The world is changing! Sometimes so fast we cannot keep track of it, let alone know what is causing the changes. Doom merchants will cite Global Warming, Acid Rain, Ozone Layer Depletion and Organo-Metallic Poisoning as major causes of changes in the wildlife of the planet. The Rio Summit in 1992 used the phrase "Think Globally, Act Locally" to emphasise everybody's role in protecting the environment. (See the full text of Agenda 21 at www.un.org/documents/ga/conf151/aconf15126-1annex1.htm)
We can all do something on a small local scale that will help to alleviate or understand the larger global problem. All over Scotland ordinary people are helping out by simply watching wildlife and recording what they see. National schemes run by all the major wildlife organisations allow everyone to get involved in helping to understand the changes in our environment and have fun doing it.
At Montrose Basin the most important indicator of the wellbeing of our estuarine environment are the wildfowl and waders. Every month a team of volunteers go round the Basin in a coordinated effort to count all the ducks, geese and wading birds they can find. (See the data for the Basin on the website at www.montrosebasin.org.uk/counts.htm)
These records are then collated for the whole of the UK to build a month-by-month and year-by-year pattern for each species. This information can then be used to monitor the changes and help scientists to understand what is causing the changes.
Also, the Wildlife Centre has run a Garden Bird Survey scheme over the past two winters to do the same job with common woodland birds. The results from the 2002/3 survey show only minor changes to the birds found in our gardens. The Robin headed the 2001/2 list as the most seen bird just ahead of the Blackbird. In the latest survey the two were reversed.
The Blue Tit and House Sparrow remain in the same third and fourth places with Starling jumping up from 7th to 5th pushing Chaffinch and Greenfinch down one place. The Dunnock has moved up to 8th from 11th while the others are in the same places as last time.
This survey will have to continue for a few more years before any firm conclusions can be drawn, but what is important is that the observations are being recorded and can be used in the future to follow trends.
If you want to be involved in this recording process and have some fun watching birds in your garden then contact the Wildlife Centre for a Garden Bird Survey recording form. All that is required is that you spend some time recording the birds that use your garden each month from October to March.