Thursday, 16 May 2013

Pilot Swift City Index Survey – 2013


The RSPB will be running a trial of a survey based on Swift point counts during 2013.  The method involves two 10-minute point counts of flying swift parties at ten or more locations spread across a town, city or village of your choice.  The main aim in 2013 is to trial the point count method and to gather feedback on its practicality. We hope then to conduct some validation surveys in 2014 to assess how point counts relate to the local abundance of breeding swifts, and ultimately to generate a ‘City Index’ of changing swift abundance over time.


Background.  The aim of the pilot fieldwork in 2013 is to test a point count method for recording swifts in towns, cities and villages. The method is a 10-minute point count of screaming and non-screaming swifts conducted twice during the summer. The hope is that we can refine and calibrate this method to produce a measure of change in swift abundance over time for a particular town or city.    

Method.  Locations for point counts should be selected in areas where swifts are known to be active in the evenings, and which provide a good field of view for observing flying swifts. To make the data useful, at least 10 points should be surveyed in any particular town or city and these should be spaced out to ensure no more than two point locations are situated within each 200m x 200m square. You decide exactly where the survey points should be located.

At least TWO counts of 10-minute duration should be conducted at each point location. The first count should be conducted between 16 May & 15 June, and the second between 16 June & 15 July. Counts should last exactly 10 minutes and should be conducted between 17.00 – 21.00 hours (5-9 pm) preferably on dry, still evenings. The observer should keep a chronological record of all flying swifts seen. HIGH FLYING swifts (more than 100m above the ground) should be distinguished from LOW FLYING swifts (within 100m of the ground). Each low flying group of swifts should be recorded as either ‘screaming’ or ‘non-screaming’, and as flying within 50m of the observer or not. Each low flying group is therefore assigned to one of four screaming / distance categories. 

An example recording form is shown below with the information provided by the observer highlighted in blue. On the first survey, the largest count of high flying swifts was 23, and three screaming parties (containing 2, 5 and 2 swifts) flew within 50m of the observer.    
City/Town/Village
Cambridge
Street name / junction
Parkside / Park Terrace
Grid Reference (8 fig)
TL 4547 5832
1 km-square
TL 4558
First survey date:
24 May 2013
Start Time
19.34
Weather conditions*
Temp
Mild
Wind
Still

Cloud
7/8
Rain
No
Swift Counts
High Flying:
16, 23
Low-flying:
Screamers
Non-screamers
Within 50m observer
2, 5, 2
3
Beyond 50m observer
2, 6
4, 2
Second survey date:
22 June 2013
Start Time
19.03
Weather conditions*
Temp
Warm
Wind
Breezy

Cloud
1/8
Rain
No
Swift Counts
High Flying:
21, 34
Low Flying:
Screamers
Non-screamers
Within 50m observer
2, 7, 9
2, 3
Beyond 50m observer
3, 5
4, 2

*Temperature
: ‘Cool’ (10°C or less); ‘Mild’ (between 10°C & 20°C); ‘Warm’ (20°C or more) 
Wind: Average wind speed: ‘still’ (<10mph), ‘breezy’ (10-20mph) or ‘windy’ (>20mph)
Cloud: Estimate cloud cover to the nearest 1/8 th.  Rain: No rain (‘No’) or some rain (‘Yes’). 

You can download a copy of the form to fill in here (File>Download)

Please return all completed forms either by post to Will Peach, Conservation Science Department, The Lodge, Sandy, Beds SG19 2DL or by email attachment to will.peach@rspb.org.uk

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