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    [title] => UNDERSTANDING PREDATION RESEARCH PROJECT
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UNDERSTANDING PREDATION PROJECT – CAN YOU HELP?

Establishing a shared understanding of predator-prey interactions involving wild birds in Scotland

The Understanding Predation Research Project is being conducted on behalf of Scotland’s Moorland Forum by researchers from University of Aberdeen, British Trust for Ornithology, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and University of Stirling.

The project has stemmed from common concerns shared by a wide range of organisations in Scotland about broad-scale declines in a number of wild bird species, particularly a suite of ground-nesting birds (including breeding waders and wild game birds).

The project will collect information to increase understanding of the geographical patterns of change, and the impact of predator-prey interactions on ground-nesting birds, alongside, and in combination with, other factors that may influence the observed population changes. It will also review a range of conservation-management options that could assist in mitigating wild bird declines, whilst ensuring that healthy populations of both prey and predators can be sustained.

Many SOC supporters have deep local knowledge of local or regional bird populations and recent changes in these. The project will collect this information from a wide range of interest groups across Scotland and compare it with findings from the scientific literature. It will allow us to identify where there are important knowledge gaps in our understanding of why ground-nesting bird populations are changing and how best to mitigate negative changes and to plan and prioritise further research.

There is a lot more information on the project accessible from the Moorland Forum website and the project blog, where you can also see the draft structure of the review that will be produced and more information on the methods.

Please help with the research by completing the project questionnaire (it should take around 30 minutes to complete): Understanding Predation Questionnaire or alternatively paste the following link into your browser: http://cduhes.asia.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_agT7dUEavWH1ZKl

The team are trying to encourage as many people as possible to complete the questionnaire (as soon as possible would be appreciated) so please share, or forward the questionnaire to anyone you know who may be interested in contributing to the research.

The project will also explore the issues discussed in the questionnaire in greater detail during stakeholder workshops, conducted between now and July. Participants at these workshops must complete the questionnaire first, and must enter their contact details at the workshop section towards the end of the questionnaire. The team will then be in touch with more detailing about participating in a workshop.

If you have any questions about the research, please contact :

Dr Gill Ainsworth

Research Fellow in Understanding Predation
Institute of Biological & Environmental Sciences
Aberdeen University
Tillydrone Avenue
Aberdeen AB24 2TZ,
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mobile: 07835 443 874

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UNDERSTANDING PREDATION PROJECT – CAN YOU HELP?

Establishing a shared understanding of predator-prey interactions involving wild birds in Scotland

The Understanding Predation Research Project is being conducted on behalf of Scotland’s Moorland Forum by researchers from University of Aberdeen, British Trust for Ornithology, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and University of Stirling.

The project has stemmed from common concerns shared by a wide range of organisations in Scotland about broad-scale declines in a number of wild bird species, particularly a suite of ground-nesting birds (including breeding waders and wild game birds).

The project will collect information to increase understanding of the geographical patterns of change, and the impact of predator-prey interactions on ground-nesting birds, alongside, and in combination with, other factors that may influence the observed population changes. It will also review a range of conservation-management options that could assist in mitigating wild bird declines, whilst ensuring that healthy populations of both prey and predators can be sustained.

Many SOC supporters have deep local knowledge of local or regional bird populations and recent changes in these. The project will collect this information from a wide range of interest groups across Scotland and compare it with findings from the scientific literature. It will allow us to identify where there are important knowledge gaps in our understanding of why ground-nesting bird populations are changing and how best to mitigate negative changes and to plan and prioritise further research.

There is a lot more information on the project accessible from the Moorland Forum website and the project blog, where you can also see the draft structure of the review that will be produced and more information on the methods.

Please help with the research by completing the project questionnaire (it should take around 30 minutes to complete): Understanding Predation Questionnaire or alternatively paste the following link into your browser: http://cduhes.asia.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_agT7dUEavWH1ZKl

The team are trying to encourage as many people as possible to complete the questionnaire (as soon as possible would be appreciated) so please share, or forward the questionnaire to anyone you know who may be interested in contributing to the research.

The project will also explore the issues discussed in the questionnaire in greater detail during stakeholder workshops, conducted between now and July. Participants at these workshops must complete the questionnaire first, and must enter their contact details at the workshop section towards the end of the questionnaire. The team will then be in touch with more detailing about participating in a workshop.

If you have any questions about the research, please contact :

Dr Gill Ainsworth

Research Fellow in Understanding Predation
Institute of Biological & Environmental Sciences
Aberdeen University
Tillydrone Avenue
Aberdeen AB24 2TZ,
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mobile: 07835 443 874

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    [title] => Novel research will unravel Europe-wide  patterns of bird migration and distribution
    [alias] => 38novel-research-will-unravel-europe-wide-patterns-of-bird-migration-and-distribution
    [introtext] => 
The EuroBirdPortal (EBP) project

The EuroBirdPortal (EBP) project and its demo viewer (www.eurobirdportal.org) launched last week in Brussels as part of Green Week 2015, the annual conference on European environment policy organized by the European Commission.

