Rare Breeding Birds Panel
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Rare Breeding Birds Panel - AUTUMN 2018
With the 2018 breeding season now behind us, we can take a look at some of the key events of this last year. In terms of unusual or new breeding species for the UK, it seems (so far) that 2018 has not been a particularly notable year, certainly when compared to 2017! A calling female Little Crake and a long-staying singing Great Reed Warbler, both in Cambridgeshire, led to some anticipation of more but nothing seemed to come of these sightings. In July five Long-tailed Skuas on a Shetland island also looked promising for a breeding attempt but that also was not to be. Sadly though, despite the fact that the occurrence could have involved nesting birds, and they were in an area with several other rare and sensitive breeding birds such as Whimbrels and Red-throated Divers, the news was made available and promoted by one bird news service, leading to unnecessary disturbance by those keen to get photos and prepared to travel to this isolated location. We recommend that potential breeding attempts by rare breeders, espeically where they occur alongside other rare species, should be left undisturbed and monitored at a distance.
As often in recent years, there were records of singing and potentially breeding Marsh and Savi's Warblers, and perhaps an increase in sightings of Black Redstarts in breeding habitat. Roseate Terns had a good year, with a new record count of 118 pairs on their main UK colony at Coquet Island, Northumberland. Successful breeding by a pure pair of Roseates on Anglesey also made the news, though RBBP reports show that nesting has been attempted here in recent years, although usually involving single Roseates paired with Common Terns. These records are just a selection, the Rare Breeding Birds Panel speciality is the compilation of the definitive numbers of breeding pairs each year, for which we are dependent on detailed site by site returns from county and regional bird recorders and other sources such as from bird reserves and Schedule 1 licence returns.
With one exception, we have not so far heard of any range extensions or unusual species. The exception though is an important one - the first breeding by Avocet in Scotland, at the RSPB Skinflats reserve in the Upper Forth recording area. The picture left by Allison Leonard shows the pair at the nest, and the map right shows all the recording areas that Avocets have bred in the ten years 2007-2016. This shows what a jump it is for the species to colonise a site in the Forth, about 150km direct distance from the nearest colonies in northeast England.
Much of the Panel Secretary's time this year has been taken up collating and processing the records of rare breeding birds in 2016. The final numbers have now been checked and compiled into our annual report with status updates; the new report will be published in British Birds in November. We would like to thank everyone who has helped us in that long process, especially the county recorders who worked hard to get data to us, and the birders who were out there finding and monitoring the birds. Remember that you can browse all our previously published reports - including our most recent (covering 2015) and going right back to our first, 1973 - here.
We are now actvely collecting and processing all data for the 2017 season. If you saw any rare breeding birds in breeding habitat in 2017 or 2018, and especially if you were able to confirm breeding, please ensure that you submit the details to the relevant county bird recorder NOW.