23 December 2010

Unexpected Shag High-dive (USH)

Trying to read ring numbers in the field is usually very tricky but advances in photography has improved things substantially. So far this week I've had reports of a Coal Tit, Lesser Redpoll and a Chaffinch that have had their rings read by photographs.

Birds in the water are very difficult to identify as the distortion from the water causes problems. Philip Smith was photographing a Shag in Dover when the camera was used to identify a bird in the water!

A few digits are visible from the above photo but just not good enough to get the full number. A few more shots later produced the unexpected money shot below. Colour ring Blue USH!

This bird can now be identifed as a shag ringed as a chick this year on the Isle of May, Fife, some 620km from Dover!

Thanks to Philip Smith for letting us know and also being able to show these cracking pictures.

On a very differnet note we have heard from Ed Drewitt who has received a report that Kate Atwell, who is a bird keeper at Bristol Zoo, has seen 16 Mallard ducklings in the half frozen pool by the Gorila enclosure on Tuesday!

21 December 2010

Freezing feathered friends

As the cold weather continues we are finding that birds are still having a tough time trying to cope with the temperature. We are currently on day 6 for England and Wales of cold weather and Scotland has a statutory suspension of wildfowling. The current cold weather situation can be found at our new website.

As we reported previously, birds of prey, especially Barn Owls are being found in poor condition or dead due to the lack of food. Last week we had 39 reports of dead Barn Owls, 3 Buzzard (one of which was 24 years old) and Kestrel, ET51185 which is in care at the moment due to "snow and ice" and is 12 years old. With many water bodies now frozen, wildfowl are finding it particularly difficult and recoveries included 4 Mute Swans and a Grey Heron.

We haven't seen a big increase in reports of small passerines yet, but this could be because their bodies are covered in snow. The reporting rate might increase when things defrost but we'll see. Next summers Breeding Bird Survey and CES will be interesting to analyse for sure.

Note that these are reports and cold weather might not be the exact cause of death.
Thanks to Neil Calbrade for the photo of the ringed Snow Bunting in the snow.

17 December 2010

Christmas Eggs

With the freezing weather severely affecting Barn Owl survival, it has been quite a shock to hear from nest recorder Simon Taylor about his latest find.

Simon Taylor writes:
I work in Falmouth Docks as a Health and Safety Officer and decided to take my usual walk around the yard around mid morning. I wanted to test the telephone which is situated behind the wooden doors in a recess. The telephone is there for emergencies and for contact between docking teams and the pump room. At first when I opened the door a feral pigeon sat tight on a nest but after a couple of seconds she flew out revealing two eggs!

15 December 2010

Confused Stone Curlew

The rare Stone Curlew breeds in Southern England in the UK and migrates south into Iberia and north Africa for the winter. The best places to see this cryptic bird are on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire and in the Brecklands, Norfolk and Suffolk.

We have just received a report from Linda Jenkinson concerning Stone Curlew EX45756, which was ringed on the 9th June 2010 in Breckland as a chick by the RSPB Ringing Group. Amazingly this bird was found dead at Lindisfarne, Northumberland on 12th December! This bird was definitely going in the wrong direction and this could have been the same bird that was seen on Brownsman Island, Farne Islands, Northumberland on the 1st December. The last Stone Curlew on the Farne Islands was in 1950 so this is a pretty special record.

View Stone Curlew in a larger map

The previous recoveries from outside the UK are mainly from France and Spain but we also have reports from Algeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Switzerland and Morocco. We have had a sighting of a Stone Curlew at Blackdog, Aberdeenshire in May 2002 but this is the first report of a British ringed Stone Curlew in Northumberland!

10 December 2010

Black Week for the White Owls

With the number of freezing days now having reached double figures in England and Scotland (read more on our brand new BTO website), the weather is making all the headlines. Similarly, the Ringing Office has received a number of reports from the public of ringed birds affected by the weather; found in gardens, barns, sheds, fields and city centres. Many birds are succumbing to this first wave of severe cold weather and the ringing recoveries reflect this.
For example, this week, we have received 31 reports of dead Barn Owls. In most cases the cold conditions figure as the cause of death. This was a black week for the Barn Owl, a species which probably found it difficult to find any small mammals due to the snow cover and the freezing temperatures.

Other dead birds reported this week which are also likely to be cold weather victims are a Reed Bunting, two Waxwings, a Chaffinch and a Long-tailed Tit.

It will be interesting to find out how many dead birds walkers find washed-up along the coastline this weekend. We will keep you updated on any interesting recoveries!

Thanks to Neil Calbrade for the photo.

