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Last lap for bird atlas

[Thursday 4 November 2010]

One of the most ambitious scientific surveys ever launched by ornithologists is reaching its last lap – and amateur bird watchers are being invited to help fill in the final data.

Three years ago, the British Trust for Ornithology launched its programme to chart the whereabouts of all Britain’s birds to create the Bird Atlas 2007-11, which will give the UK the most accurate and detailed map of bird life of any country in the world.

In that time, almost 15,000 bird watchers have recorded no fewer than 5.6 million sightings in the UK and the Irish Republic, all of which have been logged onto the BTO’s huge data base.

To finish the project, the records must cover the coming winter, when bird movements can include inward migrants and departing natives – some robins, for instance, are known to spend winter on the European mainland and many thousands more migrate south within the UK.

The trust is advising enthusiasts that the last winter count has now started. Says Dawn Balmer, Atlas Coordinator: “The finish line is now in sight and we are in a fantastic position as we enter the final year.

“The gaps in coverage are mostly in remote places, or areas with a low population (so not many birdwatchers!) but there are a few surprises, such as north-east Yorkshire and Dorset, where we need to pull out all the stops to ensure complete coverage.

“Volunteers have enjoyed atlas fieldwork and especially visiting new areas close to home and discovering what is breeding and wintering there.”

To find out how to help in this the final winter for the Bird Atlas, visit www.birdatlas.net

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