Monday, May 26, 2008

Regional Wild Bird Indicators

The recent release from DEFRA (based on BTO BBS data) indicates that the north-west is a good place to do your birding. For the period 1994-2006, farmland birds saw a small increase, in the north generally, woodland birds increased in the north-west, specifically, as did the overall population index of all native birds.
For farmland birds as a whole the national decline was 7%, increasing to 10% when considering the SW, SE and West Midlands alone. Northern regions witnessed a small increase.
With woodland birds the SW and SE again had declines, of 19% and 10% respectively, while the East Midlands, NW, NE, Yorkshire and Humber all increased. Yorkshire and Humber increased by 19% while the NW increased by a massive 32%. The rest of England stayed the same.
The population index for all native species increased only in the NW, NE, Yorkshire and Humber. For the NE the increase was 14%, Yorkshire and Humber 17%, and the NW an impressive 23%.
So tell your mates - the north-west is the place to be!
Full report is at :

The nestbox update.

This time of year is always busy and one is always playing catch-up as a consequence. So, here is a catch-up moment.
In the last two weeks I have 'lost' four clutches/young from four Great Tit nests- two due to squirrels and two due to desertion /loss of adult; and one clutch of Pied Flycatcher when the nest was 'scragged' by some predator that couldn't gain full access to obtain breakfast. In the picture you can see the whole nest has been destroyed and the eggs spilled on to the bottom of the box.
One of the undetermined tit nests has been identified as being due to Coal Tit, and she is now sat incubating on a clutch of eight eggs. The Song Thrush eggs have hatched but the four eggs laid have only given rise to three young (big enough to ring now). When handling them they were hot little furnaces of skin and bone and were peculiar to touch - all soft and wobbly.
I've also 'lost' a Redstart nest, not due to some predator or other, but simply because its turned out to be a nest of Pied Flycatcher with a feather lining. It was the feather-lining that was the red-herring in this case (usually, but obviously not always, feather use is more indicative of Redstarts).
The Nuthatches have also hatched. They were to small to ring this weekend but they should have grown enough by next week end to be ready. Taking a photograph of them was difficult as they wouldn't keep still - as you can see (and no the ones on the bottom and left aren't dead they're just not as hungry as the other two).
Nesting totals today are: 25 Great Tit, nine Blue Tit, three Redstart, one each of Nuthatch and Coal Tit, and 29 Pied Flycatcher.
Ringing has started and some Great Tit and Blue Tit pulli have been big enough to take rings. The rest should be well on their way by this coming weekend to, maybe, be ready for ringing. The Redstarts and Pied Flys will be another 10-12 days or so because they have only recently just started seriously incubating. However, 17 female Pied Flys have been lifted off eggs - seven as new birds (and then rung) and ten as returning individuals - although I have yet to check whether they are birds ringed here in previous years returning, or birds from other sites.
The buzzards appear to be nesting elsewhere - they are not using 'my' nest and the Ravens appear to have gone quiet, as have the Woodpeckers. So cuckoo heard this week, but did have a heron feeding at the ponds which was nice.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

This week that was...

My weekend started well with two White Stork seen flying over Greenbank Park. A quick email to Steve White indicated that the time of year was right and there were no escapes reported locally. So, I'll have to submit an official report now as no one else appears to have seen them but me and my car passengers.

Another round of the nestboxes (again) this weekend. Twenty active Great Tit nests and only a mere nine Blue, with another seven of unidentified (tit) thus far.

Twenty seven active Pied Flycatcher, two Redstart and one Nuthatch. The Blackbirds nest has been predated and the Song Thrush now has four eggs but has yet to start incubating (she was off like a flash when I was still 1o yards away). The buzzards dont appear to be going much and the ravens spend more time flying up and down the valley rather than anything constructive. Also found some nesting Great Spotted Woodpeckers - but too high and difficult to get to.

Lifted and ringed the incubating female Nuthatch, now TH50124, and one of the female Pied Flys (V570195). Two other Pied Flys were lifted, T834631 originally ringed as a pullus on site in 2006 and T537627 ringed as a new female on site last year.

The top picture is one of the Redstart nests - pretty much like a Pied Flycatchers except for the mass of feathers (Pied Flys dont tend to use feathers), and the bottom one is the Nuthatch. Note the distinct lack of any nest cup.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Old Tjikko

The world’s oldest recorded tree, called Old Tjikko, has recently been ‘found’ in Dalarna, Sweden. The tree, a Norway spruce, is considered to be a good resource for investigating climate change due to the length of its existence. Its age was recorded – not by counting the rings – but by radiocarbon dating. It was found to be 9550 years old. And, what is more, it was in the company of at least two other trees of 9000 plus years old. Also present were two youngsters – one of 5660 years old and one of 375 years.

But, before you go looking for some massive towering tree like structure, don’t! The way that the spruce is able to propagate itself by sending out ‘daughter’ roots means that the tree has a continued existence of 9550 years, rather than a continued growing period of the same.