Mark Eaton, Mark Holling and the Rare Breeding Birds Panel

RBBP art Ray Scally Hawfinch.jpg

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes

Ray Scally

Abstract This report documents the status of the 96 species and subspecies of rare or scarce native birds that were recorded breeding, or showed signs of breeding, in the UK in 2018. Overall, it was a good year for rare breeding birds, with ten species reaching the highest totals yet reported by the RBBP; the increases in Mediterranean Gulls Ichthyaetus melanocephalus and Red-necked Phalaropes Phalaropus lobatus were particularly notable. For the second year in a row, data submissions were received from all recording areas in the UK.

This is the 45th report published by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP) and includes details of 96 rare or scarce native taxa that bred, or showed signs of breeding, in the UK in 2018. In addition, Appendix 2 summarises the records received for 13 rare non-native species reported breeding in 2018. 

The area covered by the RBBP 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 (BBS, Harris et al. 2020), and by Birds of Conservation Concern (e.g. Eaton et al. 2015). The RBBP species list is available at www.rbbp.org.uk/species-overview. This report sees some changes to that list. Having been covered every year since the formation of the Panel in 1973, Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla was removed from the list after 2017; the same was true for Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, which was monitored during 2006–17 (see Francis et al. 2020). The assessments that led to these species’ removal from the list were presented in last year’s report (Holling et al. 2019). Conversely, the rapidly declining and now Globally Threatened Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur was added to the list with effect from 2018.

Review of the year 2018

On average, 2018 was the seventh-warmest year in the UK since 1910 (2017 was the fifth-warmest; the ten warmest years have all been since 2002), and the second-sunniest since records began, in 1929. However, such averages can hide important detail. In the last week of February, a severe winter storm nicknamed the ‘Beast from the East’ moved rapidly into the UK bringing heavy snow and strong easterly winds. Accumulations of 5–10 cm of snow occurred widely, with 20 cm and even 50 cm in places, and a minimum temperature of -14.2ºC was recorded in Faversham, Kent. While relatively short-lived, it appears that this event was sufficient to have had a considerable impact on bird populations.

Subsequent to this, it was a warm spring: April was warmer than average, with the hottest April day since 1949 recorded and a mean temperature 1.0ºC above the long-term (1981–2010) average. This continued into the following month, it being the sunniest May since 1929 with temperatures 1.5ºC above average and low rainfall (except in southern England). Finally, the summer was hot, with 16 consecutive days of temperatures at or exceeding 28ºC between June and early July, and dry, which resulted in wildfires in upland areas of Wales and the Pennines.

Yet again we report on a year of record species totals, range expansions and notable breeding records. Of casual interest might be the two species reported showing breeding behaviour for the first time in the UK. One, an American Bittern Botaurus lentiginosus in Suffolk, was seen and enjoyed by many birdwatchers; the other, a Little Crake Porzana parva in Cambridgeshire, was seen by none and heard by very few. 

Ten species were recorded in greater numbers than in any previous year. For two, Shoveler Spatula clypeataand Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea, this may simply relate to annual fluctuation in numbers and possibly recording effort. But for the other eight species the record totals are underpinned by long-term increases (indeed, many of these eight have reached new record totals repeatedly over preceding years). New peak totals for Eurasian Bittern B. stellaris (for the 13th year in succession) and Common Crane Grus grus can be attributed to conservation efforts including research, improved site management, habitat creation and (in the case of Common Crane) the reintroduction scheme that is now the source of over 40% of the breeding pairs in the UK. Conservation measures – including greater protection across Europe, which has underpinned the recovery of populations which have then acted as the source for expansion into the UK – have also underpinned the current success of Great White Egret Ardea alba, Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia and Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalusbut climate change may also be playing a role. In addition, the 5-year mean for Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta now exceeds 2,000 pairs for the first time, and Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus bred for the fifth year in a row. The population increases in these species have, with the exception of Mediterranean Gull, been accompanied by range expansion, the most notable examples of which were the first breeding of Avocets in Scotland (in Upper Forth) and the successful breeding by Eurasian Spoonbills in Orkney; the latter, although not the first breeding record in Scotland, is a remarkable northward jump.

The factors driving the recent increases leading to record totals for Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus and Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola are less apparent. These are northern species, for which the UK holds small populations at the southern edge of the range, and predicted range shifts in response to climate change might be expected to result in declining populations (Huntley et al. 2007). The same might be said for Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus, but the growing numbers of this species breeding in the UK may be related to the flourishing Icelandic population, which winters in Britain and Ireland; the wintering population has increased by 210% in the UK over the last 25 years (Frost et al. 2020).

Other species also prospered in 2018 with Garganey Spatula querquedula, Common Pochard Aythya ferina, Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii and Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus continuing to increase. The highest numbers of Marsh Warblers Acrocephalus palustris and Black Redstarts Phoenicurus ochruros since 2001 and 2002 respectively were less expected, but still welcome. 

Of course, not all species are prospering. There were fewer Common Quails Coturnix coturnix reported than in any year since 1991, Slavonian Grebes Podiceps auritus and Little Terns Sternula albifrons continue to struggle, and only one pair of Montagu’s Harriers Circus pygargus bred. The nominate race of Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa l. limosa, still struggles too, although the innovative ‘headstarting’ conservation project offers some cause for optimism.

Other than the changes, both positive and negative, wrought by drivers working over the long-term, the other notable story from 2018 was the impact of severe, late-winter weather on resident breeders, at a time when food resources are already scarce. BBS results have revealed that an impact on bird populations was very likely, with eight resident species – including seven small-bodied passerines such as Wren Troglodytes troglodytes and Goldcrest Regulus regulus, plus Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis – showing statistically significant declines in excess of 20% between 2017 and 2018 (Harris et al. 2019). Our report indicates declines since 2017 of 13% in Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 31% in Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata, 14% in Woodlark Lullula arborea and 20% in Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus, and for the most part the declines were greatest in eastern England, where the meteorological impact was greatest. The most recent BBS update (Harris et al. 2020) showed that populations of many of the commoner passerines affected have recovered already, with substantial increases between 2018 and 2019; hopefully our next report will demonstrate the same for rarer species.

Of the 98 naturally occurring taxa featured here, 74 are known to have bred in the UK in 2018. The other 24 can be assigned to one of four categories. There are a few that probably did breed in 2018, but for which secretive breeding behaviour, remote breeding distribution or low recording effort ensured that they remained unrecorded (or at least unreported); this is likely to include Spotted Crake Porzana porzana, Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus and Parrot Crossbill Loxia pytyopsittacus, and arguably Ruff Calidris pugnax and Savi’s Warbler Locustella luscinioides. Conversely, there are those that have never been known to breed in the UK, including this year’s two newcomers, Little Crake and American Bittern, along with Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis and Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus. There are those which have been recorded breeding only in hybrid pairs – Black Duck Anas rubripes, Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis, Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps and ‘Scandinavian Rock Pipit’ Anthus petrosus littoralis. And finally, there are ten species that have bred previously, including: Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax and Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus, for which 2018 may just be a slight falter in ongoing colonisation; Wryneck Jynx torquilla and Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus, which have almost certainly ceased breeding; and six others that may just belong on the long list of species which have bred occasionally in the past and may do so again in the future. In total, RBBP reports have included 174 species since the Panel’s inception in 1973, and of these 74 have never established themselves as regular breeders.

This year sees the RBBP report on Turtle Dove for the first time, a concept that would have been scarcely credible when the Panel was formed in 1973. This first year of data collection has improved our knowledge of the current status of this species; an RSPB/RBBP/Natural England/BTO survey planned for 2021 will make further strides in that regard.

Data sources and submission

The most important sources of information behind this report are the detailed submissions compiled by the UK’s county and regional bird recorders. As in 2017, this network provided over 70% of all data submissions in 2018. 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 risen 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 we received data from all recording areas across the UK in 2018, for the second year in a row, although we did have to cope with a substantial number of late submissions. 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 from which this report is sourced rose again, to nearly 7,800 individual records, of which just over 6,000 were unique. 

Additional data for any year are still welcome and valuable. Birders should consider not only their local records but also those from holidays elsewhere in the UK, especially to more remote and less well-covered areas, and particularly northern and western Scotland. Additions, amendments and corrections to published reports from 2005 onwards are available on the RBBP website (www.rbbp.org.uk), a completely revised version of which was launched in late November 2020 and features copies of our annual reports and an ‘explore reports’ facility, which allows bespoke report extracts for chosen species and years to be generated. These files are updated regularly and anyone using the RBBP reports for reference or study should always check the online amendments. If you hold records you think are missing from this report, please submit them to the relevant county recorder (and if you are a county recorder, please submit such old records to the RBBP Secretary). 

Receiving accurate grid references with species data is especially important. Site information is not published and these data remain confidential. Such data are used to check the location of a record and build up knowledge of the type of site and habitat preferred by the species; they can also help to identify duplicate data, thus improving the accuracy of the overall numbers. A lack of site data remains a particular problem for raptors, for which we receive many records summarised by area, or without grid references; either way we are unable to eliminate the possibility that some of these may duplicate records submitted via other routes. As a consequence we cannot use the majority of those records in the compilation of the figures reported here, diminishing the value and quality of our archive. Our annual totals for species such as Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis and Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus are likely to be underestimates, because some imprecise data cannot be included in our summaries. It continues to be extremely frustrating that a number of records submitted via the Schedule 1 licence return system fail to include an accurate (or sometimes any) grid reference, despite it being a condition of the licences they were collected under. The not inconsiderable fieldwork effort involved results in almost no benefit to the conservation of the species concerned. 

