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WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

Breeding bird Survey 2018  information courtesy of the BTO.

To read the full report visit  https://www.bto.org/sites/default/files/bbs-report-2018.pdf

European mountain bird survey

Mountain areas often hold special bird communities which are not found in the lowlands. Mountain species face many threats including climate change and changes in human land use, such as grazing pressure, afforestation or logging. Climate change has been suggested to cause distribution shifts towards mountain tops. Yet, despite the high conservation value of the mountain areas, relatively little is known about the population trends of mountain bird species even in Europe, where monitoring of common birds has been a long tradition. The reason for this is that human densities are low in the mountain areas, which decreases the possibility of recruiting volunteers for censuses, and mountain areas have sparse road networks and encompass difficult terrain, leading to low accessibility for census sites. In addition, many mountain birds have low population densities: therefore, reliable population trend estimates would require a relatively high sampling effort.

 INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION Despite the many monitoring challenges in mountain areas, there have been significant improvements in breeding bird monitoring schemes around Europe. Thanks to the international collaboration of 14 countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Scotland, England, Wales, Czechia, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France, Andorra and Spain) we were able to report a first account of population trends of 44 bird species from four major European mountain regions: Fennoscandia, UK upland, south-western (Iberia) and south-central mountains (Alps). The selected mountain species preferred open or semi-open high-altitude habitats and they were most likely to be negatively affected by climate change

 WORRYING TRENDS Among the 44 species, 14 showed negative and eight positive trends in Europe. Overall the mountain bird species declined significantly (-7%) during 2002–2014, which is similar to the declining rate seen in common birds in Europe during the same period. Mountain specialists showed a significant -10% decline in population numbers and the slope for mountain generalists was also negative but not statistically significantly so. Fennoscandian and Iberian populations were on average declining significantly, while in the UK and Alps trends were non-significant. In the UK, the selected mountain species which were common enough to calculate population trends were Buzzard, Red Grouse,

 Graph 2 130 Index 120 110 100 90 70 80 60 (a) 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 (b) 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 Year (a) Mountain bird indicator for Europe. (b) Separate indicators for generalist (grey) and specialist (black) species, during 2002–2014.

 

 Golden Plover, Snipe, Skylark, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Carrion Crow and Raven. Of these, only Carrion Crow showed a statistically significant declining trend in mountain BBS routes. Although, the overall declining population trends are in line with the climate change predictions, other factors may have contributed to the population changes. For instance, the declining human population in the mountain areas of southern Europe has, at least regionally, led to reduced agriculture actions such as grazing of ungulates. Reduced grazing pressure can cause afforestation and thus habitat loss for species preferring open mountain habitats.

 MONITORING AND RESEARCH ARE KEY The joint European effort showed that mountain species are declining even though these areas are rather remote and often less influenced by human land use than lowlands. The reasons for observed declines are still poorly known, but they can be linked to both changes in climate and local land-use practices. Census work in the upland areas is highly encouraged to increase our knowledge of the state of the mountain birds further.

 A FLAVOUR OF MONITORING MOUNTAIN BIRDS IN FINLAND Finnish and Swedish common bird monitoring has similar systematic sampling design: routes are situated in every 25-km square, which means that in remote areas they can be very far away from the nearest roads. Finland has a very dense forest-road network, but this network is sparse in the northern mountain areas. Here the most remote routes are situated over 25 km from the roads and volunteers need to first hike for one or two days to get to the census site to survey the routes. And who would not like to do this – camping in the wilderness and experiencing the special species!

 I have personally done one such remote route in northwest Finland. After a one-day hike with my brother, the route itself was situated 16 km from our camp site. To reach this route in good census time, I woke up at 10pm and started a c.four-hour walk to the survey site in the ‘nightless night’. One Ptarmigan nest was spotted on the way. The survey site included alpine tundra and low scrubland, which was paradise for Lapland Bunting: altogether 66 pairs on a 6-km route. Golden Plover (21 pairs) and Meadow Pipit (23) were also abundant. Temminck’s Stint, Dunlin and two Snow Bunting represented nice uncommon species. When I returned to the camp site after altogether a 38-km walk in the afternoon, I felt tired but happy

