Rare Breeding Birds Panel
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Rare Breeding Birds Panel - February 2018
February update: (1) over the weeks since the start of the year, more 2016 data have come in from various sources and we are working through them, logging them on to our database and including them in the definitive long-term archive of rare breeding birds in the UK held by the RBBP; (2) county recorders who haven't yet submitted their county/region's records of rare breeding birds for 2016 are being contacted, one by one, to encourage submission before the end of February, to ensure that they are included in the next annual report (for details of the 2015 report, see below); (3) birdwatchers who recorded rare breeding birds in habitat in 2016 should check that the local recorder for that county/region has sent the data to RBBP. You can see the state of data by recording area here. The graphic to the left shows progress to the end of January - there are 25 areas still to send data!
To fulfil our aims to curate and safely archive all records of rare breeding birds in the UK, for the conservation of those species and for the benefit of UK ornithology, we rely on birdwatchers reporting their sightings to county recorders and those recorders collating them and sending them on an annual basis to the RBBP Secretary - in good time for the earliest compilation of the annual report on rare breeding birds.
The latest report of the Rare Breeding Birds Panel, recently published in the journal British Birds (cover of the December issue pictured left), reveals further increases in some resident passerines such as Cetti’s Warblers, Dartford Warblers and Firecrests (2,935, 1,677 and 1,548 territories respectively). All of these species are associated with warmer, southern climates but have been increasing and spreading in southern Britain in recent decades and all have responded to the recent run of milder than average winters. A wide range of other species also reached their highest population levels in recent years, for example Whooper Swan (maximum total of 32 breeding pairs), Eurasian Bittern (186), White-tailed Eagle (108), Marsh Harrier (393; see graph on right), Goshawk (616), Osprey (245), Red-necked Phalarope (83), Wood Sandpiper (33), Roseate Tern (113), Fair Isle Wren (43) and Redwing (40). But the declining Montagu’s Harrier was present at only four sites, the lowest since 1984; seven breeding females fledged only six young, a below average number. Golden Orioles were recorded at four sites but at three they stayed for a few days only and at the fourth there was no indication of breeding having occurred.
A new breeding species for Britain was discovered in 2015: Iberian Chiffchaff. This warbler, which occurs mainly in France and Iberia, has been regularly recorded singing in Britain in recent springs – with up to four territorial birds recorded in eight of the last ten years. In 2015 the only Iberian Chiffchaffs found were in south Wales, but careful watching at the secret site revealed that there was not only a pair but that they were breeding. Over the season they raised two broods totalling seven young. Full details of this finding will be published in the February issue of British Birds.
Recent colonists bred again in 2015: up to five Little Bitterns, three pairs of Great White Egret, 14 pairs of Spoonbill and four pairs of Black-winged Stilt. Two pairs of Bee-eaters bred in Cumbria although only one young was fledged.
Overall, a total of 100 rare or scarce species was recorded breeding, or showed signs of breeding, in the UK in 2015. Full details are presented in the annual report of the UK Rare Breeding Birds Panel in the December issue of the journal British Birds. The report presents, for the first time, long-term population trends for most of our regularly breeding rare species. The species showing the greatest increase over the last 25 years is the Little Egret, while that with the greatest decline is Golden Oriole. The totals and trends for 2015 are used in the latest State of the UK's birds which is also published this month.
Subscribers to British Birds will receive their own copy of the report in the post or digitally. You can buy your own digital copy for £4.99 via the Apple Appstore or Google Play: search for British Birds magazine. Alternatively, you can buy a paper copy (£7.50): from British Birds directly.