26 February 2009

Credit crunch kills Kingfisher!

Today we must sadly report the first bird victim of the credit crunch. Kingfisher SB35872 was originally ringed at Higham Marshes in Kent in December 2007. Over the next year, it apparently took a regular shortcut through a local factory, which was conveniently open seven days a week.

But as the credit crunch hit, the factory has been forced to close for three days a week, trapping the Kingfisher inside. It was found dead yesterday when the factory reopened - a sad demise for such a stunning bird.

RIP SB35872...

24 February 2009

Even more Woodcock!

Following on from the rush of Woodcock reports two weeks ago, they've just kept coming in! Today I heard of one German-ringed and two French-ringed birds being found. We also checked the number of birds found with foreign rings and reported online (at www.ring.ac) and found another three from France and birds from Sweden, Belgium (the tenth ever) and Lithuania (only the second ever)!

The most reports we've had in one year was 14 in 1969, so this winter's count of 12 (so far) is quite impressive!

17 February 2009

Paintballing Rooks

When a species is quite difficult to catch, you have to make the most of bizarre opportunities. Over the last couple of years our local paintballing site has developed a few holes in the 'roof'. Rooks from the local rookery have taken advantage of this and regularly 'break in' to feed on the unexploded paintballs. The balls are relatively harmless; a polyethylene glycol shell with a gelatin and water-soluble paint filling.

So the birds can get in easily enough, but find getting out more difficult! Over the years we've caught a good number, using a net slung at roof level on a simple pulley system. The results have been interesting, and we even have some regular offenders (one bird was now been liberated four times). Its interesting that these aren't stupid juveniles, as one bird had been ringed as a nestling in the local rookery 11 years ago!

So yesterday we caught a few more, and have now started colour ringing these to track them back into the rookery. They really are amazing birds, and do actually do interesting things.... Of the 63 foreign-ringed Rooks found in Britain and Ireland, 45 were pre-1960, with none in the last nine years. Most come from The Netherlands (23) and Germany (20), but from as far as Finland (2), Lithuania (5) and Russia (5).

Thanks to Mark Hulme for the photos, and to Kate and Amy for helping to catch the birds!

12 February 2009

Russian and Polish Woodcock abound - not quite a normal week in the Ringing Unit

The BTO scheme gets quite a lot of records of foreign-ringed birds sent in and, every week, part of a Recovery Officer’s job is to send a batch of these records to ringing schemes around the world asking for the original ringing details. There are never very many of these records but are always eagerly anticipated by their finders, whether they be. members of public or BTO ringers.

This morning I was entering a ‘standard’ foreign batch of just eight birds, all ringed abroad and found in the UK. This consisted of two Black Headed Gulls, one from Belgium and the other from the Netherlands, a Snipe, also from the Netherlands, and a Blackbird from Germany. This is not too unusual but this batch also contained a large number of Woodcock, including three wearing Russian rings and one that had been ringed in Poland!

How unusual is this I hear you ask? Well out of 393 foreign-ringed Woodcock found in Britain and Ireland since the start of the Ringing Scheme, only 46 of these were ringed in Russia and there has only ever been one other report of a Polish-ringed Woodcock (which was found in Strathclyde in January 2002) in the UK!

This could be an exceptional cold weather movement or are other factors at play? This will have to be looked into but what we do know is that this batch of records is definitely something quite special.

10 February 2009

Kittiwake wreck in the Pyrenees!

We've just received a report of a bizarre 'wreck' of Kittiwakes in the Spanish Pyrenees. At the end of January foresters in northern Spain reported two groups of around 100 Kittiwakes, and by the start of February, these birds had moved slightly further west, and now included two Little Gulls.

View Larger Map

On 1 February, 113 dead Kittiwakes were found at SabiƱanigo in Huesca province, including one BTO-ringed bird. EL42194 was originally ringed as an adult at the Isle of May Bird Observatory, Fife, in 2004, so these weren't lost young birds.

Such a movement isn't entirely unprecedented, and is the third time such an influx has happened. There have been fewer than 25 BTO-ringed Kittiwakes found in Spain, with most foreign movements involving France and the Netherlands, though there are also nearly 80 records from Canada.

Many thanks to Rafel Vidaller for the details of this wreck, and also for supplying the photos here.

04 February 2009

Summer is here...

OK, so perhaps its not exactly summer yet, but some birds are already getting down to breeding!

The BTO HQ in Thetford is now home to a Mallard sitting on 13 eggs (right beside a completely frozen lake) and a Feral Pigeon sat on two eggs (in a local church gutter). We're not sure how wise these early attempts are, but you can't fault them for trying!

It would be interesting to hear of any other early attempts, so keep your eyes peeled!

02 February 2009

Coming to a butcher near you

We tend to get ring reports from a wide variety of sources... Like London buses they can all come at once!

Last week we received a report of a ringed Teal (EW36745) found in Borough Market, London's oldest food market (dating back to Roman times). This was a bird originally ringed on Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, in September 2007, and its route from there to a London market is somewhat of a mystery. Being sold by the Furness Fish & Game company, based in Cumbria, it presumably originated somewhere in the northwest...

Later that same afternoon we received an email report (via our online reporting form at www.ring.ac) of a ringed Pintail found in a butcher's shop in Holt, Norfolk. This, and the bird before, was ringed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, though this bird was ringed more locally, at Burgh Fen Decoy.

So you never know what you might find out shopping...