24 February 2011

Mediterranean Gull goes the way of the Little Egret

While on a birding trip at Terceira Island, Azores, Simon Buckell was lucky enough to see a colour ringed Med Gull on 09/02/2011. This species is very interesting as they can, and do, move from country to country very easily. This bird is no exception.

Med Gull, White 30V2, otherwise known as 616158 was ringed as a chick on 17/06/2010 at Slijkplaat, Hellevoetsluis, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands 51'51N 4'05E. It was then seen again on the Med Gull hotspot that is, the seafront at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk on 16/10/2010. Amazingly this bird was next seen on the beach at Praia da Vitoria, Terceira Island, Azores 38'42N 27'03W! The longevity record for a British Med Gull is 15 years so hopefully we'll be able to track its movements back and around the rest of Europe for years to come.

View Med Gull in Azores in a larger map

We have had 12 previous reports of UK bird ringed birds in the Azores and we have had 1 Med Gull before, seen 3 times. After the Little Egret previously posted, who knows what species will be next.

Thanks to Simon for letting us know and letting us use his photo (http://shorebirder-waderworld.blogspot.com)

22 February 2011

Mealy good

This year the BirdTrack Challenge and TEAL Cup (a 'bit of fun' between BTO and RSPB staff) have triggered heightened levels of wildlife recording on the reserves around the two organisations' HQs. Naturally birds have been the main focus so far, so it was with no small measure of envy that BTO staff read about their RSPB counterparts' excellent start to the year on the redpoll front. Much scouring of the modest numbers of redpolls at the Nunnery Lakes ensued, but unfortunately the first two 'interesting' redpolls found did not give good enough views to clinch their ID.

All that changed when a fine Common Redpoll appeared in our winter ringing site, a patch of blackthorn scrub between two extensive rows of alder. The bird in question found its way to our nyger feeder on Thursday 10th February and was also there the following day, so it was with an air of anticipation that we opened the nets on Saturday morning. Sure enough, the first net round came up trumps:

This individual had a wing length was 76mm and the condition of the tertials and primaries aged it as a 6 (the condition of the tail was attributed to the damp overnight conditions). Compared to Lesser Redpoll, the underparts were strikingly pale, lacking most of the buff wash and being less extensively streaked:

Later the same morning, a second bird was caught (also a 6, wing length 79mm), this time providing direct comparison with Lesser Redpoll:

18 February 2011

Gold Rush

Every year the BTO receives reports of unseasonal nesting from keen-eyed volunteers and members of the public. A few Feral Pigeons are always reported in January, followed by early-nesting Tawny Owls and Collared Doves into February.

This year a very unusual early-nester has popped up in a garden in Stockwell, London. Mrs H. Jones spotted a pair of Goldfinches building a nest on the 27th January and she managed to film them on the 3rd Feb, by which time the nest was over three-quarters built.

Goldfinches nest in forks in slender branches in the outer-foliage of trees and shrubs. Notice that this nest is therefore in a typical Goldfinch spot, except that at this time of year it is totally exposed. Goldfinches usually start nesting from early-April.

Mrs Jones reported that the birds were still tending to the nest on the 16th February.

16 February 2011

'Ganso' Goose goes down

After just doing a blog story on neck collared Greylag Geese another amazing story pops up. We have just heard from Derek Faulkner concerning the second ever Spanish ringed Greylag Goose to reach our shores.

Greylag Goose 1003016, also known as neck collar 'Black 07T' met with a wildfowler on 9th Feb at Shellness on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent after being ringed as an adult on 7th Jan 1999 at Reserva Biologica de Donana, Huelva (1711km in 4416 days).

View Spanish ringed Greylag in a larger map

Its always good to know that some Greylag Geese are truely wild as these birds can be very easily overlooked on any birding trip. Tim Ball adds "the migration atlas makes no mention of southern wintering Greylag Geese migrating through the UK - my guess is that this bird was wintering much further north than it used to (and as a species)- obviously a single dated record doesn't mean it spent all winter in the UK but it wouldn't be the normal migration track for birds between Spain and NE Europe otherwise there would surely have been other recoveries."

Thanks to David Falkner for letting us know and Tim Ball and Rod Smith for their input.

