Wednesday, 19 December 2012

BTO raffle 2012–13

Once again, the BTO has some great prizes in this year's raffle. The proceeds raised will support the second year of our new Winter Thrushes Survey.  Members and Garden BirdWatchers will be sent a sheet of tickets in the Annual Review and/or the September issue of Bird Table. If you don't receive these publications and would like to take part, or would just like to request more tickets, please contact Rachel Gostling on 01842 750050 or email at
This year's fantastic prizes up for grabs are: 
Ist Prize:  A seven night wildlife break for two people in the Scottish Highlands with the Bird Watching and Wildlife Club at the Grant Arms Hotel (worth around £1300 
2nd Prize: A pair of Opticron Verano 8x42 Binoculars (SRP £439) 
3rd Prize: 5 x £100 worth of Ernest Charles Bird Food
Tickets are just £2 each and will help fund our work to learn more about charismatic winter visitors like the Redwing and Fieldfare!  Return your tickets, payment and completed slips to BTO Winter Thrushes, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU by the 1 February 2012. The draw will take place on the 8 February. All prize winners will be informed within one week. Don't forget to ask your friends and family whether they would also like to be in with a chance to win one of these lovely prizes. Full terms and conditions, and more information about each of the prizes, can be found on the BTO website. Good luck!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Autumn at Falsterbo

I think the technical term might be "working from another office", though the reality is that my "other office" currently looks like this:

I'm in Falsterbo, southern Sweden, and I'm leading a double life. In the afternoon, I'm working for BirdGuides; in the morning, I'm a ringer for Falsterbo Bird Observatory.

Falsterbo is one of western Europe's premier migration spots, both for Passerine and raptor migration. Indeed, over the last week or so I've been sat with in the garden my laptop working al fresco on a number of occasions; I've managed to notch up a list of 17 raptor species during that “work” time (Pallid, Hen & Marsh Harrier; Golden, White-tailed and Lesser Spotted Eagle; Osprey; Red & Black Kite; Merlin, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine; Common, Rough-legged and Honey Buzzard; and Sparrowhawk). There's the occasional non-raptor surprise mixed in too, like a flock of 26 White Storks:

For Passerines, it looks like it's going to be a “woodland winter” — large numbers of Blue Tits are already passing through the peninsula along with higher than average numbers of e.g. Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nutcracker.
photo by Jan Baert

We've already caught some oddities. On 25th August we scored with a Yellow-breasted Bunting, the first record for Falsterbo and only the 34th record for Sweden.

We thought we'd stuck gold again on 16th September when we pulled this odd Acrocephalus warbler out of the nets — it superficially resembles Paddyfield Warbler but things just don't add up. A hybrid seems to be the answer, but between what is still open to debate. There are more photos of the bird online here.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Bempton cruises in September

Sail out into the North Sea into the heart of the migrating seabird action as many species pass by on their way south for the winter.  They can include Arctic Skuas and Arctic Terns, as well as Gannets, auks, Gulls, Manx and Sooty Shearwaters, many of which — tempted by the ‘chum’ (cocktail of smelly fish bits!) that is thrown overboard — can be seen at close quarters right alongside the boat. Boats run on:

Saturday 8th September at 9.00am

Saturday 15th September at 9.00am

Sunday 23rd September at 9.00am

Saturday 29th September at 3.30pm

Saturday 6th October at 9.00am

As usual these will be aboard the MV Yorkshire Belle, sailing from Bridlington Harbour out into the North Sea to where the latest reports indicate there are migrating seabirds such as Arctic and Great Skuas, Sooty, Balearic and Manx Shearwaters plus many terns and plenty of Little Gulls.  They last up to 3½ hours and cost £18 per adult. Booking is strongly recommended as they can get full, and this can be done by phoning the RSPB Bempton Cliffs cruise office on 01262 850959 and paying by debit/credit card over the phone.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Bridlington seabird cruises

The RSPB cruises off Flamborough Head for autumn 2012 will be starting a week on Sunday.  There will be 6 of these:

Sunday 2 September at 10:45am
Saturday 8 September at 9:00am
Saturday 15 September at 9:00am
Sunday 23 September at 9:00am
Saturday 29 September at 3:30pm
Saturday 6 October at 9:00am

As usual these will be aboard the MV Yorkshire Belle, sailing from Bridlington Harbour out into the North Sea to where the latest reports indicate there are migrating seabirds such as Arctic and Great Skuas, Sooty, Balearic and Manx Shearwaters plus many terns and plenty of Little Gulls.  They last up to 3½ hours and cost £18 per adult.

