BTO 2013-33 – Space for birds on these crowded islands?

Barn Owl by Ron Marshall

Looking out for Birds

The Breeding Bird Survey helps us to monitor over 100 of the UK’s land-based breeding species and the Wetland Bird Survey does the same for several key species in the winter.  But what about the other 150 or more species that appear in Bird Atlas 2007-11 but which are not widespread enough for annual monitoring?  Over the next few years, we would hope to repeat BTO-led surveys of species such as Peregrine and Barn Owl.  BTO Scotland has already launched ‘What’s Up?,  to try to get more information on birds that live on the edge – in the highest parts of Scotland.
 

All at sea?

Which patches of the sea around our shores are important?  BTO scientists are already advising on issues such as where not to place wind turbines but what else can we do?  Are there new ways for shore-based observations of birds and detailed tracking studies to inform those making decisions about wind energy, Marine Protected Areas or sub-tidal harvesting of seaweeds?  What other pressures will impact on marine-based resources, from fish to feed gannets to the tide-wrack invertebrates that fuel wader migration to Canada?  
 
Martin Hughes-Games of Springwatch with Dr Dave Leech

Engaging with new people 

In the last ten years, BTO volunteers and staff have worked more and more closely with BBC television and radio to tell stories about the UK’s birds.  By taking presenters to find Golden Pheasants, to see a newly-hatched Cuckoo, to listen to bird song or to track the movements of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, we can share a sense of discovery and appreciation with millions of people.  One of the major threats to biodiversity is ignorance so the BTO will continue to act as a PR firm for UK BIRDS plc.
 

Apps for everything

In our engagement with new people we are working in new and different ways – young folk approach life very differently, through the lens of new technology.  Our Apps for ringers and for BirdTrack take our engagement to new levels – 0.5 million BirdTrack records for April 2013 alone! Ensuring we can capture data directly from the field for many of our surveys and schemes is likely to be a priority, and it is not too far to conceive of tiny smart devices being as prolific as bird-rings. Spying on the life-cycles of birds broadens our data horizons beyond belief!

Beyond our shores

Tracking data and global observations from birdwatchers come together – now that’s a vision. BTO is partnering with Cornell Lab of Ornithology in USA, to put our respective skills together on capturing bird observations through eBird and BirdTrack. We aim to set up a platform for bird checklist programmes anywhere in the world to send and retrieve data. This would enable analysis, interpretation and visualisation of bird movements at continental and flyway scale – a hugely exciting and important tool for global bird conservation.
 

The next Atlas

Bird Atlas 2007-11 set a new standard in surveying; the technologies behind its data-input and mapping facilities are already being used in other BTO-led projects and with partners working on other taxa.  Within twenty years, we shall have finished the next Bird Atlas project.  Meanwhile, we shall use annual surveys and BirdTrack to keep an eye on the way numbers and distributions might be changing.  Perhaps the next Atlas will have pages for Black-shouldered Kite and Red-billed Leiothrix – new species to be recorded and submitted by yet another generation of BTO volunteers, carrying a torch that was lit eighty years ago.