The State of the UK’s Birds 2020

From BTO

The State of UK’s Birds reports have provided an annual overview of the status of breeding and non-breeding bird species in the UK and its Overseas Territories since 1999. This year’s report highlights the continuing poor fortunes of the UK’s woodland birds.

SUKB collates data from annual, periodic and one-off surveys and monitoring studies of birds, such as the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP), the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) and Goose and Swan Monitoring Programme (GSMP). In addition, the 2020 report also includes results from the Nest Record Scheme, Constant Effort Sites (CES) Scheme and Re-trapping Adults for Survival (RAS) Scheme, the latter two schemes collecting demographic information through the efforts of bird ringers.

The report takes information from these and other schemes, research and surveys and delivers information at a country-specific scale, as well as providing an overview for the UK as a whole.

Volunteers play an essential role in bird monitoring in the UK, by donating their time, energy and expertise. The data they collect are vital for conservation, tracking changes in populations and supporting policy development. This year, many monitoring schemes have been adversely affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic and we want to say a special thank you to all of our volunteers for their continued support through this difficult time. Their skill, effort and dedication deserve huge recognition.

Woodland species

This year’s report highlights the continuing poor fortunes of the UK’s woodland birds. The UK Wild Bird Populations Indicator for woodland species show a long-term decline of 27% since the early 1970s, with declines of 7% evident over just the last five years. More worryingly, when looking at individual trends within the report, some specialist woodland birds have declined dramatically, including willow tit with a 94% decline since 1970 as illustrated by the joint Common Birds Census / Breeding Bird Survey UK-wide trend.

After worrying declines in breeding tawny owl populations were flagged-up by the Breeding Bird Survey, BTO launched targeted survey work on this species during 2018 and 2019. SUKB reports on some of the results from this research, which revealed a decline in site occupancy from 65% in 2005 to 53% in 2018/19. The BTO work has also sought to understand some of the reasons for this change in fortunes.

Results at different scales

Data from many of the surveys covered in SUKB also feed into European-wide schemes and the SUKB report goes from celebrating the publication of the latest European Breeding Bird Atlas, through to finer-scale country-specific results and research. Not bad for an 80-page report!

Country-specific headlines include increases in house sparrow populations in Wales, where work is also taking place to address the pronounced decline in curlew numbers. In Scotland, the fragile status of corncrake is highlighted, alongside increases in farmland species such as tree sparrow and yellowhammer. The Northern Ireland pages look into changing fortunes of seabirds and explore how proposed marine Special Protection Areas may be used to tackling the observed decline. The Northern Ireland pages also examine declines in wintering geese, such as light-bellied brent goose. Finally, over to England and promising results for stone curlew conservation work, as well as reporting back on the English Winter Bird Survey for which 1,485 sites were surveyed by volunteers to help us understand the value of agri-environment options.

As in previous reports, we hear about species from 14 UK Overseas Territories and three Crown Dependencies – including black-browed albatross, St Helena plover and South Georgia pipit, about the Gough Island Restoration Programme, and discover that 69 species in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are now Globally Threatened.

Closer to home, 25 years of BTO Garden BirdWatch is also celebrated, with goldfinch now the 8th most commonly recorded garden bird, up from 20th back in 1995.

Volunteers

There is a common theme in this report: volunteers. The sheer enormity of their contributions to bird monitoring as a whole is evident throughout this report. Most of the surveys and schemes covered here are only possible thanks to the dedication and skills of the thousands of volunteers who give up their time to help monitor birds and in turn, inform conservation action. Thank you.

Who produces this report?

SUKB 2020 is produced by a coalition of three NGOs: the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), together with the UK’s statutory nature conservation bodies: Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland (DAERA), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Natural England (NE), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and NatureScot.

Download The State of the UK’s Birds 2020 here 

 

Chough report: December 2020

Green, the oldest chough in Jersey's flock, has reared eleven young in the wild since his release in 2013. Photo by Liz Corry

December 2020 has been our quietest month to date. Partly pandemic-related as staff and student make a desperate bid to use up annual leave. A 10-day stint of isolation was thrown in for festive ‘fun’ (direct contact with a positive case).

Moreover, the choughs kept themselves to themselves. No injuries to report. No births, deaths, or marriages. Travel to France on hold – no more chough flights and no human travel either. Condor Ferries cancelled its service until April 2021. Pleased to say Cappy the Carteret chough is still alive! We will have to wait until next year to go visit.

As December draws to a close and we say good riddance 2020, it just leaves me to say a big thank you to the project volunteers for their time and support this year.