Booking is strongly recommended as they can get full, and this can be done by phoning the RSPB Bempton Cliffs cruise office on 01262 850959 and paying by debit/credit card over the phone.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Back from BirdFair

What an enjoyable weekend that turned out to be! Great to see so many people at BirdFair and glad that the weather (just about) held. Here are a few highlights from Sunday:

The East Asian–Australasian flyway mural taking shape.

A stick insect enjoying the tropical heat and humidity.

We're not allowed to show you what's attached to this camera (seriously, the guys on the Canon stand told us off for trying to take a photo of it)... but oddly we can show you this.

Optics envy.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Big BC cheque

The lovely Nick Baker and the lovely Martin Warren paid a visit to our stand today for the hand over of our (disappointingly small) giant cheque. £1 from each copy of our new butterfly DVD is going directly to Butterfly Conservation. The photo pretty much sums things up:

In other exciting news, Fiona got her binoculars checked by the clever man at Zeiss.

And the internet people came to fiddle with the internet box, which is located behind our stand.

The art marquee is getting a bit slippy now but marquee 7 has stayed afloat and the other marquees are — apart from being a bit muggy — largely fine. We're really enjoying being at Birdfair and hope that anyone who hasn't had a chance to call in and say hello will be able to do so tomorrow. We're in marquee 3, stand 14.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Celebrity barrow boy

We've survived BirdFair day 1.

Mud report: Art Marquee, muddy with potential to turn slippy. Marquee 3, fine. Marquee 7, damp turning wet. Far Isle, fine (they have cuddly Puffins on their stand).

All the birding greats have paid us a visit.

I finished the afternoon with lovely Israeli wine and some great talks from Mark Andrews and Martin Garner. Roll on tomorrow!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Greetings from Rutland

We've arrived; we've set the stand up; and we're ready to rock 'n' roll at 9 tomorrow morning — Marquee 3, stand 14 if you're passing.

After setting up, we headed out for a bit of birding: Osprey, Little Egret, Yellowhammer, flocks of Linnets. All very pleasant, and a nice change from Feral Pigeons and screaming parakeets.

And what of the weather?
It's not actually all that bad. The ground at Egleton is still quite firm — no doubt helped by the plastic tracks that have been laid — though it looks like marquee 7 might be teetering on the edge of a muddy abyss. We'll report back with more mud news tomorrow.

More importantly than the weather, what about the barrow boys and girls? Don't worry, there're here with horns in hand.

Josh and Stephen are particularly excited that the BirdGuides news app is now on Android as well as iPhone:

Monday, 13 August 2012

Bats, birds and small wind turbines

The latest research, just published, suggests that operating small wind turbines (defined as units generating less than 50kW electricity) may have little effect on bird activity at the fine-scale studied, but could reduce bat activity. Depending upon location, this may affect the availability of roost and foraging sites. Read the full paper here ( or a summary here (

Young Starlings on microturbine photo Elfie Waren

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Catching the Bug

I've just finished reading (and listening to) Catching the Bug by The Sound Approach. It's superb. Really superb. However, that's not what I want to talk about — I'll write a full review soon. I want to skip from The Sound Approach to birding to...

The Sound Approach to beeing

Let me introduce you to Bombus sylvarum, the Shrill Carder Bee.

It's quite a rare bee in the UK; indeed, it was a tick on my bee list. They're lovely little things. As their name suggests, they're rather shrill.

However, before we look at that further, let me introduce you to another bee that was new for my bee list.
Bombus humilis, the Brown-banded Carder Bee.

Brown-banded Carder Bees sound like... well, bees. Have a listen:

Shrill Carder Bees, in contrast, sound... shrill. Who'dathoughtit.

The shrill buzzing noise actually proved a really useful way to pick individuals up as they whizzed from bush to bush.

And just for fun:
I was going to annotate these and make some clever comments about fundamentals and modulations but after 90 minutes of being bored senseless by the London 2012 closing ceremony I'm not sure I've got the brain power... Still, I hear the Spice Girls are going to make an appearance later. I hope Geri's got her Union Jack dress on.

