29 March 2013

German KP in Sussex

This photo of a colour-ringed Kentish Plover at Rye Harbour (Sussex) appeared on BirdGuides recently, taken by Martin Casemore. Now any colour-ringed bird is worth chasing up and the first port of call is normally the excellent European Colour-Ring Birding website. But a colour-ringed KP is something special and this bird was tracked down to a German project.

It had been originally ringed as a breeding adult at St Peter-Ording (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany) in May 2009. It returned to the same site again in 2010, arriving on 14th April, but its nest was destroyed and it then moved 20km east to a possible alternative breeding site. It was seen there in June 2010 but then not since, so its arrival in Sussex was even more unexpected.

Kentish Plovers have been being ringed along the Wadden Sea coast of Germany since the early 1990s and this is the second bird to be seen in the UK, following a female seen in 1994. This bird was ringed as chick in May 1993, also at St Peter-Ording, and was then seen at Spurn Point on 13th April 1994.

There are just two other records of foreign-ringed KPs in the UK: a French-ringed bird was shot in Avon in 1972 and a Dutch-ringed bird had its ring read in Kent in 1988.

Thanks to Martin for the photos of this bird and to Rainer Schulz and Dominic Cimiotti for the prompt response with its history.

26 March 2013

Blackcap now on the map

With spring on its way, we are expecting a big influx of Blackcaps into the country over the next few weeks. This is clearly shown by the reporting rate of complete lists on Birdtrack (below).

During the winter there is a steady baseline reporting rate of birds that ringing recoveries show have mostly arrived in the UK from the near continent. One such bird was caught by ringer Alan Woodcock at Snodland, Kent on 30 December 2012, and was wearing a ring from the Czech Republic. This male bird was ringed on 9 September 2011 at Chotec, 49'59N 14'17E (red dot on Blackcap recoveries map below). Alan caught this bird again on 21 February 2013, and again on 14 March 2013 and noted that the weight did fluctuate from 18.3g at the first catching, to 19.1g and finally 18.6g.

This is the third record of a Czech Republic ringed bird in the UK or Ireland and, as you can see from the map, it is quite far east for one of our usual Blackcap recoveries.

Czech Republic ringed Blackcap - Alan Woodcock
Thanks to Alan for the photo and letting us know.

22 March 2013

Snow Buntings on the move

We recently heard of some fascinating results from a French project colour-ringing wintering Snow Buntings. 'A5' was ringed on 29th December in Calais and was then seen further north at Dunkerque on 28th January before returning to Calais from 5th-25th February. It was then that it headed off, seen at Shingle Street (Suffolk) on 10th March (and still present yesterday - 21st March), becoming the first French-ringed Snow Bunting ever to be reported in the UK (shown in red on the map below).

View Snow Buntings in a larger map

This was also the first sighting for the project outside of France, but the second wasn't too far behind, when 'E0' was reported from South Shields (South Tyneside) on 16th March (shown in blue on the map). Interestingly though, when this bird was caught at Calais on 9th February (where it remained until 18th February), it was already wearing a Belgian ring! Presumably linked to greater ringing effort, there are seven previous records of Belgian-ringed Snow Buntings in the UK, with previous movements all to the north of this: the map below shows all Snow Buntings movements, from the BTO's Online Ringing Report.

There are two races of Snow Bunting wintering in western Europe: nivalis (long-distance migrants breeding in northern Europe and Greenland) and insulae (short-distance migrants breeding in Iceland and Scotland). Nivalis from western Greenland winter in north America, whilst those from eastern Greenland winter from northern Scandinavian to western Russia and we don't really know much about those from southern Greenland. It is likely that they winter in western Europe and most birds caught in winter in France are nivalis and are thought to mostly be from here. So the fact that these two colour-ringed birds both headed northwest from France in spring is perhaps the first evidence of this.

Thanks to Quentin Dupriez for the details here, John Richardson for the photos of the bird in Suffolk and Mike Marsh for originally letting us know about the Suffolk bird.

13 March 2013

Let the Cormorant nest recording commence

This year's nesting season has so far been mixed, with reasonably warm weather one day and then freezing conditions and snow the next. Now that March is here, the usual hunt for nests has started, with Blackbird, Robin and Long-tailed Tit nests being found already.

Simon Taylor, Mark Lawrence and Derek Spooner are already monitoring Cormorants in Devon and Cornwall. The laying dates for this species however can vary considerably even between colonies that are reasonably close.

Colour ringed Cormorant by Edmund Fellowes

Simon Taylor writes:
"Mark Lawrence first saw eggs at his colony in Plymouth, Devon, on 30th January and Derek Spooner has at least nine birds incubating full clutches on Looe Island, Cornwall. Meanwhile Cormorants at my site at Hells Mouth near Portreath, Cornwall, only started laying around the 9 March. Mark’s eggs in Plymouth have hatched now and the chicks are nearly big enough to be ringed, so my birds have some catching up to do."

If you would like to start nest recording click here and for those that have joined already, you can keep up with the latest information by joining the nest recorders Yahoo forum here.       

04 March 2013

Baltic Waxwing

It's always a pleasure having a half-decent flock of Waxwings in your garden, although keeping them fed and happy is no mean feat. But the lengths Peter Alker has gone to to keep get birds into his garden in Orrell (Manchester) are something else! His efforts have been well rewarded though, with a small flock now regularly visiting.

In late February Peter noticed that one of these birds was ringed with what certainly didn't look like a BTO ring. A week later he finally caught the mystery bird and was rather surprised to see it was from Estonia! The Estonian Bird Ringing Centre were kind enough to let us blog the details straight away and this bird was actually ringed in Pärnu in western Estonia in mid-October 2012.

Waxwings wearing Grampian Ringing Group colour rings

This is in fact the first Waxwing movement to/from Estonia, with most of the previous records being to/from Scandinavia (see map below). Interestingly though, there are two records from Russia, both of birds ringed in the UK. Presumably this bird was on migration when ringed in Estonia and is actually surprisingly far south...

Thanks to the Estonian Bird Ringing Centre for the details for this bird and to Peter for letting us know about it in the first place and for the photos, and more can be found on his own blog.