Mid winter comments

We're almost into 2013, so I thought I'd look briefly back to some surveys this year and forward too.

  • Winter Thrush Survey - we are at the mid-point of this survey's first winter and into the period for carrying out the core site visits. Hopefully the weather will improve to allow these to be carried out.
  • Breeding Bird Survey - this year was a record for the region with 36 squares covered. There are still results from a further two or three to come in too. I should be preparing for the new season's surveys in a few weeks time.
  • Waterways Breeding Bird Survey - results have come in from two of the regular four sites. I expect data from a third site.
  • Woodcock Survey - I expect that the region will have sites to cover for this new survey next year.
Many thanks for reading the blog during 2012. Happy New Year and good birding in 2013.

Winter thrush update

It's nearly time for carrying out the core site survey visits, these start on 27th December.

In the York Region, all core sites have been allocated out, so I am hoping for a good return. Let's hope the weather improves.

John Marchant at the BTO has prepared some videos to help observers use the website effectively. These can be found at this URL:
and also there's a link in the email that John has sent to observers in the last few days.

Merry Christmas and all success with the survey.

Winter Thrush Survey

The survey has been running since September, with 19 core squares in the York Region allocated and another 40 selected by volunteers. Many of the squares have had visits recorded already.

It's coming up to December, so we are only a few weeks away from the essential mid-winter visit for the core squares: between 27th Dec 2012 and 10th Jan 2013.

I have had another 5 core squares allocated in various parts of the region so am looking for your help to get these covered. As a minimum, these require the one mid-winter visit but surveyors can supplement this at other times too. I currently have squares in the following areas: Cawood, Moor Monkton, Stockton-on-the-Forest, Huby and Scrayingham. Please contact me if you'd like to help out.

You can still choose your own areas if you have a regular walk, for instance. Please visit http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/winter-thrushes.

Winter Thrush Survey up and running

The Winter Thrush Survey is now live.

It is designed to investigate seasonal and geographic patterns of use of the landscape by six wintering/migratory thrushes and the importance of key food resources such as berries and will run over the next two winters. Participants are being invited to walk regular routes on their allocated sites and record the presence, activity and a few key habitat features of any thrushes seen. It is also possible to record information for a few other species such as Starling and Waxwing.

You can select your own sites for regular visits and there is also a selection of 20 core sites that I need to get covered at least once per winter. Please contact me if you wish to take on a core site by selecting the option on the Winter Thrush website, email or phone.

Further information on this survey, including methods, information on the population status and migration of thrushes, thrush identification videos, and a berry identification guide are available from the Winter Thrushes Survey homepage at http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/winter-thrushes. Downloadable field recording forms and detailed instructions are also be available.


A parallel piece of work, launching on 30th September and running over this winter, examines how wintering thrushes use the berries and other fruits available in gardens. This work, the ‘Birds and Garden Berries Study’ will identify which fruits (both native and non-native) are used at different points throughout the winter. It will also establish whether birds show preferences for particular types or colours of berry.
Further details are available from the BTO website, www.bto.org.

Winter Thrushes Survey

The latest edition of BTO News (issue 300) contains an article about the Winter Thrushes Survey which will be held over the next two winters to look at numbers, distribution, feeding behaviour and habitat use of passage and wintering thrushes.

There are two parts to the survey: one based on self-selected sites, the other on randomly allocated sites. The methodology is the same for each apart from the timing and the routes. The self-selected sites element starts on 12 September, the random will be late December to mid-January.

This will be an online survey run through the BTO website although RRs will be involved in the publicity and the co-ordination of the random site element. The recording application is currently being developed but you can find further information and register your interest by visiting

Yorkshire Birdwatchers' Meeting 8th September

A date for your diaries - one day BTO conference for the Yorkshire Regions to be held on 8th September in Headingley, Leeds.

A variety of talks are on the programme and there will be opportunities to talk to fellow members, Regional Reps and BTO staff.
Andy Clements, BTO Director, will open the meeting.
BirdTrack and the Winter Thrushes Survey Nick Moran, BTO
Birds in the Yorkshire Dales Ian Court, Yorkshire Dales National Park
Disease and Garden Birds Mike Toms, BTO
The Development of the Long Preston Wetlands Adrian Shepherd, RSPB
The Ecology of Nightjars Andy Lowe, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
Film:Raptors’ Gordon Yates
Bird Atlas 2007-11 Dawn Balmer, BTO
The Starling you only thought you know John Mather

Please see information at http://www.bto.org/news-events/events/2012-09/yorkshire-birdwatchers-meeting for details and booking form.

The cost is £18 for the day, which includes refreshments and buffet lunch. Please book tickets in advance.

All are welcome.

BTO Cuckoos

Have you been following the migration of the Cuckoos?

A fascinating study that has already shown some interesting results from the first five to be tagged. I'm sure that more information will come out from the latest additions. At the time of writing, seven birds are already on the continent showing that they, at least males, leave the UK very early and only stay here a few weeks.