Recommendations and guidelines on data submission are available online, together with our recording standards and species-specific guidelines. 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 

Stroud (2019) reviewed the work of the RBBP, and how this serves to support a range of conservation purposes. 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 12-month period up to August 2020 we received 17 specific requests for data or summary information. In addition, population totals published in the BB reports 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 the European Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (Keller et al. 2020), a review of the trends and distribution in Marsh Warblers, a review of the status of Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea, and planning for national surveys of Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus and Turtle Dove. Trends for selected species were also supplied for use in the UK, England and Scotland Wild Bird Indicators and the UK Priority Species Indicator.

The Avian Population Estimates Panel publishes periodic compilations of population estimates for all regularly occurring bird populations in Great Britain and the UK. The fourth such review was published in 2020 (Woodward et al. 2020) and relied heavily upon the work of the RBBP; estimates for 67 taxa were calculated from RBBP data. As previously, RBBP data will be pivotal in the species’ assessments for the next Birds of Conservation Concern review, intended for publication in 2021.

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 (Burns et al. 2020) includes a section on scarce and rare breeding birds, giving population estimates and trends based mainly on data collated by the RBBP. 

Population estimates

In recent years, recorders have been asked to supply their best estimate of the populations (as well as the total number of known pairs) for a small selection of species (17 in 2018). These species are those which occur across large parts of the UK and which we believe are under-recorded in at least some counties, usually where local populations are relatively high. County recorders are uniquely placed to understand their local bird populations and thus the extent of this under-recording. Most recorders submitted estimates in 2018, either by indicating that the number of pairs for which they submitted records represented the number present in the county or by giving a higher number that they felt better represented the true number.

The Panel

The nine members of the RBBP serve in a personal capacity, but some also reflect the interests and requirements of the funding partners. Mark Holling retired as Secretary in April 2020 after 14 years of exceptional service (see Brit. Birds 112: 758). Fortunately, Mark agreed to stay on as a Panel member, and has taken on the new role of Panel Archivist. The Panel undertook a recruitment process and have appointed Mark Eaton to replace him as Secretary: Mark Eaton has been on the Panel for 13 years and had been Chair since 2012. While Mark Eaton took the lead with the writing of this report, much of the initial data collation and processing was done by Mark Holling. Dawn Balmer has now become Chair of the RBBP while Andy Stanbury has joined the Panel to replace Mark Eaton as the RSPB’s representative. Thus the membership of the Panel is now Helen Baker, Dawn Balmer (Chair), Mark Eaton (Secretary), Ian Francis, Mark Holling, Andrew King, David Norman, Andy Stanbury and David Stroud. The Panel is funded by the JNCC (on behalf of the national 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.

Terminology

Recording areas

The recording areas used in this report are the same as in previous reports (see Holling et al. 2007 and www.rbbp.org.uk); these match the bird recording areas used by recorders across the UK, with Gower and East Glamorgan presented separately contra Ballance & Smith (2008). 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 only records from the Inner London area and the old county of Middlesex. Records away from this area and within the counties surrounding London – Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent and Surrey – are listed under those county headings.

Species banners

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 (2014–18, 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, 2014–18). 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 5-year mean in 2018 (for the years 2014–18) with that for either 25 or 15 years earlier (1993, from 1989–93, or 2003, from 1999–2003). 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 2020), 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 2018), 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 calculating trends 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 2018 (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

Estimates for each of the 17 species for which these are collated from county recorders are presented in the species tables at the regional level (number in parentheses after the region name prefaced with ‘e’) and at the UK level (in parentheses after the UK total).

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). 

 

Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus

Red

Rare 1,114 individuals*

6y trend: weak decrease -13%

High

185 males at 52 active leks. A total of 99 lek sites was monitored across four recording areas, and it is considered likely that few active leks were missed. Yet there are considerable knowledge gaps in how well these counts, made on what is typically a single visit to each lek during the lekking season, encompass variation in lek attendance, and indeed how well numbers of males attending leks on any given day represent the total number of males attending over the course of the season (i.e. does every male attend every day?). As a consequence, the relationship between the summed lek counts and total population size is unclear. Note also that a new approach was adopted in 2018 to how leks are recorded if signs of Capercaillie presence are noted without sightings of lekking birds; this methodological change has resulted in a 2018 estimate that is 11 males lower than it would have been under the previous approach. Nonetheless, numbers of lekking males have fallen year on year since 2015, and brood counts made at a number of sites suggest that breeding success of Capercaillies has been poor in recent years. More robust estimates of the population are produced by winter transect surveys, conducted at six-yearly intervals; the next is due in the 2021/22 winter, funding permitting, and will provide a timely update on the fortunes of this struggling species.

* Wilkinson et al. (2018).

Capercaillie

leks

MM

Scotland, Mid

14

22

Moray & Nairn

5

9

North-east Scotland

8

12

Perth & Kinross

1

1

Scotland, N & W

38

163

Highland

38

163

TOTALS

52

185

433.jpg

433. Female Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus, Cairngorms, May 2018.

Kit Day

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix

Amber

Scarce 341 males

25y trend: weak decrease -40%

High

3–168 singing males. Common Quails are known to undergo massive fluctuations between years, with occasional influxes – ‘Quail years’ – when numbers can be several times the long-term average. The last such influx was in 2011, and numbers since then have fallen with 2018 being the poorest year for Quails since 1991 (fig. 1). The European population, of which the UK holds a tiny fraction, may have declined (BirdLife International 2020), although the drivers of change are poorly understood.

Common Quail

SM

England, SW

31

Avon

1

Devon

1

Dorset

5

Gloucestershire

4

Hampshire

2

Somerset

5

Wiltshire

13

England, SE

11

Bedfordshire

2

Berkshire

1

Kent

2

Oxfordshire

3

Sussex

3

England, E

16

Cambridgeshire

4

Lincolnshire

5

Norfolk

4

Northamptonshire

1

Suffolk

2

England, C

12

Derbyshire

3

Herefordshire

1

Leics & Rutland

1

Shropshire

3

Staffordshire

2

Warwickshire

2

England, N

40

Cheshire & Wirral

2

Cumbria

5

Lancs & N Mersey

7

Northumberland

9

Yorkshire

17

Wales

12

Anglesey

1

Denbigh & Flint 

1

Gower

3

Pembrokeshire

5

Radnorshire

2

Scotland, S

12

Borders

5

Lothian

7

Scotland, Mid

11

Angus & Dundee

1

Moray & Nairn

2

North-east Scotland

5

Perth & Kinross

2

Upper Forth

1

Scotland, N & W

23

Argyll

8

Highland

8

Orkney

6

Shetland

1

TOTAL

168

 

RBBP fig 1.png

Fig. 1. Numbers of breeding Common Quails Coturnix coturnix in the UK, 1986–2018: maximum total numbers and 5-year running mean.

Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus

Amber

Very rare 29 bp

25y trend: strong increase +371%

Near-complete

26 sites: 22–29 pairs. It was another good year for Whooper Swans in 2018, with continued breeding in Norfolk ensuring that there were successful pairs in three UK nations, and the highest productivity reported to date (43 birds fledged). Mixed pairs with Mute Swan C. olor, in Co. Antrim in 2018, are rare but have been reported on a few occasions previously; we are not aware of such a pair successfully fledging young in the UK though.

England, E
Norfolk One site: two pairs bred, fledging four and two young.

Scotland, S
Ayrshire Two sites: one pair hatched two chicks, with one remaining a month later; one probable breeding pair. 

Scotland, N & W
Argyll One site: one probable breeding pair. Highland Four sites: two pairs bred, fledging four and two young, four probable breeding pairs.Orkney One site: one pair bred but failed. Outer Hebrides Three sites: three pairs bred, fledging broods of five, five and four young. Shetland 12 sites: 12 pairs bred, at least five successfully with broods of six, three, three, two and one.

Northern Ireland
Co. Antrim One bird reported paired with a Mute Swan; outcome unknown. Co. Fermanagh One site: one pair fledged one young. 

Garganey Spatula querquedula

Amber

Rare 117 bp

25y trend: stable -7%

High

88 sites: 21–140 pairs. It was a bumper year for Garganeys in 2018, with the highest total number of pairs since 1998. While the long-term trend is relatively stable, Garganeys have increased by 41% over the last ten years, recovering from a fall in the mid 2000s. The number of confirmed breeding attempts for this secretive duck remained typically low, however. Most notably, one of the confirmed breeding attempts was in Orkney, for the third year out of the last four.

