United Kingdom: The WeBS Low Tide Counts 1992-93 to 1998-99


UK launches new book on estuarine waterbirds

On 25 January 2004, Elliot Morley MP, Minister for the Environment in the UK, launched a new book called Estuarine Waterbirds at Low Tide, the distillation of seven years of observations by 600 volunteer birdwatchers.

Elliot Morley, himself a keen birdwatcher and one of the volunteers who has contributed to Estuarine Waterbirds at Low Tide by counting birds on the Humber Estuary, was presented with his copy of the new book on his local patch at Far Ings LWT Nature Reserve by Dr Andy Musgrove of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Estuarine Waterbirds at Low Tide is published by the International Wader Study Group, on behalf of the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), a partnership of BTO, The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), RSPB and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The WeBS Low Tide Counts, which form the basis for this book, have involved 600 volunteer birdwatchers.

Andy Musgrove (BTO), the main author of the book, said: “Until recently, most of our knowledge of the internationally important numbers of waterbirds visiting UK estuaries for the winter was based on counts made at high tide, when mudflats and sandbanks are covered by seawater. The WeBS Low Tide Counts have identified the most important feeding areas in our major estuaries for species such as the Brent Goose, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and Shelduck.”

Elliot Morley (Minister for the Environment and a Low Tide Counter) said: “I am delighted to see this book published and to receive my copy. Free copies are being given to the dedicated volunteer counters who have collected these data, in recognition of the excellent information that has been provided to those concerned with the conservation of our estuaries. We are fortunate in this country to have such a pool of knowledge and commitment to utilize in this way.”

[Taken from the BTO press release at www.bto.org/news/news2004/waterbirds_5.htm.]

Estuarine Waterbirds at Low Tide. The WeBS Low Tide Counts 1992-93 to 1998-99

A comment from Nick Davidson, Ramsar's Deputy Secretary General

Britain's estuaries are critically important as staging and wintering areas for migratory waterbirds from a vast area of the Asia, Europe and northern North America. In recognition of their huge value for biodiversity conservation, many have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance ("Ramsar sites") under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. But such designation is just the start, and the UK, as a Contracting Party to the Convention, has committed to maintaining the ecological character of these wonderful places, and managing them sustainably - and to direct such management requires sound knowledge and information about how waterbirds use the estuaries.

(Left) Nick Davidson and Louise Vall viewing the new publication

The long-running WeBS monthly counts mostly provide information about where the birds roost, since most counting takes place around high tide - but until recently there has been no such consistent or readily available information about the other crucial part of the equation - where the birds feed when the tide is out. The innovative WeBS Low Tide Counts scheme has admirably sought to fill this important gap in our knowledge.

The Estuarine Waterbirds at Low Tide volume plugs this gap splendidly, by making available to all who have an interest in waterbirds, including those who need to plan and implement the management of the estuaries concerned, this knowledge about where the many different waterbird species go to find the food that is vital for their survival in winter.

But behind this attractively-produced volume are the true heroes of the piece - the large network of enthusiastic volunteer waterbird counters who have braved all weathers to go out and carefully document the low tide distributions of waterbirds on so many estuaries. They deserve huge thanks for their efforts, and this volume is powerful recognition of their tireless work.

Not only should everyone involved in the WeBS Low Tide Counts scheme be justifiably proud of this major effort, but the production of the volume in the International Wader Study Group's International Wader Studies series will make sure that it lands through the mailboxes of waterbird people worldwide. It can and should serve as an both a challenge and an encouragement for people in other countries to do likewise, to aid the efforts to conserve estuaries and their waterbirds throughout their migratory flyways.

Nick Davidson being presented with a copy of the new publication by Louise Vall and Colin McLeod of the UK delegation to the Ramsar Standing Committee, 16 January 2004

For further information please contact:
Andy Musgrove (BTO): andy.musgrove@bto.org
Graham Appleton (BTO): graham.appleton@bto.org
Sonja Taylor-Jones (WWT): sonja.taylorjones@wwt.org.uk
Grahame Madge, RSPB press officer, on (+44) 01767 681577
Communications Team (JNCC): communications@jncc.gov.uk
Nick Davidson (Ramsar): davidson@ramsar.org

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