Category Archives: HOMEPAGE

Starting of the farmland bird monitoring in European Russia

In the conditions of huge territories and a variety of landscapes of the European Russia, at the restricted amount of professional ornithologists and very insufficient modern financing of ornithological and conservation researches, it is extremely difficult to obtain enough exact data on farmland bird trends.
Now there are essential changes in the Russian agriculture, which directions are variously in different regions of Russia. In southern regions and in the Volga District the intensification of agriculture gradually begins, whereas in northwest and northern regions recession of agriculture and abandonment of farmland proceeds. An absence of long-term monitoring in Russia is significantly risky for some farmland bird populations. Without long-term monitoring we have no opportunities to notice the beginning of numbers decrease, and to accept preclusive measures for protection of some species. It is very serious, because Russian populations of some birds are the largest in Europe. They can be considered as the important reserve for additional charge and restoration of local (regional) populations in some European countries. In this connection, starting of the farmland bird monitoring in European Russia and its accession to the Pan-European Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBM) is extremely important.

Yellow Wagtail in the hay meadow near Ryasan, photo by A. MischenkoIn 2006 we could begin monitoring of farmland birds in the European Russia due to financial support of the Dutch embassy in Moscow. Russian coordinator of this program is Alexander Mischenko.

Basis of the farmland bird monitoring in the European Russia are experienced volunteers, circles of young ornithologists and some professional ornithologists, who agree to participate in the monitoring voluntary, in addition to their basic work.
After wide dissemination of the information about the probable beginning of the Farmland Bird Monitoring in Russia via the magazine of RBCU “World of birds” and the web-site of the Russian Bird Conservation Union (RBCU) we have received the offers on participation in the monitoring from 36 volunteers, some from them can cover several census routes.
Thus we plan to cover more than 40 census sites. They are enough widely distributed on the territory of the European Russia (from Komi and Karelia republics in the north taiga zone to Dagestan Republic near the Caspian Sea; from the Kaliningrad Region on coast of Baltic in the West to the Volga basin in the East).

The objectives of the work are:

  • Making the network of volunteers, participating in bird counts, attraction their attention to problems of the biodiversity conservation in farmlands.
  • Including the European Russia into the PECBM scheme, producing relative national indices and trends on the standard PECBM methods in the nearest years, first of all for the indicator farmland bird species.
  • The wide information about results of the first stage of monitoring in the European Russia in the magazine and the web-site of the RBCU and some other magazines, with the purpose of money search for continuation of the farmland bird monitoring the next years, increase in number of voluntary participants and amount of census plots.

Beforehand, prior to the beginning of field works, the detailed guidelines and special standardised survey forms were dispatched to all participants of the monitoring. The experience obtained during the voluntary based Corncrake Monitoring in European Russia (2002-2005), was critically analysed and used. After receiving of the guidelines, participants sent many questions, which the coordinator constantly answered by e-mail or by mail.
In connection with that in Russia is impossible to cover the territory with systematic survey squares (1×1 km) now, census routes will be selected freely by observers: participants of monitoring will choose places of their summer vacations, vicinities of summerhouses (dachas), areas of basic field works, biological stations, etc. We have decided to use the method of routing counts in the length of 2 km, developed by Jury Ravkin (Ravkin, 1967) and widely used by Russian ornithologists; with registration of birds on a distance from the surveyor. Application of this method will allow using earlier data, available in some regions for comparison. However, the census plots should be typical for regional farmland. Data on bird numbers will be collected annually by the censuses on transect routes 2-kilometer length. Observers will make three visits to selected sites, the first to record habitat types and to set up a suitable survey route, and the second and third to record birds that are seen or heard while walking along the route. Their terms will vary a little, depending on latitude.
For motivation of volunteers an annual newsletter will be issued, in which participants of monitoring can publish short notes on results of the work. Also gifts for the most active observers are supposed (binoculars, t-shirts, field guides etc.).