Garganey

S

CP

TP

England, SW

7

3

16

Devon

1

0

2

Gloucestershire

2

0

2

Somerset

2

2

10

Wiltshire

2

1

2

England, SE

15

2

18

Berkshire

1

0

2

Essex

1

1

1

Hertfordshire

1

0

1

Kent

6

1

6

Oxfordshire

3

0

4

Sussex

3

0

4

England, E

27

8

58

Cambridgeshire

11

3

34

Lincolnshire

4

0

5

Norfolk

7

5

12

Northamptonshire

2

0

4

Suffolk

3

0

3

England, C

4

0

5

Leicestershire & Rutland

1

0

1

Nottinghamshire

1

0

1

Staffordshire

1

0

2

Warwickshire

1

0

1

England, N

18

7

22

Cheshire & Wirral

4

0

4

Cleveland

1

1

1

Lancs & N Mersey

1

0

1

Yorkshire

12

6

16

Wales

3

0

5

Anglesey

1

0

2

Carmarthenshire

1

0

2

East Glamorgan

1

0

1

Scotland, S

2

0

2

Dumfries & G’way

2

0

2

Scotland, Mid

1

0

2

North-east Scotland

1

0

2

Scotland, N & W 

9

1

10

Argyll

2

0

2

Orkney

5

1

6

Outer Hebrides

2

0

2

Northern Ireland

2

0

2

Co. Antrim

1

0

1

Co. Londonderry

1

0

1

TOTALS

88

21

140

Shoveler Spatula clypeata

Amber

Less scarce 1,196 bp

(no trend available)

High

255 sites: 405–1,459 pairs. This is the highest total reported since Shoveler was added to the RBBP list in 2006. There is some variation between counties in how Shoveler numbers are reported; single males in suitable habitat in early May can (quite correctly) be interpreted as evidence of possible breeding. This can give rise to large estimates at some significant wetland sites, however, which some county recorders are uncomfortable with submitting, knowing that the number of subsequent breeding attempts will be much lower. We do, however, encourage the submission of counts of spring males as these may reflect the overall size of the UK breeding population of Shovelers more accurately.

Shoveler

S

CP

TP

England, SW (e 48)

14

13

47

Devon

1

1

1

Dorset

4

5

5

Gloucestershire

2

0

16

Hampshire

3

4

9

Somerset

2

3

14

Wiltshire

2

0

2

England, SE (e 252)

43

90

250

Bedfordshire

1

1

1

Berkshire

2

0

2

Essex

11

31

60

Hertfordshire

5

0

6

Kent

12

56

102

Oxfordshire

3

0

37

Surrey

5

0

9

Sussex

4

2

33

England, E (e 645)

60

165

645

Cambridgeshire

12

6

287

Lincolnshire

11

5

47

Norfolk

17

146

223

Northamptonshire

1

0

1

Suffolk

19

8

87

England, C (e 53)

22

11

53

Derbyshire

2

0

11

Leics & Rutland

1

1

1

Nottinghamshire

3

5

5

Shropshire

4

0

13

Staffordshire

2

4

7

Warwickshire

4

1

7

West Midlands

1

0

1

Worcestershire

5

0

8

England, N (e 251)

41

86

241

Cheshire & Wirral

2

0

4

Cleveland

5

5

21

Cumbria

1

0

1

Greater Manchester

6

1

6

Lancs & N Mersey

4

21

28

Northumberland

2

4

4

Yorkshire

21

55

177

Wales (e 45)

11

6

45

Anglesey

2

1

32

Breconshire

1

0

1

Caernarfonshire

1

0

1

Carmarthenshire

1

1

1

Gwent

1

1

1

Meirionnydd

2

0

2

Pembrokeshire

3

3

7

Scotland, S (e 20)

4

0

11

Dumfries & G’way

4

0

11

Scotland, Mid (e 34)

15

8

33

Angus & Dundee

4

0

14

Fife

2

0

3

North-east Scotland

5

1

6

Perth & Kinross

3

6

9

Upper Forth

1

1

1

Scotland, N & W (e 158)

38

20

121

Argyll

3

0

42

Highland

3

0

10

Orkney

19

15

46

Outer Hebrides

13

5

23

Northern Ireland (e 10)

4

3

10

Co. Antrim

1

2

2

Co. Armagh

1

1

1

Co. Fermanagh

2

0

7

Channel Islands (e 1)

1

1

1

Jersey

1

1

1

Isle of Man (e 2)

2

2

2

TOTALS (e 1,519)

255

405

1,459

Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope

Amber

Rare 211 bp

(no trend available)

Moderate

98 sites: 42–210 pairs. A fairly typical year, with reports of birds in potential breeding habitat but very few confirmed breeding records in southern England, and more records from the core areas for the population in northern Scotland, where the remote nature of many breeding locations means that numbers are substantially under-reported. 

Eurasian Wigeon

S

CP

TP

England, SW

1

1

1

Wiltshire

1

1

1

England, SE

7

1

7

Bedfordshire

1

1

1

Essex

1

0

1

Kent

3

0

3

Oxfordshire

1

0

1

Surrey

1

0

1

England, E

8

0

45

Cambridgeshire

4

0

30

Norfolk

4

0

15

England, C

2

0

2

Leicestershire & Rutland

1

0

1

Nottinghamshire

1

0

1

England, N

11

11

19

Cumbria

1

0

1

Co. Durham

2

3

3

Northumberland

4

5

5

Yorkshire

4

3

10

Wales

1

0

3

Anglesey

1

0

3

Scotland, S

5

2

5

Dumfries & G’way

3

2

4

Lothian

2

0

1

Scotland, Mid

19

4

31

Angus & Dundee

5

2

9

Moray & Nairn

1

1

2

North-east Scotland

6

0

8

Perth & Kinross

7

1

12

Scotland, N & W 

43

23

96

Argyll

1

0

1

Caithness

1

0

2

Highland

12

2

47

Orkney

6

5

15

Outer Hebrides

20

11

26

Shetland

3

5

5

Northern Ireland

1

0

1

Co. Antrim

1

0

1

TOTALS

98

42

210

Black Duck Anas rubripes

 

Occasional breeder

 

 

In Highland, the male remained at Strontian but appeared not to be paired with any Mallards A. platyrhynchosin 2018; despite its presence since 2007, breeding with a female Mallard has been confirmed only once, in 2016.

Pintail Anas acuta

Amber

Very rare 28 bp

25y trend: weak decrease -35%

Near-complete

19 sites: 14–27 pairs. It was a good year for breeding Pintails in 2018, with an unusually high number of proven records. This might suggest high productivity since, as is the case for many ducks, it is usually only when female Pintails emerge with a brood of ducklings that breeding can be confirmed. North & West Scotland continues to hold the bulk of the breeding population, but at the other end of the UK nesting was confirmed in Kent for the first time since 2013.

England, SW
Isles of Scilly One site: one possible breeding pair.

England, SE
Kent Two sites: one pair bred and one possible breeding pair.

England, E
Cambridgeshire One site: one possible pair. Lincolnshire Three sites: four probable breeding pairs. Suffolk Two sites: one pair bred and one probable breeding pair.

England, N
Yorkshire One site: one pair bred.

Scotland, Mid
North-east Scotland One site: one possible breeding pair. 

Scotland, N & W
Argyll One extensive site: six pairs bred. Fair Isle One site: a female bred in a mixed pair with a Mallard A. platyrhynchos, fledging one bird.Orkney Four sites: (1) two pairs bred (two broods of six seen); (2) two pairs bred (total of seven birds fledged); (3)–(4) two probable breeding pairs. Outer Hebrides Two sites: two possible breeding pairs.

Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis

 

Potential breeder

 

 

Three sites: one pair and three single males. Although there was no suggestion of breeding with any of these records, it is conceivable that mixed pairings with female Eurasian Teal A. crecca, or indeed pure pairs with an unidentified female Green-winged, could go undetected. The female in Shetland is thought to be the first confirmed record of a female Green-winged Teal in Britain & Ireland (Riddington 2019). 

Scotland, N & W
Outer Hebrides Two sites: (1) two males present from 7th March to 11th May; (2) one male present from 3rd February to 5th November. Shetland One site: a pair present 11th–14th May.

Common Pochard Aythya ferina

Red

Scarce 757 bp

25y trend: weak increase +87%

High

171 sites: 493–797 pairs. Numbers of Common Pochards breeding in the UK have increased steadily, from an average of 267 pairs in the first five years of reporting (1986–90) to the current 5-year mean almost three times higher. This increase is very much at odds with the trend in the UK’s wintering population, which has fallen by 69% over the last 25 years (Frost et al. 2020). The fall in wintering numbers in the UK is symptomatic of a widespread decline in the breeding population across Europe, thought to be driven by the loss of breeding habitat, predation by invasive non-native species such as the American Mink Neovison vison, and compounded by a decline in colonies of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus in which Pochards often nest for the benefits they provide in predator deterrence (Fox et al. 2016). In addition, Green & Pain (2016) found a correlation between Common Pochard population trends and the prevalence of ingested lead gunshot, which suggests that mortality from lead poisoning could also have an impact on the population. The overall decline is such that the species is now listed as Vulnerable on the Global IUCN Red List (BirdLife International 2020). While the UK’s breeding population of Pochards is small in an international context, the increase is heartening.

Common Pochard

S

CP

TP

England, SW (e 97)

20

57

92

Devon

1

0

1

Dorset

2

6

6

Gloucestershire

3

3

5

Hampshire

5

3

5

Isle of Wight

1

2

2

Isles of Scilly

1

2

2

Somerset

3

40

67

Wiltshire

4

1

4

England, SE (e 321)

62

213

309

Bedfordshire

4

2

4

Berkshire

3

5

5

Essex

14

104

119

Greater London

7

10

10

Hertfordshire

3

22

22

Kent

19

48

94

Oxfordshire

1

1

1

Surrey

8

10

16

Sussex

3

11

38

England, E (e 218)

34

57

183

Cambridgeshire

12

7

112

Lincolnshire

5

10

20

Norfolk

10

38

40

Northamptonshire

4

0

6

Suffolk

3

2

5

England, C (e 24)

9

19

24

Derbyshire

2

2

2

Leics & Rutland

1

3

3

Nottinghamshire

3

3

7

Staffordshire

1

5

5

Worcestershire

2

6

7

England, N (e 139)

31

122

137

Cheshire & Wirral

2

11

12

Cleveland

4

12

12

Co. Durham

1

3

3

Greater Manchester

1

0

1

Lancs & N Mersey

1

16

16

Northumberland

2

3

3

Yorkshire

20

77

90

Wales (e 31)

8

7

31

Anglesey

4

4

25

Carmarthenshire

1

2

2

Gwent

2

1

3

Meirionnydd

1

0

1

Scotland, Mid (e 2)

2

0

2

Fife

2

0

2

Northern Ireland (e 19)

5

18

19

Co. Antrim

1

2

2

Co. Armagh

2

14

15

Co. Fermanagh

1

1

1

Co. Londonderry

1

1

1

TOTALS (e 851)

171

493

797

Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris

 

Potential breeder

 

 

In the Outer Hebrides, a male present from 3rd February to 25th May at two different sites was consorting with Tufted Ducks A. fuligula and seen displaying to a female on 25th March. There was, however, no sign of hybrid offspring later in the season. This is an unusual but not unprecedented record: a male Ring-necked Duck bred with a Tufted Duck in the Outer Hebrides in 2004.

