Thursday, 27 August 2009

Hobby satellite tracking

Thought you all might be interested in this, just in from Bernd Meyburg of the WWGBP:

"Dear all,

The Eurasian Hobby is a small falcon. It breeds across Europe and Asia and is a long-distance migrant. European birds winter in Africa. More than 5,700 Hobbies have been ringed in 10 European countries, but so far there have been only two ring recoveries south of the Sahara desert. Satellite tracking using the Argos system is now an accepted technique for long distance migration studies of birds. It is generally accepted that any device we burden a bird with should weigh no more than 3% of the bird's weight if we are not to affect its behavior.

The prototype of the smallest satellite transmitter (PTT) produced so far weighing just 5 g was fitted by me for the first time to an adult female Hobby (weight 265 g) on 9 August 2008 in Germany near Berlin and successfully recorded the annual migration route.
The Hobby had raised two offspring and was trapped near its eyrie using the dho-ghaza-method. This new type of solar-powered PTT was still in the trial phase and is still working (in August 2009).

This smallest and lightest satellite transmitter produced to date delivered astoundingly high numbers of good Argos Doppler fixes (LC:2 and LC:3).

After leaving on migration in the second week of August, and a short rest period on the island of Elba off the west coast of Italy from 6 to 13 September, the bird flew at first in a southerly direction towards North Africa. The falcon held this course more or less until reaching its main wintering area in Southern Angola on 17 October. The migration to southern Angola took 49 days including some days on the island of Elba and one day (8 October) in Cameroon when the falcon was not moving. On average the falcon migrated 174 km per day including the days when it did not migrate.

Outward migration route in 2008 up to the southernmost point in Zimbabwe not showing local movements during wintering in Angola. Copyright by B.-U. Meyburg, 2009
A summary of the results with further details has recently been presented at the 7th Conference of the European Ornithologists' Union 2009:

K.D. Fiuczynski, P. W. Howey, C. Meyburg & B.-U. Meyburg (2009):
Intercontinental migration of an Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo) tracked by means of a 5g satellite transmitter. 7th Conference of the European Ornithologists' Union 2009, University of Zurich, Switzerland, 21 - 26 August 2009.

For the poster see:

In July and August 2009 I have been able to trap eight more adult Hobbies and mark them with even smaller solar-powered satellite tags (size: 9.3 x 30 x 16.4 mm ). From these transmitters we already received much better results during the last few weeks in the breeding area than from the first PTT in 2008. One surprising result has been an adult female which migrated 300 kms north from her breeding site after the fledging of her offspring to reach the coast of the Baltic Sea in western Poland.

Kind regards,

Bernd Meyburg

Prof. Dr. Bernd-U. Meyburg"

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Why did I choose ringing?

I think we've all had the odd day like this chap from South Africa...
"This morning's ringing session had me asking the question - Why didn't I stick to golf?
I decided to visit my Bot River site for the first time after the winter rains. On arrival - no site. Completely washed away by the river in spate. All the trees lining the far bank were in the water. Can't cross the river, which is running very fast and deep, and no riverine bush left on my side. So decided to put up some nets along the fence lining the river to try to catch some pasture species, plus a few round the top of the nearby dam wall. Got to the wall and found a dead cow (plus/minus a week) in the dam and stinking like Hades. (Should've taken this as an omen - I'm sure the ancient Romans would have.)
First "pasture" bird in the net - an African Black Duck, which proceeded to empty the plentiful contents of its bowels all over me at high pressure as I extract it. Also ripped a nice hole in my waders with its toes.
Just settling down to the "normal" routine when I hear a commotion at the dam. A big fat Jersey cow has walked into the end net and is trying to pull the lot back into the meadow. Fortunately she got untangled and ran off, leaving a two metre hole in the net, plus a wide assortment of debris, sticks and weeds. Twenty-five minutes to sort and re-set the nets and move the ringing site nearer to the (smelly) dam so I can keep an eye out for more cows.
Settling down again when a roaring south-east wind comes ripping up the valley out of nowhere. Only lasts 10 minutes but when I get to the nets by the river, two of them have fallen against the rusty, four-strand barbed wire fence and are totally hooked and tangled.
Three hours later, (with stops to check the dam wall nets) I finally have the nets freed and back in the net-bags.
Five hours of hard work produced 8 weavers, 6 bishops, a Fiscal Flycatcher and a shi**y Black Duck!
Mum said there'd be days like this - and she was right!"

