BIRD lovers are being encouraged to play their part in a massive 'state-of-the-nation' survey.
Members of the Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society (CAWOS) are teaming up with the Nantwich-based Cheshire Wildlife Trust to carry out the biggest local bird survey ever, and members are looking for keen birdwatchers to take part.
The three-year project aims to paint an accurate picture of birdlife in the 21st Century - and identify species in threat of decline which need to be conserved.
Fieldwork carried out in the 1970s and 1980s formed the basis of the first survey published in 1992. But that work urgently needs to be repeated in order to get an accurate picture of how local birds are faring.
The number and species of bird in Cheshire has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Some species have seen increases in population - the number of mute swans in the area has risen by 20% and the two instances of nesting buzzards recorded in 1992 have multiplied to 200.
But many species of birds have suffered a decline. Twenty years ago skylarks, lapwings, and tree sparrows were seen across the county, but these are now scarce. CAWOS secretary David Cogger said: 'We are looking to see how the birds in the county have fared compared to 25 years ago.'
The fieldwork for the new survey will start next month and finish in February 2007. The county will be divided into 2km squares, which will be surveyed four times annually by volunteers.
David, a former history lecturer, said: 'We have got more than 270 volunteers so we have covered about two-thirds of the area There are still quite a few vacant areas, particularly around Tarporley, Crewe and Winsford.'
The team needs another 100 or so volunteers.
Anyone able to identify common birds and is willing to get up early and spend several hours monitoring can take part. Training is available for those new to fieldwork. For more information write to: David Cogger, CAWOS Secretary, 113 Nantwich Road, Middlewich CW10 9HD, call him on 01606 832517 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.