29 December 2011

Ringed birds in the Gambia part 3!

The increasing work done in Africa to find out about our declining migrants is picking up pace, with the BTO Cuckoos still going strong and the Out of Africa project. As mentioned in a post previously, a team of volunteer ringers have just returned from their third trip to Kartong Bird Observatory, The Gambia, in an attempt to gain more knowledge on our European passerines and gain more information on African birds.

I was part of the team, my second trip, and we managed to catch 1200 birds of 121 species during the 10 day ringing session. Good numbers of herons, raptors, terns, shrikes and African passerines were caught including 70 Long-tailed Nightjar and 50 Jacana. Most importantly 250 Western Palaearctic passerines were caught including Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Melodious Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Reed and Sedge warbler and a Nightingale (but without a data logger!). We also saw an Osprey with a satelite tag but were unable to read the colour ring.

Some birds were doing some very interesting moult while in Africa - one 1st winter Chiffchaff was actively finishing off a complete primary moult. As we know neither adults or first year birds are supposed to moult in their wintering quarters.

The team also proved some direct migration thanks to birds that were already ringed by other ringing schemes. The first was from a Sandwich Tern with a BTO ring that had been ringed on Coquet Island, Northumberland this year. We also caught a Sandwich Tern from Helgoland, Germany and a Sedge Warbler wearing a French ring. The next trip in January will focus on terns, waders and Acrocephalus warblers in the reed beds.

For more information on Kartong Bird Observatory see www.kartongbirdobservatory.org.

This was an amazing experience and if you wish to be considered for future trips (probably 2013) please contact Jez Blackburn (jezblackburn@sky.com) for more details and an application form. Note - you need to be a ringer and have good knowledge of moult!

Top picture- Squacco heron. Middle picture - Woodchat Shrike. Above - The team

25 December 2011

African Swallow Roost

What best to celebrate the turn of the Equionox than the recovery of a UK ringed swallow in South Africa! Andrew Pickels controlled this bird on the 30th of November in Umzumbe (in the area of Southern Kwazulu Natal), his ringing patch where he rings at a roost 2-3 times a week. This year the Umzumbe roost hosted an impressive 1-1.5 million swallows. Fittingly, the controlled swallow had been ringed by North Notts Ringing Group on the 16th of September in Retford - very close to where Andrew himself was born.

We believe that now all the UK's migrant birds have reached their furthest wintering destinations in the African continent. Of course, we are so pleased to hear that all five cuckoos tracked by BTO are alive in or close to the Congo Basin, and we also have news of other controlled birds in The Gambia (a blog post to come about this shortly - watch this space!)

To find out more about Umzumbe and about Andrew's ringing activities visit his own blog http://barbetbirding.blogspot.com/. Thanks to Andrew for controlling the bird and for sharing the story and his photographs with us. Merry Christmas everybody and thank you for reading!

22 December 2011

The History of One Med Gull and Three Rings

Luke Phillips, who works for the RSPB, told us last week about a Mediterranean Gull that is visiting Radipole Lake RSPB Reserve 18 years after it was first caught for ringing in The Netherlands.

According to the ringing database, this would be the longevity record for Mediterranean Gull recorded in the UK, but not as old as the longevity record for Europe, which was a Med Gull ringed by the Greek Ringing Scheme and recorded 22 years and 1 month later.

Many Mediterranean Gulls are ringed and colour ringed in the Continent, but only a few dozen are ringed in the UK each year. In 2010 only 22 birds were ringed with a GBT ring, contrasting with the 618 ringed birds that were recovered/resighted during the same year. The number of birds wintering and breeding in this country is increasing, and this trend is expected to continue in the future.

The travels of this Mediterranean Gull are very well documented, its life history spanned 6 pages!