The EBP project is a new initiative of the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) through which European on-line bird recording schemes will collaborate to research European-wide seasonal distributional changes, migratory patterns, and migration timing of birds and to understand how these patterns are changing over time. EBP data for Britain and Ireland come from the BirdTrack project (www.birdtrack.net) which allows birdwatchers to record their observations on-line and to contribute to conservation science.

Gabriel Gargallo, EBP project coordinator, commented, “The EBP project will allow a better knowledge of the patterns of bird distribution in space and time across Europe and, thus, help to properly address several issues of high concern in relation to bird conservation and management.”

Unlike more traditional monitoring projects, which focus on structured data collection, online bird recording portals aim to obtain year-round data from the relatively unstructured but intensive and widespread activities of birdwatchers. However, the vast amount of data contained in these portals and the sheer amplitude of their combined geographical and taxonomic coverage offer great possibilities for research on the temporal and spatial distribution of birds across large geographical areas. To unfold the full potential of these possibilities, the EBP objective is to create a common data repository and to promote protocols and mechanisms for data sharing and analyses at a European scale.

To help attain these goals the EBP project already includes 29 partners running on-line bird recording schemes in 21 different European countries. The partnership involves biodiversity data centres and key ornithological institutions in their respective countries, enabling the collection of high quality monitoring data from thousands of volunteer birdwatchers and turning this information in sound science.

Dr Stephen Baillie, Senior Research Fellow at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) commented “The timing and patterns of bird migration across Europe are changing rapidly in relation to climate and other environmental factors. Thanks to over 100,000 observers from 21 countries, submitting in the region of 30 million new bird records every year, this new project will allow us to study those changes and to identify improved conservation strategies.”
He added,
“Bird migration is one of the great spectacles of the natural world. This new web portal provides novel visualisations of the patterns and speed of bird migration across Europe, which will be of interest to many people from dedicated birdwatchers to those who simply look forward to the arrival of the first Swallows each spring. As the project develops we plan to add many more species and to provide migration maps in close to real time.”
Thanks to the collaboration with the leading location intelligence and data visualization platform, CartoDB (www.cartodb.com), we have been able to layer multiple data sets spatially and chronologically, transforming information into great insights. As a result, the EBP demo viewer (www.eurobirdportal.org) will allow free access to thousands of amazing animated distributional maps that highlight the scope and potential of the EBP project and its future developments.

The EBP demo viewer will initially depict animated weekly distributional maps of 15 different bird species for four years (2010-2013), but during the next six months it will progressively reach 50 species and include data from 2014. Users will be able to select two animated maps of any species; year and type can be selected to be shown simultaneously for direct comparison (more than 1.5 million different map combinations will be available to choose from by the end of the year).

Currently, EBP efforts are focussed on displaying data in real time and on developing modelling approaches that will allow sound analyses of changes in distribution patterns with respect to climate, land-use and other relevant factors.
See teaser at https://youtu.be/-7KVhyt7Rsw

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The EuroBirdPortal (EBP) project

The EuroBirdPortal (EBP) project and its demo viewer (www.eurobirdportal.org) launched last week in Brussels as part of Green Week 2015, the annual conference on European environment policy organized by the European Commission.

The EBP project is a new initiative of the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) through which European on-line bird recording schemes will collaborate to research European-wide seasonal distributional changes, migratory patterns, and migration timing of birds and to understand how these patterns are changing over time. EBP data for Britain and Ireland come from the BirdTrack project (www.birdtrack.net) which allows birdwatchers to record their observations on-line and to contribute to conservation science.

Gabriel Gargallo, EBP project coordinator, commented, “The EBP project will allow a better knowledge of the patterns of bird distribution in space and time across Europe and, thus, help to properly address several issues of high concern in relation to bird conservation and management.”

Unlike more traditional monitoring projects, which focus on structured data collection, online bird recording portals aim to obtain year-round data from the relatively unstructured but intensive and widespread activities of birdwatchers. However, the vast amount of data contained in these portals and the sheer amplitude of their combined geographical and taxonomic coverage offer great possibilities for research on the temporal and spatial distribution of birds across large geographical areas. To unfold the full potential of these possibilities, the EBP objective is to create a common data repository and to promote protocols and mechanisms for data sharing and analyses at a European scale.

To help attain these goals the EBP project already includes 29 partners running on-line bird recording schemes in 21 different European countries. The partnership involves biodiversity data centres and key ornithological institutions in their respective countries, enabling the collection of high quality monitoring data from thousands of volunteer birdwatchers and turning this information in sound science.

Dr Stephen Baillie, Senior Research Fellow at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) commented “The timing and patterns of bird migration across Europe are changing rapidly in relation to climate and other environmental factors. Thanks to over 100,000 observers from 21 countries, submitting in the region of 30 million new bird records every year, this new project will allow us to study those changes and to identify improved conservation strategies.”
He added,
“Bird migration is one of the great spectacles of the natural world. This new web portal provides novel visualisations of the patterns and speed of bird migration across Europe, which will be of interest to many people from dedicated birdwatchers to those who simply look forward to the arrival of the first Swallows each spring. As the project develops we plan to add many more species and to provide migration maps in close to real time.”
Thanks to the collaboration with the leading location intelligence and data visualization platform, CartoDB (www.cartodb.com), we have been able to layer multiple data sets spatially and chronologically, transforming information into great insights. As a result, the EBP demo viewer (www.eurobirdportal.org) will allow free access to thousands of amazing animated distributional maps that highlight the scope and potential of the EBP project and its future developments.

