08/02/2008
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Bird Atlas – fine weather for fieldwork

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Over the next four years we are undertaking one of the most ambitious bird surveys in Britain and Ireland and we need your help to achieve this. Bird Atlas 2007-11, organised by BTO, BirdWatch Ireland and SOC, plans to achieve coverage of all 3879 10-km squares in Britain and Ireland in both the winter and the breeding season.

There are two complementary fieldwork methods, Roving Records and Timed Tetrad Visits. The Timed Tetrad Visits (TTV) will give us information on the relative abundance of species in a 10-km square. A combination of the species recorded on TTVs and Roving Records will help us to achieve comprehensive species lists for all 10-km squares. For the national atlas we are aiming for at least eight tetrads (2x2 km squares) to receive TTVs. Each tetrad requires two visits in the winter and two visits in the breeding season, and once done, that tetrad requires no further TTV work. The minimum requirement for a TTV is a one-hour visit, so if you can spare just a couple of hours in the winter and breeding season you can make a real contribution to the Atlas. Roving Records over the four years will top up the species list to make it as complete as possible.

Over 30 counties are carrying out local atlases and will be aiming to achieve comprehensive species lists for every tetrad. You can view a list of counties online at: http://www.bto.org/birdatlas/taking_part/localatlases.htm.

Fieldwork for the Atlas got off to a fantastic start in November and December with over 12,000 Timed Tetrad Visit counts entered online. The poor weather, particularly at weekends, during January and early February means that few late-winter visits have been carried out so far (4500). The fine weather forecast for the weekend will hopefully allow us to catch up on the late visits.

The Bird Atlas website www.birdatlas.net allows us to gather Roving Record and TTV data online and present back maps for a small range of species that are good indicators of coverage. In addition, Bird of the Day on the home page randomly selects a species that gives a flavour of the data collected so far. Over the next few weeks paper forms will be arriving, which will fill in some of the gaps.

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Woodcock
Woodcock, Belgium (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

The provisional map (below) shows the records received online so far for Woodcock. Each dot represents a 10-km square. Can you help fill in some gaps for the winter period (November-February)? You can enter your records online or request a Roving Record form from BTO (email: birdatlas@bto.org) or download one from the website: http://www.bto.org/birdatlas/taking_part/formsdownload.htm. All the species you see when you are out birding are Roving Records - it takes just a few minutes to enter them online!

Woodcock map

We still need birders to take on Timed Tetrad Visits for the breeding season and next winter. You can request a tetrad to cover on the website or contact your Regional Organiser: www.bto.org/birdatlas/taking_part/yourro.htm.

Thanks to everyone who has submitted records so far online and on paper. We have received over 327,000 Roving Records online alone and have been able to incorporate over 400,000 records from BirdTrack. It's been a fantastic start!

BTO Website: www.bto.org

Make your bird records count at www.birdtrack.net

Written by: Dawn Balmer, Atlas Coordinator BTO