Mark Holling and the Rare Breeding Birds Panel

RBBP Night Heron at Avalon marshes.jpeg

Juvenile Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax, Avalon Marshes, Somerset.  

Alan Harris

Abstract This report documents the status of rare or scarce native birds that were recorded breeding, or showed signs of breeding, in the UK in 2017. The year will be remembered for the first breeding record of Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax in the UK and as a good year for several colonising European species nesting in England, particularly those associated with wetlands, such as Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis and Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. For the first time ever, data were received directly from all recording areas.

This is the 44th report published by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP), and includes details of 97 rare or scarce native taxa that bred, or showed signs of breeding, in the UK in 2017. Three others are likely to have bred in 2017 but no data were received (see Appendix 1), while Appendix 2 summarises the 2017 records of 15 rare non-native breeders. 

The area covered by the UK Rare Breeding Birds Panel includes the four countries of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), plus the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Using ‘UK’ as a shorthand reference, this is the same unit used by other national monitoring programmes, such as the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (e.g. Harris et al. 2019), and by Birds of Conservation Concern (e.g. Eaton et al. 2015). The RBBP species list can be downloaded at www.rbbp.org.uk/rbbp-species-list-full.htm. Changes to this list that became effective in 2017 were the addition of Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator (see p.717) and the removal of Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti (see Holling et al. 2018).

Review of the year 2017

Overall, 2017 was the fifth-warmest year since 1910, most notably in southeast, eastern and central England in spring and summer. The 2016/17 winter was warmer than average throughout most of the UK but especially in Scotland. Late winter and spring were generally dry through to mid May. Thereafter, the south and east of the UK was wet while the north and west had below-average rainfall totals. June was hot but also wet – it was the wettest June in Scotland since 1910. July was unsettled with localised heavy rain and flash flooding occurring at times. 

It was a particularly memorable year for rare breeding birds. A pair of Night Herons Nycticorax nycticorax in Somerset was the first ever confirmed breeding in the UK; Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis nested at four sites; there were six pairs of Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus (a new record total); and the highest-ever totals for Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia (29 pairs), Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris (191 booming males and/or nests found) and Little Egret Egretta garzetta (1,523 pairs) were reported. Three pairs of European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster nested in Nottinghamshire, although poor weather when the young were in the nest eventually led to all the chicks being deserted. The phenomenon of species with a more southerly European distribution colonising the UK is explored further in this report by Malcolm Ausden (box 1). Other species reaching their highest-ever totals include Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus, White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla and Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, and there were also high numbers (compared with recent years) of Common Scoter Melanitta nigra, Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus, Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris and Savi’s Warbler Locustella luscinioides.

389 Spoonbills v2.jpg

389. Family of Eurasian Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia, Holkham, Norfolk, April 2017. 

Andrew Bloomfield

Complementing the successes of these expanding species, a diverse range of occasional and potential breeding species was recorded in 2017, including Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps (paired with a Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis), Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus, Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius, Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus, Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis, Hoopoe Upupa epops, Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor, Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus, Blyth’s Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum, Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina and Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis.

The news for some of our rarest species was less positive, however. Eighteen confirmed breeding pairs of Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus was the lowest total since our first report, in 1973, and numbers of both Montagu’s Harriers Circus pygargus(five pairs) and Spotted Crakes Porzana porzana (eight calling males) were the lowest since the 1980s. Numbers of the nominate race of Black-tailed Godwit Limosa l. limosa continue to decline, and in 2017 were at their lowest level since 1997. Measured populations of both Corn Crake Crex crex and Hobby Falco subbuteo have declined in recent years. There were records of two former regular breeders in 2017, Wryneck Jynx torquilla and Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio, but little to indicate any change in their long-term status. There were again no records of Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus in breeding habitat.

Annual reports of rare breeding birds are not all about the rarest species. This report provides status updates for more numerous species such as Common Pochard Aythya ferina, Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius and Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata. An example of the impact of a local study in furthering our understanding of more widespread species is provided for Long-eared Owl Asio otus in Co. Durham.

Analysis of the records of two of the commoner species on our list, Water Rail Rallus aquaticus and Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla, confirms that their populations are actually well above our threshold for annual reporting and these will be removed from the RBBP list with effect from the 2018 season. Balancing that change, we have added the Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, the fastest declining-breeding species in the UK. Calculations based on previous estimates and the ongoing rate of decline (Harris et al. 2019) suggest that the UK population is now less than 2,000 breeding pairs; see http://www.rbbp.org.uk/downloads/species_webpages/turtle_dove.PDF.

Data sources and submission

The most important source of information for this report is the detailed submissions compiled by the UK’s county and regional bird recorders. As in 2016, this network provided over 70% of all data submissions in 2017. Bird recorders, all of whom are volunteers, are uniquely placed to understand the relevance and context of the records they receive from birdwatchers. The volume of original data received by recorders has increased substantially in recent years, increasing their workload but underlining the key role that they play. Of course, county recorders, and in turn the RBBP, are highly dependent on observers submitting records in the first place. It is vital that birdwatchers across the UK make their sightings available, not least for the value these records have for conservation, as outlined below. 

We are delighted that for 2017 we received data from all recording areas across the UK (although for the Isle of Man the return was incomplete, with data on some species not available) – the best-ever return rate. Moreover, in almost all cases, data from the recorder network was accompanied by at least a four-figure grid reference. A few contributors did not provide data until well after the deadline, causing a delay in preparation of this report. This report includes, for the first time, UK and regional population estimates for 17 species based on county recorder input; see Terminology below for more details.

Other important data sources include returns from Schedule 1 licence holders, the Nest Record Scheme, Raptor Study Groups, national surveys, and counts from RSPB reserves. Best efforts are made to capture all available (verified) information on rare breeding birds from other sources. The volume of data received was slightly higher than in recent years, at over 7,500 unique records. The three species with the highest number of reports were Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, Little Ringed Plover and Water Rail, together responsible for 20% of all records.

Supplementary data for previous years are still extremely valuable additions to our archive. Birders should consider not only their local records but also ones from holidays elsewhere in the UK, especially to more remote areas such as north and west Scotland. Additions, amendments and corrections to published reports from 2005 onwards are available on the RBBP website (www.rbbp.org.uk). These files are updated regularly and those using the RBBP reports for reference or study should always check the online amendments.

Accurate grid references are critical, for a number of reasons, but especially to check each location, to improve knowledge of the type of site and habitats used, and to identify duplicate data, thus improving the accuracy of the report. In addition, RBBP data are used to support site and species conservation and the lack of a precise location hinders this work, for example in reviewing the effectiveness of Special Protection Areas and the identification of potential new ones. Site information is not published and these data remain confidential. Yet again, some records (about 300 in 2017) submitted via the Schedule 1 licence return system fail to include an accurate grid reference, despite it being a condition of the licences they were collected under. In most cases, we cannot eliminate the possibility of double-counting, making most of these records effectively worthless. Almost all relate to raptors and as a result our annual totals for species such as Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis and Peregrine Falcon are clearly underestimates. 

Recommendations and guidelines on data submission are available online, together with our recording standards and species-specific guidelines (www.rbbp.org.uk). Anyone with particular experience in monitoring a rare species is encouraged to share their expertise through the further development of these guidelines.