09 December 2010

The Godwit Club

The amazing International Schools Godwit Project links children and birds from Iceland, Ireland and the UK. Children from all three countries are learning about bird migration and ecology and at the same time they are helping scientists in their study of the species. Many Black-tailed Godwits are being colour marked in their breeding grounds -Iceland- so their movements and home ranges can be traced by birdwatchers and scientists!
The Topsham Primary School Godwit Club has been meeting weekly after school to study the amazing migration patterns of the Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits. Last week they met up with David Lindo and a BBC filming crew and went searching for wintering coloured marked Godwits, and it seems that they had a lot of fun too!
If you want to know more about this great project don't miss this week's BBC's Countryfile, on Sunday 12th December 2010, or visit the schools' update by clicking here.
Reporting colour ringed birds is very important as it helps in the understanding of their ecology, which can be used in the future for their conservation. So please, next time you spot a colour ringed bird make sure that you make a note and contact us here.

06 December 2010

The first Barnie causes a twitch... update

We have been informed by Scott Kruitbosch from the Connecticut Audubon Society that our Barnacle Goose 1291347 has again been on the move and was spotted at Wooster Park, Stratford, Connecticut some 67km from Orchard Beach.

View Barnacle Goose in a larger map

03 December 2010

Whats going on with wintering Blackcaps?

Very few Blackcaps used to stay/survive in this country during the winter but instead go south to Iberia or northern Africa. These days it is still very nice to see one in winter but it wouldn't warrant organising a big twitch.

Are Blackcaps staying for the winter or is something else happening?

Ringing recoveries have shown that our Blackcaps in summer are replaced with birds from continental Europe when winter arrives (e.g. 159 ringed from Belgium and 50 from The Netherlands so far). These birds are now able to survive better, possibly due to warmer winters and/or an increase in garden bird feeding.

Saying that, we have just heard from John Walshe, where he had ringed a breeding female Blackcap on 17 May 2010 and he has just caught it again at the same site in mid Suffolk. Obviously this bird hasn't gone south as expected, so is this a new strategy to get back to the breeding grounds quicker or is this just a rare occurrence? More ringing for winter Blackcaps is needed I think.

Thanks to John Walshe for letting us know and Dawn Balmer for the photo.

02 December 2010

Swedish birds legs

Raymond Duncan writes:

A long morning for Lindsay Cargill, Walter Burns, Derek Robertson and Euan Ferguson in Allenvale Cemetery, Aberdeen on 5/11/10 was finally interrupted by a single waxwing flying into the mist net. It turned out be a juvenile male wearing a Swedish ring 3474720! Ringing information is on its way.

Sadly and unbelievably this bird killed itself against a window 5 days later in Aberdeen. The legs and rings arrived back in the post thanks to local ornithologist Ian Patterson. The bill from Royal Mail for £1.19 for the oversize package is in the post Ian! Never the less, this is our first recovery (not including sightings) out of nearly 200 Waxwings ringed!

Another 9 window fatalities of which none were ringed, were collected from another site but please keep checking any dead birds, roaming flocks and any photographs of Waxwings for colour rings.

Thanks very much to all for sightings so far. Most recent sightings have been from Harry Bickerstaff in Montrose, Jim Duncan at Hogganfield Loch, Glasgow and Kane Brides in Greater Manchester. Jim Duncan sent a photograph of a colour-ringed bird showing only the metal and white ring, which wasn’t enough to identify the individual. He very kindly returned the next day only to get a photograph of a different colour-ringed bird!

Raymond Duncan
(On behalf of Grampian Ringing Group)

30 November 2010

The first Barnie causes a twitch

There are very few reports of UK ringed birds in America and the majority are Manx Shearwater (8) and Great Skua (3). We have also had single reports of White-fronted and Canada Goose, Turnstone, Kittiwake, Arctic, Roseate and Common Tern.

Yesterday we received an email from Jack Rothman informing us of the first British ringed Barnacle Goose to be recorded in America! Barnacle Geese in North America are rare anyway but one with a known origin is brilliant. This bird was seen at Orchard Beach, Bronx which is 5204km from where it was ringed.

Barnacle Goose 1291347 was ringed by Steve Percival on 13/11/2002 and was seen frequently on Islay until March 2005 when it disappeared. One of its parents and a sibling where ringed at the same time and are still seen around Islay.

View Barnacle Goose in a larger map

Thanks to Keith Michael for finding the bird and Jack Rothman for letting us know and also for the photo.

29 November 2010

Redpoll... but which one?

Winter is a good time for ringers to be catching Redpoll, as you an tell from the previous post.

The plumage and biometrics of Redpoll are looked at very closely by ringers which need to separate them into the current 3 species, Lesser (the most commonly caught Redpoll), Common Redpoll and Arctic Redpoll. Sorby Breck Ringing Group were out ringing and they came across something very interesting.