Greater Scaup Aythya marila

 

Occasional breeder

 

 

In North-east Scotland, a pair was reported on two dates in April and May at the same site. Records of confirmed breeding are very infrequent, the most recent being in 2014.

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra

Red

Rare 52 bp*

25y trend: stable -9%

Near-complete

Seven sites: 8–54 pairs. The Flows of Caithness and Sutherland (Highland) are treated as one extensive site, although a considerable number of small waterbodies are used within this large area. The trend reported using RBBP data is likely to be somewhat misleading, as a coordinated approach to monitoring and data submission in recent years means that our annual totals give a more complete reflection of the population than previously. It appears that numbers have remained broadly stable since the last national survey in 2007, but prior to that the population had declined by 45% since the previous full survey in 1995 (Underhill et al. 1998). Stanbury et al. (2017) assessed the Common Scoter as being Critically Endangered in GB using IUCN Red List criteria.

* Eaton et al. 2008.

Common Scoter

S

CP

TP

Scotland, Mid

1

1

5

Perth & Kinross

1

1

5

Scotland, N & W

6

7

49

Argyll

1

2

3

Caithness

1

0

1

Caithness/Highland

1

4

23

Highland

2

0

21

Shetland

1

1

1

TOTALS

7

8

54

Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula

Amber

Rare 200 bp*

(no trend available)

Moderate

58–62 breeding females. The intensive and near-complete monitoring of nestboxes in Strathspey and Deeside ceased after 2010; since then the number of breeding Goldeneyes reported to the RBBP has fallen by approximately two-thirds and our annual totals no longer reflect the overall population trend. Away from the Highlands, breeding Goldeneyes are still notable and monitoring is more complete; numbers in England continue to grow. In 2018, the population in Northumberland increased to ten pairs, a pair returned to a site in Greater London for the second year in a row, and Goldeneyes bred in Bedfordshire and Staffordshire, for the first time in both counties.

* Woodward et al. (2020).

Common Goldeneye

CP

TP

England, SE

2

2

Bedfordshire

1

1

Greater London

1

1

England, C

1

1

Staffordshire

1

1

England, N

10

10

Northumberland

10

10

Scotland, Mid

5

9

Moray & Nairn

0

3

North-east Scotland

5

6

Scotland, N & W

40

40

Highland

40

40

TOTALS

58

62

Smew Mergellus albellus

 

Potential breeder

 

 

In Moray & Nairn, a pair was seen on 28th May at a well-watched site, but not subsequently. Smew are not known to have bred in the UK, but summering birds have been reported by the RBBP on 14 occasions; this is, however, only the second time a pair has been reported.

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator

Green

Less scarce 1,565 bp*

(no trend available)

Low

87 sites: 45–147 pairs. Red-breasted Merganser was added to the RBBP list in 2017, following the estimate by Humphreys et al. (2016) that the UK population was between 1,373 and 1,754 pairs, and concern over the range loss shown by Bird Atlas 2007–11 (Balmer et al. 2013). There has been no recent robust monitoring of breeding Red-breasted Mergansers, aside from the Atlas. A 1987 survey of riverine sawbills (Gregory et al. 1997) estimated there were around 800 pairs on British rivers; together with coastal-breeding birds, it was felt that the estimate of 3,000 pairs from the 1988–91 breeding atlas (Gibbons et al. 1993) was appropriate. A resurvey of rivers in 1997 found no significant change in Red-breasted Merganser densities (Armitage 1997).

Breeding records and estimates from county recorders in England and Wales confirm the scarcity of the species at the southern edge of its range. Reporting elsewhere is very sparse; for example, only six pairs were reported in Argyll yet the recorder suggests that the true population could be 300 pairs. Elsewhere, the lack of information meant that recorders felt unable to estimate county populations. Our total of 147 pairs (20 fewer than last year) may be just 10% of the population, and the sum of estimates is likely to be considerably less than half the true value. Currently, we are clearly a long way short of reporting accurately on this species: we reiterate our appeal from the last report that all birdwatchers remember the significance of sightings of Red-breasted Mergansers in the breeding season, and submit records to the relevant recorder.

* Humphreys et al. (2016).

Red-breasted Merganser

CP

TP

England, C (e 1)

0

1

Derbyshire

0

1

England, N (e 14)

4

14

Cumbria

3

8

Lancs & N Mersey

1

6

Wales (e 26)

3

21

Anglesey

3

3

Meirionnydd

0

18

Scotland, S (e 18)

3

9

Clyde

0

5

Clyde Islands

3

3

Dumfries & Galloway

0

1

Scotland, Mid (e 36)

5

13

Angus & Dundee

2

2

Moray & Nairn

2

2

Perth & Kinross

0

8

Upper Forth

1

1

Scotland, N & W (e 428)

30

52

Argyll

1

6

Highland

1

3

Orkney

5

12

Outer Hebrides

10

18

Shetland

13

13

Northern Ireland (e 37)

0

37

Co. Antrim

0

2

Co. Fermanagh

0

35

TOTALS (e 560)

45

147

 

RBBP art Red-breasted Merg Dan Powell.jpg

Red-breasted Mergansers Mergus serrator

Dan Powell

Great Bustard Otis tarda

 

Very rare 5 bp

(no trend available)

Near-complete

One extensive site: eight nesting females. In 2018 the reintroduced Wiltshire population was estimated at approximately 70 birds, with an even split between males and females. Yet only 15 females were of breeding age (three years or older). In addition to four wild-fledged birds, four eggs were taken from nests and the birds, all males, reared and released. There were no imports of birds or eggs in 2018.

England, SW
Wiltshire One extensive site: at least eight females laid eggs; a minimum of four young fledged. 

Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur

Red

Less scarce 3,600 bp*

(no RBBP trend available)

Moderate

382 sites: 58–615 pairs. This is the first year for which the RBBP has reported upon the Turtle Dove. A widespread and relatively common species until recently, it has now earnt the unwanted distinction of being the UK’s fastest declining species, with numbers having fallen by 95% between 1995 and 2018 (Harris et al. 2020). This decline is mirrored across its European range with the consequence that it is now classified as Globally Vulnerable (BirdLife International 2020). While there is some uncertainty over the size of the remaining UK population, estimates from county recorders suggest that it may be little more than 1,200 pairs. Guy Anderson, Migrants Recovery Programme Manager at the RSPB, has provided this overview of Turtle Dove conservation:

‘The current state of knowledge on populations, causes of declines and priority conservation solutions for Turtle Dove across the entire range were compiled in an international Action Plan by Fisher et al. (2018). For the western European population of Turtle Doves – which migrates through France, Iberia and Morocco – the two highest priorities are to (i) improve the condition of breeding-season habitats (to increase productivity), and (ii) to stop unsustainable levels of hunting (to reduce mortality). Improved food supply and availability of good foraging habitat is the priority for the breeding season. Research has clearly shown the changing diet of Turtle Doves resulting from agricultural intensification, reflecting changes in what seed food is available in our countryside. Doves do better where seed-rich habitat is available, and they also require open ground to allow access to the seed. For recently fledged young, this needs to be close to the nest site.

‘Good progress is being made on both fronts. Concerted conservation policy and campaign work has seen significant reductions in hunting pressure over the last two years, while an international Adaptive Harvest Management approach is currently under development. Landscape-scale conservation projects are being developed across the remaining core range of Turtle Doves in the UK, with similar initiatives in other countries. These bring together networks of farmers, land managers, communities and local organisations, all working together to deliver good-quality breeding habitats for Turtle Doves – seed plots and supplementary feeding stations, close to scrubby nesting habitat and accessible water sources. Guidance and coordination comes from environmental NGOs, particularly from the Operation Turtle Dove partnership (https://operationTurtleDove.org). These are long-term projects, but initial signs of stabilising numbers of Turtle Doves, at least in some areas, are promising. A thorough UK survey of Turtle Doves in 2021 will help to both assess progress with existing projects and refine priority areas for future conservation action.’

The first year of data collection by the RBBP suggests that reporting may be near-complete in those counties at the edge of the species’ UK range where numbers have dwindled to single figures. But in counties in the southeast and east of England where the bulk of the population remains, many territories are not recorded on an annual basis. Hopefully, as awareness grows of the importance of recording breeding Turtle Doves, and submitting these records to county recorders, the proportion of the population monitored annually will increase. In the meantime, the RSPB, RBBP and Natural England, with support from the BTO, are collaborating on the first national Turtle Dove survey in 2021, working with county recorders, bird clubs and Turtle Dove study groups throughout the range. Information on the survey, and how to take part in it, is available on our website.

