Today sees the publication of The state of the UK’s birds 2011. As ever, this aims to serve as a one-stop shop for the latest news on our bird populations.
This year’s report has a particular focus on our waterbirds and the sites they use, noting that this year is the 40th anniversary of the Ramsar convention. Amongst the highlights, we report on:
• The return and spread of the crane as a breeding bird in the UK• The fortunes of our rarer breeding waterbirds, most of which are thriving• Mixed fortunes for our breeding seabirds, with some – Arctic skua, herring gull and kittiwake amongst them – declining sharply• How in recent years many of our wintering waterbirds have begun to show population declines following decades of recovery or increase. For many, a shift in range in response to climate change is the most likely cause, but for others there may be genuine population-level declines• How the removal of rats from Henderson Island in the South Pacific, one of the UK’s Overseas Territories, is great news for that island’s breeding seabirds. Of course, the report remains a one-stop shop for all the latest results from bird monitoring in the UK
• Both farmland and woodland indicators fell to their lowest ever levels in the UK, driven by further declines in habitat specialists such as turtle doves, grey partridges and corn buntings (farmland) and willow tits, lesser spotted woodpeckers and lesser redpolls (woodland)• We give an update on the status of birds on the UK's Biodiversity Action Plan priority species list• New surveys of hen harriers and capercaillie reveal national populations have declined recently• After a mammoth effort by more than 16,000 observers, fieldwork for the Bird Atlas 2007-11 is complete and the results are awaited eagerly.
Do have a good read and let me have any comments/questions/answers...
Thanks for this; we are of course witnessing/simply monitoring systemic declines where-ever we look (bar Red Kites/Cranes) ! I look forward to the report.
There is one assumption that you make I would like to challenge which is the that range change due to climate change are not genuine population level declines. I would assert that in most cases that probably they are or do you have any positive evidence at all here.
I also asked the question yesterday as to how is the RSPB going to defend the principles of Rio Earth Summit and thence Kyoto ? Can I ask for a mail out to the membership or a ballot? This seems to be a principle of a lifetime that supercedes all other interests; would RSPB consider this please. This line has to be defended and proclaimed.
Where is the evidence that climate range change is not a population decline ?
Peter, I was chatting to some of the team about likely explanations for example to the Mallard whose 46% decline is a bit of a shock. One of our scientists suggested that causes could be changes in distribution over Europe (monitoring suggests numbers of Mallard in Scandinavia may well be up) most likely (but not proven) to be linked to milder winters, but also may be some distributional changes within the UK (using smaller unsurveyed sites in milder winters) affecting the trend. Also potential for a decline in numbers reared and released (Mallard only), but this seems less likely. And of course it could be a population decline at an international scale, but there is no evidence of this. The UK breeding population of Mallard has increased. The best guess is it's the distributional change - "short-stopping" - which has been proven for some species (e.g. European WF Goose). But there's apparently new evidence that for some diving ducks (e.g. RB Merganser) for which we'd thought short-stopping was the cause of UK decline, there is a wider European decline, so we shouldn't be too complacent about Mallard.
On the issue of Rio. Watch this space. We do plan to ignore the opportunity and will be in touch about this soon.