Dartmoor’s birds and the new BTO Atlas

Dartmoor's birds and the new BTO Atlas

Every now and again a book appears which grabs your attention and dominates your time! The last time this happened to me was when Mark Avery’s ‘Fighting for Birds‘ was published. Now the BTO, Birdwatch Ireland and the SOC have published their Bird Atlas 2007-11. It is a magnum opus both in terms of size and intellect. The book does however differ in many ways from Mark’s – I read his at a single sitting whereas the Atlas will take months to digest!

It is not a cheap book at £70 but it is an essential read for all people interested in bird conservation in this country.

Although I have spent a lot of time looking at the book I have by no means read it all yet but I have done a small of of analysis – what does this book tell us about the status and prospects for Dartmoor’s birds?

Whilst the analysis in the book is very scientific and rigorous my musings are of course subjective and I would welcome comment on it.

Below is a table which looks at the fate of 30 ‘classic’ Dartmoor species. The table gives the national distribution, changes since 1968-72, changes to the Dartmoor distribution and changes in abundance since 1988-91 along my thoughts on their prospects.

The Atlas shows that there are some clear winners (e.g. ravens, buzzards, peregrines and goshawk) and some real losers (wood warblers, ring ouzels, turtle doves and golden plover). Other species such as the whinchat are doing poorly but Dartmoor / Devon are real strongholds for the species nationally.

When I have had some more time to read the book and do some proper thinking I will write another blog outlining what I think the National Trust ought to be doing to help Dartmoor’s qunitessential birds. In many regards the Atlas is rather depressing – despite our huge efforts in actively managing our large Dartmoor woodland estate species such as wood warbler, common redstart and lesser spotted woodpecker are still decling. On our moorland (in Higher Level Stewardship) ‘common’ species such as wheatear, meadow pipit and skylark are holding their own whilst whinchats are stuggling.

Comments welcome and more to follow.

Status of some selected breeding birds on Dartmoor 
using data from the Bird Atlas 207-11
Habitat Species England Wales Scotland Distribution –  % 10km occupied England Wales Scotland Breeding distribution change 1968-72 to now Dartmoor Distribution  change 1968-72 to now Dartmoor abundance change 1988-91 to now Current Dartmoor fortunes
W Buzzard 90 -22% Same Slight gains Very good
W Chiff chaff 84 +20% Same Gains  Good
R Common sandpiper 42 -14% Gains and losses Stable  Average
M Cuckoo 82 -7% Losses Losses  Poor
M Curlew 57 -17% Losses Slight losses  Very poor
M Dartford warbler 5 +352% Gains Slight gains  Good
R Dipper 46 11% Slight losses Losses  Poor
M Dunlin 14 -11% Increases Stable?  Poor
M Golden plover 24 +20% Losses Almost extinct  Very poor
W Goshawk 18 +1291% Gains Gains  Very good
R Grey wagtail 76 +19 Slight losses Losses  Poor
F Lapwing 74 +17% Large losses Almost extinct  Very poor
W Lesser spotted woodpecker 20 -41% Gains and losses Losses  Very poor
M Meadow pipit 90 -2%  Slight losses Gains and losses  Average
M Peregrine 51 +184% Gains Gains  Very good
W Pied flycatcher 18 -2% Gains Some losses  Average
M Raven 69 +59% Same Increases  Very good
M Red grouse 30 -22% Losses Stable  Stable
W Redstart 39 -31% Losses Some losses  Poor
M Ring ouzel 15 -43% Losses Losses  Very poor
M Skylark 96 -1% Same Slight losses  Average
M Snipe 54 -31% Stable Slight increases  Average
M Stonechat 65 +52% Gains Gains  Good
M Tree pipit 44 -29% Losses Losses  Poor
F Turtle dove 21 -51% Large losses Extinct  Very poor!
M Wheatear 56 -14% Gains Small losses  Average
M Whinchat 30 -47% Losses Losses  Poor
W Willow tit 20 -55% Losses Losses  Very poor
W Willow warbler 92 +3% Same Losses  Poor
W Wood warbler 28 -35% Large losses Considerable losses  Very poor
M Woodlark 5 -23% Gains and losses Gains  Average
F Farmland Very good 4
M Moorland Good 3
R River Average 8
W Woodland Poor 8
Very poor 8
Bird Atlas 2007-11The breeding and wintering birds of Britain and Ireland. (2013) 
Balmer, Gillings,Caffrey, Swann, Downie & Fuller. BTO, Birdwatch Ireland and SOC

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