Earlier in the day, in case you're not fed up of bumblebees yet, we saw at least several of these; or should I say we managed to ID several of these:
Bombus soroeensis, Broken-belted Bumblebee
In total, we managed to see ten species of bumblebee.

Also this:
It's a Puss Moth caterpillar and it was speeding across the track at Dungeness ARC pit. They're green right up until the point at which they pupate, so this individual must have been right on the cusp of pupating. It was massive — about the size of my finger; and in case you're wonder, its head is at the right-hand end.

It was generally quiet for birds. Two Little Stints were on ARC pit along with two Dunlin, a Common Sandpiper and a decent flock of Golden Plover. A Reed Warbler and a couple of Common Whitethroats were in the trapping area at the obs.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Visit Planet Gannet

With Gannets galore on jaw-dropping cliffs that plunge 400 feet straight into the sea, now’s the time to get a taste of one of Britain’s best wildlife spectacles. The Gannet colony at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, between Bridlington and Filey, is at its peak between now and September — so staff and volunteers at the nature reserve have organised a series of events to bring visitors closer to these amazing seabirds.

First up is Tea with Gannets, which takes in a guided tour of the reserve, followed by tea and cakes served in the marquee.  The event runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays from July 24 to Sept 29. Cost: £3 for RSPB members, £6 for non-members. Booking essential, call 01262 851179.

Glorious Gannet Evening Walks, accompanied by experts from Yorkshire Coast Nature, give a wonderful insight into the life and loves of the bird. A stroll along the cliffs in the fading light will make the perfect end to a day. Walks take place on Mondays and Thursdays in August at 6.30pm.  Cost: £2. Booking essential, call 01262 851179.

For younger visitors, the Greedy Gannet Club is a great way to spend a fun-filled hour or so in the company of Seabird Steve and his crew. Making Gannet masks, creating Gannet finger puppets, folding Gannet paper darts and going on Gannet walks are just some of the things they’ll be getting up to. The Club is every Thursday in August, 10.00am – 4.00pm, There is no charge for the activities.

And for those with a passion — or just a passing interest — in photography, the RSPB Gannet Photography Workshops, led by Yorkshire Coast Photographer Steve Race, are a must-do. As well as offering those taking part the chance to capture incredible up-close images of Gannets, Steve’s experience and expertise offers a real opportunity to improve your skills.  RSPB/Yorkshire Coast Nature Gannet Photography Workshops run every Monday and Friday in August, 10.00am.  Cost: £10. Booking essential on 01262 850959.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Chris is in Africa

Chris — the BTO tagged Cuckoo — has made very rapid progress over the past few days. Having been still near Antwerp on 7th July, an unconfirmed location on Thursday 12th July placed him in the Po watershed, near the river Po itself northeast of Parma. We assumed he would be set in for a prolonged stop-over in preparation for his Sahara crossing but the expected confirmation of this location never came. Instead, we received a series of locations on Sunday 15th July showing that he had passed straight over mainland Italy and had stopped in Sicily!

But amazingly, just a week since he was last in Antwerp, locations received last night (16th/17th July) indicated that he was in the latter stages of his Sahara crossing. He was in the Tenéré Desert, a vast expanse of sandy desert in eastern Niger. The locations placed him about 500km (310 miles) north of Lake Chad. Last year Clement, the first Cuckoo to cross the desert, did so from 14th July so, assuming Chris left Sicily in the evening of 15th July, the timing of his crossing is very similar. This remarkable development means that Chris has now moved about 3,800km (2,360 miles) since we last received a location for him in Belgium ten days ago (7th July). We don’t know precisely when he left there but we received unconfirmed locations for him in northern Italy on 12th July and Sicily on 15th July so clearly he has not made any significant stop-overs other than the one in Belgium. He spent about a month there after leaving the UK so presumably this is where he did his preparation for the desert crossing — he's due to transmit again in two days; check out the BTO Cuckoo pages to see if he has managed to complete his amazing marathon from northern Europe to the savannahs south of the Sahara.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Batumi Raptor Count and Festival 2012

Last autumn I visited Batumi on the Georgian Black Sea coast and it was seriously great. Plenty of migrating raptors, lots of interesting species from the edge of the Western Palearctic, and some great interaction with the locals. The Batumi Raptor Count is running again this autumn for its fifth year and, to mark this milestone, BRC are celebrating with the Batumi Bird Festival. The festival runs from 19th to 23rd September — more details can be found on the BRC website:

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Ornithological Society of the Middle East summer meeting

Saturday 7 July, BTO Headquarters, Thetford, Norfolk — all welcome.

