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The Millionth Card

News from the BTO
24th June 1996

A pair of Pied Wagtails, and their five chicks, nesting above the doorway of an old croft in Scotland last year are blissfully unaware that they made history. Pat French, a member of the British Trust for Ornithology, documented their nesting attempt on a Nest Record Card and it was the millionth received at the BTO HQ in Thetford!

The Nest Record Scheme has been in existence for 57 years and was started by James Fisher and Sir Julian Huxley. It is the oldest project of its type in the World. It is also the largest, more than twice the size of the holdings in the United States scheme.

The idea, and that behind much of the work of the BTO, is that by co-operating and recording facts about Britain's birds, members can investigate important aspects of their lives which are vital for science and conservation. An individual enthusiast can find 50 or 100 nests of a species each year and build up a picture of what is happening to the bird over ten or fifteen years. But 50 or 100 enthusiasts working together can monitor the species annually and even tease out regional differences. Together the 1000 volunteers helping the BTO's Nest Record Scheme cover the majority of Britain's breeding bird species.

Hundreds of scientific papers have been written using the data gathered over the years. One of the most interesting recent findings is that many of Britain's birds are nesting earlier now than they were 30 years ago. This is thought to be a consequence of global warming. The recent award of money from the lottery to help with data storage is partly going to benefit the nest record scheme - whose heap of cards would now be considerably taller than the Post Office Tower if they were all piled on top of each other!

The brood of wagtails fledged successfully. Pat French said of them 'I have a particular affection for Pied Wagtails. We welcome them back to the Highlands each March. Their cheerful calls and cheeky appearance makes us think that warmer weather is not too far away.'

Nest recorders operate throughout the Britain and Ireland and Caroline Dudley would be very pleased to send you a starter pack. Write to her at the BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU or fax a request to her on +44 1482 750030. Please mention Bird-On!

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