Expected results
We suppose that the main result of the work in the first year will be starting of the farmland bird monitoring in the European Russia. It will be the first step to yearly provision of bird species indices in Russia by the national coordinator. In the next years these data can become an important part of the Pan-European Bird Monitoring Scheme.
In 2006 volunteers will do surveys only in different types of farmland, not mentioning forest sites and others habitats, because we did not manage to find money by the beginning of woodland bird monitoring. But nevertheless, by way of experiment, we have decided to try to carry out counts in several wood sites, also with application of volunteers, on the similar methods.
We are planning actively search money for the continuation of monitoring of all common birds (in farmland and woodland habitats) in the next years. In this case European Russia can be integrated into the PECBM. We hope that in the next years Russian data will enable to calculate more correct indices and trends of the farmland birds for Europe as a whole.
Contact: Alexander Mischenko, Russian Bird Conservation Union, e-mail:

Alexander Mischenko

Report on the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring, April 2006

Detailed report on progress in the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring (PECBM) for period 2002-2005 was presented at the PECBM workshop in September 2005. This report aims to inform about developments in the project in period from July 2005 to April 2006, although some activities mentioned in this report were realised even before July 2005.
As it was widely publicised, also at this web site, updated European indices and indicators for time period 1980-2003 have been produced using the data provided kindly by 18 European countries. The indicators were officially launched in June 2005 in Brussels and since farmland bird indicator has been accepted to the long list of EU Structural Indicators and also to EU Sustainale Development Indicators, the index of farmland birds is also available at the Eurostat web site.
Furthermore, European indices and trends of 77 species have been made available at this web site.The species trends were presented also at EOU conference in Strasbourg (August 2005) and the first glossy report State of Europe’s Common Birds is to be published in Spring 2006. The PECBM was mentioned, recommended or PECBM outputs were used at several other opportunities by various institutions and individuals. For instance, wild bird indicator was suggested in press release and report by European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC); mentioned in EEA core set indicators guide or “Environmental Indicators for Agriculture” report by OECD.
Major event for Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring was a workshop organised in September 2005 in Prague, Czech Republic. National monitoring coordinators, other experts on bird monitoring, representatives of BirdLife Partners and national EBCC delegates met to hear about progress in the project since 2002, discuss practical issues (e.g. selection of species for indicators or combinig data from more schemes in one country) and share experience with running a monitoring scheme including such difficult issues as funding or motivating volunteers as fieldworkers. The workshop program, presentations, outputs from discussion groups and conclusions from the workshop were published in electronic form on a CD-ROM, which is available at the project coordinator on request.

Participants of the workshop in Prague, September 2005, photo by Z. VermouzekAccording to the workshop conclusions, new data collation procedure was intended to start in January 2006, data to be collated by the end of April/beginning of May 2006. The aim is to produce updated indices and indicators by the end of 2006. Ideally, the updated European indices will include data from 2005 too. Implementation of this plan has been dependent on species selection – new lists of species based on work of regional coordinators appointed at the workshop were expected before the end of 2005.
However, not all the regional species lists were delivered on time. Thus, it was decided to continue working on species selection in parallel with data collation. National indices of all species with data available in countries will be collated and species for indicators selected later. New data provision forms were distributed to national/regional monitoring coordinators at the end of March 2006 with deadline by the end of May 2006.
Data management and production of the outputs become more complicated with increasing number of contributing countries, increasing number of species we produce trends and indices, which means we need to improve our system of data flow and computation procedures and also quality control. We need to increase capacity at national level and make production of national trends and indices easier for national monitoring coordinators. This will be possible thanks to a grant by the European Commission, which started in January 2006 and will last to September 2007. The objectives of the grant are: 1. to ensure updated European wild bird indicators can be produced regularly, 2. to improve wild bird monitoring data analysis and quality control techniques,3. to improve quality and speed of data flow from countries to the PECBM co-ordinator, 4. to improve the quality and scientific credibility of the indicators.
The project will implement a standardised system for automated data collection and analysis for use by the national monitoring schemes. The system in place for creating indicators at the European level from national data will also be improved. A full review on wild bird monitoring schemes in Europe will be undertaken to assess current status and identify areas for further improvement. Best Practice guidance for national wild bird monitoring will be prepared and disseminated. An ecological analysis of population status and trends amongst wild bird species within Europe will be undertaken to identify trends and patterns. This will be used to validate the monitoring data upon which the indicators are based. The monitoring network will be maintained through visits of the coordination staff to participating countries, and through the dissemination of network reports to share progress and results. The project will be promoted through pages on the EBCC website, through presentations at relevant conferences, and through the production of the ‘State of Europe’s Common Birds report’. New staff, a technical assistant of the project coordinator, will be hired.
We have also seen development in monitoring at national level. New project “Strengthening the Capacity of NGOs to create and use Wild Bird Indicators as tools to affect policy change for the achievement of the Convention of Biological Diversity and European Union targets to halt biodiversity loss by 2010” has received the support by GEF recently with seven countries involved: Bulgaria (BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria, leading partner), Belarus (APB/BirdLife Belarus), Macedonia (Macedonian Ecological Society), Romania (ROS/BirdLife Romania), Turkey (Doğa Derneği/BirdLife Affiliate in Turkey), Poland (OTOP/BirdLife Poland) and Lithuania (LOD/BirdLife Lithuania). New common farmland bird monitoring scheme commenced in Russia with a support by the Netherland’s embassy in Moscow. Such development at national level brings a hope that we will be able to make a gap in PECBM geographical coverage smaller within next few years.
We are grateful to all, who contributed to the project. Particularly coordinators of national or regional monitoring schemes, BirdLife partners, EBCC national delegates and thousands of volunteer ornithologists across Europe. Data analysis would not have been possible without huge effort of Arco Van Strien and Adriaan Gmelig Meyling at Statistics Netherlands. Members of an informal Technical group, Richard Gregory (RSPB), David Noble (BTO), Ruud Foppen (SOVON), Arco Van Strien (CBS) and Gregoire Lois (ETC) contributed by many valuable suggestions and comments. We also thank to Zoltan Waliczky (RSPB) and Norbert Schaffer (RSPB) for their help and support.
Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Project is a joint project of BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council, supported by the European Commission, Directorate General Environment, and by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The sole responsibility lies with the author of this article and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Project manager: Richard Gregory, Head of Monitoring and Survey, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom, SG19 2DL, Sandy, e-mail:
Project coordinator: Petr Voříšek, Czech Society for Ornithology, V Olšinách 449/41, CZ-100 00 Prague 10, Czech Republic, e-mail:

