Survey Opportunities

Tawny owl surveys

CBC Council is keen to carry out surveys of the various owl species in Cumbria. Initially this will involve supporting the forthcoming BTO surveys of Tawny Owls.

They are running two types of survey:

  • A point survey visiting random tetrads, 2018-2020. A map of tetrads available can be found online. The first period is up until 15 October 2018.
  • A calling survey. This is a 20 minute survey that can be carried out from the comfort of your own home or pretty much anywhere else you can visit multiple times. Registration is now open and you can start recording from 30 September 2018. 
For full details visit:

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 Dave Blackledge, e-mail

WeBS counter needed for Thirlmere, River Kent in Kendal, Killington Reservoir and Elterwater

If you would like to volunteer for any of these vacancies, 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 .


CBC Long-eared Owl survey 2019

The Bird Club is organising a survey of Long-eared Owls, the first phase of which will take place between mid-January and the end of March 2019. This will simply involve listening/watching for calling/displaying birds after dusk (from a fixed vantage point). It will be 12 years since the previous dedicated county survey (which took place in 2007). We are therefore very keen to recruit as many participants as possible, so that we can produce as comprehensive a picture of the current status of this elusive and under-recorded species as we can.

If you would be interested in helping out with this survey, please could you e-mail me before the end of November so that I can let folk know their survey area in December. When you e-mail, please could you tell me where you’re based plus your preferred 10km square for the survey (for popular locations allocation will have to be on a first come, first served basis). At the same time I will also send participants further detailed information and recording forms etc. Many thanks in advance for your interest. Pete Howard

Swift survey 2018

The survey was taken up with enthusiasm by a good number of members as well as a surprising number of non-members. A wide selection of towns, vil-lages and hamlets were covered. Most surveyors did discover some Swifts in their chosen area but some inevitably drew a blank. Many thanks to all who participated. We hope to have a preliminary report out in the next newsletter. It is not too late to send in your Swift survey forms. Please send in all your results. Zero returns are equally important if you did not register any birds.
Dave Piercy

We have lost half of our Swifts in the last 20 years. This simple survey will increase our understanding of their distribution in Cumbria and help inform us in how we can improve their chances of survival in the future.

The recommended period is from mid-May to the end of July though the most active time is likely to be from mid-June when they are feeding young. The best times are usually from around 8pm to dusk or mornings. The weather should be at least reasonable.

Aims of the survey

  • To identify the presence of Swifts in suitable breeding habitat i.e. areas with buildings
  • To carry out timed counts and note the estimated maximum number of Swifts seen at any one time
  • To note the estimated maximum seen in any screaming parties during the timed count
  • To record the details of any nests found

Please read the notes and instructions.  There are separate forms to print out and fill in - but returning your results in the spreadsheet would be preferable.

Please return all spreadsheets to Dave Piercy by August 31st 2018, tel. 017687 73201;

Ideally let Dave know where you are likely to survey to avoid duplication but don’t let this stop you acting on the spur of a moment!

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.