With the first three years' breeding seasons provisional data to hand, we can see that 92% of the 394 tetrads have been surveyed, which is excellent. Species richness is generally good, with a median of 53 species per tetrad and 10 scoring 100 or more (in the lead, with 119, is SU97J: which includes Dorney Wetlands). Whilst we have 118 species confirmed as breeding in Berkshire overall, breeding confirmation at the tetrad level still lags behind expectations, with an average of only 18 species per tetrad confirmed as breeding. We have one more season to concentrate on confirmation of breeding - early in 2011 we will be organising workshops and distributing more information about breeding confirmation and gaps in the data.
The species distribution maps have been updated with the 2010 data, though sensitive species are not shown or displayed only at the 10km square level
You probably know that records entered on the berksbirds website (aka Marek's website) are planned to be useable as Atlas records – to aid this Marek added an option to enter breeding status. Until recently we had not extracted these records but Renton recently did so and we identified a number of confirmed breeding species which had not so far been recorded on an Atlas survey. Actually translating these into Atlas records can be a little bit time consuming or even impossible as site names given are not always precise enough to identify the correct tetrad ("Theale GP" could be one of several for example!). However we will be uploading all those records which we can use.
On a similar theme, and as you may know, data from many of the BTO's other surveys and activities have now been added to the Atlas database. Again, a similar problem with site identification to tetrad level occurred but all useable data from BirdTrack, Nest Record Scheme, Ringing and WeBS is now automatically included. Although there was an initial proposal to also include BBS (Breeding Bird Survey) data, this will not now happen. The reason? – too much duplicate information with, at the very best, only "Probable" breeding status.
With the end of surveying in sight, the Atlas Team are currently looking to set up a team of "Species Account Writers" to write the text which will accompany each of the birds which are included in the new Berkshire Atlas. Essentially this will be an update of the text used in the first Atlas, although it will obviously now include new sections on changes which have occurred since its publication and more information about winter status.
We think that many of the scarcer species (which won't have maps) could have their text updated now with, for example, information about sightings in the county which have occurred since the last Atlas. Basic work on all the other species (ie: the commoner ones) could be started now too but only a little can usefully be written before we have the full survey results.
We do have the nucleus of a writing team but nothing like enough writers yet so if you think you might be able to help please contact Neil Bucknell at neil.bucknell laytons.com who will be happy to supply a guidelines document describing what is required. It really isn't that complicated and you don't need to be an expert on any of the species. As a starter we will supply the text (electronically) from the first Atlas and in addition we will be able to provide you with copies of (or access to) lots of supporting information (Bird Reports, other survey data, etc.) to include in your accounts. So if you fancy a bit of gentle "word smithing" over the next couple of years please do consider the idea.
Chris Robinson - April 2011