Survey Opportunities

Pied Wagtail winter roost survey

In the course of collecting data for the avifauna species accounts it has become apparent that there is very little on record about Pied Wagtail roosts in Cumbria. We know there are some regular roosts in urban locations, but there may be others that we don’t know about. In addition we have even less information on numbers or the regularity of their use.

With this in mind the club would like to encourage members to search out and count roosts they either already know about or suspect may exist this winter.

Roosts are often in trees in or near town centres. These could be individual trees in paved areas or in a park with several trees. Birds can be vocal before entering a roost and often perch on building roofs before flying in. Locating roosts would therefore be a question of wandering around in suitable areas of town looking for this sort of activity at dusk. Counting is problematic. Counting birds as they fly in is one method, but they often fly out again before they finally settle! An estimate of the size of the roost once settled in a tree is probably best, but this is only possible when the leaves have fallen from November onwards.

If you are interested in taking part in such a survey contact Dave Shackleton to discuss methodology and to ensure co-ordination of survey effort. or 01931 713693.

We would also be interested in any past records or information on roosts in the county both for the Avifauna and to help target survey effort. Again contact Dave.

Cumbria Wood Warbler survey

The Bird Club organised a county-wide survey of Wood Warblers during their breeding season from May to early July in 2017 - and this will be continued in 2018. The project is a response to the designation of Wood Warblers on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern following a 66% decrease in estimates of the UK population since the 1990s.

Cumbria is well-endowed with typical Wood Warbler habitat and the county remains an important stronghold for the species in Britain. The Cumbria atlas surveys (1997-2001 and 2008-12) suggest a similar trend to the national picture with a 50% decrease in the number of occupied tetrads between the two atlas periods. However, distribution maps based on 'all species' timed, tetrad surveys are not reliable indicators of Wood Warbler population density or breeding status.

The CBC fieldwork aims to be more focused on suitable sites with a history of Wood Warbler occupancy.

The main objectives of the survey are:

  1. To update the current distribution of Wood Warblers
  2. To establish a county population estimate
  3. To record the breeding status of birds holding territory
  4. To investigate environmental factors which may affect Wood Warbler populations
  5. To compare the current status of Wood Warblers with previous tetrad based data (i.e. the two county atlas surveys; the 1984 BTO Wood Warbler Survey).

The sample of sites explored in the pilot survey of 2016 remains too small to make firm conclusions about the status of Wood Warblers in Cumbria. The main survey in 2017 has the ambition to cover all known Wood Warbler habitat in the county, which includes sites in over 200 tetrads. Many more observers are needed to ensure the project's success. For anyone wishing to learn more about the birds, their behaviour and habitat, visits to key locations will be arranged in the first week of May.

2017 update: Over 400 woods have been surveyed to date, an impressive achievement. Malcolm Priestly is currently analysing the mountain of data recorded. Council have agreed to extend the survey into 2018 mainly to target woods with historical records that have not yet been surveyed. An interim report will be published in the Spring newsletter as will details of further survey work. It is hoped that a full report will be available for the 2017 Birds & Wildlife publication. We also intend to contact landowners to inform them where birds are breeding to help direct any future conservation plans.

If you are interested in taking part in the survey please contact John Callion (North Cumbria) or Malcolm Priestley (South Cumbria) for further details.

Swift survey

Following good work done by Mr & Mrs Hoare over many years, the Bird Club will be looking at Swift numbers in Cumbria in 2018. Club members will be given every opportunity to help with this survey. Details will be in the next newsletter.

Colour-marking scheme - Goldfinch

From an estimated population of just three pairs in 1990 there are currently around 35-40 pairs of Goldfinches breeding in private gardens amongst the urban area on the centre of the Walney Island. However, this does not appear to reflect the increasing number of birds that are recorded or trapped annually by the observatory, particularly during passage periods.

Between 2012 and 2015, Walney Bird Observatory has individually marked 1000 birds using the following ring sequence on the tarsus of the birds:-

  • Left leg - a BTO metal ring above a colour ring
  • Right leg- two colour rings

Colours used in the individual combinations are Red, Dark Blue, Yellow, Dark Green, Orange, Pale Blue, Black, White, Carmine and Violet.

Goldfinches are regular and increasing visitors to garden feeding stations throughout Britain making the likelihood of re-sightings greater. This is likely to include Cumbrian gardens therefore we would be grateful for notification, giving the full details of colour ring sequences, of any sightings to: -

Wetland Bird Survey

The Wetland Bird Survey monitors the status of waterbirds in the UK. It is run by the BTO, RSPB, JNCC and WWT and is administered by the BTO. Waterbodies are counted once monthly on or near an appointed date. In Cumbria we have good coverage of sites with most coastal sections and major inland waters counted. However there are vacancies some of which are of higher priority than others. These are listed in the links below.

The ability to identify waterfowl and a telescope are all that is needed for the survey. Counting on the coast requires more experience as larger numbers of species, more birds and observations at greater distances are involved.

If you think you can help contact Dave Shackleton on 01931 713693.  He will put you in touch with the appropriate local organiser.

WeBS counter needed for the Inner Solway

There is a vacancy for a keen person to cover the area from Glasson Point to Dykesfield (basically Burgh Marsh).

One count per month on a Sunday – takes approx 2 hours over the high tide period.

Telescope and ability to identify and count large numbers of waders and wildfowl essential.

Please contact Norman Holton on 016973 51330 (work hours) or e-mail

WeBS counter needed for Ormsgill Reservoir at Barrow

If you would like to volunteer, please contact Dave Shackleton on 01931 713693.

Colour ringed Greylag and Canada geese sightings

As part of a long-term study to monitor feral geese, several hundred Canada and a smaller number of Greylag geese have been colour-ringed around Windermere. If anyone sees any colour-ringed Canadas or Greylags away from the public-feeding sites at Bowness-on-Windermere, could they please report them by email to or by post to Roy Armstrong, Habberley Cottage, Port Carlisle, Cumbria, CA7 5BU

NY4823 and NY4824

After many years of surveying David & Ros are unable to continue with these two BBS squares. If you would like to take them on or perhaps another BBS square near you. Just two visits required in spring every year. Contact one of the BTO reps .

Brantwood - volunteer bird surveyors needed

Brantwood Brantwood is the former home of the Victorian art critic, writer, and campaigner John Ruskin. The estate is 250 acres of land rising steeply from the east shore of Coniston Water in the South Lakes. Of this about 100 acres is semi ancient woodland - primarily deciduous with oaks, ash, sycamore, silver birch with an understorey of hazel, holly, rowan and abundant ground cover.

Much of the woodland is of a similar age - many of the oaks are around 100 - 150 years old, and over the last few years various schemes have been introduced to increase the amount of regeneration taking place and to increase the diversity of habitats available. This has included erecting a deer fence around a large area of woodland - which the brambles have certainly appreciated - and more recently starting a policy of creating 'clearings' of around 50m x 50m to encourage the next generation of young trees.

It is also hoped that this will increase the range of habitats for wildlife and birds within the woodland - particularly species such as flycatchers, redstarts and warblers. We would like to get some idea of the current population of our woodland birds and perhaps do some resurvey work when the work is complete in around five years time.

If anyone is interested in this as a sort of project we would be very interested in hearing from them - I can be contacted at work on 015394 41396, or at home on 01229 885101.

If you want to know more about the estate and gardens you can have a look at our website at

Dave Charles, Brantwood Estate Team