This is actually a Lesser Redpoll that had already been ringed by the group. Interestingly when it was ringed it looked like any other Lesser Redpoll and lacked all this white. This condition is likely to be Vitiligo, which means this bird could get whiter with every moult but start out looking like a normal brown Redpoll. This condition is most commonly seen in Blackbirds and Jackdaws but has also been recorded in Redpoll.

The graph below shows the number of Redpoll ringed in 2009 by month.

Many thanks to Geoff Mawson (for the photo as well), David Williams and John Wint for letting us know.

23 November 2010

A first for a Common Redpoll

The Redpoll complex has always provided a few challenges with identification for birdwatchers but being able to take measurements and ring individual birds provides much more quantitative information.

Pete Smith from Wintersett Ringing Group was ringing at Wintersett Reservoir, Wakefield on 15th November and had a great ringing session. He caught 53 Lesser Redpoll (above) and 14 Common Redpoll, 2 of which were already ringed! One was ringed at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire on 21/10/10 (104km in 26 days) and the other was wearing a Norwegian ring!

We have had very few recoveries of Common Redpoll (5 from the UK and 2 from The Netherlands) so this is the first from Norway!

Thanks to John Wint and Pete Smith for letting us know and Tommy Holden for the photo.

22 November 2010

Colder temperatures bring in the birds

Every week we receive reports from Ringing Schemes all over Europe and today we have received a batch of records from Stavanger (Norway).

This included 2 Norwegian ringed Robins, both caught by UK ringers, one at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (ringed 170 days before in Rogaland, Norway) and the other at Hartlepool, Cleveland (ringed 18 days before in Buskerud, Norway).

With this cold weather Brambling should be quite settled in the UK now and one such bird was controlled at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire which was ringed in Sept 2009 in Rogaland. On the other end of the seasonal scale a Chiffchaff was controlled also at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire which turns out to be the 8th from Norway! It was ringed 69 days before (23.7.2010) at Grimstadvatnet, Hareid, More og Romsdal.

View Chiffchaff from Norway in a larger map

And finally a Kestrel was reported freshly dead and very thin at Swanley, Kent on 19th Sept 2010 which had been ringed as a chick on 30 June 2010, 1326km away at Galasflota Nord, Hedmark, Norway.

Thanks to Stavanger and Dawn Balmer for the photo.

18 November 2010

New Bird Observatory in the Gambia

Volunteer ringers from the UK have just returned from their first trip to the Kartong Bird Observatory, to help understand bird demography in the Gambia. During the 11 day trip more than 800 birds were processed and measurements taken. The majority of the birds ringed were African but there were some Palearctic migrants which were just arriving including Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Sedge and Reed Warbler.

During the nights it was very dark, due to the new moon and provided great lamping conditions for Long-tailed Nightjar, Painted Snipe, Senegal Thick-knee and Spur-winged Plover. Local bird guides and birders will be able to take part in reporting leg flagged Spur-winged Plovers throughout Gambia and the movements of the whoosh netted Hooded Vultures will be very interesting (below).

Ringing demonstrations were run mid week to introduce the local school children to bird conservation and it was received very well with many fascinated faces. Some notable birds were Yellow-crowned Gonolek (pictured), Levaillant’s Cuckoo and Blue-breasted Kingfisher (1 of the 6 species of kingfishers caught).

Future annual expeditions will provide more valuable data, with the next trip being March 2011. Maybe more new birds will be added to the Gambian list like Cassin's Honeyguide as on this occasion.

08 November 2010

Sedge Warblers in Senegal

Last week we received details of two Sedge Warblers found in Senegal. These birds were controlled by ringers from the Aranzadi Scheme (Spain). This is what bird ringing is all about, ringers from different countries mapping the home range of migrant birds across the continents!
During 2009 an impressive 22,399 Sedge Warblers were ringed in Britain and Ireland.
The ringing recovery tables show that about 80 other Sedge Warblers have ever been reported in Senegal and almost all come from Parc National de Djoudj. All of these birds were found by ringing expeditions to Djoudj by the British and Irish, French and the German Schemes.
T620003 was ringed in 2 August 2009 in Titchfield Haven, Hampshire, and X395199 was ringed exactly the same day in Southbourne in Dorset. Both were controlled while wintering after the 4,000 km long journey to Africa.
In the future we hope to see more recoveries of breeding migrant birds in their wintering quarters as part of the study of long distance migrants carried out by BTO/RSPB/Birdlife in Ghana and Burkina Faso.
Photo of Sedge Warbler by Dawn Balmer

View Sedge Warbles in Senegal in a larger map

03 November 2010

There's more at Whitby than the seaside... update

We have just received news about the foreign ringed Pallas's Warbler that we reported a couple of days ago, which was caught by Wilf Norman near Whitby Lighthouse, North Yorkshire on 31 October 2010.

