23 November 2009

From Norway with love (and to Norway...)

We received details back of two excellent recoveries involving Norway this last week - one to and one from...

One was the arrival of only our fifth foreign-ringed Marsh Warbler, which was caught at Cape Clear Bird Observatory, southwest Ireland, on 25 September (photographed below). It had originally been ringed in Rogaland, on the southwest coast of Norway, on 3 September - a hefty 1,269km from Cape Clear! Our other foreign-ringed Marsh Warblers have come from Norway (recaught at Fair Isle Bird Observatory in May 2007 and also a Suffolk bird we blogged in June), Denmark (found dead on Orkney in June 1979) and Belgium (recaught in Hertfordshire in June 1994). It is odd how all these movements are mid-summer ones, with only this recent one breaking the pattern...

The second was an excellent bit of photography by Haavard Eggen from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. His amazing flight shots of a Guillemot (below) allowed us to easily read the bird's ring number (X95104). It was photographed on the tiny island of Hernyken in northwest Norway (at 67 degrees north) on 21 July and had been originally ringed as a chick at Sumburgh Head, Shetland, in July 1999.

This movement isn't quite as exceptional as the Marsh Warbler though, with 1,161 BTO-ringed Guillemots previously found in Norway...

Thanks to Tycho Anker-Nilssen for sending on the Guillemot photos and to Michael O'Donnell for his Marsh Warbler photo.

19 November 2009

Groppers going north, south AND west!

We don't get many reports of ringed Grasshopper Warblers and most of these are just short distance movements. This last autumn though we had three very contrasting movements, with details just processed recently.

The first was a bird (ring V680191), ringed at Titchfield Haven, Hampshire, on 5 September. It was then recaught by ringers at Villeton in southern France six days later, having travelled 728 km south! This is only our seventh Grasshopper Warbler movement to France, so was quite a surprise.

In complete contrast was X749276, ringed in Sussex on 13 September and recaught by ringers six days later (coincidentally) on Orfordness in Suffolk. So this bird had left the south coast and headed 146km northeast in a week, rather than south!

Even more bizarrely, AP40279 was ringed in The Netherlands on 13 September, which travelled due west before being killed by a cat in Caerphilly just three days (and 643km) later! This is only the third foreign-ringed Gropper found in the UK, after two Senegalese-ringed birds were found within 35 km of each other in 1992 (and only seven days apart).

The map below shows all three movements, with the ringing locations in blue and the finding locations in red.

View Groppers in a larger map

It is interesting to think if these birds were just taking different routes south or if one got slightly lost...

For more details on some of the BTO's work on migrants, have a look at our 'Out of Africa' pages on the project blog.

03 November 2009

Eagle Owls and Oysercatchers

Its not uncommon for rings to turn up at plucking posts or in/under raptor nests, but occasionally the species are rather more interesting than normal. In the past we've mentioned Peregrines vs Hobby and Peregrine vs Quail but one that came in today was most unusual.

This was a record of just a metal ring (SS14393) and black colour ring found in an Eagle Owl nest in Sor-Trondelag in central Norway! The species was a bit surprising (Oystercatcher) but even more so was that it had been ringed in 1963! OK, so it was only the rings that were found, with no bird, so they could have been in the nest for a while... It was originally ringed at Gronant in NE Wales on 15 November 1963, and the finders did mention that the ring looked rather worn!

We have over 160 records of ringed Oystercatchers killed by birds of prey, mostly Peregrines, but also Sparrowhawks and Goshawks and even a Merlin!. Interestingly, we do also have three previous records from Eagle Owl nests, two records from White-tailed Eagle nests and one from a Gyr Falcon nest. All of these were in Norway, which is where our winter birds spend their summers.

02 November 2009

How to catch a Coot

We have 'borrowed' this bit of video from Kane Brides' own blog, but we thought it was worth posting up here. Having been asked a few times how he catches so many Coot (as part of a colour ringing project), Kane reveals all, even if it is as simple as a loaf of bread and some patience!

In Kanes' own words:

"Most of the birds I catch are in the water - so am on my hands/knees when catching - however some birds do wander out of the water and will feed at your feet. They seem to be more confident when the weather gets cold and natural food dries up - I've found November and December to be my most productive months. Also they seem to be more confident when larger wildfowl such as Mute Swan / Canada Goose are surrounding them."

Birds are aged on leg colour (adults have bright yellow, orange or even red on the side of the leg, juveniles have dull legs with the sides grey gradually becoming yellow/orange), breast colour (adults have a black breast and juveniles have white streaks on the breast) iris colour (reddish in adults and brownish in juveniles) and the size of the frontal shield (smaller in juveniles).