* Woodward et al. (2020)

Turtle Dove

S

CP

TP

England, SW (e 37)

13

1

26

Cornwall

1

1

1

Devon

3

0

3

Hampshire

5

0

18

Isle of Wight

2

0

2

Somerset

1

0

1

Wiltshire

1

0

1

England, SE (e 679)

136

40

220

Bedfordshire

7

1

9

Berkshire

1

0

1

Buckinghamshire

1

0

3

Essex

4

8

10

Hertfordshire

2

0

2

Kent

85

28

158

Oxfordshire

3

2

4

Surrey

1

0

1

Sussex

32

1

32

England, E (e 347)

211

13

275

Cambridgeshire

34

0

39

Lincolnshire

27

1

37

Norfolk

55

7

80

Northamptonshire

5

0

6

Suffolk

90

5

113

England, C (e 11)

11

3

11

Derbyshire

3

0

3

Leicestershire & Rutland

1

0

1

Nottinghamshire

1

0

1

Warwickshire

3

0

3

Worcestershire

3

3

3

England, N (e 120)

11

1

83

Yorkshire

11

1

83

TOTALS (e 1,194)

382

58

615

 

RBBP art Turtle Dove Rosemary Powell.jpg

Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur

Rosemary Powell

Corn Crake Crex crex

Red

Less scarce 1,078 bp

23y trend (survey*): strong increase +146%

Near-complete

936 singing males. This is a very similar total to that reported in 2017, considerably down on the recent peak of 1,333 singing males in 2014. This species remains dependent on targeted conservation work delivered through agri-environment schemes, and concerns have been raised about the recent declines and continued vulnerability of the population despite an impressive recovery over the last three decades (Green 2020).

* Wotton et al. (2015)

England, E
Cambridgeshire Total 13: Nene Washes 11, Ouse Washes 2. Lincolnshire One. Norfolk Six, at four sites

England, C
Warwickshire One. 

England, N
Yorkshire 11, at four sites. 

Scotland, N & W
Argyll Total 491: Coll 53, Colonsay & Oronsay 41, Iona 13, Islay 60, Mull 2, Tiree 322Highland Total 27: Canna 1, mainland 7, Muck 2, Skye 17. Orkney Total 13. Outer Hebrides Total 372: Barra & Vatersay 73, Benbecula 7, Berneray 1, Harris 3, Lewis 68, Mingulay and other islands south of Vatersay 3, North Uist 128, South Uist 89. 

Northern Ireland
Co. Antrim One. 

Little Crake Porzana parva

 

Potential breeder

 

 

In Cambridgeshire, a calling female was recorded at Ouse Fen RSPB on 15th–23rd May. This is an exciting record and the first time that this species has featured in a RBBP report. Despite the northward expansions shown by a range of wetland species, the Little Crake is not high on the list of potential colonists to the UK (Ausden et al. 2015). It is recorded in the UK less than annually, and while it reaches higher densities in eastern Europe, it is a scarce and scattered breeding species to the west of Poland with, for example, the French population being estimated at only 2–8 pairs (European Union 2020). Keller et al. (2020) showed that there has been a marked northeasterly shift in Little Crake distribution since the 1980s, with loss of breeding birds from sites in Spain, France and Italy, while the colonisation of new sites is particularly noticeable in the Baltic states and Ukraine. This direction of shift does not suggest that colonisation of the UK is likely, and the fact that this record concerned a calling (and hence most likely unpaired) female, reinforces this view. Nonetheless, we are aware of two records of singing birds in 2020.

Spotted Crake Porzana porzana

Amber

Very rare 26 bp

25y trend: stable -24%

High

13 sites: 0–18 pairs/singing males. A below-par year, but distinctly better than 2017 when only eight singing males were reported; this was, however, only the third time this century that there were no records from mainland Scotland. As is usual, there were no confirmed breeding records; the Spotted Crake has been proven to breed in the UK on just seven occasions since the turn of the century. All records were included, irrespective of how long birds were known to be present.

England, SW
Devon One site: one singing, 5th–8th April. Dorset One site: one singing, 30th May to 3rd June. Somerset Two sites: (1)–(2) one singing on a single date in April.

England, E
Cambridgeshire Two sites: (1) three singing between April and 7th May; (2) one singing. Norfolk Two sites: (1) one singing from 3rd May to 1st June, another from 24th May to 7th June; (2) two birds reported until 28th August. 

England, N
Yorkshire Two sites: (1) three singing; (2) one singing, 1st–27th June

Wales
East Glamorgan One site: one singing, 2nd–3rd June.

Scotland, N & W
Outer Hebrides Two sites: (1) one singing, 13th May; (2) one singing, 15th June.

Common Crane Grus grus

Amber

Rare 35 bp

25y trend: strong increase +1,375%

Near-complete

24 sites: 42–46 pairs. It was another good year and another record total for the UK’s growing Common Crane population in 2018, with a notable increase in birds in southwest England arising from the reintroduction programme, to 18 pairs (and a further two pairs in Wales originating from the same source). The 25 fledged birds is also a new record, and bodes well for further increase and range expansion. The RBBP currently uses the criteria developed by the UK Crane Working Group to assess and classify records; these seek to reduce the risk of double-counting by excluding itinerant pairs not settled at a breeding site, and thus some records of apparent breeding activity are excluded from our totals. This approach will be reviewed in the next 12 months, however. In addition to the numbers tabulated below, there were two females summering together in Wiltshire, a pair in Dorset between 16th May and 7th July, a pair displaying at a site in Buckinghamshire between 16th and 24th May and again on 12th–13th June, an additional pair displaying at a site in Cambridgeshire through most of May and an additional non-breeding pair in Norfolk. 

Common Crane

S

CP

TP

YF

England, SW

6

18

18

7

Gloucestershire

1

5

5

3

Somerset

5

13

13

4

England, SE

1

1

1

0

Oxfordshire

1

1

1

0

England, E

12

15

19

17

Cambridgeshire

3

5

6

6

Norfolk

8

9

12

9

Suffolk

1

1

1

2

England, N

2

4

4

0

Yorkshire

2

4

4

0

Wales

2

2

2

0

East Glamorgan

1

1

1

0

Gwent

1

1

1

0

Scotland, Mid

1

2

2

1

North-east Scotland

1

2

2

1

TOTALS

24

42

46

25

Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps

 

Occasional breeder

 

 

In Argyll, a male Pied-billed Grebe was again paired with a Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis but no evidence of a breeding attempt was recorded. A male has been resident at Loch Feorlin in Argyll since 2014, and attempted breeding with a Little Grebe in 2016 and 2017, successfully so in the latter year.

Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena

Red

Occasional breeder

 

 

In Cambridgeshire, a single male occupied suitable breeding habitat between 22nd June and 11th July, having been seen elsewhere in the county in May. This was the same site occupied in 2016 and 2017. 

Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus

Red

Very rare 28 bp

25y trend: strong decrease -64%

Near-complete

14 sites: 27 pairs. The unsuccessful breeding attempt on Shetland was the first for the islands. Elsewhere, an individual summered in Devon for its 12th year.

Scotland, N & W
Highland 13 sites: 26 pairs bred, fledging 14 young. Over 40% of the population is at one site, Loch Ruthven, with only two other sites having more than a single pair. Shetland One site: one pair bred, two young chicks were reported on 15th August but died subsequently.

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis

Amber

Rare 56 bp

25y trend: stable +13%

Near-complete

20 sites: 30–57 pairs. Numbers of Black-necked Grebes in the UK rose steadily through the 1970s and 1980s, but have remained relatively stable since the mid 1990s. There has been greater variation in numbers between sites, with the importance of particular locations waxing and waning, but the population’s centre of gravity remains in central and northern England: Cheshire & Wirral, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire held nearly three-quarters of the population in 2018. 

Black-necked Grebe

S

CP

TP

YF

England, SE

3

2

8

0

Greater London

1

0

1

0

Hertfordshire

1

1

6

0

Kent

1

1

1

0

England, E

2

0

2

0

Cambridgeshire

1

0

1

0

Lincolnshire

1

0

1

0

England, C

2

8

10

14

Nottinghamshire

1

8

8

14

Staffordshire

1

0

2

0

England, N

12

20

36

33

Cheshire & Wirral

2

10

12

17

Cleveland

1

0

1

0

Greater Manchester

1

0

1

0

Northumberland

1

0

2

0

Yorkshire

7

10

20

16

Scotland, Mid

1

0

1

0

Fife

1

0

1

0

TOTALS

20

30

57

47

434.jpg

434. Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, Yorkshire, April 2018.

Kit Day

Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus

Amber

Scarce 350 bp

25y trend: strong increase +128%

High

254–263 pairs. With the ending of funding received under an EU-LIFE project, monitoring of the Stone-curlew population in East Anglia is now incomplete and it is estimated that areas not surveyed in 2018 could account for an additional 36 pairs in Norfolk and 20 in Suffolk. This puts the true number in the region of 320 pairs. Even so, numbers reported in 2018 suggest a drop since 2017, and continuing decline since a peak in excess of 400 pairs earlier in the decade.