View Pallas's Warbler in a larger map

This bird was ringed on 27 Oct 2010 at 11am, only a few days before it was recaptured! It was originally caught at Nijefurd, Warns, Friesland, Netherlands (52°52’54 N, 05°24’20 E). It is also interesting to note the northward movement into this country. Reverse migration?

Thanks to our colleagues in The Netherlands and to Wilf Norman.

02 November 2010

A Dunnock from Norway... and other places, update

Having reported on 2 foreign ringed Dunnocks previously this autumn I thought that was our lot, especially considering we have only ever had 31 foreign ringed Dunnocks found in this country before.

Its turning out to be a bumper year for this species with new records of 1ER56285 from Sweden, caught by Ian Marshall at Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire and 10980683 from Belgium caught by Keith Bowden near Grantham, Lincolnshire.

The graph above shows just how many foreign Dunnocks have been processed up to this year and how good these recoveries really are.

Thank to Ian and Keith for letting us know about these birds.

01 November 2010

There's more at Whitby than the seaside

We have just received word from Wilf Norman, that he was ringing on one of his regular ringing sites yesterday (31/10/2010) near Whitby Lighthouse, North Yorkshire and he had a surprising catch.

This has been a good site over the years with a Blackcap in particular, which had only been ringed 2 days before in Denmark. Even with this great bird he was not expecting to catch 2 Pallas's Warblers in 1 day, one unringed bird and the other ringed with Y97899 from The Netherlands!

To put this in to perspective, we have only ever had 2 recoveries of Pallas's Warbler both in 1982, one bird ringed at Dungeness in Kent, which was later killed by a Kestrel and the other ringed on Fair Isle, Shetland and found dead a day later.

We will let you know the ringing details as soon as we can.

Thanks to Wilf Norman for letting us know and for the photo.

27 October 2010

Colourful Kitty

After a previous sighting of a colour-ringed Kittiwake in the Midlands earlier this year, SeaWatch SW observers recorded a colour-ringed adult Kittiwake at the Gwennap Head watchpoint in Cornwall on 21 Aug.

This Kittiwake had been ringed as a chick at a colony in Finistere, western Brittany, on 4 July 2005 and was seen there in 2008 and 2009. In 2010 it was seen again and it made its first breeding attempt and raised one chick to fledging. It was last seen on 18 Aug 2010, just 3 days before it arrived at Gwennap Head.

Its departure may have been triggered by a Peregrine catching and eating a fledged chick on the adjacent nest but we'll never know!

Thanks to Simon and Jean-Yves Monnat for proving the above information and also check out their website. Photo by Jill Pakenham

25 October 2010

A long life for an Oystercatcher

Adding to the recent run of longevity records being broken, an Oystercatcher is being put in the hall of fame after it had been caught by the Wash Wader Ringing Group this summer.

The previous longevity record for an Oystercatcher was 36 years, 8 months and 16 days, which was put on Oystercatcher SS88071 back in 1969 and was then found dead in Norway in 2006.

The new record belongs to Oystercatcher SS58540 which was ringed by Adrian Blackburn at Friskney Marsh (TF4650) as a chick on 14 June 1970 and we now know it's still going strong. As this bird has lived unusually long, its ring has had to be replaced a couple of times to keep it in tip top shape. Because of this, Oystercatcher SS58540 is also known as FC15938 and FP99170. Amazingly after all this time it hasn't been caught or seen away from the site where it was first ringed.

The record now stands at 40 years, 1 month and 2 days!

Thanks to John Harding for the photo and all the ringers involved.

21 October 2010

2009 was a record year!

Each year ringers spend many early mornings catching birds to monitor their productivity and survival. Last year represented the centenary of the Ringing Scheme and, for the first time, more than 900,000 birds were ringed (935,867 to be exact!). The previous record was 881,920 in 2004. The high total in 2009 reflected a good breeding season, with large numbers of juvenile birds entering the population, but also an increased number of ringers (there are now over 2,500).

Notable were the higher ringing totals of seabirds reflecting a better breeding season following a run of years when breeding success has been poor. Preliminary reports from the 2010 breeding season suggest that many species have again had good productivity and numbers appear to be up, despite the severe winter weather at the beginning of the year.

20 October 2010

A Dunnock from Norway... update

Hot on the heels of the Norwegian-ringed Dunnock in Norfolk another has turned up in Suffolk. On 9 October at Orfordness, Suffolk, Landguard Ringing Group caught a Dunnock with Norwegian ring ED17532. They have been catching unusually high numbers of Dunnocks at Orfordness this month, associated with good numbers of Robins and it is tempting to think that many of these have been of Scandinavian origin.

