Study will chart birds’ success

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LOCAL birdwatchers are being asked to take part in a nationwide survey to find out how the country’s resident thrushes fare through the winter.

Reports from across Britain indicate that fruit and seed crops are poor this autumn, suggesting that many birds will face tough times over the months ahead. Competition for tree seeds and hedgerow berries will be fierce, with added strain coming from large numbers of immigrant finches and thrushes, on the move and heading this way from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is calling for volunteers to help monitor these visitors so that researchers can find out which habitats and resources are the most important. Britain is a key wintering destination for immigrant thrushes, including many thousands of Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares currently pouring into the country. With some thrush populations in widespread decline, the BTO is keen to find out how wintering thrushes are using the resources available to them, highlighting which habitats and berry stocks are used and when.

The study involves two components and BTO needs volunteers, particularly those who walk a regular route, willing to record thrushes that they see while out and about. By noting the locations of the thrushes that they see and submitting simple notes of what the birds are doing, volunteers can make an important contribution to the group’s understanding.

The BTO’s garden ecology team is also looking at how thrushes use the berries available on garden shrubs. This aspect of the study is ideally suited to those who watch the birds in their garden and is open to anyone.

John Marchant, survey organiser, said: “This is a survey that anyone can take part in, whether new to birdwatching or an experienced BTO surveyor. There will be a wealth of online resources, from species identification videos, photographs and audio material, to guides on berries, fruit and crops that are likely to be important for thrushes.

“If you have a regular winter walk, and you see thrushes, then this survey is for you.”

Mike Toms, head of garden ecology, added that help is needed to build up a national picture of which fruits and berries are available and which birds are using them.

He said: “In addition to some simple weekly recording throughout the winter, we also need some people to carry out some more detailed work by participating in timed counts of birds eating berries.”

Further information on the Winter Thrushes Survey can be found at www.bto.org/winter-thrushes-survey and free enquiry pack, containing more information on the survey, recording forms and advice on making gardens more attractive to birds is available from Birds and Garden Berries Study, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU, by calling 01842-750050 or e-mailing gbw@bto.org.