University Birdwatch Challenge

Student Emma Cole is the British Trust for Ornithology's undergraduate representative in the Biosciences department. She is running a bird survey on campus as part of as national university campus bird project. So far she has recorded 40 bird species which will help the Biodiversity team to manage and monitor the campus.

BirdEmma said "The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is an independent charitable organisation dedicated to researching population trends of British fauna with special focus on birds. The BTO is heavily reliant on the thousands of volunteers who submit their sightings onto BirdTrack and partake in their numerous surveys, providing an excellent example of how citizen science can influence the government’s environmental policies.

With 178 bird species classified as either globally or nationally threatened in the UK (Eaton et al. 2009) the work of the BTO is more crucial than ever. The BTO and I work closely in association with the Swansea Ecology Research Team (SERT) and the University’s Conservation and Ecology Society (SUCES). As the university’s BTO undergraduate representative, I am aiming to encourage as many students as possible to start counting and recording any birds they see. As part of this, I have entered Swansea University into A Focus on Nature’s ‘University Birdwatch Challenge’: Any student enrolled at the university records any and all bird species seen around our campus boundaries as often as possible and submits their data onto BirdTrack.

So far, we have recorded 47 species around campus with highlights being; a breeding pair of Peregrines, Falco peregrinus, often seen perching on top of Vivian Tower, a Chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita, decent numbers of winter migrants such as Fieldfare, Turdus pilaris, and Redwing, Turdus iliacus, various wading birds feeding on the beach opposite campus including Curlew, Numenius arquata, and Oystercatcher, Heamatopus ostralegus and several Gull species. Also keep a look out for our resident Ring-necked Parakeet, Psittacula krameri!

In conjunction with the BTO, several students from the university were last year able to help with cannon netting of Oystercatchers. This was an amazing hands on experience where we learned some basic ringing skills and how to take biometrics of the birds. Experiences like this are invaluable in enthusing students to partake in the work of the BTO and partner organisations and so more ringing demonstrations will be organised for the next semester.

Future pipeline projects which Swansea University are planning to undertake in are the National Peregrine Survey (in association with the Peregrine Trust) and a 24hr University Bird Race where teams of students aim to see the highest number of bird species in 24 hours!

Any students looking to engage with other young birders should be encouraged to join the Next Generation Birders; a network of young people interested in all levels of birding from listing to twitching. Find them on Facebook, Twitter or read some of their excellent and informative birding blogs!"

If you would like more information about the work of the BTO or would like to get involved in the UBC or any other running projects, please do not hesitate to contact Emma here.