Conservation and other uses of RBBP data 

RBBP policy is to make data available for relevant conservation uses, with appropriate controls over the spatial resolution at which data are provided. Site-specific information is used by JNCC and the national statutory conservation agencies, and national datasets by the RSPB for survey and conservation planning. Over the 14-month period from July 2018 to August 2019 we received 13 specific requests for data or summary information. In addition, population totals published in the BBreports are widely used by conservation staff at RSPB, BTO, JNCC and the four national statutory conservation agencies. Projects supported with RBBP data in the last year have included site condition monitoring in the Humber Estuary SPA and specific enquiries on the status of Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus in the UK, Hobby in Scotland, Peregrine Falcon in Surrey and Golden Oriole in Avon. We are supporting a project assessing whether Wrynecks are being overlooked in highland Scotland, work on Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers Dryobates minor and the new ‘Birds in Wales’ project. Trends for selected species were also supplied for use in the UK, England and Scotland Wild Bird Indicators.

As an EU Member State, the UK Government is required every six years to produce a report under Article 12 of the Birds Directive (EU Directive on the conservation of wild birds 2009/147/EC). During the last year the JNCC has coordinated the UK’s response, a process which required updates to population estimates and trends for all UK breeding species; some of these were derived from RBBP data and so support the conservation of these species.

A regular review, The State of the UK’s Birds, is published by the RSPB on behalf of a range of conservation organisations. The most recent (Hayhow et al. 2017b) included a section on scarce and rare breeding birds, giving population estimates and trends based mainly on data collated by the RBBP. 

The Panel

The membership of the Panel is: Mark Eaton (Chairman), Helen Baker, Dawn Balmer, Ian Francis, Andrew King, David Norman, David Stroud and Mark Holling (Secretary). Members serve in a personal capacity, but some also reflect the interests and requirements of the funding partners. The Panel is funded by the JNCC (on behalf of the country conservation agencies) and the RSPB, with additional financial contributions from the BTO. Panel membership aims to achieve broadly representative geographic coverage and to include members who have active involvement in monitoring schemes and specialist research groups, or who participate in various external groups, to facilitate liaison between the Panel and researchers, nest recorders, ringers, surveyors and conservationists. See also Stroud (2019).

Box 1. 2017: a bumper year for colonists

Malcolm Ausden

It was an amazing year for colonists in 2017. The highest number of breeding Black-winged Stilts (six pairs) fledged a record number of young (13). There were ten pairs of nesting Cattle Egrets at four sites, only the second year of confirmed breeding, although breeding was suspected in two previous years. There were three pairs of European Bee-eaters and, perhaps most surprising of all, the first recorded breeding by Night Herons. These are all species whose main, or entire, breeding population lies to the south of the UK. The year also saw a continued increase in the breeding populations of several other birds that colonised, or recolonised, Britain during the last century, and which have since been extending their range northwards – Avocet, Mediterranean Gull, Cetti’s Warbler and Firecrest. Are these northerly range expansions due to climate change?

Climate change is expected to cause NNW to NE shifts in the breeding distributions of birds in Europe and, since the early 1990s, bird populations in Europe as a whole have shown changes consistent with these projections (Green et al. 2008; Huntley et al. 2008; Gregory et al. 2009). The winter distributions of waterbirds, and the geographical distributions of a range of other animal groups, have also shifted, in a N to NE direction, in recent decades (MacLean et al. 2008; Lehikoinen et al. 2013; Mason et al. 2015). Despite the overwhelming evidence of the overall effects of climate change on species’ geographical distributions, it is more difficult to link changes in the range of individual species to climate – many other factors could be involved.

Table 1 lists species that, since the early 1990s, have naturally established or re-established regular breeding in Britain, or show signs of doing so. This list reveals some striking patterns. Eleven of the 12 (Red-backed Shrike is the exception) have a breeding distribution lying mainly or entirely to the south of the UK. Nine of the 12 are wetland species and, of these, seven are colonially breeding herons and allies. This is extraordinary given that, before the mid 1990s, Grey Heron Ardea cinerea was the only colonial heron breeding in the UK. 

Climate change may well have played a role in the northward range expansion of many species in table 1, but other factors have been important for some. The changes for Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Great White Egret and Little Egret have, to a varying extent, involved recolonisation of parts of their former range. Earlier range contractions were undoubtedly caused by human persecution, and perhaps also a reduction in the quality and extent of wetland habitat. Egrets and Spoonbills were widely taken for food in medieval Europe (Bourne 2003; van Eerden et al. 2010), while in Victorian times egrets were hunted for their breeding plumes. Expansion and contraction of the breeding range of Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret and Spoonbill in Europe have all been well documented. Cattle Egrets, meanwhile, have been expanding their breeding range since the 1950s, long before the impact of climate change had become apparent (Voisin 1991). It is unclear what has driven their long-term range expansion.

Another factor contributing to the recent population increase of many waterbirds in southwest Europe has been the spread of Red Swamp Crayfish Procambarus clarkii. These were introduced to Spain from the USA and Mexico for aquaculture in the early 1970s, and have since spread throughout Spain, much of France and northern Italy (Geiger et al. 2005). These crayfish may form a large proportion of the diet of all the colonial herons listed in table 1 (Correia 2001; Montesinos et al. 2008; Tablado et al. 2010). Periods of drought in southwest Europe have also helped to drive the northward range expansion of several waterbird species. In particular, more Black-winged Stilts arrive in Britain in spring, and breed in the Netherlands, when conditions are dry in southwest Europe (Figuerola 2007; Boele 2012; Ausden et al. 2016). Several other waterbirds have extended their range northwards after periods of drought farther south (Ausden et al. 2014). 

Last but not least, all the wetland birds in table 1 have benefited from conservation measures. In western Europe, a large proportion of the breeding populations of all these species is in protected areas, and in Britain several species mainly use recently restored/created wetland habitats (Ausden et al. 2016, 2019). The herons and allies, apart from Cattle Egret, are all Annex I species*, and have undoubtedly benefited from greater habitat protection in Europe, particularly through the EU’s 1979 ‘Birds Directive’ (Donald et al. 2007).

* Annex I is a list of species (and some races) for which the EU Birds Directive requires ‘special conservation measures concerning their habitat in order to ensure their survival and reproduction…’. Typically, these measures relate to the need to designate Special Protection Areas, but other non-site-based special measures may also be relevant (e.g. targeted agri-environment schemes).

The lack of colonists associated with farmland and other dry open habitats, woodland and scrub is striking, given the species found in these habitats that breed regularly in the northern half of France, and for which the climate in the UK is probably becoming more suitable (Huntley et al. 2007). For some of these, for example Black Dryocopus martius and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocoptes medius, the likelihood of colonising the UK is probably reduced by their reluctance to cross the sea. Yet there is still little sign of other species colonising: Hoopoe, Western Bonelli’s Phylloscopus bonelli and Melodious Warblers Hippolais polyglottaand European Serin Serinus serinus. In fact, the number of Serins recorded in the UK has declined (White & Kehoe 2019b); while breeding populations have decreased by 42% across Europe since 1980 (PECBMS 2017), including a sharp decline in the Netherlands (SOVON 2019). For at least some of these species, any improvements in climate at the northern edge of their range appears to be negated by other factors – such as land-use changes in their breeding areas and, for migratory species, conditions in their wintering grounds or on migration.

In summary, while 2017 stands out as a spectacular year for colonists, the events of the year overall continue the recent patterns of change: continued range expansion of a variety of wetland birds, most of which have clearly benefited from conservation measures, contrasting with the struggles of many birds found in other habitats.

