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.

09 August 2010

A good breeding season?

It is a wee bit early for any definitive results relating to this year's breeding season, but we always love to hear about good news stories. Earlier this week we heard from Rye Bay Ringing Group about their captures for July. Even by Rye Bay’s standards, their captures so far this year, for species such as Reed Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler, are quite spectacular (see the graphs below).

Similarly, according to CES ringers Ian Dillon and Alan Bull, the story from Paxton Pits in Cambridgeshire shows that migrants appear to have had a better season than residents. Has last winter’s cold winter had a big effect on this? Future CES results will shed light on this...

03 August 2010

Blaumeise the Blue Tit visits the UK

You never know what you might find in your own garden, as demonstrated by Mr Skehens from Gloucestershire who found a Blue Tit in his garden that had recently died. Nothing ground breaking there, due to their short life span and sedentary nature, but this ring had the magic words "Helgoland Germania" inscribed on it!

We have somewhere in the region of 22,800 reports of Blue Tit either found dead or moving more than 5km, but only 170 of these have moved more than 100km. This bird had travelled a massive 737km across the sea but unfortunately this bird is not the record holder. This remains as a Norweigan Blue Tit that was caught in Suffolk by Landguard Ringing Group (782km).

The red pointer is the German Blue Tit, while the Blue pointer is the Norweign Blue Tit.
View Blue Tit in a larger map

Thanks to Jill Pakenham for the photo

02 August 2010

Reed Warbler bonanza

This year BTO staff (Dave Leech, Mike Toms, Jez Blackburn and myself) have made a big push to record Reed Warbler nesting attempts on the BTO Nunnery reserve and also at an old sand quarry nearby. We're attempting to find the majority of nests at each site, a challenging task given the depth of the water and the prolific output of the birds, many of which raise two broods per season. All the chicks are ringed, so we should be able to identify those who return from Africa to breed next year, and the adults are also being colour ringed in the hope that we can identify which birds are responsible for producing which youngsters.

Over 130 nests have been found since the start of June and around 150 chicks ringed, together with three Cuckoo chicks that had evicted the previous tennants. One of the Reed Warblers (X465599) has already been caught by ringer John Walshe at Lackford, Suffolk, having travelled 16km to a completely different reedbed within a month of leaving the nest. Did it make the journey on its own or with siblings, and are movements to other sites soon after fledging a regular occurence? These are the sort of quesitons that we hope to be able to answer in the longer term.

Thanks to John Walshe and Dave Leech for the photo.