BTO’s Norfolk Bird Atlas “a triumph of organization…” – IBIS review, October 2011

The Norfolk Bird Atlas: Summer and Winter Distributions 1999-2007


The Norfolk Bird Atlas: Summer and Winter Distributions 1999-2007“This handsome volume is the successor to Kelly’s The Norfolk Bird Atlas (1986). The famous county has 1459 tetrads, and this new work is a triumph of organization, including as it does the contributions of over 400 observers, the number and quality of whom few counties could hope to equal. Illustrations are lavish, although the lovely photographs, mostly by David Tipling, sometimes overwhelm the maps and drawings. Indeed, the last, which can be useful for providing landscape background, can seem redundant.

The authors have aimed for a much more detailed treatment than any previous county Atlas. They follow the current county boundaries and have even excluded sections of border tetrads which are outside Norfolk. Any reader involved in the current national Atlas will immediately notice four features: November and July are excluded, the summer and winter periods being sub-divided at 15 May and 15 January; no time limit is set to tetrad visits, which average 3-4 hours; the summer counting units are ‘breeding pairs’ (which may be single adults or families!), their totals being shown by the size of the coloured dots on the maps; and no distinction is generally drawn between confirmed and probable breeding, both of which are defined as ‘likely’ and are represented by shading. For most species there are also maps showing changes since Kelly’s period. The authors are frank about possible dangers in their radical changes to what have become traditional systems, but they are surely right in their advocacy of such methods for local Atlases, which must aim for the fullest possible coverage rather than for mere sampling.

There are two important additions to the main Atlas text: P. W. Lambley’s section on habitats; and Marchant’s ‘Overview of Norfolk’s Birds’.”


IBIS The International Journal of Avian Science

Available now from NHBS

A Field Guide to Monitoring Nests and The Norfolk Bird Atlas reviewed in Birdwatch Magazine

A Field Guide to Monitoring Nests


A Field Guide to Monitoring Nests jacket image“The best of the nest”

The introductory sections to this excellent guide cover current legislation, the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme and advice about finding and monitoring nests without affecting the outcome of the breeding attempt. Importantly, it also explains why there is a need to monitor nests. Along with survival rates, breeding success determines whether a species increases or decreases in population. Monitoring helps explain some declines and contributes towards the creation of conservation initiatives.

The bulk of the book is made up of species accounts in the traditional field-guide format, with one or two pages per species. A total of 146 breeding birds is included, with Schedule 1 species – rarer birds whose nesting sites cannot be approached without a licence – omitted. For each, there is a map, a summary of the dates when eggs and young can be found, colour pictures of the adult, eggs and newly hatched young, and details of breeding ecology and tips on the best methods for finding and monitoring nests.

The BTO hopes that this guide will encourage more birders to become involved in nest recording for conservation purposes. The numbers of nests being monitored has been dropping rapidly for some species, particularly open-nesting passerines, which could hinder efforts to understand why their populations are in decline. However, the comprehensive information covered in this guide will be of interest even if you do not want to take part in nest recording. It may even help to change your mind!

Ian Woodward

Birdwatch Magazine – September 2011

Available now from NHBS

The Norfolk Bird Atlas


The Norfolk Bird Atlas jacket image“Accounting for Norfolk’s Birds”

Arguably the premier birding county in the country, Norfolk already has a detailed and highly readable avifauna to its credit. The Birds of Norfolk team of co-authors incuded county stalwart Moss Taylor, who links up in this new volume with the British Trust for Ornithology’s John Marchant to present the results of eight years of summer and winter mapping undertaken by an army of fieldworkers.

Surveying for the last Norfolk Atlas ended in 1985, so there was clearly a need for an update – a lot can and has changed in two decades. Geoffrey Kelly’s The Norfolk Bird Atlas also only covered breeding species, so this latest work adds significantly to knowledge of the county’s birds, with current winter distributions also fully mapped.

The premise, planning and methods are set out in full in 18 introductory pages which precede the meat of the book, the species accounts. Some 270 species are covered: those present year-round typically have three maps to show summer and winter ranges and changes since the previous atlas, while summer visitors have range and change maps, and those present only in winter or recently added as breeding species get a single map accordingly. The historical and current status of all are described informatively in an accompanying narrative.

