WildWatch records have helped contribute to a map of Ring Ouzel occurence in the North Pennines
Producing, and updating, a map of Ring Ouzel occurrence provides a number of benefits:
- It indicates how widely distributed the birds are and potentially whether their range is expanding or contracting.
- This could help to direct conservation measures to where they are most needed or most likely to be effective.
- Data has been used when considering planning applications which could have an adverse impact on the wildlife in an area.
- Combining the maps for many species highlights those areas which are rich in species which again helps to prioritise areas to make more effective use of limited resources.
The map to the top right, (click to enlarge), indicates the distribution of ouzels over the past forty years based primarily on Durham Bird Club records but also incorporating observations from WildWatch members. The beginning of the national atlas in 2007 was taken as an arbitrary starting point for “recent” records and includes data from the national Ring Ouzel survey undertaken in 2012.
On the map areas outside the County Durham recording area are shaded. In addition the uplands (traditionally regarded in the county as being over 300m) are coloured purple although it is not all heather moorland by any means. It is unusual for Ring Ouzel to breed below 300 metres. The paler squares along the coast represent Spring and Autumn migrating birds – ouzels don’t breed along the Durham coast. However some of the inland records, particularly those in October and November, could be migrating ouzels including Scandinavian ones.
The largest squares indicate that ouzels were found before and after 2007 and can be regarded as “core” areas. The smallest squares indicate a loss of records recently but this could well be a lack of observers rather than of birds. A substantial piece of work is underway to try to clarify this. The intermediate-sized squares depict new records in areas where ouzels hadn’t historically been found but it is unlikely that this represents an extension of territory given the severe decline in numbers of ouzels nationally. It does imply that the historical distribution was under-recording the bird’s presence. At least some of these “new” records are thanks to the efforts of WildWatch members. This map was produced by DMAP software.
Once all of the autumn records for 2014 are available the distribution map will be updated and it is intended to add records from the other three counties represented within the AONB. The records in the south of County Durham are the northward extension of a population in North Yorkshire.
A fuller discussion of the distribution of ouzels in County Durham can be found in the Birds in Durham annual report 2013 which has just been published by Durham Bird Club. This complements an earlier article in Durham Bird Club’s monumental tome “The Birds of Durham” published in 2012.
It is intended to produce an AONB atlas of birds based, initially, on Bird Atlas records but clearly there is a wealth of other records to be tapped into which should produce a more comprehensive picture. This could help to inform conservation strategies not just for ouzels, nor even just for birds, but for all species which clearly are largely interdependent.
The second map on the right shows WildWatch records mapped with historic local record centre data, demonstrating that 29 new 2km square were discovered for ring ouzel during the course of the project.
To share your ring ouzel records with WildWatch, click here.