02 September 2014

Minsmere mega demo

Steve Piotrowski writes:

Waveney Bird Club operate regular ringing demonstrations to the public at Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk. This is the BTO’s second biggest annual ringing demonstration event of the year, with the Bird Fair at Rutland Water perhaps commanding a greater audience. The purpose of our demo is to explain bird migration and to allow Minsmere's visitors (especially children) to see birds in the hand. The Minsmere demonstrations have proven to be extremely popular with hundreds of people attending each session, some staying for the whole day. 

Collecting valuable data while educating the next generation - Jez Blackburn
The demos are managed by Waveney Bird Club (WBC), which has been responsible for ringing studies on the reserve’s birds for over ten years. The trapping areas are set in different habitats; woodland, reedbed and scrub, to produce a great diversity of species. Carl Powell is WBC’s principal demonstrator and he explains to his audience the migration habits of each bird species, how and why birds are ringed and the benefits of ringing as a conservation tool. The audience is both invited and encouraged to ask questions.

Steve Piotrowski - Jez Blackburn

This year has been exceptional, with record numbers of birds being processed at the ringing table.  With this summer’s final demonstration and training session event on the 4th September still to come, we have already processed over 1,400 birds. This summer’s highlight was a reasonable passage of migrants at the end of August. Many warbler species passed through Minsmere and a proportion were trapped and ringed to determine their destination, stopping off points, longevity and causes of mortality.

Young male Sparrowhawk and a young male Thomas Barthorpe - photo by Ian Barthorpe
The list of warbler species encountered was most impressive and included: Chiffchaffs, Willow, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Common Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps.  The icing on the cake were two Wrynecks (a small migrant woodpecker that formerly bred in Suffolk) that were trapped (two of the four on site). However, it was the bigger birds, such as the three Sparrowhawks, a Kingfisher and seven Green and three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, that caused the most excitement at the ringing table. We also became reacquainted with some old friends, such as a Marsh Tit and a Blue Tit, that were first trapped at Minsmere in 2009 and are still going strong today. Small birds rarely live more than three years so these “old-timers” are doing well.

Wryneck - Chris McIntyre

Last Thursday, we were delighted to welcome Ellie Zantboer from Ipswich to the ringing demonstrations. Ellie is 11-years old and has been ringing under close supervision since she was eight. As children form most of the audience, Ellie was invited to give a ringing demonstration, which she did with confidence and a great deal of skill. Ellie said "I ringed twelve birds including two Long-Tailed Tits and a Chiffchaff and I loved showing the other children how it was all done!". What was really amazing was how the children immediately communicated with her, asking her questions that they may have been reluctant to ask an adult.

Ellie Zantboer (right) demonstrating ringing to visitors - Paula Zantboer
If you would like to see a ringing demo, the next ringing session will be at Minsmere on 04 September.

22 August 2014

Real birds at the Birdfair

Things are now getting back to normal here at the BTO, after the long weekend at the Birdfair (posted previously). There was a nice buzz around the BTO stand in Marquee 3, with lots of people coming to find out more about the work of the BTO and in particular the Nest Record Scheme.

The mystery nest competition went down well. The nests were from Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Willow Warbler, Wren, Blackcap, Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock and Robin. Of all the correct answers Mick Sherwin from Sheffield was first out of the hat. Your Field Guide to Monitoring Nests is on it's way.

Mystery nest competition

The ringing demonstration attracted a lot of visitors again this year. A total of 232 birds of 20 species were processed. Some of the notable species being Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Song Thrush and Whitethroat. There were several Reed Warblers caught that had been ringed in previous years, and now have clocked up quite a few miles during their life by going to Africa and back. Once we had processed all the birds, our attention was then switched to ringing people. If you were 'ringed' with one of our wrist bands, check our website to see what happened to you.

Chris Hughes showing the process of ringing a bird

The theme of the Birdfair this year was protecting the world's seas and oceans, so we also had some of our new technologies like geolocators and satellite tags which can be used to study seabirds whilst out at sea.

Thanks to all the volunteer ringers who helped on the ringing demonstration and to everyone who came to say 'Hi' at the demo or the main BTO stand. Looking forward to seeing you next year.

15 August 2014

Come Nest With Us at Birdfair

Now that ex-hurricane Bertha has dropped a few inches of rain across the Midlands, it must be time for the annual extravaganza that is Rutland Birdfair! This year the BTO stand (in Marquee 3) will be busy celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Nest Record Scheme, with expert nest recorders available on the stand all weekend to answer all your nesting questions and impart a few top tips on nest-finding. There will also be a mystery nest challenge for anyone brave enough to give it a go, so why not drop in and say hi if you're passing.

