Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Frodsham Avocet 26.04.2008.

This is when it works well. Stephen Menzie reported this to me on 26th April, having seen the bird at Frodsham Marsh that date. A visit to the colour-ringing website (http://www.cr-birding.be/) indicated that the bird may be of French origin; with the site giving the email contact of the organiser.
Stephen's email was answered overnight on the 28/29th with a full history of the bird.

So, colour-ring combination: RWX/OY
Ringed 06.06.2006 Lasne, Saint-Armel, France
Reported 17.12.2006 Colne Point, Essex
Reported 20.03.2007 Colne Estuary, Essex
Reported 06.06.2007 Saline de l'entree de Pen Aval, Sene, France
Reported 26.04.2008 Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire

A good return on a single reported observation.

UK Phenology Network

For those of you that know me you'll know I have an interest in this sort of thing. So, it is nice to report (British Wildlife 19; 4 April 2008) that the UK Phenology Network has just reached its 10th birthday.
Initially labeled as a 'poor relation' by the scientific community, this citizen science organisation (of 40,000 registered recorders) has reached the dizzy heights of featuring prominently in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - it's data being cited in reports.
Acknowledgement of time and input into keeping the concept of the Phenology Network going must lie with Tim Sparks, who lectures repeatedly on the interesting facts, figures, and humanity that exists within the Networks database.
Once I have digested the content of the article in BW I'll post some interesting snippets.

If you are a member of another wildlife organisation (BTO, RSPB, Wildlife Trust etc) you can subscribe to BW for £19.95 p.a. (for six copies). I would recommend it - it introduces you to lots of aspects of wildlife that you wish you knew more about.

North Wales

Undertook the first full round of the nest-boxes this weekend - when things should be picking up! Had one nest of Great Tit with six eggs (not yet incubating), and activity in another 6 boxes with between 1-4 eggs. Blue Tits seem to be slow off the mark, which is probably due to the run of inclement weather we have had recently.
The Pied Flycatchers are back and on time, saw the first bird on 18th April, and already have one pair nest building and at least two other pairs claiming possession of other boxes. Also witnessed the return of Redstart with a male singing for all he was worth on the same territory as last year.
Also showing evidence of nesting were the Ravens, Coal Tit, and Blackbird, and also found a Buzzards nest that was freshly lined with bits of conifer (fingers crossed).
Didn't see any Grey Wagtails or heard any Cuckoo (they're a little late), and the first smattering of swallows were passing through. Have two species of Woodpecker on site, Lesser pecker not being one of them unfortunately.

Interesting observation of the day: had a Tawny Owl calling at 2.30 in the afternoon!

Also undertook my first TTV for the BTO and North Wales Breeding Atlas and managed to record x species, with another couple added as Roving Recorder records (seen outside the TTV).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Pearson Collection.

Over 7000 eggs confiscated and 21 dead birds reclaimed from a freezer. 23 weeks in prison and a £1500 fine. Whatever your take on this clear breach of the law I would have paid for a view of the 7000 eggs all at once - clearly it would have been impressive in more ways than one. For a fuller report see: http://www.birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?a=1301
The picture is copyrighted via RSPB Images.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A very nice morning.

In order to preserve my sanity I took some time out this morning to undertake a little ringing while gaining domestic credits.

What a morning, only 39 birds but 15 species requiring use of four different sets of rings. Interesting amongst them was a male Brambling (a winter visitor) and, 75 minutes later, two male Chiffchaff (summer visitors). Never before have I caught winter and summer visitors on the same day!

Also caught were four species of tit, the three garden favourites of Robin, Dunnock and Blackbird, three species of finch and singles of both Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker. A pair of Starling were also netted and ringed.

Although not a prolific morning there was plenty of quality.

(For those interested in these things 25 were new birds, and the rest all local retraps).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Survival of the not so fit?

It never ceases to amaze me of the consequences of us all now feeding our birds all year round. Birds that would have died long ago - because of some peculiarity - now turn up almost annually because their survival has been aided by easily obtained supplementary food.
The next individual in this saga is a Great Spotted Woodpecker, from Rosedale in north Yorkshire. This bird, observed this winter, has a bill that is about 150% bigger than is normal, but given easy feeding it has been able to survive (the fact that it normally has a large tongue will also help, but whether this too is increased in size?).
It would be interesting to know whether this bird has been witnessed boring /drumming, or creating nest holes, as I would think it would have insufficient leverage to make any sort of impression i.e. to be able to hold on and then swing its head back with sufficient movement to be able to create some 'force' at the bill-tip.
A normal bird is shown on the left, with our big-billed specimen on the right.
(Original article appeared in Telegraph on line).

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Failing birds in the urban environment

In the urban environment it is often thought that the prevalence of predators has a significant effect on nesting outcome. So, the more magpies and cats, the less well birds’ perform.

A new American study questions this, arguing that it is the environment itself that has a greater effect. Monitoring the natural nests of migratory Acadian Flycatchers over six years they found that, compared to rural counterparts, urban birds were smaller and less resilient. They nested later, wouldn’t attempt second broods if the first failed, and wouldn’t return to an area again if they failed the previous year. All in all they “just didn’t seem to like the urban environment and gave up”. The presence /absence of notably predators was a minor, almost insignificant contributory factor.

The questions being asked now are why? Is it the noise, the amount of artificial lights at night, the local vegetation, the food source? All of which are likely to play a part but, the one question to ask now is: Is the urban environment becoming a sub-optimal habitat where only second-rate birds attempt to breed? The fitter individuals then controlling and breeding in a more prime suburban or rural environment.

Report published in: Journal of Animal Ecology.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April 1st

BBC Radio 4 this morning - big article from the RSPB. Following on from the fantastic results of the Big Garden Birdwatch when approx 400,000 participants counted birds in their back gardens the RSPB want to extend their further participation.
Apparently, due to global warming and our passion for feeding our birds, many winter birds - thrushes and finches - are staying here and not going back to their summer breeding grounds. This is threatening the food availability and nest sites of our resident birds.
What the RSPB intend to do is, via Garden Birdwatch participants, catch all of these continental birds and return them via Heathrow T5 (for they have no luggage, including hand luggage) and, now this is what makes you realise its a joke - they're going to send them all to Holland. Why? Why not Scandinavia or northern Russia? sending them to Holland - must be a joke!!