The EBP demo viewer will initially depict animated weekly distributional maps of 15 different bird species for four years (2010-2013), but during the next six months it will progressively reach 50 species and include data from 2014. Users will be able to select two animated maps of any species; year and type can be selected to be shown simultaneously for direct comparison (more than 1.5 million different map combinations will be available to choose from by the end of the year).

Currently, EBP efforts are focussed on displaying data in real time and on developing modelling approaches that will allow sound analyses of changes in distribution patterns with respect to climate, land-use and other relevant factors.
See teaser at https://youtu.be/-7KVhyt7Rsw

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    [title] => SBRC seeking a new member for the committee
    [alias] => 36sbrc-seeking-a-new-member-for-the-committee
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Scottish Birds Records Committee (SBRC) is seeking a new member for the committee to replace Hywel Maggs, who retires later this year. To maintain geographical representation across Scotland, SBRC would prefer a candidate from north and east mainland Scotland. Any potential candidates should send their name to the Secretary (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). If more than one name is put forward, a ballot will be instigated, with Local Recorders having one vote each.

Chris McInerny, on behalf of SBRC

Glossy Ibis © John Nadin

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Scottish Birds Records Committee (SBRC) is seeking a new member for the committee to replace Hywel Maggs, who retires later this year. To maintain geographical representation across Scotland, SBRC would prefer a candidate from north and east mainland Scotland. Any potential candidates should send their name to the Secretary (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). If more than one name is put forward, a ballot will be instigated, with Local Recorders having one vote each.

Chris McInerny, on behalf of SBRC

Glossy Ibis © John Nadin

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Young Birders’ Training Course
Investing in the future of wild bird conservation
4th – 11th July 2015, Isle of May

Scotland’s largest bird club, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) and Britain’s oldest continuously accredited bird observatory, the Isle of May Bird Observatory(IoMBO) today launched their search for another six promising young birdwatchers to take part in their Young Birders’ Training Course, a week-long funded training course, run by the SOC and the IoMBO, on the Isle of May this July.

Open to individuals aged 16–25 years, the Young Birders’ Training Course is the first course of its kind in the UK. It presents a unique opportunity for budding ornithologists’, both in its setting and teaching options. The successful applicants will gain invaluable first-hand practical experience of a wide range of bird survey skills and techniques and participants will be able to draw on the talents and knowledge of highly experienced bird ringers, researchers and surveyors.

The course itself will include a thorough introduction to the practice of recording birds and other wildlife, experience of species counts, monitoring, ringing, trapping, ageing and sexing birds, as well as opportunities to participate in activities such as visible migration watches and co-ordinated sea-watching counts. Outwith the scope of most university curricula, these skills are essential attributes for those embarking on a career or role in wildlife recording, surveying and conservation.

Chris McInerny, President of the SOC:

“The SOC, along with the IoMBO, is delighted to again sponsor this course for young birdwatchers; both our organisations are committed to encouraging more young people into wildlife conservation. The course ran for the first time last year, and was a fantastic success. The six participants enjoyed staying on the beautiful Isle of May, in the refurbished Observatory, and learnt much during the week about birds and their conservation. All left the island with lasting memories and a commitment to preserving wildlife for future generations. We are grateful to legacies and generous donations to the Club, which have allowed us to fund this exciting project.”

Stuart Rivers, IoMBO Trust:

“The Observatory re-development has already proved its worth by allowing greater flexibility in the accommodation options, and this in turn has allowed us to proceed with our current and future aims of increasing the educational role of the Trust and the delivery of training opportunities. The ability to participate in Observatory and island life, coupled with ‘hands-on’, close-up (and personal!) interaction with seabirds and migrants makes this a unique experience. The stunning Isle of May land & seascapes enhance this even further. While the course itself will provide a positive step forward for the participants, we will also provide continued support to them with their future activities recording, monitoring and conserving wildlife.”

The Isle of May, which lies five miles off the Fife coast, nestles in the mouth of the Firth of Forth, and is a wonderful backdrop for the course. The island is one of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves, managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and protected by European and UK legislation because of its internationally and nationally important seabird and Grey Seal colonies.

The lucky participants will have the chance to find out more about the island’s rich cultural history and to sample bird observatory life, with accommodation for the duration of their stay being provided within the recently refurbished ‘Low Light’, a former lighthouse.

This course will not only provide a platform for participants to pursue a future in wildlife monitoring and conservation, but a network of contacts to assist the students on their journey. As part of the grant awards process and applicants’ skills development training, the group will collectively design and deliver a short presentation on their island experience at the SOC’s 2015 Annual Conference, to be held in Pitlochry in late October: an event that will be attended by representatives from various partner organisations.

