30 March 2010

Say it with flowers!

Despite the cold winter and recent wet weather, birds are still making good progress with their nests and romance is obviously in the air. Nest recorder Frank Mawby recently watched a male Starling carrying a purple crocus flower to its nest. While we can’t rule out the possibility that he had forgotten an important anniversary, previous studies have suggested that Starlings are adept at using herbal remedies to combat parasite infestations in the nest, often incorporating vegetation in the lining.

Long-tailed Tits seem to have been less affected by the cold winter than many of us feared - here at The Nunnery most have now built their beautiful lichen and spider web nests and are in the process of lining them with feathers. ‘Our’ Song Thrushes and Blackbirds are just starting to lay, but the first reports of chicks are starting to arrive and many Robins are now busy feeding their broods.

With so much happening, it’s a great time to be out looking for nests. If you’ve found one, get in touch with us at nrs@bto.org and we’ll send you a Nest Record Scheme Starter Pack so that you can monitor it, or you can go on-line to take part in Nest Box Challenge www.bto.org/nbc.

20 March 2010

Goldfinches on the move

Spring is in the air in Norfolk and you do wonder if birds are on the move... On Wednesday morning I caught a ringed Goldfinch (L117545) in my garden just outside Norwich which was originally ringed at on 31 January at Iken, near Woodbridge, on the Suffolk coast. Presumably this bird had wintered in Suffolk, or further south, and was moving north when I recaught it.

Only a few kilometres down the road, Stuart Newson from the BTO has had a Scottish ringed Goldfinch is his garden all winter. This was originally ringed as a juvenile bird at Nether Falla (Borders) in August 2009, so would have moved south for the winter. There is generally this southward shift of Goldfinches in the winter, and Goldfinch is the classic 'partial migrant'.

Interestingly, the map above shows all foreign movements of Goldfinches from Britain and Ireland, but hides the real picture. So whilst there have been 542 recoveries of English-ringed Goldinches abroad (mostly to Spain (263) and France(176)), only two Scottish-ringed birds have moved abroad (to Belgium and Portugal)!

18 March 2010

Our first foreign Quail movement

We recently reported on the first foreign-ringed Quail in the UK (taken by a Peregrine - more details in this post), and now we have our first foreign movement from the UK.

XE97619 was one of three birds ringed in June 2009 near Matlock in Derbyshire (two of these are pictured above). The summer was a great year for Quail, and this particular site had 8 or 9 calling males, with three birds caught using a tape-lure (under licence of course) and triangle of nets! It was sadly shot at Aliud, Spain, on 18 August 2009, presumably on southward migration (birds will generally winter around the Mediterranean and even into North Africa).

View BTO Quail in Spain in a larger map

Thanks to Steve Moores for the photo and info on these birds.


We have just got some extra information on movements around Europe, and Lyndon Kearsley has kindly produced the map below of Quail movements to/from Belgium.

View KwartelHervangsten in a larger map

16 March 2010

Hatch of the Day

We always hear of a few unusual nest sites every year, but this is my favourite so far! Most nest recorders spend their time looking in bushes and hedges, but not Dick Appleton, who took these photos.

He spent this Saturday peering into some rafters... But these weren't just any old rafters, but Old Trafford rafters! This Mistle Thrush was spotted feeding young high up in the roof of the stand on Saturday, so as Man United eased past Fulham 3-0, this particular family had a bird's eye view of the match. We hope to update you on their progress (the birds that is) over the next week or so...

Thanks to Bill Meek for letting us know about this bird, and to Dick for the photos. Oh, and BTO Principal Ecologist Rob Robinson is to blame for the corny headline...

10 March 2010

Tawny Owl vs Stock Dove - the winner?

We did promise an update on the Tawny Owl video diary, and this clip is well worth watching!

We may put up more updates as they come up, but keep an eye on the BTO site for more Tawny Owl vs... stories!

09 March 2010

Recycling Goldfinches

No sooner has the snow gone than the breeding season has started! A while ago now we heard of early nesting by thrushes and pigeons, but the real early birds are starting building now. Around Thetford we have several Long-tailed Tits building nests and in Norwich there are already Blackbirds sitting on eggs! We also saw this video recently of Goldfinches raiding an old nest for material for this year's effort.

So it's always worth keeping an eye out for early nesting! For more details on nest recording, visit the pages of the Nest Record Scheme.

04 March 2010

Tawny Owl video diary

Over the coming weeks the BTO will be following the exploits of a pair of Tawny Owls using a nest box in Cambridgeshire via webcam. The birds have been in the box since early winter, with the first egg laid on 28 February! You can follow the Tawny Owl video diary on the BTO website.

This clip (from just before midnight on 1 March) shows the male bringing food to the incubating female. Other clips now online show the first and second eggs and even the original mating (over 18s only)...

We will update the progress of these birds during the coming weeks, and keep an eye out for some amazing footage of their previous interactions with other species...

We'd like to hear of other early nesting attempts, so do get in touch. Recording of nests is of immense value (even common species), so why not think about contributing to the BTO's Nest Record Scheme? It's easy and even better free!

01 March 2010

Red-necked Phal breaks longevity record

OK, so it's actually just an excuse to put up these stunning images sent in today by Iain Leach!

NT14343 was ringed as a nestling on Fetlar (Shetland) in July 1996, and photographed by Iain on the island in June 2008 and June 2009. So when last seen it was a month short of being 13 years old, which is a fantastic age for a bird that spends a great deal of its time at sea.

This is also a European longevity record, beating an Icelandic bird aged 9 years. Amazingly, the previous BTO longevity record was held by NT14346, a bird of the same brood of four as this one, last seen on Fetlar in 2003.

Thanks again to Iain for the photos and for the excellent reports.