27 May 2010

Foreign Avocet still breeding in Suffolk

Avocet movements are very interesting to monitor as there as been quite a bit of exchange between birds on the continent and the UK. Mike Marsh saw the colour ringed bird (below) at Orfordness, Suffolk wearing only a yellow colour ring and a metal ring. He tried to trace this bird from the colour rings but to no avail. He later managed to read the ring number which was easily traceable.

Avocet 5239200 was ringed as a chick in the Beltringharder Koog, on the German north sea coast on 20th June 1992, making this bird 18 years old and a possible longevity record! This bird had also been colour ringed but had since lost a black, red and green ring, which is why he couldn't trace the bird via the colour rings.

After being seen several times around its natal site up to the 14th July 1992 it was next seen in May and June 1996 at Minsmere and now, thanks to Mike Marsh at Orfordness, Suffolk where it has one small chick to look after. Unfortunately we don't know where it spent the intervening 14 years.

View Avocet leaves home in a larger map

Thanks to Mike Marsh for letting us know about this bird and also to David Crawshaw for the photo.

25 May 2010

Which bird is now widespread after 15 years of breeding in Britain?

Little Egret ringing is a recent phenomenon in this country and Jez Blackburn has been helping improve our knowledge of this species by ringing chicks in Norfolk. He reports on the current situation below.

Monitoring of this Little Egret colony in Norfolk started in 2007 with 19 nests counted. This increased to 28 in 2008 but then dropped to 17 in 2009. This year 24 active nests have been recorded. 27 chicks have been ringed so far from 8 nests and in the other nests had chicks that were too small for ringing or on eggs. All birds have been individually colour ringed and this is showing some interesting movements with two birds ringed in 2009 that were found in France and Spain last winter, presumed to be cold weather movements. On average 10% of the birds marked have been sighted away from the colony.

If you monitor a Heronry, keep an eye out for Little Egrets as they tend to breed in the same or adjacent trees. However they are not obvious (even though they a large white bird!) unless you are in the colony and generally nest later than the Herons. If you are a ringer and can safely access the nests for ringing please contact Richard Hearn (littleegrets@yahoo.co.uk) the co-ordinator, about the use of colour rings. Even if you can't get access to ring the chicks remember to nest record the details and submit these (along with the Heron data) via IPMR. Don't forget also that annual counts of apparently occupied nests of egrets and herons are needed for all heronries for the BTO Heronries Census (now in its 83rd year!), at herons@bto.org.

Posted on behalf of Jez Blackburn and photos by Dorian Moss of Little Egrets and Rachael Portnall

24 May 2010

Backyard Breeders

Every year, the BTO receive many records of birds nesting in our gardens. Many of these nest records are from your typical garden species such as Blue Tits in nest boxes and Blackbirds in garden shrubs. However, once in a while our gardens can surprise us.

For example, sometimes our garden birds can nest in the most peculiar of places. Last week, a Cambridge student found a Blackbird nesting in their bike basket! Three chicks have since hatched and hopefully they will fledge successfully.

Additionally, gardens can provide excellent nesting habitat for the rarer garden breeders. Last week in Lancaster, a local resident found a Chiffchaff nest embedded in some weeping sedge underneath a holly hedge in their back garden!

So it just goes to show that nests can pop up anywhere and sometimes where you least expect it! Why not keep your eyes peeled for nesting activity in your garden? You never know what might turn up on your doorstep!

Thanks to Emily Scragg for the Blackbird photo and Elisabeth Shakespeare for the Chiffchaff nest photo.

21 May 2010

Osprey refuels in Greater Manchester

You know when summer is well on its way, when you see your first Osprey of the year. Osprey 'VE' or 1408005 to its friends, has been seen fishing in the Greater Manchester area around Abram (SD6001) and the Dover Basin (SD6100) from 15th to at least the 19th May and was giving very good views while it caught Trout.

Osprey 'VE' was ringed as a chick near Kirriemuir, Angus on 28th June 2007 and it was here that it was colour ringed. Amazingly 'VE' has not been seen since it was ringed, even though this bird has probably travelled in the region of 17,800km (11,100m) on its migrations to and from West Africa!

If you see this or any other colour ringed bird you can report your sighting via www.ring.ac.

