30 March 2012

Glossy Ibis' overnight trip to Germany

We've reported on interesting movements of colour-ringed Glossy Ibis before, and even mentioned birds continuing their journeys from the UK to Germany. This pattern was mirrored this week, involving a group of four Glossy Ibis, including the colour-ringed bird 01N1, that had spent a couple of weeks at Cantley Marshes in Norfolk.

These birds first appeared in east Anglia in mid-February, settling at Cantley on 17th March. They were last seen there on Tuesday morning (27th) but by Wednesday had moved to Braunschweig in Germany where the flock of four were photographed: an impressive movement of over 600km in one day!

View Norfolk Glossy Ibis in a larger map

28 March 2012

News from the south: They're on their way back

Here at BTO HQ, we are hard at work loading all the ringing data from our ringers for 2011. This is sure to be a record ringing year but we won't know by how much until this process is completed.

We are also processing birds that have been recovered in 2012, which include a couple of very interesting recoveries. With 'most' of our BTO Cuckoos slowly returning to the UK the first interesting recovery is of another migrant. A young Lesser Whitethroat ringed at Icklesham, Sussex on 03 September 2011. This bird was caught by ringers in Eilat, Israel, three days ago (25 March 2012)! A minimum distance of 3721km in 205 days. Obviously on its return migration so hopefully it will make it back to a lucky ringer here next week.

The second was a ring found in a clothes peg bag. This was bought into a secondhand shop in Roxburghshire (Borders) last week. Was it a Starling, pigeon or Blue Tit? Nope, a Goshawk ringed in 2009 in Dumfries and Galloway!

Thanks to Dawn Balmer for the photo.

22 March 2012

Petrel in Peril

Storm Petrels are amazing little birds. Rarely seen on land during the day and spending the night in their burrows. For a bird which is similar in size to a Greenfinch this bird can make some impressive movements. One such Storm Petrel was ringed in Ona, Norway and controlled by another ringer three days later on the Isle of May (902km)! (Blue pins on map).

Little is known about the winter movements out at sea but they usually leave UK waters in September or October and by November they are around the West African coast. They then head further south to moult near South Africa before making the reverse journey, to get to their breeding grounds in April. We have relatively few recoveries showing this movement as if they die this is likely to be out at sea but 28 have been reported in South Africa so far.

View Storm petrel in a larger map

Finding a Storm Petrel inland is not very likely but one was found on 17 Jan at Shimuwini Bush Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa! The reason for this was probably a tropical cyclone blowing this bird off course. Luckily this bird was ringed and from the ring number we were able to tell them that this bird had been ringed 172 days earlier on Mousa, Shetland (9,776km, although it was probably more like 13,000km considering it had to fly round West Africa). (Red pins).

Thanks to Mike Pennington for letting us know and Stuart Newson for the photo.

12 March 2012

Eggs well before Easter

The current mild weather we are experiencing seems to have triggered some birds to start to nest. There are usually reports of the odd Collared Dove or Woodpigeon nesting early but now things are speeding up. The Nunnery Ringing Group have found Long-tailed Tit, Robin, Blackbird and Wren nests so far, whilst a Song Thrush and Blackbird sitting on eggs are the only ones so far that have progressed past the nest building stage.

On the 10 January the South Notts Ringing Group thought it would be a good idea to check their Tawny Owl nest boxes before the nesting season started and discovered a Tawny Owl sitting on 4 eggs. This is very early and the group didn't hold much hope for a successful nest but last week they ringed the only chick that was produced.

The Nest Record Scheme database shows this to be the joint earliest nest record ever! Joint with two other records. On the ringing database we have four chicks ringed in January from the 1980s, six ringed in February and quite a few in March but none before the 5th. Most records of chicks ringed are near the end of March. (This information only includes electronic records).

The Tawny Owls we are following on the BTO website laid their first egg on 26th February and the female is now sitting on three eggs.

Thanks to Jim Lennon for letting us know and to Herbert & Howells for the photo.

07 March 2012

Rocking Robin Recovery

Last year British ringers ringed over 22,200 Robins. I'm sure that most of these ringers didn't expect any of their Robins to be recovered more than 20km away. This is what Jackie Lawrence thought until one of her Robins, that was ringed in her Hampshire garden, was found in a water butt in Finland seven months later!

There have been 11 recoveries of British or Irish ringed Robins found in Finland. All of these were ringed on the East coast of Britain at places like Lincolnshire, Suffolk, East Yorkshire, Shetland and Orkney. These Robins would be birds that bred or hatched in Scandinavia, or on the near continent, and then migrated through Britain and France on their way to the Mediterranean.

Interestingly the Hampshire Robin was ringed in December and could have actually been wintering in the UK before migrating back to Finland. Could this be the start of something new?

View Robin Recoveries in a larger map

This was the first ever ringing session in Jackie's garden with a total was 25 birds caught and this Robin was the first bird she caught. A Blackbird was also ringed, that was later found in Sweden! Not a bad ringing session at all.

Thanks to Adrian Blackburn for letting us know and to John Harding for the photo.

02 March 2012

Another Curlew Tit is spotted

The life of a wild bird is not an easy one. The BTO get quite a few reports of 'unusual' looking birds with abnormal plumages and deformities. The types of deformity vary widely but the most commonly reported are of the legs and especially the beak.

The most common bill deformities reported by Garden BirdWatch members are:
  • Upper mandible over grown
  • Upper and lower mandible crossed over
  • Upper and lower mandible elongated together
  • Lower mandible over grown
  • Bill fractured
Ringers are in the unique position of being able to record abnormalities by measuring and by taking photographs. John Griffin from Devon recently caught this adult Blue Tit with an 18mm long bill! The cause behind this abnormality is unknown but this bird was at a healthy weight so was able to feed and take care of its plumage to some extent.

Ringers have reported ringing birds (Blue Tits in particular) with normal beaks and then, on re-catching these birds again months later, they have varying abnormalities. This proves that the abnormalities in birds can occur at any time in their lives. The most common bill deformities in Blackbirds are fractured bills, however this is rarely reported in Blue Tit, Great Tit or Starling. More information can be found on the Garden Birdwatch pages.

Thanks to John Griffin for letting us know and the photo.