32,000 people count 5 million birds in Euro Birdwatch 2015

A sizeable flock of Sociable Lapwings was sighted in Uzbekistan during Euro Birdwatch 2015. Photo: Durzan (commons.wikimedia.org).
A sizeable flock of Sociable Lapwings was sighted in Uzbekistan during Euro Birdwatch 2015. Photo: Durzan (commons.wikimedia.org).
More than 32,000 adults and children took part in counting almost five million migrating birds in Europe and Central Asia in October.

Euro Birdwatch 2015 was held on 3 and 4 October 2015 in 41 countries. More than 1,000 local events – from bird ringing and hiking, to environmental education workshops – were organised by BirdLife partners from Albania to Austria and Switzerland to Uzbekistan, for birders, ornithologists and the public alike.

Euro Birdwatch was first organised in 1993, and since then more than 1.1 million people have participated in over 36,000 events to count more than 60 million birds, as they fly south for the winter.

Most countries had organised migration counts, either through a network of counting stations manned by experienced birders, or through field trips for members of the general public to Important Bird Areas (IBAs). The national data was forwarded to the European Centre (this year being was run by Vogelbescherming Nederland, or BirdLife in the Netherlands).

But Euro Birdwatch is not just about counting birds. In order to survive, migratory birds need good breeding conditions in the colder north and safe stop-over sites along their flyway (migratory path), as well as warmer temperatures and good habitat with plenty of food in their wintering areas in the south. So the goal of Euro Birdwatch is to raise awareness of bird migration by showing its wonders and dangers, and promoting conservation action to save migratory species and their habitats. A study by BirdLife International recently showed that every year, 25 million birds are being killed illegally in countries around the Mediterranean during spring and autumn migration, so some BirdLife partners used Euro Birdwatch to bring this issue to the forefront.

Starling, Chaffinch and Coot were the most frequently noted species this year, but birders in many countries also saw rare birds. Among these were the first record of Sardinian Warbler for Luxembourg, Red-throated Pipits in Austria and The Netherlands, Dusky Warbler in Finland and five Great Bustards in Turkey. Six Critically Endangered Sociable Lapwings were also seen in Turkey, and no less than 2,200 in Uzbekistan!

On the flip side, in some western European countries the weather was actually ‘too good’ to observe bird migration with the naked eye. Easterly tail winds pushed many flying birds up higher and faster, which meant they could not be seen from the ground.

More information, downloads, results and photos of previous Euro Birdwatch events can be found here.