In summary:

It was ringed in The Netherlands as a pullus and was given colour ring WHITE 96A on 02/06/1993.
It was caught again in Belgium in 1999, the metal ring was replaced and the colour ring had been. In 2006 was caught again in Belgium, the metal ring replaced and a WHITE 3K20 added.
As 3K20,it was seen on 06/12/2011 in the UK for the first time at Radipole Lake where up to 450 Med Gulls were recorded in a single evening by Luke Phillips.

The colour ringing of Mediterranean Gulls is well coordinated in Europe and sightings can be reported here.

To find out more about longevity records in the UK go to the on line ringing reports, and for European longevity records go here.

Thanks to Luke Phillips for telling us about this gull and to Chris Parnell for both finding the bird and for providing the photograph.

07 December 2011

From one cold coast to the other

Many birdwatchers agree, Purple Sandpipers are very special birds. Not only is the rocky habitat they can be found on unusual for a sandpiper, but also for their interesting movements. The majority of birds found here originate in Norway and Iceland but we have had birds from the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Svalbard. We have even had 2 birds ringed in Britain and found in Greenland!

For 3 years a ringing team from Spitsbergen, Svalbard have been colour ringing Purple Sandpipers in a hope to find out the wintering distribution of breeding birds. Previously we have had 5 birds ringed on Svalbard and found here but due to this project, we are currently processing 3 reports from November alone. These were seen in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Cleveland.

If you see a colour ring Purple Sandpiper (or Dunlin) with either orange, lime or dark green colour rings and leg flags, please let Kjell Mork Soot know (kjellmorksoot@fugler.com). The details needed are:

* Species
* Date and time
* Flag and ring colour position and combination
* Location name and/or coordinates
* Finders name and contact details
* Photo if possible

He will then get back to you with the details and share the information with the corresponding ringing schemes.

Orange HHU (above) was ringed on South Cape Island on 22.08.2011 and was recaught on 06.09.2011 at Longyearbyen (191km north).

Thanks to Ole Edvard Torland for the photos.

30 November 2011

October oddities and November notables

Grampian Ringing Group definitely got the distance prize for October with a Sandwich Tern turning up in Liberia, West Africa (5679km in 488 days). This chick was ringed at Sands of Forvie Nature Reserve, Aberdeenshire last year and was caught by children playing on the beach in Robertsport but unfortunately died.

We also received 8 reports of Lesser Black-backed Gull wintering in Portugal and all but one were live sightings. Mute Swans were also very evident with lots of sightings but some hitting overhead power cables and one or two in poor condition. Unusually we didn't get many reports of Barn Owls in poor condition but we did get 12 reports of car victims. All of the ones that died were ringed as chicks this year. One bird, strangely, was seen flying straight into a wall and then a parked car before being rescued and taken into care.

There was also a nice Blackcap report "found and released" on 25th October in Tizi-Ouzou, Algiers, Algeria that was ringed near Sleaford, Lincolnshire in May this year (1839km in 174 days). Another notable passerine was a Chiffchaff ringed in Northumberland in August and was found dead after connecting with a vehicle in Candresse, France in October (1257km in 37 days!)

All the above recoveries have been processed and found in either October or November. We are still getting reports of birds found in November so this is not an exhaustive list. Thanks to Dawn Balmer for the photo.

22 November 2011

Pipits that Rock!

Rock Pipits are worthy of respect; not only breeding on rocky coastal habitats, but in winter they are probably the only passerine capable of remaining on the rocks in all weathers.
Last week we received details of a colour ringed Rock Pipit from Norway that had been ringed on 12 August 2011 as a 2nd calendar year male in Makkevika, Møre and Romsdal , Norway.
This bird was identified from its colour rings on the 8 and the 13 November 2011 in Margate, Kent, after having travelled more than 1200 km.
This represents the 9th record of a Norwegian ringed Rock Pipit to be seen in the UK. Many Scandinavian Pock Pipits of the littoralis subspecies winter in the east of Great Britain, as is shown by the 15 or so recoveries of birds from Sweden and the 9 from Norway.

