Small grants in 2016

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 2016, grants have been awarded to four projects that are working to help Wales’ birds. The results of these studies will appear in future issues of our journal, Birds in Wales.

Project: Glamorgan Swift Project
Recipient: Glamorgan Bird Club (£400)
The Glamorgan Bird Club (GBC) is working with the Local Swift Network and Swift Conservation to arrest and reverse the decline of Swifts in our area.

Awareness-raising is already underway with a series of presentations to wildlife groups and articles for local newspapers are planned when the Swifts return in May.
In summer 2016, trained volunteers from all over East Glamorgan will act as “Swift Champions”, monitoring their locality to determine exactly where Swifts are nesting.

During Winter 2016-17, we will put up nest boxes at four sites: local schools, local authority buildings and churches at established sites, as these are known to be more successful than boxes where swifts are not already present. The money is being put towards materials, training of Swift Champions and nest box installation. Bridgend College has offered to become involved in the project with students helping to make Swift boxes. At some locations, call systems may be installed.

Each site will be monitored to assess success rates and results fed in to the local records centre (SEWBReC), with which we have a data exchange agreement, BTO, the RSPB Swift Inventory and the County Recorder. County Ecologists will be informed for use in evaluating planning applications for new buildings and modifications to existing buildings.

Project: Reducing Kestrel predation on Little Terns, Denbighshire
Recipient: North Wales Little Tern Group (£400)
Kestrel predation is the biggest threat to the only Little Tern colony in Wales at Gronant. Denbighshire Countryside Service has successfully controlled other threats including Red Fox predation by constructing electric fencing around nesting Little Terns. Efforts to scare away Kestrels using starter pistols and/or air horns have failed. A feeding station will be constructed next to the pumping station where the Kestrels often perch, building on the experience of a similar scheme run by The RSPB in Great Yarmouth.

Chicks or mice will be provided daily for the Kestrels during the Little Tern breeding season. To aid visual observations, a camera will record activity at the feeding station. If Kestrels regularly take supplementary food from the feeding station, we would like to catch them and attach tracking equipment in order to locate the Kestrel nest. Once we have found the nest, we will move the feeding station and the camera, using it to record prey delivered to the nest. Kestrel predation of Little Terns may be high because other prey is more difficult to find at Gronant. If so, we can consult Denbighshire Countryside Service about habitat management for small mammals to increase prey availability for Kestrels. The project will also benefit other protected species such as Natterjack Toads and Sand Lizards found at Gronant. All work will be undertaken under licence from Natural Resources Wales.

Project: Wintering Twite at Connah’s Quay nature reserve, Flintshire
Recipient: Ian Spence (£100)
Twite is a globally red-listed species whose needs are not fully understood because of a lack of information. There remains a small but decreasing breeding population in Snowdonia. It is not clear if this population is genetically isolated. Twite found along the North Wales coast in winter are known to breed in western Scotland. Birds from a regular wintering population of up to 200 birds have been ringed at Connah’s Quay since 2014.

Ringing as part of the RSPB Cymru Twite Recovery Project and at CQNR shows interchange with Scotland, but also one movement from the breeding area in Snowdonia to CQNR. The Twite ringing season at CQNR only lasts about six weeks, from mid-February to the end of March. The start is determined by the depletion of natural seeds and the end is when the birds move away to breed. By continuing ringing at CQNR, this project aims to identify the breeding areas of the majority of Twite wintering on the Dee, improve our knowledge of ageing characteristics from plumage details to see if we can age the birds more accurately than is possible currently, and to investigate whether birds wintering on the Dee are seen in the breeding area in Snowdonia.

Project: Wheatear RAS 346, Pembrokeshire
Recipient: Paddy Jenks (£100)
Wheatear has suffered declines and may be vulnerable to changes in climate in their African wintering grounds. Monitoring is an essential basic requirement to the species conservation. A wheatear RAS (Retrapping Adults for Survival) has been run by Paddy Jenks and members of Pembrokeshire ringing group since 2013. This is the only such project currently running in Wales.

The project is now re-sighting sufficient numbers of individuals annually to contribute data to the national scheme run by BTO/JNCC. It is hoped to expand the project to include collecting full productivity figures for the study area contributing all data to BTO Nest Records Scheme. To achieve this, the grant will help to fund an endoscope camera, necessary because it is not possible to inspect the majority of nest cavities directly.