Thanks to Mike Marsh and Gillian Stannard for letting us know and also David Crawshaw for the photo (Landguard Ringing Group).

15 October 2010

Colour ringing Marsh Tits

Richard Broughton writes:
I take part in the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) project, which is centred on Monks Wood NNR, Cambs, and has been looking at all aspects of Marsh Tit ecology in order to shed some light on the causes of the 66% decline in the national population between 1969 and 2006.

We have colour-ringed 904 Marsh Tits since 2003, and our core population of 32 pairs are all ringed and of known age and sex. We find most of their nests every spring and colour-ring an average of around 100 nestlings per year. This is between a quarter and a third of the BTO's annual pulli totals for this species.

Our Marsh Tit territories average 4-5 ha in size (very large for a bird of its size), and breeding is very synchronised across the population. Once the young fledge, they spend 10-15 days as a family group around the home territory before undertaking a very sudden and rapid dispersal phase over the following days. By July many of them have finished dispersing and most birds will remain settled for life.

Although we had a large search area, we found that the juvenile dispersal distances were very short. Worryingly, we've found evidence that habitat fragmentation can hamper the dispersal success of Marsh Tits. The full results of this study on the dispersal and ranging of Marsh Tits will be published in a forthcoming issue of Bird Study: Broughton RK, Hill, RA, Bellamy PE & Hinsley SA (in press) Dispersal, ranging and settling behaviour of Marsh Tits Poecile palustris in a fragmented landscape in lowland England.

Thanks to Richard for this post and the photos.

14 October 2010

Longevity gets even longer

Dave Okill writes:

"During the summer three ringed birds have turned up in Shetland that have beaten the age records in the BTO files for the longest living individual of that species.

The first was a Storm Petrel. Originally ringed on Fair Isle on 29 July 1974, it was then recaught on Mousa 26 May 2010, making it just short of 36 years between ringing and being found again. As Storm Petrels don't usually come back to the North Atlantic until they are 2 years old, then it's likely this bird was at least 38 years old. The previous oldest recorded Stormie was 31 years and 11 months old so this record has increased the longevity considerably.

The next was a Whimbrel on Fetlar that was posted previously here.

The third was a Red-throated Diver. A bird that I'd ringed as a chick on Unst in 1986 was found breeding a couple of kilometres from the site where it fledged, now 24 years old. Male Red-throated Divers starting to breed usually return to a site close to where they were hatched but females disperse more widely.

As all of these birds are still going, it could be that if we hear of them again they will extend the records further."

Thanks to Dave Okill for letting us know and to Malcolm Smith for the photo.

12 October 2010

Italian sandwiches

DE10153 was ringed in June 2008 on Ythan Estuary in Aberdeenshire by Grampian Ringing Group . Adriano Talamelli and his team captured it in September 2010, two years later in Salina di Comacchio (Ferrara,Italy). Salina di Comacchio is a regular ringing site of Adriano and his team, as well as a wintering site for this species. Notably, in the same place another tern was controlled in 2006; a 22 year old Sandwich Tern ringed in Ireland!

DE10153 was colour-marked with a cohort colour combination. The colour rings show the origin and the hatching year but don't identify it individually. In the Ringing office we therefore encourage the use of individual colour marks.

View DE10153 in a larger map
About 2000 sandwich terns are ringed in the UK and Ireland every year. Until last year, we had records of 28 of them having been reported from Italy, but this is the first since 2006.

So far this Autumn we have had another report of a Sandwich Tern; from Coimbra, Portugal.
Adriano Talamelli, who coordinates the sighting of forgein colour-marked birds in Italy, was kind enough to supply us with some lovely photographs of Sandwich Terns and we look forward to hearing from his team again in the future with more controls of British ringed birds.

11 October 2010

Never too late!

The Barn Owl has become one of the most intensively monitored species in the UK. In late summer breeding season would normally be over but this year was a bit unusual as Colin Shawyer recollects...

"In May and early June almost a third of pairs had not attempted to lay and they were unlikely to do so later in the year (due to very low body weights). In mid July gales that lasted three days and nights, prevented adults from hunting and caused entire broods to starve, many of which were only two weeks from fledging.

So far so bleak. But returning to that third of pairs that were on territory but not laying: an interesting observation was noted. At some of those sites the adult females—and even some males—had begun their wing moult, which is a good indication that a pair has ‘given up’ for the season and is unlikely to breed. But at a greater proportion of those nest sites no such moulting was seen. How important these observations turned out to be!