This particular bird was ringed as part of a colour ringing project in Norway coordinated by Sunnmøre Ringing Group that started in February 2011, which also involves colour ringing of Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Purple Sandpiper, Curlew and Dunlin. Watch out for this birds!
Thank you to Kjell Mork Soot for supplying the photograph of a colour ringed Rock Pipit and details of this bird.

11 November 2011

Dipper in Essex

Continental Black-bellied Dippers are recorded most years on the islands in the north of Scotland and on the east coast of the UK. However, ringing recoveries have been surprisingly lacking in the origin of these migratory Dippers that visit the UK in the winter.

More than 1900 Dippers were ringed under the BTO ringing scheme during 2010, most of them ringed as chicks (1700). Encounters of ringed adults are rather low, outside of special projects and recoveries of foreign ringed birds are very unusual.

So we were quite surprised when we had a phone call about a Dipper from Norway! This is the fourth ever recovery of a Dipper with a foreign ring found in the UK and this bird was unfortunately attacked by a cat near Colchester, Essex.

We don't know yet where in Norway this bird came from but previously we have had three other movements of Dippers between the British Isles and Scandinavia, as the map below illustrates.

The one in Purple was ringed as a chick on 22 May 2004 near Bergen and later controlled by ringers in Voe (Shetland Mainland) on the 2 Feb 2006. The one in yellow was ringed as a chick north of Kristiandsand (south Norway) on the 31 May 1993 and later found killed by car the 28 Oct 1993. The one in red was ringed as an adult on 4 Mar 1985 in Orkelljunga (south Sweden) and controlled by a ringer two years later in Crail (Fife Region) on 3 Apr 1987.

View The Only Way is Essex in a larger map

Thanks to Jon Evans for the photograph of the Black-bellied Dipper.

07 November 2011

Quail surprise!

Ringer Greg Conway writes:

When one of my trainee ringers, mentioned that he had a 'good number' of Quail on a local farm in south Norfolk, and recalling the apparent ease with which this species is caught in Belgium and the Netherlands, I decide to give it a try. However, given the low success rate when attempting to catch in the autumn, I didn't expect to to catch any. Just another exercise in put nets up and taking down again.

So on 11th June, just as the sun was setting, we carefully put up a triangle in a cereal crop. By the time the nets were set, up to 4 males were calling nearby and we got the impression that something was watching us! As I made a final check of the net I was totally amazed to watch a male pop up from within the triangle of nets and jump into the net. It was immediately extracted and processed, then I started the tape lure (having the appropriate tape luring licence) and a female immediately flew into the net and again was promptly extracted. It was an hour later though before the third and final Quail of the evening was caught.

If that wasn't reward enough, I was amazed to receive notification recently that one of the three was shot in September at Montegut-Arros, Midi-Pyrenees, France.

Four Quail were ringed in Britain & Ireland in 2010 and we are up to 7 so far this year. It will be interesting to see how many were ringed this year, once all the data is in our database.

Thanks to John Secker for the photo.

01 November 2011

Eastern Jewel

There is an amazing amount of information that can be learned from ringing and at this time of year migration strategies are high on the list. Projects can be done looking at fat deposition or even the timings and reasons for movement.

Saying that, you can never be 100% sure what you will catch. While doing a routine ringing session, Maple Cross Ringing Group had a very unusual bird appear in their net. This was an Eastern Crowned Warbler, the second to be seen in Britain! It wasn't at a migration hotspot like Fair Isle, Shetland or somewhere in Norfolk but a private site at Hilfield Park Reservoir, Hertfordshire!

This bird breeds from eastern Siberia through to south-eastern China, Korea and Japan, and winters in south-east Asia south to Indonesia, so is around 11,500km off course. Birds that have been seen in Europe generally don't stay in the same location for very long and this bird was no exception, not being seen again after its release. It will be very interesting to see if this ringed juvenile Eastern Crowned Warbler is located anywhere else in the near future.

