Previous club Projects

The Cambridgeshire Bird Club Bob Prize for Ornithological Research in Cambridgeshire.


Cambridgeshire Woodland birds survey 2020

In 2003 the Club carried out a survey of woodland birds focusing especially on the scarce and declining species such as Marsh Tit and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and its time to do this again.

In 2020 we hoped to cover as many woodlands as possible across the county, with three visits; late March, late April and late May, and the objective is to make a species list and estimate numbers of territories (singing in the same-ish area on 2+ visits). Part of the emphasis in the northwest of the county will help to provide information to the Back from the Brink 'Roots of Rockingham' Project, whose cross-border work to improve the ancient woodlands of Rockingham has so far not been as strong on the bird side of their target species.

Restrictions due to the need to follow COVID -19 regulations prevented this survey from coming to fruition. It is postponed until 2021.

Last summer we successfully contributed to the Cambridgeshire component of the UK breeding seabirds census. This year, there was an add-on project specifically to survey urban breeding gulls. Louise Bacon, county recorder, was the Club's liaison and provided further details to those who showed interest.

Those who signed up to survey a randomly-picked urban 1km squares across all the towns in the county will already have made the two visits by now.

A report on the findings will be available in due course.

Sand Martin Surveys

2017 -Distribution of Sand Martin breeding colonies

Sand Martins are the smallest of the hirundines to be seen in Cambridgeshire. The flight is often described as “weak” or “fluttering” but even so they migrate thousands of miles and are one of our first summer visitors. The earliest county record comes from the Nene Washes, the 27th February 1994, and the latest is from the Ouse Washes, the 17th November 1968.

A survey in Cambridgeshire should throw some light on the picture locally. It may also help us influence planning decisions and assess the value of purpose built nesting structures. The surveyors will be club members making specific notes of their observations during their normal bird watching.

More details...

2009 - Distribution of Sand Martin breeding colonies

A start was made in 2009 to record sites of Sand Martin colonies throughout the county using Google Map. The map was intended to be a "living document", to be updated as new information became available. No records were added after 2009, but further monitoring is being proposed for 2016. The map for 2009 can be found at

2016 - Turtle Dove Survey

The Turtle Dove is one of the UK's fastest declining birds, with Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicating a 91% population decline during 1995–2013, and the recent Bird Atlas showing a 51% decrease in occupied 10-km squares in Britain between 1968–72 and 2007–11. The species has been on the Red list of Birds of Conservation Concern in the UK since the first such assessment in 1996, and was recently classified as globally threatened (‘Vulnerable’) in the 2015 IUCN Red List.

More details...

Winter / Summer Garden Bird Surveys

2016 - Summer

This survey, run by Rebecca Buisson, follows on from her successful surveys of Cambridgeshire garden birds which started during the winter of 2014-15.

The summer garden bird survey commenced on Sunday 6th March 2016 and finished on Saturday 1st October 2016. The form to list your sightings is available as a download from the website either as a pdf for you to print, or an Excel spreadsheet to save and fill in on-screen.

2015 / 2016 Winter

This survey arose from an idea raised and pursued by Rebecca Buisson. For those who have a garden in Cambridgeshire and like to watch the birds in the garden, Rebecca invited you to take part in the Cambridgeshire Bird Club Winter Garden Bird Survey 2015-2016.

When the Report is issued we can discover which species of birds make most use of gardens in the county during the winter months, find out whether new species are coming into gardens and whether some of the traditional species are making less use of the facilities.

2015 - Summer

This was run by Rebecca Buisson, and followed on from her successful survey of Cambridgeshire garden birds during the winter of 2014-15.

The summer garden bird survey 2015 commenced on Sunday 8th March 2015 and finished on Saturday 3rd October 2015. The form to list your sightings is available as a download from the website either as a pdf for you to print, or an Excel spreadsheet to save and fill in on-screen.

2014 / 2015 Winter

This survey arose from an idea raised and pursued by Rebecca Buisson. For those who have a garden in Cambridgeshire and like to watch the birds in the garden, Rebecca invited you to take part in the Cambridgeshire Bird Club Winter Garden Bird Survey 2014-2015.

When the Report is issued we can discover which species of birds make most use of gardens in the county during the winter months, find out whether new species are coming into gardens and whether some of the traditional species are making less use of the facilities.

