Suffolk Bird Atlas
The national Bird Atlas 2007–11 (Balmer et al 2013) was a huge project that set out to map the abundance and distribution of birds in Britain and Ireland during the breeding and winter seasons. It was a partnership between the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Birdwatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) and was the biggest survey of British birds ever undertaken.
There have been two previous breeding atlases 1968–72 (Sharrock 1976) and 1988–91 (Gibbons et al 1993) and a previous winter atlas 1981/82-1983/84 (Lack 1986). This allows comparisons and to see changes in distribution.
These atlases provide vital information for bird conservation. An important finding from the late 1980s atlas was the widespread range contraction of many farmland birds. It led to detailed research into the causes of the decline. The results from this new atlas will form the basis for the conservation of birds in the coming decades.
An Atlas Working Group was formed to oversee the project in Suffolk consisting of Andrew Easton, Andrew Green, Colin Jakes, Peter Lack, Nick Mason, Steve Piotrowski, Rob Wilton and Mick Wright. The aims were to seek total coverage at tetrad level for the whole of Suffolk, to verify all the records and to publish the results.
The verification of records was a long task, however, technology allowed it to be carried out efficiently. County verifiers were Andrew Green, Colin Jakes, Dr Peter Lack, Nick Mason, Steve Piotrowski, John Walshe and Mick Wright.
The completed dataset contained 488,897 records for Suffolk, comprising 216,531 records for the winter months (November 2007 to February 2011) and 272,364 for the breeding season months (April 2008 to July 2011). The breeding season total included records of observations for March and August to October, which had a breeding status assigned. The total number of species recorded was 277 in the winter and 335 in the summer and this included 147 breeding species.
This section examines the dataset in more detail and discusses, with maps and tables, a range of results not covered in the main body of the species maps, clicking on a map will open a larger version in a new window:
Total Species Density
Species Density at Tetrad Level
During the winter period almost 70% of all the County’s tetrads only held between 1 and 50 species of birds and a further 314 tetrads (29%) held between 51 and 100 species per tetrad. These relatively species rich tetrads were predominately on the coast, Waveney valley, the areas around Lackford and Livermere and the hinterland areas associated with the county’s tidal estuaries. Less than 3% of Suffolk tetrads held between 101 and 163 species. These hot spots for bird species occurred along the coast at Kessingland, Benacre, Southwold, Walberswick, Minsmere, Orford Ness, East Lane, Landguard and inland at Melton, Martlesham, Wherstead, Trimley, Oulton, Lackford and Lakenheath.
There are large areas of Suffolk (53%) where the number of species was less than 50 per tetrad, a further 491 tetrads (45%) held between 51 and 100 species per tetrad. There were only 18 hot spots where the number of species per tetrad was between 101 and 147. The hightest was TM46T, which contains RSPB's reserve at Minsmere followed by TM23V which contains the Landguard Bird Observatory
Birds of Conservation Concern – Red species
The number of BoCC red species recorded during the winter period, throughout Suffolk was 42. The wintering species were Bearded Tit, Bittern, Black-necked Grebe, Black-tailed Godwit, Brambling, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Crossbill, Common Gull, Common Redpoll, Corn Bunting, Dartford Warbler, Dunlin, Firecrest, Golden Pheasant, Goshawk, Grey Partridge, Hawfinch, Hen Harrier, Herring Hull, House Sparrow, Jack Snipe, Lapwing, Lesser Redpoll, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Linnet, Long-eared Owl, Marsh Harrier, Marsh Tit, Mediterranean Gull, Peregrine Falcon, Red Kite, Rough-legged Buzzard, Scaup, Short-eared Owl, Skylark, Song Thrush, Starling, Stock Dove, Tree Sparrow, Velvet Scoter, Willow Tit, Woodlark and Yellowhammer.
