Breeding Birds Survey Project

Breeding Birds Survey

Detailed counts of moorland birds in the Peak District National Park take place every 14 years

We undertook bird surveys in 2004 and 2018

The area surveyed was about 500 km2, equivalent to 70,000 football pitches

Long-term trends in bird populations


Project start date: January 2017
Project end date: October 2019

We co-ordinated the 2004 and 2018 surveys of breeding birds, on behalf of partners, to discover how a range of moorland birds are faring over time and whether interventions to benefit them are working.

The Peak District Moors Special Protection Area (SPA) is designated for several species of moorland birds. It is a statutory requirement that the SPA is surveyed regularly to monitor numbers of birds including golden plover, curlew, merlin, twite, dunlin, short-eared owl, red grouse, skylark and meadow pipit. The survey is an excellent opportunity to identify sites where birds breed successfully and the conditions they need.

First taking place in 1990 and again in 2004, the analysis of data from 2018 will help us to understand how factors including land use, management practices and habitat types and condition, can influence bird populations. Comparing the results to the two previous studies will also provide an insight into long-term trends. The results will enable us to inform the land-managing community about how they can help.

The 2018 survey was supported by funding from Natural England, the Moorland Association, National Trust, RSPB, Severn Trent, United Utilities and Yorkshire Water

Latest news on the Breeding Bird Survey:

Since the publication of the report in November 2019, we have become aware of some discrepancies in the processing of the breeding bird survey data submitted for analysis.

Update: Through a series of collaborative discussions with the consultants, Moors for the Future Partnership has identified two areas that require attention to bring the method in line with the previous surveys in 1990 and 2004, and so enable robust scientific comparisons of the data to be made.

  1. The final stage of the distance thresholds of the Brown & Shepherd methodology was not applied to the data. In this step, pairs of birds are considered to be separate from one another only if at least 1000 m apart on the different visit maps (500 m for Dunlin). The application of this stage may result in some records being removed, and as such fewer birds being reported.
  2. Further documented information is required to explain the data processing that occurred between the field maps and digitised dataset. This includes collating all the available information onto the field maps and updating the survey report to make the full process transparent.

The above issues with the data are expected to be resolved by February 2021. Parts of the analysis will then be updated by BTO over the following months, including a comparison between previous surveys completed in 1990 and 2004 to provide an understanding of long-term trends of bird populations on the Peak District moors. We are also exploring options to update the analysis that looks into possible reasons for any observed population changes (correlates of change analysis).

The published bird survey information has been removed from the website while this issue is resolved. To ensure accuracy in reporting, we would ask that any forthcoming articles or ongoing research using this data be put on hold until further notice. We apologise for any inconvenience caused, however accuracy in data and reporting is our utmost concern.

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