2015 / 16 – Cranes, towards a better understanding of their post-breeding movements and survival

The Cranes at Lakenheath Fen RSPB in Suffolk have had a good breeding season – both pairs reared young to fledging. We know from previous years that Cranes wander and sometimes congregate in the Cambridgeshire fens during winter and these can include the Lakenheath birds. Birds from further afield such as Somerset also turn up, although these are colour-ringed, unlike our birds.

Cranes keep their young with them until late winter, so finding family groups is a key to understanding their movements. Counts of adults and their accompanying young, and any observations on feeding behaviour will be of particular value towards understanding their movements during autumn and winter. An important part of this project is to identify individual adults so that we can map individuals as they move around. Thus we welcome careful observations of adults’ bustles and note their shades of grey – a feature which should distinguish between individuals. Some individuals will require significant observation to be certain of their identification. Photos may be useful if the birds are captured in varying poses.

Bustle characteristics – if you come across a group of cranes, please note if the bustles are either pale grey (like wood-ash), mid grey (like lead), dark grey (charcoal?), or are black. The bustle-tips are always black.

Pairs should remain with young until mid-Feb 2016. Please send counts of adults and family parties, together with any field notes on plumages of the adults, to Louise Bacon at

Further details and sketches of plumages of more adults will appear in this section as individuals become identified.

The sketches by Norman Sills of the two Lakenheath Crane pairs and a third pair all with young currently visiting Cambridgeshire demonstrate the observable differences. The distinctive features of the Lakenheath pair A2 and pair B are:

Male A2 – dark grey/brown bustle with black tips.

Female A2 – paler forewing than male but same upper breast grey as male.

Male B –large, jet-black bustle, broad neck band, noticeably larger than female.

Female B – paler upper breast than male, narrower neck band and overall paler than male.

In 2015 pair A2 produced 2 fledglings; pair B produced 1 fledgling.

Pair C has one young. The adults are essentially pale bustled.

Male C – (slightly larger) has a pale grey bustle a touch darker than his back, and no bold spots or bars on either flank. Female C – fawnish pale grey bustle, a touch darker than her back. On her left flank only are three black spots which, when in normal pose, form two blobs (the right flank also has black marks but in a different form).

A fourth pair of cranes with young have appeared in the county - we do not know where they bred

Crane sketches ©Norman Stills

2014 - Corn Bunting Breeding Survey

Corn Buntings underwent a steep 90% breeding population decline in Britain during the period 1970 – 2010, accompanied by contractions of 27% in winter range since the 1981 – 1984 Winter Atlas, and of 56% in breeding range since the 1968 – 1972 Breeding Atlas. This species occupies the Red List of birds of the highest conservation concern in the UK. A farmland specialist, the primary stronghold of Corn Buntings in England is eastern arable areas.

The Corn Bunting survey was undertaken jointly by Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Bird Clubs in 2014. The objective was to derive a population estimate of Corn Buntings for each of three counties and establish any basic patterns. The data from previous Atlas surveys will be incorporated into the analysis. The 2014 data are undergoing statistical analysis and a project Report will be issued early 2016. It is hoped that data from this survey may be used to identify local Corn Bunting population hotspots that could be targeted to provide agri-environment advice.

Swift surveys

2014 – Distribution of Breeding Swifts in Cambridgeshire

This was a continuation of the survey that started in 2013. Cambridge City Council in partnership with Action for Swifts and CPERC sought records of breeding swifts in the City, towns and villages of Cambridgeshire. Bird Club members were encouraged to note the address and exact breeding site details of all breeding pairs, colonies and screaming parties either in that year or from previous years, and to record them at the Living Record Cambridge Swift Survey website. Birders were asked to register on Living Record and to tick 'Swift Survey' on the options page, then to open the Records page and follow the notes on how to add new records.

This website allows detailed descriptions and precise map based plotting of nest site locations. It was hoped that such records would build on our knowledge of the distribution of the species in the County, allowing local authority officers to identify nest sites at risk from planning proposals and seek appropriate retention or mitigation. Guy Belcher, Cambridge City Council's Conservation Officer, was available to provide further information on this project.