Petr Voříšek

Population trends of European common birds, 2005 update

We thank to Richard Gregory, Arco Van Strien, Adriaan Gmelig Meyling, Ian Burfield, Grégoire Loïs, Ruud Foppen, David Noble and Zoltan Waliczky for valuable comments and help with data collation, analysis and for general support.
Special thanks to the data providers & organisations responsible for national data collection and analysis: Norbert Teufelbauer, Christian Vansteenwegen, Anne Weiserbs, Michael Dvorak, Jean-Paul Jacob, Anny Anselin, Karel Šťastný, Vladimír Bejček, Henning Heldbjerg, Andres Kuresoo, Risto Vaisanen, Frederic Jiguet, Martin Flade, Johannes Schwarz, Tibor Szep, Olivia Crowe, Lorenzo Fornasari, Ainars Aunins, Magne Husby, Przemek Chylarecki, Juan Carlos del Moral, Ramón Martí, Ake Lindström, Hans Schmid, David G. Noble, Ruud P. B. Foppen.
Thanks to the many thousands of skilled volunteer counters responsible for data collection.
The project has been supported by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), the BirdLife International Partner in the UK. Since January 2006 the project has been supported by the European Community. Sole responsibility lies with the author and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained in this document. Other significant partners of the project are: Statistics Netherlands, Czech Society for Ornithology (CSO), BirdLife International Partner in the Czech Republic, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Dutch Organisation for Field Ornithology (SOVON).

Trend information was derived from annually operated national breeding bird surveys spanning different periods from 18 European countries, obtained through the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS). A software package named TRIM (which allows for missing counts in the time series and yields unbiased yearly indices and standard errors using Poisson regression) was used to calculate national species´ indices and then to combine these into supranational indices for species, weighted by estimates of national population sizes. Weighting allows for the fact that different countries hold different proportions of each species´ European population. Updated population size estimates were used for weighting, derived from BirdLife International (2004). Although national schemes differ in count methods in the field, these differences do not influence the supranational results because the indices are standardised before being combined. An improved hierarchical imputation procedure was used to calculate supranational indices.

Countries contributing trend information were: Austria, Belgium (Brussels region), Denmark, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom (European Union countries); Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary (countries acceded to the EU in 2004); plus Norway and Switzerland.

Forest or farmland species were selected following Tucker & Evans (1997). A third group (other common species) captured those species frequently monitored but not specialists of those habitats. This includes many generalist species, occurring across a range of varied habitats, but also some birds that are specialists of other habitat types.

