Beached Bird Survey
The Beached Bird Survey is organized by the RSPB in conjunction with the Seabird Group. The original idea of this scheme which was started many years ago, was to monitor the effect of oil pollution on seabirds. It is still used for that purpose but also recently gave the first indication of the mass deaths of birds resulting, in part, from the dumping of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) in the Irish Sea and, also in part, from storm stress. The procedure is for one observer to walk regularly along one stretch of shore and count corpses. Normally, counts are required for five specified weekends in each winter but regular visits at dates other than those of the national or international counts have often given the first warnings that some catastrophe has affected birds out at sea. The system when carried on for some years probably provides a useful working baseline for showing up incidents of mortality within, what one of the observers calls, ‘the corpse catchment area’.
My purpose in this section has been to take you beyond identification and to show how counting birds provides a means to answering questions about birds. However, when you get to the stage when you want to get really scientific you will need to read the relevant scientific papers before you start. Almost every year either the BTO, RSPB or the Wildfowl Trust organize projects of one sort or another in which help from the amateur birdwatcher is required.