The application form for the course can be downloaded from the SOC website, here or obtained by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The closing date for completed applications is 5pm, Monday 27th April 2015. Completed forms should be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or posted to: Jane Cleaver (Confidential), SOC, Waterston House, Aberlady, EH32 0PY.

Images courtesy of Harry Martin (top), Radina Atanasova (middle) and Stuart Rivers (bottom)

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Young Birders’ Training Course
Investing in the future of wild bird conservation
4th – 11th July 2015, Isle of May

Scotland’s largest bird club, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) and Britain’s oldest continuously accredited bird observatory, the Isle of May Bird Observatory(IoMBO) today launched their search for another six promising young birdwatchers to take part in their Young Birders’ Training Course, a week-long funded training course, run by the SOC and the IoMBO, on the Isle of May this July.

Open to individuals aged 16–25 years, the Young Birders’ Training Course is the first course of its kind in the UK. It presents a unique opportunity for budding ornithologists’, both in its setting and teaching options. The successful applicants will gain invaluable first-hand practical experience of a wide range of bird survey skills and techniques and participants will be able to draw on the talents and knowledge of highly experienced bird ringers, researchers and surveyors.

The course itself will include a thorough introduction to the practice of recording birds and other wildlife, experience of species counts, monitoring, ringing, trapping, ageing and sexing birds, as well as opportunities to participate in activities such as visible migration watches and co-ordinated sea-watching counts. Outwith the scope of most university curricula, these skills are essential attributes for those embarking on a career or role in wildlife recording, surveying and conservation.

Chris McInerny, President of the SOC:

“The SOC, along with the IoMBO, is delighted to again sponsor this course for young birdwatchers; both our organisations are committed to encouraging more young people into wildlife conservation. The course ran for the first time last year, and was a fantastic success. The six participants enjoyed staying on the beautiful Isle of May, in the refurbished Observatory, and learnt much during the week about birds and their conservation. All left the island with lasting memories and a commitment to preserving wildlife for future generations. We are grateful to legacies and generous donations to the Club, which have allowed us to fund this exciting project.”

Stuart Rivers, IoMBO Trust:

“The Observatory re-development has already proved its worth by allowing greater flexibility in the accommodation options, and this in turn has allowed us to proceed with our current and future aims of increasing the educational role of the Trust and the delivery of training opportunities. The ability to participate in Observatory and island life, coupled with ‘hands-on’, close-up (and personal!) interaction with seabirds and migrants makes this a unique experience. The stunning Isle of May land & seascapes enhance this even further. While the course itself will provide a positive step forward for the participants, we will also provide continued support to them with their future activities recording, monitoring and conserving wildlife.”

The Isle of May, which lies five miles off the Fife coast, nestles in the mouth of the Firth of Forth, and is a wonderful backdrop for the course. The island is one of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves, managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and protected by European and UK legislation because of its internationally and nationally important seabird and Grey Seal colonies.

The lucky participants will have the chance to find out more about the island’s rich cultural history and to sample bird observatory life, with accommodation for the duration of their stay being provided within the recently refurbished ‘Low Light’, a former lighthouse.

This course will not only provide a platform for participants to pursue a future in wildlife monitoring and conservation, but a network of contacts to assist the students on their journey. As part of the grant awards process and applicants’ skills development training, the group will collectively design and deliver a short presentation on their island experience at the SOC’s 2015 Annual Conference, to be held in Pitlochry in late October: an event that will be attended by representatives from various partner organisations.

The application form for the course can be downloaded from the SOC website, here or obtained by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The closing date for completed applications is 5pm, Monday 27th April 2015. Completed forms should be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or posted to: Jane Cleaver (Confidential), SOC, Waterston House, Aberlady, EH32 0PY.

Images courtesy of Harry Martin (top), Radina Atanasova (middle) and Stuart Rivers (bottom)

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    [title] => VOLUNTEER APPEAL: Help count Slavonian Grebes on the Clyde Estuary
    [alias] => 94volunteer-appeal-help-count-slavonian-grebes-on-the-clyde-estuary
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Slavonian Grebes on the Clyde estuary

The status of many birds on the Clyde estuary has changed since the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) began as the Birds of Estuaries Enquiry (BoEE) in 1969.  One group of birds which has increased significantly is divers and grebes.  Both Red-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe now occur in nationally important numbers on the Inner Firth of Clyde (usually referred to as the Clyde estuary, i.e. Renfrew to Wemyss Bay/Coulport).  The recent 5‑year average maximum count of Red-throated Divers is of 195 birds, which is just over 1% of the GB wintering population, and the Clyde is currently estimated to be the fourth most important site for this species in the United Kingdom (BTO/RSPB/JNCC WeBS Report 2012-13).  During the early years of the BoEE, Red-throated Divers wintered on the Clyde only in single figures.  The highest count now recorded was of 343 birds on 7 April 2002, 328 of these off Ardmore Point.