This year’s Summer Meeting Programme has ‘Migration through the OSME Region’ as a theme and as usual we have a wide range of countries and topics. Doors open at 10.00 — join us for refreshments and a talk with old friends before the meeting. In addition, following last year’s successful outing on the Sunday, Chris Mills of Norfolk Birding will be leading a similar walk with the possibility of seeing a number of Breckland specialities. Once again we have also arranged a meal after the meeting — this year we will be returning to the Mulberry, which we last visited in 2008. We hope you will be able to join us for one or both of these extra events — please let Ian Harrison know on 01545 571022 or at

Finally, please note that all profits from the 2012 OSME Raffle will go to the endangered White-headed Duck conservation project administered by the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK). Give generously to this worthwhile project!

The Programme is as follows.

11.00 Introduction – Geoff Welch, Chairman
11.15 Tracking Migrants into Africa Paul Stancliffe
12.00 Lebanon - an Important Bird Country Helen Demopoulos
12.45 Lunch break
13.45 34th Annual General Meeting
14.15 Bird Survey and Ringing in the Western Desert, Egypt, 2010 (part of a longer term study of the south-eastern migration route) Przemyslaw Busse, Krzysztof Stepniewski & Matt White
15.00 Short break
15.15 Egyptian Vulture Conservation Challenges along the Eastern Mediterranean Migration Flyway. Stoyan Nikolov
16.00 Migration through Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Nick Moran & Oscar Campbell
16.45 Drawing of raffle and closing remarks.
17.00 Close of meeting

Thursday, 21 June 2012

BTO House Martin survey 2012

This is the fourth summer that the House Martin Survey is being run. Over 1,200 people across the UK have taken part in previous years providing us with a clear picture of how this wonderful summer visitor is doing. It seems that it is doing much better in Scotland and Northern Ireland, increasing by 114% and 40% respectively. In Wales and England, House Martins haven't done as well, falling by 2% and 15% respectively.

Help us find out what's happening this year by taking part in the 2012 House Martin Survey.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Five Welsh Cuckoos tagged

The BTO Tracking Team have been busy in Wales this week and, as of yesterday morning, have now tagged five Welsh males! So that's all the Scottish and Welsh males tagged as well as two English males from Norfolk to compliment Chris and Lyster.  These new Cuckoos will be available for sponsorship sometime in the next few weeks.

Chris and Lyster haven't moved far from their previous locations around Mildenhall and the Broads respectively and are presumably making the best of the breeding season while it lasts. Last year Clement, the first Cuckoo to leave the UK, left on the 3 June. The poor weather experienced this spring might mean our birds leave a little later this year.

It's also looking increasingly unlikely that we will hear from Kasper's tag again. Take a look at the blogs here.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Blue Tit smokehouse

Following on from the Blue Tits nesting in a life jacket, we received this email from Brad Robson:
I took this picture on Friday at Desie Mackenzie's pub The Linnet Inn at Boho, west Fermanagh.  He had called RSPB to tell us about local birds using the cigarette-butt boxes for nesting.   He has three of these boxes, this one next to the pub door, one in the outdoor smoking area and one by the shop door.  The one in the smoking area was used by Robins and appeared to have fledged some young by last Friday.  The boxes had been used by customers until Desie noticed butts being thrown out and when he looked inside found in the case of the Blue Tit that much of the nest was constructed from the filters in the cigarette butts.  He then searched on the net and designed the warning signs and provided ashtrays and sand buckets for customers to use instead.  Whilst I was there both parent Blue tits were busiliy feeding the chicks and they are likely to fledge soon.  I also gave Desie two conventional nest boxes in the hope that the birds will use them next year.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Five Scottish Cuckoos tagged

The BTO Cuckoo-tracking team have satellite-tagged five new males near Loch Katrine in Scotland, the first Cuckoos of the class of 2012. More details about these birds will follow in June but don't forget that some of these birds are still available to be named.

As of 22 May Lyster was back in the Broads, just west of Acle. He really is covering a lot of ground, presumably in search of female cuckoos. Anecdotal evidence suggests they are in short supply at the moment.
During this time we received a reported sighting of a satellite-tagged Cuckoo in the area of the River Chet. On close inspection of Lyster's movements, it's very likely it was him.

