Rare Breeding Birds Panel
RBBP - the secure information archive on the UK's rare breeding birds - Twitter: @ukrbbp
Rare Breeding Birds Panel - 2019: June update
Turtle Dove is officially a rare breeding bird and we will collate and publish data annually from 2018.
This month's update: Turtle Doves; how to record rare breeding birds; the 2019 breeding season, including White Storks (pictured right courtesy of the late Derek Moore)
As announced last month, the Turtle Dove has been added to the list of species to be reported on by the RBBP each year. Turtle Dove is the most rapidly declining breeding species in the UK, with a population now believed to be close to or less than 2,000 breeding pairs, meaning it qualifies for inclusion on our list. We have compiled a document Turtle Dove explaining this decision and offering tips and guidelines on how to record Turtle Doves. As this species (picture left, courtesy of Dawn Balmer) will now be back in its breeding areas (mainly eastern England), we ask all birders to diligently record their sightings and make sure they pass the details to the relevant county recorder. Detailed guidelines on how to report Turtle Doves can be accessed via this link: Recording Guidelines for Turtle Dove (pdf file).
We ask all county recorders to now include Turtle Dove in their annual data submissions to RBBP, with effect from the 2018 season. As well as that change, we no longer require information on these two species: Water Rail and Firecrest. Data received in recent years, plus the results of other research, indicate that the populations of these species exceeds 2,000 pairs so we will not be seeking records after the 2017 season. The 2017 RBBP report will provide full explanations behind these decisions. Data for 2018 has already started to arrive with RBBP. Congratulations to Leicestershire & Rutland, the first recording area to supply records for the 2018 season.
Think Rare Breeding Bird - watch for species and for breeding behaviour
The most important message at this time of year is to be aware of what is a rare breeding bird. The 'official' definition is one with fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs in the UK in a typical year, but we don't expect everyone to remember how many of each species there are! All the species are listed on our website here. Take a look through the whole list - you may be surprised what you find there. Some are national rarities like Red-necked Phalarope, Bluethroat and Spotted Crake. Many though are more widespread species like Shoveler, Pochard, Red-breasted Merganser, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier (right, per RSPB Images), Hobby and Short-eared Owl.
In all cases, ALL records of birds in breeding habitat should be diligently recorded, with breeding evidence codes (BirdTrack makes this easy, with drop-down menus). Records of pairs are especially useful - best of all of course is evidence of confirmed breeding with records of (for example) occupied nests, adults feeding young or recently fledged young. Be aware though of passage birds or early season gatherings. Thus Hobbies gathering in May may not be breeding at that site, but from June to August any bird in breeding habitat (for Hobby, open areas with trees) should be recorded and submitted to the county recorder. Little Egrets need only be counted (for RBBP purposes) if at a colony. We believe some colonies are still to be found, or are not recorded annually, so there is chance for some detective work in many areas of the country! When recording ducks, ensure you count - and report - males, females and ducklings separately. Two pairs of Shoveler in early May at a site may not be seen again in pairs, but single males there subsequently are strongly indicative that the females are on nests nearby, so even the reports of lone males are important later in the season. Visit the site again to look for broods of ducklings.
What to do with your records
Make sure they are submitted to the county bird recorder, either directly or via BirdTrack.
And the more unusual
Each year there is a chance of something unusual turning up and breeding. Recently we have seen Bee-eaters, Little Bitterns and Night-herons. Some species are not even detected until they have young, much later in the summer. And there has been an increasing population of some colonising species like Great White Egrets, Spoonbills and Cattle Egrets. With inflated numbers of the latter over the winter, there is a good chance that some may breed. Look out in existing heronries or for birds flying with sticks into copses. Three colonies were found in 2017 but so far we at RBBP have not heard of any in 2018. But 2019 may well be different!
The main news so far this spring has been the first nesting of White Storks for over 600 years, at Knepp in Sussex; these birds originate from the reintroduction scheme underway in Sussex. For more information see here.