Another species whose fortunes have turned around is Slavonian Grebe.  Prior to 1993, this species was a local rarity, with only a handful showing on the Clyde estuary in any given winter.  However from 1993 onwards numbers steadily increased, with the most recent 5-year average maximum count being of 72 birds.  This amounts to around 7% of the UK winter population, and rates the Clyde estuary as one of the top two sites in the UK for wintering Slavonian Grebes, equalling the winter concentration found between Whiteness and Skelda Ness in the Shetland Islands (ibid).  The highest count yet recorded on the Clyde estuary was of 96 birds on 4 April 2014.

Almost all of the Clyde’s Slavonian Grebes are located in the vicinity of Ardmore Point, on an area of the estuary extending from Cardross Bay to Colgrain on the Helensburgh side.  We only know about the true status of the Clyde for this species thanks to the efforts of the team of WeBS counters who diligently go out in all weathers on a core count date in each month of the year.  In addition, many supplementary counts have been carried out by both WeBS volunteers and other local birdwatchers, most notably Iain Gibson, Sandy Gordon, Sandy McNeil and Alan Wood.  It is only rarely that official WeBs count dates coincide with weather conducive to locating offshore species, especially a bird as small as a Slavonian Grebe.  However, if you can fit in a visit planned to take advantage of calm and clear conditions, armed with a good telescope, the sight of many small flocks, pairs and scattered individual Slavonian Grebes is quite something to behold.  The sight and sound are even more impressive during the month of March into early April, when the grebes have moulted into breeding plumage, and peak numbers of Red-throated Divers on a calm day occasionally burst into orchestrated choruses of communal vocalisation.

To maintain the known conservation status of the Clyde estuary for Slavonian Grebe and Red-throated Diver, it is vital that we obtain at least one relatively complete count each winter.  So far this current winter (to 6 February 2015), the maximum count of Slavonian Grebe achieved has been of 38 off Ardmore Point in November.  Previous peak counts have been mostly during the months of February or March, with most Slavonian Grebes leaving the estuary at the end of the first week in April.  Unfortunately Iain Gibson, who has systematically counted the grebes and divers for many years, is currently incapacitated by a rather serious ankle injury, and it is unlikely he will be walking around Ardmore Point for the remainder of this winter.  We would appeal to SOC members and others to take advantage of a good day between now and early April to attempt to count these two species (and any others of interest, of course).

Admittedly it is not an easy task, but can be very rewarding if your count helps towards recognition of the Clyde as a nationally important site, for Slavonian Grebe in particular.  As well as excellent visibility with little or preferably no wind, another factor favourable to obtaining an optimal count is to do so during the low to mid (rising) tide period.  If this is not possible on a given day due to tidal times, try to do the count around the midday period when the sun is high.  A good telescope with sturdy tripod is essential, as many of the birds can be up to one kilometre offshore (or even further in the case of divers).  The suggested route involves scanning from Cardross Bay (at the station) to start, followed by a clockwise walk around Ardmore Point from the car park at NS324768. Beware – the circular path can be quite muddy in places. The usual best viewing points are from the south path at NS320783, the southern tip of the peninsula at NS315782, the west side at NS313786, and from the northern point looking towards Craigendoran at NS315790.  It’s advisable to scan slowly with a telescope, as a proportion of the birds will be diving at any given time.  However it’s important not to count the same birds twice!  It would also be helpful to count Great Crested Grebes, most of which are usually in one or two groups off the north side.  Please submit counts on the day to Val Wilson on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for use on the Clyde SOC Grapevine. Please contact Iain Gibson on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you need any further information or guidance.

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Slavonian Grebes on the Clyde estuary

The status of many birds on the Clyde estuary has changed since the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) began as the Birds of Estuaries Enquiry (BoEE) in 1969.  One group of birds which has increased significantly is divers and grebes.  Both Red-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe now occur in nationally important numbers on the Inner Firth of Clyde (usually referred to as the Clyde estuary, i.e. Renfrew to Wemyss Bay/Coulport).  The recent 5‑year average maximum count of Red-throated Divers is of 195 birds, which is just over 1% of the GB wintering population, and the Clyde is currently estimated to be the fourth most important site for this species in the United Kingdom (BTO/RSPB/JNCC WeBS Report 2012-13).  During the early years of the BoEE, Red-throated Divers wintered on the Clyde only in single figures.  The highest count now recorded was of 343 birds on 7 April 2002, 328 of these off Ardmore Point.

Another species whose fortunes have turned around is Slavonian Grebe.  Prior to 1993, this species was a local rarity, with only a handful showing on the Clyde estuary in any given winter.  However from 1993 onwards numbers steadily increased, with the most recent 5-year average maximum count being of 72 birds.  This amounts to around 7% of the UK winter population, and rates the Clyde estuary as one of the top two sites in the UK for wintering Slavonian Grebes, equalling the winter concentration found between Whiteness and Skelda Ness in the Shetland Islands (ibid).  The highest count yet recorded on the Clyde estuary was of 96 birds on 4 April 2014.

