Britain’s Wackiest BBS Tetrad – Part 1

The Big One, used under creative commons licence (Stefan Sheer)

The national Breeding Bird Survey uses randomly selected 2km x 2km OS map tetrads. A few years ago someone suggested on Twitter they had an out of the ordinary BBS square. I’m not one to brag, but I think I trumped them as for over 20 years I have been doing SD3033.

This is SD3033. Even on the Ordnance Survey map you can see why it’s a bit different. The two blue stars marking other tourist features would be unusual enough, given they are a seaside pier and an ice rink. But it’s the carousel that really gives the game away – the seaward side of the square is dominated by Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

In the Breeding Bird Survey you make two early morning visits early and late in the nesting season, and record all the birds that you see including those that are just flying through. You do this for two transects. In an ideal world these would be straight lines one thirds and two thirds of the way along or up the tetrad. SD3033 isn’t too bad for that, the Promenade is an obvious north to south route, and Lytham Road whist not completely parallel is good enough. The routes I follow are shown below.

You can see that section 10 and part of section 9 are actually outside the tetrad. This is acceptable. I started surveying the route in 2002, and I’ve done it every year since. At the time I was working at Westgate House near the airport which is now an Aldi (or a Lidl), but I’ve kept it up as this tweet from last year shows.

And the year before:

And so on:

And here’s the best bit. You would expect two walks on a set route in such an urban and visitor heavy tetrad to not produce very many birds. Obviously it’s not Leighton Moss or Martin Mere, but over the 20 years of doing this I’ve had over 50 different species, 51 to be exact. In no particular order these have included highlights of Whooper Swans (see above), Pink-footed Geese, Redpolls, Siskins, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, two species of Tern and a Wheatear on the adventure golf course.

And that isn’t the end of the ornithological interest in SD3033. I will come back to this in part 2, and in part 3 I will hopefully tell you how this year has started on the BBS.

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