Stone-curlew

CP

TP

England, SW

92

97

Hampshire

13

18

Wiltshire

79

79

England, SE

15

15

Berkshire

4

4

Oxfordshire

8

8

Sussex

3

3

England, E

146

150

Cambridgeshire

3

3

Norfolk

73

75

Suffolk

70

72

England, C

1

1

Leics & Rutland

1

1

TOTALS

254

263

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

 

Colonising breeder

 

 

Two sites: two pairs. These breeding pairs also visited other sites both before and after their breeding attempts. Mobile Black-winged Stilts are now an anticipated feature of spring and summer in southern England, and breeding attempts have been made in each of the last five years, although most fail. Of 23 nesting attempts since 2014, seven successful nests have resulted in 20 chicks fledged.

The picture in the UK matches the widespread northerly expansion of this species in western Europe, most likely related to climate change. Fig. 2, redrawn from the European Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (Keller et al. 2020), shows the expansion since the first European Breeding Bird Atlas in the mid 1980s (Hagemeijer & Blair 1997).

England, SE
Essex One site: one pair bred, eggs laid but lost to trampling or predation. Kent One site: one pair bred, two young fledged. 

RBBP fig 2 Black-winged Stilt map.jpg

Fig. 2. Range change in Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus between the two European Breeding Bird Atlases, mid 1980s and 2013–17. Orange squares show range loss, blue squares range gain, grey squares are those with records in both atlas periods. Paler squares are those with poorer coverage in the first atlas so assessments of range change there may be unreliable. The maps show records regardless of breeding evidence, so for example the apparent range loss in Yorkshire since the first atlas refers to the presence of a non-breeding bird in the first atlas period.

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta

Amber

Less scarce 2,034 bp

25y trend: strong increase +330%

Near-complete

122 sites: 2,155 pairs. As fig. 3 shows, Avocet numbers have increased steadily since the start of RBBP reporting in 1973, and while there was a slight drop in numbers reported in 2018, our rolling 5-year average is now over 2,000 confirmed breeding pairs. Since this marks the threshold for inclusion in this report, we intend to review whether this species should remain on our list.

Avocets reached another milestone in 2018, with the first-ever breeding in Scotland. A pair laid four eggs and raised three chicks to fledging at the RSPB Skinflats reserve in Upper Forth, which is around 80 km north of the most northerly English breeding site.

Avocet

S

CP

England, SW

9

105

Dorset

1

1

Gloucestershire

1

39

Hampshire

6

50

Somerset

1

15

England, SE

26

570

Essex

10

235

Kent

11

240

Sussex

5

95

England, E

52

1,004

Cambridgeshire

9

11

Lincolnshire

12

188

Norfolk

17

572

Suffolk

14

233

England, C

5

30

Leics & Rutland

1

1

Nottinghamshire

2

6

Staffordshire

1

3

Worcestershire

1

20

England, N

28

406

Cheshire & Wirral

3

52

Cleveland

1

22

Cumbria

1

2

Co. Durham

1

21

Lancs & N Mersey

8

191

Northumberland

1

9

Yorkshire

13

109

Wales

1

39

Gwent

1

39

Scotland, Mid

1

1

Upper Forth

1

1

TOTALS

122

2,155

RBBP fig 3.png

Fig. 3. Numbers of breeding Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta in the UK, 1973–2018; maximum total numbers and 5-year running mean.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

Green

Scarce 586 bp

15y trend: stable +1%

Moderate

380–588 pairs. To maintain comparability with national surveys, the table below shows only confirmed and probable breeding pairs; information on a further 62 possible breeding pairs was also submitted but these may have been passage birds or those using sites only temporarily. Numbers reported to the Panel have been highly consistent recently, ranging between 555 and 615 in the last five years. County estimates suggest a population around 100 pairs higher than that, while the last national survey, in 2007, produced an estimate of 1,239 breeding pairs (Conway et al. 2019).

Little Ringed Plover

TP

England, SW (e 68)

59

Avon

1

Devon

8

Dorset

2

Gloucestershire

6

Hampshire

29

Somerset

6

Wiltshire

7

England, SE (e 105)

93

Bedfordshire

7

Berkshire

11

Buckinghamshire

7

Essex

21

Greater London

8

Hertfordshire

1

Kent

13

Oxfordshire

7

Surrey

7

Sussex

11

England, E (e 88)

78

Cambridgeshire

8

Lincolnshire

29

Norfolk

27

Northamptonshire

10

Suffolk

4

England, C (e 123)

115

Derbyshire

24

Herefordshire

5

Leics & Rutland

21

Nottinghamshire

8

Shropshire

3

Staffordshire

32

Warwickshire

9

West Midlands

1

Worcestershire

12

England, N (e 199)

159

Cheshire & Wirral

17

Cleveland

11

Cumbria

5

Co. Durham

3

Greater Manchester

24

Lancs & N Mersey

13

Northumberland

11

Yorkshire

75

Wales (e 64)

51

Breconshire

5

Carmarthenshire

21

Denbigh & Flint

2

East Glamorgan

4

Gower

1

Gwent

8

Meirionnydd

2

Montgomeryshire

4

Radnorshire

4

Scotland, S (e 22)

21

Ayrshire

1

Borders

3

Clyde

11

Dumfries & G’way

4

Lothian

2

Scotland, Mid (e 19)

12

Angus & Dundee

5

Fife

2

North-east Scotland

3

Perth & Kinross

2

TOTAL (e 688)

588

Dotterel Charadrius morinellus

Red

Scarce 423 males*

24y trend (survey): strong decrease -57%

Low

14–41 ‘pairs’. Typically, relatively few records were received in 2018, amounting to around 10% of the population estimated by the 2011 survey. Unsurprisingly, most records were received from Highland (25 breeding pairs or single birds, at 16 sites, including 11 confirmed breeding attempts) with further records from Moray & Nairn (8), North-east Scotland (4, including 3 confirmed pairs) and Perth & Kinross (1). Outwith Scotland, there were three possible breeding pairs at a site in Cumbria where breeding has occurred in the past, although the possibility of them being birds on passage cannot be discounted.

*Hayhow et al. (2015).

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Red

Scarce 290+ bp*

(no trend available)

Low

0–41 pairs. While the numbers reported are only a small fraction of the estimated population, we are pleased to receive records from areas that have been surveyed in Shetland since 2010. Breeding Whimbrels maintain a presence – just – in the Outer Hebrides, but we have not received a report from the Scottish mainland since 2013.

* Jackson (2009)

Scotland, N & W
Outer Hebrides Two sites: three agitated pairs seen in traditional breeding areas. Shetland 38 territories were recorded from Fetlar, Mainland and Unst, although no reports of confirmed breeding were received.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa

Red

Rare 53 bp

25y trend: stable 0%

Near-complete

12 sites: 45–51 pairs. The northerly breeding population, comprising birds of the Icelandic race L. i. islandica, which is flourishing in Iceland, continues to maintain low numbers. Farther south, numbers of the nominate race L. l. limosaare at a low ebb at just 42 pairs; as usual, the bulk of these were on the Nene Washes in Cambridgeshire. There, and on the nearby Ouse Washes, in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, productivity suffers from spring flooding (Ratcliffe et al. 2005) and high rates of nest and chick predation. The EU-LIFE funded ‘Project Godwit’ is, among other activities, trialling the ‘headstarting’ (rearing and release of birds from eggs collected from first clutches laid in the wild that would otherwise be lost) of godwits. In 2018, in addition to the 18 wild-fledged birds, 15 birds were headstarted from eggs collected on the Nene Washes, and 23 on the Ouse Washes, resulting in a substantial increase in overall productivity. In addition, nine of the 26 birds headstarted in 2017 were recorded back on Fenland breeding sites, one of which bred successfully and at least one other attempted to do so. That in the second year of the project headstarted birds have survived, returned to the Fens, and better still, bred successfully offers encouragement for this new approach to preventing the second extirpation of the Black-tailed Godwit as a breeding bird in England. 

Black-tailed Godwit

S

CP

TP

YF

L. l. limosa

 

 

 

 

England, SW

1

1

1

0

England, E

3

39

39

18 (38)

Cambridgeshire

2

33

33

18 (15)

Norfolk

1

6

6

0 (23)

England, N

1

1

2

0

Lancs & N Mersey

1

1

2

0

 

L. l. islandica

 

 

 

 

Scotland, N & W

7

4

9

0

Orkney

2

4

4

0

Outer Hebrides

5

0

5

0

TOTALS

12

45

51

18 (38)

Fledged numbers given in parentheses refer to birds reared in captivity from wild-laid eggs collected from first clutches.

Ruff Calidris pugnax

Red

Very rare 12 females

25y trend: weak decrease -45%

Near-complete

Eight sites: 0–9 breeding females. This is a very similar return to that in 2017. There was little evidence to suggest that breeding occurred in 2018.

England, E
Lincolnshire One site: two females with three males at a lek in late May, with one female staying into June.

England, N
Cheshire & Wirral One site: one female and four males at a lek.

Scotland, N & W
Argyll One site: one female with up to six males at a lek. Orkney Two sites: (1) one female at a lek with up to five males at dates in June; (2) one female and up to three males lekking between 29th April and 1st May. Outer Hebrides Three sites: (1) one female and up to four males from 8th May with birds present until 13th June; (2) one female and up to three males between 10th May and 18th June, with copulation seen on one date; (3) pair between 24th and 29th May. 

Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima

Amber

Very rare 1 bp

25y trend: strong decrease -58%

Near-complete

One site: one pair. Breeding was confirmed at a traditional site in northern Scotland. Breeding has been reported from this vicinity since 1980, although not in all years.