Thanks to Mike Beatley for the photos

25 October 2011

Tystie gets a Bus Pass

Although the summer days are long gone and we have just put the clocks back to the winter time, we have recently received news from Dr J G Greenwood (BTO ringer) about a Tystie (Black Guillemot) which was ringed by him in Northern Ireland and has broken the longevity record for the species.

The Black Guillemot wearing the ring EP35353 hatched on 27 June 1988 and was ringed nine days later in Bangor Marina, Co Down, Northern Ireland, by Dr J Greenwood.
Only 23 years and 22 days after ringing this bird was spotted by the ringer himself in the same place. Although this is not a grand old age for a seabird in general, in Black Guillemot years EP35353 is probably eligible for a bus pass by now.

Dr Julian Greenwood has been studying the Black Guillemots and their responses to the rise in the temperature of the sea in Bangor Marina for 25 years, his article in British Wildlife 2010 is a great read about the success of the joined forces of an ornithologist and the construction company on the Bangor Marina. It is thanks to Dr Greenwood's dedication that there are now more than 30 pairs of Black Guillemots using artificial nesting chambers in the marina.

Previously, the oldest Tystie was 22 years and 11 months old and lived on Fair Isle, Shetland, all its life... as far as we know.

Thanks to Edmund Fellowes for the photo.

12 October 2011

September Swedish Sweeties

Last week we received some very exciting news from Sweden.
One piece of news came from Fair Isle where they heard that a coloured ringed Common Rosefinch seen amongst a flock of 15 birds in early September had in fact been ringed as a juvenile on 25th August on the west coast of Sweden (see map in yellow). There are only two previous records of Common Rosefinches ringed abroad and found in the UK - one came from Germany and the other from Norway, so this is a FIRST from Sweden!

Direct from the Swedish ringing scheme, last week we heard about a Wryneck that had been ringed as a pullus, one of a brood of 9, on 26th of June 2011, in Svinno, Sweden. It was subsequently found dead, 'possibly killed by a cat', near Bideford in Devon on 28th September (see the red pins in the map). Wrynecks now breed in the UK very rarely, but every year a couple of dozen Wrynecks are ringed with BTO rings. 1965 was a particularly exceptional year, with 114 birds ringed! Wrynecks ringed abroad and found in the UK are a very unusual event, and this Wryneck found near Bideford is only the fourth Wryneck ever recovered with a foreign ring - all of which have come from Scandinavia.

Visit the online ringing reports to find out more exciting stats about ringed birds.

View From IKEAland in a larger map

06 October 2011

Cetti's to the Conquest of Northumberland

The last decades have seen a change in the distribution of many species as a result of climate warming. If you read the abstract of this recent article you will see this affecting many different terrestrial organisms. In the bird world, a typical example of range shift towards the north is that of the Cetti's Warbler. Some years ago, the species featured in headlines like "Mediterranean Songbird Spreads", but today the Cetti's Warbler is no longer just a bird of the Mediterranean, but British in its own right - resident in many of the Southern counties of England. Cetti's Warblers are slowly (or rapidly, depending on your timescale) advancing north as can be seen in the sequenced maps from the old Breeding Atlases here.

On 2nd of October 2011 ringers from the Natural History Society of Northumbria Ringing Group controlled a Cetti's Warbler. This is, as far as we are aware, the first time that a Cetti's Wabler has been captured by ringers in this county. The bird in question GBT X586751 had been ringed as a 3J the 26 June 2010 by Tees Ringing Group, just a few kilometres south in Billingham, Cleveland. This ringing event is important because it could be the first evidence from ringing of the species moving north and conquering a new county. Perhaps in a few years the Cetti's Warbler will be an established BIRD OF NORTHUMBERLAND! We can't wait to find out from the next Atlas just how far Cetti's Warblers has spread.

