29 January 2011

Goldcrest wins Gold Medal

The last batch of recoveries received from the Norwegian ringing scheme included some birds that had been seen during the autumn in the UK. It is always nice to see where migrating Dunnocks, Robins and Blackbirds have come from. However, there was one record in particular that grabbed my attention:

Goldcrest, ring number NOS - LE5877. This tiny bird crossed the North Sea from Ana Sira, Sokndal, Norway, to North Somercoates, Lincolnshire, in just TWO DAYS.

Goldcrests often invade the east coast of Britain during the autumn, before the winter teperatures plummet, and this is just one of the many reports of Goldcrests we receive during this time. Studies have shown that Goldcrests are capable of moving long distances in a very short period of time. Despite their small size, they are able to efficiently accumulate fat reserves, and by covering the largest distances at night, when the temperature is lower, are able to maximise their energy reserves.

Weighing around 6g, Goldcrest NOS - LE5877, flew 665km during its two day migration. This remarkable journey sparked our curiosity and led us to investigate a little further into the depths of the ringing database to see just how fast this Goldcrest was.

Below are the results, and, "Bingo!", NOS - LE5877 wins the gold medal.

The graph below shows the maximum distance travelled in two days by Goldcrests. Distances are in km's.

19 January 2011

Cormorants two favourite places

While out birdwatching David Heath spotted a colour ringed Cormorant at Waterbeach Gravel Pits, Cambridgeshire and was amazed by its history.

Green HLF was ringed as a chick at Inverbervie, Aberdeenshire on 25 July 2009 and was next seen at Waterbeach Gravel Pits in March 2010, which is a good movement of 530km. Interestingly this bird was then resighted at Inverbervie as a non-breeding bird in June and July 2010. I was then seen again back at Waterbeach Gravel Pits on 16 Jan 2011.

View Cormorant in a larger map

Its very interesting to see if this bird is so site faithful in the future.

Thanks to David Heath and Mark Grantham for letting us know.

12 January 2011

Egret Excitement

As ringing Little Egrets in the UK is a relatively new phenomenon and we are finding out all sorts of new information about their demography. We previously reported a report of a Little Egret going south to Pasaxe de Pedrido, Galicia in Spain at the start of last year but the record has now been smashed!

Colour ringed Little Egret GN20692, below (blue on map), was ringed near Bangor, Gwynedd on 19 June 2010 and has been seen ALIVE in Tenerife on the 3rd and 25 of November! The bird looks a bit worse for wear due to its long flight but seems to be doing well.

Another Little Egret (GR00505) ringed in Galway, Ireland was seen on the Azores (red on map) on the 15th October with 4 other unringed Egrets! This bird was very far from the mainland and would surely have died but hopefully it will make the journey back. Without these birds being colour ringed we would have never known about their amazing flights.

View Little Egret in a larger map

Thanks to Richard de Feu, Tony Cross and Richard Hearn for letting us know.

11 January 2011

Barn Owls and severe weather

As we have already reported, the recent unusually severe winter weather, with record low temperatures in December, has increased the numbers of reports of dead ringed birds (recoveries). Particularly badly hit has been Barn Owl. In recent winters we have typically received 30-40 dead Barn Owl reports in December, but in 2010 the December total topped 100. Reports of dead ringed Barn Owls are continuing to arrive at BTO HQ and this January’s total may reach the record of 81 birds that was set last January during another unusually severe winter.

Snow cover makes it especially difficult for Barn Owls to find the small mammals on which they prey. As such, they are more vulnerable during periods of prolonged snow than many other species. This winter there have been many reports of Barn Owls out hunting during the day--even in such odd places as supermarket car parks--and this is presumably because they have not been able to find enough food elsewhere. Preliminary results from the Nest Record Scheme for the 2010 breeding season suggest that Barn Owl productivity was unusually low, despite good weather for much of the summer. Part of the reason for this may be that those adults which did survive the cold winter of 2009/10 were nevertheless in poor condition at the start of the breeding season. It will be interesting to see whether something like this is repeated in 2011, and how many Barn Owls breed and manage to fledge young.

10 January 2011

Exciting recent reports

Not only have we received lots of web reports of ringed birds but we have also received quite a few letters. Lots of these were of ringed birds being killed by cats and cars but there are a few more unusual reports.

These included:
  • French ringed Woodcock shot near Angmering, West Sussex.
  • Goldcrest found in a bedroom at Newton Abbot, Devon wearing a ring from Belgium.
  • The first ever British ringed Green Sandpiper to be found in Finland (Suomela, Padasjoki, Finland). SR25446 was ringed and colour ringed on 27/07/2005 in Nanjizal, Land's End, Cornwall! Even a leg and the colour rings were sent back.

View Green sandpiper in a larger map

Last but not least, we had a letter concerning a Little Egret that died in a garden at Binham, Fakenham, Norfolk on Boxing Day. This bird was not ringed in Norfolk but GF09820 was ringed near Faversham, Kent on 31/05/2001 (177km). This makes this report a longevity record of over 9 years, beating the current 6 years 5 months 23 days!

07 January 2011

Help given for the Suffolk Sparrow

Simon Evans writes:

As most of us are aware, Tree Sparrows have suffered a dramatic population decline across the Country in recent times, for a number of reasons.
In an attempt to study the status and distribution of the species within the county, The Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) launched a three year project in 2009 to investigate this diminutive little bird.

Funding has enabled a small band of willing volunteers to monitor known populations. For example, in 2010, funding from the D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust has allowed for the provision of a seed feeder, nest boxes and two large sacks of seed, to a number of suitable locations across the west of the county. Provision of seed, year round, to supplement dietary requirements and the provision of nest boxes appear to be key to the survival of these birds in Suffolk.

Ringing and colour ringing of pulli and fledged birds has also been carried out where possible. Nearly 1250 birds have been ringed in the first two years of the project with a number of individuals noted to have moved between our known populations. We have also trapped five controls, all from Yorkshire that appear to have come to Suffolk for their winter hols!

So, please keep an eye on your Tree Sparrows and let us know if you see any colour ringed birds in the field. More information can be found on the SWT website.

05 January 2011

Duckling update

On my way to work this morning there were 2 Collared Doves displaying by a possible nesting site and lots of other birds were singing proclaiming their territory, ready for the coming season. I'll have to get my Nest Record cards ready soon.

As an update to the Mallard at Bristol Zoo previously reported by Kate Atwell, who has informed us that there were 6 ducklings remaining on Christmas Day. Hopefully the weather will be kind to them.

Thanks to Kate for the photo.

04 January 2011

Happy New Year

As the ringing data and nest records for 2010 are coming in, we will finally have a good picture of the demography of birds for last year. Thanks must go to all our Ringers, Nest recorders and those people that reported a ringed bird to us.

Once I have processed the 162 online reports, I will be able to let you know about some of the more interesting ones.

We wish you all a happy new year for 2011.