Thursday, February 25, 2010

100 million

I landmark figure has been reached just before we start the new breeding season of survey work. At Thetford sometimes up to 200,000 birding records can be received a week however, today, one record was awaited with interest - the 100 millioneth record submitted to the electronic database. The record - a Coal Tit submitted from an observation in South Wales.
Image from

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A sniff too far...

Remember my previous post about 'Doesn't smell right' where researchers were suggesting that birds migrated by sense of smell (Jan 29th) - and I thought it was a load of nonsense. Well, now comes a publication that potentially explains their results. In "PLoS ONE" German researchers publish data on the finding of a 'magnetometer' in the upper beak of (many) birds which could potential act to measure the vector of the earth's magnetic field (by intensity and inclination), whereby a bird can map its' exact position anywhere on the globe. Using some fancy non-destructive science they have been able to show that the upper beak contains a network of iron containing nerve branches which, they say, will be able to encode the earths magnetic field. Viola, bird migration explained!?
So, back to the nasal wash-outs - the wash-out may (also) affect a birds sense of smell but, more importantly, it probably primarily affects functioning of this 'magnetometer' - which is then responsible for a change in migration pattern.
See: Falkenberg G, Fleissner Ge, Schuchardt K, Kuehbacher M, Thalau P, et al. (2010) Avian Magnetoreception: Elaborate Iron Mineral Containing Dendrites in the Upper Beak Seem to Be a Common Feature of Birds. PLoS ONE 5(2): e9231. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009231 (

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Breeding Bird Survey

Even though the Bird Atlas is on-going the Breeding Bird Survey - the BTO's main survey - still needs to be undertaken. Within the region there are a handful of volunteers who make my job extremely easier by undertaking this survey without cajole or duress every year - I thank you. This year several of these individuals have 'retired' being physically unable to undertake or commit to a full set of required visits - thus more than the usual number of BBS squares are available. The list is attached. If anyone wishes to undertake the BBS survey in any of these plots please do contact me (before anyone else grabs them).