With the help of volunteers, the British Trust for Ornithology is undertaking a major survey of the bird population in Britain and Ireland – a Bird Atlas of the UK. Their winter count started on 1 November 2007 and they are still looking for help. Full details on how to take part are available at their comprehensive website, www.bto.org/birdatlas .
There are two methods of counting. “Roving Records”, from which they aim to compile “lists that are as complete as possible for every 10km square in Britain and Ireland in winter and the breeding season. From species lists for grid squares to one-off records of hard to find species and anything in between.” Anyone can participate just by downloading the form.
The second method is by “Timed Tetrad Visits”. TTVs are principally concerned with establishing the relative abundance of birdlife within a tetrad in a set time period. A tetrad is a 2km x 2km square labelled A-Z within a 10km square area. Contact your Bird Atlas Regional Organiser through the BTO website to take part in this.
In the 20 years since the fieldwork for the first Bird Atlas was carried out, there have been both rallies and declines. The barn owl, for instance, initially in decline has recovered to a certain extent with careful management. The once ubiquitous house sparrow, on the other hand, appears to be struggling, particularly in urban areas.
Proof that our climate is warming? The little egret, a rare visitor from overseas 20 years ago, is now well-established here in many resident colonies.