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BTO: Recording your sightings can help our scientists

Goldcrest, by Mike Toms/BTO ANL-150201-110906001
Goldcrest, by Mike Toms/BTO ANL-150201-110906001

Winter has us firmly in its grasp, though contrary to some people’s assumptions the countryside is still full of life – you just have to know where and when to look.

There’s no better way to spend a crisp winter’s day than to be wrapped up against the wind, binoculars in hand, and to head out into the countryside with rosy cheeks and steaming breath against the cold, sharp air.

Short daylight hours and low temperatures make foraging for food a priority for small animals during winter, particularly for our smallest birds like goldcrest and wren, with their fast metabolisms. You may find birds more confiding and tolerant of your presence for this reason but remember to exercise due caution and not to over-stress these creatures whose very survival can be in the balance at this time of year.

Some birdwatchers like to start the New Year by adding species to their new ‘Year List’ – a semi-competitive affair that involves logging as many species as possible over the course of the year. Notching up records of Suffolk’s more common species during these relatively quiet months provides a firm foundation for later, when time may be spent chasing after those rare and scarce birds that turn up on our shores. For others, the winter months are a great time to hone their ID skills, focusing on our resident birds before the hustle and bustle of the breeding season begins and the onset of foliage growth makes viewing birds more challenging.

For expert and novice birder alike, BirdTrack – www.birdtrack.net– provides a free resource for anyone interested in recording birds; whether it’s a thousand-strong wader roost at Minsmere nature reserve or a home-owner in Bury St Edmunds noting garden birds out of their kitchen window. No matter the species or number of records you have, your sightings really do matter to the scientists who manage the BirdTrack database.

The online system, running year-round, allows birdwatchers to log their sightings through a series of easy-to-navigate webpages or, alternatively, a smartphone app, providing both a comprehensive catalogue of past records for personal use and at the same time, feeding important data into conservation and research at local, national and international scales.

Another great benefit of BirdTrack is the feedback you receive on species seen locally (or further afield), and the engaging graphs that place your observations within a wider context. Adding value to your sightings couldn’t be easier so there’s no better time to get out and discover and record what’s on your doorstep!

Now that sounds like a great resolution for the New Year.