Table 1. Birds that since 1990 have naturally colonised, or recolonised Britain, or show signs of doing so.

 

Since 1990 recorded breeding (B) or nest-building (N) in Britain for the first time

Since 1990 established (E) or re-established (R) regular breedingin Britain

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

N

 

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

 

R

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus

 

E2

Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

B

 

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

B

 

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea

B

 

Great White Egret Ardea alba

B

E

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

B

E

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

 

E

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis

B

E

European Bee-eater Merops apiaster

 

 

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio

 

R3

Notes:

1 Breeding for five or more consecutive years.  2 Has held territory in the UK for five consecutive years or more, but has only rarely been confirmed breeding. NB Breeding by Little Bitterns can be difficult to confirm.  3 This attempted recolonisation (see Davies & Lock 2016) appears to be petering out.

______________________________________________________________________

Terminology

Recording areas

The recording areas used in this report are the same as in previous reports (see Holling et al. 2007a and www.rbbp.org.uk). We attempt to collate all breeding records by recording area (usually ‘county’) wherever possible and urge contributors to submit records in the same manner, via recorders. 

To reduce the possibility of duplication with surrounding areas, records from the Greater London recording area, which covers all areas within a 20-mile radius of St Paul’s Cathedral, are reported as follows. Under the Greater London heading we list records from the Inner London area and the old county of Middlesex only. Records away from this area and within the counties surrounding London – Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent and Surrey – are listed under those county headings. 

Species banners

Shown for every species in the report, the species banners present key information on status, numbers and trends. A regular breeder is defined as a species that has bred (i.e. confirmed breeding has been recorded) at least once in the UK and which has bred (or was strongly suspected to have bred) for any five consecutive years within the last 25 (unless the last breeding was more than ten years ago). This definition is the same as used in the Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) reviews (Eaton et al. 2015). Other species may be classed as an occasional breeder (a species which has bred at least once in the UK but is not a regular breeder); a potential breeder (one which has not bred previously in the UK but, in some years, shows signs that it may do so, e.g. presence of singing males holding territory or pairs in suitable breeding habitat); a colonising breeder (a new colonist which first bred in the UK in the most recent five years (2013–17, or subsequently, if known at the time of writing), or one which may have occasionally bred in the past but for which breeding now appears to be becoming more regular); or a former breeder (one which bred regularly in the past but for which there has been no confirmed breeding record in the last ten years).

For all regular breeding species, the species banners give additional information, as follows:

1. The population status (Red, Amber or Green) as determined by BoCC4 (Eaton et al. 2015); see below.

2. An indication of population status in one of four categories: Very rare (mean of <30 breeding pairs (bp) per annum); •Rare (30–300 bp per annum); •Scarce (301–1,000 bp per annum); •Less scarce (>1,000 bp per annum).

3. Published estimate or RBBP 5-year mean. If a recent estimate from a published national survey is available, this is used and referenced. Otherwise the estimate is based on RBBP data, using the mean maximum population size from the last five years (in this report, 2013–17). If annual RBBP coverage is poor, the best available national population estimate is used. The unit varies, but is most frequently ‘breeding pairs’ (bp). We acknowledge that, for some species, estimates based purely on RBBP data may be contrary to other estimates, especially where RBBP coverage is moderate or low (see below). 

4. A population trend, where one can be calculated; this is presented as a 25-year trend where possible. For species that were added to the RBBP list in 1996, a 15-year trend is given. Trends are calculated by comparing the five-year mean in 2017 with that for either 25 or 15 years earlier (1992 or 2002). Trends are categorised into five bands, based on thresholds of rate of change used to classify species trends in the Wild Bird Indicators (e.g. Defra 2019), and shown in the table below. Most trends are derived from RBBP data, although in some cases trends from periodic surveys are used if they are more robust.

 

thresholds based on 25 years of data

thresholds based on 15 years of data

strong increase

> +100% 

> +52% 

weak increase

+33% to +100% 

+19% to +52% 

stable

-25% to +33% 

-16% to +19% 

weak decrease

-50% to -25% 

-34% to -16% 

strong decrease

> -50% 

> -34% 

5. The degree of coverage (in 2017), defined as follows: •Near-complete (RBBP reports present more or less complete annual totals); •High (a good estimate of the number of pairs breeding annually, though an unknown (but thought to be small) proportion has not been recorded/reported); Moderate (a less accurate estimate of the number of pairs breeding annually, which is nonetheless thought to be a significant proportion of the total population); Low (the volume of the data received is such a small proportion of the total population that RBBP totals are of little value for conservation or status reviews; however, maintaining an archive of known sites is useful, and this information can be used in the design of future targeted surveys).

Coverage categories (reassessed in this report) are based on comparisons between the 5-year mean and the most reliable population estimate, where possible, taking into account known factors in the monitoring and detectability of the species.

The BoCC4 status can be Red, Amber or Green. The majority of Red- and Amber-listed species on the RBBP list are categorised as such because of some criteria related to their breeding status, whether it be population size (rarity or recent/historical decline), breeding range (localisation or decline) or international importance of the UK breeding population. Some species, which do not have regular breeding or wintering populations in the UK, are not classified. The only species in this report which is Amber-listed for criteria that are not related to the breeding population is the Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope, which owes its status to the localised distribution and international importance of its wintering population.

Species accounts

The headline figure for 2017 (number of sites, breeding pairs, singing males, territories, etc.) is indicated in bold for easy reference. Any regular breeding species classed as Very rare (see above), plus occasional, potential, colonising and former breeders, receive more detailed text describing the records by county. For all other species (with only a few exceptions, generally where available data are limited), the data are tabulated, with each line representing a county or RBBP region. Within the tables, note the use of the following abbreviations:

S = sites

T = territories

CP = confirmed breeding pairs

TP = max. total breeding pairs (typically possible, probable and confirmed breeding)

SM = singing males

MM = males

I = individuals or singles

YF = min. no. young fledged

In recent years, recorders have been asked to supply their best estimate of the populations (as well as the total of known pairs) for a small number of species (17 in 2017). These are species which occur across large parts of the UK and which we believe are under-recorded. For 2017, two-thirds of recorders provided estimates for these 17 species. Such estimates are presented in the species tables at regional level (number in parentheses after the region name) and at the UK level (in parentheses after the UK total). In a few instances, no breeding records for a given species were submitted for a county where it is known that the species breeds regularly. If an estimate was provided by the recorder, this is shown by an ‘e’ in the table.

Definitions of breeding evidence

The definitions of ‘Confirmed breeding’, ‘Probable breeding’ and ‘Possible breeding’ follow those recommended by the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) (Hagemeijer & Blair 1997), but precise definitions are species specific, as defined on www.rbbp.org.uk. Thus, for some species, e.g. Whooper Swan and Eurasian Wigeon, records of summering birds are excluded if we can be sure breeding was not attempted. Where tables show the number of occupied territories, these are the sum of confirmed and probable breeding pairs, as territorial birds are classed as being probably breeding, unless a nest has (at least) progressed to the stage where eggs have been laid, in which case the pair is classified as a confirmed breeding pair. It is important to note that confirmed breeding is not the same as successful breeding; nests that fail with eggs or with young still fall into the confirmed category. A successful breeding pair is one that fledges at least one young bird from a nesting attempt. Note that in all cases the identity of the birds has been confirmed; it is only breeding status that is possible/probable/confirmed. The report does not routinely include breeding records of hybrid individuals but where young are hatched, they will be noted in an Appendix. Mixed pairs are, however, included where one of the parents is a species or race on the RBBP list.

