Over past weeks the British Trust for Ornithology ( BTO ) has been making arrangements and issuing instructions associated with its forthcoming and latest survey (Wintering Thrushes Survey ). Whilst the recent Atlas Project will have very effectively determined the distribution of our wintering thrush species, not as much is known about the precise use made of different habitats and foods, movements and other associated questions. The survey will run over both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 winters.
Full details are on the website ( see the above link ). Essentially the survey is designed to be completed on-line if at all possible, which cuts out a lot of unnecessary administration and costs. Single km.squares can be "self selected" and then surveyed , ideally at monthly intervals over the period late September-early April of the years concerned. Additionally " Core Squares" have been randomly selected by the BTO throughout the UK and these will be subjected to additional analysis based on observations made within the strictly defined period of 27th December-10th January. Regional Representatives are tasked with gaining coverage for as many of these as possible.
At first glance the setting up process for self selected squares looks a little daunting ( mapping your route on a map and inscribing a polygon around the area over which you can make observations ), but it's actually quite fun! And first time goofs (!) can easily be erased.
So take a look at the above website and see if you can help. One visit per month ( or two or three on the same day ) is not too demanding and the route you select only needs to be between 0.6 and 2.0 miles. A sure fire way after December to walk off the effects of too many Christmas calories and, remember, 0.6 miles is only walking across a single km.square in a straight line, so you're not letting yourself in for a marathon!! Currently I'm busy trying to recruit volunteers here on Islay, Jura and Colonsay from within the small number of residents who are interested in birds. Sadly, and understandably, there is no element of casual observations built into the survey , but visitors here over Christmas and New Year (a tradition with some! ) can still play a part by assisting with the coverage of Core Squares if they are able.
There are other aspects to the main survey too! If you've limited time the "Birds and Garden Berries Study" may be something you can contribute to and observations can be conveniently linked to your very own garden! The "main" survey relates to the berry bearing bushes, shrubs or trees in your garden, the availability of berries through the winter and the use made of these by birds throughout the same period. A further component is associated with berry depletion......pretty important when you think of the implications of large numbers of thrushes being forced to move off from an area due to harsh weather and the food they may, or may not find, in different areas farther afield. Finally , you can indulge in some real basic, observational work by carrying out timed watches of feeding birds and how many berries they eat.
So, opportunities for everyone to assist with. You can even hum " the Holly and the Ivy" carol to keep up your spirits as you trudge around your squares and find birds are in short supply. Best of luck!!