To read an article about Cetti's Warbler and ringing data go here.
(Photo of a Cetti's Wabler in the hand by Dawn Balmer)

30 September 2011

Kingfisher Pole Vaults to Ordfordness

The great majority of Kingfishers breeding in the UK are resident. However, the kingfisher that winters in your patch may have known other countries in its life, and that's what this story shows...
Last Monday we had news from Mike Marsh of what seems to be the first Polish ringed Kingfisher ever controlled in the UK, Mike said:
At Orfordness, Suffolk we catch a small number (up to 8) Kingfishers each year, usually in the autumn. We have assumed that these have been dispersing juveniles of fairly local origin. How wrong could we be ?
On Sunday Sep.25th we controlled one wearing a Polish ring – YN16870 !

From the on-line recovery totals this appears to be the first Kingfisher from Poland to be caught in the UK. Previously the most easterly Kingfishers recovered in the UK has been from Germany (5 from there). The distance moved by this bird will almost certainly be over 1000km which will be even further than the remarkable recovery of the BTO-ringed Kingfisher that went from Wales to Spain!

Without a doubt this will be one of the longest distance runners among the Kingfishers in the ringing database and we can't wait to hear from the Polish Scheme about the ringing details.

While we wait for this record to be processed, you can see a map showing the 4 longest distance runner Kingfishers in the ringing database so far:

In 4th position a bird ringed in Aken, Kothen (Germany) as a pullus in 2008 was controlled in Saltfleet Haven (Lincolnshire) the same year
In 3rd position a bird ringed in Templin-Knehden (Germany) as a pullus in 1998 was controlled near Sturry (Kent) the same year
In 2nd position a bird ringed in Horsham (Sussex) as young in June 2005 was controlled in Saint-Gaudens (France) in August the same year
On top of the marks is a bird ringed in Marloes (Pembrokshire) as young in Aug 1993 was controlled in Irun (Spain) in Sep the same year (in yellow)

View Kingfishers in a larger map

To prove the veracity of this story please meet the Polish Kingfisher itself!
Thanks to Mike Marsh for sharing the story and to David Crawshaw for supplying the photograph (they had not taken the ring off - this is a sequence of photos).

20 September 2011

What happened to the recoveries?

After looking at how many recoveries we get from predators in the last posting, I thought it would be nice to look at the recoveries we get as a whole.

I have used all the recoveries that we have received from August up until now. We use two codes to say what happened to the birds. The finding condition tells us, for example, if the bird was found dead or alive. The finding circumstances give the cause for what happened to the bird, if known.

The pie chart below is of the condition of the bird reported. As you can see the vast majority of reported birds are dead but a reasonably large slice goes to ringers catching birds after that have already been ringed (this generally only includes birds travelling more than 5km from the site of ringing).

The second pie chart is of the finding circumstances. We have a multitude of codes for the circumstances but I have just highlighted those that we have had more than 10 reports.

The 'bird found' slice is when the finder just finds the bird's body but doesn't know what happened to it. Obviously the pie chart results are very specific to this time of year and the proportions change very quickly. For example this is the start of the shooting season and we get a sudden increase in the number of birds shot compared with earlier in the year.

It should be pointed out that these portions are of reported individuals, for example you would hope that 100% of all shot birds would be reported but not all birds are reported that end up in a cat's belly.

14 September 2011

August recoveries update

"I found a bird's leg in my sock!"

Over the years there have been some odd finding places for bird rings, including at the bottom of the North Sea, a Red Kite in the engine of a plane and a Mute Swan killed by a Lion at Chester Zoo. This month's winner is quoted, "I put my sock on this morning and felt something sharp dig into my foot. Upon further inspection, and to my disbelief, I found a tiny metal ring attached to a dismembered birds leg!". We are waiting for the ringing details on this one, but the leg was small, perhaps Wren or Goldcrest sized.

With the start of the shooting season, reports of ringed wildfowl are increasing. Last month we had 2 interesting reports of Pochard that were shot in Samarskaya Oblast, Russia (3287km) and Shaturskiy Rayon (2600km), Russia, after being ringed at Welney WWT, Norfolk in 2007 and 2008 (yellow pins).

