Andrew Lucas wrote...
'No great surprise, you say, but this was a bird of great personal significance. It was my last record in my last timed tetrad of the BTO atlas fieldwork. After 4 years, 3000 records in 200 tetrads and 40 timed counts, it's time to call it a day.
I must admit to a love-hate relationship with the atlas. It's great to know that my observations, no matter how trivial, are adding to the sum of knowledge about our birds. And fieldwork has taken me into some beautiful corners of northern West Glamorgan, places I would never normally consider visiting. But all habitats have to be covered, not just the most interesting bits, and, like many people, my time for natural history is strictly limited. Do I really want to spend those precious few hours on a Sunday morning trudging around a housing estate, or in a birdless slog across some over-grazed upland? At times, the atlas has seemed less like recreation, and more like an obligation.
But now we've arrived at the finishing line, and it's time to assess the results. The book will not be out for some time, but already maps are becoming available. It's interesting to compare results with the first atlas, which ran from 1968 to 1972. Then, 95 000 records - all on cards in those days - were used to produce Britain's first bird atlas. At the time, common buzzard was a western species, more or less confined to the West Country, Wales, Cumbria and Scotland. Today, the buzzard's conquest of Britain is almost complete, with birds found right across England. By contrast, the 68-72 atlas remarked of the yellowhammer that it 'show(s) virtually no breaks in distribution in the southern half of England and Wales'. Today, that distribution is starting to look very threadbare, with gaps opening up in areas of intensive agriculture such as Monmouthshire and west Carmarthenshire. The 68-72 atlas also had extensive maps of the distribution of cirl bunting and red-backed shrike. But little egret did not even merit a mention!
No doubt this atlas, whenever it appears, will be full of many more fascinating insights. And fieldwork for a West Glamorgan atlas will continue for another year. But for myself, I think I've done my bit. It's time to go back to birding for fun!!!'