Wales Chat Survey
During 2012 nearly 300 people signed up to the Chat survey. Despite best efforts of many volunteers the survey season was dominated by the atrocious weather making visits to squares impossible for many. Because of this, we did not quite achieve the coverage needed to make meaningful scientific analysis possible. In order to achieve our necessary target of between 300-400 surveyed squares, we will be running the survey again this coming spring, with some new squares to visit and hopefully some of last years squares which were defeated by the weather. Interestingly the Nightingale survey in England suffered similarly from the weather and will also be re-run this spring.
Commonly referred to as chats, Stonechat, Whinchat and Wheatear are small, predominately ground-nesting members of the thrush family typically found in undisturbed open habitats such as uplands and heaths. Together with Scotland and northern England, Wales is a stronghold of the UK populations of Whinchat and Wheatear, and also holds a significant proportion of our Stonechats. Populations of all three species have shown marked changes over the last century, largely caused by changes in land use in the uplands, increased agricultural intensification and climate change. In Wales, birdwatchers have noticed that the Whinchat has disappeared from much of its traditional range, and that Wheatears are no longer a common breeding bird.
The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey has revealed marked declines in numbers of Wheatear and Whinchat and preliminary results from the Bird Atlas 2007-11 show further contractions in their range. Both species are candidates for future upgrading to Red List and Principal Biodiversity Species status in Wales, and inclusion in national and local Biodiversity Action Plans. Previously increasing, Stonechat numbers have fallen sharply after several cold winters.
The primary method for monitoring terrestrial birds in the UK is the Breeding Bird Survey, which includes nearly 250 random squares surveyed annually in Wales by dedicated BTO volunteers.
However, a special targeted survey is needed to obtain more detailed information on scarcer species such as the chats and to identify the habitat features most important to them.
The 'Wales Chat Survey’ was launched in the spring of 2012 and we would love to be able to count on your support.