The number of BoCC red species recorded during the winter period, throughout Suffolk was 54. The summering species were Bearded Tit, Bittern, Black-necked Grebe, Black Redstart, Black-tailed Godwit, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Crossbill, Common Gull, Corn Bunting, Dartford Warbler, Dunlin, Firecrest, Garganey, Golden Oriole, Golden Pheasant, Goshawk, Grasshopper Warbler, Grey Partridge, Hawfinch, Herring Hull, Honey Buzzard, House Sparrow, Lapwing, Lesser Redpoll, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Linnet, Little Ringed Plover, Little Tern, Long-eared Owl, Marsh Harrier, Marsh Tit, Marsh Warbler, Mediterranean Gull, Montague’s Harrier, Nightjar, Peregrine Falcon, Red Kite, Rough-legged Buzzard, Roseate Tern, Short-eared Owl, Skylark, Song Thrush, Spoonbill, Spotted Flycatcher, Starling, Stock Dove, Stone Curlew, Tree Pipit, Turtle Dove, Tree Sparrow, Willow Tit, Woodlark, Yellow Wagtail and Yellowhammer.
Woodland Species Density
The number of woodland species recorded during the winter period, throughout Suffolk was 26. The wintering species were Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Hawfinch, Jay, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl, Treecreeper, Willow Tit and Wren.
The number of woodland species recorded during the summer period, throughout Suffolk was 34.The summering species were Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Garden Warbler, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Hawfinch, Jay, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Whitethroat, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Nightingale, Nuthatch, Redpoll (Lesser and Common), Redstart, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Spotted Flycatcher, Tawny Owl, Tree Pipit, Treecreeper, Willow Tit, Willow Warbler and Wren.
Farmland Species Density
The number of farmland species recorded during the winter period, throughout Suffolk was 16. The wintering species were Corn Bunting, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Grey Partridge, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Lapwing, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Rook, Skylark, Starling, Stock Dove, Tree Sparrow, Woodpigeon and Yellowhammer.
The number of farmland species recorded during the sumer period, throughout Suffolk was 19. The summering species were Corn Bunting,Goldfinch,Greenfinch, Grey Partridge, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Lapwing, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Rook, Skylark, Starling, Stock Dove, Tree Sparrow,Turtle Dove, Whitethroat.Woodpigeon,Yellow Wagtail and Yellowhammer
These maps have been plotted at the tetrad level. Five rare bird species were mapped at a 10 km level with a single icon at its centre regardless of the number of birds or territories. The maps are based on information from the BTO survey 2007–11.
Click a species name to see the maps. Refine the species list by selecting a conservation list in the left-hand dropdown box and/or searching for part or all of a species name in the right-hand box.
Bird species recorded in each tetrad
Each dot represents the centre of a 2x2 km tetrad.
Top 50 birds encountered during summer timed tetrad visits
|English Name||Total Birds Summer||No. Tetrads Summer||Max Count|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull||9182||330||920|
|Great Spotted Woodpecker||1584||606||6|
Top 50 birds encountered during winter timed tetrad visits
|English Name||Total Birds Winter||No. Tetrads Winter||Max Count|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull||5053||286||310|
The Suffolk working group decided to survey every tetrad, which included any land within the Suffolk boundaries, whereas, the national survey aimed to cover every 10 km square and to have timed counts in at least eight tetrads in each.
When comparing this Atlas with previous Atlases there was a very important difference in the way that data were collected. The BTO developed a dedicated online system to allow Roving Records and Timed Tetrad Visits to be submitted online; also fieldworkers could access web pages to see where gaps in fieldwork were required.
There were two types of fieldwork:
- Timed Tetrad Visits (TTVs): recording and counting all the birds seen or heard in a 2x2 km square during timed visits of one or two hours, in the winter and the breeding season.
- Roving Records: recording any bird, at any time and at any location.
The required periods for fieldwork were: For winter the early visit was from 1 November to 31 December and the late visit from 1 January to 28/29 February and for summer fieldwork the early visit was from 1 April to 31 May and the late visit from 1 June to 31 July.
What to count: Observers were asked to count only individuals that were using the square. They were to ignore individuals flying over the square except for hunting raptors and hirundines that were effectively ‘using’ the square. During the breeding season juveniles were excluded from the counts. On the coast, birds were counted as far offshore as the observer was confident in identifying them, provided they were still in their tetrad. Anything offshore but not in the tetrad was submitted as a Roving Record for the appropriate tetrad. All introduced and feral species were to be counted.