Definition of numbers used

Within each species account, numbers given in the format ‘1–4 pairs’ indicate (in this case) one confirmed breeding pair and a maximum total of four breeding pairs (thus also including possible and probable breeding pairs). In the tables, ‘n/a’ indicates that no data were received from that county, but the species normally breeds there.

 

Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus

Amber

 

Very rare 28 bp

25y trend: strong increase +318%

Near-complete

27 sites: 24–33 pairs. This is another new peak, fuelled by the continued increase of the main breeding population, in Shetland (fig. 1). Since 2002, Shetland has contributed over 40% of the total every year except 2012. The site in Ayrshire has been occupied annually since 1991 and at least 38 young have fledged over the 27-year period (Shaw 2018). Pairs classed as probably breeding are largely pairs on territory that did not breed in 2017. As well as these birds there seems to be an increase in summering, with at least nine in Argyll (two sites) and 14 in Norfolk (one site), plus single summering birds in several counties (some of which were injured). No apparently naturalised pairs were reported. 

England, E

Norfolk One site: two pairs bred; one fledging two young while the other pair failed on eggs.

Scotland, S

Ayrshire One site: one pair was present on a loch close to the traditional site, having abandoned that one owing to forestry work. 

Scotland, N & W

Argyll One site: one probable breeding pair. Caithness One site: one pair bred but the clutch was abandoned. Highland Three sites: one pair bred, fledging one young; two probable breeding pairs. Orkney Two sites: one pair bred, but failed early; one probable breeding pair. Outer Hebrides Two sites: two pairs bred, one fledging four young. Shetland 14 sites: 11 pairs bred, at least three successfully, fledging at least five young in total; three probable breeding pairs.

Northern Ireland

Co. Londonderry Two sites: (1) six pairs bred, with between one and six young fledging; (2) one probable breeding pair.

RBBP fig. 1 Whooper Swan.png

Fig. 1. Breeding Whooper Swans Cygnus cygnus in the UK, 1998–2017, showing number of confirmed pairs, maximum total number of pairs and the number of pairs in Shetland.

 

Garganey Spatula querquedula

Amber

 

Rare 105 bp

25y trend: stable +2%

High

71 sites: 18–104 pairs. Confirmed breeding in Scotland is unusual (Forrester et al. 2007), so a successful breeding pair in Orkney is notable, following a similar record (on the same island) in 2015.

Garganey

S

CP

TP

England, SW

4

2

10

Gloucestershire

1

0

1

Somerset

2

2

8

Wiltshire

1

0

1

England, SE

12

2

12

Berkshire

3

0

3

Essex

2

1

2

Hertfordshire

1

0

1

Kent

4

1

4

Oxfordshire

1

0

1

Sussex

1

0

1

England, E

22

12

46

Cambridgeshire

7

5

24

Lincolnshire

5

0

5

Norfolk

6

7

9

Northamptonshire

2

0

4

Suffolk

2

0

4

England, C

3

0

3

Derbyshire

1

0

1

Staffordshire

1

0

1

Warwickshire

1

0

1

England, N

16

1

18

Cheshire & Wirral

2

0

2

Cleveland

2

0

2

Greater Manchester

2

0

2

Lancs & N Mersey

2

0

2

Northumberland

1

1

1

Yorkshire

7

0

9

Wales

3

0

4

Anglesey

1

0

2

East Glamorgan

1

0

1

Gower

1

0

1

Scotland, S

1

0

1

Dumfries & G’way

1

0

1

Scotland, Mid

1

0

1

Perth & Kinross

1

0

1

Scotland, N & W 

8

1

8

Argyll

1

0

1

Highland

1

0

1

Orkney

2

1

2

Outer Hebrides

4

0

4

Northern Ireland

1

0

1

Co. Londonderry

1

0

1

TOTALS

71

18

104

 

Shoveler Spatula clypeata

Amber

 

Less scarce 1,098 bp

(no trend available)

High

234 sites: 504–1,202 pairs. The total of 1,202 pairs is the highest recorded, which may reflect increased awareness of the need to report all pairs in breeding habitat. The 5-year mean indicates stability and the county estimates suggest that most pairs are being recorded. It is likely that the population is in the order of 1,200–1,300 breeding pairs.

Shoveler

S

CP

TP

England, SW (e 51)

11

11

37

Devon

2

2

2

Dorset

3

3

10

Gloucestershire

1

1

3

Hampshire

2

3

3

Somerset

2

2

17

Wiltshire

1

0

2

England, SE (e 218)

39

114

214

Berkshire

4

0

4

Essex

10

70

82

Greater London

1

0

1

Hertfordshire

6

0

6

Kent

12

43

51

Oxfordshire

2

0

35

Surrey

2

0

4

Sussex

2

1

31

England, E (e 460)

49

169

423

Cambridgeshire

12

4

133

Lincolnshire

7

2

35

Norfolk

17

156

163

Northamptonshire

3

0

6

Suffolk

10

7

86

England, C (e 30)

20

18

30

Derbyshire

4

0

4

Leics & Rutland

1

1

1

Nottinghamshire

4

5

8

Staffordshire

4

6

9

Warwickshire

3

1

3

West Midlands

1

1

1

Worcestershire

3

4

4

England, N (e 256)

49

108

255

Cheshire & Wirral

6

5

15

Cleveland

6

7

23

Cumbria

1

0

9

Co. Durham

2

3

4

Greater Manchester

6

0

8

Lancs & N Mersey

6

41

41

Northumberland

2

2

2

Yorkshire

20

50

153

Wales (e 49)

10

9

49

Anglesey

3

3

36

Caernarfonshire

1

0

1

Denbigh & Flint

2

0

5

Gwent

1

1

1

Pembrokeshire

3

5

6

Scotland, S (e 13)

9

1

13

Borders

1

0

1

Clyde 

2

0

5

Dumfries & G’way

6

1

7

Scotland, Mid (e 40)

10

12

40

Angus & Dundee

2

0

12

Fife

3

0

4

North-east Scotland

2

0

4

Perth & Kinross

3

12

20

Scotland, N & W (e 137)

31

57

116

Argyll

5

33

40

Highland

4

0

6

Orkney

16

20

51

Outer Hebrides

6

4

19

Northern Ireland (e 23)

5

3

23

Co. Antrim

2

3

17

Co. Fermanagh

2

0

2

Co. Londonderry

1

0

4

Channel Islands (e 2)

1

2

2

Jersey

1

2

2

TOTALS (e 1,279)

234

504

1,202

 

Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope

Amber

 

Rare 198 bp

(no trend available)

Moderate

91 sites: 38–209 pairs. The majority of breeding Wigeons occur in northern England and north and west Scotland, and tend to be under-recorded. Confirmed breeding is unusual in the south and there is a possibility that the female seen with four ducklings in Bedfordshire may have bred with a Gadwall M. strepera; such mixed pairings have been reported in this county in the past.

