Monday, 9 January 2012

Fancy a Chat?

stonechat Saxicola torquatus
Jill Pakenham
The spring of 2012 will see the first dedicated survey run by BTO Cymru which will be taking the lead on a pilot survey of three of our chat species, namely the resident stonechat, and the migrants whinchat and wheatear. These three species are seen as a Welsh speciality, and are on every visiting birders wish list. 

whinchat Saxicola reubetra
Bob Garrett
Results from the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) show that stonechat numbers have fallen sharply after the last two cold winters, while whinchat and wheatear have shown declines in both range and numbers. The long-term trends for whinchat and wheatear are both showing declines of over 55%. Preliminary analysis of data from the Bird Atlas 2007-11 appears to confirm the long-term BBS trends and highlights areas from which the species have disappeared in the last twenty years.  

wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Jill Pakenham
The birdwatchers of Wales have noticed that the Welsh whinchat population has disappeared from much of its traditional range, and that wheatears are no longer a common breeding bird. The primary method for monitoring bird populations is the BBS, for which nearly 250 random squares are surveyed annually in Wales by BTO volunteers.  A targeted survey is needed to obtain more detailed information on scarcer species such as the chats and the habitat features that are most important to them.

The survey will be conducted by volunteers surveying randomly selected 1km squares during three visits in each of April, May and June. The whole square will be covered and all target species plotted on maps. This is going to be an on-line survey, having a similar feel to existing BTO surveys.

If you feel like taking part and would enjoy visiting some stunning countryside contact the BTO Cymru office at either 01248 383285 or email

The BBS (Breeding Bird Survey) is jointly organised by BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) and RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). 

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