Getting more out of Ringing and Nest Recording

The Strategy (PDF, 170.31 KB)

Why do we need a strategy?

Species to target (PDF, 38.77 KB)



A key aim for the BTO is to understand how populations change in order to inform effective conservation policies. The demographic monitoring schemes (Ringing and Nest Record Schemes, CES and RAS) have a critical part to play in this by providing information on survival, productivity and dispersal with which to interpret data on abundance collected by schemes such as BBS and WeBS. Much of this work is undertaken within the BTO/JNCC Partnership and, as part of the renewal of the Partnership Agreement, we have identified a need to develop improved targeting of demographic monitoring effort during the current Partnership period (2010-2016) to better support conservation policies. A key goal of this targeting is to increase the number of species for which good quality demographic analyses can be produced (and hence for which causes of population change may be inferred) and to provide measures of cross species patterns that are indicative of broad environmental change, such as trends towards earlier laying dates linked to climate change and changes in survival in response to changing agricultural practices.

The development of this strategy (PDF, 170.31 KB) has taken place over the last three years, however, it represents the ongoing evolution of the concept of Integrated Population Monitoring, which has been a key component of the BTO's science programme since at least the late 1980s. We are living through a period of major environmental change - our crowded landscape has to support ever-increasing demands from a wide range of uses, including farming, housing and recreation. Of course, it is not just land-use that is changing, our climate is changing as well, which will also alter bird populations in new and unforeseen ways. If we are to ensure habitats remain for all our bird species in the coming decades we need to know how their populations will respond to such changes. To do this, we need to monitor how patterns of bird survival, reproduction and movement are changing over time, and how they vary across the country. The Ringing and Nest Record Schemes will be critical in contributing to this, particularly through systematic schemes, such as CES and RAS. These results feed through into the BirdTrends report on our website. This is updated annually so that all involved in conserving and managing Britain's landscape and habitats have easy access to the latest information on the health of our bird populations. 

How the strategy was developed

We first discussed ways of collecting more, and better, data from the Ringing and Nest Recording Schemes at a workshop at the BTO’s annual Swanwick conference in December 2009; the summary (PDF, 572.92 KB) of this meeting outlines some of the key things we aim to achieve and why these are important. This was followed up by an online questionnaire (PDF, 52.5 KB) where we asked ringers about their contribution to schemes, such as CES and RAS, and how we could make this easier for them. Ringing Committee have since discussed and developed these thoughts extensively. An initial discussion in April 2010 (PDF, 17.7 KB) outlined the need to develop such a strategy and established the timetable to for doing so. The plans began to take shape at the October 2010 (PDF, 84.66 KB) meeting and an initial proposal for the list of species to be targeted was refined. These ideas were further developed at the May 2011 (PDF, 100.06 KB) meeting. We then arranged a workshop with participants from JNCC, the Country Agencies and others who use these data to ensure we were meeting their needs in terms of relevant information. The summary (PDF, 117.26 KB) of the meeting highlights the value that these organisations place on data collected by BTO volunteers and the ways in which it can feed directly into government policy and decision making. We also sought the views of ringers about our plans. The response (DOC, 29 KB) was overwhelmingly positive, with most ringers keen to ensure their efforts made the most useful contribution possible, though some additional issues were highlighted that will be discussed at future Ringing Committee meetings. Finally, Ringing Committee agreed a strategy (PDF, 170.31 KB) at their meeting in October 2011. This strategy will help guide and direct the development of the Ringing and Nest Recording Schemes over the next few years. One key issue to emerge from the consultation of ringers was the need to make the most of existing data and Ringing Committee discussed some of these ideas (DOC, 59.5 KB) at their April 2012 meeting.The strategy (PDF, 170.31 KB) we have developed will continue to ensure the data we gather remains at the heart of the conservation decision-making process, as explained by Rob Robinson in this presentation, which talks about what we would like to achieve.

Taking things forward

If we are to provide good advice on species population change, it is much better to concentrate on doing a few species well, rather than getting a little data for a lot of species, but then not doing be able to do much with with it (in general, ten studies on one species are likely to tell us much more than one study on each of ten species). So, we have come up with a list of species (PDF, 38.77 KB) to inspire you. No-one will be able to do all of these species, and some will be more challenging than others, but hopefully everyone will see at least one species that they might be interested in; of course, by doing CES you will contribute data on many species! The Nest Records Scheme are particularly interested in these species. For some species we already receive quite a bit of data, so we are particularly interested in getting better coverage across the country, usually this means in northern and western areas, for others we have surprisingly little data, even for some quite common species. Have a look at the list, and, if you see an opportunity to contribute, contact the ces [at] (CES), ras [at] (RAS) or nrs [at] (NRS) organiser, get involved and make your ringing data count when it comes to conservation.