Almost all of the Clyde’s Slavonian Grebes are located in the vicinity of Ardmore Point, on an area of the estuary extending from Cardross Bay to Colgrain on the Helensburgh side.  We only know about the true status of the Clyde for this species thanks to the efforts of the team of WeBS counters who diligently go out in all weathers on a core count date in each month of the year.  In addition, many supplementary counts have been carried out by both WeBS volunteers and other local birdwatchers, most notably Iain Gibson, Sandy Gordon, Sandy McNeil and Alan Wood.  It is only rarely that official WeBs count dates coincide with weather conducive to locating offshore species, especially a bird as small as a Slavonian Grebe.  However, if you can fit in a visit planned to take advantage of calm and clear conditions, armed with a good telescope, the sight of many small flocks, pairs and scattered individual Slavonian Grebes is quite something to behold.  The sight and sound are even more impressive during the month of March into early April, when the grebes have moulted into breeding plumage, and peak numbers of Red-throated Divers on a calm day occasionally burst into orchestrated choruses of communal vocalisation.

To maintain the known conservation status of the Clyde estuary for Slavonian Grebe and Red-throated Diver, it is vital that we obtain at least one relatively complete count each winter.  So far this current winter (to 6 February 2015), the maximum count of Slavonian Grebe achieved has been of 38 off Ardmore Point in November.  Previous peak counts have been mostly during the months of February or March, with most Slavonian Grebes leaving the estuary at the end of the first week in April.  Unfortunately Iain Gibson, who has systematically counted the grebes and divers for many years, is currently incapacitated by a rather serious ankle injury, and it is unlikely he will be walking around Ardmore Point for the remainder of this winter.  We would appeal to SOC members and others to take advantage of a good day between now and early April to attempt to count these two species (and any others of interest, of course).

Admittedly it is not an easy task, but can be very rewarding if your count helps towards recognition of the Clyde as a nationally important site, for Slavonian Grebe in particular.  As well as excellent visibility with little or preferably no wind, another factor favourable to obtaining an optimal count is to do so during the low to mid (rising) tide period.  If this is not possible on a given day due to tidal times, try to do the count around the midday period when the sun is high.  A good telescope with sturdy tripod is essential, as many of the birds can be up to one kilometre offshore (or even further in the case of divers).  The suggested route involves scanning from Cardross Bay (at the station) to start, followed by a clockwise walk around Ardmore Point from the car park at NS324768. Beware – the circular path can be quite muddy in places. The usual best viewing points are from the south path at NS320783, the southern tip of the peninsula at NS315782, the west side at NS313786, and from the northern point looking towards Craigendoran at NS315790.  It’s advisable to scan slowly with a telescope, as a proportion of the birds will be diving at any given time.  However it’s important not to count the same birds twice!  It would also be helpful to count Great Crested Grebes, most of which are usually in one or two groups off the north side.  Please submit counts on the day to Val Wilson on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for use on the Clyde SOC Grapevine. Please contact Iain Gibson on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you need any further information or guidance.

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    [title] => SOC PRESS RELEASE:                    White-tailed Eagle sighted around Stranraer & North and South Rhins
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Individual of Mull Eagle Watch and BBC Springwatch fame

A juvenile White-tailed Eagle, (Haliaeetus albicilla) of BBC Springwatch and Mull Eagle Watch fame, has been thrilling residents of Stranraer for more than a month now, having been sighted at various locations around the town and surrounding areas, in close proximity to both the North and South Rhins.

As the UK’s largest bird of prey, the bird’s huge stature (adults birds can have a wingspan of up to eight feet) has made the eagle highly visible against the backdrop of the town’s centre and harbour front, much to the delight of local resident and Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) member Brian Henderson, who managed to photograph the eagle on his phone, having taken a picture down the lens of his spotting-scope.

“Being in the right place at the right time whilst out birding on Christmas Day, provided me with an unforgettable and mesmerising, jaw-dropping experience as I watched the natural behaviour of the White-tailed Eagle at close quarters from the comfort of my car, for over an hour and a half. During this time, the eagle repeatedly flew from its select vantage perch to feast on a nearby (carrion) carcass and then subsequently returned to the same vantage perch for vital plumage maintenance and drying. Phone-scoped images were captured detailing the majestic nature of the eagle and allowed for some detailed close-ups to be taken, which I doubt I will ever have the occasion to repeat such a feat again. Surely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that will remain firmly etched in my memory forever”, remarked Brian.

The juvenile eagle, ringed as Black G1 55, was a wild bred chick from the Mull Eagle Watch project, a partnership between Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, Police Scotland and the Mull & Iona Community Trust.

At less than a year-old, Black G1 55 is no stranger to the news having featured as a chick on the BBC’s popular Springwatch programme. It is also the same individual which was captured on CCTV being evicted from its treetop nest on Mull by an immature White-tailed Eagle last July. The intruder was thought to have spied the chick’s ready supply of food in the nest and was quick to seek out a free meal. Thankfully, local staff were quickly alerted to the drama unfolding and were able to recover the chick and return it to the nest from which it successfully fledged last year.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagles are known to range widely in the search for food and so the sighting of the bird around Stranraer is not unusual. “After they leave the nest, young birds will wander widely, usually within the range of the population as they are quite social birds and will visit communal roosts and territorial adults away from their natal area.  But some birds – such as G1 55 will wander more freely to seek out a good food supply – and there is no shortage of food for a White-tailed Eagle wintering in the Solway”, comments RSPB Conservation Officer, Dr Alison MacLennan.