Eurasian Wigeon

S

CP

TP

England, SW

6

0

9

Avon

1

0

1

Devon

1

0

1

Somerset

2

0

5

Wiltshire

2

0

2

England, SE

4

1

13

Bedfordshire

1

1

1

Essex

3

0

12

England, E

4

2

12

Cambridgeshire

3

0

10

Norfolk

1

2

2

England, C

1

0

1

Nottinghamshire

1

0

1

England, N

10

12

19

Cumbria

2

1

2

Co. Durham

3

5

5

Lancs & N Mersey

1

0

1

Northumberland 

2

4

4

Yorkshire

2

2

7

Wales

1

0

1

Anglesey

1

0

1

Scotland, S

5

0

5

Clyde

1

0

1

Dumfries & G’way

3

0

3

Lothian

1

0

1

Scotland, Mid

11

3

15

Angus & Dundee

2

1

2

Moray & Nairn

2

0

3

North-east Scotland

5

2

8

Perth & Kinross

2

0

2

Scotland, N & W 

48

20

133

Argyll

4

0

12

Caithness

3

0

3

Highland

23

5

72

Orkney

7

4

22

Outer Hebrides

9

8

21

Shetland

2

3

3

Northern Ireland

1

0

1

Co. Antrim

1

0

1

TOTALS

91

38

209

 

Black Duck Anas rubripes

 

 

Occasional breeder

 

 

In Highland, the long-staying male remained at Strontian throughout 2017 but appeared not to be paired with any of the local Mallards A. platyrhynchos.

 

Pintail Anas acuta

Amber

 

Very rare 27 bp

25y trend: weak decrease -30%

Near-complete

21 sites: 6–34 pairs. Away from the islands of north and west Scotland, Pintails are only sporadic breeders. In 2017 breeding was confirmed at just three locations, all in Scotland.

England, SE

Kent Five sites: five possible breeding pairs.

England, E

Lincolnshire One site: two possible breeding pairs. Suffolk One site: one probable breeding pair.

England, N

Cumbria One site: one possible breeding pair.

Scotland, S

Dumfries & Galloway Two sites: two possible breeding pairs. 

Scotland, Mid

Angus & Dundee One site: one possible breeding pair. 

Scotland, N & W

Argyll One extensive site: four pairs bred and six probable breeding pairs. Caithness One site: one pair bred (four young). Orkney Six sites: (1) one pair bred (six young); (2)–(5) eight probable breeding pairs. Outer Hebrides Two sites: (1) one probable breeding pair; (2) one possible breeding pair.

 

Common Pochard Aythya ferina

Red

 

Scarce 722 bp

25y trend: weak increase +84%

High

190 sites: 427–752 pairs. The numbers reported have increased steadily since 1990, and over that period the locus of breeding has shifted south; only four confirmed pairs in 2016 and two in 2017 were found north of a line between Morecambe Bay and the Tees. This increase is in contrast with the decline in wintering numbers (Frost et al. 2019). As for Shoveler, regional estimates suggest that most pairs are being reported to the RBBP, and that the UK population is around 800 pairs.

Common Pochard

S

CP

TP

England, SW (e 77)

17

58

72

Dorset

2

4

7

Gloucestershire

1

1

1

Hampshire

7

4

8

Isle of Wight

2

2

3

Isles of Scilly

1

2

2

Somerset

2

45

45

Wiltshire

2

0

6

England, SE (e 260)

73

152

257

Bedfordshire

1

2

2

Berkshire

5

9

9

Essex

21

53

89

Greater London

9

19

21

Hertfordshire

8

18

23

Kent

20

34

75

Oxfordshire

1

0

6

Surrey

5

10

11

Sussex

3

7

21

England, E (e 218)

45

56

187

Cambridgeshire

17

2

95

Lincolnshire

5

4

27

Norfolk

10

42

45

Northamptonshire

5

0

8

Suffolk

8

8

12

England, C (e 20)

11

19

20

Derbyshire

1

1

1

Leics & Rutland

1

1

1

Nottinghamshire

6

9

10

Staffordshire

2

4

4

Worcestershire

1

4

4

England, N (e 150)

22

120

150

Cheshire & Wirral

2

19

20

Cleveland

3

18

31

Co. Durham

1

0

1

Greater Manchester

2

2

4

Lancs & N Mersey

1

19

19

Northumberland

1

2

2

Yorkshire

12

60

73

Wales (e 44)

7

8

44

Anglesey

4

2

36

Carmarthenshire

1

6

6

Denbigh & Flint

1

0

1

Gwent

1

0

1

Scotland, S (e 1)

1

0

1

Clyde

1

0

1

Scotland, Mid (e 1)

1

0

1

Fife

1

0

1

Scotland, N & W (e 2)

1

0

2

Highland

1

0

2

Northern Ireland (e 18)

12

14

18

Co. Antrim

5

5

6

Co. Armagh

4

8

9

Co. Fermanagh

2

0

2

Co. Londonderry

1

1

1

TOTALS (e 791)

190

427

752

 

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra

Red

 

Rare 52 bp*

25y trend: stable -19%

Near-complete

14 sites: 10–52 pairs. This is the highest total number of pairs since the national survey of 2007 when 52 pairs were also located. Four broods (ten young in total) were reported from three lochs in Highland and Perth & Kinross. The Flows of Caithness and east Sutherland (Highland) are treated as one extensive site and two broods (seven young) were recorded there. * Eaton et al. 2008.

Common Scoter

S

CP

TP

Scotland, Mid

3

1

7

Perth & Kinross

3

1

7

Scotland, N & W

11

9

45

Argyll

1

2

2

Caithness

3

2

3

Caithness/Highland

1

2

18

Highland

6

3

22

TOTALS

14

10

52

 

Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula

Amber

 

Rare 200 bp*

25y trend: stable -21%

Moderate

62–66 breeding females. Counts from the main breeding area, in the catchment of the Spey and Dee rivers, are samples based largely on nestbox projects; other pairs go unrecorded there and so reported totals are now far short of the actual population size. * Musgrove et al. (2013).

Common Goldeneye

CP

TP

England, SW

1

2

Avon

1

2

England, N

4

5

Northumberland

4

5

Scotland, Mid

2

4

Moray & Nairn

0

2

North-east Scotland

2

2

Scotland, N & W

55

55

Highland

55

55

TOTALS

62

66

 

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator

Green

 

Less Scarce 1,565 bp*

(no trend available)

Low

89 sites: 58–167 pairs. Humphreys et al. (2016) suggested that the current population lies between 1,373 and 1,754 pairs, and this species was added to the RBBP list for the 2017 season. Over 90% of the UK’s Red-breasted Mergansers nest in Scotland, mainly in the north and west, where they occur in sheltered sea lochs, estuaries and some inland waters. Nesting also occurs in northwest England, the south Pennines, Northumberland and in North Wales. Bird Atlas 2007–11 (Balmer et al. 2013) showed that the breeding range has contracted (fig. 2).

Reporting levels were inevitably low during this first season, and estimates by recorders provide little extra information. Red-breasted Merganser is not on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) and is not the subject of any study group; and since it occurs mainly in remote areas, it is likely to be under-recorded. We encourage all birdwatchers to submit records of Red-breasted Mergansers in breeding habitat. * Humphreys et al. (2016).

