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Somerset Kingfisher and Little Owl Survey 2016-2019

Somerset Ornithological Society has launched a new public wide survey investigating the abundance and distribution of two well-known but declining birds seen throughout Somerset: the Kingfisher and Little Owl.

Following on from findings of the Somerset Bird Atlas of breeding and wintering birds 2007–12, the survey aims to build a detailed picture from target and casual observational records into possible causes for decline, including climatic effects, habitat degradation and food resource depletion.

Kingfisher and Little Owl have been chosen for their ease of identification and accessibility across the county, allowing a wide ranging contribution from general birdwatchers, nature enthusiasts, school children and members of the public.

The survey shall start in spring 2016 to run for three years until winter 2019, with a review of the survey’s successes, areas for improvement and/or redirection following one year of completion.

Target species


A species that suffers in hard winters. A species protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, therefore nest sites should never be disturbed (unless carried out under licence by an experienced ornithologist) sometimes making it difficult to survey. The species is a good choice for a survey because it is so easy to identify, even for the more casual observer, with breeding disturbance considered highly unlikely due to the level of difficulty finding nest sites. It is also a good indicator of the health of rivers and streams, and enables us to include a wetland species. Maps from the Somerset Atlas of Breeding and Wintering Birds 2007-2012 are shown below (produced by DMAP software © Dr. Alan Morton).

Little Owl:

Has never fully recovered from the early 2000 rain and floods, so surveying this species should expand on the data provided for the Atlas. Should be widespread but a useful indicator species. Maps from the Somerset Atlas of Breeding and Wintering Birds 2007-2012 are shown below (produced by DMAP software © Dr. Alan Morton).


Birdwatchers and members of the public are encouraged to visit typical kingfisher and little habitat including rivers, lakes, wetlands, farmland and grassland or simply record the target species whilst out and about around the county.

Surveyors are also asked to note four other Somerset species of conservation concern observed: Yellowhammer, Spotted Flycatcher, Cuckoo and Wood Warbler.

A survey form can be download here. Paper forms are also available at a number of participating nature reserves around the county including visitor centres and hides.

Casual observations are also encouraged, however along with the species type, please try and include details of location, date, number, habitat, weather conditions and if possible, notes of any behaviour observed and any obvious habitat management and changes in the immediate surroundings.

Record submission

Please submit records in one of the following ways:

Send completed surveys forms to

Complete the column layout recording form and send to the address above

Submit paper forms within collection boxes placed within hides or hand in to participating visitor centres


Somerset Ornithology Society (SOS), working in partnership with the Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT), Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the National Trust (NT) shall be hosting a number of events throughout 2016 to encourage involvement throughout the wider community.

Event shall include guided walks, talks to societies, clubs and schools, ringing demonstrations, as well as stalls at summer events, including country fairs, fetes, shows and festivals. Please see the events section for further details


On completion of the survey running for three years, SOS shall produce a full report detailing methods, survey effort, personal observation from the wider public, results, mapping, analysis including relative abundance, conclusions and future recommendations.

Depending on the quantity and quality of the data, a paper based on the SOS report may be produced for publications along with a series of articles for relevant magazines.


Data gained through the survey should provide an insight into changes in population abundance and distribution and allow for basic analysis into habitat condition across key sites. It shall also be shared with the relevant bodies including British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Hawk and Owl Trust (HOT) and the Somerset Environmental Records Centre (SERC).

Information gained on habitat change over time will allow SOS to work in partnership with SWT, RSPB, HOT and Natural England (NE) to provide conservation advice for landowners across the county.

SOS is also hoping to launch a small conservation fund, made available to landowners and land managers contributing towards the survey, that wish to enhance areas for the target species, including:

Kingfisher: wetland habitat management, river bank improvements and artificial nests.

Little Owl: grassland habitat management and nest boxes.

Species records and map updates

Results of the survey, including up-to-date maps, shall be made available on the SOS website. Data gained shall also provide updates for population abundance since 2007, with scope for inclusion within a future Atlas.


Winter 2015-16

New project to unravel the movements of individual waterbirds on the Severn Estuary

The BTO is asking birdwatchers to look out for colour-ringed and dye-marked waders and ducks on and around the Severn Estuary. For full details, click here.


Do you have House Martin nests on your house, or are you able to observe nests elsewhere?  If so, we'd be delighted if you could take part in this simple survey.  The aim is to find out more about when House Martins breed, the results of breeding attempts, and the frequency of second (or even third) broods.  House Martins are declining in southern England, but increasing in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  This study will help us to understand why this is happening. 
You can choose you own site for this survey; so long as you have the owner's permission if it's not your house!  After providing a few simple details about the site, all you are asked to do is spend about 15 minutes once a week observing your nests from ground level.  Recording what you see will allow us to calculate egg-laying dates and breeding success across the UK.  Data can be entered online, and paper forms are available to anyone who does not have access to the internet.  Full details on the BTO website ( or please contact Eve direct. 
To make the most of this survey we need lots of people looking at lots of nests, so please do take part.  Thank you! 


This is a national survey, which is quite small in Somerset terms - we haven’t got much Upland Farmland!  There are just  six Priority 1 tetrads that need to be covered, all on Exmoor, so hopefully can get 100% coverage.
This is a tetrad-based survey, but only the land defined as in-bye habits has to be surveyed: details and maps of which parts of the tetrad fall into this designation will be provided.  Two morning visits are required: 1st April to 31st May and 1st June to 15th July.  The aim is to count all breeding / feeding birds of the following species: Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Snipe.  Other upland species should also be recorded, for example; Cuckoo, Skylark, Stonechat, Whinchat, etc. There will also be the usual habitat recording.  

As is now usual, everything is online, but paper forms can be provided. The six tetrads for Somerset are SS83F, SS83K, SS83L, SS83P, SS84K and SS84V. A map showing their locations can be accessed here.

If you can help, please contact Eve Tigwell.

For a summary of On-going BTO Surveys, click here.

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