The New Bird Atlas of Britain and Ireland - and how to make your birding count!

You may already know about the huge bird atlas project being launched by the British Trust for Ornithology and its partners. Did you also know that in Gloucestershire there are plans to produce, for the first time ever, a county atlas alongside the national one?

Why not get involved so that your birding records can contribute to the data being collected all over the county during the next five years? You can volunteer to do two-hour visits to count birds in a 2km x 2km square, either in the winter or the breeding season, or just send in details of any of your sightings. To find out more or to volunteer, contact Gordonkirk@aol.com

The New Bird Atlas of Britain and Ireland - and how you can get involved:
Every twenty years or so, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), together with its partners Birdwatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club, produces an atlas of British breeding birds. These are very important publications: as well as being of general and scientific interest, they help inform agricultural and conservation policy. The last breeding atlas highlighted the huge decline in many farmland species such as Corn Bunting, Grey Partridge and Barn Owl, showing the extent to which their breeding ranges had contracted. It also described the (less well publicised) expanding ranges of some species, among them Lesser Whitethroat, Nuthatch and Goshawk. An atlas of wintering birds was also produced in the late 1980s.

Amazingly, these authoritative atlases are based on the observations of thousands of volunteers walking around a patch of land, observing and in some cases counting the birds they see.

The next atlas will cover the period 2007-2011 and will include both breeding and wintering birds. The winter fieldwork starts in November 2007, and the first breeding surveys will be in Spring 2008. What will the new atlas tell us? Will the decline of farmland birds have stopped? What will the new maps look like for expanding species such as Buzzard, Little Egret and Cetti’s Warbler?

Locally, the Gloucestershire Ornithological Co-ordinating Committee has decided to take the opportunity to produce a more detailed Gloucestershire Atlas too. This will be the first ever Gloucestershire bird atlas – although the North Cotswold Ornithological Society has published an atlas of the breeding birds of that area in the 1980s and a second such publication is due to be published next year – and the first full survey of the county’s birds since Swaine's 1982 volume.

So the search is on for volunteers to contribute to this huge project. Gordon Kirk, a long-standing member of BTO, is co-ordinating atlas work in Gloucestershire. Twenty-six “square stewards” are already in place (I am one of them) and each of them will look after a 10km x 10km square. But an army of observers is needed to carry out fieldwork – a great opportunity to do some enjoyable birdwatching and also contribute to an important national project. There will be two main types of fieldwork:-

- Timed visits to a 2km x 2km square (known as a “tetrad”) to count birds. The intention is to visit each tetrad twice in one of the four breeding seasons of the project, ideally for a two hour count. Fewer tetrads will be visited in the winter periods. So if you can spare four hours, you can be a “tetradder”!

- “Roving records” – any records of birds you see can be submitted, provided you know where you were at the time! This means that records of any birds you see on a birdwatching trip, on a walk, or even from your car window can contribute to the atlas.

An event is being held at 10:30am on Saturday 8th September 2007 at The Crypt School, Podsmead, Gloucester, GL2 5AE for anyone interested in taking part. There will be a speaker from the BTO and lots of information about how to get involved locally. And it’s free. Interested?

Just e-mail Gordonkirk@aol.com with the following information:-

  • Would you like to do doing timed visit(s) to a 2km x 2km square or squares?
  • Would you like to send in “roving records”? (If you would like to do your fieldwork in a particular part of the county, please say where)
  • Would you like to attend the event on Saturday 8th September?

Finally, here's a link to the BTO's atlas website - in the "taking part" section there is now a fair amount of useful information:- http://www.bto.org/birdatlas/taking_part/index.htm

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