Report 382
Services in Ornithology Annual Report 2004-05
(2006)
BTO
This report covers BTO work under the Partnership during 2004/2005 (the first year of the new agreement) including much collation and analysis of data collected in previous years.

Summary

 
Birds are hugely popular and the public demands their conservation.  Ornithology has made an enormous contribution to the advancement of wider nature conservation goals by virtue of this popular support.  The value of birds as environmental indicators has been greatly enhanced by voluntary data collection on a wide scale over many years, resulting in the use of bird population trends as one of the Government’s headline indicators for sustainable development.  Working with volunteers has enabled the development both of extensive and intensive methods of data collection in an extremely cost-effective manner.
 
This report covers BTO work under the Partnership during 2004/2005 (the first year of the new agreement), including much collation and analysis of data collected in previous years.  
 
Key results and news from 2004/2005
 
Data from the Wetland Bird Survey underpinned the conservation argument against developing a deep-sea container port at Dibden Bay. The Survey shows that the area supports internationally important populations of wintering birds and the development would have destroyed more than 300 hectares of prime habitat. Disturbingly, WeBS data also showed that diving ducks such as Pochard, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye have suffered catastrophic declines at their internationally important site of Loughs Neagh and Beg. Several papers using WeBS data were published in the BOU’s Conference Proceedings on the effects of climate change on coastal birds (see reference list). 
 
Results from the Breeding Bird Survey are critical to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and the Population Status of Birds in the UK, processes. In 2004, the survey showed that populations of some red-listed, BAP species, such as Grey Partridge, Turtle Dove, Spotted Flycatcher, Starling and Corn Bunting, have continued to decline (by between 24 and 45%) since 1994. Further analysis of the Winter Farmland Bird Survey data showed the importance of over winter stubble for breeding bird populations in the following spring. Crucially the study showed that in those 1-km squares that had 10% or more stubble in the previous winter, had increased populations of two nationally declining farmland bird species, Skylark and Yellowhammer. Several papers using data collected under the partnership were published in the important BOU Conference Proceedings on the ecology and conservation of farmland birds (see reference list).
 
There were great advances in electronic and online data collection and online information dissemination. Over 90% of ringing data and almost 50% of nest records were submitted electronically. It was the first full year for BBS Online, the development of which was funded by RSPB, and 30% of participants submitted their records by this method. The Breeding Birds in the Wider Countryside website, a one-stop-shop for information about the population status of our common terrestrial birds, was enhanced and updated in February 2005. In it, attention was drawn to the alerts for three species that have recently crossed the 50% decline threshold and may thus be candidates for future editions of the red section of the Population Status of Birds (PSoB) list http://www.bto.org/science/monitoring/psob: Yellow Wagtail (-67%), Willow Warbler (-58%) and Cuckoo -56%).  Two further species may become candidates for joining the amber list: Common Sandpiper (-29% over 27 years) and Lesser Whitethroat (-27% over 25 years).
 
Such population declines can be driven by changes in productivity and/or survival. Demographic monitoring is a key component of the Partnership programme in understanding the causes of population changes.  Four species were added to the Nest Record Scheme’s Concern List in 2004 because of newly detected declines in breeding performance for species with declining population trends or uncertain population status: Barn Owl, Pied Wagtail, Wheatear and House Sparrow.  It is possible that such declines in breeding performance may indicate environmental problems and might exacerbate population declines or hinder population recovery.
 
Thanks to volunteers
We are grateful to the many volunteers who contribute so much to the conservation of wildlife in the UK by participating in the BTO/JNCC work programme.  The time they spend on fieldwork alone is the equivalent of many hundreds of full-time staff.  We particularly thank the BTO Regional Representatives who, also in a purely voluntary capacity, organise the fieldwork at a local level.
 
Thanks to land owners and managers
We would also like to thank all of the farmers, land owners and managers, who have been supportive of our work, especially in allowing volunteers ready access to their land. 
 
The Partners
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is the forum through which the three Country Nature Conservation Agencies, the Countryside Council for Wales, English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage, deliver their special statutory responsibilities for Great Britain as a whole and internationally.  These responsibilities, known as special functions, contribute to sustaining and enriching biological diversity, enhancing geological features and sustaining natural systems.  For the purposes of the Partnership with BTO, JNCC also represents the Environment and Heritage Service Northern Ireland.
 
The special functions are: to devise and maintain common standards and protocols for nature conservation; to promote, through common standards, the free interchange of data between the country agencies and with external Partners; to advise on nature conservation issues affecting Great Britain as a whole; to pursue wider international goals for nature conservation (encouraging sustainable development, biological diversity and earth science conservation), including the provision of relevant advice to the Government; and to commission new research and collate existing knowledge in support of these activities, and to disseminate the results.
 
The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) promotes and encourages the wider understanding, appreciation and conservation of birds.  A key element of BTO’s approach is the synergistic combination of unpaid contributions of the time and expertise of over 30,000 members and volunteers, with the professional skills of trained staff.
 
In pursuit of its aims, the Trust seeks to: conduct high-quality, impartial research in field ornithology; provide scientific evidence and advice on priority issues in bird conservation; and base this work on a partnership between amateurs and professionals, conducting fieldwork that is both enjoyable and scientifically rigorous.
 
Co-operation between JNCC (and its predecessor bodies) and BTO has been long and particularly fruitful.  JNCC and the country agencies have used data and information collected by thousands of BTO members to promote the conservation of sites and habitats of importance for bird conservation throughout Britain, as well as to highlight the specific needs of individual species.  More detailed research has been undertaken to investigate conservation problems and to suggest solutions.
 
As well as applying the results generated by BTO, JNCC contributes its conservation expertise to the Partnership, thus helping to ensure that the work addresses priority issues.  BTO contributes not only the fieldwork of the volunteers but also both the ornithological and ecological expertise of its staff and members and the experience that it has of organising large-scale surveys, collating the data, and analysing the results.  Both Partners contribute to the costs.
 
The BTO/JNCC Partnership overlaps with Partnerships responsible for the Breeding Bird Survey (with RSPB) and the Wetland Bird Survey (with WWT and RSPB).
 
 
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ISSN 0963 8091
 
Please cite as: BTO, (2006), Services in Ornithology Annual Report 2004-05, JNCC Report 382, ISSN 0963 8091