Warm 2014 creates positive breeding season for birds

Warm 2014 creates positive breeding season for birds

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The Met Office suggested this week that 2014 could prove to be the warmest year on record. This lengthy boost in temperatures appears to have had a positive impact on the breeding season of the nation's birds.

Information collected by volunteers for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has now been analysed to look for trends and effects on particular species.

The organisation pointed out that although the year started badly with extensive winter flooding, the excess precipitation had dried up by March and a warm spell continued into the late summer.

Also, despite wet weather in May, June and July, mean rainfall fell below average after this.

The BTO discovered that early breeders including the Long-Tailed Tit, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Robin proliferated as a result, with Blue and Great Tits also appearing to do well, perhaps because of high numbers of caterpillars.

While results for the Chaffinch were somewhat mixed and the Wood Pigeon experienced a significant decline in productivity, the Bullfinch experienced its most productive year on record.

However, the BTO report also showed that 2014 was a poor year when looking at the numbers of birds returning to our shores to breed.

Indeed, species that usually winter south of the Sahara demonstrated lower than average populations, particularly the Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Reed Warbler.

The study authors suggested this could have been down to poor conditions in Africa, with the birds failing to build the energy levels they needed to complete the journey back to Britain.

Volunteers are now being called for by the BTO for next year's recording, with qualified ringers needed to monitor population levels across the country.

We were extremely pleased to hear this news on breeding, but it is important not to get complacent and assume birds are doing all right without our help. Putting up a nest box now could give birds somewhere to shelter if winter suddenly turns cold, as well as providing an easy site for nesting in 2015.