Red-breasted Merganser

CB

TP

England, N (e 19)

3

19

Cumbria

3

14

Lancs & N Mersey

5

Wales (e 24)

4

7

Anglesey

4

5

Caernarfonshire

0

1

Meirionnydd

0

1

Scotland, S (e 31)

3

12

Clyde

0

8

Clyde Islands

3

3

Dumfries & Galloway

0

1

Scotland, Mid (e 42)

2

5

Angus & Dundee

0

1

Moray & Nairn

e

e

NE Scotland

e

e

Perth & Kinross

1

3

Upper Forth

1

1

Scotland, N & W (e 228)

45

87

Argyll

7

9

Highland

6

10

Orkney

14

20

Outer Hebrides

4

31

Shetland

14

17

Northern Ireland (e 37)

1

37

Co. Antrim

1

5

Co. Fermanagh

0

32

TOTALS (e 381)

58

167

RBBP fig. 2 Red-breasted Merganser.jpg

Fig. 2. Breeding distribution change map for Red-breasted Mergansers Mergus serrator, from Bird Atlas 2007–11 (a joint project between BTO, BirdWatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club). Map reproduced with permission from the BTO

 

Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus

Red

 

Rare 1,114 individuals*

6y trend: weak decrease -13%

Near-complete

211 males at 70 active leks. A total of 107 lek sites was monitored across four recording areas. It is thought that most leks are checked each year, including those now inactive. In 2017 there was a further small decline, mirroring the findings of the last national survey (in winter 2015–16 and summarised in our last report). * Wilkinson et al. (2018).

Capercaillie

leks

males 

Scotland, Mid

19

28

Moray & Nairn

8

12

North-east Scotland

9

14

Perth & Kinross

2

2

Scotland, N & W

51

183

Highland

51

183

TOTALS

70

211

 

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix

Amber

 

Scarce 355 males

25y trend: weak decrease -37%

High

1–442 singing males.

The last ‘Quail year’ was 2011, when over 2,000 singing males were recorded; since then the total has varied between 237 and 547. In 2011, 60% of records came from northern England or Scotland, the equivalent in 2018 was 51%. In Portugal, spring 2017 was very dry and there were almost no Quails in the Portugal Steppe SPA (Santana 2019). This situation is becoming more common as droughts in southern Europe become more frequent and grazing intensity in agricultural areas increases. Such conditions could potentially lead to more Quails breeding farther north, but currently there is no evidence of this in the UK.

Common Quail

SM

England, SW

66

Avon

5

Dorset

2

Gloucestershire

7

Hampshire

10

Isle of Wight

1

Somerset

11

Wiltshire

30

England, SE

40

Bedfordshire

5

Berkshire

4

Buckinghamshire

4

Essex

4

Hertfordshire

1

Kent

1

Oxfordshire

13

Sussex

8

England, E

61

Cambridgeshire

14

Lincolnshire

9

Norfolk

29

Northamptonshire

3

Suffolk

6

England, C

30

Derbyshire

11

Leics & Rutland

7

Shropshire

11

Staffordshire

1

England, N

112

Cheshire & Wirral

5

Cleveland

6

Cumbria

3

Greater Manchester

5

Lancs & N Mersey

13

Northumberland

38

Yorkshire

42

Wales

19

Anglesey

2

Caernarfonshire

2

Ceredigion

1

Denbigh & Flint 

2

East Glamorgan

2

Gwent

3

Meirionnydd

1

Radnorshire

6

Scotland, S

31

Ayrshire

2

Borders

9

Clyde

1

Lothian

19

Scotland, Mid

32

Angus & Dundee

3

Fife

2

Moray & Nairn

12

North-east Scotland

12

Perth & Kinross

2

Upper Forth

1

Scotland, N & W

48

Argyll

8

Fair Isle

1

Highland

7

Orkney

16

Outer Hebrides

5

Shetland

11

Northern Ireland

3

Co. Antrim 

2

Co. Londonderry

1

TOTAL

442

 

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata

Green

 

Less scarce 1,255 bp*

12y trend (survey): weak increase +38%

Low

189–273 pairs. The figures here include results from sample monitoring plots in Shetland (Heubeck et al. 2017) although the overall total is still much lower than the last national survey figure of 1,255 pairs in 2006. The trend since then is unclear. Red-throated Divers breed regularly in Argyll (where it is estimated that there are around 100 pairs) but no information on breeding pairs was submitted in 2017. * Dillon et al. (2009).

Red-throated Diver

CP

TP

Scotland, S

2

3

Clyde 

0

1

Clyde Islands

2

2

Scotland, Mid

1

3

Moray & Nairn

1

2

North-east Scotland

0

1

Scotland, N & W

186

267

Caithness

3

6

Highland

13

18

Orkney

67

71

Outer Hebrides

12

32

Shetland

91

140

TOTALS

189

273

 

Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica

Amber

 

Rare 217 bp*

12y trend (survey): stable +16%

Low

17–31 pairs. Since the addition of Black-throated Diver to the RBBP list in 1996, we have never received so few records. There is no indication that it is really this rare, but it is chronically under-reported. Without a recent national survey, we are dependent on casual records from birders, and we implore people to report sightings of pairs on suitable breeding lochs to local recorders. An apparent decline in the south of the range may be real, however. Black-throated Divers are seen at traditional nesting lochs in Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway in most years but there were no reports in 2017. Disturbance by Canada Geese Branta canadensismay be a factor, as noted in Sweden (Hancock 2000). * Dillon et al. (2009).

Black-throated Diver

CP

TP

Scotland, S

0

3

Clyde

0

2

Dumfries & G’way

0

1

Scotland, Mid

1

4

Moray & Nairn

1

1

Perth & Kinross

0

3

Scotland, N & W

16

24

Argyll

6

6

Caithness

1

2

Highland

8

10

Outer Hebrides

1

6

TOTALS

17

31

RBBP Black-throated Diver.jpg

Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica  

Tom Gale

 

Great Northern Diver Gavia immer

Amber

 

Potential breeder

 

 

In Highland, one paired with a Black-throated Diver was recorded on an inland loch between 10th May and 11th June; no nesting was observed. In Scotland, Great Northern Divers are unusual inland, yet in addition to this mixed pairing, there was a record on 1st May of a single bird on another inland loch 100 km away.

 

Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps

 

 

Occasional breeder

 

 

One site: one mixed pair. We noted the presence of this North American vagrant from the same site in 2016. The bird, a male, was first reported in 2014. The breeding attempt in 2017 constitutes only the second confirmed breeding by Pied-billed Grebe in the UK (Jardine & Dickson 2017). The first, also a mixed pairing, was in Cornwall in 1994 (Ogilvie et al. 1996).

Scotland, N & W

Argyll One site: a male Pied-billed Grebe paired with a Little Grebe. One hybrid young was seen from 14th June but not after 12th July; it was assumed that it did not survive.

390 Pied-billed Grebe.jpg

390. Male Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps, with hybrid chick, Loch Feorlin, Argyll, July 2017. Jim Dickson

Jim Dickson

 

Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena

Red

 

Occasional breeder

 

 

In Cambridgeshire, a male was present between 10th April and 17th July at the same site as in 2016.

 

Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus

Red

 

Very rare 28 bp

25y trend: strong decrease -61%

Near-complete

15 sites: 18–27 pairs. This is the first time since the inception of the Panel that we have reported fewer than 20 confirmed breeding pairs. In addition to the records below, a single bird summered in suitable habitat in Shetland.

Scotland, N & W

Highland 15 sites: 18 pairs bred, fledging seven young; nine probable breeding pairs and five single birds. At the main site, Loch Ruthven, 11 pairs fledged just one young. 

 

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis

Amber

 

Rare 55 bp

25y trend: stable +21%

Near-complete

16 sites: 34–49 pairs. Northern England, in particular Yorkshire, remains the stronghold with St Aidan’s RSPB reserve in Yorkshire being the most important site: ten pairs fledged 17 young there. A family party seen in late July in Norfolk may have originated from an undetected site elsewhere in eastern England.

