Thursday, May 07, 2009

Lapwing WAS number 1

On the 8th May 1909 the first bird ever, a Lapwing, was ringed in Aberdeen. Since then over 36 million different birds, using 11.3 tonnes of metal, have been ringed. Ironically, or maybe predictably, the first bird recovered abroad was also a Lapwing - ringed in Scotland and found in France.
Ringed birds have turned up in many different ways: they’ve been eaten by crocodiles in Gambia (Osprey), by Chimpanzees in zoos (Buzzard), caught by African spiders (Reed Warbler), hit whaling ships in snowstorms (Arctic Tern), been hit by golf balls (gulls and ducks) and even died after getting their bill stuck in the hem of a blanket (Barn Owl)!
Although so many birds have been ringed there is still a lot to learn. Whilst we now know a lot about the movements of Swallows (the first recovery was in South Africa in December 1912), we know next to nothing about their close relative the House Martin, with just two birds found south of the Sahara (in Senegal and Nigeria). Similarly, the wintering areas of Spotted Flycatchers and Pied Flycatchers remain a mystery. Given that both of these last two birds are declining rapidly it is becoming imperative that we fill these gaps in our knowledge.
Ringing also tells us a great deal about survival rates of our birds. Our oldest ringed bird, at 50 years and 11 months, is a Manx Shearwater; originally ringed at Bardsey Bird Observatory, North Wales, on 17 May 1957, it has bred on the island each summer ever since.

BTO volunteers ring over 800,000 birds every year. Part of the BTO Ringing Scheme is funded by a partnership of the BTO and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (on behalf of Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for Wales, and also on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency). The scheme also receives support from National Parks and Wildlife (Ireland). The volunteer ringers give freely of their time and expertise and also provide a substantial part of the Scheme’s funding.

See: http://www.bto.org/ringing/ for more information.

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