Scarce Woodland Bird Survey


Many HOS members participated in the national Scarce Woodland Bird Survey. The survey was really about specialist woodland birds rather than scarce birds, and there were 28 target species including relatively common species such as Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, and Song Thrush. Survey participants made two visits to a couple of woodlands of their choice, and recorded on a 1:2500 scale map the birds seen or heard along a predetermined route. The national results will help the conservation of specialist woodland species by enabling BTO to identify the habitats used by each and to produce recommendations for the management of woodland habitats.


Though it’s too early for any proper national analysis, there are some interesting bits and pieces in the Hampshire 2005 data (2006 data not yet collated).


First some statistics. There was tremendous response and enthusiasm for the survey, and by end of September 2005 I’d received data and maps for 61 woodlands. The surveys involved walking some 126 kms of woodland paths and rides (twice!), and accounted for roughly 250 hours of fieldwork by 32 different observers.


What of the birds? Perhaps not surprisingly, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were the most frequently encountered of the target species, but Blackcaps were not far behind. And pleasingly, given the concern for the species a few years ago, there were also very good numbers of Song Thrush. At the other end of the scale, Turtle Doves, Nightingales, and Spotted Flycatchers were very rare indeed, and as we might have expected, there were relatively few Hawfinch, Willow Tit, and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.


Although most of the survey visits were relatively early in the season (necessary to record Lesser Spots and Hawfinches), it would seem that Turtle Doves are now relatively rare in Hampshire woodlands. All records would be very welcome. Similarly, early visits will have missed Spotted Flycatchers, but this species is in any case notoriously difficult to record in woodland habitats; birds are invariably out of sight on dead branches that protrude above the canopy. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker appears to be as rare as we feared, and though these birds are always unobtrusive and inconspicuous, it’s worrying that we didn’t find many in a survey specifically targeted at the species. The New Forest accounted for a relatively high number of Redstarts, but Wood Warblers were well down on what might have been expected there a few years ago. There were very few Siskins recorded.