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The July issue of British Birds contains the 37th report of the Rare Breeding Birds Panel, which includes details of 94 species or distinctive races that bred (or showed signs of breeding) in the UK in 2010 – which turned out to be a particularly good year for rare breeding birds. As well as five species (Arctic skua, long-eared owl, short-eared owl, lesser spotted woodpecker and willow tit) that were added to the RBBP list wef 2010, two other species are new to this report (great white egret and long-tailed skua) and a further eight were not reported in 2009: pink-footed goose, Macaronesian shearwater, purple heron, marmora’s warbler, subalpine warbler, melodious warbler, fieldfare and common rosefinch.
For species resident in the UK, the harsh 2009/10 winter, with prolonged periods of snowfall and sub-zero temperatures, was a testing precursor to the 2010 season. Despite the cold winter, the number of booming Eurasian bitterns increased once more, to over 100, while the number of pairs of little egrets Egretta garzetta reached the 800 mark for the second year in a row. Purple herons nested in the UK for the first time, fledging two young in Kent, while little bitterns nested for only the second time and two potential breeding pairs of great white egrets were present. Perhaps most unexpected of all, on the rare heron front, a colony of Eurasian spoonbills was established in 2010, from which six pairs successfully fledged a total of ten young.
The decline of the UK golden oriole population reached a new nadir in 2010, with no pairs confirmed breeding. In contrast, breeding numbers of both firecrest and bearded tit rose to new record heights in 2010, and there is good reason to suggest that there are now more than 1,000 breeding pairs of firecrests in the UK. There were, however, indications of weather-related declines of woodlark, dartford warbler and perhaps also cetti’s warbler.