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BTO: Review of the year 2015

BTO members and volunteers are the beating heart of our organisation and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you, however big or small your contribution over the past year. As a charity, membership subscriptions, donations and legacies make a really important contribution to our finances, ensuring that we can continue to monitor and research wild birds, providing an unbiased voice on issues affecting their future. Volunteers contributed a massive 1.5 million hours to our work, equivalent to us expanding our staff team from approximately one hundred people to one thousand for a whole year! We are inspired to continue our work by the incredible enthusiasm, dedication and commitment of supporters like you, so on behalf of all of the staff here at BTO, thank you!

The end of the road for Cuckoo Chris

Satellite-tagged Cuckoo
Cuckoo Chris. Photograph by BTO
Our Cuckoo-tracking project has attracted incredible public support from the very beginning, with thousands of people supporting the project financially by sponsoring one or more of the birds. The biggest star of all has undoubtedly been Cuckoo Chris, tagged in Norfolk in 2011 and named after SpringWatch presenter and BTO President Chris Packham. Every year since, the SpringWatch team has updated the nation on the fate of Chris the Cuckoo. We’d all become rather attached to Chris, so we were gutted when he reached the end of his journey in the desert of Chad this summer. This single bird made a remarkable contribution to our knowledge of Cuckoo migration and introduced a whole new generation of bird lovers to the wonders of ornithology.

Artificial lighting makes birds late for breakfast

Blackbird by John Harding
In early January 2014, almost 3,500 people recorded the time at which the first ten species arrived in their gardens to feed one morning for the BTO Garden BirdWatch ‘Early Bird Survey’. The newly published results show birds arriving later in both rural and urban areas with more artificial lighting.
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BTO: Raising funds to conserve our Curlew

Curlew, photograph by Jill Pakenham
Our new fundraising appeal is for urgent research into Curlew population decline, in a week when this species has been added to the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List.  Our ground-breaking programme of research will investigate patterns of extinction and colonisation and use revolutionary new technology to track wintering Curlew. Please help us by making a donation to the BTO Curlew appeal.
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RSPB: Peregrine shot in County Durham

Shot peregrine
The dead bird was found on the south-east edge of Stang Forest (Image: The RSPB)

Durham Constabulary and the RSPB are appealing for information about an illegally shot peregrine falcon found in County Durham.  

The dead bird was found on the south-east edge of Stang Forest, near the North Yorkshire border, on 23 August 2015 by a member of the public, who reported the discovery to Durham Constabulary and the RSPB. 

RSPB: New report reveals more than one-quarter of UK birds in need of urgent help

Curlew profile
The breeding population of curlew has declined 62% since 1970 (Image: Steve Round)

The latest assessment of the status of all the UK’s 244 bird species – Birds of Conservation Concern 4 – shows that 67 species are now of ‘highest conservation concern’ and have been placed on the assessment’s Red List. The revised Red List now includes even more well-known birds, including the curlew, puffin and nightingale, joining other familiar species such as the turtle dove, cuckoo and starling. 

Alarmingly, the Red List now accounts for more than one-quarter (27%) of the UK species. This is far higher than the last assessment in 2009, when 52 species (21%) were on the Red List. Most of the 67 species were placed on the Red List because of their severe declines, having halved in numbers or range in the UK in recent decades. Others remain well below historical levels, or are considered under threat of global extinction. 

BTO: Birds of Consevation Concern 4

The latest Red List, published today, shows that of the 244 UK species that are assessed 67 are now of the highest conservation concern. New ‘members’ of the Red List now include such well known birds as the Curlew, Puffin and Nightingale.
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BTO: 2015 NRS & CES preliminary breeding season results

Chaffinch abundance and productivity were low in 2015. Photograph by Jill Pakenh
Information collected by BTO volunteers shows that numbers of many resident bird species, and some migrants, increased in 2015. However, the spells of cool, wet weather that much of Britain & Ireland experienced in late-spring and summer left many birds struggling to breed, with more northerly populations faring particularly badly. See the Nest Record Scheme and Constant Effort Sites scheme preliminary breeding season report for details.
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BTO Research on Climate Change

