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.