Rare Breeding Birds Panel
RBBP - the secure information archive on the UK's rare breeding birds - Twitter: @ukrbbp
Rare Breeding Birds Panel - 2019: early spring update
The 2019 breeding season starts: some species best surveyed in the early spring
Some resident breeding birds return to their breeding territories in February and March and are at their most conspicuous at this time of year. These include Willow Tits, for which a national survey is underway, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, and Long-eared Owls.
The 2019 survey of Willow Tits
We are working in partnership with the RSPB who are organising a survey of Willow Tits across their current and recently occupied range in England, Wales and south-west Scotland. Willow Tit is the second fastest declining species of bird in Britain (after the Turtle Dove) and in order to provide suitable conservation action we need to know more about their current status and habitat choice. The survey is taking place from mid February to mid-April when Willow Tits are more vocal and easier to find. You can read more about this on our Willow Tit survey page. There are still areas needed volunteers so please have a look and take part if you can. Willow Tit photo (left) by David Norman.
Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers
The range and density of our smallest woodpecker has shrunk in recent decades and it can be a hard bird to find in many counties. Any record of this species between February and July qualifies for submission to RBBP (coded 'H' for breeding habitat). To help us get the most accurate count this is all we need - there is no need to look for nest sites, indeed disturbance of nesting LSWs should be avoided. Photographers - please do not hang around these birds, you may be preventing the adults return to their nests to brood eggs or feed young.
Bright days with light winds and extensive forest plantations or areas of mature woodland are ideal conditions to look for displaying Goshawks, a species that, despite its size, can be very difficult to locate at other times of year. Find a vantage point and log the location of displaying birds. Do not enter the woods. Beware of mis-identifying Sparrowhawks, this guide might help.
The easiest time to find breeding Long-eared Owls is from mid-May to June when the young are fledging and their far-carrying begging calls help locate them. However, counting these under-represents the population as it only monitors the successful breeding pairs. At this time of year, on still evenings (especially in the first hour after dusk, so quite a sociable time of day in February/March) adult Long-eared Owls can be heard hooting, helping to identify the territories. We know very little about the numbers of this species, except where intensive searching has been done (e.g. in Co. Durham) so you can make a real difference by recording LEOs. Try listening along the edges of conifer plantations near rough grassland in the uplands and in lowland scrub (such as tall hawthorns along old railway lines or damp areas with willows). Here is an example recording of a Long-eared Owl calling in Norfolk in February this year listen. We have also compiled a guide to recording Long-eared Owls here. Long-eared photo (right) by Jack Bucknall.
What to do with your records
Make sure they are submitted to the county bird recorder, either directly or via BirdTrack.