14 February 2011

Raptors restored for a second chance

Peter Wilkinson writes:

"Rehabilitating sick and injured wild birds is a real labour of love. It takes hard work, dedicated care and real skill to get them back to the wild, which is, of course, what the law requires once a wild bird in care is fit to go. Naturally, rehabilitators are keen to know whether their released birds do get back into the wild successfully, and to this end I have been happy to ring rehabs, mainly owls and diurnal birds of prey, for a number of years. The rules of the Ringing Scheme make provision for this, subject to certain specific conditions.

Some, unfortunately, like the Tawny Owl last year that was brought in as a road casualty, nursed back to health, released where it was found, and then killed by a car the very next day, sadly do not last long, but, encouragingly, many do make it. I have just heard about my longest rehab back in the wild. Back in November 2002, a juvenile Kestrel was brought in to the Raptor Foundation near St Ives. It was thin and unable to fly but with no traumatic injuries. They looked after it until it was a decent weight and flying strongly in an aviary before releasing it in December 2002. That was all we knew of it until the last day of 2010, when it came back in to the Raptor Foundation! It was found a few miles from where it had been released. Fortunately, it has responded to treatment and has been released again where it was found the second time. Fingers crossed for it!

Eight years is not bad for a Kestrel (I've had one non-rehab recovered at nine years) and it just beats my previous longest rehab, a Tawny Owl at seven and a half years back into the wild."

Thanks to Peter Wilkinson for letting us know and to Jill Pakenham for the photo.

08 February 2011

Kent Marsh Harrier wing tagging project

As a follow up post on the previous post Tim Ball writes:

For a number of years we have been monitoring and ringing breeding Marsh Harriers and a group of watchers have been carrying out co-ordinated monthly counts of the winter Harrier roosts which frequently contain both Hen and Marsh Harrier. No-one really knows whether some or all of the local breeding population stay for the winter or whether the breeding birds move out and different birds visit for the winter. Despite ringing over 150 chicks we have had very few recoveries but even these give a snap-shot of the birds’ movements with records from Cambridgeshire, Cornwall and France.

In 2009 Rod Smith and Swale Wader Group started a wing tagging project in an attempt, amongst other things, to establish the extent of the link between the breeding and winter populations of Marsh Harriers. Ten birds were tagged in 2009 (white tags on both wings) and due to a significant increase in effort and some great help from other Harrier watchers we've tagged 28 in 2010 - 25 on Sheppey (blue on the right wing) and 3 in the Stour valley (red on the right wing).

This autumn and winter we have had a good run of reports showing just how mobile these birds can be. Blue 13 was ringed in June 2010 and seen twice on the Isle of Wight on 15 August, rather than head over to the continent it went north and was reported at Frampton Marsh, Lincolnshire on 14 September. We’ve also had reports from Essex (at least 4 different birds), one in London, and Blue 30 was in north east Lincolnshire in early September. Blue 14 has been seen back on Sheppey in the last few days after an October excursion to the Dungeness area. No less than 4 different birds have been seen in the Strumpshaw Fen area - including Blue 36 which been there from 14 September to at least 28 January.

Full details of the project are on the Swale Waders web site – www.swalewaders.co.uk, it’s too early to draw many conclusions but as you can see we’re already getting some interesting results.

Thanks to Tim Ball and Martin Beach for the photos.

02 February 2011

Goosey goosey gander, whither shall you wander?

In a previous post we highlighted the unusual movement of Orkney-bred Greylag Geese finding their way to Norfolk and now we have more up-to date news.

These Greylags have a neck collar fitted to help 'in the field' sightings as well as the usual BTO ring. Several geese were ringed in 2010 on Birsay, Orkney and of those 'HSI’, ‘HSL’, ‘HSS' and ‘HSK’ were seen on the 19th December in East Norfolk. 'HSK' was then seen by Mark Chipperfield at Strumpshaw Fen on the 27th Jan with 22 other Greylags. These birds were then spooked by a wing-tagged Marsh Harrier from the Isle of Sheppey, Kent on its way to roost.

Unfortunately 'HSI' is no more, as it was shot near Belton, Norfolk on the 17th Jan. Apart from this bird we have very few reports of these birds at their wintering site or on passage so if you see any goose with a neck collar/colour ring, report it and help fill in the gaps (www.ring.ac).

Today is 'World Wetlands Day' for Ramsar sites especially, so to help these valuable habitats get out there and get recording.

Thanks to Mark Grantham, Mark Chipperfield for letting us know and Alan Leitch for the photo.