Do I really need to check the notch?

From the latest Notts Birdwatchers newsletter. This is why you need to check the notch and wing length of every Reed warbler...

Inaugural garden session

I put my 6m net up late afternoon on Sunday because of the wind. I watched it intently for about an hour and a half before this bird went in. A 3J (F) P Greenfinch, sporting ring number TP40001.
And here's the photostory:
"ON YOUR MARKS...""NET SET..." (...count up to 90 minutes...) "GO!"And just to prove it had a head...Mick P.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Holme Pierrepont, Sunday 23 August 2009

We stayed over on the A52 side today and it was breezy from the moment we arrived. A taster of things to come. Again we had a great flush of warblers first thing but activity tailed off fairly quickly as the wind became stronger and stronger.We finished on 66 birds (including only 5 retraps) with Whitethroats (above) and Blackcaps (below) the most numerous. We also had the first half decent Long-tailed Tit flock move through of which we caught 9.
We took down before 11:00 due to the wind and the last round produced a moulting young Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Other records of note included both Greenshank and Green Sandpiper over and a possible Whimbrel heard. Several Yellowhammers were flying about and lone House Sparrow looked a little out of place. Still lots of Common Blues. Here's a happy couple next to one of the nets.


Well done Mick for getting his C permit. Mick is now obliged to wear SNRG branded clothing at all times. Hucknall birds beware...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Barn Owls waste no time

Just been out to check a box near Hose (yes, starting to stray outside South Notts now, but then I'm no longer a Notts resident!). It's one of the boxes organised by the recently formed Vale Barn Owl Conservation Group. It was only put up in May (after the start of the breeding season) and a pair have already raised 3 chicks in it. Is this some sort of record I wonder? As can be seen from the pic below, the chicks (yes this is a chick) were close to fledging.

HPP retraps

A few interesting recent retraps from Holme Pierrepont:

- ringed 3J 270604 not seen again until retrapped 190409
- ringed 3J 040802 not seen again until retrapped 130409
- ringed 3J 240803 caught most years since
- ringed 3J 070805 not seen again until retrapped 130409
- ringed 5M 170705 not seen again until retrapped 130609
- ringed 4F 250704 not seen again until retrapped 100509

Where have most of them been between ringing and this year, or just lucky at evading the nets?


Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Holme Pierrepont - Monday 17 August 2009

Mick, Duncan & I decided to slip in a quick session on the A52 side today seeing as the weather seemed to be holding. In the end the wind curtailed things by mid-morning, but we caught a decent flush of warblers first thing and ended up on 51 birds.

Sylvias were dominant today and Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats (pic below) were particularly numerous. Warbler totals were as follows:

Whitethroat 13
Blackcap 11
Lesser Whitethroat 7
Garden Warbler 2
Reed Warbler 2
Sedge Warbler 2
Chiffchaff 1
Willow Warbler 1
One of the Garden Warblers was an adult with arrested moult. On both wings, the inner 4 primaries and corresponding primary coverts had been replaced. This species is a bit of a maverick when it comes to moulting and no two seem quite the same. However, as far as I am aware, post-breeding wing moult is generally the exception in this country.
Amongst the other bits and bobs caught were a retrap Willow Tit and a single Long-tailed Tit. Both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were seen and the odd Skylark and Linnet were overhead. A group of 4 Gadwall were flying around for much of the morning too, calling noisily. Not sure what had got into them… Good to see healthy numbers of Common Blues around the patches of Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