Trends of species
Trends of common farmland birds in Europe
Trends of common forest birds in Europe
Trends of other common birds in Europe

Petr Voříšek

Common Bird Monitoring Scheme in Bulgaria

Bulgaria was identified as a priority country for the common bird monitoring scheme by an international monitoring workshop in Prague in 2002. Establishing such a scheme in Bulgaria would extend the geographical coverage of the monitoring significantly into southeast Europe. Bulgaria is a pre-accession country and has the highest species richness in Europe. Given accession in 2007, the timing of the project would allow pre-accession data to be collected.

At the beginning of 2004 the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), with the financial and methodological support from the Royal Society for the Protection of Bird (RSPB), started a pilot common bird monitoring scheme. The project aims at establishing a national widespread breeding bird monitoring scheme based on the UK Breeding Bird Survey model and incorporating the experience from other European countries. The major objective of the scheme is to monitor population trends of widespread birds in Bulgaria in order to assist policy and decision makers on conservation issues in the country.

Survey methods of the Bulgarian CBM scheme closely follow that of the Breeding Birds Survey in the UK. Survey plots are 1×1 km, semi-randomly selected within 10×10 km UTM squares, transect line counts in three distance bands.

In the pilot year (2004) 74 observers from 14 towns and villages took part in the scheme (Figure 1). The total number of covered squares in this pilot year was 75 – one of the observers covered two squares.

Figure 1. Distribution of the surveyed plots in 2004
(10×10 km UTM squares with at least one covered 1×1 km square)

Despite the relatively satisfactory number of volunteers, not all parts of the country are covered, especially in NW and Central Bulgaria.

In total 139 birds species were recorded during the first year of the scheme. 26 prime habitat types out of 42 were covered across the country.
The most numerous species were:

1 Sturnus vulgaris 12 Parus major
2 Alauda arvensis 13 Fringilla coelbs
3 Hirundo rustica 14 Pica pica
4 Delichon urbica 15 Passer montanus
5 Passer domesticus 16 Galerida cristata
6 Miliaria calandra 17 Columba livia forma domestica
7 Turdus merula 18 Streptopelia turtur
8 Luscinia megarhynchos 19 Cuculus canorus
9 Lanius collurio 20 Motacilla flava
10 Oriolus oriolus 21 Emberiza melanocephala
11 Garrulus glandarius 22 Merops apiaster

The preliminary results from the second year for the Bulgarian scheme are also quite positive. Over 130 observers from 24 towns and villages across Bulgaria covered their squares. 90% of the volunteers who took part in the scheme in 2004 covered their squares in 2005 as well. The distribution of the sample squares is much more even throughout the country (Figure 2) in comparison with 2004.

Figure 2. Distribution of the surveyed plots in 2005

The main challenges for BSPB in the future are to keep the current rate of the recruitment of observers and to increase the knowledge of young and inexperienced volunteers about bird identification.

Svetoslav Spasov
BSPB Monitoring Officer

Report on Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring, August 2004.

The indicators received big attention from various institutions incl. Eurostat and European Commission. Procedure of data collation and species selection were improved and the new data collation started. It is supposed that updated indices and indicators could be available by the end of 2004. Several tasks were not realised because of capacity reasons. Capacity at international and national level is still limiting factor and has been addressed in long-term plan and budget of the project.

We have produced first Pan-European indices and trends of selected 48 common bird species in cooperation with national monitoring coordinators from 18 European countries, who contributed with their national indices of the species. Furthermore, combined indices (indicators) of farmland and woodland common bird species have been produced. Individual species trends and indices and indicators are available at the internet. Production of indices and indicators has been a great success. Although we need to improve our procedure and outputs, we have shown that we are able to deliver relevant indicators.
The project outputs have been promoted, published and used at various opportunities: The farmland bird indicator was published in BirdLife International publication „State of the Worlds Birds“. The EU institutions have been provided by the indicators that could be used for IRENA Report, European Action Plan for Skylark, European Commission 2003 Environment Policy Review and leaflet on indicators etc. BirdLife International has been provided by project outputs to be used in „Farming for Life“ campaign.
The project outputs have been used by BirdLife partners or EBCC delegates at their national level too.
The project was presented at several international fora including BirdLife International World Conference and Partnership Meeting in Durban (South Africa) in March 2004 and the conference “Beyond extinction rates: monitoring wild nature for the 2010 target” organised by the Royal Society in London.
However, planned Report State of Europe’s Common Birds was not published mainly because of capacity reasons and also because we hope to get improved and updated results in 2004, which will be more suitable for the report. Also because of limited capacity we did not succeed to produce Best Practice Guide for national monitoring coordinators. Publication of results in a scientific paper is in progress and hopefully we will get a paper published soon. Simple web page has been established as a communication tool and it is intended to develop it more within EBCC web site which is under preparation currently.
It is obvious from above, that capacity and funding are major factors limiting further development and improvement of the project. We need to raise enough funds for national monitoring schemes and international coordination to ensure long-term sustainability of the project. This issue has been addressed in five-year plan, which was prepared during the last project period and which poses a framework for our work in near future. We have also already started to collate data from countries in order to produce updated indices and indicators in 2004. We have improved species selection criteria and enlarged number of species (from 48 in 2003 to 84 in 2004) and number of contributing countries. Data analysis procedure has been a subject of further improvement too. We can expect updated indices and
indicators to be available by the end of 2004. Apart of two big tasks, production of updated indices and ndicators and publication of the Report State of Europe’s Common Birds mentioned above, we will focus our effort on assistance to national monitoring schemes, advocacy work and further scientific improvement of the methodology.

