BBS extra

I told you, as I usually do, about my visits to my two Breeding Bird Survey squares (see here and here). Having done the surveys and entered the data online I thought I was done but those nice people in BTO HQ wanted to wring a little more from my volunteer effort because I had seen some waders on one of the sites on one of the visits. The waders in question were a yelping pair of Oystercatchers which were the first I’d seen at that place and were a bit of a surprise for the first visit in May. I wasn’t surprised that I saw nothing of them in June on the second visit as I’d been surprised to see them at all.

But I got an email asking me whether I’d please, pretty please, be prepared to make a further visit (or more) and record any evidence of breeding wader nesting success – such as adults alarm calling or chicks running about in the grass. I was tempted not to bother, particularly as those were the only Oystercatchers that have been recorded on that BBS square on my 10 years of visits and several earlier years by another observer, and they were on the first visit and there had been no sign of them on the second visit. I was sure that I’d see no Oystercatchers on another visit, so why bother? Well, first, how sure was I? Very sure, but not 100% sure – how could I be? What if? The only way to tell is to go and look. And second, what if this year’s Oystercatcher sighting is the first of a run of Oystercatcher sightings in future years which end up with a thriving Oystercatcher colony by the banks of the River Nene? It seems unlikely but wouldn’t I be kicking myself if that were to happen and I hadn’t collected the data asked for in this year. And third, a walk by the river only collecting data on wader numbers might well be the ideal way to spend some time. And so, reader, I went.

There were no Oystercatchers or any other sort of wader but that didn’t matter as I felt virtuous for having made the effort and smug that my prediction was right, but more importantly, happy to be out in the field, some of it in fields, on an early morning of a nice day.

And I was rewarded, not only with virtuous smugness, but also with my first Meadow Brown butterflies of the year, my first Kingfisher sightings for the site and a good view of a Little Owl perched on a garden fence.

The data entry for this pilot year was a bit clunky but that’s fair enough – the feedback will have made future years easier for participants. And so I guess I may be adding third visits in some years in future – that is, if I ever see an Oystercatcher, or any other wader, on my two sites again.


3 Replies to “BBS extra”

  1. I’m pleased, as I see you were, with your reward for the effort of an extra visit. But more cheekily, my opportunity to talk about my BBS extra. I know you are an early riser but a 5:20 alarm for me is a good Euro Final length of time (without extra time and those damnable penalties) before normal getting up time.

    This outrageously early start is followed by an hour’s drive into the Grampian mountains and a further hour’s hike to 850m to begin my survey by 7am. (Having already done this twice already this year it’s good fitness training for a 63 year old).

    My reward was golden plover, and although no young were actually seen the rising tone of alarm calling suggested to me that young were present.

    And that was about it. Several white (not white) hares and a wheen of meadow pipits in my square and, on the walk-in, a ring ouzel carrying food into a nest, which was a bonus. Home by 10am and probably worth the effort. I suspect I’ll be doing my ‘extra’ again next year if asked as GP are, along with DN, pretty reliable in the square whereas OC in yours, clearly not.

    1. Did I say 5:20? I meant 4:20!!
      So plenty of opportunity for extra time and penalties…and a bit of pointless punditry too.

  2. Hi Mark
    I used to survey that patch before you and I didn’t see Oystercatcher there.
    I do a BBS for the Wildlife Trust BCN at Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows, though not using the BTO’s methodology. One pair of Oystercatchers, the only waders to breed on site, had 3 young, one disappeared, presumably predated, but the other 2 are alive and well.

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