Scotland, N
One site: one pair with chicks was reported between 2nd and 18th July (plate 435); both chicks had fledged by the latter date

435.jpg

435. Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima chicks, with an out-of-focus adult in the foreground, taken under licence northern Scotland, July 2018.

Peter Stronach

Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus

Red

Rare 78 bp

25y trend: strong increase 263%

Near-complete

40 sites: 22–108 breeding pairs/males. In the 2017 report we highlighted the increase in the number of ‘pairs’ reported during 2015–17, and how the reasons for this increase were unclear. That population growth may be due to efforts to improve the management of their wetland breeding sites; alternatively, drivers working at a global scale may be responsible, particularly given the remarkable migration to the Pacific that UK-breeding phalaropes undertake (Smith et al. 2014, 2018). Regardless of the causes, this increase has continued (fig. 4), with the smoothed trend (based upon running 5-year means) having increased by 165% in the last ten years. While the majority of the UK’s population breeds in Shetland, there have been notable increases in Argyll and Outer Hebrides since 2015, and the species bred successfully on Fair Isle for the second year in succession.

In addition to the data for 2018, we can now confirm the first-ever breeding attempts by Red-necked Phalaropes in England, in 2014 and 2015: an account of this unexpected event is in prep. for BB.

Red-necked Phalarope

S

CP

TP

Scotland, N & W

40

22

108

Argyll

3

10

11

Fair Isle

1

2

2

Highland

1

0

1

Orkney

1

1

1

Outer Hebrides

7

5

17

Shetland

27

4

76

TOTALS

40

22

108

RBBP fig 4.png

Fig. 4. Numbers of breeding Red-necked Phalaropes Phalaropus lobatus in the UK, 1973–2018: maximum total numbers, 5-year running mean and number of breeding sites.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 

Amber

Very rare 2 bp

15y trend: stable -18%

Near-complete

Two sites: 1–2 pairs. A pair with three chicks is the first confirmed breeding since 2011. 

Scotland, N & W
Highland Two sites: one possible and one confirmed breeding pair.

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola

Amber

Rare 32 bp

25y trend: strong increase +571%

High

23 sites: 4–41 pairs. Although variation in coverage gives rise to fluctuations between years, there has been a steady underlying increase in the number of Wood Sandpipers reported over the last 30 years. It seems likely that this increase is at least partly genuine, even though increased survey effort will have contributed. While there are sites of particular importance for this species, the number of sites has increased in parallel with the population growth (fig. 5).

Wood Sandpiper

S

CP

TP

Scotland, Mid

1

0

1

North-east Scotland

1

0

1

Scotland, N & W

22

4

40

Caithness

1

0

1

Highland

21

4

39

TOTALS

23

4

41

RBBP fig 5.png

Fig. 5. Numbers of breeding Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola in the UK, 1973–2018: maximum total numbers, 5-year running mean and number of breeding sites.

Greenshank Tringa nebularia

Amber

Less scarce 1,080 bp*

(no trend available)

Low

18–100 pairs. Very few records of Greenshanks are received, considering that the species is a conspicuous presence across wetlands and peatlands in northwest Scotland, as mapped in last year’s report (Holling et al. 2019). We again request that birdwatchers submit all records of Greenshanks in breeding habitat between May and July to the relevant county recorder.

* Hancock et al. (1997)

Greenshank

TP

Scotland, Mid

5

Perth & Kinross

5

Scotland, N & W

95

Argyll

15

Caithness

15

Highland

46

Outer Hebrides

18

Shetland

1

TOTALS

100

Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus

Amber

Less scarce 1,481 bp

25y trend: strong increase +6,571%

Near-complete

50 sites: 2,373–2,400 pairs. This total represents a remarkable increase of 971 pairs from the 1,399–1,429 reported in 2017, largely due to the numbers at just one site, Langstone Harbour in Hampshire, which held 1,736 pairs in 2018. Numbers there have fluctuated between years, as they have in the other stronghold, in north Kent, where numbers were low in 2018, most likely due to disturbance on the breeding islands in the Medway Estuary.

Mediterranean Gulls first bred in the UK in 1968, at Needs Ore Point in Hampshire. For the next 30 years numbers grew slowly, reaching 100 pairs only in 2000. Since then population growth has been more rapid (fig. 6), albeit with considerable fluctuations between years. The record total in 2018 was substantially above the threshold of 2,000 pairs which the RBBP uses for inclusion in this report; and the continued presence of Mediterranean Gull on our species list will be under review. It is important to be confident that the population level is likely to be sustained above 2,000 pairs before we cease our reporting effort. There has been no significant expansion in range or the number of sites occupied in recent years, with just six sites holding 90% of the population in 2018; events such as disturbance, predation or flooding at just one or two sites could therefore have a population-level impact.

Mediterranean Gull

S

CP

TP

England, SW

6

1,895

1,896

Dorset

1

155

155

Gloucestershire

1

0

1

Hampshire

4

1,740

1,740

England, SE

12

293

294

Berkshire

1

1

1

Essex

4

34

34

Kent

4

161

161

Surrey

1

1

2

Sussex

2

96

96

England, E

10

114

123

Lincolnshire

5

0

8

Norfolk

3

66

66

Northamptonshire

1

0

1

Suffolk

1

48

48

England, C

6

4

9

Derbyshire

1

1

1

Staffordshire

2

0

4

Warwickshire

1

1

1

West Midlands

1

1

2

Worcestershire

1

1*

1*

England, N

10

53

61

Cheshire & Wirral

2

4

4

Greater Manchester

2

0

2

Lancs & N Mersey

2

45

47

Northumberland

1

2

4

Yorkshire

3

2

4

Wales

2

0

2

Anglesey

1

0

1

Breconshire

1

0

1

Northern Ireland

4

14

15

Co. Antrim

1

5

5

Co. Down

2

9

9

Co. Fermanagh

1

0

1

TOTALS

50

2,373

2,400

(* mixed pair)

 

 

 

 

RBBP art Med Gull Dave Nurney.jpg

Mediterranean Gulls Ichthyaetus melanocephalus Dave Nurney

RBBP fig 6.png

Fig. 6. Numbers of breeding Mediterranean Gulls Ichthyaetus melanocephalus in the UK, 1973–2018: maximum total numbers and 5-year running mean.

Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis

 

Occasional breeder

 

 

In Perth & Kinrossone adult was seen in a Common Gull L. canus colony on one date only. The bird has visited this colony since 2009.

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis

Amber

Very rare 2 bp

15y trend: weak decrease -33%

Near-complete

Three sites: One pair and three possible mixed pairs. As reported last year, doubts have been raised over whether the pair that has bred in Hampshire since 2014 is pure michahellis, particularly as mixed pairings with Herring Gulls L. argentatus occurred at the same site prior to this.

England, SW
Hampshire One site: one pair bred, one young fledged. 

England, E
Cambridgeshire One site: a third-summer paired with a Herring Gull on 25th March, and a second-summer was holding territory in July.

Scotland, S
Clyde One site: a bird in an urban gull colony on 5th–10th April was observed displaying and long-calling to Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls L. fuscus

Little Tern Sternula albifrons

Amber

Less scarce 1,418 bp

15y trend: stable -13%

Near-complete

51 sites: 1,379 pairs. Numbers dropped below the recent average in 2018, and productivity was low; the total fledged was the lowest since at least 2007. Norfolk holds the highest numbers of Little Terns in the UK, but productivity there is frequently low, well below the rate of 0.74 chicks per pair required to maintain numbers (Cook & Robinson 2010). Productivity was poor elsewhere, with just 31 chicks from 212 pairs in northern England. By contrast, the colony at Gronant, Denbigh & Flint, produced over one chick per pair for the third successive year and the number of pairs there continues to grow.

One of the threats to the species was well studied in 2018. On 14th June, Storm Hector brought a one-metre tidal surge in the Irish Sea, inundating many nests in Cumbria, the Isle of Man and Gronant (and also in Ireland). At Gronant, about 82 nests survived the storm intact but at least 89 were washed out and failed, and about ten nests were inundated but incubated to hatching. Fortunately, the date was sufficiently early in the breeding season for some birds to lay again at Gronant, including some colour-ringed birds displaced from other colonies, and 99 new nests were started from seven days after the storm.

Little Tern

S

CP

YF

England, SW

4

120

42

Dorset

1

37

25

Hampshire

3

83

17

England, SE

9

65

26

Essex

4

22

11

Kent

3

11

2

Sussex

2

32

13

England, E

12

673

226

Lincolnshire

2

28

6

Norfolk

8

590

216

Suffolk

2

55

4

England, N

8

212

31

Cleveland

2

10

0

Cumbria

3

60

27

Northumberland

2

109

0

Yorkshire

1

33

4

Wales

2

172

192

Denbigh & Flint

2

172

192

Scotland, Mid

2

29

16

Moray & Nairn

1

3

3

North-east Scotland

1

26

13

Scotland, N & W

13

96

42

Argyll

5

57

21

Highland

4

5

0

Orkney

2

17

21

Outer Hebrides

2

17

0

Isle of Man

1

12

0

TOTALS

51

1,379

575

Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii

Red

Rare 109 bp

25y trend: stable 2%

Near-complete

Three sites: 120 pairs. As normal, the great majority of the UK population bred on Coquet Island, in Northumberland, but there was successful breeding by single pairs at two other colonies, one each in Northern Ireland and Wales. In Scotland, a mixed pair (with a Common Tern S. hirundo) in Lothian laid two eggs. The Coquet colony continues to grow and this is the highest UK total reported since 1989, although productivity was markedly down from the 166 fledged in 2017.