Producing European indices and indicators would not have been possible without the efforts of the many ornithologists across Europe who kindly cooperated in the project, provided us with national indices or helped us in
other ways to get the data. Data has been analysed together with Arco Van Strien and Adriaan Gmelig Meyling at Statistics Netherlands. Richard Gregory (RSPB), David Noble (BTO) and Ruud Foppen (SOVON) contributed also by many valuable suggestions and comments. We also thank all those who have supported the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring scheme, we are grateful to Nicola Crockford (RSPB), Norbert Schaffer (RSPB), Ward Hagemeijer (Wetlands International), Dominique Richard, Grégoire Lois, Vibeke Horlyck and the European Topic Centre on Nature Protection & Biodiversity/European Environment Agency for comment and support.
Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Project is a joint project of BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council, funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The project would not have been possible without the fieldwork of thousands of volunteer ornithologists across Europe.

Petr Voříšek

Review of large-scale generic population monitoring schemes in Europe has been published in Bird Census News (Volume 16, N. 1, 2003)

Information on existing common bird monitoring schemes was collected across European countries in 2002 to help development of bird monitoring, particularly Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Project. Results of this survey of surveys show there are 20 countries with data potentially suitable for generating Pan-European indices for common birds, according to the framework adopted at the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring workshop at Prague in September 2002.
Substantial progress has been made in development of common bird monitoring – 13 new schemes have been established since the previous review on monitoring schemes was published in 1998. Recently established schemes are better designed and organised, a benefit of the pooling of experience among monitoring specialists across Europe.
There is a strong trend towards more representative selection of sample plots in new schemes, whereas free choice is a method commonly used by older schemes, and better analytical methods are more often used in new schemes than in older ones. Since free choice of sample plots might bias results, and chaining methods may lead to spurious trends, there is a strong need to improve schemes in these respects in future. Whereas the transition from an older analytical method to a better one may be relatively straightforward, the question of how to change sampling design without losing valuable information from the past sets a big challenge for the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring project.
Other weaknesses and gaps challenge common bird monitoring in Europe, however. There is strong need for training at the national coordination level, and perhaps an even greater need for funding. There must be long-term commitments to funding for national monitoring schemes to make common bird monitoring sustainable. Training and financial support could help to improve scheme design and data analysis in existing monitoring schemes.
The survey has also revealed the remaining gaps in geographical coverage: western European countries have the greatest development of common bird monitoring schemes, while southeastern Europe seems to be the region showing least progress. The biggest challenge is monitoring in eastern European countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Russia) because of their huge area and low density of potential fieldworkers. Existing schemes in some central and eastern European countries also need attention, because they usually lack finance and need improvement. Political events, notably the enlargement of the European Union and the related changes in land-use that are expected through the Common Agricultural Policy, should be considered as important factors for the future development of monitoring schemes. Thus, based on this survey, priority countries that need attention are Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Completing this review would not have been possible without the efforts of the many ornithologists across Europe who kindly filled in the questionnaires to inform us about the current state of monitoring schemes in their countries. We are very grateful to all of them. Special thanks to Anny Anselin, editor of Bird Census News, for her effort spent on this special issue.
The whole issue of the Bird Census News containing Review of large-scale generic population monitoring schemes in Europe and Report on Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring workshop can be downloaded in PDF format here.