2013 – Cambridge City Swifts

This was not a project organised by the Bird Club but members were invited to take part. It was organised locally by Action for Swifts. The objective was to trial a 10-minute point-count of screaming and non-screaming swifts conducted twice during the summer. Cambridgeshire was among several counties to trial the method in collaboration with the RSPB who proposed the project. The main aim in 2013 was to assess the point-count method and to gather feedback on its practicality, the hope being that the method could be refined and calibrated to produce a measure of change in Swift abundance over time for a particular town or city. The data were presented to the RSPB for their database.

2008 - Survey of Screaming Swifts in Cambridgeshire

People were asked to record the locations of low-level screaming Swifts, in addition to colonies in their localities. These locations were plotted on this Google Map. Mapping was continued in 2009.

2006 - Screaming Swifts Survey in Cambridge City

This was a follow-up survey to the City Greenways survey in 2001 to locate breeding Common Swifts within the Cambridge city, with partial success. A Report appeared in the Cambridgeshire Bird Report 80 (2006), pp 160–164.

Cambridgeshire Bird Atlas: 2007 – 2011

For this Cambridgeshire Bird Atlas, almost a thousand contributors – from professional ornithologists to ordinary birdwatching members of the public – provided details of the birds they saw, either during timed visits to specific Ordnance Survey squares, or as roving records through the seasons. Species have been mapped at a closer level of detail than for the national atlas – at the 2 km square level; there are just short of one thousand such squares within the county boundary. Records were received from 90% of these squares. The project was part of the national survey organised by the BTO.

Information on the Cambridgeshire Atlas can be viewed here.

2010 - Rookeries Survey

In 2010, the CBC Research Committee proposed to attempt to collect records on every Rookery in the county. The intention was to use the gathered data for the Cambridgeshire Atlas and for a Research Committee paper to compare 2010 data with the historic database of previous surveys co-ordinated by Graham Easy. Birders were invited to check their local rookeries and to record details of nest habitat and breeding successes.

Insufficient data were generated to allow analyses to be sufficiently robust to compare 2010 with the previous periods in Graham Easy’s paper on the subject. The data however, were incorporated into both the county Atlas, and the BTO national Atlas.

A comprehensive account of rookeries in the county in the period 1944/45 – 1995 was prepared by Graham Easy and published in the Cambridgeshire Bird Club Bulletin No. 407 (Nov / Dec 2009), pp 5–9.

2004 - 2006 Breeding Owl Survey

A county-wide, 10km-square based survey was undertaken for all owl species. About sixty surveyors covered much of the county for the presence of owls during the breeding season. We did this survey partly on the basis that the forthcoming full breeding Atlas would not fully address owls due to the methods employed. Overall the survey was very successful, and a paper was published by Louise Bacon, Peter Herkenrath and Doug Radford in the Cambridgeshire Bird Report (81), 2006, pp 160–165.

It showed that the county had healthy populations of owl species, with Barn Owl expanding its range, and Long-eared Owl probably expanding its range slightly. Tawny and Little Owls were still widespread. Short-eared Owl is an irregular breeder, last confirmed in 1992.

2003 - Scarce Woodland Bird Survey

Around sixty woods across the county were surveyed for Willow Tit, Marsh Tit, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Nightingale and Woodcock.

This survey found that we may well have lost Willow Tit as a breeding species in the county. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was the other species with much cause for concern, with only a few woodlands holding this increasingly scarce species.

Many of the woods surveyed held Marsh Tit. Nightingale has become a bird of the gravel pits and other willow woods/scrub, and Woodcock were restricted to either very large woods or some wetter sites. The results were published by Louise Bacon and Bill Jordan in the Cambridgeshire Report, 77 (2003), pp 167–178.

2002 - Yellow Wagtails nesting preferences amongst crops in Cambridgeshire

The survey aimed to estimate the population densities in the Fens and the chalk areas and to identify which crops were preferred for nesting. Ten tetrads were selected from both areas and five crops were chosen for surveying – peas, winter cereal, sugar beet, potatoes and oilseed rape. In total 26 pairs were found in the Fens and 10 pairs on the chalk. The most preferred crop type in the Fens was peas followed closely by cereal /potatoes; on the chalk it was potatoes then peas, with only a single pair in a cereal crop. Crops of sugar beet held moderate numbers but no pairs were found in oilseed rape. In a simultaneous independent survey in the Melbourn area, territories were also found in field beans and onions. The results of this survey were published by Bill Jordan in the Cambridgeshire Report, 76 (2002), pp 153–155.