29 July 2009

Albino Storm Petrel

This one would cause a few raised eyebrows, voices and temperatures if it flew past a seawatch point!

This partial albino Storm Petrel was caught (and ringed) recently on Eilean nan Ron, off the Kyle of Tongue, Scotland. It was an adult bird and had its right foot missing! This might seem odd, but is actually quite a common occurrence in petrels - one of the hazards of dangling your feet in the water whilst feeding!

Thanks to Colin McShane (and Lisa Salt) for the photo.

24 July 2009

Peregrine prey...

More London buses! We rarely hear of anything REALLY exciting being found below Peregrine nests, but this week was an exception.

First in was a Hobby ringed in the nest in Herefordshire in 2007. Just its leg and ring were then found in the nest of a Spanish Peregrine on 9 May 2009. This nest was at Balmaseda, near Bilbao in northern Spain, only a short hop from the UK, and it had probably been caught on spring migration.

The other, even more unlikely report, was of a Quail leg found underneath the Peregrine nest in Lincolnshire. We thought this must be a mistake, but the Belgians confirmed this was correct. It was ringed on spring migration, on 5 May, so wquite a quick mocvement. Its been an amazing year for Quail nationally, with huge numbers of sightings, and this gives us some idea of where they arrived from.

We've only ever had two recoveries of ringed Quail (but we have only ringed 59 in 100 years), and this is actually our first ever foreign movement.

The Hobby was also the first to be found in Spain, and the map below shows the other foreign movements. Foreign-ringed birds found here are in red, and BTO-ringed birds found abroad are in blue.

View Hobbies in a larger map

17 July 2009

Shiants OAP

Old Age Puffin that is...

The Shiant Auk Ringing Group has just got back from a record-breaking expedition. The group broke the British longevity record when they caught a 32 year old Puffin (EX08155) on 5 July, originally ringed on the island in June 1977. Incredibly EX08155 was originally ringed by Ian Buxton (below), who was also a member of this year’s team: bird and man reunited 32 years later!

But the group beat their own record just five days later, when Ian recaught EB73152, originally ringed in June 1975. This makes it over 34 years old: older than three of this year’s expedition members! This is now also the oldest Puffin in Europe, beating an Icelandic bird of 33 years old.

Amazingly, it not only still had its original metal ring (below, looking good after 34 years), but also its colour ring, allowing it to be identified as a Shiants bird ‘in the field’.

13 July 2009

Centenary tern ringing (and geese)

We recently had a morning out recreating (almost) the first ringing event in England - ringing tern chicks on the north Norfolk coast. The first rings from the British Birds Scheme were issued to Miss E.L. Leach, one of the best bird photographers in her day. She was also a 'watcher' at the tern colonies on Blakeney Point and Scolt Head, and this is where the first English ringing would have happened in 1909.

Recreating it in 2009 on Blakeney Point was myself, Sheena Harvey (Editor of BirdWatching magazine) and Hannah Devlin (Science Correspondent for The Times). The piece in The Times appeared this morning, but is online here. Many thanks to David Woods and Eddie Stubbings from the National Trust for letting us ring on the Point and ferrying us across in their boat.

Sheena then came along to the annual round-up of moulting geese at the BTO's one and only reserve in Thetford. This is always great fun, though the scratches on my arms bear witness to these not so tame birds! We're not squashing them either, but sitting astride them (rather than on them) is the best way to keep flailing legs and wings under control.

Out of the 40 birds on the lake we caught 55, which was odd, but a good catch. The remaining 140 on the second lake await our attentions this evening, so watch this space... Thanks to Sheena for the photos, and look out for her article in an upcoming BirdWatching mag.

01 July 2009

52 year old Manxie (ring) found

When this report came in last week, there was an audible groan, as we always have a nightmare finding such ringing details... Why? Rings found by metal detectors are always so old that they are difficult to trace in the dusty archive.

But these are always interesting records though, even if we do have to dig deep. Luckily the ring number was still pretty clear (testimony to the toughness of the rings), and thankfully it was quite an easy one to trace. The ring two up from this one had been used on Lundy Island, so this seemed a good place to start. The Lundy Field Society then came straight back to confirm that it was a Manx Shearwater they'd ringed on 29 April 1957.

So though this doesn't tell us too much, its a nice bit of history!