is the first of hopefully many more reports of the wetland bird counts
which I conduct each year for the British Trust for Ornithology.
As an introduction, the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) is a scheme which
monitors non-breeding waterbirds in the UK, which aims to provide
the principal data for the conservation of their populations and wetland
habitats. Wetlands are regarded as one of the world's most threatened
habitats (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, 2004).
The data collected are used to assess the size of waterbird populations,
assess trends in numbers and distribution and identify and monitor
important sites for waterbirds. A programme of research underpins
these objectives. Continuing a tradition which began in 1947, with
around 3000 volunteer counters participating in synchronised monthly
counts at wetlands of all habitats, mainly during the winter period
(October-March). It is a partnership between the British Trust for
Ornithology (BTO), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
and the Joint Nature Conservancy Council (the JNCC represent the Countryside
Council for Wales, Natural England, Scottish natural Heritage and
the Northern Ireland Environment Agency) in association with the Wildfowl
and Wetlands Trust.
The sites I monitor in and around Yetholm are Yetholm Loch, Hoselaw
Loch, Cherry Trees Pond, Pawston Lake and Romany Marsh. The sites
vary in size with the largest being Yetholm/Hoselaw Loch and the smallest
being Cherry tress Pond. Each site has different habitat characteristics.
As an example, Yetholm Loch has three broad habitats i.e. Open Water,
Swamp Fen and Carr (wet Woodland) Community and Broadleaved Woodland.
The general topography around the catchment area is of low-lying hills,
which surround the valley basin. The loch forms part of a 26-hectare
wildlife reserve, which the Scottish Wildlife Trust currently manages.
In my role as a volunteer with SWT, I am the local convener at this
site. Yetholm Loch was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest
in 1972. The loch is a naturally nutrient rich body of water, with
the highest mean level of nitrates (1.95mg/l) of any loch in the Scottish
Borders. (Jones, 1987) The water contains mineral salts derived from
the surrounding catchment, which is predominantly farmland.
The species richness at the site is quite low, which is possibly related
to the high nutrient load in the loch. Like most of the water bodies
in lowland Britain, the loch is meso-eutrophic. The reserve is currently
used for fishing, walking, bird watching (there is a hide located
on the west bank of the loch) and occasional wildfowling.
Subsequent reports will summarise details of each future bird count.
For further information go to www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/webs