Bird populations have long been considered to provide a good indication of the broad state of wildlife in the UK. This is because they occupy a wide range of habitats and respond to environmental pressures that also operate on other groups of wildlife. In addition, there are considerable long-term data on trends in bird populations, allowing for comparisons over time. Because they are a well-studied group, drivers of change for birds are better understood than for other species groups, which enables better interpretation of any observed changes. Birds also have huge cultural importance and are highly valued as a part of the UK’s natural environment by the general public. (see DEFRA, 2018).
Overall changes in bird abundance in Shropshire or the UK are not very meaningful. More telling is changes in abundance among particular species and groups of species representative of particular habitats. In the last forty years, species such as Blackcap, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greylag, Brent and Barnacle Goose, Avocet, Little Grebe, Collared Dove, Red Kite, Buzzard and Stonechat have shown strong increases in numbers. In contrast, many species have shown precipitous declines that are a cause of considerable concern. No less than three dozen species have shown 50% declines or more since the 1970s, with many Shropshire list species (such as Snipe, Starling, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Redpoll, Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge, Willow Tit and Turtle Dove) down by 80% or more.
Among the aims of the SOS is “to encourage the study and protection of birds in Shropshire and elsewhere”. To this end, the Society and its individual members have been active in survey work, habitat management and field research that is directed at the conservation of struggling and threatened species in the County.
This page provides a link to some of these activities. If you are interested in assisting, most of these links provide a contact person for the project.
CONSERVATION ACTIVITIES DIRECTLY INVOLVING SOS
SHROPSHIRE RAPTOR STUDY GROUP. The Shropshire Raptor Study Group was set up in 2010, with the active support of SOS. Membership is restricted to people who will go out and actively look for birds of prey. The Group are looking particularly for Goshawk, Hobby, Merlin and Red Kite. [MORE]
‘SAVE OUR CURLEWS’ CAMPAIGN’. Shropshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) and SOS have established a long-term County-wide ‘Save Our Curlews’ campaign, funded by a joint appeal which is being co-ordinated by SWT. A multi-agency Shropshire Curlew Group, including SOS, has been set up to oversee the campaign. [MORE]
RED GROUSE SURVEY. For the past several years, the Red Grouse population on the Long Mynd has been counted at dusk by the co-ordinated efforts of volunteers on several evenings between late March and early May. Volunteers have included participants of the SOS (Church Stretton branch), the NT-SOS birdwatching course, members of the local SOS, SWT and RSPB groups, National Trust Volunteers, members of the Strettons Area Community Wildlife Group, and others interested in birds. [MORE]
LAPWING AND CURLEW SURVEY. These species have suffered a massive contraction in range and population decline in the last 20 years or so, nationally and locally. In 2017, the Strettons Areas Community Wildlife Group initiated a Lapwing and Curlew survey to complement similar surveys carried out by other Community Wildlife Groups in different parts of the County, with the collaboration of the Church Stretton branch of the SOS. [MORE]
SHROPSHIRE BREEDING SNIPE SURVEY 2019. Snipe is a Shropshire Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species, and a survey has been carried out every five years since 2004 to monitor the population and distribution for the BAP. [MORE]
CONSERVATION ACTIVITIES INVOLVING SOS MEMBERS BUT NOT DIRECTLY AFFILIATED WITH THE SOCIETY
CLUN UPLAND WADERS. Lapwing, Curlew and Snipe are now scarce in the Clun Uplands, and they are getting scarcer. Conservation organisations, Defra and the Shropshire Hills AONB all want to assess the population of these birds, find out the level of breeding success, and take action to reverse the decline. We need your help to find these birds to do this. The area covered is the part of Shropshire to the west of the A488 between Bishop’s Castle and Knighton. [MORE]
LONG MYND BREEDING BIRD PROJECT. Ring Ouzels are mountain blackbirds which winter in southern Spain and the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Most return to their breeding grounds in mid-April. Unfortunately the population is declining all over Britain, and the local decline has been catastrophic. As late as 1999 there were around a dozen pairs on the Long Mynd, but by 2003 only one breeding pair was found. In 2004 only a single male returned. No evidence of breeding has been found since. [MORE]
SHROPSHIRE PEREGRINE GROUP. The Group was formally established in September 1997 to monitor and record breeding activities, to submit breeding records and data to the appropriate authorities, to provide protection at vunerable nest sittes during the breeding season and report incidents of nest disturbance, to liaise with other raptor protection and wildlife groups with similar aims, and to publicise the vital role played by Peregrines and other birds of prey in the UK’s natural heritage. [MORE]
SHROPSHIRE BARN OWL GROUP. The SBOG is a voluntary group which has been working since 2002 to increase the breeding population of Barn Owls in Shropshire by providing nestboxes in areas of suitable habitat and working with farmers and other landowners to improve and conserve their habitat. SOS members are invited to read their latest annual reports, and other Barn Owl-related material, by following this link. [MORE]
SHROPSHIRE SWIFT GROUP. The objectives of the SSG are to survey County Swift populations, to bring together people interested in Swifts, to provide advice to those renovating old buildings and building new ones, to advise those wanting to make their properties Swift friendly, to assist with the provision of Swift boxes and installation of Swift call systems in suitable sites, to raise awareness, encourage and enhance local interest in Swifts and to work with Swift Conservation to ensure best practice is followed at all times. [MORE]
SHROPSHIRE WILLOW TIT SURVEY. The Willow Tit is the fastest declining resident bird in the UK. It has been shown to have declined by over 90% since the 1970s and has disappeared from much of the south and south-east of England. This survey seeks to create an inventory of sites where Willow Tits are confirmed to be present during the breeding season, using playback method to eliminate any confusion between Willow and Marsh Tit, to estimate the number of breeding pairs at each site, to provide data to all relevant conservation agencies and to inform landowners and advise on suitable conservation methods. [MORE]
WHINCHAT CONSERVATION ON THE LONG MYND: PILOT PROJECT 2019. Whinchat used to be widespread in Shropshire, but by the time of the first Breeding Bird Atlas (1985-90) they were largely restricted to the uplands, with a county population estimated at 300 pairs. The recent Bird Atlas (2008-13) found a large contraction of range, and the species was, by then, restricted to the Long Mynd, apart from the occasional pair on the Stiperstones, with an estimated population of 75 pairs, a decline of 75% in less than 25 years. [MORE]