27 January 2010

'Sea Empress' scoter shot in Russia

When the Sea Empress ran aground in Milford Haven on 15 February 1996, it spilled 72,000 tonnes of crude oil into Carmarthen Bay (more here). The bay supports around 30% of the British wintering population of Common Scoter, often numbering over 10,000 birds.

Following the spill, 4,571 Common Scoter were found dead or dying, but many were also successfully rehabilitated, ringed and released. Although many of these were found quite close by, several have since been found in Europe (in blue below), including one unlucky bird found following the Tricolor spill in the southern North Sea!

View Sea Empress Common Scoters in a larger map

We have just received details of GF67015 (rehabilitated and ringed following the spill), shot in Russia in June 2009 (the red marker above), actually very close to where another bird was shot in May 2007. So it is encouraging to see that some of these birds are still alive and doing what they should after being successfully rehabilitated.

25 January 2010

New longevity record for Red Kite

Just a gratuitous reason really to put up a nice picture of a Red Kite! We heard recently that 'Orange/Orange R' (below) is now the oldest BTO-ringed Red Kite.

More details about 'Orange/Orange R' can be found on the Welsh Red Kite Trust blog.

22 January 2010

Winter Whitethroat ringed in Devon

After our brief mention of a winter Blackcap movement, this recent capture is far more bizarre!

On 17 January Jon Avon was ringing in his Devon garden and found this Whitethroat in his net! We're not sure of the age of the bird, but the colour of the eye and tail both suggest it might be a first-winter bird.

Amazingly, despite the recent Arctic conditions the bird was in really good condition, weighing in at 12.9g which is what you'd expect a Whitethroat to weigh in autumn.

Thanks to Jon for the photos and to find out what our migrants should be doing in the winter, check the blog here.

20 January 2010

Snow Bunting mystery (now solved!)

We've had an instant response on this and it looks like this is a female bird ringed in Norfolk in February 2009 (not January 2005 as posted earlier).

We've also just heard a colour-ringed bird from the same Norfolk site was seen in France in October 2009, so this is now the SECOND record to France!

We're being plagued by a mystery Snow Bunting seen in France recently. The bird was well photographed and obviously has a BTO ring, but what number?!

The bird was seen on the beach in Dunkerque on 13 December and thanks to the photos of Daniel Haubreux we have got as far as --84768 but can't seem to figure out the first two letters!

Hopefully we'll figure it out and will post an update here... This is our first Snow Bunting exchange with France (either way), with most movements involving Iceland (48), Belgium (12) and The Netherlands (11), though we have had birds go to Canada and Italy!

19 January 2010

BTO Slav Grebe in Iceland

Just a quick post today, of a really nice recovery, if not current... We recently received news though of a Slavonian Grebe found dead in a fishing net in Iceland, and this is in fact only our third foreign movement.

FB12777 was ringed at a site near Inverness in October 2004 and found in June 2008 on Mývatn in central Iceland. This movement is quite the opposite of one other BTO bird which was also ringed near Inverness (in August 1983) and found dead in Italy in June 1984! The finding locations are shown in blue below.

View Slavonian Grebes in a larger map

The only movement 'the other way' is a bird ringed in Russia in July 1962 (on the wonderfully-named Lake Molotovskoye) and found oiled at Hinderwell, North Yorkshire in April 1963. It was cleabned and succesfully released (shown in red above).

15 January 2010

Blackcap in the snow

Blackcaps are a fascinating bird... As recently as the 1970s they were really scarce in winter, but things soon changed (read more). As they became more common in winter the temptation was to think of these as 'our' birds managing to stay the winter instead of migrating. But ringing (and stable isotope studies) showed this to be far from the truth and these were actually birds from northern Europe migrating west instead of south for the winter. Presumably as more and more of these birds survived our milder winters the rogue gene for this new migration heading became more prevalent.

So it's interesting to think of the possible impact of this current harsh winter on these birds. Will it wipe them out, leaving them as a scarce winter visitor again???