UK Trends

United Kingdom – population trends Goldcrest declined by in the UK between 38% 2017 and 2018 TREND TIME PERIODS The trends for the lifetime of the survey, 10 years and 2017–2018 are presented in this report and the five-year trends are available online at www.bto.org/bbs-tables. Shorter-term trends provide insights into changes over time, e.g. increasing or decreasing rates of decline and allow some species, such as Marsh Harrier, to reach the reporting thresholds for these shorter time periods. Worryingly, the continuing declines and localisations of species such as Pied Flycatcher and Willow Tit means they do not reach the reporting threshold for these more recent time periods. See page 13 for information on trends and thresholds. BEAST FROM THE EAST The year-on-year trends suggest the spell of fierce winter weather nicknamed the ‘Beast from the East’ in late February and early March 2018 hit some of the UK’s smallest resident bird species hard. Goldcrest declined by 38%, Long-tailed Tit by 22% and Wren by 21% between 2017 and 2018. Goldcrest and Wren can be double-brooded and all three species have clutch sizes of between five and eight eggs: therefore it is possible for populations to recover fairly quickly providing this is a one-off harsh winter. Kingfisher also appears to have been affected, with a year-on-year decline of 38% whereas the population trend for Grey Heron from 2017 to 2018 remained stable. SAHARAN STRUGGLES? Winds from the north through much of the spring migration period could have taken their toll on migrant species returning to the UK from Africa, but conditions on wintering grounds could also have contributed to the year-on-year declines for some of the UK’s migrant species. House Martin (-17%), Sand Martin (-42%) and Swift (-20%) all declined between 2017 and 2018, along with Whitethroat (-18%) and Willow Warbler (-23%). BUCKING THE TREND Unlike Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Swift and Sand Martin which, according to BirdTrack data, were marginally late back to the UK in spring 2018, Cuckoo arrived back not only on cue, but also in good numbers. Did they find a weather window in which to cross the Saharan desert or did they find conditions favourable over the winter? Whatever the cause, an increase of 22% between 2017 and 2018 provides a welcome break at the end of a long-term decline of 41% (1995–2017) in the UK. Annual fluctuations can provide insights into the influences driving longer-term change, for example how a trend to increasingly unsettled or extreme weather conditions might influence bird population trends. Data from 3,918 BBS squares surveyed across the UK in 2018 have been added to the BBS data set and used to calculate population trends for 117 bird species. There are 10-year and long-term trends for all species which reach the reporting threshold for the UK for each time period and a one-year trend for all 117 species. Mandarin and Nightingale are also included here, having reached the lower reporting threshold set for England.

 STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT RESULTS Period No. species Greatest change in UK trends Long-term (95–17) increases 39 (Little Egret): 2,316% Long-term (95–17) declines 39 Turtle Dove: -94% Short-term (17–18) increases 10 Crossbill: 88% Short-term (17–18) declines 28 (Common Tern): -68% Total number of long-term (1995–2017) statistically significant results by Birds of Conservation Concern 4 (BoCC4) status: Red, Amber or Green, for species classified. Turtle Dove Tree Sparrow Swift Gadwall Greenfinch (Little Egret)

 TREND TIME PERIODS The trends for the lifetime of the survey, 10 years and 2017–2018 are presented in this report and the five-year trends are available online at www.bto.org/bbs-tables. Shorter-term trends provide insights into changes over time, e.g. increasing or decreasing rates of decline and allow some species, such as Marsh Harrier, to reach the reporting thresholds for these shorter time periods. Worryingly, the continuing declines and localisations of species such as Pied Flycatcher and Willow Tit means they do not reach the reporting threshold for these more recent time periods. See page 13 for information on trends and thresholds. BEAST FROM THE EAST The year-on-year trends suggest the spell of fierce winter weather nicknamed the ‘Beast from the East’ in late February and early March 2018 hit some of the UK’s smallest resident bird species hard. Goldcrest declined.

