Basin Notes - March 2007

Trends in the bird population

I HAVE recently acquired a copy of a report entitled The State of the UK's Birds 2005 which is a mine of information on how bird populations have fared since 1970.

It is produced by three non-government organisations - the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) along with the government's four statutory conservation agencies.

The report, now in its seventh year, is based on various and ongoing surveys largely earned out by enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers.

Overall, the picture is encouraging, with bird populations having been relatively stable over the past 35 years.

However, many different trends emerge when looking at the various species within categories such as common breeding birds, woodland birds, rare breeding birds and wintering water birds.

Listed below are some of the trends in the common breeding birds section: Long term increases since 1970 Wren + 703%, Buzzard + 524%, Collared Dove + 392% Great Spotted Woodpecker + 253%, Sparrowhawk + 101%, Magpie + 100%

Long term decline since 1970 Grey Partridge - 88%, Starling - 72%, House Sparrow - 64% Skylark - 53%, Songthrush - 50%, Kestrel - 27%

Short term increases since 1994 Stonechat + 227%, Grey Wagtail + 75%, Great Tit + 44% Greenfinch + 43%, Swallow + 32%

Short term declines since 1994 Curlew - 36%, Lapwing - 21%. Swift -21%, Kestrel -18%

The section on wintering water birds shows a steady long term increase in many wildfowl species eg Whooper Swan + 343%. Pink-footed Geese + 256% and Red Breasted Merganser + 204%. Wader numbers are more mixed with Black-tailed Godwit + 271% and Grey Plover + 162% doing well.

Long term declines include Lapwing -46% and Dunlin - 33%. Short term declines are more apparent in waders eg Turnstone - 27% and Knot - 19%.

There has certainly been a decline in the number of Redshank, Knot and Dunlin at Montrose Basin this winter.

Habitat loss and human disturbance can certainly have a negative impact on bird numbers whereas conservation in the form of active habitat management have increased populations of Bittern, Stone Curlew and Corncrake.

I know statistics can be boring but these highlighted here do provide useful indicators as to how our avian species are coping in their respective habitats.