28 April 2011

Migrant Misfortunes in April

With the mass exodus of the winter migrants just about over and with most of 'our' birds settling down to breed, its time to look forward to all the summer migrant recoveries. This afternoon Dave Leech was ecstatic with his discovery of 2 Blackcap nests and we have also been receiving a few recoveries of this species as well. This includes a Blackcap ringed at South Foreland, Kent on 2nd Oct 2010 which was caught by a ringer at Litcham, Norfolk 11 Apr 2011 (181km in 191 days).

Chiffchaff have been doing well for reports, with 7 birds so far this month, 4 of which died when they hit windows. Another was very unlucky when it was hit by a car at Great Bowden, Leicestershire on 20 Apr 2011, after being ringed at Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset in October 2010 (236km in 200 days).

We received a report through www.ring.ac on 17th April concerning an unidentified bird being found freshly dead at Skipness, Knapdale. This turned out to be a recently returned Manx Shearwater which was ringed at Copeland Bird Observatory, Co Down in 2003. The distance between these two sites is 120km but this bird travelled considerably more, since they winter off the coast of Argentina every year.

A look at some other reports of interest reveals a rarely ringed Ring-necked Parakeet which was found on the M4 after being hit by a vehicle, also found on the 17th April. This bird was ringed 10km away at Molesey Lock, Surrey. There is also a cracking recovery (although unfortunate for the bird) of a Pochard (red pin below), being shot in Bezenchuk, Samara in Russia (3290km in 486 days). A Woodcock (blue pin below) was also shot but this time in Belarus after being ringed in 2006 at Stowmarket, Suffolk (1830km in 1568 days).

View Pochard and Woodcock Recoveries in a larger map

Note these are recent reports and haven't yet gone through the checking process.
Thanks to Dawn Balmer for the Chiffchaff picture.

20 April 2011

Nest records are escalating at the Nunnery

The Nunnery Ringing Group have been busy this spring, finding and monitoring nests of the local thrushes, Robins and Dunnocks but things are starting to move up a gear.

As you can see from the pins in the map below, we have already found quite a few nests this year from all over Thetford, the majority located on the BTO reserve (the long strip running south-west from Thetford). Many of these nests have progressed to the nestling stage and some are just about to fledge chicks, including several Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins, Dunnocks and Chaffinches.

And it's not just the resident species that have begun to nest - our short distance migrants are getting in on the act too. While it might seem like they've only been back for a few weeks, we have already found one female Chiffchaff sitting on six eggs (below), with several more busy building. Not far from our site, another BTO staff member has found a Blackcap already laying its first clutch. If the weather stays warm and dry, you can be sure that the long distance migrants won't be far behind.

Thanks to Dave Leech for the photo of the Chiffchaff nest.

12 April 2011

Stonechat off to the coast... again

Thetford Forest, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border has a variety of habitats of Special Scientific Importance including woodland and heathland, which supports some scarce bird species like Nightjar, Woodlark and Goshawk. A recent colonist to the forest has been the Stonechat, and Thetford Forest Ringing Group has been studying this species, monitoring its movements and demography since its arrival.

Stonechat started to breed about 7 or 8 years ago and increased to about 56 pairs. After the recent cold winters the number of pairs has decreased dramatically to about 20 pairs. Adults and chicks have been colour ringed as part of a Retrap Adults for Survival (RAS) project with the aim of finding out where they go during the winter and to monitor the dispersal of chicks.

Most of the birds move out of the forest in the winter, resulting in some interesting movements (blue pins) of birds to the milder coast. See map below.

We have just heard from Trevor Girling (North West Norfolk Ringing Group) that a colour ringed female Stonechat has been seen at Snettisham Country Park (green pin) on Thursday 24th March. This bird was ringed as a chick by John Secker (Thetford Forest Ringing Group) at Hockwold (red pin) on 07/06/2010 and amazingly Trevor was overseeing this bird being ringed!

View Stonechat Thetford Forest in a larger map

It looks like this bird has now set up home at Snettisham with an unringed male and its progress will be followed by the N W Norfolk Ringing Group. Stonechat don't usually travel very far but these sightings are providing vital information about their movements.

08 April 2011

Ringing in numbers

Things are getting very exciting here in the Demography team as most, if not all, of the ringing data are computerised for 2010. We can now start analysing the information and try to understand why we ringed over a million birds last year!

As we had a great breeding season last year, you would think that the number of juvenile birds and those ringed as chicks would provide a large chunk of the ringing totals. Looking at the Pie Chart below shows this is the case.

So 66% of birds ringed in 2010 hatched in the year. The 3% of unaged birds would largely be down to birds that do a complete post juvenile moult, a couple of months or so after hatching, so they will have adult plumage and can not be aged as an adult or juvenile reliably.

To compare with 2009 the Pie Chart below shows the percentage of birds ringed for that year. As you can see there is not a massive difference but 2009 was also another record year for the number of birds ringed.

The bar chart below shows the number of chicks ringed for the past 6 years. Fingers crossed for another good year and success in nest recording.

Thanks to Richard Vaughan for the photo in the bar chart and apologies for the overload of graphs in one blog post.

06 April 2011

BTO Ringing App goes live!

If you are a ringer, have you ever been out nest recording or ringing and found yourself with a brood of chicks or an adult bird that you don't normally ring? The question is then swiftly followed by "What ring size does this bird take again?" as you start hunting for your ringers manual.

BTO information systems have developed an application for android phones that gives you a list of birds with their corresponding ring size!

Also included in this app are:
  • Ring size for full grown and pulli
  • Latin name and Euring number
  • Wing length and weight ranges
  • Schedule 1 licence specifics
  • Types of rings (specifications, address used and metal type)

You can now be out in the field and have all this information to hand.
This app is free and can be downloaded from the App Market on your phone (only if your phone has access to the App market and is v1.6 or higher with a touch screen, iphones not included).

01 April 2011

Owl Action on the Nunnery Reserve

During the winter, Paul Taylor and the Nunnery Fisheries team have been hard at work making and erecting nesting boxes, in the hope of attracting owls and Kestrels. This is allows us to complete nest record cards for the Nest Record Scheme and to ring the young birds and possibly their parents too.

Yesterday we completed our first inspection of these boxes, with some interesting results. The first box had a roosting male Barn Owl (we were of course armed with the appropriate schedule 1 licence) and while attempting to sort out the ladder for the second box a Tawny Owl emerged to see what was going on. This bird was sitting on 3 eggs (below) so fingers crossed for 3 lucky ringers when these chicks hatch. Hopefully this nest will follow the progress of the nest the BTO is monitoring.

By this stage we were in a very positive frame of mind but we actually had mixed results. The next Kestrel box had sticks and feathers inside and another owl box was full of sticks, which were probably the work of Jackdaws. Then while also trying to find a Long-tailed Tit nest and failing, the next owl box was empty.

The next two owl boxes produced a Squirrel family and 3 Barn Owls roosting. Hopefully these Barn Owls will start to lay shortly. We were impressed though with the raptor tally for the day, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Kestrel fly over and the first Red Kite in Norfolk for Dave Leech.