30 March 2015

Leicestershire produces record Nuthatches

Ian Gamble writes:

"Birds have been ringed in my parent’s garden in Quorn, Leicestershire, for some 60 years and this has provided us with a wealth of information on our local birds. The garden, which is 80 feet long and 40 feet wide, borders onto a mixed woodland called Kay’s Plantation. In 1991 I married and left Quorn for Hertfordshire and now only return to Quorn to visit family, usually over New Year on my father's birthday (20th March). During these periods I get a few hours ringing in while they are still sleeping.

Ian's parents' garden in Quorn
Nuthatch is a localised resident in Quorn and regularly feeds in the garden and had nested on and off for nearly 50 years in a nest box that my father had put up at the bottom of the garden until it fell off few years ago. You would always know when the birds were starting to use the box because they would plaster mud around the entrance hole. These birds are sedentary and we catch the same individuals with some regularity over two or three years. The largest number caught in any one year was five in 1967, and we have ringed four birds in a year on four occasions, with 74 individuals ringed in the garden over the years.

Prior to this latest capture, the oldest individual retrapped was 4 years 6 months old. Over the last few years my father had kept saying to me he thought the male Nuthatch was quite old, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't catch it. Sunday 22nd March 2015 (whilst visiting my father on his 88th birthday) was a fine still morning and I decided to get in a few hours ringing in before church. One of the birds caught was a Nuthatch; an adult male with ring number TE27966. I immediately realised it was old, but not quite sure just how old!

Nuthatch in the garden (not the record-breaker, who was camera-shy)
On my return home to Hertfordshire I checked it out on IPMR and found that I had ringed it on 31st December 2005, making it well over nine years old! I had previously retrapped this bird on 24th March 2007, 21st March 2009 and 1st January 2010. As highlighted above, this is one case where understanding the movements of the ringer is more important than the movements of the bird..."

The previous longevity record for Nuthatch was a bird ringed in the nest May 1964 (also in Leicestershire!) and killed by a cat  in February 1973, making it 8 years 8 months old.

20 March 2015

How to get an awesome nest record of a Peregrine!

Ed Drewitt writes:

"Since the first web camera was used on a Peregrine nest in Brighton back in the late 1990s, our knowledge of what goes on in the lives of Peregrines has come on leaps and bounds. Even back then the grainy, low resolution pictures that updated every minute (if you were lucky) gave us insights in to the lives of these then rare birds. Over time improved technology, infrared light, high definition imaging and faster broadband connections now means we can watch peregrines 24-hours and all year round. As a result we can gather information about what makes peregrines tick that even committed Peregrines researchers fifty years ago could never have achieved by watching nesting rural peregrines (under a licence) from afar."

Chichester Peregrine chicks - Graham Roberts

"Web cameras allow us to hear baby peregrines cheeping to their parents days before they hatch and discover what prey is being brought directly to the nest. We can record accurate dates of when eggs are laid and when they hatch. And usefully, from a ringing perspective, it allows us to observe who is who at the nest site. Cameras help us read ring numbers of Peregrines and follow individuals. More recently interlopers have been observed visiting urban Peregrine nests, identified by their plumage, gender or colour rings."

Peregrine - Fellowes

"At some nests, young birds from the previous breeding season have been observed visiting their parents and nesting site, some staying throughout the nesting season helping to incubate eggs and feed chicks; a form of cooperative breeding. This behaviour is likely to increase as the urban peregrine population increases further - it pays for the younger birds, often males, to stay with their parents for an extra year to develop their life skills and avoid getting beaten up by other Peregrines if they wander further afield. Web cameras are also useful for: detecting new breeding birds that have appeared within a pair; extra-pair copulations whereby a male or female Peregrine sneaks off to mate with a different bird elsewhere and increase their gene pool; detecting inbreeding and much more."

Sussex webcam - Graham Roberts

Ed - There are several nests that can be viewed online and some have just started laying over the last couple of days. A selection of some active ones are below:

Norwich Cathedral Peregrine
Sheffield Peregrine
Brighton Peregrine
Nottingham Trent University Peregrine
Bath Peregrine

An interesting behaviour that David Morrison reported to us recently regarded a brood from last year that fledged and one of the chicks joined another nearby Peregrine nest and was accepted by the parents. This chick fledged with it's new siblings several months later.

For more information on urban Peregrines click here for a review of Ed Drewitt's book.