Bird recording in Gloucestershire
By Richard Baatsen, County Recorder
Common Resident Species
These are best recorded on a monthly basis; you should either report a monthly maximum figure were the site is visited a number of times during the month or a dated monthly count where the site is only visited once during the month. Please record breeding activity, the number of singing males etc. This is recommended for local patches and garden feeding stations. This sort of data provides good data on common species that observers tend to ignore and is vital when monitoring population trends
Places like the Severn estuary/river are where birds move on the tide and under certain weather conditions. Other birds many not be migrant but use the estuary as a refuelling stop. So record the tide time and whether the birds moved off north. There may be little time to count a flock moving through at speed so the “Black Art” of estimating flock size will be come in very handy. This is done by counting a small part of the flock, say 10, and then using that as a unit of measure to estimate the rest of the flock. These estimates should be identified by using say c100, circa 100, or 100+, you could also include a note, at least 100 or a min of 100. Birds that are observed on a high tide roost or feeding on the estuary are not migrating and you should include a note.
Rare bird sightings
Your sighting should be immediately phoned through. One good reason for doing this is to have your sighting validated by someone else. If you have a camera please photograph the bird and always take field notes on the spot. These records may require a description at either a County level, or BBRC description at a national level. Description forms can be obtained from the recorder. Both BBRC and County rarities need to be submitted to the County Recorder
Rare Breeding Bird Records and Confidential Records
Gloucestershire operates a confidential records database which is password protected and employs an access policy. Access to these records is strictly controlled and site locations will not be disclosed to the general public. They will be used for conservation purposes. Do not hesitate to contact the recorder about any records of this nature.
If you are carrying out surveys such as a BBS square or a WeBS count please send a copy to the County Recorder as these to do not automatically get passed on.
The information contained in a record can be broken down into 8 pieces of information:
1. Species (What)
2. Number of birds (How many)
3. Date (First date seen)
4. Last Date (Last date seen)
5. Location (Where)
6. Grid ref. (Double check on the location, used for mapping)
7. Initials (Who)
8. Notes (Your chance to write anything else down)
Records should be sent in via E-mail but can also be sent via post too. You can either use an Excel spreadsheet using points 1-to-8 as column headers, or a text list within an E-mail, see example below.
Wigeon,3500,01/01/07,31/01/07,WWT Slimbridge,ST 40 80,RGB
Tundra Bean Goose,1,02/04/07,,WWT Slimbridge.””,RGB,"Seen from the Holden Tower, then flew onto the river"
Redstart,2,13/04/07,,Ashleworth Ham,ST 32 30,RGB
Redstart,3,15/04/07,,Ashlewoth Ham,ST 32 30,RGB,2M1F possible breeding attempt
Instead of separate columns within a spreadsheet the record is divided up by commas. The main problem with this is when you want to use a comma in your notes. You can do this but you will need to tell the computer this by wrapping the note/comment in double quote marks. See example below:
Seen from the Holden Tower, then flew onto the river (wrong)
"Seen from the Holden Tower, then flew onto the river" (correct)
Also if you want to leave a field blank, you still have to include the commas e.g. if you do not put the grid ref in. See example below:
· Ashlewoth Ham, ,RGB
· Ashlewoth Ham,SO 28 27 ,RGB
Site Names (location)
How are site names created?.
Use the nearest village to the location say “Hawling”, then the location “Shade Barn Farm” remembering the rule about the commas if you are not using a spreadsheet. See example below:
· Hawling, Shade Barn Farm (wrong)
· “Hawling, Shade Barn Farm” (correct)
It is important that you do not use names that do not appear on the OS maps 1:50000 or OS 1:25000. Pubs change their names and factories close down and street names are hard to find. There is a list of site names available on request. If there is no named feature within the 1km square where the observations were made simply use the nearest village name followed by the 4-digit grid reference. See example below:
· Hawling, SP 04 01
Grid references are extremely important and very useful. A 1 km square scale is used in Gloucestershire so you need to know where you are. Large sites that cover a number of 1 km squares like Cleeve Hill have been broken down into several 1 km squares/sub-sites:
Cleeve Hill, Washpool
Cleeve Hill, Warden’s Wood
Cleeve Hill (Golf Club
Cleeve Hill Radio Masts
It is vital that you quote grid references so that your sightings can be mapped accurately and that any duplication can be eliminated. (Remember it’s along the bottom and then down the side or you can use the Ordnance Survey's Get-a-map)
Your Garden Records
When quoting a record from your garden, please do not quote 53 Sunnyside Gardens,
Please quote the location as say Gloucester, Tuffley and then use the comments field to expand on any details like on garden feeder etc. E.g.:
Great Tit,12,01/02/07,31/01/07, “Gloucester, Tuffley”,RGB, Monthly max
Brambling,1M,01/02/07, , “Gloucester, Tuffley”,RGB, On garden feeder at 55 Sunnyside Gardens
Long Staying birds or monthly counts and dates
The two dates in the record are first and last date. So, for example, a long stay Great Northern Diver which stayed from the 13/01/07 and remained until 03/03/07:
Great Northern Diver,13,01/02/07, 03/03/07, CWP pit 57,RGB, Long staying individual
These dates can also be used for monthly max figs for common residents, e.g.
Blackbird,6, 01/04/07,30/04/07,Whitminster,RGB, Present throughout the month.
I am going to use initials but please quote your full name on your E-mail. If you have middle initials please use them, as this reduces the chance of two observers sharing the same initials. Some observers who do share initials may need to use an extended form of their initials (e.g. "SGr" for “Steve Green”) or risk having their records allocated to the wrong person!
If you are a bit of a techie and use either, MapMate, Recorder or a bespoke MS Access instead of a good old fashion notebook, the full records submission interface specification is available on request. This will allow a seamless upload of your records.
Also there is some recording software available if you have a PC with “MS Access”. Which is easy to use and automatically produces any number of lists; county, BOU life list, UK400 life, year lists etc. Most importantly it logs your records submissions and creates record submissions at a push of a button. Please contact the recorder if you are interested.
Records By Post
Use the same 1-to-8 pieces of information, clearly written out.
Phone me on 01452 740161 for the postal address.
When submitting your sightings do not use terms such as many, several, lots, less than usual, please try to estimate the numbers if you have made an accurate count, ensuring that you highlight the record is an estimate.
Do not refer to a sighting as being in the usual place. Please assume that the recorder does not know where the usual place is. (use grid refs)
When referring to another sighting please quote the date, species and location and do not refer to it as the record above (see the record above).
Thank you for submitting your sightings.
Good Birding, Richard Baatsen County Recorder.