The Somerset Atlas of Breeding & Wintering Birds with a foreword by Simon King, introduction by Stephen Moss and illustrations by Mike Langman is being published this month.
Somerset is a wonderful county for birds. From Exmoor, the Quantocks and Bridgwater Bay in the west, through the Blackdown, Mendip and Polden Hills and the low-lying Levels and Moors in the centre, to Selwood Forest in the east, it supports more than 200 different species of bird.
Now Somerset’s very special birdlife has been mapped in a new book: the Somerset Atlas of Breeding & Wintering Birds, published this month.
Produced by the Somerset Ornithological Society (SOS) and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), with thousands of records collected by more than 600 volunteers, this is the very first time the birds of Somerset have been documented so thoroughly.
Both an invaluable resource and a current snapshot
The Atlas will be an invaluable resource both now and in the future, to help us plan how best to help Somerset’s birdlife. It is also a fascinating snapshot of the current status and distribution of birds in Somerset.
Species featured include common residents such as the Robin and Blackbird, summer visitors including the Cuckoo, Swift and Swallow, passage migrants such as seabirds and waders, and winter visitors amongst them thousands of ducks, geese and swans.
The Atlas also confirms that Somerset is now home to some exciting new arrivals, taking advantage of the newly created wetland habitats on the Somerset Levels. Bitterns have returned to breed after an absence of almost half a century, while new arrivals from the south including Great White and Little Egrets, Little Bittern, and the reintroduced flock of Cranes now in residence on the southern part of the levels. Meanwhile Buzzards, Red Kites and Peregrines once driven to the edge of extinction by poisoning and pesticides are now a regular sight in Somerset’s skies.
Declines and disappearences
But it’s not all good news. Many once common and familiar birds have either declined in numbers or in a few sad cases have disappeared completely. The tiny Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is not longer found in the county’s cider apple orchards, while Yellowhammers no longer sing their characteristic ‘little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheeese’ song from many of our hedgerows. Willow Tit, Grasshopper Warbler and Merlin have almost disappeared as breeding birds, while Turtle Doves and Corn Buntings are no longer found in Somerset at all.
To combat these declines, conservationists, birders and volunteers are now joining forces to improve existing habitats and create new ones, to try to bring these lost birds back and to encourage new colonists. Who knows what the next decade will bring: maybe White Storks, Glossy Ibis and even Bee-eater could breed here for the first time.
The Somerset Atlas of Breeding & Wintering Birds is on a special offer price of £25 + £4.95 postage and packing - £29.95 total, until 31 December 2014, after which the cover price will rise to £35 + p&p.
Please click here to download a flyer with an order form for the Atlas.
To order, please send a cheque payable to ‘Somerset Ornithological Society’ to:
Somerset Atlas Offer, Motcombe House, Combe Wood Lane, Combe St. Nicholas, Chard, Somerset TA20 3NH