Roseate Tern

S

CP

YF

England, N

1

118

108

Northumberland

1

118

108

Wales

1

1

2

Anglesey

1

1

2

Scotland, S

1

1*

0

Lothian

1

1*

0

Northern Ireland

1

1

2

Co. Antrim

1

1

2

TOTALS

4

121

112

(* mixed pair)

 

 

 

Black Tern Chlidonias niger 

Green

Occasional breeder

 

 

In Yorkshire, a single bird summered, present at Swillington Ings from 24th May to 17th August. Presumably the same bird was seen there in 2016 (5th June to 15th August) and 2017 (27th May to 3rd August). Black Terns bred in the UK on five occasions between 1966 and 1978 but have not done so since, although breeding was suspected in 1983.

Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 

Red

Scarce 785 bp*

15y trend (survey): strong decrease -37%

Low

174 AOTs.

For many of the territories reported, breeding success was not monitored, so the numbers of fledged young given here cannot be taken as a measure of productivity. Moreover, it is not always clear where breeding success has been monitored, which would allow us to separate out those counts. One fledged bird from 28 monitored pairs on Fair Isle does nothing to assuage concerns about this species’ future in the UK, although 12 from 26 pairs at one Orkney site was noted as a considerable improvement on productivity in 2017. 

* Woodward et al. (2020).

Arctic Skua

S

AOT

YF

Scotland, N & W

32

174

25

Argyll

2

2

0

Fair Isle

1

28

1

Highland

2

3

0

Orkney

12

76

20

Outer Hebrides

11

41

4

Shetland

4

24

0

TOTALS

32

174

25

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata

Green

Less scarce 1,255 bp*

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

Low

181–231 pairs. Other than those from monitoring plots in Shetland, numbers of Red-throated Divers reported to the RBBP are low. The last full survey was in 2006, and we have little idea of trends since then.

* Dillon et al. (2009).

Red-throated Diver

CP

TP

Scotland, S

2

3

Clyde Islands

2

3

Scotland, Mid

4

5

Moray & Nairn

3

4

North-east Scotland

1

1

Scotland, N & W

175

223

Argyll

0

1

Caithness

0

3

Highland

14

23

Orkney

58

68

Outer Hebrides

11

20

Shetland

92

108

TOTALS

181

231

Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica

Amber

Rare 217 bp*

12y trend (survey): stable +16%

Low

21–46 pairs. Typically, numbers reported were low and unrepresentative of the population. Again, we urge all resident and visiting birdwatchers in the north and west of Scotland to report Black-throated Divers from potential breeding lochs and not to assume that birds will be reported by others – as the low numbers (likely to represent one-quarter of the population, at best) given here indicate, in most cases they are not reported! As for Red-throated Diver, there has not been a full survey since 2006.

* Eaton et al. (2007).

Black-throated Diver

CP

TP

Scotland, S

0

2

Ayrshire

0

1

Clyde

0

1

Scotland, Mid

1

6

Moray & Nairn

1

1

Perth & Kinross

0

5

Scotland, N & W

20

38

Argyll

3

4

Caithness

0

4

Highland

13

25

Outer Hebrides

4

5

TOTALS

21

46

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

Amber

Very rare 23 bp

(no trend available but increasing)

Near-complete

Three sites: 30–34 pairs. The colony in Norfolk had its most successful year yet, and we might anticipate that these offspring will lead to further range expansion in the UK. Not many, however, would have predicted Orkney as the next location for breeding. Even so, this remarkable record is not the first for Scotland: a pair reared three young in Dumfries & Galloway in 2008 (Collin 2009).

England, E
Norfolk One site: 28 pairs bred, fledging 48 young. A further four pairs were prospecting.

England, N
Yorkshire One site: one pair bred fledging four young.

Scotland, N & W
Orkney One site: one pair bred, fledging two or three young from a nest among a gull colony. A family party seen in Caithness on 3rd August were presumably these birds. 

Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris

Amber

Rare 186 booming males

25y trend: strong increase +860%

Near-complete

98 sites: 74–213 pairs. Another year, another opportunity for the ‘Bitterns are booming’ headline: the maximum number of booming Bitterns has increased every year since 2006 and in 2018 exceeded 200 for the first time.

Eurasian Bittern

sites

booming males (min)

booming males (max)

nests (min)

nests (max)

TP

England, SW

17

63

63

24

24

63

Dorset

1

1

1

0

0

1

Gloucestershire

3

3

3

0

0

3

Hampshire

1

1

1

0

0

1

Isle of Wight

1

1

1

1

1

1

Somerset

9

55

55

23

23

55

Wiltshire

2

2

2

0

0

2

England, SE

10

13

13

3

3

13

Bedfordshire

3

3

3

0

0

3

Kent

5

7

7

1

1

7

Oxfordshire

1

2

2

2

2

2

Sussex

1

1

1

0

0

1

England, E

53

95

105

34

40

108

Cambridgeshire

8

23

24

7

7

24

Lincolnshire

4

5

6

3

4

7

Norfolk

28

30

37

6

9

37

Suffolk

13

37

38

18

20

40

England, C

3

1

3

0

0

3

Nottinghamshire

2

1

2

0

0

2

Staffordshire

1

0

1

0

0

1

England, N

10

14

18

10

11

19

Greater Manchester

1

0

1

0

0

1

Lancs & N Mersey

2

3

4

2

2

4

Yorkshire

7

11

13

8

9

14

Wales

5

7

7

3

3

7

Anglesey

3

5

5

2

2

5

Ceredigion

1

1

1

0

0

1

Gwent

1

1

1

1

1

1

TOTALS

98

193

209

74

81

213

These figures are based on the RSPB monitoring methodology; the minimum figure is based on the number of nests found. 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.

American Bittern Botaurus lentiginosus 

 

Potential breeder

 

 

In Suffolk, a male at Carlton Marshes from 7th April to 16th May, which showed extremely well at times (plate 767), was one of the highlights of 2018 for many birdwatchers and is the first record of this species in a RBBP report. It was recorded singing, a three-syllable ‘pumping’ sound, heard from 2nd May onwards. While American Bittern remains an extremely rare vagrant – this individual was only the tenth record for Britain since 1950 – a singing male is not without precedent in Europe: a bird held territory at Bygholm Vejle, Denmark, for the four breeding seasons between 2001 and 2004.

436.jpg

436. Male American Bittern Botaurus lentiginosus, Suffolk, May 2018.

Richard Stonier

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus

 

Very rare 4 males

(no trend available)

Near-complete

One site: one male. Breeding Little Bitterns can be extremely elusive, particularly in extensive wetlands such as the Avalon Marshes in Somerset, from which there were records of barking males in every year between 2009 and 2017. Although breeding was proven in only five of those years, this did seem to indicate the establishment of a small population, so the complete absence of records in 2018 is something of a surprise. The only record in 2018 came from a much smaller wetland in Shropshire, perhaps unlikely ever to be more than a temporary home for an overshooting migrant.

England, C
Shropshire One site: one singing male from 6th to 13th July.

Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

 

Colonising breeder

 

 

One site: one possible pair. After tantalising sightings in 2015 and 2016 (Holling et al. 2017, 2018), in 2017 breeding was proven in the Avalon Marshes, Somerset, for the first time in the UK (Holling et al. 2019). In 2018 there were just inconclusive sightings of adult bird(s). It is hardly surprising that this area, already home to up to six other species of heron, might prove attractive to colonising Night Herons. But nor is it surprising, given the large area of suitable habitat and the elusive and nocturnal nature of this species, that proving breeding remains challenging.

England, SW
Somerset One site: at least one bird present between 20th April and 19th July. 

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

 

Colonising breeder

 

 

Four sites: 3–5 pairs; 2+ young fledged. Although there were fewer pairs than in 2017, breeding occurred for the second year in a row, and it may be that the on/off colonisation of the UK is back on.

England, SW
Cornwall One site: one possible breeding pair. Somerset Two sites: (1) two pairs bred, each fledged one young; (2) one pair bred, three chicks seen in nest.

England, E
Cambridgeshire One site: one possible breeding pair.

Great White Egret Ardea alba

 

Very rare 9 bp

(no trend available but increasing)

Near-complete

Six sites: 12–18 pairs. Another increase in numbers, but with breeding still confined to two sites. Elsewhere, birds are becoming increasingly frequent and are now more or less resident in some counties; we note records of possible breeding where two or more adults are present at a potential breeding site through the breeding season.

England, SW
Hampshire One site: one possible pair, with 1–2 birds reported on many dates and four on one occasion. Somerset One site: a minimum of ten pairs bred; 19 young fledged.

England, E
Cambridgeshire Three sites where birds lingered throughout the summer: (1) three possible breeding pairs; (2)–(3) one possible breeding pair. Norfolk One site: two pairs bred, fledging two young each. Another five birds were present in the area. 

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Green

Less scarce 1,260 bp

15y trend: strong increase +1,001%

High

161 sites: 1,168–1,325 pairs. There was a notable drop in numbers reported in 2018, and it seems likely that the hard weather in late February and early March was directly responsible. The greatest fall in numbers was in eastern England, down from 412 to 245 pairs, with some colonies more than halving in number and tens of dead birds being found. At the northern edge of the range, Little Egrets disappeared from Northumberland, having bred there for the previous four years but, conversely, increased in numbers in Cumbria, where they would have escaped the worst of the cold snap.

Little Egret

S

TP

England, SW

35

250

Avon