 by 38%, Long-tailed Tit by 22% and Wren by 21% between 2017 and 2018. Goldcrest and Wren can be double-brooded and all three species have clutch sizes of between five and eight eggs: therefore it is possible for populations to recover fairly quickly providing this is a one-off harsh winter. Kingfisher also appears to have been affected, with a year-on-year decline of 38% whereas the population trend for Grey Heron from 2017 to 2018 remained stable. SAHARAN STRUGGLES? Winds from the north through much of the spring migration period could have taken their toll on migrant species returning to the UK from Africa, but conditions on wintering grounds could also have contributed to the year-on-year declines for some of the UK’s migrant species. House Martin (-17%), Sand Martin (-42%) and Swift (-20%) all declined

 between 2017 and 2018, along with Whitethroat (-18%) and Willow Warbler (-23%). BUCKING THE TREND Unlike Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Swift and Sand Martin which, according to BirdTrack data, were marginally late back to the UK in spring 2018, Cuckoo arrived back not only on cue, but also in good numbers. Did they find a weather window in which to cross the Saharan desert or did they find conditions favourable over the winter? Whatever the cause, an increase of 22% between 2017 and 2018 provides a welcome break at the end of a long-term decline of 41% (1995–2017) in the UK. Annual fluctuations can provide insights into the influences driving longer-term change, for example how a trend to increasingly unsettled or extreme weather conditions might influence bird population trends

Whitetroat-decline

Image courtesy of GR3Z  {Flickr}  Public domain

England – population trends BBS Population Trends NUTHATCH: MICHAEL TAYLOR In 2018, data from 2,934 squares contributed to the English BBS data set in time to allow trends to be produced for 112 species. This includes seven species for which it is possible to calculate only the shorter-term trends of one, five and 10 years. The five-year trends are published online. STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT RESULTS Period No. species Greatest change in English trends Long-term (95–17) increases 37 Red Kite: 19,069% Long-term (95–17) declines 36 Turtle Dove: -94% Short-term (17–18) increases 9 Nuthatch: 25% Short-term (17–18) declines 35 Grasshopper Warbler: -47%

 NUTHATCH DOUBLE During the lifetime of the BBS, Nuthatch have increased by 103% (1995–2017). Looking at the trend from 2017 to 2018, it appears Nuthatch, with its varied diet of invertebrates and seeds, weathered the Beast from the East, with an increase of 25% across England. Nuthatch are expanding across Britain, spreading northwards into Scotland. Research conducted on the Continent, where populations have also increased by 103% between 1980–2016 (PECBMS), showed that, long-term, generally milder winters are benefiting this species. CONTINUING DECLINES Both Grey Partridge and Nightingale have reached a new population low with declines greater than 60% for the first time. Grey Partridge decline (-60%, 1995–2017) has been linked

 to changes in agricultural practices, such as the spraying of herbicides and pesticides which reduce prey abundance during chick rearing, and a reduction of nesting cover at field boundaries. There is also some suggestion Grey Partridge can be burdened with caecal nematodes, passed on from farm-reared Pheasant: however, evidence that this could impact survival rates is conflicting. For Nightingale, the long-term decline is now at 62% (1995–2017). Reasons include the loss of suitable breeding and foraging habitat in the UK, through deer browsing, and reduced woodland management leading to an overshadowed and outcompeted understorey, along with possible pressures on migrationroutes and habitat degradation on the wintering grounds. It is worthy of note that the UK is at the northern limit of the Nightingale’s global range. As with Nightingale, Tree Pipit is also a long-distance migrant, wintering in the humid zone of western Africa. As a group, passerines from the UK wintering in this area are those for which we see the strongest long-term declines. Tree Pipit have declined by 53% between 1995 and 2017 and have also contracted in range, especially in eastern England. In southern England, a change in the structure of forests has been suggested as contributing to declines. As plantations mature and management of lowland woods decreases, so too does suitable breeding habitat for Tree Pipit.

 

Tree pipit decline

Image courtesy of Dhaval Vargiya  CC BY-SA 4.0 licenseFile:Tree Pipit at Rajkot Photo Dhaval Vargiya.jpg

Scotland population trends

 

 STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT RESULTS The Scottish BBS received data from 557 squares in 2018, and with these added to the long-term data set, it was possible to calculate trends for 69 species. In the shorterterm, it is possible to calculate 10-year trends for four species where a long-term trend isn't possible due to the long-term average sample size not reaching the reporting threshold. Period No. species Greatest change in Scottish trends Long-term (95–17) increases 23 Chiffchaff: 780% Long-term (95–17) declines 11 Greenfinch: -66% Short-term (17–18) increases 3 Crossbill: 57% Short-term (17–18) declines 12 Sand Martin: -45%STARLINGS STRUGGLE Starling have declined by 28% in Scotland between 1995 and 2017. The reasons behind this aren’t fully understood and, with increases in breeding success, it is suspected these declines are due to lower first-year survival rates outside the breeding season. Changes in grazing practices are likely to have influenced Starling decline, at least in some part. Changes in grazing density and the livestock grazed can alter sward structure in pastoral areas, causing them to be less suitable for foraging. The use of insecticide can further reduce food availability.