Golden Plover by Edmund Fellowes
The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) kicks off in Paris today and runs until 11th December. The effect of climate change on birds is a major strand of our research and our scientists have produced several high profile publications on this topic. For a round-up of our climate change research, please click here.
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RSPB: Stronger action needed to protect native birds of prey as Birdcrime report reveals illegal killing continues

Poisoned red kite in Northern Ireland
23 red kites were poisoned in 2014 (Image: RSPB - Robert Straughan)

The RSPB is calling for better application of the laws that protect UK raptors, as the Birdcrime 2014 report highlights that illegal persecution continues to prevent some of our native birds of prey from recovering to their natural levels.

In 2014, the RSPB received 179 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey, including the confirmed shooting of 23 buzzards, nine peregrines, three red kites and a hen harrier. The report also documents 72 reported incidents of wildlife poisoning and pesticide-related offences. Confirmed victims of poisoning include 23 red kites, 9 buzzards and four peregrine falcons. These figures are believed to represent only a fraction of the illegal persecution in the UK, with many incidents thought to be going undetected and unreported.

RSPB: Puffin and Turtle Dove among British birds added to IUCN Red List (BirdGuides)

Four of the UK's bird species, including Puffin and Turtle Dove, have today [Thursday 29 October 2015] been added to the list of birds considered to be facing the risk of global extinction. The latest annual revision of birds on the IUCN Red List, which has been announced by BirdLife International on behalf of the IUCN, doubles the number of UK bird species considered to be facing the risk of extinction to eight.
The IUCN Red List assesses the threat of extinction for each bird species. Those with no immediate threat of extinction are listed as Least Concern. Those species considered to be facing a threat of global extinction are listed in three levels of descending threat: Critically Endangered; Endangered; and Vulnerable.
Shockingly, a further 14 UK species are considered to be Near Threatened, meaning that any further deterioration in their status could see them added to the Red List too.

Turtle Dove
Turtle Dove has declined massively in Britain (Photo: Chris Griffin)

Martin Harper, RSPB's Conservation Director, said: "Today's announcement means that the global wave of extinction is now lapping at our shores. The number of species facing extinction has always been highest in the tropics, particularly on small islands. But now the crisis is beginning to exact an increasingly heavy toll on temperate regions too, such as Europe.
"The erosion of the UK's wildlife is staggering and this is reinforced when you talk about Puffin and Turtle Dove now facing the same level of extinction threat as African elephant and lion, and being more endangered than Humpback Whale."

First for Britain: Chestnut Bunting (BirdGuides)

The week at a glance (21st - 27th of October)

Few people paid much attention to a report of a Yellowhammer on Papa Westray, Orkney, last Monday until a poor-quality photo emerged late on the Tuesday evening, suggesting it might be something altogether rarer. It was not until 24 hours later, late on Wednesday evening, that further images emerged and served to confirm suspicions — the bird, with its rich chestnut hue on the upperparts, face and in particular tertial fringes, was surely a Chestnut Bunting!
With no sign of the bird since it was briefly seen on the Tuesday, the automatic assumption was that it had gone — a potential first for Britain seemingly slipped through the net and rendered untwitchable. It was therefore something of a surprise when, in mid-afternoon on Saturday, news of its continued presence on Papay reached the airwaves. Game on — and so it proved: the bird was still there and showing well to all comers throughout Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Chestnut Bunting
Chestnut BuntingPapa Westray, Orkney (Photo: Chris Bromley)

Chestnut Bunting has a chequered history in the Western Palearctic. Though there are clearly a number of recent records from other countries that fit the typical pattern of vagrancy for Far Eastern passerine migrants, all of Britain's previous records have been assigned to Category E — in most cases, probably rightly so, the best candidates for wild birds being the adult females seen on Out Skerries from 2–5 September 1994 and Fair Isle on 6–7 September 2002. There can be no denying that the appearance of a first-winter on British shores in mid-October changes everything, and one would anticipate that this will ensure the species is upgraded from Category E to A.

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