Help find the missing breeding birds in Wales

This is the final year of the second European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2), and the British Trust for Ornithology and WOS is asking for your help to plug some of the gaps in breeding records for Wales.

The EBBA2 Atlas fieldwork period is 2013-17, after that of Bird Atlas 2007-11, to which many birders in Wales contributed. However, thanks to the huge amount of volunteer fieldwork undertaken every year in Britain, the BTO has been able to use information from other sources, such as ringers’ returns, Nest Record cards and BirdTrack, to demonstrate evidence of breeding across the country.

Using the data from 2008-11, the BTO has produced a handy online tool that shows how close to confirming the same suite of breeding species during the first four years of the EBBA project. This map shows that only in southeast Wales is there a match of greater than 90%. You can use the tool to find out which species have already been confirmed as breeding, and which are ‘missing’.

A few examples from Wales:

Pen Llŷn, Caernarfonshire (30UUD3): Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Guillemot and Razorbill have no breeding codes at all, while Moorhen, Coot, Dunnock, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler are only Possible breeders.

Denbighshire/Flintshire coast (30UVE4): Kingfisher is not recorded with a breeding code, while Swift, Sand Martin, Garden Warbler and Yellowhammer are only Probable breeders, not confirmed.

gannets (Derek Moore)
Will someone please confirm there are breeding Gannets on Grassholm this year?

North Ceredigion/South Meirionnydd (30UVD2): Sparrowhawk is only recorded as a non-breeding bird, Cuckoo, Treecreeper and Jay are only Probable. Cormorant is only listed as a possible breeder, even though there is a long-established colony at Craig Aderyn, and the same applies to Grey Heron, despite there being a well-watched heronry at RSPB Ynys-hir.

South Pembrokeshire (30UUC4): Gannet is only listed as a Probable breeder, even though the square includes Grassholm, the third-largest colony on the planet! Little Egret, Tufted Duck and Goldcrest are only recorded as Probable breeders.

Glamorgan coast (30UVB3): Tufted Duck, Sparrowhawk, Oystercatcher, Jay and Bullfinch are recorded as Probable breeders so far, Cettis’s and Sedge Warbler only as Possible (though both have been subject of a major study in Cardiff Bay Nature Reserve), while Little Owl hasn’t been recorded in the square.

What can we do to fill the gaps?

Adding a breeding evidence code takes just a couple of clicks in the BirdTrack smartphone app.

1. Record breeding evidence in BirdTrack. This is the easiest thing to do. Lots of birders now use BirdTrack in Wales, and it takes only a few seconds to select evidence of breeding from the dropdown menu. If we all do this whenever we’re out birding this Spring, we’ll be filling some of the gaps without realising it.

2. Target missing species in particular areas. Go to the BTO mapping tool and select a square from the map, left click and you can see the current status of all the species recorded during 2013-16. Then, using your local knowledge, have a day out during May-July trying to find the species and confirm breeding. Record these using BirdTrack, with as high a breeding code as you can.

3. If you’re on holiday in Europe this summer, use BirdTrack with breeding evidence codes, to record the birds you see. Remember that BirdTrack now operates globally, so your records have conservation value wherever you’re birding. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could plan a trip to the EBBA2 target areas: most are in southeastern Europe, but there are big chunks of Spain (including the Balearics) and Greek islands where additional survey work is required.

So, in a nutshell, the answer, for casual records, is BirdTrack, using breeding evidence codes. Unlike the domestic atlas, which measured species’ occurrence by 10-km square, EBBA2 uses a grid of 50×50 kilometre squares, but you don’t need to worry about which square you’re in, as records you submit to the BTO will be converted for EBBA2.

Additionally, if you’re able to make complete lists in BirdTrack, of all the species you see or hear at a site, the BTO will be able to use this information for estimating the abundance of species, together with data from the Breeding Bird Survey.

Every record counts – please go and add some this Summer!

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