08 December 2014

2014 proves a good vintage for breeding birds

Throughout the year, ringers and nest recorders have been sending us their impressions of the breeding season. A post in June discussed how the weather in spring made for good nesting whilst one in July considered whether it was nearly time for nesters to hang up their mirrors for the year. On to September and we were reporting on the huge numbers of Blackcaps moving through the country and suggesting that this might be indicative of a good breeding season. Finally, in October, we pulled together stories suggesting that it might be one of the best years yet for Barn Owls. So, do these stories match what the results from the Nest Record Scheme (NRS) and the Constant Effort Sites (CES) scheme tell us? The 2014 preliminary results have just been published and can be found on both the NRS and CES pages of the website.

Barn Owl (photo by Jill Pakenham)
We are very happy to report that the NRS and CES results show that 2014 was indeed a bumper breeding season for both Barn Owl (best ever) and Blackcap, as well as many other species, with the large number of young fledged and high levels of repeat nesting keeping volunteers busy throughout the summer. Reed Warbler, Blackbird and Bullfinch all exhibited the highest levels of productivity since CES began in 1983; interestingly, the two previous best years for Bullfinch were 2011 and 2013.

Less positive were the abundance results which showed that many of our migrants, particularly long-distance visitors, were notable by their absence this year. Only Chiffchaff broke the mould and exhibited a significant increase in abundance. News wasn't great for our resident birds either with only Robin and Wren managing to take advantage of the mild winter and exhibit a significant increase in numbers.

Chiffchaff abundance trend
Those who went to the annual BTO Conference at Swanwick this weekend would have seen the poster showing the regional CES results. While breeding success was generally high across Britain & Ireland, some species displayed regional variation - Sedge Warblers produced more young in the north than in the east or west for example. We would love to hear how your own experiences compared to the results presented so please feel free to leave a comment below. 

CES results poster showing national and regional results (click to enlarge)
We would like to thank all the ringers and nesters who contributed to the CES and NRS schemes this year and to those who provided blog stories in 2014. We hope you enjoyed the season and we look forward to reporting on your 2015 exploits.

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