Marine bird survey

Coastal view from aircraft


As part of the work to identify possible SPAs in the marine environment, JNCC has carried out new, targeted surveys of marine birds. These surveys have been conducted by JNCC staff, or by experienced contractors or organisations on behalf of, or in collaboration with, JNCC. JNCC uses a variety of analytical methods to assist in deriving estimates of total numbers of birds from sample survey counts and in mapping the distribution of these birds. 


Aerial survey

JNCC has carried out aerial surveys of inshore waters since the winter of 2000/01 to collect up-to-date, detailed data on the numbers and distribution of non-breeding aggregations of seaduck, divers and grebes. These data are used to inform work in progressing inshore SPAs.


Boat survey

Boat survey (K Kober)Since 1979, JNCC has conducted numerous surveys of seabird and cetaceans at sea from ships using standard methods, and this data is held in the European Seabirds At Sea (ESAS) database. This database is currently being analysed to assist in the identification of offshore aggregations of seabirds.


Coverage of UK waters by the ESAS database is extensive, but not comprehensive, and the data has usually been collected at a coarse resolution. Therefore, to inform specific aspects of the marine SPA work, additional, targeted boat surveys are sometimes carried out.Radio-tracking (B Dean)



Land-based survey

JNCC uses existing land-based survey data, such as Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) counts and  county bird records, as well as the general literature, to assist with assessing the importance of inshore areas. In addition, targeted counts from shore have been conducted around areas such as the Outer Hebrides, Wester Ross, Inner Clyde and Orkney. These data are used to inform work in progressing inshore SPAs.



JNCC has used radio-tracking of Manx shearwaters to assess how far their evening rafting distributions extend offshore from their breeding colonies. This was part of work investigating the possible extension of existing seabird colony SPAs into the marine environment.  Radio-tracking has also been used to supplement other survey data for red-throated divers to assess which marine areas are important for breeding birds.