Friday, January 29, 2010

Doesn't smell right

Birds migrate by smell! or at least have the ability to utilise their sense of smell to help them migrate appropriately. This was a subject discussed at the Swanwick conference in December and now it is being more widely reported ( By performing some nifty experiments and olfactory manipulations in american Cat-birds reseachers were able to show that those birds that couldn't smell properly didn't migrate as they should. However, I would argue, just because you've messed with someone's nose doesn't mean they cannot smell (are we talking about all smells or just a small range of smells) and, if you had flushed my nose with a saline solution to the extent of interfering with my sense of smell I might be a bit disorientated too! I need more data before I'm convinced of this. Discuss.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Collins Bird Guide 2nd Edition

Available on Amazon at the amazing price of £12.49 with free delivery. That's better than half price, admittedly only by a penny, but with free delivery - bargain.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Vanishing Whinchat

Preliminary 'Bird Atlas 2007-11' data has revealed that Whinchat, previously scattered across the whole of the country 20 years ago, is virtually all but gone from anywhere south of the Pennines. Small colonies do exist on Salisbury Plain, Exmoor and Dartmoor, but the bird has vanished from previous strongholds in Norfolk and Hampshire.
Breeding habitat has not thought to have changed to explain this loss and, given that the numbers of Stonechat - which share similar habitats but do not migrate - have increased three fold in recent years this is probably correct.
Loss on migration, or in wintering areas, is considered to be the most likely candidate - particuarly as other sub-Saharan migrants (turtle dove, wood warbler, pied flycatcher, nightingale and cuckoo) are also showing declines. The results of the BTO and RSPB's Out of Africa data is much needed. See: for how this work is progressing.

Picture taken from Telegraph newspaper /Alamy

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Changing Delamere

An exciting new project has been launched to restore the lost Meres and Mosses on the Forestry Commission estate at Delamere Forest, near Northwich in Cheshire, which have been dry for up to 80 years.
The Forestry Commission and Natural England are spearheading plans for the re-wetting of Delamere in a bid to conserve the rare natural landscape and benefit important wildlife and plant species in the region.
The work to re-wet them is all part of Natural England’s £4 million Wetland Vision which will fund almost 2,000 hectares of wetland recovery projects in the next two years.

Monday, January 25, 2010

BTO Core surveys

For information. All BTO core surveys - should you wish to become more involved, or want to know more about a particular survey - have been grouped onto one web page with links. See:

A wonderful bit of non-news.

Reported in the Guardian Newspaper – Pink-footed goose is a CO2 villain. Apparently these geese contribute to global warming – not by the usual fashion of gaseous release – but via a mechanism of grubbing up moss in the arctic when returning to their breeding grounds.
When the geese arrive in the arctic plants have not yet started to grow so, in order to get something to eat, they dig down through the soil to get those bits of plants they can eat. By removing the upper moss layer the geese leave the under-soil open to warming and degradation followed by erosion due to wind and rain. The liberated carbon is then made available for utilisation by bacteria – subsequently finding its way into the atmosphere.
The average goose has been calculated to be responsible for 37kg of arctic carbon released per year. Multiply this by the number of geese (240,000 in the UK in winter alone) and the increased numbers as a result of conservation measures (
three-fold rise in the Svalbard population) and that’s a fair bit of carbon - however, in the global scale of things it’s nothing.So goose wont be on the menu just yet.Image taken from Guardian Newspaper /Alamy