If you are interested to find out more about birds locally, or are keen to meet other like-minded individuals, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club have a West Galloway branch which meets on a regular basis in Stranraer. For more information please visit www.the-soc.org.uk, or call 01875 871 330.

The White-tailed Eagle Project Team is keen to receive sightings of White-tailed Eagles and to encourage observers to send reports to the RSPB who collate sightings on the group’s behalf. Please phone or email sightings to your nearest RSPB office, or to the North Scotland regional office in Inverness. Contact details can be found here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/contactus/offices/scotland/index.aspx

Images courtesy of Brian Henderson.

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Individual of Mull Eagle Watch and BBC Springwatch fame

A juvenile White-tailed Eagle, (Haliaeetus albicilla) of BBC Springwatch and Mull Eagle Watch fame, has been thrilling residents of Stranraer for more than a month now, having been sighted at various locations around the town and surrounding areas, in close proximity to both the North and South Rhins.

As the UK’s largest bird of prey, the bird’s huge stature (adults birds can have a wingspan of up to eight feet) has made the eagle highly visible against the backdrop of the town’s centre and harbour front, much to the delight of local resident and Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) member Brian Henderson, who managed to photograph the eagle on his phone, having taken a picture down the lens of his spotting-scope.

“Being in the right place at the right time whilst out birding on Christmas Day, provided me with an unforgettable and mesmerising, jaw-dropping experience as I watched the natural behaviour of the White-tailed Eagle at close quarters from the comfort of my car, for over an hour and a half. During this time, the eagle repeatedly flew from its select vantage perch to feast on a nearby (carrion) carcass and then subsequently returned to the same vantage perch for vital plumage maintenance and drying. Phone-scoped images were captured detailing the majestic nature of the eagle and allowed for some detailed close-ups to be taken, which I doubt I will ever have the occasion to repeat such a feat again. Surely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that will remain firmly etched in my memory forever”, remarked Brian.

The juvenile eagle, ringed as Black G1 55, was a wild bred chick from the Mull Eagle Watch project, a partnership between Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, Police Scotland and the Mull & Iona Community Trust.

At less than a year-old, Black G1 55 is no stranger to the news having featured as a chick on the BBC’s popular Springwatch programme. It is also the same individual which was captured on CCTV being evicted from its treetop nest on Mull by an immature White-tailed Eagle last July. The intruder was thought to have spied the chick’s ready supply of food in the nest and was quick to seek out a free meal. Thankfully, local staff were quickly alerted to the drama unfolding and were able to recover the chick and return it to the nest from which it successfully fledged last year.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagles are known to range widely in the search for food and so the sighting of the bird around Stranraer is not unusual. “After they leave the nest, young birds will wander widely, usually within the range of the population as they are quite social birds and will visit communal roosts and territorial adults away from their natal area.  But some birds – such as G1 55 will wander more freely to seek out a good food supply – and there is no shortage of food for a White-tailed Eagle wintering in the Solway”, comments RSPB Conservation Officer, Dr Alison MacLennan.

If you are interested to find out more about birds locally, or are keen to meet other like-minded individuals, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club have a West Galloway branch which meets on a regular basis in Stranraer. For more information please visit www.the-soc.org.uk, or call 01875 871 330.

The White-tailed Eagle Project Team is keen to receive sightings of White-tailed Eagles and to encourage observers to send reports to the RSPB who collate sightings on the group’s behalf. Please phone or email sightings to your nearest RSPB office, or to the North Scotland regional office in Inverness. Contact details can be found here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/contactus/offices/scotland/index.aspx

Images courtesy of Brian Henderson.

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    [title] => Young Birders' Training Week 2015
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We’re thrilled to confirm that the SOC, in partnership with the Isle of May Bird Observatory, will be running the Young Birders’ Training Course again this year!

Thanks to income we’ve received through legacy donations from members and supporters past, we’re delighted to be in a position to be able to fund six more young birdwatchers to spend a week on the Isle of May this July, learning bird survey skills and techniques.

Full details about the opportunity and the application form will be available to download on website in March. Meantime, information about last year’s course can be found here: http://www.the-soc.org.uk/young-birders-training-week-investing-in-the-future-of-wild-bird-conservation/

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We’re thrilled to confirm that the SOC, in partnership with the Isle of May Bird Observatory, will be running the Young Birders’ Training Course again this year!

Thanks to income we’ve received through legacy donations from members and supporters past, we’re delighted to be in a position to be able to fund six more young birdwatchers to spend a week on the Isle of May this July, learning bird survey skills and techniques.

Full details about the opportunity and the application form will be available to download on website in March. Meantime, information about last year’s course can be found here: http://www.the-soc.org.uk/young-birders-training-week-investing-in-the-future-of-wild-bird-conservation/

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    [title] => Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) on the Clyde Estuary
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The national WeBS is organised by the BTO, and in Scotland coordinated by the SOC. In the Clyde area we have had excellent coverage for many years, but recently there has been a marked decline due to a shortage of volunteer counters. The most important site urgently in need of new counters is the Clyde Estuary, which requires a team of at least 12 regular volunteers and several reserve counters. The Clyde Branch has been coordinating monthly bird counts of the estuary for the past 45 years, with a break only in 1978 due to shortage of volunteers in that year. Two of our current team of volunteers have been counting throughout that entire period!

