28 April 2009

Land's End LRP in Berks

The persistence of photographer Jerry O'Brien has paid of with these amazing set of images of a ringed Little Ringed Plover (BT02510). The bird has recently returned to a Berkshire site operated by Hadley's Recycling and Waste Management.

Over the last three breeding seasons, local ringers have worked with the company to protect the birds and have adjusted their working programme to accommodate them on more than one occasion.

We presumed this particular bird would have been ringed locally, so it was a surprise to find it had actually been ringed at Land's End, Cornwall, in April 2008! We get very few movements of LRPs, and this is only the 19th movement over 100km.

27 April 2009

Boedicia the Tawny Owl disappears at 21!

It can be quite sad when old friends disappear, and none more so than Boedicia the Tawny Owl.

Boedicia was named by BBC Cumbria listeners last year when she was recaught in May at the grand old age of 21 years. That year she still fledged three healthy chicks, and was only a few months short of the national record of 21 years and 5 months (held by a North Yorkshire bird).

Home for Boedicia is Kershope Forest in Cumbria, part of the much larger Kielder Forest, managed by the Forestry Commission. She was originally ringed by BTO ringer Brian Little in April 1987, who recaught her again last spring. Sadly though, after being caught on CCTV in her nest box in September, Boudica hasn't been seen since.

The Tawny Owl project has reported a dreadful year so far though. Over 200 nest boxes are sited around the forest, and up to 115 can be occupied in any one year. Brian and his team monitored 95 nests in the forest in 2008, but so far this year their total is a mere 47! This is almost certainly due to 2009 being a very poor vole year, with the cyclic population of voles being much less predictable in recent years.

The Forestry Commission are holding two owl nights over the summer, open to the public. More details can be found here..

ALL870 returns to Druridge

I never fail to be impressed by migration, but there are some birds that really do impress! One such bird is ALL870, a Willow Warbler residing in Druridge Bay, Northumberland. The site is regularly ringed by Janet Fairclough and Iain Robson and this particular bird was originally ringed (as an adult) in May 2004.

It was then caught in the same patch in 2005, 2006, 2008 and now 2009. This isn't the oldest Willow Warbler we know of; this was a 10 year old bird from Hertfordshire. What is amazing though, is where this bird will have been over those years. Weighing in at less than a pound coin, this bird will have crossed the Sahara at least 12 times!

Thanks to Janet for the story (and photo) and more details, and some great nestling Stonechat photos, can be found on the Druridge blog.

18 April 2009

New species - Lime-billed Bullfinch!

Ringing always turns up something odd, and this Bullfinch is no exception. It was caught at Woolston Eyes, Cheshire, yesterday, and showed some very odd colouration indeed. One feather on the forehead, all of the nasal feathing and a couple of wing feathers were white, and the whole bird was generally quite pale in colour. Most striking though was the bill, which was mostly a pale lime colour instead of black! Very odd!

Thanks to Stephen Menzie for the info and photo of this oddity, and for comparison, a normal Bullfinch photo by Jill Pakenham is shown below.

17 April 2009

Check before watering!

"The other day we noticed a male Wren singing from one of the hanging baskets right by our back gate. With its tail pumping up and down whilst it sang, we knew it was keen to defend its territory. When the female bird appeared, the male suddenly disappeared inside the basket. Checking the basket a little later, there was a small pile of evicted compost under the basket and a Wren’s nest inside it! What the bird had done was tp create a nest inside the basket, using a flower hanging from one of the holes as a perch. It had then dug out a nest in the compost inside the basket.

Male Wrens build several nests over the spring, and the female selects the best one, so we have no idea if she'll like this particular site. However, it looks like we won’t be watering this hanging basket for a while!"

Thanks to James & Kate Cracknell for this, and for the photos.

14 April 2009

OAP Meadow Pipits at Bird Observatories

Ringing is not all about bizarre movements and odd deaths..... We can also glean a vast amount of information about survival rates in birds, which can help us to identify the causes of changes in populations (this is the crux of demography).

Meadow Pipit P459332 was ringed at Hilbre Bird Observatory in August 2001 and has been regularly caught in the 'potter traps' on the island since. It was most recently caught on 30 March 2009, and at 7 years 7 months old is now the oldest recorded Meadow Pipit in Britain & Ireland.