Happy New Year!

Sunset at St Ouen’s Bay. Photo by Liz Corry.

Chough report: November 2020

The Jersey chough is still doing well in France. Photo by Yann Mouchel.

Vive la France!

Happy to report that the chough who found her way to France is still there. We will call her Cappy from now on as she appears to be enjoying life at the Cap Carteret. Yann is trying to get a photo of the metal ring in case we can read the number to confirm her identity. She has definitely not been at the November supplemental feeds back here in Jersey.

The other choughs were still travelling around the Island to places such as Noirmont, Corbière, and Les Landes. No reports from Trinity or St Martin’s parish. 

Student observations

As November drew to a close, we were seeing more choughs at the supplemental feed. It made the observations fairly challenging for our student, David, with thirty plus birds to ID in the howling winds.

Whilst we still believe the total population size is in the forties there are concerns for a couple of individuals we haven’t clocked in a while. In particular the female from the Corbière pair.

Honeydew has not been seen at the supplemental feeds, yet her partner Minty has. When David has visited Corbière in the mornings he has been seeing two choughs. One is definitely Minty. Eventually he discovered that the second chough was not Honeydew but another female Yarila.

It seems history has repeated itself and whilst the individuals are different the scenario is the same. A pair spend their summer in the southwest then, as autumn turns to winter, the female is lost and the male spends more time at Sorel. This time round, however, the male is still visiting and possibly even roosting in the south along with a new female.

Honeydew (foreground) disappeared this month and Yarila (behind) has snatched up her man. Photo by Liz Corry.

David has seen two pairs fly west over Devil’s Hole at roost time. One is likely to be the Plémont pair. He thinks the Crabbé site has been abandoned so the other pair could be the Corbière birds.

Connecting islands 10,000km apart.

More damage to report at the Sorel aviary. Rodents again but also tears in the netting higher up likely to be weather related. The Zoo’s Site Services team came up to help with repairs. Frustratingly a day later the rodents had chewed back through.

I have been in contact with the team behind the RSPB Gough Island Restoration work. Their aviaries have to be resistant to killer mice! They shared photos and drawings of their rail aviaries with suggestions of what we could do in Jersey.

Rodent-proof aviary on Gough island. Photo by Richard Switzer.

Fun fact: they based their design on the chough release aviary! Richard Switzer, RSPB aviculturalist, used to teach at the Durrell Academy. Richard also worked for San Diego Zoo’s Conservation team with birds such as the Hawaiian crow, another species linked to the chough project. He has followed the chough reintroduction from the start and visited Sorel which is where he got the idea for the rail aviary.

From discussing ideas, it looks like we need to strip our aviary of the ineffective upturned guttering and replace it with aluminium flashing. If they can get it delivered to an island in the middle of the Atlantic and fit it themselves, it must be super easy to do here in Jersey. Right?!

To find out more about the Gough Island restoration work click here. I must warn you there is graphic content of predation on their website from the get go.

Gorilla on the loose in Jersey!

One unusual visitor to the supplemental feed site this month was a Jersey Gorilla. Don’t worry not a zoo escapee, rather Will Highfield the fundraising legend that is ‘Jersey Gorilla‘. Will has been setting himself crazy challenges since 2019 initially raising funds for the new Jersey Zoo Gorilla enclosure.  He surpassed everyone’s expectations, even his own, and smashed his target. With the onset of the pandemic, Will continued his gallant/insane  efforts (you decide) and started raising funds to support all the work the Zoo do including the chough project.

On 28th November Will set himself a challenge worthy of being committed  – run 100 miles in under 24 hours! On a 9 x 5 mile island! Starting at 4am in St Aubin’s, he ran anticlockwise around the Island’s roads, trails and cliff paths almost two and a half times. And he wasn’t alone, more lunatics, sorry runners, joined him along the way for support.

Speaking of support, when Will reached Sorel he was joined by Fiona Robertson of Performance Physiotherapy Jersey for what has to be the most picturesque clinic setting.

Physio on the go for the Jersey Gorilla. Photo by Fiona Robertson.

Will finally finished the challenge at 9am the next morning after 29 hours and 53 seconds of running. This is a phenomenal achievement. It might not have been within 24 hours, but considering all the miles he has run for charity over the past year and the subsequent injuries that plagued him along the way, 29 hours is equally bonkers.

A huge thank you to Will for his support. Now please go and put your feet up!

Follow Will’s journey via Facebook and Instagram and learn how to support the cause https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/will-highfield5