One bird in particular seems to be doing pretty well though. We received details of a colour-ringed bird in a garden in Reading in early January and after a bit of digging tracked it down. X170529 was ringed on 3 January 2009 at near Tipton St. John in Devon.

Ian Stanbridge, who ringed the bird, catches winter Blackcaps by feeding them fat, and has so far ringed 41 birds since winter 2001/02. Some are then retrapped and one bird ringed in January 2002 has been recaught in March 2006 and again in February 2008, showing how faithful these birds can be to their wintering areas.

Thanks to Tim Ball for getting in touch about this bird, to Roger Stansfield for the pics and to Ian for sending us details of his work.

12 January 2010

Orkney Greylags in Norfolk

We have just got details through of some very bizarre movements of Orkney-bred Greylag Geese, which have now found Norfolk to their liking (but who wouldn't?!).

Both DIS and DIU were ringed (and given their orange neck collars) as goslings on 13 July 2008 on Birsay, Orkney. Both were then seen together in Suffolk (Lound Waterworks) on 21-23 December 2008 before moving to Norfolk (Strumpshaw Fen and Buckenham Marshes) on 24 December. They stayed right through to the end of January before being seen back, still together, on Orkney on 6 April 2009. This winter they are now both back at Buckenham, but this time joined by HAJ and HAK, ringed as goslings on Birsay on 9 July 2009! Quite a pattern developing!

These movements seem quite exceptional, but then the Orkney Greylag project only started in summer 2008, so maybe this isn't so new... The project now has funding for another four years so it'll be fascinating to see if more Orkney birds make it to our part of the world.

Interestingly, a lot of the Icelandic-ringed birds now spend their winters in Orkney instead of heading further south to places like Aberdeenshire, Tayside and even Highland. So what are these birds doing??? So all we need are more sightings of neck-collared birds, so keep your eyes out over the winter! Any records can be submitted via www.ring.ac

Interestingly Norfolk has also hosted Greylags from other strange places, with a Spanish-ringed bird (of the Scandinavian population) spending some time in the county (June-August 2004 and February 2005) and also recoveries from as far afield Poland and Germany!

Thanks to Alan Leitch for the info on these birds Alan and Andrew Easton for the photos of the birds in Orkney and Norfolk.

11 January 2010

Ringing Fieldfare

North Notts RG recently captured a sample of Fieldfare and Blackbird in an Orchard where birds were concentrated to feeding on apples.

Over 400 were caught, mainly using a whoosh net.

Biometrics and fat scores were taken on 95% of birds caught and over 100 recaptures provided a good sample to look at weight changes.

Most birds were in good condition between 100-120g, some in excess of 130g and fat scores of 1-3. Less than 5% had weights less than 90g.

A large proporton of the Fieldfare were adults. Had the immature birds moved elsewhere or perished in the cold weather? It would be interesting to know the condition and age ratios of Fieldfare and Blackbird caught by others in different parts of the country during these cold conditions.

07 January 2010

Ringed Lesser Crested Tern found...

This isn't quite the exciting news some will have hoped for, but just to continue our international theme of 2010, we recently spotted this report in the Mumbai Mirror. This reported a BTO-ringed bird found dying on a beach at Arnala, near Mumbai in India.

This bird was actually DD08695, a Lesser Crested Tern ringed on 27/6/2008 on Al Jarrim Island. The island is one of three sitting 20km north of the main island of Bahrain. This is the first movement of a Lesser Crested Tern to India from the island, but we did receive a very similar report last year of a Bridled Tern also found near Mumbai.

View Lesser Crested Tern in a larger map

05 January 2010

Anyone for badminton?

OK, so this one has nothing to do with demography (and isn't even in Britain), but is just an amazing story!

These images, taken by Amit Thakurta, were posetd on the Google image sharing groups Bird Photography India and Delhibirdpix.

Amit's friends were playing badminton in a floodlit court when a Brown Hawk Owl appeared, patiently watching the game. In the midst of the game, the bird made repeated sorties to catch the shuttlecock in flight. These photos are testimony to its success at the second attempt!

Images remain copyright © Amit Thakurta