Photo by Hugh Insley

19 May 2010

Hawfinch prolific

The Hawfinch "catching season" is short - late March to early May. I have been very pleased with my efforts over the last 7 years and some 200 birds ringed, but this season has been really exceptional. With the help of Adrian Thomas and Rob Husbands, the three of us have managed to catch Hawfinch at seven different feeding sites in the Forest of Dean and lower Wye Valley.

In total 228 birds ringed, 37 recaptured from previous years, 74 same season retraps and 1 foreign control (from Norway). Because of the number of sites in operation this year, we have had our first same season movements, showing that a proportion of the population is very mobile in the month leading up to breeding, with movements of up to 20 km. One such bird, ringed on 26th March was photographed by Lewis Thompson 10 km away on 6th April.

Posted on behalf of Jerry Lewis, Photo by Lewis Thomson

18 May 2010

Battle of the boxes: update

Last week I reported on a conflict (apparently) that was fatal for a Pied Flycatcher. On the same visit (10 May) I found another box which had a Great Tit’s nest. This contained 5 eggs, but they were unusually deeply buried in the mossy/feather nest material beneath the cup (rather than just lying in the bottom of the cup covered with some loose nest material). In other respects it was a normal Tit’s nest.

Today (17 May) when I inspected the box I was surprised to find it now contained a Pied Flycatcher’s nest (usual grass and stems) with 3 blue eggs. So either the Flycatcher usurped the Tit and took over the box, or the Tit had deserted and the Flycatcher seized the opportunity.

Either way, it’s now Great Tits 1 – Pied Flycatchers 1.

Posted on behalf of David Coker and photo of Great Tit nest by Bob Coyle (not David Coker's nest) .

14 May 2010

Greenfinch control comes full circle

The Ringing Office has very extensive paper archives, but storage space is running out, so we are disposing of old recovery letters more than 20 years old. However before disposal we are removing and keeping any attached rings and also keeping samples of all the letters.

A happy coincidence recently was when a volunteer came across a 'BRC16' reporting a Greenfinch control from Dec 1987 in Ireland of a bird which our Ringing Database Officer Dorian Moss had ringed in his garden in Anglesey a few months earlier.

View Dorians Greenfinch recovery in a larger map

The Migration Atlas shows that movements of Greenfinches across the Irish Sea are relatively unusual, so it was rewarding to be reminded of this interesting control.

11 May 2010

Battle of the boxes

I am operating a Pied Flycatcher RAS project at a particularly good wood near Presteigne, Powys, and yesterday (10 May) I made my first full inspection of the 88 boxes there, with my new ringing trainee. He looked in one box and said “There seem to be two birds in here, one dead”! I took a look, and saw a brooding Great Tit apparently cuddled up to a dead Pied Flycatcher. Upon removing the flycatcher, without disturbing the tit, I found that it was a ringed male, T600924. I ringed it as a breeding male, age code 6 (adult), in another box 50-75 yards away, on 3rd June last year.

I presume it got into conflict with the Great Tit, and lost (and in such a case my money would generally be on the tit). This is the second year I have had such an event. Last year I was clearing out a Great Tit’s nest after the young had fledged in another wood, and felt a hard lump under the nest material. This turned out to be a dead 5 (Juvenile) male Pied Flycatcher, ring number T600535, which I had ringed as a nestling in that wood in 2008.

Posted on behalf of David Coker. Photo from Dick Jeeves.

06 May 2010

Montagu's magic!

On 28 April a friend rang me with the news that he was watching a wing-tagged female Montagu's Harrier in the Horsey area of northeast Norfolk. Even better, he'd been able to read the tags - left wing: black 0 on yellow, right wing: black 0 on green. As the story unfolded, it transpired that the bird had first been seen the day before at Dunwich, Suffolk, but identified as a Hen Harrier. It was seen regularly during the week, finding its way back to Minsmere by 3 May, where Jon Evans managed to capture some interesting images:

With a bit of help from their friends, the Ringing Team quickly tracked down this individual's origin - it was ringed and tagged as a nestling on 18 July 2008 in Villeneuve, France, 817 kilometres south of Horsey.

This is only the third foreign-ringed Montagu's Harrier to be found in the UK. The first was way back in the 1920s; a chick ringed in the Netherlands in June 1928 was reported (in unknown circumstances) in Suffolk a year later. The second was an unfortunate individual found freshly dead on a road at Invershin in Highland, Scotland on 7 October 2002, just 60 days after it was ringed as a nestling in France.

The map below shows just how close the origin of this week's bird was to that of the Scottish recovery.

View Montagu's Harriers in a larger