A location from Chris's tag on the morning of the 24 May showed that he was still near Mildenhall, Suffolk, on the southern bank of the River Lark. Female cuckoos have been heard in this area and might explain why he seems reluctant to leave.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

(wild)life jacket

An RSPB member stumbled across a Blue Tit that chose to build its nest in a peculiar place — an emergency life jacket.

Luckily, Julia Keddie from Richmond in Surrey, wasn’t in need of the equipment at the time.  She said: “I was taking a walk around Kew Gardens with a friend when I noticed a flurry of activity near to the life jacket equipment and went to investigate.  After a while I noticed a Blue Tit going in and out of a small opening on the front and realised it must be nesting there and raising its family.  Fingers crossed nobody will fall into the lake during the rest of their nesting period; if they do there’ll be some very unhappy birds.”

Ian Hayward from the RSPB’s Wildlife Enquiries team, said: “It may look like an odd place to set up home, but there’s probably a nice nest-sized cavity in there. Birds make their nests in all sorts of weird and wonderful places. They see a safe, secure and cozy spot to lay eggs and raise chicks and don’t care what it looks like or what the neighbours might think.  We get sent lots of pictures from members who’ve spotted unusual nesting habits.  In the past we’ve had birds nesting in traffic lights, bins, hanging baskets and even an ash tray outside a pub, but that's the most unusual one I’ve seen this year.”

Friday, 18 May 2012

Swans tower above recent flood

As flooding affects the nesting season on the Ouse washes at WWT Welney, one pair of swans were towering above the lapping water. 
A determined pair of Mute Swans are refusing to lose their nest to the flood waters at Welney.  Gathering what vegetation they can find, they are trying to weather the lapping waters to continue incubating their eggs and hopefully hatch the cygnets inside. 

As a result of the flooding on the Ouse washes this spring the breeding season at Welney has come to a standstill.  But one of the many pairs of Mute Swans that breed on the reserve is not giving up without a battle.  Since the waters came on they have increased the height of their nest from its origins on the banks of the ditch next to the footpaths. 
‘The water levels are now dropping, relieving the pressure on this particular pair of Mute Swans’ says Marketing and Events Officer, Emma Brand.  ‘We hope the levels will continue to drop over the weekend to have paths to some of the hides open next week, then we should be back to normal with regards to access for the June half term activities, which include pond-dipping, moths on display and biodiversity blitz sessions’. 
With the water levels decreasing, the hope is that the reserve will start to open up again to visitors and provide feeding areas for the birds once more.  Updated information about the access on the reserve and what activities are available can be found at . 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Emperor Moth flashmob

I took the rash step of buying my brother an iPod Touch for Christmas. It's proving to have been a good purchase. Earlier this week this snippet of interesting video arrived in my inbox...

How cool. I imagine there's an emerging female Emperor Moth in the wall. There are a few more clips, and you can see literally hundreds of male moths flying over the moor to investigate. I just need to persuade Fraser that filming in landscape is a better option.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Cuckoo Lyster on BBC breakfast

Any early birds will be able to see some amazing footage of Lyster, filmed shortly after his return to the UK, on BBC One's Breakfast show tomorrow morning (Sat 6th May).

Everyone involved in this project was filled with a sense of wonder, amazement and elation as news broke that Lyster was the first Cuckoo to complete the epic 10,000 mile round trip, returning to a location just 5 miles from his tagging site. Phil Atkinson and Paul Stancliffe of the BTO rushed to the Norfolk Broads in the hope of catching a glimpse of our returning hero, undaunted by the odds against finding one Cuckoo in miles of marsh and farm land. As you will see in the BBC's footage, luck was certainly shining on Phil and Paul, even if the sun wasn't!

Check out the BTO website tomorrow for the full, behind the scenes, story of how we managed to film amazing footage of Lyster within hours of his return to the UK.

It's not such happy news for Martin, though. We have received no further data from him since 9th April, and sadly must now assume that he is dead.

Martin made it as far as Lorca in southern Spain, where we last heard from him. In that last transmission his tag temperature dropped from a normal 30-32 °C to 11.7 °C, a gradual change over the course of a night. While fearing for the worst, we did hope that he might pop up further north. We are now convinced that this is very unlikely, and must announce Martin's demise.

