2016 WAS a poor breeding season for many bird species, in part due to periods of heavy spring and summer rainfall.

In a reversal of fortunes from last year, conditions were better for populations in northern England and Scotland than they were in the south.

The 2015-16 winter was the UK’s third warmest on record and results generated from survey work undertaken by British Trust for Ornithology volunteers indicate that these mild conditions, which extended over much of the northern hemisphere, benefited many species.

"At the start of the breeding season, bird ringers taking part in the Constant Effort Site scheme recorded above average numbers for many of the songbirds nesting in scrub and woodland habitats, such as Wren, Robin and Song Thrush," noted Nest Record Scheme organiser Carl Barimore.

However, March and April 2016 brought cold, wet weather to much of the country, particularly in the southern half of Britain, resulting in a late start to the nesting season in these habitats: "The cool, damp spring delayed egg production for 12 species, including both residents and summer visitors, many laying their first egg over a week later than average. This delay was most obvious for those birds that typically start to nest in April, such as Great Tit, Chaffinch and Blackcap."

More heavy rain in June caused further problems for birds attempting to rear young: "Unsurprisingly, species nesting in wetlands were particularly badly affected,"continued Carl. "Numbers of Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting fledglings fell by a third and a half respectively, largely due to nests being flooded out."

Many young birds leave the nest in June and the impact of unseasonable weather doesn’t end there. CES results show that the number of juvenile birds caught per adult in 2016 was significantly lower than average for 17 of the 24 species monitored. Senior BTO research ecologist Dave Leech added: "The figures recorded by ringers paint an even more negative picture of the 2016 season than those from BTO nest recorders. Adverse conditions immediately after fledging can really reduce the survival rates of the inexperienced young as they struggle to acclimatise to their new-found independence."

The situation did vary across Britain and Ireland, however. Dave continued: "In complete contrast to 2015, drier conditions in Scotland during spring and early summer led to a much more productive season in the north. This could be good news for Willow Warbler, a long-distance migrant that has declined by over 60% since the mid-1960s, a population crash that is increasingly thought to be linked to nesting success. Northern Britain is the species’ stronghold and it was the only one for which CES results showed a significant increase in breeding success during in 2016."