Black-necked Grebe

S

CP

TP

YF

England, SE

3

7

9

5

Hertfordshire

1

7

7

5

Kent

1

0

1

0

Surrey

1

0

1

0

England, E

2

0

3

0

Cambridgeshire

1

0

1

0

Lincolnshire

1

0

2

0

England, C

2

7

7

17

Nottinghamshire

1

6

6

14

Staffordshire

1

1

1

3

England, N

9

20

30

28

Cheshire & Wirral

1

9

9

8

Greater Manchester

1

0

1

0

Northumberland

3

0

3

0

Yorkshire

4

11

17

20

TOTALS

16

34

49

50

 

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

Amber

 

Very rare 18 bp

(no trend available but increasing)

Near-complete

Two sites: 29 pairs. Spoonbills are now established as a member of our regular breeding avifauna and as they become more widespread new breeding sites are to be expected. There were two definite breeding sites in 2017, including a new one at Fairburn Ings RSPB in Yorkshire, the first for that county. It is possible that there was another site in Yorkshire, but this was not confirmed. Two recently fledged Spoonbills with four adults appeared at Blacktoft Sands when the young were still in the nest at Fairburn Ings, but they may have flown from Norfolk or indeed the near continent; such movements were documented in 2018 based on marked birds (Malcolm Ausden pers. comm.). Yet there was strong supporting evidence of a third site from observations of Spoonbills making apparent feeding flights to an unknown destination in the Humber area. Elsewhere, at another site in Norfolk, a pair in full breeding plumage was seen to carry sticks into a reedbed but there was no further evidence of breeding.

England, E

Norfolk One site (Holkham): 28 pairs bred, 25 successful pairs fledged 43 young. The first young fledged on 23rd or 24th May.

England, N

Yorkshire One site: one pair bred, fledging three young.

 

Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris

Amber

 

Rare 172 booming males

25y trend: strong increase +666%

Near-complete

93 sites: 74–191 pairs. The maximum number of booming Bitterns has increased every year since 2006.

Eurasian Bittern

sites

booming males (min)

booming males (max)

nests (min)

nests (max)

TP

England, SW

14

51

52

23

23

53

Dorset

2

2

2

0

0

2

Gloucestershire

1

0

1

0

0

1

Somerset

11

49

49

23

23

50

England, SE

10

11

13

6

7

15

Bedfordshire

3

4

4

0

0

4

Kent

5

5

7

4

5

8

Oxfordshire

1

1

1

2

2

2

Sussex

1

1

1

0

0

1

England, E

48

84

90

29

33

95

Cambridgeshire

8

18

18

4

4

18

Lincolnshire

5

2

5

1

1

5

Norfolk

25

22

23

9

12

28

Suffolk

10

42

44

15

16

44

England, C

2

2

2

0

0

2

Derbyshire

1

1

1

0

0

1

Nottinghamshire

1

1

1

0

0

1

England, N

13

15

19

8

8

19

Lancs & N Mersey

3

1

3

0

0

3

Yorkshire

10

14

16

8

8

16

Wales

6

6

6

3

3

7

Anglesey

2

2

2

3

3

3

Ceredigion

1

1

1

0

0

1

East Glamorgan

2

2

2

0

0

2

Gwent

1

1

1

0

0

1

TOTALS

93

169

182

69

74

191

These figures are based on the RSPB monitoring methodology; the minimum figure is the closest to the number of occupied territories. The minimum number of booming males is based on residency at a site for at least a week, while the maximum figure includes males booming for a shorter period only and cases where it was not possible to confirm that different males were involved. The maximum total number of pairs (TP) combines information on both booming males and nests found; sometimes the number of nests at a site exceeds the number of boomers heard.

 

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus

 

 

Very rare 5 males

(no trend available)

Near-complete

Four sites: 1–6 ‘pairs’. Little Bitterns are secretive and easily overlooked so proof of breeding is difficult to establish, even at well-watched sites. Six potential pairs is the highest total yet reported.

England, SW

Gloucestershire One site: a female was heard calling during 2nd–7th June. Isles of Scilly One site: a female was present between 22nd April and 22nd May. Somerset One site: one pair bred (one juvenile seen in July) and two other barking males.

England, N

Yorkshire One site: one male present on one date only (25th June), but at the site which held a long-staying male in June and July 2016.

 

Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

 

 

Colonising breeder

 

 

One site: one pair. It is perhaps not surprising that the Somerset marshes were the setting for the first confirmed breeding record of (wild) Night Herons in the UK. There were suggestions that breeding may have occurred there in both 2015 and 2016 (Holling et al.2017, 2018), when there were summer records of one or two individuals; and also in 1997, when a displaying pair was seen in June (Ogilvie et al. 1999). In 2017 the pair was first seen together on 16th July, and this was followed by a record of an adult with one juvenile on 22nd. Over the next few days up to two juveniles were seen. There were records of Night Herons elsewhere in Somerset in late June through to mid July and also in early August. 

Note that in the 1980s and 1990s there was a sequence of breeding attempts by captive Night Herons at Edinburgh Zoo, some of which were free-flying and bred outside the cages (Murray et al. 1998). These birds were of the North American race N. n. hoactli. In addition, in Norfolk, between at least 1996 and 2003, there was a free-flying colony of nominate N. n. nycticorax at Great Witchingham Wildlife Park, with eight pairs in 2003 (Holling et al. 2007b).

England, SW

Somerset One site: one pair bred; up to two recently fledged young were seen in late July. 

 

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

 

 

Colonising breeder

 

 

Six sites: 10–15 pairs; 14 young fledged. Winter 2016/17 saw an unprecedented influx of Cattle Egrets into southern England (White & Kehoe 2018a). A similar, though smaller influx in 2007/08 led, in 2008, to the first breeding of Cattle Egrets in the UK, so further breeding records in 2017 were not altogether unexpected. In the event, breeding was confirmed at four sites in four widespread counties, with seven pairs at the Somerset site. Cheshire & Wirral, Devon and Dorset all had their first breeding records. 

Breeding is not easy to confirm, even if adults are seen with other heron species at colonies; frequently it requires the appearance of fledglings late in the season to clinch the record. Thus, a pair with a juvenile, away from a heronry, in Sussex, may have bred elsewhere in southeast England, or may have arrived from continental Europe. The locations of other juveniles in Somerset, away from the known colony, suggests there may also have been another breeding site in that county.

England, SW

Devon One site: one pair bred; three young probably fledged. Dorset One site: two pairs bred; two young fledged. Somerset One site: six pairs bred and one possible breeding pair. Four successful pairs fledged eight young.

England, N

Cheshire & Wirral One site: one pair bred; two young hatched but only one fledged. Two other pairs also in the heronry may also have nested but it was not possible to confirm breeding.

Wales

Gwent One site: one possible breeding pair close to a Little Egret colony in March and April and one other bird in full breeding plumage elsewhere in July.

Meirionnydd One site: one possible breeding pair and one other bird at a Little Egret colony in May.

 

Great White Egret Ardea alba

 

 

Very rare 6 bp

(no trend available but increasing)

Near-complete

Five sites: 8–12 pairs. Breeding at the two colonies occupied in 2016 was repeated, but there were also suggestions of potential breeding elsewhere. In this report, the presence of two or more birds lingering in the vicinity of heronries or other suitable nesting sites, but where there are no further signs of nesting, is taken to indicate possible breeding.