This month the count takes place this coming Sunday, 7th December. Three regular counters have indicated being unavailable, which has left us short of stand-in counters on two sectors of the estuary – West Ferry to Newark Castle, and Port Glasgow to Gourock Bay. If you are interested in helping out at short notice for Sunday’s count, or willing to join the team either as a regular or stand-in volunteer, please contact the Clyde area organiser, John Clark on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

John can provide helpful guidance on how best to survey individual sectors, and the count methodology. He can also arrange for you to shadow an existing counter to gain experience. We are also looking for additional volunteers to take on a number of freshwater sites. Adopting a regular patch can be an enjoyable and very rewarding experience, as well as making an important ‘citizen science’ contribution to the conservation of our local wild bird populations.

For more information on the Wetland Bird Survey see  http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/webs.

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The national WeBS is organised by the BTO, and in Scotland coordinated by the SOC. In the Clyde area we have had excellent coverage for many years, but recently there has been a marked decline due to a shortage of volunteer counters. The most important site urgently in need of new counters is the Clyde Estuary, which requires a team of at least 12 regular volunteers and several reserve counters. The Clyde Branch has been coordinating monthly bird counts of the estuary for the past 45 years, with a break only in 1978 due to shortage of volunteers in that year. Two of our current team of volunteers have been counting throughout that entire period!

This month the count takes place this coming Sunday, 7th December. Three regular counters have indicated being unavailable, which has left us short of stand-in counters on two sectors of the estuary – West Ferry to Newark Castle, and Port Glasgow to Gourock Bay. If you are interested in helping out at short notice for Sunday’s count, or willing to join the team either as a regular or stand-in volunteer, please contact the Clyde area organiser, John Clark on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

John can provide helpful guidance on how best to survey individual sectors, and the count methodology. He can also arrange for you to shadow an existing counter to gain experience. We are also looking for additional volunteers to take on a number of freshwater sites. Adopting a regular patch can be an enjoyable and very rewarding experience, as well as making an important ‘citizen science’ contribution to the conservation of our local wild bird populations.

For more information on the Wetland Bird Survey see  http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/webs.

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    [title] => New member of Scottish Birds Records Committee (SBRC) announced
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David Parnaby – a new member of SBRC

Scottish Birds Records Committee (SRBC) welcomes David Parnaby as new member of SBRC, replacing Mark Chapman for the Northern Isles region. David brings much experience to the committee, being the current warden of Fair Isle Bird Observatory, and previously having worked at the RSPB Loch of Strathbeg reserve in North-east Scotland.

SBRC would like to acknowledge its gratitude to Mark for his work over the period of his tenure. Mark has contributed a great deal to SBRC, and we wish him well.

Chris McInerny, on behalf of SBRC

 

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David Parnaby – a new member of SBRC

Scottish Birds Records Committee (SRBC) welcomes David Parnaby as new member of SBRC, replacing Mark Chapman for the Northern Isles region. David brings much experience to the committee, being the current warden of Fair Isle Bird Observatory, and previously having worked at the RSPB Loch of Strathbeg reserve in North-east Scotland.

SBRC would like to acknowledge its gratitude to Mark for his work over the period of his tenure. Mark has contributed a great deal to SBRC, and we wish him well.

Chris McInerny, on behalf of SBRC

 

[jcfields] => Array ( ) )
15 July 2015
A table of some early arrival dates for summer migrants in Scotland is available to view online.

Compiled by Angus...


19 June 2015
UNDERSTANDING PREDATION PROJECT – CAN YOU HELP?

Establishing a shared understanding of predator-prey interactions...

07 June 2015
The EuroBirdPortal (EBP) project

The EuroBirdPortal (EBP) project and its demo viewer (www.eurobirdportal.org)...

08 April 2015

Scottish Birds Records Committee (SBRC) is seeking a new member for the committee to replace Hywel Maggs, who...

12 March 2015
Young Birders’ Training Course Investing in the future of wild bird conservation 4th – 11th July 2015,
06 February 2015

Slavonian Grebes on the Clyde estuary

The status of many birds on the Clyde estuary has changed since the...

05 February 2015
Individual of Mull Eagle Watch and BBC Springwatch fame

A juvenile White-tailed Eagle,...

30 January 2015

We’re thrilled to confirm that the SOC, in partnership with the Isle of May Bird Observatory, will be running...

04 December 2014

The national WeBS is organised by the BTO, and in Scotland coordinated by the SOC. In the Clyde area we have had...

27 October 2014
David Parnaby – a new member of SBRC

Scottish Birds Records Committee (SRBC) welcomes David Parnaby as new member...

BECOME A MEMBER

SOC brings together like-minded individuals with a passion for birds, nature and conservation through a programme of talks, outings, conferences and via the Club’s quarterly journal, Scottish Birds.