are 24 tetrads to cover. 15 of the tetrads are targeting LRP (9 of these are core sites where breeding has been confirmed or suspected in the past) and 9 for Ringed Plover (one is a core site). Natural England have taken a number of these for the Lower Derwent Valley.

Tetrads will be searched for suitable breeding habitat and, where there is some, evidence of breeding sought (with care). Ringed Plover sites will be visited twice and LRP three times. It will be interesting to see which sites hold these species as they have specific habitat requirements and can move on from year to year. As usual, casual records are welcome via the BTO website (a supplementary records form can be downloaded) or BirdTrack and may well be very important for these species.

Lapwings in Plots

Continuing the recent theme of plovers, the BTO have an opportunity to monitor farms that contain Lapwing plots as a high level agri-environment option. This survey is being run from BTO headquarters. The data gathered will be vital in informing decisions about modifying options within Environmental Stewardship, the government's flagship agri-environment scheme.

If you are a BBS observer and the BTO have your email address then you will have been contacted last week to ask whether you would like to volunteer for this. If you do, please reply to the email by 5th March. The number of plots to be covered will depend on the number of volunteers.

If you volunteer, the BTO will look for a plot near to your BBS square so it can be done following on from your BBS visit. In all cases the landowner will have been contacted in advance by a member of BTO staff and will have agreed to the volunteer survey. The survey involves a 20 minute watch followed by a transect walk to flush birds and record evidence of breeding.

National Nest Box Week

National Nest Box Week this year runs from 14th to 21st February - you can see information about this at . This year, the BBC have been involved and local radio have held events across the country to encourage people to put up nestboxes and register them for Nest Box Challenge. This is a survey for people with access to a nest box to collect information about breeding birds in gardens and green spaces across the UK.
I went along to BBC Radio York's event at the York Designer Outlet today where the BBC were giving away nest box kits. There was an overwhelming response to this and all 115 nest boxes were distributed in the first hour. It was a useful way for me to raise the profile of the BTO locally and to hand out leaflets for the Garden BirdWatch Survey. I hope that the GBW will benefit from this interest.

Plover surveys

This weekend sees the last survey dates for the Winter Plover survey. There are 18 tetrads being covered to count Golden Plover and Lapwing in the region. Gull species are additionally counted. WeBS counts in the Lower Derwent Valley also contributed to this survey and, judging by the size of the flocks that have been seen recently, I am sure this will have been significant.

It is not too late to add your casual sightings of the target species - just visit the BTO website at

Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers will be surveyed in the breeding season - I have just received the forms so watch out for a post shortly.

Lower Derwent NNR

On Friday evening I attended the annual Lower Derwent Valley NNR fieldworkers meeting in Skipwith organised by Natural England. It was a great opportunity to talk with some of the volunteers who are doing work on our local National Nature Reserve and to hear about some of their activities such as the whimbrel project. I was also able to let them know about the surveys that will be happening in the region this year. The new atlas work was especially of interest and tetrads for the Breeding Plover Survey this spring are concentrated around the valley so their help on this survey will be invaluable.


Following on from a handful of other regions, here's the first entry in the blog for the York BTO Region. I am trying this out as a communication medium to let both members and non-members know what's going on.

This year sees the start of the work on the new Atlas so I hope to keep surveyors in touch with the latest news in the region. I don't want to disenfranchise members without internet access though, so this won't replace my occasional newsletters.

So what is going on?

I have just received the recording forms and instructions for this year's Breeding Bird Survey. Over the next few days, I will be sending these out to my regulars and also filling in the gaps with those on the waiting list. This year there is a push for richer habitat data so there's some extra recording there for existing observers. Also they'll be asked to record the exact routes of transects on a print of the O.S. map of their square.

Heronry census cards have gone out to regular observers and there's the usual appeal for any records of new heronries within the region.

I have also received a list of sites for the Breeding Plover survey ahead of the forms and instructions.

Hopefully I'll get the hang of this and add pictures and change the look to make it more like a BTO blog.