Birds are familiar, fascinating and colourful creatures and wherever you live you are bound to have a range of species close by. Several once widespread and common birds have suffered significant long-term declines and it is important to try to understand the reasons behind this.
Bird surveys are not only great fun to take part in, they can help to identify which species are in trouble and may need your help.
Have you seen…?
All these birds have suffered serious declines of 50% or more in breeding numbers over the last 25 years and are now Biodiversity Action Plan Species.
It’s not all bad news…
Some species are doing very well, especially some familiar garden species. All these birds have increased their populations in recent years.
How do we know these things?
The simple answer is that people make observations and submit records on Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service
, county recorders
and organisations like the British Trust for Ornithology
(BTO) and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
This information can play an important role in indicating the health of the local environment and provide clues to what may be going wrong, or indeed what is being done right!
Records of bird populations in parks and gardens or on farmland can also, over time, provide useful data to monitor such things as the local effects of climate change or changes in land use and can indicate those areas rich in species that may need special protection.
Why not start a simple survey today?
Or perhaps you can contribute your records to one of several national surveys.
One good thing about surveying birds is that whatever the time of year there will be something to see. It is simply a matter of:
- Selecting the survey that is most relevant to your needs and experience levels.
- Choosing a survey that can be comfortably completed in the time you have available.
Surveying can cover a defined area containing a mix of habitats such as a woodland or a wetland. Or maybe even target a single species of conservation concern.
It is more fun if it becomes an inclusive activity so, if you feel you do not have sufficient expertise, then surveying with a more experienced person, or as part of a group with mixed ability may be a solution. You can always contact Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Information Service (01603 598333) for recommendations of an expert who, for a small fee, would be willing to run a workshop to get things started.
A good pair of binoculars is useful for any form of bird recording, but there is no need to break the bank. Binoculars will always be rated as something like 10x50 or 8x40.
Understanding this code is easy:
- The first figure relates to the magnification.
- The second shows the diameter of the objective lens (the lens pointing at the subject) in millimetres, with the larger sizes generally having greater light gathering capability.
For the purposes of bird surveying, it is best to choose a pair with an objective lens of at least 40mm and magnification power of 7x or 8x. This normally provides the optimum balance between size, weight and clarity of image.
However, people vary and before purchasing any equipment it would be wise to test a range of optics to select the model most suited to your taste and pocket.
A telescope is not normally required for surveying in woodland and other confined habitats, but when undertaking such things as counting wader flocks, gulls at roost or birds using farmland it can be an indispensable tool.
Need some inspiration?
Discover just some of the bird surveys people have been carrying out in Norfolk.
Would like to tell us about your bird survey? Click here
Download bird survey forms here.
Watch the birdie…
A digital camera can be quite useful during surveying either to record habitats, or to take images of bird flocks whose numbers can then be counted at a later date on a computer screen, or even to take a photograph of a bird that needs to be identified.
Need help identifying that mystery bird?
Need to brush up on your bird song
Recognising birdsong is an excellent way to extend your knowledge and will greatly enhance your survey results. To get details of birdsong workshops and dawn chorus walks in Norfolk check out our event section
Take part in a national survey
National organisations such as the BTO and RSPB run a number of long-term and annual bird surveys that should appeal to a wide range of people from casual garden birdwatchers to serious birders. Here are some you might want to participate in:
Big Garden Birdwatch
which involves recording the birds in your garden for one hour over a set weekend, usually in January.
BTO Garden Birdwatch
which involves submitting regular weekly records of birds seen in your garden at any time of the year.
Nest Record Scheme
is one of the simplest BTO projects to take part in and accessible to everyone. You can monitor a single garden nestbox or carry out a larger study.
is an online bird recording system that makes the most of even simple records such as day lists and records of migrants.
asks you to visit a set tetrad to record all the birds you see and hear. You are asked to visit for an hour or more in the winter and during the breeding season.
For all your bird surveying needs…
You may find the following books, dvds, cds and equipment helpful when carrying out a bird survey:
Please watch this space we will be updating this section shortly.
Surveying birds - How do I find out what birds are using my garden?
Surveying birds - How do I find out what birds are in my local area?
Surveying birds - How do I find out what birds are breeding locally?
Surveying birds - How do I find out what species are using a specific local site?