Holme Pierrepont - Sunday 16 August 2009

A very similar session to last Sunday with 74 birds processed, 16 of which were retraps. Blackcaps and Reed Warblers are still dominating, though flocks of Blue and Great Tits are becoming increasingly regular. We also caught 2 Willow Tits (1 retrapped from last week) and another Treecreeper. A single Sedge was perhaps an indication of an early exodus for that species. Highlight was a young Kingfisher.
This is now officially Meisha’s second favourite bird after Barn Owl. As usual, it was very obliging and happily reclined on our balance.
For those of you who have not handled Kingfishers before, this behaviour is quite normal and birds generally remain still or seemingly move in slow motion when caught. After a few seconds on their stomachs they suddenly spring to life and speed off. It's a tactic that works surprisingly well with cats which invariably put them down on the floor once they go limp and before they know what's happened the bird has gone.
It was clear all morning, but windy and this prevented us from carrying on much after midday. There were few sight records of any note. Up to 200 Sand Martins appeared in a bunch at first light, clearly straight out of a roost somewhere nearby. A trickle of Swallows and House Martins also passed over but no Swifts. The only insects of note were 2 Hornets.
Riled by the rampant growth of birches, Gary heroically felled several hundred today in an attempt to maintain the site’s diversity and ringing potential. As the picture above shows, the water levels are back down again.


Tree Sparrows

Went out to do a final quick check on the Tree Sparrow boxes midweek – which had all been empty only a fortnight ago – and ended up ringing 15 chicks…


Tuesday 11 August 2009

Mick and I went up to Blyth to ring a couple of Hobby chicks for Adrian tonight and this chap was sitting in a cardboard box in Adrian’s hall.
It had been brought in because it was slightly injured and it was off to a rehab centre. Nice to see a full grown Buzzard in the hand.

And thanks to Monkey-man Mick, here's a pic of the Hobby chicks in situ.
As usual, this is an old crow's nest and this one was at the end of an alarmingly spindly willow branch. Good work Mick.


Holme Pierrepont - Sunday 9 August 2009

I think it was with a sense of relief that we watched the weather forecast this week. However, after several weekends battling with rain, today’s enemy was heat and between 11 and 12 it became too hot to continue netting. Not that much was moving by then anyway. Still, a total of 76 birds processed was perfectly respectable

First round got us 30 birds, most of which were in a single mixed warbler flock with a few Long-tailed Tits, but the latter are still inexplicably scarce at the site. Other highlights included a young male Sparrowhawk, a Treecreeper and a pair of young Willow Tits.
Sight records included good numbers of Sand Martins flocking up along with smaller numbers of Swallows and House Martins. A single Swift was all we could manage. Have they gone? Green Sandpiper, Teal, Jay and Grey Wagtail all flew over and small groups of young Common Terns were knocking about all morning. On the A52 side, 2 Sandwich Terns came over. Fairly good numbers of dragonflies but damselflies were not as common as you might expect at this time. A few butterflies included a Brimstone and several Commas.

Thanks to all the rain the water levels are beginning to rise at last, but a more obvious effect has been the rampant growth of the vegetation and it was if the path through the reeds had never existed when we arrived this morning and coupled with the heavy dew, walking through it was I bit like strolling through a carwash.


Sule Skerry

As if the Shiants trip wasn't enough, Jim has just returned from co-leading a trip to Sule Skerry an beyond. They ringed c12,000 seabirds on mainly Sule Skerry, but also went to Sula Sgeir & North Rona. No doubt the Gannet scars will be on display over a pint soon.

Captions please

The possibilities are surely never-ending...

Holme Pierrepont - Sunday 2 August 2009

Today the whole of the water sports centre was closed to the public for a scout jamboree so we decided, with a much depleted team, to have a go at the A52 side. We only took 12 poles, had to clear all the rides first, the sun was shining from the start and the breeze picked up as the morning progressed. We put up 7 nets eventually but only 5 really caught. There were no flocks obvious mixed flocks about, but plenty of individual warblers.

