23 March 2016

East-West Kingfisher Connection

Here in Thetford we are spoilt by sightings of Kingfishers on our daily strolls into the town centre. As we have blogged before, our breeding birds are residents but the birds that we spot in winter may throw a few surprises.

Such was the case of the sixth recovery of a Kingfisher ringed in Germany that has been reported to us. Whilst it may not be the first or the second from Germany, looking at it in more detail we realised that this was a truly remarkable record. The details were brought to our attention by Dr Martin Flade from DDA who ringed the bird on the 23 July 2015 at Lake Brodowin (Brodowinsee) in the Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve in Brandenburg, Northeast Germany, only 12 km from the Polish border.

As can be appreciated from the aerial photographs, kindly supplied by Reiner Krause, the area has a very low human population and encompasses about 240 lakes where Kingfishers typically nest on fallen trees.

German adult male Kingfishers are mostly sedentary, but juveniles and females move. Juveniles leave their nesting area a few days after fledging. One German-born juvenile Kingfisher was recovered on Malta only 22 days after it was ringed as a nestling. Another German bird was recovered as far south as Algeria.

The bird that prompted us to write this post was a juvenile female that was found in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, after having hit a window, and it is remarkable for being the furthest east-west movement recorded by any kingfisher ringed in Germany, as shown in the map below.

Landelin (Martin's son) and Yuma ringing Kingfishers in Lake Brodowin
This is an impressive 1,005 km east-west journey that intrigued us and made us look at the Online Ringing & Nest Recording Report to find out how this movement rates against other east-west Kingfisher movements. As shown in the recoveries map below, there is a yellow dot in Poland of a bird that was ringed on the 06/07/2011 in Rz Drawa, Bogdanka, Drawno, Poland and controlled by ringers on the 25/11/2011 in Orfordness; this bird was also a female. Despite coming from further east, the bird ringed in Poland 'only travelled' 972 km in 81 days, so we can say that the bird ringed by Dr Martin Flade is number one on our east-west Kingfisher connection.

The eastern most yellow dot is the bird ringed in Poland and this post's bird is not showing on this map yet.

Many thanks to Dr Martin Flade for highlighting the relevance of this recovery and for supplying the photographs and very interesting information about German ringed Kingfishers. Martin organised the German BBS from 1989 to 2010. He was also a member of the EBCC (European Bird Census Council).

07 March 2016

Getting more from your birding

Here at the BTO we engage with countless local birders as well as ringers and nest recorders. A lot of important work is undertaken by birders across the length and breadth of Britain & Ireland. One such birder is Lee Collins who writes:

My local patch at Dawlish Warren NNR in South Devon has, over the last three years, achieved some amazing success in generating large numbers of field reads of gulls, terns and waders; my efforts over 2014 were summarized on the Demog blog in May 2015. I am not a ringer, in fact no ringing is currently done on the site (although some ringing was done previously), yet with a positive mind-set, high on-site attendance accompanied with bundles of enthusiasm, anyone can achieve amazing results with ring reading.

Dawlish Warren NNR is a coastal reserve with a  long and rich history in birding terms and I'm proud to have called this my local patch since 1984. On-site breeding of gulls, terns and waders is non-existent and thus ring reads are generally confined to the winter months, although the months of July and August do also provide a bumper opportunity with the onset of post breeding dispersal.

I have just finished writing a detailed 38 page article on my efforts over 2015. In total I've record 429 field reads, comprising 16 species and involving 219 different individuals. Here’s a brief resume of the highlights.

Dawlish Warren. Taken by Lee Collins

The standout single read was in securing my second ever Roseate Tern ring. This bird was ringed at Rockabill, Ireland in 2013 and the read may be the only recovery of this species in the Britain & Ireland during 2015 away from their breeding colonies. Terns are of particular interest to me and although no breeding occurs, I see good numbers of 200+ Sandwich Terns present during July and August. During this periods it is a hive of activity, with birds coming and going as they feed offshore and drop back in to roost or to feed their fledged young in front of the hide.

I made 61 reads during this nine week period, securing positive reads on 35 different individuals (30 adults and five juveniles). The reads were a combination of colour rings (15) and the more difficult to read metal ringed birds (20).

Frustratingly, not a single bird recorded on the site was to provide information on where they bred during 2015, although most probably nested several hundred kilometres away. Importantly, there is a good rate of multi-year observations of several individual birds recorded on-site during 2013 and 2014. The results suggest the Warren plays an important role as a staging and feeding area during post breeding dispersal.

Sandwich Tern taken by Lee Collins

The majority of Sandwich Tern ringing locations were in Scotland (750+ km away) and the Netherlands (600 km away), although others also range from Poland to Ireland. The Polish-ringed Sandwich Tern is particularly noteworthy as it looks to be the first recorded in Britain & Ireland.

Sanderling taken by Lee Collins

Waders are of particular importance and are abundant on the reserve. Sanderling in particular are of interest due to their long-distance migratory pattern and I found ten different colour ringed individuals during 2015. Most birds were seen during the month of May as they headed north to breeding grounds in Greenland. These birds were ringed in Greenland, Iceland or Mauritania.

Ringed Plover taken by Lee Collins

Ringed Plover is an abundant species in Devon, yet with a poor recovery history. I recorded seven in 2015, which is almost double the entire recovery history for the county. These were found during the autumn, presumably passage migrants dropping in to refuel. Unsurprisingly, a few were from Iceland, but several were from Norway and a one was from Germany.

Despite these impressive recoveries, my most important work is in fact dedicated to a species that receives little attention from practically all the birders that visit the site, the Oystercatcher. Over a three year period I have made almost 270 positive metal ring reads involving 116 different individuals, with 77 different birds recorded during 2015 alone.

The vast majority (91%) of these were ringed on-site, as part of a study programme undertaken between 1976 and 2004. The movements recorded may not be very far but this provides invaluable data on longevity and survival of this species, especially as it is now amber listed. I have recorded over a dozen individuals that were at least 25 years old, plus another that was ringed in 1983, making it at least 32 years old!

If you wish to read more, you can read Lee's full article on the Dawlish Warren blog.