30 May 2014

Orkney Rosefinch to Germany

Earlier in the week we received the exciting news of a recapture of one of 'our' Common Rosefinches, highlighting the fact that they're not really ours at all, as this was a bird breeding in Germany!

D397284 was one of two Common Rosefinches ringed at North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory, Orkney, on the evening of 21st June 2013,  and was recaught (and colour-ringed) last week by ringers at Graal-Mueritz, near Rostock in northeastern Germany.

D397284 on North Ronaldsay in June 2013
The project here has been colour ringing birds since 2002 and since then 200 birds have been marked. The Orkney bird is one of just three 'controls' caught by the team, with others from Denmark and Greifswalder Oie island near the Polish border. The team have also fitted 20 males with geolocators in 2013, of which six have so far returned and two have been recaptured to allow the data to be downloaded.

North Ron's rosefinch with newly-added German colour rings
Hot off the press, D397284 was seen again today (30th May) mating with a local male, proving that she is indeed a breeding bird at the site.
There are just three previous records of British-ringed rosefinches found abroad: two in Belgium and one on the Faeroe Islands. Going the other way, North Ronaldsay does have a bit of a history with foreign rosefinches, having controlled birds (both in 1990) originally ringed in Germany and Norway. In fact, the only other foreign-ringed rosefinch in the UK was also in the Northern Isles, with a colour-ringed Swedish bird seen on Fair Isle in 2011 (blogged here). Details of these and other UK rosefinch recoveries (and those of any species!) can be found on the BTO's online ringing report.

Thanks to Roland Neumann for letting us know about this bird and sending on a photo of its new rings and to North Ron Bird Obs for the photo at ringing.

23 May 2014

Guernsey gull-off

This week North Thames Gull Group (with a few members of West Cornwall Ringing Group) are helping out Guernsey Gulls cannon-netting birds at Chouet Landfill on Guernsey. This is the fifth year the group has visited, and now ringed and colour-ringed 6,500 gulls, including almost 2,000 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. But as it's raining this morning, we thought we'd have a 'gull-off' between the groups. So below are three recent gull stories from the groups, with a fun poll at the bottom to vote on which is best: metal-ringing, colour-ringing or data-loggers.

North Thames Gull Group - GG61151

GG61151 was a first-winter Caspian Gull ringed at Pitsea Landfill, Essex, in 2007, at a time when Caspian Gulls were still just one of the 'yellow-legged' Herring Gulls. Without a colour ring it wasn't seen again until last week when it was found breeding on a rooftop in Minsk, Belarus. This is the first metal ring recovery of a British-ringed Caspian Gull abroad and shows that metal ringing can still be of immense value.

Guernsey Gulls - White 8Z0

Lesser Black-backed Gull White 8Z0 was originally ringed as a breeding adult on Sark in May 2009. After being seen locally over the summer it was then seen at Porto de Lagos Landfill in Portugal on 13th January 2010, then 12 days later it was back on Chouet Landfill on Guernsey and 10 days later on Guidel beach in France. Four days later it was back at Chouet Landfill, seen a further 21 times until the autumn.

It was then a regular at Chouet Landfill, but also back in Portugal in January 2011 and August 2012, but made an extra-long trip to Agadir, Morocco, December 2012.

West Cornwall Ringing Group et al - GPS loggers

The last week has also seen some high-resolution data coming from four GPS data-loggers being worn by urban-nesting Herring Gulls in St Ives, Cornwall. This project is run in conjunction with Finestripe Productions and University of Amsterdam, looking at the behaviour of these birds in a typical seaside town. Tracks from these four birds are fascinating and show how birds are making 90-minute trips out to sea or across the countryside, travelling at up to 40 miles per hour.

Below are the tracks over the last few days of all four birds and then also an animation of the wanderings of one bird, even showing it appearing to follow a ploughing tractor at one point.


So now cast your vote on your favourite marking technique: the 68p metal ring, the £1.60 metal/colour ring combo, or the £900 GPS data-logger...