It is great to see that their story has been picked up by the media. The BBC have had articles on the website and there was a piece in the Nature Studies of last Thurdsday's Independent newspaper about them, and the paper's sponsoring of one of the Welsh birds.

York Parks Surveys

Has anyone done or would like to undertake  survey work in the following York sites?

Rowntree Park

West Bank Park

Rawcliffe Country Park

Chapman’s Pond

If so, please drop me a line using the email link on the right. I can put you in touch with the relevanct contact at the City of York Council.

Bird Atlas update

Recently I have been working through the validation of Bird Atlas records to check whether they look all right for inclusion or whether there needs to be a follow up to check the record with the observer. I have been helped out here by Peter Watson and Phil Bone, with consulting with Andy Booth, the YOC recorder; many thanks to them for their help as it was a large undertaking.

 Thanks for bearing with us if you have had queried records and apologies to those few who have been asked about a record more than once. It was a large task as there have been several thousand records to check, so the odd double-checking issue was inevitable.

In addition to checking the TTV and roving records, there have been feeds of data from other sources: BirdTrack, other BTO surveys and Birdguides reports where the sighting can be pinned down to a grid reference.

What we have been checking are things like possible grid reference errors, breeding status that might result in a misleading entry (e.g. on a winter visitor that is known not to breed in the UK), unusual numbers and identification queries. The latter doesn't necessarily imply that a mistake was made, this usually will not be the case, many of them are that the bird in question is scarce in the area and might require a description by the YNU or YOC; the atlas has to be in line with the decisions of these bodies. Some could have been data entry issues, such as a few we had at the beginning of the atlas where hybrid carrion/hooded crow has been picked from the drop down lists. Occasionally it could be that the bird is one suspected of being in a collection and will have been pinioned and not living in the wild. Escapes are relevant for the atlas so long as they are full winged.

We have now reached the point where all breeding and wintering records have been validated or queried. In addition, records from outside the Bird Atlas periods have also been validated where they have breeding evidence. There are only a few records now that are still left in a queried status.

So, validation is virtually done but there is now a lot of work still to be done by Dawn and her team to pull together the final publication. That  is due sometime in 2013. Keep an eye out for pre-publication offers. Having seen preview maps for some of the species, it should be an interesting and informative read.

Thanks are, of course, due to all of you who have done fieldwork and submitted your records to the project, it couldn't have made it this far without you.

Bird ID videos from the BTO

Have you seen the bird ID video guides on the BTO website?

These are being developed to help train surveyors but are available to all. They are short videos highlighting differences between commonly confused species. Have a look as they can be very useful.


The latest is to show differences between Kestrel and Merlin.

Breeding Bird Survey 2012

I have now received forms for this year's BBS and have contacted previous surveyors to see whether they will be continuing with their squares. Once I see what is then available, I shall contact people who have out their names forward as being interested in taking on a square.

I hope that some people who have been sparked by the Atlas work will be interested in getting involved. Owing to this, I have requested some more squares to be allocated. These will be randomly selected.

I have also a list of a few squares available in the neighbouring Harrogate Region that may be more convenient for some people.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact me. The survey runs from April to June.

For those of you who currently do the BBS, you may be interested in the trial 'Simplifed field recording sheet' for use in the field - click here to download it.

Do you have photos that can be used for the Bird Atlas?

Anyone interested in contributing photos to the Bird Atlas?

Here's some information from an email that I received from Dawn Balmer and Simon Gillings of the BTO that gives links for more details: 
We've recently added a new page to the Bird Atlas website and you can find this by clicking the 'Atlas Photos Needed' link on the homepage at www/birdatlas.net

The direct link is http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/birdatlas/photos-needed-atlas

We are asking for photos of birds to be submitted for possible use in the Bird Atlas book. There are several ways to submit records, one of them is via the Flickr website - see http://www.flickr.com/groups/1801532@N20/

We have almost 300 [now over 2,000] photos shared with the Atlas group. We can then contact the photographer and arrange for high-res photos to be submitted. There are some good ones coming in.

Atlas records in BirdTrack Explore My Records

A slightly belated Happy New Year to you all.

Here's a message about the availability of your Atlas records in BirdTrack from Dawn Balmer, the Atlas Coordinator.

The BTO IT team have managed to incorporate Atlas records in the BirdTrack 'Explore My Records' (EMR) tool! Individuals can now explore, graph, map and download their Atlas records just as they can their BirdTrack ones, using the BirdTrack system. The default setting in the EMR 'Project' filter is 'BirdTrack & Atlas' but you can also opt to access records from one of the two projects in isolation.

This exciting development represents a big step forward in the integration of the online projects. More importantly in the immediately post-(national)Atlas fieldwork period, it offers Atlasers a wide range of new ways to interact with their own records. I would urge you to have a look at BirdTrack EMR (particularly those of you who have - up until now - primarily submitted your records through the Atlas system.

There's a screenshot of, and plug for, this new system on the BirdTrack homepage http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/birdtrack