30 March 2009

Fair Isle Robin on the move

Only one in 50 ringed birds are ever found again (which is why we have to ring so many), but V159128 obviously didn't know this.

This Robin was originally ringed at Fair Isle Bird Observatory on 1 April 2007 - honestly... It was presumably on spring migration at the time, returning to a breeding area further north. It was then recaught by ringers on 23 October 2008 at Limburg in The Netherlands, and remarkably also caught at Limburg in Belgium just 10 days later (2 November). These two Limburgs are over 100km apart, so its interesting to think this winter visitor had been just wandering round the Benelux countries all winter, and is maybe now en route back throguh Fair Isle...

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23 March 2009

Papilloma in Chaffinches: not for the faint-hearted!

Ringers are in the unenviable position of sometimes seeing birds close up that suffer a manner of different ailments. Perhaps one of the commonest is Papillomatosis and affects species as diverse as Chaffinch, Crossbill and Sedge Warbler.

This is caused by the Papillomavirus, a DNA virus that is more normally associated with parrots and macaws. For those with an abnormal fascination with the virus, more details can be found in this paper.

This Chaffinch is one of the most extreme cases we've ever seen, and was caught on 15 March near Ripon. The extent of the growths is incredible, and the bird obviously has difficulty walking and presumably feeding normally, as it has very abnormal claw growth on its feet. The virus has been noted in the Chaffinch population at the site for several years, though the majority of birds coming to the feeders in the winter still have 'clean' legs. One adult male, though, that had regularly been caught at the site had lost one foot due to the virus.

Thanks (I think) to Yvonne Elvin for the photos and to Jill Warwick for passing them on.

19 March 2009

Travels of an urban gull

We've just found out one of 'our' new population of city gulls is holiday-ing in Spain for the winter. Lesser Black-backed Gull GA37483 was originally ringed as a chick in the massive colony at Orfordness, Suffolk, in July 2002. The colony was home to 25,000 pairs of gulls, but after years of Fox predation, the colony has shrunk to just 7,000. Many of these have birds moved inland, and since 2006 Norwich is slowly being colonised. Most birds are seen in industrial sites around the city, and one site held over 30 pairs last year.

These birds still retain their natural migration patterns though, and GA37483 does get around. It was seen in Portimao, Portugal, in March 2003 and is currently in Malaga, Spain (see Google map below).

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How do we know all of this? Well GA37483 also carries a single red ring with SUD stamped on it, enabling it to be read through a telescope. The photo here shows a similar Orfordness bird, with ring RJS. Many birds such as gulls and waders carry these colour rings, and they are unique to that bird. So if you do happen on a colour-ringed bird, then do report it online at www.ring.ac.

Thanks to Mike Marsh from the Landguard Ringing Group for letting us know about this bird, and also for the photo.

13 March 2009

Nokia Bittern found in Wales

We mentioned cold weather movements before (Woodcock) and wonder if this recent ring report may be linked..... On Wednesday, a Bittern was found dead at Hendre Lake, St Mellons, near Cardiff in South Wales. It had been dead a while (as the photo attests!) but was found to have a ring inscribed with "Museum Zool Helsinki Finland".

Thanks to Jari Valkama at the Finnish Museum of Natural History, we found that his bird was ringed in the nest at Nokia, western Finland, on 5 July 2008. We have very few ring recoveries of Bittern, and this is the first from Finland.

The map below shows all of the foreign movements of Bitterns, with those ringed abroad in blue, and the one BTO-ringed bird found abroad in red. The lovely green markers show Nokia and Hendre Lake!

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Thanks to Gareth the Community Park Ranger for the report and photo, and to Jari for the quick response on its origins.

09 March 2009

Buzzard meets Chimpanzee

Eyebrows were raised this morning over a report of a ringed Buzzard from Monkey World in Wareham, Dorset. This involved a rather unfortunate Buzzard that managed to find its way into the Chimpanzee enclosure at the site... It may have been in trouble anyway, having canvas string caught around it neck, but when found this morning was missing its head and one wing!

GF17932 (its BTO ring number) was originally ringed as a chick in the nest in June 1993, making it nearly 16 years old at its unfortunate demise (the oldest BTO-ringed bird died at 24 years old)! It probably hadn't ventured far in this time though, being ringed only 5km from Monkey World.

This isn't your normal food chain link, but Buzzards can be versatile too... See the recent story of a Buzzard catching a Grey Phalarope, amazingly caught on camera by birder Paul Freestone.

Buzzard and Grey Phalarope (P.Freestone)

Buzzard and Grey Phalarope (P.Freestone)