03 May 2012

Reed Warbler in the Net

The humble Reed Warbler doesn't often feature in blog posts about passage or migration as it is too ubiquitous. The home range of the scirpaceus subspecies spans across Eurasia and Africa and they can be found in a variety of habitats, typically near water. Breeding in the northern hemisphere as far as 60 N in Scandinavia and wintering as far south as the Congo basin or sometimes even further.

During recent weeks the arrival of reed warblers across the country has been documented "in the net" - both by ringers using mist nets and birders via the web.

The table below shows where Reed Warblers have been submitted by 'BirdTrack-ers', with the earliest records coming from eastern and south counties of England.

Numerous reports of Reed Warblers can be found in the blogosphere, as you can see from the selection below.

The earliest report I found was a reed warbler singing on the 12th april in Cotswold Water Park. Peter Alfrey reported one in Beddington on the 15th of April in his blog, and the same day one was reported in Pierrepoint Holme by the South Notts Ringing Group. A few days later, on the 19th, an early bird was reported in Walney BO. In South Bucks Chirs and Denise Lamsdell reported their first reed warbler of the summer on the 21st April, the same day that Julia wrote about ringing one in the Bristol area. By the end of April many had arrived in the UK, including one reported 'in the nets' at Trimley Reserve on 26 April by volunteer Anna Alum in 'Mick’s Blog'. The Avon Birds blog tells us that a reed warbler with a Portuguese ring was controlled in a ringing session on the 28th. And finally, Rachel Barber recently told us about reed warbler ringing in Cranwich in Norfolk.

However it was not the excitement caused by witnessing the wave of reports of Reed warblers in Britain that prompted me to write this post. What really helped to illustrate the feat of migration was news of a bird with a GBT ring trapped at Merzouga (Morocco) as it completed its crossing of the Sahara Desert. Standardised ringing is carried out there every spring by a Catalan ringing group.

Yasmina, Merzouga, Morocco; photo from the Yasmina blog.

A visit to the Yasmina blog is worth the click as the pictures are great and the array of species is amazing, including some UK-ringed birds.

From the totals summary below we can see that so far in 2012, they have caught 122 reed warblers - not bad for a little oasis in the desert!
Ringing totals from Yasmina, (Acrocephalus scirpaceus = Reed Warbler). Source: Yasmina blog

So, Reed warbler passage is ongoing - some birds will be still on the move while others will already have begun breeding. No doubt you will be hearing about breeding Reed warblers very soon, as BTO staff based in the Demography Unit are undertaking a great little project examining the breeding biology of the species at a site in Norfolk. Watch this space...

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