Didn't They Do Well!
Summary from British Birds
24th September 1996
The latest report on Rare Breeding Birds in the United Kingdom, published in the September issue of the monthly journal British Birds, paints an optimistic picture. Clearly our rarer birds are mostly doing very well.
Birds of prey are the real success story with record numbers, over the 22 years of these reports, for five species. Honey Buzzard had up to 28 pairs breeding, Red Kites 111 wild pairs and 28 from the re-introduction programme, Marsh Harriers raised at least 255 young, Montagu's Harrier at least 13 young and Osprey had 83 pairs which actually laid eggs and 146 young were reared. The more common Goshawk and Hobby also had a good year.
Bird watchers, all over the country, are asked to report rare birds they find nesting to the Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP) each year. Partners in this operation are the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the British Trust for Ornithology - as well as British Birds. After carefully collating the detailed and confidential information the annual report is released some 18 months after the year's end. Then, for the first time, one can gauge how our rare birds are doing though the localities where they are breeding are, of course, not released. Other highlights in 1994 were the discovery of at least four pairs of Purple Sandpipers breeding in Scotland and the confirmed total of 623 pairs of Avocets - the first year with more than 500 since 529 in 1989. It was also an excellent year for Quail, the tiny migrant gamebird with the 'Wet-my-Lips' call. They were recorded from 359 localities nationwide - the best summer since 1989.
There were disappointments. Once more the Cranes did not breed successfully despite three pairs being present in East Anglia. The Wrynecks, only 60 years ago a plentiful bird in Southern England, could only muster a single record and the lovely little finch the Serin, for so long knocking on the door, was only recorded from two localities. Malcolm Ogilvie, secretary to the RBBP, said yesterday 'This report is very encouraging for all conservationists. I am particularly pleased that Bitterns, Corncrakes, Stone Curlews and Cirl Buntings are doing so well as a result of careful programmes based on detailed research and subsequent management.' Paul Green, of the British Trust for Ornithology, added 'We should congratulate all concerned with looking after these rare birds on their success. But all is not well with Britain's birds. The BTO and RSPB continue to be very worried about species like the Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting and Skylark - widespread birds of farmland - that seem to be losing out.'
Further excitements lie in store for the dedicated bird watcher. At the British Bird Fair at Rutland Water last weekend news of the successful breeding of two new species for Britain in 1996 was circulating. One, the Little Egret, is a small elegant white heron from Southern Europe, has been expected for a year or two. There have been many records of them in Southern England throughout the year. The other is the close cousin to the Robin, the spectacular Bluethroat, which successfully nested in Eastern Britain.