BTO Cymru

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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Friends of Skokholm and Skomer recognised

At a ceremony in London, The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer  were awarded the Marsh Award for Local Ornithology in recognition of the huge amount of work they have done to put Skokholm Island back on to the British ornithological map.
Photograph by Nick CaroSkokholm Island, off the coast of Pembrokeshire, is home to internationally important wildlife populations, and is particularly well known for its seabirds. It was the first Bird Observatory in Britian, but lost its Observatory status in 1976. The island was bought by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales in 2007, by which time the buildings and ‘birding’ infrastructure were in complete disrepair and non-functional. Thanks to the Friends this is no longer the case.  The work took four years to complete and almost 20,000 hours of voluntary labour.
The Friends are incredibly important to the islands of Skomer and Skokholm and since1981 the membership has grown to over 400. Members help finance essential work on the islands through their subscriptions, but more importantly, many have taken part in voluntary work parties to help bring Skokholm back to its former glory and its return to official Bird Observatory status in 2014

Members of the Friends often act as voluntary wardens on both Skomer and Skokholm helping with practical maintenance tasks, wildlife recording and research studies and are currently engaged in digitising the daily bird logbooks which date back to 1933.

The award was presented by The Duke of Edinburgh at a ceremony hosted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) at the Mall Gallery in London.

Steve Sutcliffe, the driving force behind the Friends and a former Skomer Warden said, "I am absolutely delighted that the hard work of the many volunteers who have helped to restore Skokholm has been recognised in this way.  The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer have been the catalyst, raising funds and providing a huge amount of support for the project, and I am honoured to receive this award on their behalf."

Andy Clements BTO Director said, "The Marsh Awards for Ornithology enable BTO to recognise the excellent work of ornithologists at a variety of scales, all of whom are partners with BTO in ensuring science contributes to conservation. Volunteering is central to BTO Science and I am delighted that the local Marsh Award is going to the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer whose hard work has rejuvenated a key migration watch-point."

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Inland Montgomeryshire WeBS

     The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS)
The UK is of outstanding international importance for waterbirds. Lying on some of the major flyways for Arctic-nesting species, large numbers of waterbirds are attracted, especially during winter, by the relatively mild climate and extensive areas of wetland. The UK thus has both moral and legal obligations to conserve both these waterbirds and the wetlands upon which they depend
Nationally over 3,000 volunteers go out on count days, and their data is used to assess the size of waterbird populations, determine trends in numbers and distribution, and assess the importance of individual sites for waterbirds, in line with the requirements of international conservation Conventions and Directives.
Montgomeryshire has a number of inland sites which are no longer routinely counted. BTO Cymru in partnership with the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust are hoping to address this issue by providing a brief "Introduction to WeBS” course at the:

Cors Dyfi, Nature Reserve
10:30 am on Sunday 16th November.

If you have a few hours to spare on one Sunday morning a month, and would like to contribute to one of the most important and long term monitoring schemes, come along.
Please express an interest by contacting either

Tammy Stretton,   Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust,
Emyr Evans, Cors Dofi, Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust,
Kelvin Jones, BTO Cymru, 01248 383285 or kelvin.jones@bto .org

Jane Kelsall, Montgomeryshire WeBS organiser,

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Death in the afternoon

One of the joys of growing up in north west Wales was that even in the dark days when DDT had driven Peregrines to the brink of extinction, you could still see them (if you knew where to go). As I grew up, I took great joy in seeing Peregrines regain a lot of the ground they had lost during the DDT years. Later, as a policeman and latterly a Wildlife Crime Officer, I witnessed a number of occasions when this resurgence brought the falcons into conflict with humans, which sometimes resulted in Peregrines being illegally persecuted. As a result, various watch schemes were set up and illegal persecution has all but disappeared.

This year, BTO has been coordinating the national survey of Peregrines, last undertaken in 2002. One thing that is obvious to all is that Peregrines have colonised our towns: the well-watched nests at Cathedrals up and down the country offer prime examples of this colonisation. But up here in Snowdonia, it is still in the wild and inaccessible quarries and sea cliffs that most of the birds live, and they still bring joy to anyone who witnesses their mastery of the air. I saw this joy in the faces of visitors to RSPB South Stack when the recently fledged chick flew in and perched in plain sight for all to admire. I also saw this joy when 12 year old Findlay Wilde visited South Stack earlier this year and got a superb photo of the hen Peregrine who had chosen to nest on a ledge in full view.