 

 Further research into urban Starling populations is needed, with attention turned to the lack of available nest sites in well-insulated homes, with few entrance holes into suitable nest sites a potential problem. CORVID CREW Another species that feeds on grounddwelling invertebrates, the Rook, is also in decline. Their distribution in Scotland largely excludes higher ground and a 37% decline between 1995 and 2017 has been recorded across the country. Bird Atlas 2007–11 revealed relatively small changes in range since 1968 across the UK but that changes noted were in the northerly fringes of the species’ range, for the most part, this being the Scottish Highlands.

 As with Starling, changes in agricultural practices are considered to be the main reason for Rook decline. Unlike Starling, a decrease in breeding success has been recorded in recent years for Rook. It may be surprising to learn Hooded Crow have declined by 40% between 1995 and 2017 in Scotland. The reasons behind this are largely unknown. However, it appears to be a primarily Scottish issue with populations in Northern Ireland increasing by 166% during the same time period. POSITIVE NEWS Scotland has some of the largest longterm population trend increases seen in BBS, including for the following species: Great Spotted Woodpecker (417%), Chiffchaff (780%), Blackcap (451%) and Tree Sparrow (389%) between 1995 and 2017.

 THERE’S MORE The five-year trends are given online at www.bto.org/bbs-tables, including a trend for Spotted Flycatcher

Northern Ireland Trends.

Northern Ireland – population trends Woodpigeon increased by 100% in Northern Ireland between 1995 and 2017 STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT RESULTS Data from 117 BBS squares contributed to the long-term data set for Northern Ireland and were used in these latest trends. Trends were calculated for 37 species and are reported here in 22-, 10- and one-year time periods with five-year trends available online. These shorterterm trends allowed an additional three species to reach the reporting threshold.STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT RESULTS Data from 117 BBS squares contributed to the long-term data set for Northern Ireland and were used in these latest trends. Trends were calculated for 37 species and are reported here in 22-, 10- and one-year time periods with five-year trends available online. These shorterterm trends allowed an additional three species to reach the reporting threshold. Period No. species Greatest change in NI trends Long-term (95–17) increases 16 Blackcap: 1,468% Long-term (95–17) declines 2 Greenfinch: -75% Short-term (17–18) increases 1 Coal Tit 26% Short-term (17–18) declines 9 Bullfinch: -35% TREND PROVIDES A BUZZ After severe persecution of Buzzard, and raptors in general across all of Ireland through the 19th century, numbers declined until the species was driven to extinction by the end of the century. As persecution slowly became less prevalent, and possibly due to the removal of organochlorine pesticides such as DDT and dieldrin (which are known to have negatively affected some raptors) from general use in agricultural practices, Buzzard populations started to recover across

 Britain and the species was able to recolonise Ireland. This is reflected in the long-term trend for Buzzard in Northern Ireland – a 1,302% increase between 1995 and 2017. It appears, however, the rate of increase is slowing over time, with an increase of 35% over the last 10 years (2007–2017). GREENFINCH DISAPPEAR Greenfinch have undergone a 75% decline from 1995 to 2017. The main driver of the decline is a disease called trichomonosis that is thought to have

 originally spread from pigeons and doves and began to infect Greenfinch. Trichomonas is a protozoan parasite that causes nodules in the throat and prevents the host from feeding. Infected birds are often found around feeders looking unwell, with wet faces as the parasite causes drooling, and fluffed-up feathers. There is no cure but disinfecting bird feeders regularly is believed to reduce the risk of the infection spreading. BLACKBIRD BOUNCE BACK The predecessor survey to the BBS – the Common Birds Census – recorded a decline in Blackbird abundance from the 1970s to 1990s across the UK. Reasons for this are largely unknown and declines were seen in both farmland and woodland habitats, though the decline was steeper in farmland. The decline is thought to have started in 1976 following a short but severe cold spell, followed by a shallow downward trend possibly related to average lower winter temperatures. Therefore, the increase of 43% from 1995 to 2017 represents a recovery from the prior decline.

