The new Bird Atlas - Part 1

The Bird Atlas 2007–11 has been published, and after all the anticipation, it has more than lived up to expectations.  What a fabulous book, for how it looks and feels, for the incredible wealth of information it contains, and for the clarity with which the information is presented.

Bird Atlas 2007–11 covers all of Britain and Ireland.  3850 10km squares were surveyed, with approximately 40,000 observers submitting more than 19 million records over 4 years of fieldwork.  What a mammoth undertaking – and no less so in Northern Ireland. Here we had 160 10km squares with approximately 1280 tetrads (2x2km squares) each of which needed to be surveyed a minimum of 4 times – that was 5120 surveys – and that was just for the abundance mapping!  With so few observers in Northern Ireland this was a major undertaking.
However it was all worthwhile. At a Britain and Ireland level almost every species has a story to tell. The Atlas has shown that many of our bird populations are changing either their geographic distribution or their abundance, or both.  This is seen in many of the species found in Northern Ireland. 
Shane Wolsey has kindly prepared a series of articles for the Blog which we are publishing. We will firstly report on some good news stories, then highlight some species of concern and highlight some other interesting findings. 

A story we knew that was going to be told is the colonisation of Ireland by Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The first proof of breeding in Northern Ireland was in 2006, with breeding confirmed in the Republic of Ireland in 2009 – the breeding distribution map shows how they have colonised the east, with some evidence of westward expansion. Formerly a rare and irregular visitor, colonists were assumed to originate from Scandinavia. However, genetic analysis of feathers obtained in nests has shown that Britain is their true origin. There has been further expansion in Britain too, mostly in Scotland, but also in-filling in eastern and western England, representing a 19% increase in range since the 1988–91 Breeding Atlas. 

As said at the start, almost every species has a story to tell, making the Bird Atlas 2007-11 a fascinating production – check out what is happening with Ravens, Buzzards, Dippers and Lesser Redpolls! This is a source of information you really should not be without. Look out for further posts from us in the next few days.

If you would like to buy Bird Atlas 2007-11 then follow this link:

Shane Wolsey (with thanks to Dawn Balmer and Simon Gillings)
BTO NI Office
Distribution maps from Bird Atlas 2007-11 which is a joint project between BTO, BirdWatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists' Club. Maps reproduced with permission from the BTO.

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