The skeleton of the BTO stand yesterday...
...and the finished product...
...complete with mystery nests to identify
If you time it right, there will also be a Nest Record Scheme 75th birthday cake cut at 11am on Friday, a Breeding Bird Survey 20th birthday cake cut at 11am on Sunday and BTO President Chris Packham will be signing copies of his new book '100 Things That Caught My Eye' on the stand at 4pm on Friday and 2pm on Saturday.

Also come and say hi to more of the Demog Blog team on the ringing demonstration. This year we'll be back behind Marquee 7 by the Red Entrance, so why not come and say hello!

05 August 2014

Overseas Goatsucker in Sussex

Recently we heard of a ring that had been found in a barn, we coded this as 'ring only found' as there was no bird attached to it. When adding the details to the ringing database, it was a nice surprise to see that the ring had once been on the leg of a Nightjar. But, even more interestingly was that this ring had been put on this Nightjar at Jews Gate, the ringing site of the Gibraltar Ringing Group, in the overseas territory of Gibraltar in October 2012.

It would would have been much nicer to receive news that this bird was still alive, but still we thought this was good enough to be mentioned, as the bird must have travelled from its wintering grounds, probably in southern Africa, to the UK at least once.

Nightjar - John Bowers

So this latest Nightjar is the first documented movement between the overseas territory of Gibraltar and the UK, and the second between the Iberian peninsula and the UK.

Found in the online ringing reports...

During the period 1909-2013, a grand total of 6,453 Nightjars have been ringed by ringers in the UK & Ireland, however only 222 of them have been recovered in that period. According to the ringing database, recoveries documenting the movements of Nightjars between the UK and other countries are not very many, 16 in total. Not susprisingly, movements between the UK and France are at the top of this category (11 birds), but there are other five movements between the UK and other countries worth mentioning: Algeria, Morocco, Spain and The Netherlands, which are shown in the map below (ringing and finding sites are paired up by the colour of the pin).

This latest report comes to confirm what our colleagues here at the BTO have revealed with the Nightjar Tracking Project. They were able to map the movements of a bird in a year-long trip across at least 16 countries with the use of a geolocator. They estimated that this bird travelled as far as the Democratic republic of Congo in a 19,000km round trip!

29 July 2014

Is it all over?

Mark Lawrence writes:

We have now reached that part of the season. After the long haul of some incredibly dedicated field work, the time has come when some nest recorders start to wind down. The dawn chorus is now a shadow of its former self and with each passing day there are fewer nests to find. The days of Long-tailed Tit nests in open-mouthed bramble are long gone. The crows' nests lie empty, hidden deep within the leaf canopy of dense trees. Gull chicks are now leaving their nests and some Cuckoos are already in Africa. Our beloved Swifts will soon be leaving our shores and their screaming summer song will be missed.

But it isn't over yet, our team is still getting out there and we continue to nest record. We still have some exciting nesting ahead. We still have the second brood of Reed Warblers to find, we have a Sedge Warbler that should be hatching soon. Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Lesser Redpoll and Stonechat are up on the moors feeding young in the nest. And even better, Mark Penney made a visit last Saturday (19th) and found a new Meadow Pipit with eggs! At our coastal location we have Wren and Yellowhammer on eggs and armed with our Schedule 1 licence, we are right in the middle of conducting an exciting breeding study on the Cirl Bunting. So far we have found 10 nests; six of these have fledged, one brood that I ringed last week just needs one more visit to the nest to record its outcome and we have two still on eggs. These are second brood nests from previously found pairs and one that is building. We have by no means finished yet. We have a trip planned next week for a second brood of Nightjar that could take us well into August.

Cirl Bunting nest and adult male (Josh Marshall)
Locating nests at this time of year can be more difficult and more challenging than earlier in the year when the vegetation is less dense, but the additional effort will add valuable data on late nesting species and timing of events to the Nest Record Scheme database. We may be coming to the end of the nesting season as we reach high summer once again, and our fast awakening autumn yawns its vibrant colours, but there are still many key species to monitor.

I was watching a young Robin just the other day, and I could see its adult plumage beginning to show through. Christmas came to mind, a stark reminder that the winter will soon be upon us and we will long for the nesting season once again. But then I think and smile, it is still the nesting season, and I will enjoy what's left... before the dark winter nights drop on us once again.