Small grants in 2011

We can only help support Wales’ birds if we understand where and how they live. Conservation work based on well-disseminated, good quality research work is crucial, and we are fortunate in the UK that such activities are undertaken by both professional organisations and expert, unpaid volunteers. In 2011, grants were awarded to four individuals/groups who are working to help Wales’ birds. The results of these studies will appear in future issues of our journal, Birds in Wales.

Project: South Wales peregrine breeding inventory in Gwent, Glamorgan, Breconshire, Carmarthen and Ceredigion
Project group: South Wales Peregrine Monitoring Group
Objective: Visiting all known peregrine ranges and a random sample of 50 other sites in order to produce an inventory of site histories that will inform the proposed 2012 national peregrine survey.
Grant awarded: £400 to assist with travel costs and the production of an inventory

Summary of work undertaken
Known nest sites were visited during 2011 to ascertain whether sites were occupied and if so to monitor the breeding success. The SWPMG have produced site histories for each known site. In 2010 almost 60 sites were active.

Project: Merlins in Powys, Carmarthen and Glamorgan
Project leader: Paul Haffield
Objective: An in-depth study of merlin behaviour during and outside the breeding season, investigating breeding habitat and prey to inform understanding of their decline.
Grant awarded: £400 to assist with travel costs and a hand-held GPS to relocate nest sites.

Summary of work undertaken
Paul’s study started in 1992 and continued over the next decade. He located 14 breeding pairs and many nests in the period 1992 to 2000. Most used Magpie or Carrion Crow nests in Sitka Spruce (3-15m high) at the moorland/forest interface or a few 100m into the forest, very occasionally a nest in Hawthorn or Rowan on the moor. Breeding success was higher in South Wales than in mid Wales. In the former area five chicks were often raised but in mid Wales pairs struggled to raise one chick, perhaps due to higher densities of Merlin in mid Wales. In 2011 only four territories were located. Paul suggests that the marked decline is due to maturing of forests resulting in increased numbers of nesting Goshawk.

Project: Co-ordinated passage monitoring of Aquatic Warbler
Project group: Goldcliff Ringing Group and Llangorse Ringing Group
Objective: To establish the extent and regularity of Aquatic Warblers utilising the reedbeds at Uskmouth and Llangorse Lake during autumn migration. The collaboration by these ringing groups will explore the scope to extend the approach to other key sites in Wales and where possible, include these in the monitoring work in 2011. It will also include a public awareness event at Newport Wetlands NNR.
Grant awarded: £100 to assist with travel costs, mist nets and BTO rings.

Summary of work undertaken
Eleven visits were undertaken in August at Newport Wetlands and 14 and 16 respectively at two reedbeds at Llangasty. Mistnets were set on each visit to try to capture Aquatic Warblers on passage. No Aquatic Warblers were caught. Good numbers of other species were however, captured and ringed in August as shown below; numbers in parentheses are retraps or controls:

Cetti’s Warbler – Uskmouth 10, Llangorse 2(2)

Grasshopper Warbler – Uskmouth 4, Llangorse 4

Reed Warbler – Uskmouth 266 (38), Llangorse 139 (21)

Sedge Warbler – Uskmouth 641 (29), Llangorse 167 (5)

Bearded Tit – Uksmouth 4

Reed Bunting – Uskmouth 10, Llangorse 15 (3)

Yellow Wagtail – Uksmouth 15

Cetti’s Warbler numbers were down at Uskmouth because of the severe winter weather but at Llangorse numbers were as in 2010. Of the Sedge Warbler controls at Uskmouth, one carried a French ring.

Project: Importance of Teifi Marshes, Ceredigion, for Aquatic Warblers
Project group: Teifi Ringing Group
Objective: Following the ringing of two Aquatic Warblers in 2010 in a part of Teifi Marshes not previously studied, work in summer 2011 will assess the occurrence of the species at the site.
Grant awarded: £100 to assist with the costs of ringing equipment.

Summary of work undertaken
In August 20 visits were made to reedbeds at Teifi Marshes and 270 foot of nets erected with a tape used to try to lure birds. Despite increased effort in 2011 with nets in the wet reedbed known as the ‘Mallard Run’ on the Ceredigion side of the reserve as well as at the Constant Effort Site in the south of the reserve no Aquatic Warblers were caught. However, many other species either resident or passage birds were caught between July and September (see Table below). The reedbed has the largest Reed and possibly Sedge Warbler breeding and passage population in West Wales.

Sedge Warbler – 331 (2010), 430 (2011)

Reed Warbler – 197 (2010) 148 (2011)

Reed Bunting – 53 (2010), 21 (2011)

Grasshopper Warbler – 1 (2010), 12 (2011)

Cetti’s Warbler – 1 (2010), 2 (2011)