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.