All things considered we were very pleased to end on 67 birds, 50 of which were warblers. Garden Warblers were particularly obvious and some of the totals were as follows:

Willow Warbler 6
Reed Warbler 15
Whitethroat 7
Lesser Whitethroat 4
Garden Warbler 11
Blackcap 7

We only caught 2 Blue Tits, a single Great Tit and only one retrap (a Robin from the Grange side earlier this summer).


Holme Pierrepont - Sunday 26 July 2009

On arrival we were warned by a Water Sports Centre employee to be out of the car park by 1200 or be prepared to spend hours battling to leave as it was the ‘Race for Life’ event. Having been trapped by this chaos before, we knew it was good advice so it was another short session.

We put up most of the nets but the wind soon started making life difficult. Despite that we still managed over 60 birds. Unringed adult Reed Warblers are still popping into the nets along with all the usual species. Another new Great Spotted Woodpecker competed with the race tanoy in the decibel department. A jay that spent much of the day around the site managed to evade all the nets.


Holme Pierrepont - Sunday 19 July 2009

Well the purple patch had to come to an end at some point. We had a delayed start due to rain, a reduced number of nets and an early finish due to wind and rain but despite that we caught nearly 60 birds (over 30 in the first round alone). All the usuals present, but still no Long-tailed Tits and in fact the only tit caught was a single Great.

Hopefully the weather will be kinder next week.


Attenborough - Saturday 18 July 2009

We battled through the strong winds this morning and ringed another 9 tern chicks on main pond platform at Attenborough. There were still 15 eggs being incubated and all the chicks from the first session appear to have fledged successfully.

On return to the visitor centre we checked the boxes out the back and ringed 15 Tree Sparrow chicks which was a bonus.


Shiants jackpot

There can't be many of you that haven't heard about Jim's efforts on the Shiants trip now, but here's the BTO's press release anyway. Pity Jim doesn't actually get a mention as it's all down to his hard work and enthusiasm. Great effort Jim!

Europe’s oldest Puffin is alive and well in Scotland

BTO bird ringers on an expedition to a remote island off the west coast of Scotland have found the two oldest Puffins in Britain. One of these OAPs (Old Age Puffins), at 34 years of age, is also the oldest currently known in Europe.

The expedition, to the Shiant Isles, broke the British longevity record for Puffin on 5 July 2009 when they caught EX08155, which was originally ringed on the island on 27 June 1977. EX08155 was originally ringed by Ian Buxton, also a member of this year’s team, so he was reunited with the same bird 32 years later!

But this record was topped just five days later on 10 July, when Ian recaught EB73152, originally ringed on 28 June 1975, making it over 34 years old (older than three of this year’s expedition members). This is now the oldest recorded Puffin in Europe, beating an Icelandic bird at 33 years old. Amazingly, it not only still had its original metal ring, but also its colour ring, allowing it to be identified as a Shiants bird ‘in the field’.

David Steventon, founder of the Shiants Auk Ringing Group, and a member of the original expeditions in the 1970s commented: “These longevity records were almost inevitable, as ringing data shows that adult survival rates are about 92%. Therefore we would expect that about 25 of the 441 birds ringed in 1975 will still be alive and could be recaught in 2009. There could even be a handful remaining alive from those ringed back to 1970, so there is the potential to break the record again in the next few years. Compared to recent years, the Puffins are having a good breeding season this year, bringing in good sized sand eels for their young.”

Mark Grantham, Research Ecologist in the BTO Ringing Scheme, commented: “These two record-breakers show that, to understand these birds, you can’t just pop in and out of colonies. We need to study them over many decades to know what’s going on.”

He continued: “Ringing birds is the only way to find out how long they live. The same applies to all birds, so anyone can help by keeping an eye out for birds with rings and reporting them back to the BTO via the web (”

The Shiant Isles are a small group of islands between the Outer Hebrides and the Scottish mainland, and both these OAPs were caught in the Puffin colony on the north slope of Rough Island (Garbh Eilean).
Ian Buxton and the 34 year old bird:
Expedition member Kate Thompson (24) with the Puffin (34):