Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Cuckoo Martin moves south

All five of the BTO Cuckoos have been settled around their current locations for some time now, making short feeding trips in and out of their respective areas.  However, in the last couple of days Martin has travelled 350 km (200 miles) south and is now on the northern edge of the Congo rainforest.
Could Martin be nearing his wintering grounds?  The one-and-only previous record of a British Cuckoo south of the Saharah came from a ringing recovery of a bird wintering in Cameroon; not a million miles away from Martin's current destination. It's expected that the other four Cuckoos will also move south at some point (or, in the case of Lyster—who is still in west Africa—east and then south) but, as has already been seen with so much of what these Cuckoos have done, the expected isn't always what happens! As ever, keep an eye on the BTO Cuckoo pages for all the latest news.

Monday, 26 September 2011


I stumbled over this gem on t'internet. You've probably all already seen it - but what fascinating behaviour!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Less honking, more tweeting!

It’s traditionally used to follow friends, famous faces and keep abreast of current affairs but this Autumn RSPB Scotland is using Twitter to track the arrival of thousands of wintering geese by tweeting with the hashtag #goosewatch.

Reports of sightings are already coming in through the social networking site with RSPB Loch of Strathbeg reporting a large flock over the reserve on Friday morning. Last year, the reserve recorded one of the biggest flocks in the UK with up to 70,000 geese using the reserve as a night-time roost.

Pink-footed Geese at dawn Duncan Goulder

Wintering geese traditionally start to arrive in mid-September, with numbers reaching their peak in October. RSPB Scotland is inviting anyone with a Twitter account to share their goose sightings or pictures by using the #goosewatch hashtag. You can follow RSPB Scotland on Twitter @RSPB Scotland. Those without a Twitter account can email sightings through goosewatch@rspb.org.uk

Friday, 9 September 2011

Arabian Leopards

Some great work being carried out in Yemen and Oman in an attempt to save the Arabian Leopard (Panthera pardus nimr):

"Until January 11 2011, when we proved the existence of a Leopard population in eastern Yemen with our trail cameras, skeptics doubted that the Leopard persisted in this country. So scarce and secretive are these creatures that so far we have only captured four photographs of two [wild] individuals.  Following our success in eastern Yemen we plan on using camera traps to establish the existence of leopard populations in other parts of Yemen. This project will focus on Wada'a, Amran, a tribal area to the north of Yemen's capital Sana'a where we have good reason to believe that the Arabian Leopard still roams. We have trained Ibrahim Al Wada'i, a former Leopard trapper from Wada'a, in the use of trail cameras. Now all we have to do is provide Ibrahim and an assistant with equipment, salaries, and logistical support."

For more information on how you can help to keep this project on track, visit the Arabian Leopard pledge page.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Cuckoos near and far

We're all well aware that the BTO satellite-tracked Cuckoos — all of them adult males — are now safely south of the Sahara; but for Cuckoos that hatched this year, the long journey south is only just beginning. Now is a good time to see juvenile Cuckoos at coastal migration spots such as Spurn, where a juvenile was ringed at the end of last month and several more seen. While they're still in the UK, their biological parents could well be 4,800 km away in sunny Africa!  The youngsters will have to make their first journey south alone and unaided; a remarkable feat for any bird.

And, as always, you can keep track of the tagged bird's fortunes on the BTO's Cuckoo pages.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Manxies and Brown-headed Blackbirds

The bad weather brought across the Atlantic in recent days by a deep low has wreaked havoc on the Pembrokeshire coast where hundreds of Manx Shearwater — many of them juveniles not long out of their burrows — have been washed ashore. The event is covered on the BBC News website and there's more news on the Pembrokeshire Birds blog.
It's not just in Pembrokeshire that Manx Shearwaters are being displaced; individuals have been found as far inland as Wigan (Gtr Manchester) and Draycote Water (Worcs).

With any Atlantic low like this, there's always the chance of an American songbird or two making landfall in the British Isles. How about a Brown-headed Cowbird?
But, as these photos taken by Tim Campbell in Antrim show, not every dark bird with a brown hood is a cowbird!  This striking young male Blackbird has largely moulted its body feathers but has yet to moult its brown juvenile head feather; not terribly unusual in itself but we've never seen one as clearcut as this before.  Certainly a striking bird!

Blackbird - Tim Campbell, Antrim