There is a wealth of information to be absorbed from the accounts and maps, and to set the scene the reader could do worse than turn to John Marchant’s overview of Norfolk’s birds at the back of the book. Here, we learn among many other things that the county was home to about 900,000 pairs of breeding birds of 135 regular species during the survey period; that there were some 3.1 million wintering birds in the county of 183 regular species; that Woodpigeon was both the most abundant breeding and wintering species; that the county holds more than 50 per cent of the country’s breeding Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers; and that Red-backed Shrike, Wood Warbler and Winchat have all been lost as breeding birds since the last atlas, but up to 14 more species probably or definitely nested for the fist time in the same period.

All of this fascinating information is presented in a well-designed package, with double-page species spreads enlivened particularly by an excellent selection of illustrations and colour photos, many of the latter by David Tipling. Branded ‘A BTO Bird Atlas’, the format is presumably a template for a series of reinvigorated county atlases by the Norfolk-based Trust, which 20 years ago moved its headquarters to Thetford.

As gathering of data from observers becomes faster and more efficient through online schemes such as the BTO’s BirdTrack project, as well as through dedicated grid-based surveys such as this, it may be that the relevance of mapped atlases like Norfolk’s new tome will overtake that of conventional county avifaunas.

Dominic Mitchell

Birdwatch Magazine – August 2011

Available now from NHBS

Book of the Week: The Norfolk Bird Atlas

Continuing our weekly selection of the very best titles available through NHBS:

The Norfolk Bird Atlas: Summer and Winter Distributions 1999-2007

by Moss Taylor and John H Marchant


A survey of Norfolk’s breeding and wintering avifauna.The Norfolk Bird Atlas jacket image


As with all their projetcs, the BTO have produced this excellent survey with conservation in mind. A huge undertaking, it has involved the work of over 300 observers. Not only does it document the distribution in Norfolk of the all the different bird species, it also assesses their abundance. It also highlights the changes since previous atlases – for instance, the new breeding colonists such as the Mediterranean Gull, the Little Egret and the Goosander.

In-depth charts and figures, deft analysis by the authors, and beautiful full-colour photography and illustrations give this substantial volume wide appeal and an enduring and deserved place on any ornithologists bookshelf.


Moss Taylor has had a lifelong interest in ornithology and has 50 years experience as a bird ringer. He has been involved with previous BTO atlas projects and served on several BTO committees, and was the instigator and co-ordinator of the fieldwork on which The Norfolk Bird Atlas is based, as well as being an active participant. His previous books include The Birds of Norfolk and Collins Identifying Birds by Colour.

John Marchant joined the BTO in 1973. Bird surveys occupy a major part of his paid and personal time. He has served on the BOU Records Committee and the British Birds Rarities Committee, for which he is archivist. He has written many scientific papers and reports, and among the books he has co-authored is Population Trends in British Breeding Birds.

Available Now from NHBS

New Bird Conservation Books from NHBS

A Best Practice Guide for Wild Bird Monitoring Schemes is essential reading for all those involved in bird counts, conducting surveys, analysing monitoring data and managing results. This key resource outlines the general principles of good survey design and best practices for sampling, field methods, and data analysis. Contributors include the RSPB, EBCC, CSO, BirdLife International, and Statistics Netherlands.











Another new bird monitoring title is Bird Ringing: The Concise Guide, published by the BTO. This book is an ideal training tool for ringers, explaining how and why we ring birds. It contains numerous examples of how ringing has contributed to conservation science and research, and how ringing helps us understand population changes by providing information on survival and recruitment.

For more new titles and related equipment, browse New Bird Conservation Titles and Equipment

We stock a wide range of fieldwork equipment including bird weighing scales, ringing pliers, GPS units, and nest boxes and camera kits. To see our full selection, browse Wildlife Equipment

Browse our full range of Bird Conservation, Care, and Monitoring titles

Don’t miss the great deals on ornithology titles in our annual Backlist Bargains sale (ends 31/03/2009).

Browse our full range of birding titles in Ornithology