Rare Breeding Birds Panel
RBBP - the secure information archive on the UK's rare breeding birds - Twitter: @ukrbbp
Rare Breeding Birds Panel - late May/early June 2017
LATEST NEWS The RSPB has released news of breeding Cattle Egrets at their Burton Mere Wetlands reserve in Cheshire. This is the first indication of breeding in the UK since 2009 and follows a large influx last winter. More information from BirdGuides here. Note photo on left is of a bird in winter plumage.
Each week during the 2017 breeding season we will once again include a TIP OF THE WEEK here on our home page. Each tip will suggest an activity that birdwatchers could take part in to help find and record rare breeding birds. At times, we might focus on species of uplands or lowlands, forest or coast, north or south, but over the season there should be something for everyone. Watch out for new tips every week; so far this year we've given hints for recording Little Egret, Goshawk, Water Rail, Greenshank, Short-eared Owl, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Firecrest, Cetti's Warbler, Willow Tit and Hawfinch. If you found any, please ensure that you submit the records to the local county/regional bird recorder directly or via BirdTrack. You can download a short guide on using BirdTrack to submit records of rare breeding birds here. All such records will be collated for compilation into the annual return by county recorders to RBBP.
This week's featured species: Long-eared Owl (see photo right, kindly provided by Jack Bucknall) and Spotted Crake. With longer evenings this is the time of year to use that extra light to explore more remote woodlands and marshes for two nocturnal species which are easily overlooked. Long-eared Owl broods will be fledging and you may hear the young calling. Spotted Crakes could be advertising themselves with their characteristic 'whiplash' calls.
Although widespread in Ireland (where there are no Tawny Owls) in Britain Long-eared Owls occur mainly in southern and eastern Scotland, northern England and low lying areas in East Anglia and the Thames estuary (see map in Bird Atlas 2007-11. They are mainly found in dense coniferous woodland close to areas of rough grassland for hunting, low-lying scrub over marshy ground, or coastal scrub and woodlands. They can occur in post-industrial landscapes where scrub and rank grasslands have developed. However, they are easily overlooked and often go undetected unless breeding pairs are successful and fledge young. Young Long-eared Owls have a characteristic 'squeaky-gate' begging call which can be far-carrying on still summer evenings. Listen to an example begging call of a juvenile here. Since Long-eared Owl was added to the list of species covered by RBBP, no more than 401 pairs have been reported in any year, although the UK population is thought to be at least 1,800 pairs, and possibly as high as 6,000 pairs. Every record of Long-eared Owls in the breeding season submitted to county recorders can therefore contribute to our rather scant knowledge of this species. Guidelines on recording Long-eared Owls can be downloaded here.
Spotted Crakes are much rarer and are restricted to open fen-type habitats such as those found in Cambridgeshire, East Yorkshire and the Avalon Marshes in Somerset; although they also occur in small marshes on the Scottish islands and can be found elsewhere. Listening at dusk in suitable habitat is the only way to check for their presence. Numbers vary annually, averaging 28 in recent years, although 51 calling males were reported in 2014. Listen to an example call here. Guidelines on recording Spotted Crakes can be downloaded here.
Remember, it's not just these species - if you see any birds on the RBBP List (in breeding habitat), make sure that you submit those records too and make sure you use the breeding evidence code to document breeding evidence). Using the BirdTrack website, you can add a six-figure grid reference or pinpoint the sighting on the map. Similarly, if you use the BirdTrack smartphone app, the record will be allocated an accurate location. For some tips on how to use BirdTrack in this way, download our PDF Recording of breeding evidence and rare breeding birds using BirdTrack. There is the added bonus that any records with breeding evidence can be incorporated into the new European Bird Atlas. For more information on that project see EBBA2. The BTO have set up a very useful website to help focus fieldwork efforts (all species, not just rare breeders) in Britain and Ireland: Gapfinder.