I'm a big fan of annual county and site-related bird reports. Such detailed written statements provide both a long-lasting historical record and an interesting insight into the birds of the period.
My initial reaction on receiving this B5-sized Cleveland report for 2015 was one of keen anticipation, and it was clear at the outset that the report reflects the new genre of high standards in both production and content. It is also worth acknowledging the huge effort that must have gone into producing the report well before the end of the following year. Overall, the editor (Graeme Joynt) and team have produced a very attractive summary of the year's birdlife.
The report is a product of the Teesmouth Bird Club (TBC). The Cleveland recording area covers a large part of North Yorkshire and south Durham, with the Teesmouth estuary and Saltholme RSPB being two centrally situated iconic birding locations. The report also covers great migration hot-spots such as Hartlepool Headland, North and South Gares and the Yorkshire coast down to Staithes.
It features all the expected elements, including a contents list, scientific names, status summary, all species in the systematic list, special articles, BTO/WeBS/local census results, weather, seasonal review, local rarity descriptions, rarities requirements, migrant dates list, escapes/exotics and a gazetteer with map references. Future editions might also benefit from a Chairman's report and a Recorder's overview.
I counted 242 species recorded during the year. The species accounts include a very clear colour-headed species name bar, with WeBS and other monthly counts (eg Little Egret roosts, annual Little Tern fledgling numbers and so on), all nicely presented in different coloured boxes within the species accounts — very pleasing on the eye. In addition, there is a fabulously detailed map of Saltholme RSPB and the surrounding area, plus a wider Cleveland map on the inside covers (though some of the major roads on the latter map have unfortunately been omitted due to a printing error).
I particularly liked the inclusion of the section on 'Environmental Issues and Changes in Cleveland during 2015' by Alistair McLee, and I dare say the first two paragraphs on planning matters reflect current struggles for many naturalists across the length and breadth of the country. It is pleasing to note that the author is planning a seminar to educate planners, consultants and the like.
The report includes more than 140 colour photographs, including a nice front cover shot of the area's first record of Squacco Heron. Local artist Ian Lawson sadly passed away during the year, but without a single piece of artwork in the report there is clearly an opportunity for contributions in the future.
A typically interesting ringing report follows the species accounts; I especially enjoyed the brief discussion and management actions on the Black-headed Gull and Common Tern breeding relationship at Saltholme RSPB.
Three back papers include accounts on the first Squacco Heron for Cleveland and second records of Pallid Harrier and Black-winged Pratincole. These last two species were single-observer sightings and the benefits of carrying a camera are clear for all to see in both instances — hats off to the two finders.
Although the old county of Cleveland was abolished in 1996 the TBC has retained the same reporting boundaries for continuity purposes, and with a membership of around 500 there is a clear desire for such a focus. I'm sure this report will satisfy local readers but it is also relevant to anyone who might visit the area; the maps alone justify the purchase. At £7.50 plus £1.50 p&p the report represents excellent value, though full annual TBC membership costs only £12.
Copies available from John Fletcher via www.teesmouthbc.com/Publications/ForSale.aspx.
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