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Thursday, 26 May 2016

Glamorgan BTO Nest Record Scheme Taster Day

It’s great to see that the numbers of birders taking part in the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme (NRS) is on the increase. Volunteers for this important scheme, now in its 77th year, find and follow the progress of individual birds’ nests across the UK, collecting vital data which are used to produce trends in breeding performance. These data help identify species that may be declining because of problems at the nesting stage, and they can also help measure the impacts of factors such as climate change on our bird populations.

But, despite a recent increase in volunteers, far more are needed and there’s a real ‘call to arms’ for more people to take up nesting, particularly here in Wales where more nest data are desperately needed.

In Glamorgan, there are currently only around a dozen active nest recorders, submitting c.800 records annually. Keen to increase those numbers and to put the Scheme on a more sustainable footing in the county, Trevor Fletcher (Rudry Common Trust), Wayne Morris (Mid & South Glamorgan BTO Rep) and I trialled a Nest Record Scheme Taster Day at Rudry Common on May 8th this year.

All three of us only have a few years’ experience of nest recording, but we felt that we’d learnt enough to be able to share the basics with new-starters and, coupled with bags of enthusiasm, we could hopefully inspire them to take up the fascinating art of nest finding and recording.  

Promoted on the BTO East Glamorgan News Blog and via social media, we attracted 5 local birders to the event. We found this to be an ideal number. It allowed us to work through the various habitats whilst staying close to each other and enabled us to share any knowledge, hints and tips with them as a group, rather than separately as individuals.

After a short indoor session, where we presented the participants with their free hazel ‘tapping stick’ (an essential tool of the nest recorder’s trade), introduced them to the NRS Code of Conduct and to some basic nest finding techniques, we were soon out in the field. We spent the morning working through woodland, finding plenty of old, or this year's, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Robin nests, but sadly no active ones. Nevertheless, it was still a useful session because we were able to show the participants the best places to look for the nests of these species. Wayne excellently put the theory into practice by finding a Song Thrush on eggs later in the afternoon.

We spent the afternoon on Rudry Common where we found a couple of active Long-tailed Tit nests, a very recently predated Linnet nest (it was in pristine condition but contained broken egg shells) and a Great Tit in a natural nest hole. The latter allowed Trevor to show off his skills with an endoscope!  We also watched a Willow Warbler busily building a nest, which Trevor went back and found a week later containing eggs.

But the highlight of the day was finding a Stonechat’s nest with 5 chicks. The participants were blown away by this nest and hopefully it'll be the one that gets them hooked on nesting!

We found a Robin on eggs on our walk back to base and rounded off the day with another short indoor session, where we shared information on how to plan nest visits and complete nest records and had a quick game of 'name the nest'. This involved showing images of various nests, a quick shout out to try and name the species who’d built them and then sharing some tips about how to find that species’ nest.

We had some very positive feedback from all who attended. An email from one of the participants really does sum up being part of the Nest Record Scheme: "I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday - it added a whole new dimension to monitoring bird behaviour. Brilliant!”

The group were keen to keep in touch to share our experiences and any tips and we will create an informal local NRS email group amongst us. We’d like to thank the Rudry Common Trust for its support and last, but not least, the event raised £50 for the BTO.

An enjoyable day all round and fingers crossed that some, if not all of the participants turn out to be fully fledged nesters in years to come.

Daniel Jenkins-Jones, Asst. BTO Rep, Mid & South Glamorgan

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