Monday, 28 February 2011

Winter atlas: one race ends, another one begins

So here we are at the end of 4 years hard work winter atlasing and I thought it would be good to look at where we are on the last evening. As you can see by comparing this map to the one in the 21 Jan post below we've continued to add species over the last few weeks and all but a few squares have had well over 80 species recorded. In addition well over 99% of ttvs have been completed and data submitted; with a few stragglers still to come, our density maps will look pretty good when the atlas is published.
There is still alot of work to do flushing out more records and validating the ones we already have so the totals are bound to change but this is probably not far away from the final out turn.
This map represents thousands of hours of birding effort from well over 600 birders in Lincs and a very big thank you to everyone who has participated.
We now have a months rest and then we'll be into the final summer of breeding bird atlasing where the focus will be on confirming breeding records for as many species as possible. In fact if you are keen now is a good time to locate species like Tawny Owl and Long eared Owl which should be vocal at the moment. The latter seems to have declined substantially as a breeding species in Lincs but how many of us have been out listening for them? Not me so far I have to confess, but I'll be making a special effort during March.
Its also a good time to check out Rook nesting activity which is proceeding apace at the moment and can be easily seen before trees come into leaf. There are a few squares where Rooks are not yet confirmed. The 2 in East Lincs are Mablethorpe TF58 and Gib Pt TF55. I had the pleasure of seeing 2 pairs of Rooks nest building this morning in a new location in TF58 so I'll be keeping a close eye on them looking out for signs to confirm breeding.
Why not check out the atlas website to find out what species need confirming in squares where you live/have a patch or regularly bird. Click on the "Any Square Summary" Option, enter your square number and select breeding from the drop down menu and look for the species without the greenspot (confirmed breeding) next to their name. You may already have evidence that could confirm breeding, if not you may be the best person to get it so start planning how now!

Monday, 21 February 2011

The final week of the winter atlas

Hi atlasers

Last day next Monday and the clock is now ticking. I was out yesterday in Anderby/Hogsthorpe doing my last 2 winter ttvs. It was a grey day with a cold east wind and nothing startling to report. On the way back to Louth I called at Belleau Bridge and added Great Crested Grebe and Egyptian Goose for TF47. It was with great pleasure that I logged into the atlas website and looked at the UK richness gaps map to see that TF47 is now off the map and East Lincs is now clear.

We still have 51 ttvs to complete across Lincs so lets hope the weather holds up and everyone can get out and complete them by midnight on 28 Feb. The key ttvs are those needed to obtain minimum coverage in each 10 km square, there are only a handful and if anyone cannot complete them please let your RO know so that alternative coverage can be arranged.

Thanks to everyone for their efforts so far. Its interesting to see which squares have the most species richness so here are the top coastal and inland squares , purely for your interest.

Gib Point TF55 200
Donna Nook/Rimac TF49 165
Frampton TF33 149
Pyewipe/Killingholme TA21 144
Freiston TF44 143


Whisby Pits SK96 130
Covenham Reservoir TF39 130
Kirkby Pits TF26 120

I ought to add that the winter atlas hunt for records will continue after 28 February although this week is the last chance to get out and find missing birds; we'll continue encouraging birders to trawl their notebooks and any other sources we can think of to add missing species for at least the rest of this year. The cut off will come at the end of the year and the book should be out in just 2 years time.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Only 10 days left for winter atlasing

We're now in the final straight with only 2 weekends left to complete our ttvs and get in as many roving records as possible. There are still many common species to be found in most squares which have recorded less than 85 species so why not look at the map below and visit one of them if you get the chance. I'm down to my last 2 ttvs now, both in TF57 and doing a beached bird survey there on 26 Feb. Hopefully I'll find some roving records of missing common waders while walking the tide wrack.
But where did I see the bird above?
I have to confess I sloped off this last few days down to the Dordogne area of south west France with Rob Carr and Andy Sims. The starbirds were 2 Wallcreepers but for me the most memorable birds were the Hawfinches. I've seen small flocks of less than 10 Hawfinches twice in Lincs at Scunthorpe Crematorium in 1986 and Scawby in 2005. They are now very scarce and apart from coastal migrants I'm only aware of 1 record in the winter and summer periods in Lincs from 2007 onwards.

In France we had flocks of up to several hundred in the oaks above our head and I was amazed to hear how like an excited murmuration of starlings they sounded with their metallic ringing tick calls multiplied by many (large) beaks. I'd forgotten how chunky and tail less they look in flight and the whiteness of their tails tips which varies consideably in extent from bird to bird. It was fascinating to see them interacting and feeding and their amazing ability to pick an invisible perching position in leafless trees, which Andy's digiscoped image above clearly shows. When you can only see a couple of birds in a tree its always amazing when 10 fly out!

They are hard to find if you are not familiar with the call and especially when trees are in leaf but it seems Hawfinches are genuinely in big trouble in the UK while stable or increasing in Netherlands and France. The current atlas will reveal more about the position in England and if anyone can add records to the atlas please submit them as roving records. Are they still around in the NW Lincs/Scunthorpe area and why aren't they in the better woodlands in the SW of the county?