My colleagues and I decided to re-visit many sites in late August and early September and found healthy broods of fours, fives and sixes. The ages of many of these chicks indicated that the eggs had been laid in late June after our earlier visits, when we had weighed the females and surmised they were not to breed. Even some traditionally-used nest sites that were vacant in June contained large and healthy broods.

Had we stuck to our usual plan of only revisiting sites in August where breeding had already been noted, we would have missed a surge of late first-nesting attempts. So it goes to show that there are never two breeding seasons the same for a nest recorder! Overall breeding success in 2010 will not be as quite as bad as we had originally feared."

By Colin Shawyer
BTO - BOMP-Project Development and Monitoring
BOCN - Project Director, UK and Ireland

Follow Colin Shawyer's thoughts on Barn Owl monitoring in his blog or get involved in the Nest Record Scheme next year!

08 October 2010

Cetti leaves Cheshire!

As a follow up to our post on 'Cetti reaches Cheshire' we have heard of one going the other way. A female Cetti's Warbler that was ringed by the Merseyside Ringing Group at Woolston Eyes, Cheshire on 31 October 2009 was caught by the NOA Ringing Group at Thornham, Norfolk on 06 July 2010! A distance of 213km.

View Cetti leaves cheshire in a larger map

On a different note, for all those ringers who ring lots of aggressive Blue Tits. Lista Bird Observatory on the southern tip of Norway ringed 601 birds yesterday. These included 528 Blue Tits, 22 Great Tits, 15 Coal Tits and a Willow Tit (566 tits). So keep a look out for those turning up in a garden in the UK soon.

07 October 2010

Colourful Black-wits tracked

Colour ringing projects provide a brilliant opportunity to be able to identify ringed birds in the field. The Black-tailed Godwit is a great example, with lots of chicks being colour ringed in their breeding ground in Iceland, providing a lot of information of their movements as part of this project coordinated by Pete Potts.

One of these Godwits, 568692 (the bird on the left), was ringed in Langus, Siglufjurdor in northern Iceland and it has been seen several times in the UK over 2 years. Remember that during the summer this bird probably went all the way back to Iceland to breed, clocking up the miles.

View Black tailed Godwit in a larger map

Thanks to Astrid Kant and David Wileman for the information and the photos.

05 October 2010

A Dunnock from Norway... No way!

The Dunnock is not one of those species that you instantly think of as a winter/passage migrant but we have just been in contact with Sophie Barker from the Holme Bird Observatory which has caught a Dunnock that proves we do get them.

This bird was wearing a Norwegian ring, ED22017 which was originally ringed on the 9th August 2010 as a juvenile near Kragero, Telemark in Norway by Norwegian ringer Hans Inge Nicolaysen.

View Dunnock from Norway in a larger map

This is actually the 18th Dunnock from Norway to reach our shores, the last one was back in 2006. Interestingly only 3 were ringed as adults, the rest being juvenile birds. So the next time you see a ringed Dunnock in your garden don't assume it was ringed just around the corner!

Thanks to Sophie and Hans Inge Nicolaysen for the information and to John Harding for the photo.

01 October 2010

Nightjar ringing

Last year UK ringers caught over 230 Nightjars to try and find out more about their fantastic migration and demography. This species is believed to winter in tropical and South Africa. So far we have received recoveries from various countries including The Netherlands, Spain, France, Morocco and Algeria but there is much more we don't know yet.

Interestingly the notes in a Nightjars 'jar' or 'churr' are emitted at a rate of 30 or 40 per second and ringers can also testify to an interesting 'hiss' that is given by birds in the hand. This could be used to 'see off' any would be attackers by mimicking a snake.

Rebecca Nesbit has posted a clip on Youtube (below) which shows Mike Gould going through the process of Nightjar ringing.

21 September 2010

Another longevity record, this time its a Tern

The Farne Islands in Northumberland is famous for its sea bird population and ringing has been done by the National Trust, in partnership with the Natural History Society of Northumbria Ringing Group giving a great insight into their birds movements and life spans.

One of these birds, Arctic Tern CE60645, was ringed on 28th June 1980 and has been recaptured this year, making it the oldest Arctic Tern in the UK!

The arctic tern was recently discovered to have the longest migration route of any animal, flying an estimated 44,000 miles return trip, between their breeding grounds in Greenland to Antarctica in an ‘S’ shape to take advantage of prevailing global wind systems in order to preserve energy.

Click here to go to the BBC news website for more information.

Thanks to Jill Pakenham for the photo.

20 September 2010

The Welsh / Scottish connection

We have just heard from the Norwegian Ringing Scheme, who have told us that one of their ringers has read the rings of 2 Oystercatchers that were breeding together in Norway, amazingly they were both wearing BTO rings.

