Up until now very little was known about the birdlife of the River Thame catchment. An area devoid of any exciting wildlife? ‘Absolutely not’ says Nick Marriner (RTCT Trustee and project manager), ‘the Atlas has proved just how important the River Thame is for birds. A very undervalued area for birds and I hope this project has helped raise the profile of the river’.
A team of 63 volunteers have been carrying out winter and summer bird surveys across 236 different survey areas covering the whole of the river catchment (over 675 km²).
The river rises northeast of Aylesbury and flows past Thame to join the Thames at Dorchester and is often thought of as a barren area for wildlife. Not anymore! The group of 63 skilled and passionate volunteers have carried out 935 survey visits, walking for c. 3,785 hours and have found an amazing 153 species in the catchment.
Records have found some really exciting and rare birds such as Hawfinch and Merlin it has also proven breeding of less common birds such as Goosander and Curlew as well as charted the distribution of our more common breeding species such as Blackcap, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff.
The project has been delivered in partnership with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) which has allowed the comparison of records from the national Bird Atlas 2007-11 and helped map changes in populations over 10 years including the increased range of species such as Little Egret and Raven.
RTCT is very proud and excited to launch its new online Atlas at Bird Atlas 2016-2020 | River Thame Trust. The project is the only one of its kind across a river catchment in the UK.
The Atlas is available online and offers a detailed map of the whole catchment showing where the River’s more important areas for birds are. Detailed species lists are offered for each survey area so we can now chart where the River’s more important areas are. Each species has its own set of analyses showing where it was recorded and any changes in distribution since the Bird Atlas 2007-11
The Atlas is freely available to help conservation projects, excite landowners, track the impact of projects and raise the profile of the river. It has already helped secure the designation of 2 new Local Wildlife Sites and support new wetland projects at Eythrope and Waterstock.
The project has only been made possible with the generous funding provided by the Buckinghamshire Bird Club; Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre; Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership; River Thame Conservation Trust; Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment supported by funding from TVERC.
The project has been run entirely by volunteers from its project manager to all 63 volunteer surveyors and delivered in partnership with BTO. RTCT is extremely grateful for their support.
Hilary Philips (RTCT Senior Project Officer) said ‘When we started planning the project in 2015 we didn’t dream we would get close to 100% coverage of the catchment. Our team of volunteers have been amazing and helped plug a huge gap in our understanding of the wildlife of the catchment.’
Martin Routledge (Volunteer bird surveyor) said ‘I live in the catchment area near one of the tributaries to the Thame and the atlas project gave me the opportunity to explore some new areas while recording the birdlife. I started with some tetrads near home but expanded my horizons in later years. It was great fun and even better knowing the results were contributing to such a worthwhile citizen science project
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