Mapping of Farmland Bird Hotspots

In mid-2021 BirdWatch Ireland, supported by the Heritage Council and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Marine, commissioned Digital Nature to develop hotspot maps of farmland birds in Ireland. After extensive data gathering and data preparation phases, hotspot maps at both 10km and 1km resolution were successfully produced, based on scientifically validated records of threatened species of farmland bird in Ireland.

An introduction to the project has been published online by BirdWatch Ireland. It outlines how the various records in the datasets acquired were scored. Factors taken into account included:

Draft BirdWatch Ireland Farmland Bird Hotspots map as of August 2021
  • the species observed and its conservation status
  • the season of the record (e.g. breeding season or winter season)
  • the typical range of that species for that season
  • any level of breeding evidence recorded
  • the age of the record (more recent records scoring higher)

As reported by BirdWatch Ireland in issue 103 of their WINGS magazine, the project has gathered an unprecedented 29 datasets containing over 2.5 million records of bird observations in Ireland. Extensive BirdWatch Ireland datasets have been supplemented with valuable data provided by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Marine, the Heritage Council, the National Biodiversity Data Centre and Bord na Móna.

After filtering for twenty-seven species of interest more than 130,000 records remained. These were transformed into a consistent structure and format, and a scoring algorithm was carefully engineered and automated to construct the required maps.

Hotspot maps were generated taking all twenty-seven species of Farmland Bird into account. Hotspot maps were also generated for various subsets of these species, including Breeding Waders. All of these maps are being updated as more scientifically validated datasets become available, and as further refinements to the scoring algorithm and scoring parameters are developed.

It has been Digital Nature’s pleasure to work with the BirdWatch Ireland Policy and Advocacy Team on this suite of innovative maps. It is hoped that they will provide valuable insights informing the intensive efforts that are underway to try and secure the presence of these species in the Irish landscape for future generations.