24/11/2015
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Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey 2015/16

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The United Kingdom is internationally important for its numbers of wintering waterbirds, with over 3.5 million waterbirds recorded annually by the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) counts. There are, however, some gaps in the monitoring of our winter waterbirds — and this is where your birding expertise comes in.

WeBS counts are mostly made on estuaries and inland waterbodies, leaving the majority of the coastline — there is approximately 20,000km of non-estuarine coastline around the UK — uncounted. In 2015/16 a Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey (NEWS) will focus coverage on these important and under-recorded habitats.

Purple Sandpipers and Turnstone are classic examples of some of the species that occur around our shores outside of estuaries, and consequently are not monitored as comprehensively. Following the original Winter Shorebird Count carried out in 1985 and NEWS counts in both 1997/98 and 2006/07, the third repeat of NEWS will be carried out this coming winter — why not take part? It involves visiting one of the coastline sectors, just once in December or January. And who knows, you might stumble upon a Snow Bunting, Twite or Shore Lark flock, or maybe even a returning Harlequin Duck...

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Turnstone
Turnstone is a familiar winter sight around much of Britain's coast (Photo: Howard Kearley)

How the survey works

The non-estuarine coastline has been broken up into count sectors approximately 2km long. Each county has been split into regions and there are 10 priority sections, selected at random, in each region. These priority sections will be allocated first and then the others will be available for allocation later this month. The survey runs from 1 December 2015 to 31 January 2016 and just a single visit is needed, to record all birds and mammals using the section.

How to take part

  • The survey will be carried out in conjunction with the Wetland Bird Survey, so if you are an existing WeBS Counter who uses WeBS Online, the NEWS options to select sectors will have automatically appeared on your WeBS Data Home page.
  • If you are not a WeBS Counter but you have taken part in one of the BTO's online surveys (BBS, Atlas, BirdTrack etc.) then please visit 'Survey Home' on the BTO website, where you will find a NEWS bar in your list of available surveys. Click on the word "Setup" to gain access to the online interface to be able to request your sectors and input your counts.
  • If you have not used WeBS Online before or do not have a BTO username you will need to register for an online username and password, then please visit Survey Home to see the NEWS bar. Click on the word "Setup" to gain access to the online interface to be able to select your sectors and input your counts.
  • You can request any sector to count, though we do ask that if possible you choose one of the priority sections as these will be used to give robust population estimates.
  • Full instructions and maps of count sections can be downloaded from within WeBS Online.

For more information see www.bto.org/webs-news or email webs@bto.org.

NEWS is funded by BTO, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and the WeBS Partnership, supported by I-WeBS.

Written by: Neil Cabrade, BTO