Wider Countryside Report Header
BTO Blueline
Main WCR menu image Site navigation menu item Results overview menu item Other info menu item BTO website menu item
BTO Blueline
BBWC Home > Contents > Methodology > Constant Effort Sites

2.6 Constant Effort Sites Scheme

The Constant Effort Sites (CES) Scheme uses changes in catch sizes across a network of standardised mist-netting sites to monitor changes in the abundance and breeding success of common passerines in scrub and wetland habitats. At each constant effort site, licensed ringers erect a series of mist nets in the same positions, for the same amount of time, during 12 visits evenly spaced between 1 May and 31 August. Year-to-year changes in the number of adults caught provide a measure of changing population size, while the ratio of young birds to adults in the total catch is used to monitor annual productivity (breeding success). By monitoring the abundance of young birds between May and August, the CES method should integrate contributions to annual productivity from the entire nesting season, including second and third broods for multi-brooded species, but will also include a small component of mortality during the immediate post-fledging period. Between-year recaptures of ringed birds can also be used to calculate annual survival rates of adult birds, although this requires specialised analytical techniques (e.g. Peach 1993) and is not considered further here. Further details of the CES Scheme are presented by Peach et al. (1996) and methods of analysis are detailed in Peach et al. (1998) for abundance measures and Robinson et al. (2007) for productivity measures.

The CES Scheme began in 1983 with 46 sites and now has around 120. The distribution of CES sites tends to reflect the distribution of ringers within Britain and Ireland. The majority are operated in England, and there are small numbers in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The CES routinely monitors the populations of 25 species of passerines in scrub and wetland habitats.

Data analysis

Smoothed trends in the abundance of adults and young are separately assessed using a generalised additive model (GAM), with 85% confidence intervals calculated by bootstrapping ( Fewster et al. 2000). At sites where catching effort in a year falls below the required 12 visits, but eight or more visits have been completed, annual catch sizes are corrected according to experience during years with complete coverage, by incorporating an offset into the GAM (see Peach et al. 1998 for full details). Sites with fewer than eight visits in a given year are omitted for the year in question.
Annual indices of productivity (young per adult) are estimated from logistic regression models applied to the proportions of juvenile birds in the catch, the year-effects then being transformed to measures of productivity relative to an arbitrary value of 100 in the most recent year. As above, catch sizes are corrected where small numbers of visits have been missed. It should be noted that these indices are relative, and are not estimates of the actual numbers of young produced per adult (Robinson et al. 2007).

Data are presented graphically with the smoothed trend in blue and their 85% confidence limits in green. A caveat is provided for 'Small samples' when the average number of plots per year is between 10 and 20.

Annual estimates of adult survival are derived from a form of the standard CJS capture–mark–recapture model (Lebreton et al. 1992) modified to account for the presence of transient birds. Transients are birds passing through the site, or perhaps living on its periphery, and which therefore have a much lower probability of capture than resident birds living in the vicinity of the nets. The presence of transients thus tends to decrease the estimated survival rates. We allow for this by introducing an additional 'survival period' in the year of first capture (Hines et al. 2003). As with our other schemes, we assume survival probabilities vary annually in a similar fashion across all sites, though mean survival probabilities may differ between sites. Because of the standardised capture protocol, we assume that recapture probabilities are site-specific, but constant through time. For each bird we also insert an additional period after the first capture, indicating whether the bird was caught subsequently in the same season. The probability of surviving this period can be regarded as the probability that the bird is resident on the site (that is the probability that it is available for recapture). The survival and recapture probabilities for this initial period are assumed constant across years and sites. Note that the annual estimates of annual survival presented are in fact the probability that adult birds return to the same CE site the following year; this will be lower (to a small but unknown extent) than the true survival rate. We do not estimate survival rates for juvenile birds, because of their much greater propensity to disperse.

Next section – 2.7 Nest Record Scheme

Back to Methodology Index

CLICK HERE to go to the CES section of the main BTO website

BTO blue divider

BTO Home | JNCC Home
 © British Trust for Ornithology. Charity No 216652 (England and Wales).Charity No SC039193 (Scotland)
Company Limited by Guarantee No 357284 (England and Wales).
Registered Office: The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK.
Terms and Conditions
| Privacy Statement          Email:

This report should be cited as: Baillie, S.R., Marchant, J.H., Leech, D.I., Renwick, A.R., Joys, A.C., Noble, D.G., Barimore, C., Conway, G.J., Downie, I.S., Risely, K. & Robinson, R.A. (2010). Breeding Birds in the Wider Countryside: their conservation status 2010. BTO Research Report No. 565. BTO, Thetford. (http://www.bto.org/birdtrends)

Pages maintained by Iain Downie, Mandy T Andrews and Laura Smith: Last updated 21.10.2010