Article first published in the Assynt News during January 2015
‘Bird Atlas 2007-11 the end atlas(t)’ Field Club indoor meeting 18 December 2014
Almost 40,000 observers submitted over 19 million records, these are the incredible statistics presented by Bob Swann of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) at the most recent indoor meeting of Assynt Field Club. The statistics relate to the ‘Bird Atlas 2007-11 The breeding and wintering birds of Britain and Ireland’ published by BTO Books in 2013.
Bob, who was the Scottish Organiser, amongst many other things, for the Atlas gave a brief history of the previous three bird atlases which have been produced over the years by BTO beginning with the first bird atlas ever produced anywhere, the 1968-72 Breeding Bird Atlas.
The current publication was the first to combine both breeding and wintering records in one atlas and it also coincided with the two recent very cold winters making observing and recording in the remote high areas of the country a challenge to say the least. For Scotland this meant visits to all 1101 10km squares would be necessary over the period of the Atlas; this was successfully achieved by 3300 observers.
Due to a lack of recorders in a number of areas of Scotland Bob personally surveyed 463 tetrads i.e. 2x2km squares, although he was happy to point out that Assynt was not included in his work such was the level of commitment from the people of the Parish.
All 19 million records had to be validated by local experts, another one of Bob’s contributions, before they were allowed to form part of the data which would eventually lead to this remarkable publication.
Bob was able to show how the Atlas has already highlighted many groups of species whose abundance has dropped dramatically e.g. buntings and waders, and those whose distribution has shifted to the north and west of Britain, this being most notable with species such as Blackcap and Willow Warbler, both summer migrants. Many research projects will without doubt be undertaken as a result of the amount of data amassed for the Atlas and the 3683 distribution, abundance, etc. maps for the 296 species of birds included in it are available to view free at www.bto.org/mapstore.
A fascinating evening where the discussion and questions continued as the home made refreshments were also greatly enjoyed by all present. The next indoor meeting of the Field Club will be its AGM and Quiz on Thursday 15th January 2015 at 7.45 pm in the Assynt Centre, Lochinver with entry free to all.