                                                                                                                           Photo Findley Wilde

Like hundreds of BTO volunteers and raptor study groups, I have been visiting known Peregrine breeding sites this year to gather data for the national survey. On Thursday afternoon I set out on my final visit to a secluded quarry site, where some weeks before I had been privileged to record four Peregrine chicks, at the time just bundles of fluff in what was clearly a good nest site. Even after 50 years of birdwatching, I still get that buzz of excitement when I’m about to see the outcome of this year’s breeding season. This particular nest is difficult to view but I could see splash on the cliff below and what looked like the remains of prey on the nest. I pulled my scope into focus and slowly zoomed in, a feeling of dread building inside me. It was not prey items in the nest, but four Peregrine chicks, dead. I was gutted.

                                                                   Photo Reg Thorpe, RSPB

Natural mortality happens of course, but these chicks were healthy and close to fledging, so for all four to die at the same time following a period of calm weather raises serious questions. Call me a cynical ex-policeman if you like, but in my mind, persecution has to be considered. Regular, long term monitoring gives us vital data about the changing fortunes of birds and the problems they face. There are a number of people and groups across Wales who dedicate most of their spring to monitoring this iconic bird, and they, like me are angered by this loss of four chicks. As the results of this year’s Peregrine survey begin to unfold, what else will come to light?

I can’t help but feel a bit frustrated these days that I won’t be involved in the developing investigation, but North Wales police are now on the case, and I know my ex-colleagues will do a very thorough job. It will be interesting to see what the cause of death was following the recovery of the corpses.

And so, what has been a very pleasant spring of monitoring Peregrines, getting to some lonely places and seeing other magnificent birds of prey as well, finishes with massive disappointment, not just for me but for all who have had the privilege of seeing the fastest bird on the planet this spring. Alas, there are now four more Peregrines that will never take to the skies to brighten up even the darkest of days.

 Kelvin Jones, BTO Wales

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

BBS Training in Wales Hyfforddiant BBS yng Nghymru

 BTO Cymru has for the past two years been working hard to increase the number of BBS squares covered across Wales. Courses backed by one to one mentoring has seen an impressive increase in squares covered across the principality, and therefore increases the quality of the data and the range of species for which accurate trends can be calculated.

This year we will be once again running course. The courses will give an insight into adopting and recording birds on a BBS square, which can be followed up with the one to one mentoring in the field.
There are slight changes to the BBS online submission pages this year, so existing BBS volunteers are welcome to come along for a recap and for a bit of social encouragement with new volunteers.

The courses will be held on:
Saturday 22nd  March, at the Neuadd, Prenteg, near Porthmadog
Saturday  5th April, RSPB Conwy
Saturday  12th April, The Stables, Cynghordy Hall, near Llandovery

For further information contact the BTO Cymru office via phone or email
Tel: 01248 383285  email:  kelvin.jones@bto .org  or

Mae BTO Cymru wedi bod yn gweithio yn galed i ychwanegu niferoedd o sgwariau BBS hyd led Cymru.  Mae cyrsiau a mentora un ar un wedi  sicrhau cynnydd yn y nifer o sgwariau yn cael ei arolygu, ac felly safon y data ar amrywiaeth o adar rydym yn medru cyfrifo tuedd

Eleni rydym yn rhedeg y cyrsiau eto. Fydd y cyrsiau yn rhoi mewnwelediad i fabwysiadu a chyfrif adar ar eich sgwâr. Fydd mentora un ar un ar gael. Mae newidiadau wedi ei gwneud i safle we BBS eleni ac mae croeso i wirfoddolwyr sefydledig ddod am bwt o hyfforddiant, ac i roi calondid i’r gwirfoddolwyr newydd.

Fydd y cyrsiau yn cael ei chynnal

Sadwrn 22ain Fawrth, Canolfan, Prenteg, ger Porthmadog
Sadwrn 5ed Ebrill, RSPB Conwy
Sadwrn 12fed Ebrill, Y Stablau, Cynghordy Hall, ger Llanymddyfri.

Am fwy o wybodaeth cysylltwch â BTO Cymru ar
Ffon 01248 383285  e-bost kelvin.jones@bto .org  neu