The Bird Atlas is a project that is running, as the name suggests, from 2007 until 2011. Its main aim it to produce maps of distribution and relative abundance for all bird species breeding and wintering in Britain and Ireland. The last Bird Atlas was completed almost twenty years ago and much has changed over the intervening years. Hopefully this new atlas will identify areas of success as well as areas of concern, and in time prove to be a valuable asset to future conservation projects.

On the face of it this seems like a massive undertaking, but via the use of thousands of volunteers the task has been cut down into easily manageable chunks. The whole of Britain and Ireland have been split up into 2km x 2km squares known as tetrads. Individuals can pick one or more of these tetrads to survey through the Bird Atlas website. All that is required are four visits of one hour in length each to the tetrad. Two of these visits should be during the winter and two during the breeding season. When all of the individual tetrad results are gathered together a highly detailed and accurate picture of this country’s bird population will have been produced.

To me this sounded like a brilliant idea as for very little effort I could be contributing to a worthwhile conservation project. I tend to keep detailed records anyway of the wildlife that I see when out and about, so in many ways this would just be putting those skills to good use. The tetrad that I chose was SS49R, an area roughly encompassing the woods and marshland to the west of Weobley Castle on Gower. I chose this tetrad due to the variety of habitat on offer, and for the fact that it isn’t an area that I have watched particularly over the years. Last weekend was my first visit and despite the weather I managed to bag a good number of species. Given that this was during the breeding season, it was surprising to note how many signs of new life can be discerned when you really start to look. Below are the results from this first survey. I will be paying another visit sometime next month to hopefully pick up a bit more breeding evidence.

SpeciesCountBreeding CodeSpeciesCountBreeding Code
Carrion Crow82ONGoldfinch4H
Swallow17HGrey Heron4H
House Martin60HSwift8
Shellduck11HWood Pigeon4H
Blue Tit2HLittle Egret10H
Lesser Black Backed Gull4HPheasant1S
Herring Gull3HSong Thrush2H
Chaffinch4FLReed Bunting1H
Pied Wagtail4FFWhitethroat1S
Wren2SHouse Sparrow3H
Starling3FFGreat Tit4H

The breeding codes are as follows:
ON – Adults entering or leaving nest-site in circumstances indicating Occupied Nest (including high nests or nest holes, the contents of which can not be seen) or adults seen incubating
P – Pair observed in suitable nesting habitat in breeding season
S – Singing male present (or breeding calls heard) in breeding season in suitable breeding habitat
H – Species observed in breeding season in suitable nesting Habitat
FL – Recently FLedged young (nidicolous species) or downy young (nidifugous species)
FF – Adult carrying Faecal sac or Food for young


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