Rare Breeding Birds Panel
RBBP - the secure information archive on the UK's rare breeding birds - Twitter: @ukrbbp
Rare Breeding Birds Panel - 2019: mid-spring update
In the last update we encouraged you to search for species best located early in the year, such as Willow Tits, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Goshawks and Long-eared Owls. If you did find any of these, please make sure that your records are submitted to the relevant county recorder as soon as possible, so that they are not forgotten later in the busy breeding season. Now it's time to broaden your horizons and look out for any evidence of breeding behaviour, as well as the unusual species.
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 (left, per Ian Francis), 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.
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!
What to do with your records
Make sure they are submitted to the county bird recorder, either directly or via BirdTrack.