Passerines played their part last month with Common Redpoll L656176 (blue pin) being ringed by Spurn Bird Observatory on the 16th of October 2010 to be then controlled by a ringer in Finnvik, Tromso, Norway on 5th August 2011 (2035km in 293 days).

View August update in a larger map

We don't normally get many reports of dogs attacking birds (apart from the odd swan) but House Sparrow TS36895 was very unlucky to be killed by a Jack Russell while flying past a bird table! Cats are the normal cause of death in gardens, partly because they frequently bring the ringed bird to the owner for reporting. Out of the 32 'caused by predator' reports during August, 22 of these were from cats, with the next highest being five deaths from birds of prey.

08 September 2011

CES ringers finally get a lie-in

Greg Conway writes:

As the breeding season draws to a close, so the hundreds of dedicated ringers who run the 120 Constant Effort Sites (CES) scattered across Britain and Ireland can start to relax and recuperate after a summer of early morning starts. As they use the same mist nets in the same places each year to catch the birds, the information they collect tells us about changes in numbers of adults and juveniles over time, so abundance, breeding success and survival can all be measured, making this one of the most valuable ringing projects.

Target species include many of our long-distance migrants (e.g. Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler) plus resident scrub species such as Wren, Dunnock, Blackbird and Robin.

The CES scheme started in 1983, so ringers have just completed the 29th season and will soon be focussing their attention on getting all their data to BTO HQ ready for analysis. The results of the most recent CES analysis can be found on the species pages here and the preliminary results from 2011 will be available later in the autumn. These will provide the first indications of abundance and breeding success of birds nesting this summer, helping to assess the potential impact of yet another harsh winter.

Early indications suggest that a number of migrant species have returned in greater than usual numbers. However, despite an early start to the breeding for many species, prolonged periods of cool and wet weather, particularly in the north and west of Britain and Ireland, were associated reduced breeding productivity levels.

A big thank you to everyone whole has help with CES this year and those ringers who have already submitted their data.

Thanks to Dorian Moss for the above picture of Lucy Yates and Kate Risely for the top picture of Nick Moran.

03 September 2011

Waiting for the kids to leave home

Over 36,000 Reed Warblers were ringed in the UK during 2010, so what was interesting about the seven caught at a site in south Norfolk on Thursday?

During the summer of 2011, a team of BTO staff, collectively known as The Swamp Things (AKA Dave Leech, Lee Barber, Rachael Portnall, Mike Toms and Jez Blackburn), decided that the best way to spend their free time would be to slip into a pair chest waders and wander the reedbeds of Norfolk. Why, you ask? A good question, especially when the temperature rises into the high twenties and the horseflies are hungry, but there was method in their madness as there really is no other way to collect data on the nesting success of Reed Warblers.

So, when the warblers arrived back from Africa in April, The Swamp Things sprang into action, catching and ringing the adults, finding their nests and ringing the chicks. The first full clutch of eggs was recorded on the 8th May, and the last nestling was ringed on the 12th August, by which time several of the team were looking considerably sleeker and, at least from the shoulders up, more tanned. In the intervening three months, they monitored 257 nests and ringed 596 nestlings. An added bonus was provided by the 12 nests parasitized by Cuckoos, of which at least seven were thought to have fledged (and by now have presumably joined Clement , Martin, Caspar, Lyster, and Chris on their wintering grounds).

The seven birds mentioned at the top of this posting were all ringed as chicks in the nest between the 8th and the 30th July and are still finishing their moult and building up their fat reserves. By adding this information to the other recaptures of ringed nestlings, the team will be able to learn a lot more about the behaviour of the youngsters when they reach independence and prepare for their first ever migration, an incredibly important, yet seldom studied, period in their lives.

Thanks to Dave Leech for this post.

31 August 2011

Warbler wanderings

Ringing warblers in the summer is always exciting and the data collected is very valuable, especially when they are ringed as chicks or biometrics are taken.

