North Northumberland Bird Club

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RARE BREEDS: THE speaker at the May indoor meeting of the North Northumberland Bird Club (NNBC) at Bamburgh Pavilion was Mark Holling, secretary of the Rare Breeds Birds Panel in the UK (RBBP).

Mark began by explaining how the RBBP was formed in 1972. The UK Bird Atlas of that year convinced the RSPB, BTO and the Joint National Conservation Committee of the need for a reliable and safe archive for rare breeding birds records.

Accordingly, the RBBP was set up to monitor rare breeding birds and scarcer non-native breeding birds across the UK, to archive the data, to provide data for conservation and to feedback results to the birding community.

The panel focuses on a core group of 80 species with less than 300 breeding pairs in the UK in a normal year; most of the Schedule 1 species in the Wildlife & Countryside Act and scarce non-native breeders.

Members were pleased to learn that no less than 21 of the Panel’s 80 core species nest in Northumberland. Top of the Northumbrian league is the Roseate tern, with 92 pairs – mainly on Coquet Island – from a UK total of 101 pairs! Our little terns are also important with two colonies in the county.

The red kite, now to be seen in Northumberland, is a huge national success with reintroduction programmes boosting the 20/30 Welsh pairs of the 1960’s to over 1,500 pairs to date across the UK. The county is also important for goshawks with 36 pairs in 2009 – mainly in Kielder Forest.

Also at Kielder are Northumberland’s first breeding ospreys since the 19th century with a further 10 pairs now along the Tweed valley. This year another first for the county is the avocets breeding on Druridge Bay.

Less iconic perhaps, but nonetheless nationally important, are the county’s 25 pairs of quail, 5 pairs of pochard and 2 pairs of Mediterranean gull, which raised three young in 2009.

Mark closed by encouraging birders to report rare breeding species to their local or county recorders and to access www.rbbp.org.uk for current reports and information.

NNBC chairman, Graham Bell, thanked Mark warmly. He was a birder with mud on his boots – not just a person behind a computer. The members’ hearty applause was testament to their appreciation of his presentation.

The club’s next indoor meeting is 7.30pm on Friday, September 16 at Bamburgh Pavilion, when the subject is Birds on the Farnes.