Colonial nesting species (inland or coastal): If a colony (one or more nests) was encountered these were to be recorded in the ‘Colony Table’ on the recording form. The minimum requirement was to tick that a colony was present on either of the visits and if possible to count the colony. The maximum count of Apparently Occupied Nests or the number of individuals in the colony was required. Shading on the Colony Table gave guidance on which method to use for specific species. Only rough estimates were required. Any colony nesting species encountered away from the colony were to be counted and recorded in the main part of the recording form.
Stopping the clock: if a flock of birds, a colony, or a particularly ‘busy’ area (e.g. a wood at dawn chorus) was encountered the clock could be ‘paused’ in order to do the counting. When counting large aggregations, or areas with high densities, an approximate count was only required.
Roving Records, the aim in Suffolk was to compile comprehensive species lists for every tetrad (2 km x 2 km square) in both seasons. These data will form the basis of all the distribution maps in the final production.
Breeding evidence: During the breeding season the fieldworkers were asked to record the highest evidence of breeding for each species in every tetrad. The aim was always to confirm breeding if possible. The various levels were recorded using standard codes.
The code F (flying over) was only to be used for roving records, as birds flying over were excluded from TTV counts.
- F Flying over
- M Species observed but suspected to be still on migration
- U Species observed but suspected to be summering non-breeder
- H Species observed in breeding season in suitable nesting habitat
- S Singing male present (or breeding calls heard) in breeding season in suitable nesting habitat
- P Pair observed in suitable nesting habitat in breeding season
- T Permanent territory presumed through registration of territorial behaviour (song etc) on at least two different days, a week or more apart, at the same place; or many individuals on one day
- D Courtship and display
- N Visiting probable nest site
- A Agitated behaviour
- I Brood patch of incubating bird (from bird in the hand)
- B Nest building or excavating nest hole
- DD Distraction display or injury feigning
- UN Used nest or eggshells found (occupied or laid within period of survey).
- FL Recently fledged young or downy young
- ON Adults entering or leaving nest site in circumstances indicating occupied nest
- FF Adult carrying faecal sac or food for young
- NE Nest containing eggs
- NY Nest with young seen or heard
One thousand and seventy individuals sent in records. Five hundred and seventy individuals sent in more than fifty records; the top three people for sending in records were David Cawdron (thirty-six thousand), Malcolm Fairly (nineteen thousand) and Stephen Goddard (eighteen thousand).
Timed Tetrad Visit Fieldworkers
N & G Burfield
M & S Macey
G Reilly & D ford
Timms & Day
All Observers and Data Sources
N D & G Burfield
Cambridgeshire Bird Club
J Jenkins Shaw
JNCC Seabird Data
JC Le Gassick
PAF Mckenzie Lloyd
RAF Lakenheath Conservation Group
Suffolk Wildlife Trust Surveys
On the shoulders of Giants....
My thanks go to:
- Mick Wright for providing all the text, birding knowledge and enthusiasm for this project.
- John Newnham from Sussex for showing us what was possible and freely donating the VB program for data handling.
- Martin Sanford for providing data integrity, Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service support and web hosting
- Ben Heather who provided the mapping backgrounds
- And of course Mick Wright and Steve Piotrowski for spending 6 years trying to teach the web developer about birds.
Below are a variety of useful links to the BTO and other atlases
With thanks to John Newnham of the Sussex Ornithological Society
These are in no particular order: a mixture of online, books and in progress atlases
Bedfordshire Bird Atlas
The Berkshire Bird Atlas
The Birds of Buckinghamshire
Cambridgeshire Bird Atlas 2007–11
Birds in Cheshire and Wirral
Cornwall Bird Atlas
Cumbria Bird Atlas
The Birds of Derbyshire
Hertfordshire Bird Atlas
Lancashire & Cheshire Fauna Society
The New Bird Atlas Project in London 2007–12
North Wales Breeding Bird Atlas
The Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club
The Surrey Bird Club
Devon Birdwatching & Preservation Society
South-east Scotland Bird Atlas
The Birds of Gloucestershire
Hampshire Ornithological Society
Suffolk Bird Atlas by Margaret Regnault. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.