 PIGEONS AND DOVES Both Woodpigeon and Collared Dove populations have doubled over the last 22 years, by 100% and 110% respectively (1995–2017). While population increases in Woodpigeon appear to have slowed in the last 10 years (18% from 2007 to 2017), Collared Dove continued to increase at almost the same rate over the last 10 years (+43%) as they have throughout the 22 years of BBS monitoring in Northern Ireland.

 

England regions 

English regions – population trends 487 trends calculated in English Regions Region Counties Number of squares covered in 2018 No. of trends Significant increases Significant declines 1 North West Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside 257 57 20 14 2 North East Cleveland, County Durham, Northumberland 140 39 8 7 3 Yorkshire & Humber East Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire 306 56 22 8 4 East Midlands Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire & Rutland, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire 303 58 20 10 5 East of England Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk 403 68 22 20 6 West Midlands Birmingham, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire 216 54 19 14 7 South East Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Sussex 691 67 22 25 8 South West Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire 570 61 17 13 9 London Greater London 97 27 13 8 Table 7 Counties in each region, coverage in 2018, trends produced and statistically significant changes The threshold for reporting trends for an English region is 30 squares per year, on average, since the survey began. Population trends have been calculated for nine English regions, covering 79 species. A summary of each region’s trends and coverage is displayed in Table 7.

 Long-term trends (1995–2017) are provided in Table 8, along with an indication of whether the trend is statistically significant and the average sample size for the species in a given region since the survey began. For more information on thresholds and statistical significance, see page 13. Information on the trends and statistically significant results for each region is summarised here. It is striking to see regional variations for some species. For example, Chiffchaff has increased long-term by 37% increase in the South West and 413% in the East Midlands! In future, as coverage increases, the aim is to be in a position to report regional trends for other countries within the UK. TREND GAINS Overall, the number of long-term trends reaching the reporting threshold has increased from 482 in 2017 to 487 in 2018. Species have joined the trends for some regions: Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker and House Martin in the North East, Coot in the East Midlands, Raven in the West Midlands and Bullfinch in Yorkshire & Humber.

 ...AND LOSSES However, the sample size is now too small to report a long-term trend for Grey Partridge in the South East. SIGNIFICANT INCREASES Buzzard featured heavily as the species to have undergone the largest increase in the most English regions: North East (+6,421%), East Midlands (+1,829%) and East of England (+22,058%). Another raptor, Red Kite, was the species to show the largest increase in the South East (+16,797%) and this region was the only one able to produce a 22-year trend for the species. Different species were responsible for the largest significant increases in each of the five remaining regions. Perhaps unsurprisingly it was Ring-necked Parakeet for London (+24,652%). For the North West it was Chiffchaff (+348%) – although the species itself increased the most in the East Midlands (+413%); for Yorkshire & Humber it was Greylag Goose (+924%); the West Midlands, Goldfinch (+239%) – although this time, London recorded the largest

 increase for Goldfinch across English regions (+463%). Finally, in the South West, Great Spotted Woodpecker underwent the largest long-term increase of 130% in the region. It also increased substantially in the North East (+155%), the East Midlands (+168%) and the West Midlands (+142%). SIGNIFICANT DECLINES For three regions, Cuckoo was the species to have undergone the largest decline long-term (1995–2017); East Midlands (-83%), West Midlands (-77%) and the South West (-82%). For the East of England (-94%) and South East (-96%), Turtle Dove suffered the largest declines. In the North West (-68%) and North East (-70%) Swift was the species to have undergone the largest decline. In the two remaining regions - Yorkshire & Humber, and London – the largest declines seen were for Grey Partridge and House Sparrow respectively, both with a 70% decline between 1995 and 2017.

 Region Counties Number of squares covered in 2018 No. of trends Significant increases Significant declines 1 North West Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside 257 57 20 14 2 North East Cleveland, County Durham, Northumberland 140 39 8 7 3 Yorkshire & Humber East Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire 306 56 22 8 4 East Midlands Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire & Rutland, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire 303 58 20 10 5 East of England Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk 403 68 22 20 6 West Midlands Birmingham, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire 216 54 19 14 7 South East Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Sussex 691 67 22 25 8 South West Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire 570 61 17 13 9 London Greater London 97 27 13 8

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