View Oystercatchers move to Norway in a larger map

One of the birds was ringed on Anglesey, Wales by SCAN Ringing Group (an adult, at least 3 years old, ringed on 10/02/2008) and the other on the Eden Estuary, Scotland by Tay Ringing Group (hatched in 2003 and ringed on 21/08/2004) .

15 September 2010

New Whimbrel longevity record

Allan Perkins writes:
This summer I spent 3 months on Fetlar, Shetland, studying the breeding success of Whimbrel to help investigate their 'recent' declines. Previous studies by Murray Grant on Fetlar and Unst in the 1980s had involved catching and colour-ringing adult Whimbrel, to monitor brood survival and returning rates of adults from their tropical wintering grounds in subsequent breeding seasons. During 1986-88, 97 Whimbrel were colour-ringed and of those the returning rates were high - c. 89% seen the year after ringing - and most birds returned to breed at the same site used in the previous year. Sightings of some of these birds on Fetlar continued up until the mid-1990s, but none had been recorded since then.

It was on 9 May, this year when I first saw one of these colour ringed birds feeding on the short cliff-top turf of Strandburgh Ness, at the extreme northeast tip of Fetlar. Frustratingly it wasn't until 31 May that I managed to get good views of the colour ring combination and amazingly it was a bird ringed in the 1980s.

The bird was identified as EK92102, ringed as an adult breeding on Fetlar on 1 June 1986, and sexed as a male from subsequent observations. Given that Whimbrels do not normally start to breed until they are two or three years old, this bird must be at least 26 years old, making it the oldest known Whimbrel in the world! This surpasses the previous longevity record of 16 years, held by a Whimbrel ringed as a chick on Mainland Shetland in June 1979 and shot in northern France in August 1995.

EK92102 was last recorded in 1995, but it seems likely that it had been returning, undetected, to Fetlar each year since then. Maybe it will return again next year for potentially its 26th breeding season.

Thanks to Allan for letting us know about this bird and also to Murray Grant for the lower photo.

14 September 2010

Terns around the World

The Common Tern is a seabird which can be found breeding in most of Europe, Asia and North America. After breeding in the northern hemisphere they migrate south along the coasts to South America, southern Africa, Falkland Islands, India and Australasia except New Zealand.

We don't receive very many reports of Common Terns ringed in other countries. In fact, until last year, we only had 144 recoveries of Common Terns ringed abroad. Of these birds 50% came from Scandinavia.

Last month, ringers from Tees Ringing Group had some very good mist netting catches of terns. Their efforts paid off in the form of several exciting controls: one Common Tern from Finland, one from Sweden, one from Norway and one from Russia!

Common Tern MOSCOW TA64035, captured in Seal Sands in Teesmouth on the 3rd Sep 2010, is the first ever Common Tern from Russia and we can't wait to hear about the ringing details. We'll keep you posted.

Thank you to Allan Snape and Eric Wood for sharing this story and supplying the photographs.

10 September 2010

Adventures in 'Crocodile Island'

Opening the post late on Friday afternoon rewarded us with a great letter; very well written, sent by a girl from Pudsey in Leeds:

"On the 30th August 2010 me, Issy K, and my twin brother, Joe K, discovered an Island off the coast of Knap, in Loch Caliosport, off the Sounds of Jura in Argyll, Scotland. We don't know what the name of the Island was, but Joe nicknamed it Crocodile Island. We were planning to go to Queens beach, but Daddy couldn't get the boat close enough. Instead, Mummy cleverly spotted an island we had never come across before. Joe named it Crocodile Island because of the shape. After lunch we explored it (we had lunch on the island). I set off first, hurdling over the rocks, sliding down their faces and marveling at the marvelous wildlife. Eventually, Joe caught up with me so we climbed together. I was peering at all the sea creatures when I stumbled across a skeleton of a bird which had a ring with your address on its foot."

What a lovely story! We can reveal that the skeleton found by Issy was that of a Shag, ringed as a chick on Sanda Island by Clyde Ringing Group.

Last year 3583 Shags were ringed in the UK, 84% of these were Scottish birds - 8% were recovered!

Click here Crocodile Island 1391652 for a bigger map

For more information about the number of ringed birds and recoveries click here.

01 September 2010

CES completed for another year

We have just had our last CES (Constant Effort Site) session of the season and are looking forward to seeing how this year compares to previous years.

Each year, on our last CES session we organise a 'CES breakfast', where members of the Nunnery Ringing Group and BTO staff who are not ringers get together and celebrate the completion of 12 visits. As an added incentive Susan and Paul Waghorn provide us with a fabulous breakfast after the nets have been taken down.

