Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Timed Tetrad Visit

Our fifth day back in the UK and, with the sun showing at least for a while, we spent the morning on a Timed Tetrad Visit as part of the Bird Atlas 2007-11 Project organised by the British Trust for Ornithology. We volunteered some time ago to cover the tetrad SJ92B and today we counted birds in this 2km x 2km square for two hours. Timed Tetrad Visits are principally concerned with assessing the relative abundance of species so we were simply trying to determine the number and diversity of birds in our chosen area.

We chose SJ92B mainly because it is very close to our home in Stafford. It includes a small part of Doxey Marshes Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest managed by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. In addition it has a nice mix of habitats (woodland, farmland, a small lake, a golf course) and importantly a good network of public footpaths making for easy access. Stafford Castle stands in the south-west corner of the tetrad and has done for 900 years or so.

During our two hours we recorded a total of just 33 species. Mallards (8), Coots (3) and Moorhens (3) were the only 'waterbirds' and there were no waders at all apart from a flock of about 100 Lapwings that flew over and which because they weren't actually 'using' the tetrad, we couldn't include. Mostly we found finches, thrushes and tits and amongst these Lesser Redpolls were the nearest we came to a surprise. The most numerous species was Wood Pigeon (or Woodpigeon as the BTO call it). Species seen only singly were Goldcrest, Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Pheasant, Sparrowhawk and Greenfinch. We saw as many (five) Great Spotted Woodpeckers as we did Wrens which wasn't expected.

Dunnock - 7 seen today in SJ92B

Clearly SJ92B isn't the most exciting or productive area for finding birds but no doubt our small contribution will help towards eventually putting together the 'big picture' in an Atlas. Also, after several days stuck in the house, we enjoyed getting out for a walk and it was good to find several species that we haven't seen for a while. It did seem odd, though, not to find any Black-winged Stilts or Flamingos! There will be more counting to be done in the same area come the breeding season.

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