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Britain's Birds Did Well in 1995

News from the BTO
25th June 1996

The 34th annual report of the Common Birds Census of the British Trust for Ornithology appears in the current issue of BTO News. This documents population changes for 73 species. These results came from careful field work on more than 200 plots, mainly in woodland and farmland, all over the country in both 1994 and 1995.

Comparisons are always between the same plot covered generally by the same observer in each year. Eleven species showed a statistically significant increase and only three went down.

Annual reports, such as this, may seem routine - and, in a way, they are. However they are vital as an objective way of keeping tabs on the changes year on year to our wild bird populations. Britain is the world leader in this and our results are the envy of other countries. They enable the Government to comply with the monitoring requirement within the European Community Bird Directive.

The species which registered significant increases were as follows. F and/or W after the percentage change indicates when there was a significant change on Farmland and/or Woodland plots separately:

Buzzard (+37%), Wren (+13%F, +6%W), Robin (+9%F), Blackbird (+7%W), Song Thrush (+10%W), Sedge Warbler (+27%F), Whitethroat (+18%F, +33%W), Chiffchaff (+16%F, +8%W), Willow Warbler (+18%F), Goldcrest (+67%F, +35%W) and Long-tailed Tit (+20%F).

Four of these are migrants and most of the others are species affected by earlier cold winters making their expected recoveries. The increase in Song Thrush is particular welcome but falls far short of making up for its long term decline.

The three species to have gone down between 1994 and 1995 are Shelduck (-29%), Tree Pipit (-24%) and Yellowhammer (-11%F). Shelduck are not in their prime habitat on CBC plots but have reached their lowest level for six years. Tree Pipits are down by 60% over the last ten years having been rather stable until then. Yellowhammers are at their lowest level ever and are one of the farmland species which have given cause for concern for many years.

Changes which are not statistically significant included, as usual some which had gone up, and some down. Those species where the changes reinforce long-term trends are Kestrel (down), Coot (down), Stock Dove (up), Tawny Owl (down), Green Woodpecker (up), Skylark (down), Pied Wagtail (up), Spotted Flycatchers (down), Jackdaw (up). Starling (down) and Redpoll (down).

Some of the birds of farmland which have seriously declined over the last 25 years are making a slight comeback but this must be sustained, and embrace other species, before we can feel that these changes could be really mark the beginning of a full recovery. Perhaps the best species is the Linnet whose populations now match those of the early 1980's.

The CBC was part-funded during 1994-95 under a contract from the Department for the Envoronment. More CBC plot counters are needed in Britain. Andy Wilsonm will be poleased to discuss this with you. He can be contacted at the BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU or fax on +44 1482 750030 or by phone on +44 1842 750050. Please mention Bird-On!

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