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15 May 2014

A Chaffinch from Lithuania

Chaffinch by Jill Pakenham
Here at the BTO we know a lot about the common species. We are excellent at monitoring their numbers during the breeding and wintering seasons through several of our schemes. The information gathered by thousand of dedicated volunteers is used to help answer the key conservation questions of our time.
The Chaffinch is undoubtedly one of our commonest species, and as is often the case with such species, (take the Dunnock for example), it is easy to overlook them.

BTO ringers ring more than 30,000 Chaffinches each year. 1,402,733 were ringed during the period 1909-2013, and more than 10,000 have been recovered and reported to us in that period.
Many Chaffinches travel to and from the Continent, and even to the Faroes and Iceland! In the winter we are more likely to encounter Chaffinches that have originally been ringed abroad, as they visit UK & Ireland avoiding the harsh continental cold. In the BTO's recovery database there are 15 Chaffinches that covered a distance greater than 2000km, the furthest recorded distance in our scheme is 2362km, as shown in the map below.

T848360 was ringed a Female in 22-01-2006, coordinates 51°35'N 1°43'W (Wiltshire), later Caught by ringer in 31-07-2006, coordinates 60°41'N 32°57'E (Leningrad) Russia. Greatest distance recorded in the BTO database for a Chaffinch: 2,362km 
In the map of recoveries below you can see that the movements of Chaffinches to other countries are most likely to be between the UK and the Scandinavian countries, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, with a few going further east to Latvia, Russia and Lithuania.

Chaffinch: Ringed in Britain & Ireland, Found Here; Ringed Here, Found in Britain & Ireland

This week, we received a recovery of a Chaffinch ringed in Lithuania. This bird was ringed at Ventes Ragas on 30/09/2012 and killed by a cat in Gurteen, Galway on 25/11/2013. It travelled a respectable distance of 1926km and is the first ever Chaffinch ringed in Lithuania reported to the BTO. Before this bird, we have only one other record of a Chaffinch travelling between UK and Lithuania; that was ringed in Kilnsea, England, and later found in the same ringing station in Ventes Ragas, Lithuania.

Vast information on ringing and recoveries of all species in the UK & Ireland and associated maps can be found in the Online Ringing Reports - if you haven't visited yet, take a look!

We have also talked about Chaffinches here.

12 May 2014

Icky went to Belgium

I hope you were able to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day over the weekend and that your field notebooks are now full of goodies to talk about. I thought I should tell you about a little migration story I found out about a few weeks ago.

Since the beginning of the Ringing Scheme a grand total of 1,091 Icterine Warblers have been ringed in the UK & Ireland. To my surprise only 5 of them have ever been recovered and reported to us, which meant that the report of an Icterine warbler with a BTO ring from Brussels was good enough to please the ringer (and the recoveries officer!)

Icterine warblers are normally passage visitors, with only a few confirmed breeding records in the UK. It is not surprising that practically all records of this species species are from the east coast. The graph below from sightings reported through BirdTrack shows that there is a small number of reports at the end of May-beginning of June during the spring migration, however, the majority of birds are reported in the fall migration from mid August.

On the 8th of June 2012 an Icterine Warbler (age 4) was trapped and ringed in the Isle of May. Presumably, this bird arrived at its breeding grounds somewhere in Continental Europe or Scandinavia, attempted breeding, succeed or failed, returned to its wintering grounds in Tropical and Southern Africa, and then returned to Europe in summer 2013 to breed again. And it was then, in July 2013, that this bird was re-trapped in a ringing session in Koksidje, Belgium.

Although according to the recovery report that we sent to both the ringers in the UK and Belgium says this bird travelled 661 km, obviously a few thousands kilometres more have been covered by this bird in reality!
Of the 5 recoveries of Icterine warblers in the BTO's ringing database, this is only the second found abroad, the other one having been found in France.

To find out more about the Isle of May please visit their web here.