British grey heron survey on the Internet, after 87 years

This is a grey heron video from Italy.

From Wildlife Extra:

Britain’s longest-running bird survey hits the web

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has been counting Grey Heron nests since 1928 and now it has made it easier for its army of volunteer surveyors by allowing them to record their observations on the internet.

The Heronries Census has covered 400,000 nests since it began. The survey collects annual counts of ‘apparently occupied nests’ in UK heronries and uses the data to monitor the population sizes of both Grey Herons and Little Egrets.

Counts are made at heronries by the BTO’s volunteers. It is one of the simplest surveys and requires no special skills.

So for 88 years, it has provided an annual estimate of the total UK breeding population of Grey Herons: this is the longest series of such data for any bird species in the world!

Until now, most counts have been mailed to BTO on special cards but, from 25 June, the option of direct online input of data became available to the observers for the first time.

John Marchant, the National Organiser of the Heronries Census for the BTO, says, “Going online is the most important development in the long history of the Heronries Census.

“It will make it easier for existing volunteers to contribute and will open the scheme up for members of the public to report new nesting sites for herons and enter casual counts of nests apparently occupied.”

Online data input is now available for all of the BTO’s major surveys, alongside the submission of paper forms.

Marchant, who has been involved in the Heronries Census for 22 years says: “We hope in due course to expand the concept to cover more species that habitually nest in colonies, such as Rooks and inland nesting Cormorants.”

The results of the Census has revealed the pressures on heronries over the years. The long-term information shows a general increase in numbers, though there has been a strong downturn since 2001, perhaps due to recent cold winter weather and the increasing frequency of spring gales.

The most striking feature in the trend over the last 88 years is the effects of harsh winters which leads to high mortality rates and a clear dip in the population levels.

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