28 March 2011

Nunnery Nest bonanza – Birds Get Busy in Thetford

Dave Leech said:

Braving the slight drop in temperatures after a sunny week, The Nunnery Ringing Group nest recorders roamed Thetford’s green spaces and the BTO reserve in search of breeding birds. Concerns of a slow start to the season voiced by the more pessimistic members of the group proved to be unfounded as the weekend’s activities significantly increased our totals, thanks largely to a star turn by Rachel Portnall who found 12 nests in just two hours on Saturday morning.

The thrushes have really started in earnest now and we’re currently monitoring 17 Blackbird nests, of which two have large chicks, four are on eggs and the rest are ready for laying. We’ve also found three Song Thrush, all currently on eggs (see photo below),

our only Dunnock is likely to hatch mid-week, and two of our three Robins are currently on eggs. Sunday also saw the first Long-tailed Tit egg of the year (see photo below), with several other nests ready for eggs and a couple more being rebuilt after being ripped open by predators (who, being a fortnight premature, received nothing for their troubles). The pigeons are at it too, with two Woodpigeons and two Collared Doves currently sitting, and the Mallards and Greylag Geese on the reserve have also started to lay.

So, now is a great time to check bushes and trees for nesting birds and submit your data to the BTO. The Nest Box Challenge is an entry-level scheme, designed for people monitoring one or two nests in their gardens. If you wander further afield and record larger numbers of nests in local woods or farmland, then you can register for the Nest Record Scheme.

24 March 2011

A Letter from Ghana

We received a letter from Ghana last Friday, stating that a Sunbird had been found with a British ring in Ashanti region. This had me looking for sunbirds in the database for a while, but then I went to see Dr Hewson, from the Migrant Birds in Africa Team here at BTO HQ, and he said that it was in fact a Garden Warbler, and that it had been miss-identified by the reporter.

View A letter from Ghana in a larger map
This Garden Warbler was ringed in Allerthorpe in the East Riding of Yorkshire the 3rd August 2009. It was aged as a young bird and thanks to the ringer taking biometrics we know that this Garden Warbler was moulting. However, that does not prove that this was locally bred because juvenile Garden Warblers start migration before finishing their moult.
Even though we don’t know where this particular bird was born, this recovery is very important because it helps us understand where Garden Warblers winter. So, in order to improve our understanding of the problems facing British birds, it is very important that birds are ringed as part of Constant Effort Sites or RAS projects so we know precisely where they both breed and winter.
There are 13 recoveries of Garden Warbler from Ghana in the ringing database.

The dedication of volunteer ringers will continue to reveal new facts about the ecology of birds!

23 March 2011

Urban Peregrine shenanigans

Ringer Ed Drewitt writes:

In 2007 we ringed our first two peregrines chicks on Bath Cathedral, Avon and added unique colour rings, so that they could be identified in the field and their relationships and behaviour studied. One of these Peregrines, AA (left chick) was allowed to stay by his parents at the site.

A year on and just as the 2008 chicks were about to hatch, the breeding male disappeared for unknown reasons. For that season, the young male that hatched the previous year helped his mum rear the chicks.

In 2009 he was still in residence with his presumed mum, being unringed we will not know for sure. To prove her identity I collected the moulted feathers of both the parent and AA. I've just received the DNA results back which reveal the two are related - ie he has paired up with his mum!

With the female (mum) being unringed we didn't know for sure if this bird was the same female in 2010 or this year (unless I did DNA tests again) but a remarkable story never the less. This year the well watched pair have 4 eggs (laid 1 week earlier than last year) and are doing well. As far as I can tell this is the earliest in the UK this year! Perhaps a reflection of an experienced pair (and therefore the same female too) and settled weather.

Thanks to Ed Drewitt for letting us know and Ian Sparrowhawk (chicks photo) and Mike Fisher (Peregrine AA) for the photos.

17 March 2011

Going Glossy

The chances of seeing a Glossy Ibis in the UK have been quite good in recent years, with several of these birds being colour ringed. Ibis, white N4C (DA264549), was ringed in Gard, France on 19 May 2009 in the nest. It then came to the UK with other Glossy Ibis and was seen at Chew Valley Lake, Bristol and then twice at Lows Nature Reserve, Somerset on 3 Oct and 25 Nov 2009. Things went quiet until it was seen again, in Spain! It was seen on 31 Jan 2011 at Arrossars de l'Encanyissada, Tarragona.

This is a distance of at least 1385km but where was it in 2010???

View Glossy Ibis travels in a larger map

16 March 2011

Two birds in a million

There are currently over 2700 volunteer bird ringers all over the country, ringing birds and collecting vital information on bird movements and life histories.

Last year was a great breeding season for most birds and produced lots of young to breed this year. With this in mind and with the increase in the number of ringers, 2010 will be forever known as the year that over a million birds were ringed for the first time! So far a total of 1,047,092 birds were ringed and have been loaded into our database.

The millionth bird is a bit harder to calculate as a Yellowhammer ringed by the Grampian Ringing Group near Collieston, Aberdeenshire and a Coal Tit ringed by David Proll near Raglan, Gwent were both ringed at the same time, 2pm on 5 December.

Thanks to all our ringers who made this possible.

More information is on our news pages on our website.

Thanks to Rachael Portnall for the photo.

14 March 2011

Mystery Puffin Deaths in Spain

During the last couple of weeks, the north coast of Spain has been dotted with dead Puffins. Up until last weekend a total of 72 birds had been found.
The puffin is a pelagic species of auk which spends its winter in the middle of the Atlantic and North Sea, where it is vulnerable to oil spills and bioaccumulation of heavy metals.

Sadly this morning, we received a report of one of these dead Puffins, found on a beach near Gijón wearing a BTO ring! We discovered that it was ringed as an adult in July 2009 on the Shiant Islands in the Western Isles of Scotland.

We don't know where this bird spent the winter or where it exactly died because it would have been brought to the coast on the oceanic currents.

View Puffin EW81339 in a larger map

We hope to hear again from the finders if they discover the cause of death after the postmortem.

Thank you to Marco García for sharing the story and to José Antonio Larriba for the photographs.

07 March 2011

Tawny twosome

Following on from the previous post about our Tawny Owl sitting on eggs, we have just heard that Allan Snape and Richard Barnes have ringed their first Tawny Owl chicks of the season.

The owlets are doing well and look very healthy. Hopefully it will be a good vole year for these little ones.

Thanks to Allan Snape and Richard Barnes (above) for letting us know.

04 March 2011

Tawny web watch

We have received quite a few reports recently of nesting Blackbirds, Rooks, Goldfinch and pigeons but we are also receiving some detailed information on a particular pair of Tawny Owls.

The BTO website will be posting updates of the progress of a pair of Tawny Owls in Cambridgeshire again this year via webcam. The first egg was seen on 20th Feb and the current total is 4 so it looks likely that this is going to be the clutch size this year. We will be watching with eager anticipation to find out how they get on during the breeding season and noting the food species they are bringing into the nest, like Wood Mice and House Sparrows.

Four eggs and counting.

Birds are forming a large part of the female's diet and she took a well-earned break to go off with this House Sparrow, supplied by the male.