On this last CES session no less than 50% of the catch were Bullfinches (although this was actually 3 birds). Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and Wren were also caught and a September Swift was seen flying over one of the lakes.

Once all the data has been submitted from all of our CES projects from around the country we will be able to see if it has been a good breeding season or if this was a localised phenomenon (Rye Bay Ringing Group post).

Thanks to Susan Waghorn for the photo.

26 August 2010

'Red-beaked Starling' on the wrong side of the road

We received a phone call from a member of the public in March of this year concerning a little Starling that had sadly been hit by a car in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. It apparently looked ‘a bit odd’ as it had a red beak. Luckily this bird had a ring on its leg, 7T54587 and the words Bruxelles.

Finding a Starling from Belguim is very nice of course. To date, there have been 208 Belgium ringed Starlings found in the Britain & Ireland (see table below taken from the online ringing and recovery summaries):

However, we have just heard back from the Belgium Ringing Scheme and they have informed us that this was actually a Water Rail (now the red beak makes sense)! It was an adult ringed on 15th March 2009 at Bellem, Oost-Vlaanderen, which is a distance of 388km in 365 days. As you can see from the table below, there are far fewer recoveries of this species:

Out of interest we have now had a total of 5 Water Rail recovered as a result of collision with a car to date. The origins of the birds were UK, The Netherlands, Germany and two from Belgium.

19 August 2010

Lets meet up at the Birdfair

It's that time of year again when thousands of people decend on Rutland for the worlds largest international birdwatching event.

The British Birdwatching Fair (Birdfair) runs from Friday 20th August to Sunday 22nd August and encompasses everything linked to birdwatching, while raising money for conservation at the same time. This year the money is going to be donated to saving southern Ethiopia's endemic birds.

As usual the BTO will be there in Marquee 3 (Friday will focus on the Nest Recording Scheme, Saturday on the Bird Atlas 2007-2011 and Sunday on Birdtrack) ,the Garden Birdwatch stand in Marquee 6 and Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) in Marquee 1. As well as this, we will of course be at the Ringing Demonstration near Marquee 7, so please come over to say hello and find out all about ringing. In previous years birds that have been caught have included Tawny Owl, Sparrowhawk, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Turtle Dove amongst the more commoner warblers and garden birds.

Thanks to Dawn Balmer for the photo.

18 August 2010

Colourful clockwork toys

There is still a lot to learn about Sanderling migration and the International Wader Study Group, among others, are trying to answer some of these questions by colour ringing birds and tracking their movements.

The group have now colour-ringed more than 3,000 Sanderlings in Ghana, Mauritania, Portugal, Netherlands, Poland, Iceland and Greenland, plus a few individuals in Svalbard and Sweden. Many of them can be observed in July-September in the UK on their way south. For many birds the group has long tracking histories of individual birds, some of which have been reported as far south as Namibia.

Luckily only one Sanderling in the photo above is colour ringed and can be identified in the tangle of legs as (D35548). This bird was ringed at Brito Salina, Alcochete beach, Portugal on 16th March 2010 and then was also seen there on the 30th March. This bird was then resighted at Dawlish Warren, Devon on 29th July 2010 where the above photo was taken. This bird must be returning to its wintering area in Portugal after a short breeding season in northeast Greenland or even Ellesmere Island, Canada.

View Sanderling from Portugal in a larger map

For more information about the project click here

Sightings can be send directly to the group for their specific project or via www.ring.ac

Thanks to Owen Selly for letting us know and also for the great photo.

12 August 2010

Listen out for Crex in Cambridgeshire

The call of the Corncrake was a common sound in England 150 years ago but due to farming intensification and habitat loss this is no longer the case. One of the best places to see them in the wild now is in the Hebrides in Scotland.

The RSPB, English Nature (now Natural England) and the Zoological Society of London got together for a collaborative project to introduce these birds back into England. The birds were bred at Whipsnade Zoo and the chosen release site was the Nene Washes in Cambridgeshire. They were ringed with BTO metal rings to keep track of their movements and progress.

Of the captive-bred corncrake chicks released at the Nene Washes RSPB reserve, a total of 29 have been recaptured there as singing adult males in later years. More notably, two of these zoo-bred birds have survived to three years of age- a very unusual longevity for wild-bred birds in Scotland (Green 2004). Both of these birds were derived from breeding stock taken as chicks from the Isle of Coll, Inner Hebrides in 2005.

'Green, R.E. (2004) A new method for estimating the adult survival rate of the Corncrake Crex crex and comparison with estimates from ring-recovery and ring-recapture data. Ibis 146, 501-508.'

Thanks to Rhys Green for letting us know and Jill Pakenham for the photo.