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Tits Bounce Back!

…and BTO appoint new House Sparrow Officer…

Tits Bounce Back

It should be a busy winter at Britain`s bird feeders, after bumper breeding seasons for many of our common birds. Blue Tits, for instance, produced twice as many youngsters in 2002 as they did in 2001.Figures released today by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) show that, after an appalling breeding season in 2001, many birds have bounced back in 2002. Data are collected by volunteer bird ringers taking part in the Constant Effort Sites Scheme (see notes to editors overleaf). The biggest increases in productivity are listed below:Species Increase
Blue Tit 118%
Long-tailed Tit 71%
Blackcap 65%
Greenfinch 62%
Great Tit 62%
Chaffinch 55%Dawn Balmer, who collated the data on behalf of the BTO said: There is tremendous capacity for common birds to recover quickly after a bad year. Blue Tits, for instance typically lay between 7 and 12 eggs. If there are plenty of caterpillars available in May, when the tits are feeding their young, then most will survive and there will be a major population increase. After a series of poor springs, with cold and wet weather which make it harder to find food, 2002 has provided an opportunity to bounce back.

Other species, like Greenfinches, nest more than once each year. This spreads the risk. Greenfinches did well in 2002 as well, breeding right through until the late summer and producing lots of youngsters.Each year bird-lovers spend ?180 million on bird food, feeders and tables, providing 20,000 tonnes of seed and 15,000 tonnes of peanuts. With more young birds around this year, these figures could rise still further.Mike Toms who runs the BTO`s Garden BirdWatch Scheme (note 2) said: This has been an autumn of plenty in the countryside with lots of berries, seed and nuts. In particular, there has been a big crop of beech mast, a favourite of tits and finches. These birds have been plundering nature`s larder but, when the food runs out, they will be back in gardens to feed on the food we put out for them. One species which is missing from this good news story is the House Sparrow. We are keen to attract new volunteers to take part in our Garden BirdWatch scheme so that we can collect information on this species too. Participants receive a quarterly magazine about garden birds and many send us their weekly bird records too. For a free enquiry pack phone 01842 750050.BTO appoint new House Sparrow OfficerThe British Trust for Ornithology is boosting its research into the decline of the House Sparrow by appointing Rosie Cleary as their new House Sparrow Officer. She will work with thousands of volunteer sparrow counters across the country to try to ascertain the reasons for major declines of this red-listed species of conservation concern.The appointment of Rosie Cleary as the BTO`s first House Sparrow Officer will greatly increase the capacity of the Trust to look at what is happening to sparrows across the country. Rosie is keen to recruit volunteers to help her. She needs information from:
Gardens where there are now fewer House Sparrows than there were.
Gardens where (for the moment) there are still flocks of sparrows.In London, where the situation is worst, 75% of sparrows disappeared between 1994 and 2001, and there are lower but serious declines in much of the south and east of the UK. Fortunately, in some areas, such as Wales and most of Scotland and northern England, the species is doing well. The Trust needs to recruit volunteers from areas with good House Sparrow numbers as well as from the southeast of the country, so that comparisons can be made. Rosie Cleary brings plenty of experience to the new BTO post, having studied House Sparrows on Lundy Island and in Leicester. Rosie`s first task will be to organise a major new BTO sparrow survey in 2003. She will be looking to recruit more weekly counters to join the BTO`s Garden BirdWatch scheme and other volunteers for a short-term sparrow project.Rosie said: The Garden BirdWatch team has received hundreds of letters and calls from people who want to help. Many have joined our all-year Garden BirdWatch scheme and I am looking forward to working closely with these volunteers to work out the causes of the decline of the House Sparrow. It is going to be quite a challenge ? but we need to know why 10 million of our sparrows are missing.To learn more about the BTO`s House Sparrow project and to obtain a free Garden BirdWatch enquiry pack, phone 01842 750050 or write to GBW Sparrows, BTO, Freepost, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2BR. The Garden BirdWatch scheme is supported by participants` contributions and sponsored by CJ WildBird Foods. Mike Toms, who leads the BTO`s Garden BirdWatch team, said:
There has been tremendous interest since we launched our House Sparrow Appeal on 1 August. Thanks to the generosity of thousands of birdwatchers throughout the country, ?36,000 has already been raised to support research into the causes of the massive declines in the House Sparrow population. The appointment of Rosie Cleary will enable us to expand our research and to involve thousands more people in our work. For further information contact:

Dawn Balmer (Breeding season) on (01842) 750050 or E-mail: dawn.balmer@bto.org
Mike Toms (Garden birds) on (01842) 750050 or E-mail: mike.toms@bto.org
Graham Appleton on (01842) 750050 or E-mail: graham.appleton@bto.org
Chris Mead on (01760) 756466 or E-mail: chris.mead@zetnet.co.uk
Rosie Cleary on (01842) 750050 or E-mail: rosie.cleary@bto.org during office hours

4th July 2014