The top warblers ringed in 2010 were Blackcap, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler, all with more than 30,000 birds ringed. These are a mix of long and short distance migrants. We have had reasonable number of Sedge Warbler recoveries from other countries so far (summaries below taken from the Online Ringing Reports). Also click here to see Sedge Warbler recovery totals per country.

Here in the Demography Team, we have just heard about Sedge Warbler T796371. This bird was ringed as a juvenile on 4th August at Hollesley, Suffolk (blue pin). It was then caught in The Netherlands on 13th August (awaiting ringing details, pink pin). Amazingly this bird was then caught on its southward migration on 18th August in Melsele, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium (green pin). Three countries in a couple of weeks, not bad by anyone's standard.

View Sedge Warbler tour in a larger map

Hopefully this bird will now head south to its wintering grounds and with increasing ringing in Africa, it is becoming more likely that we will be getting a clearer picture of their movements.

Thanks to Dawn Balmer for the photo.

23 August 2011

Just nipping to Spain

In 2010 our ringing scheme ringed 2,331 Redshank and lots of these birds have gone on to be seen or recovered in other countries. Foreign ringed Redshank are found less frequently in this country. Click here to see recovery reports in more detail.

Redshank, 3M009051, was ringed and colour ringed on 13th February 2011 as a juvenile at Fianteira, Sanxenxo, Spain (42'27N 8'50W), (blue pin). This bird was seen at this location up to the 20th March and was then reported to us being seen alive at Seaforth Nature Reserve, Liverpool (red pin) on 27th April (1296km). This is the first Spanish ringed Redshank to be recorded in the UK!

View 1st Spanish ringed Redshank in a larger map

Interestingly it was then seen very close to where it was colour ringed on 29th July (green pin). This bird must have been wintering in Spain and recorded on its migration north to breed. There has been quite a lot of movement of birds between the UK and Iceland to the north, and the UK and France to the south but very little further south than this.

Thanks to Richard du Feu for letting us know about this.

12 August 2011

Ringing Course at Chew

I have just been on the Chew Valley Ringing Course in Somerset. This long standing course offered training in mist netting of various species covering Reed habitat, garden birds and also hirundines. Together with this information on moult stratagies and other catching methods were also given.

This year there were mainly trainee ringers attending the course and we had a good mix of birds caught and we were able to look at their plumage in great detail. This is a regular ringing site so there were plenty of known age birds. About 300 birds were caught during the 3 days including a bird that was ringed further north by West Wiltshire Ringing Group and also an adult Sedge Warbler that was already ringed by the French Ringing Scheme (Paris)! Ringing details are on there way.

Ringing Courses are an excellent way for ringers to get extra experience in various aspects of ringing and also be assessed for permit upgrades. These are particularly useful for ringers applying for training endorsements. Courses are currently full for this year and usually run from June to October but future courses will be on the BTO website next year. It is advisable to book early!

Thanks to all that participated on the course and to Ed Drewitt for the photos and Mike Bailey for the image of the Paris ring.

02 August 2011

Roseate went to the Americas

Any report about Roseate Terns is always special, just like their rings. On Monday we opened the online recoveries from the weekend to find a sighting of a Roseate tern in a breeding colony. Yes, we are in the summer that’s what they should be… but we read a bit more and discovered that the finding county was New Hampshire! After double-checking, I checked the database and found that there is only one other recovery of a Roseate Tern ringed in the UK & Ireland and found across the Atlantic during the breeding season.

Quoting the Migration Atlas [about North West population of Roseate terns] ‘dispersal beyond this metapopulation to the Azores or USA appears to be extremely rare’, this confirms that this is a very unusual recovery.

Roseate terns breeding in the UK & Ireland winter along the east side of the Atlantic in Africa, while the birds from the North American populations go to Trinidad and the Brazilian coast. Some intrepid individuals clearly add variation to the genetic pool by moving between the continents!

SR73180 was ringed by the National Parks Wildlife Service (NPWS) as a chick on 1 July 2009 in Rockabill, near Dublin (Ireland) and hadn’t been seen until the 28 July 2011 when it was spotted at a breeding colony in The Isles of Shoals, a group of islands off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine.

