Category Archives: HOMEPAGE

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.