This is quite a good age, and beats the old record of a bird ringed at Spurn Bird Observatory in 1974 that was found dead in Spain in 1981. This quite nicely shows the very different strategies of different populations, with the Hilbre bird being a resident, and the Spurn bird merely passing through en route to southern Europe.

Thanks for John Elliott at Hilbre for pointing this out to us and supplying the photo of the bird.

12 April 2009

Easter eggs in Wymondham

It seems appropriate to mention eggs at Easter... Not the Smarties egg I got this morning, but some equally close to home. I'm not the world's best nest finder, but even a quick afternoon walk found a Blackbird on one egg and a sitting Woodpigeon to join the two thrushes found last week. I'd hoped we could follow these thrush nests through the season, but sadly one has already been predated - a Song Thrush in fields beside the house. This was in a long Hawthorn hedge, and the key to finding the nest was to find the only bit of Ivy within the hedge.

The female was sat on four eggs a couple of days ago, but as I went to take some habitat photos this afternoon I noticed she wasn't sitting, and found the nest was empty. Note how this nest has only a simple mud lining, which is typical of Song Thrush - Blackbirds have a much grassier lining in their nests.

Our garden Blackbird will hopefully fare better, and is currently also sitting on four eggs. This is in a far more sensible location, tucked in the side of a thick and rather spikey conifer.

Recording the progress and fate of nests is an important monitoring tool, and the BTO's Nest Record Scheme has been doing just that for decades. Nest recording really can be as simple as keeping half an eye on the birds in your garden, so do think about getting involved. Get in touch via the web for more details on getting involved.

09 April 2009

Honey Buzzards and trains don't mix

Unfortunately some of the really interesting stories get delayed, as they are checked and double-checked. This was the case with NLA 6124986.

This was a Buzzard found dead on railway lines near Ipswich, Suffolk, in August 2008. This was carrying a Dutch ring, which was pretty unusual, but even more so when we got the report back recently, as it had been ringed in the nest as a Honey Buzzard! Ringed in July 2006 in the Drenthe region of The Netherlands, this is only the third foreign-ringed Honey Buzzard to be found in the UK. The others were ringed in Germany (injured hitting wires in Kent in July 1973) and Sweden (killed hitting wires in South Yorkshire in October 1976).

Our own birds do move around a fair bit as well. A pair seen in south Wales in 2006 were both colour-ringed: the female was from Shropshire (ringed in 2000) and the male was from central Wales (ringed in 2002). Welsh birds have actually wandered quite widely, being found injured in Hampshire, stuck in a wire fence in France and shot to protect chickens and ducks in Ghana.

The only other foreign movements we know of are a bird from Scotland, shot in Guinea in February 1991, and a bird from Sussex, hit by a train in France in August 2007. Maybe Honey Buzzards and trains just don't mix! These are shown on the map, but we've kept off any possibly sensitive breeding sites, as birds do still suffer persecution.

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02 April 2009

Our second Chaffinch to Poland

"How many Chaffinches have we had in Poland?" - a question posed by Lee Barber this morning... My guess of none was close, but not quite right! We have (or more accurately had) just one record of a BTO-ringed Chaffinch in Poland: ringed in Oxfordshire in November 1970 and found in Poland in April 1971. But we now have two, after an email arrived with these photos.

This colour-ringed male was part of a project looking at the dispersal of birds away from a winter roost, but this is slightly further than the group expected! They were hoping to just receive a few sightings from local gardens! It was originally ringed on 23 December 2006 at Charnwood, Leicestershire, and found in Poland on 31 March.

This is about as far as Chaffinches go, though we do have two records of BTO Chaffinches found in Russia. Going the other way, we've had two from Russia and one previous from Poland to Britain (ringed in Poland in September 1965 and found in Bewdley in March 1967).

01 April 2009

Spring Siskins in Russia

March is always a good time to be out catching Siskins, as this is the time they are on the move. Many of these birds will be 'local' breeders from northern England or Scotland, but some do come from much further afield.

Just today we received details of two BTO-ringed birds recaught by Russian ringers at the Rybachiy Ringing Station. X168805 was originally ringed in Northamptonshire on 30 March 2008 and found just 17 days later, whilst X036370 was ringed in Norfolk on 26 March 2008 and recaught on its way back to us on 14 October 2008.

We only have records of 21 other Siskin movements to Russia, nine of which were to Rybachiy, so these two together are exceptional.

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