Seabird Monitoring Programme

We are looking for volunteers to help with Seabirds Count: 4th Breeding Seabird Census. This is organised by JNCC: the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and follows on from previous major counts Operation Seafarer (1969-70), the Seabird Colony Register (SCR) Census (1985-88) and Seabird 2000 (1998-2002). More information on these historical projects can be found here. The original intention was that Seabirds Count should conclude in 2020, but Covid restrictions last year led to an extension to include the 2021 season.

The periodic more complete counts form part of, and supplement, the annual Seabird Mnitoring Programme (SMP), but are needed to collect information on sites, particularly on remote Scottish islands, which it has not been practicable to include in SMP.

Current SMP data can be accessed via an area of the BTO Website. The data here is organised by post-1974 county boundaries. However, within that definition of County Durham no local data is shown and this year presents an opportunity to put that right. There are seabirds nesting on the Durham coast between Ryhope Dene and Crimdon Dene, most notably at Seaham, but with Fulmars increasingly colonising the coast further south and reaching as far as Blackhall Rocks. Accurate counts of apparently occupied nests and information on breeding success would enable us to set a baseline for future annual monitoring through the SMP, enabling us to keep track of the progress of colonisation. We also have gulls breeding in the west of the county. Inland nesting gulls, Cormorants and Common Terns were first included in Seabird 2000 and also need to be counted, though some of the Durham colonies appear to be mobile.

There is a separate, but linked, survey of roof-nesting gulls. Does the increase in the use of such inland sites by Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull compensate for the decline in numbers nesting on the coast?

We have some offers of help, both for the Durham coast and for the inland colonies, but we could do with more volunteers. If you would like to help please contact the local organiser.