England, SW

Somerset One site: seven pairs bred; 16 young fledged.

England, E

Cambridgeshire One site: one possible breeding pair. Norfolk One site: one pair bred, fledging three young. Also one other pair and a single bird at the same location. Northamptonshire One site: one possible breeding pair.

England, N

Cheshire & Wirral One site: at least one probable breeding pair, with up to six birds in a reedbed, though some of these were immatures. Display noted but activity ceased after a period of gales in early June, although after that up to three birds were still showing signs of nest-building.

391 Great White Egrets.jpg

391. Adult and three juvenile Great White Egrets Ardea alba, Holkham, Norfolk, July 2017; the first successful breeding at this site. 

Andrew Bloomfield

 

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Green

 

Less scarce 1,139 bp

15y trend: strong increase +1,309%

High

160 sites: 1,443–1,523 pairs. Little Egrets continue to increase; there was a slowdown after the colder winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 (fig. 4 in Holling et al. 2016), but since then there has been no apparent let-up in the rise in numbers. Worcestershire saw its first breeding record in 2017, though the nest was abandoned before the eggs hatched. The large increase in the numbers reported, in Lincolnshire (74 in 2016, 218 in 2017) is attributed to more accurate counting; and more widely it is possible that access difficulties at some sites may lead to underestimates. There is still no Scottish breeding record, but in 2017 there was a colony on the English side of the Solway, so that landmark is surely not far off being achieved.

Little Egret

S

TP

England, SW

35

276

Avon

1

2

Cornwall

6

34

Devon

7

58

Dorset

5

44

Gloucestershire

3

4

Hampshire

5

68

Isle of Wight

1

6

Somerset

4

38

Wiltshire

3

22

England, SE

50

419

Bedfordshire

2

8

Berkshire

4

9

Buckinghamshire

5

20

Essex

12

136

Hertfordshire

6

26

Kent

8

145

Oxfordshire

2

6

Surrey

2

7

Sussex

9

62

England, E

28

412

Cambridgeshire

4

37

Lincolnshire

7

218

Norfolk

7

98

Northamptonshire

2

3

Suffolk

8

56

England, C

7

39

Leics & Rutland

2

2

Nottinghamshire

2

29

Warwickshire

2

7

Worcestershire

1

1

England, N

18

159

Cheshire & Wirral

1

83

Cleveland

1

9

Cumbria

5

20

Lancs & N Mersey

2

19

Northumberland

2

2

Yorkshire

7

26

Wales

16

147

Anglesey

3

23

Caernarfonshire

3

60

Carmarthenshire

1

10

Denbigh & Flint

2

15

Gower

1

19

Gwent

3

12

Meirionnydd

2

7

Radnorshire

1

1

Northern Ireland

2

27

Co. Down

2

27

Channel Islands

4

44

Guernsey

1

20

Jersey

3

24

TOTALS

160

1,523

 

Osprey Pandion haliaetus

Amber

 

Rare 240 bp

25y trend: strong increase +272%

High

216–258 pairs. This is another record total, although still likely to be an underestimate of the Scottish population (see Holling et al.2018 and comments in the introduction).

Osprey

CP

TP

YF

England, E

2

2

2

Northamptonshire

2

2

2

England, C

6

7

13

Derbyshire

0

1

0

Leics & Rutland

6

6

13

England, N

11

12

20

Cumbria

7

8

11

Northumberland

4

4

9

Wales

6

7

13

Caernarfonshire

1

1

0

Denbigh & Flint

0

1

0

Meirionnydd

3

3

9

Montgomeryshire

2

2

4

Scotland, S

26

30

38

Ayrshire

1

1

0

Borders

9

11

14

Clyde

5

5

8

Clyde Islands

1

1

3

Dumfries & G’way

9

11

12

Lothian

1

1

1

Scotland, Mid

79

103

124

Angus & Dundee

9

11

17

Fife

1

1

0

Moray & Nairn

9

9

14

North-east Scotland

15

19

17

Perth & Kinross

24

37

43

Upper Forth

21

26

33

Scotland, N & W

86

97

141

Argyll

8

14

17

Caithness

5

5

3

Highland

73

78

121

TOTALS

216

258

351

392 Osprey.jpg

392. Osprey Pandion haliaetus carrying nest material, Loch Insh, Highland, May 2011. Osprey Green DY, a female, was ringed as a pullus at Loch Insh in 2005, and has subsequently returned to breed there (including in 2019). 

Allan Drewitt

 

Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus

Amber

 

Rare 39 bp

25y trend: strong increase +101%

Moderate

27–47 pairs. As others have suggested (e.g. Roberts & Law 2014), the UK Honey-buzzard population may be double the number of records submitted annually to the Panel. Consequently, raptor workers are planning a national survey in 2020, with the support of the RBBP, and this will include searching potential new sites. Much of what we know is based on nests found, yet survey work in central Scotland focused simply on identifying territories demonstrates the potential of this technique in establishing local population statistics. The counts from Perth & Kinross and Upper Forth contributed to the 2017 total of 47 pairs being the highest reported since the previous survey in 2000–01. Derbyshire also recorded its first confirmed breeding in 2017. 

Honey-buzzard

I

CP

TP

YF

England, SW

0

9

12

14

Dorset

0

2

2

2

Hampshire

0

6

9

10

Wiltshire

0

1

1

2

England, SE

1

7

12

9

Berkshire

0

0

2

0

Kent

1

1

4

1

Surrey

0

1

1

2

Sussex

0

5

5

6

England, E

1

0

0

0

Cambridgeshire

1

0

0

0

England, C

0

1

1

1

Derbyshire

0

1

1

1

England, N

1

0

4

0

Cumbria

0

0

1

0

Yorkshire

1

0

3

0

Wales

0

0

2

0

Gower

0

0

2

0

Scotland, S

0

1

1

2

Dumfries & G’way

0

1

1

2

Scotland, Mid

7

9

14

8

Moray & Nairn

0

0

1

0

Perth & Kinross

5

8

10

7

Upper Forth

2

1

3

1

Scotland, N & W

1

0

1

0

Highland

1

0

1

0

TOTALS

11

27

47

34

 

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos

Green

 

Scarce 508 bp*

33y trend (survey): stable +16%

High

178–310 pairs. In Scotland, members of the Scottish Raptor Study Groups typically monitor 60–70% of the total population each year and the results are summarised here. Golden Eagles reintroduced in the Republic of Ireland over recent years had a successful year in 2017, with three pairs fledging three chicks in Co. Donegal (http://bit.ly/2o4XqP0); so far no breeding has occurred in Northern Ireland. * Hayhow et al. (2017a).

Golden Eagle

I1

CP

TP

YF

Scotland, S 

0

9

9

6

Scotland, Mid

4

29

49

33

Angus & Dundee

2

4

7

3

Moray & Nairn

0

0

2

0

North-east Scotland

1

8

15

12

Perth & Kinross

1

12

19

15

Upper Forth

0

5

6

3

Scotland, N & W

15

140

251

119

Argyll

5

29

46

24

Caithness

1

1

1

n/a

Highland

8

79

152

66

Outer Hebrides 

1

31

52

29

Northern Ireland

0

0

1

0

Co. Tyrone

0

0

1

0

TOTALS

19

178

310

158

1 Total includes home ranges occupied by single birds or showing signs of occupation but no pair seen.

 

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis

Gre