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Where’s the Burdie@f0 Finding Scotland’s Birds

Thursday 1 November sees the start of the biggest ever bird survey to hit the UK. 

The British Trust for Ornithology, Scottish Ornithologists’ Club and BirdWatch Ireland are mobilising an army of 50,000 birdwatchers to undertake a stock-take of the UK’s birds – the first such operation for nearly twenty years.  The aim is to understand how recent changes to our climate and habitats are affecting Britain’s birds. 

The Bird Atlas is a four-year project to check on the numbers and distributions of the birds of Britain and Ireland.  Over 250 species will be surveyed, including the 40 red-listed and 121 amber-listed Species of Conservation Concern.  The results will set the agenda for bird conservation in the next two decades, helping to answer questions such as:

•    Is Barn Owl conservation working?
•    Are Black-headed Gulls no longer breeding in some regions of Scotland?
•    Are long distance migrants like Cuckoo and Spotted Flycatcher disappearing from parts of Scotland?
•    Are birds like Nuthatch spreading further north into Scotland as a result of climate warming?
•    Where are the remaining breeding concentrations of Redwing and Crested Tit?

Writing in the National Bird Atlas appeal brochure, the BTO’s President, Baroness Barbara Young of Old Scone, said: “Bird numbers provide a barometer of how the natural world is coping with pressures from climate and habitat changes.  Bird Atlas 2007-11 will deliver vital evidence for conservation practitioners.”

On 1 November (and for the next four years) birdwatchers will be taking to the hills, tramping around fields, strolling through woodland or just reporting on the birds that visit their gardens.  They will record, count and seek out as many species as they can, to see just how much has changed since the last Winter Atlas (1981-84).  Next summer they will search out breeding species, comparing their observations to the last Breeding Atlas (1988-91).  In Scotland, the SOC and BTO Scotland and are keen to involve as many birdwatchers as possible, however knowledgeable they feel they are.

Bob Swann, the Scottish Atlas Organiser said: “The aim is to cover all of the 1011 ten-kilometre squares in Scotland. It is going to be a massive undertaking. Getting full coverage of Scotland, particularly in winter, with short days and unpredictable weather is not going to be easy. The effort is, however, going to be very worthwhile. Not only is atlasing fun, getting you out into new areas, finding new sites and new birds, it is also a good way of putting something back into your birding.. The results from this atlas will be used to help conserve Scotland’s important bird populations for at least the next two decades.”

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