SR73180 hasn't bred yet but, as a two year old Roseate tern, is doing a 'late season prospection' and, possibly finding a mate with whom to return next year and breed.

Daniel Hayward, who reported the bird and monitors all the seabirds in the Isles of Shoals as part of The Terns Project, has supplied the photographs.

Thanks to Daniel Hayward for letting us know and Stephen Newton from Birdwatch Ireland for his contribution to this post.

25 July 2011


Earlier in the month we had reports from a few ringers saying that they had many male Quails ‘calling’ in their ringing sites, which coincides with the peak of birds shown by Birdtrack. These are thought to be young (3) males from more southern breeding grounds which are migrating north during their first calendar-year before their journey to their wintering grounds in the Sahel.

Quails are particularly difficult to monitor due to their fluctuating populations, skulking behaviour, long, complex migration, and mating system.

With only 3 Quails ringed during 2010 (out of a total of more than one million birds!) any recovery of a Quail qualifies for excitement, and that is exactly what happened when I found a report from Norway of a Quail found dead with a British ring.

This individual was found on the 24th May, and had been ringed just four days earlier in Sussex. Last May, Birdtrack records showed another peak in Quail numbers, probably involving birds on their way to breeding grounds.

The map below shows the only other 4 recoveries of Quails that have occurred in the last 100 years.

View Quails in a larger map

Blue: Adult female, ringed in 03 May 1965 in Cranleigh, Surrey, and shot in Zaragoza, Spain in September of the same year.

Green: Adult female, ringed in Fair Isle 23 May 1993 and reportedly killed by a Skua only a few days later in the same place.

Red: ringed as an adult female in Tielt, Belgium, the 10 May 2009 and killed by a Peregrine on 1st of July 2009 in Grantham.

Yellow: Adult male ringed in Elton, Derbyshire, and shot near Soria, Spain, on 18 Aug 2009.

18 July 2011

One good tern deserves another... and another...

Tony Murray writes and provides photo:

The plight of the Roseate Tern has been well documented over the last few years. The National Parks Wildlife Service (NPWS) has been involved in wardening the largest ternery in Ireland at Lady’s Island Lake, Co. Wexford for many years now. Since my move from Co. Mayo to Co. Wexford in 2004, this site has fallen under my responsibility as the Wildlife Ranger for South Wexford.

The annual tern wardening project generally involves management of the site, predator control and monitoring. The deployment of nestboxes, ringing and ring reading has also been done at other Irish, UK and French Roseate Tern colonies.

The task has got bigger and bigger over the last few years as our numbers of gulls and terns have increased. Mediterranean Gulls are up to 10 pairs and it has also been good news for all our tern species. Roseates have climbed from 66 in 2004 to over 150 pairs this year. Through ring reading, it is great to show the growth is due to 'home grown' individuals, but however some have relocated here from Dublin.

Our Sandwich Tern numbers continue to grow as well, with 1100 to 1300 pairs between 2004 and 2006. We are now currently just shy of the two thousand mark! Ring reading has again shown plenty of 'home grown' birds breeding but a couple from Inner Farne, Farne Islands, Northumberland and Strangford, County Down have been recorded recently.

14 July 2011

Interesting Reed Warbler distribution

During their free time, a few BTO staff have been working hard, finding all the Reed Warbler nests on a large site near Mundford, Norfolk. This work also involves Constant Effort ringing and monitoring.

This encouraged us to think of where Reed Warblers are caught and originate from. Below is a map of Reed Warblers which were ringed in Britain and then recaught/found in 2010. You can clearly see the southward migration route and also the lack of birds in Northern Scotland.

The map is interactive so you can zoom in and out for more or less detail.

View Reed Warbler distribution in a full screen map

So where do birds from other countries, that are recaptured/found in Britain in 2010 come from? See below.

View Reed Warbler originating distribution in a full screen map