Martin has bequeathed a wealth of knowledge that has improved our understanding of Cuckoo migration. Of our original band of five, Martin was the first to return to Europe. As the only Cuckoo over two years old, he was looking good to be the first bird to return. He may have fallen victim to some severe weather conditions, which the other birds avoided by crossing the Mediterranean a little later.


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Wales Coast Path Bird Race 2012

To mark the official opening of the Wales Coast Path on 5th May 2012, Visit Wales is organising the first ever ‘crowdsourced’ count of bird species along the Welsh coast.
Partnering with key national and local wildlife groups and people, the aim is to set a new record for the number of species of birds seen in one day around Wales.
We’re asking local enthusiasts, ramblers, reserve wardens and visiting birders to share what they’re seeing, wherever they are.

Join in
While walking anywhere along the Wales Coastal Path, people can tell us what they’ve seen via Twitter or Facebook.
Visit Wales will then highlight the top sightings of the day and track the total number of species seen between dawn and dusk — in the process setting a new record for Wales.
To get involved, take to the Wales Coast Path and simply share the species of bird spotted, plus the rough location:
·       Via Twitter, by including the hashtag: #WCPbirds in a tweet
·       By leaving a comment on the Visit Wales Facebook page

Follow the action
·       By following @WCPbirds on Twitter
·       By checking the live blog on the day at

Monday, 23 April 2012

And then there was one

Only two of the three Tawny Owl eggs in the BTO nestbox hatched. The smaller of the two young owls quickly disappeared, leaving a single chick. Nevertheless, both parents have been busy bringing in a variety of food, including the odd Blackbird.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Farm manager pleads guilty to charge of possessing illegal pesticide

A 50 year old man has pled guilty to a charge of possession of the banned pesticide Carbofuran.
Today at Oban Sheriff Court, Tom McKellar pled guilty to a charge of having the poison while working as a Farm Manager at the Auch Estate, near Bridge of Orchy in Argyll in 2009.
Outlining the background of the case the Procurator Fiscal, Kate Fleming, noted that McKellar had admitted to police that a gamebag found on the porch of his home with a container holding Carbofuran belonged to him.  He also admitted that he set out meat laced with the poison as bait for foxes.
The police were first alerted to the estate on 8th June 2009, when a group of hillwalkers phoned RSPB Scotland to report finding the body of a Golden Eagle on the slopes of Beinn Udlaidh, near Bridge of Orchy.
RSPB Scotland Investigations staff, accompanied by a Wildlife Crime Officer from Strathclyde Police, retrieved the body as evidence.
Tests by the Scottish Government laboratories revealed that the adult Golden Eagle had been poisoned with Carbofuran, which has been illegal to possess or use in the UK since 2001.
A follow-up search of land and buildings on Auch Estate, led by the police, with the assistance of RSPB Scotland, SSPCA, Scottish Government and the National Wildlife Crime Unit, revealed a dead fox, confirmed as poisoned, and a sheep carcass laced with Carbofuran.
Sheriff Small asked that the case be continued for preparation of social enquiry reports. Defence agents will outline the mitigation for the offence when the case resumes on the 29th May.
At an earlier hearing in December 2010 at the High Court in Glasgow, McKellar also plead guilty to various firearms offences and was sentenced to 300 hours community service.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Lyster on the move

Everyone following the BTO Cuckoos was worried about Lyster; there had been no news from him since 1st April, when he was in Ivory Coast. At 12.55 on Friday afternoon, a partial signal was received showing his location as Algeria! There was an anxiously wait for a stronger signal. Sure enough this data came through an hour later, enabling confirmation that Lyster is still very much with us and has nearly completed his Sahara crossing.

The signal came from a location just 75 miles west of where Chris was recorded in the Great Erg desert on his way to Italy.

Chris and Martin have stayed put in Italy and Spain respectively. One of the reasons for this may be because of adverse weather. Southern Spain, where we last heard from Martin, has had thunderstorms, hail and strong northerly winds in the last few days — just one of the many hazards faced by migrating birds.

Monday, 2 April 2012

BTO Tawny Owls have chicks

Two of the three eggs in the Tawny Owl nestbox have hatched; the first on 29th March and the second on 31st March. You can watch all of the Tawny Owl videos on the BTO's YouTube channel.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Mystery bone

This bone was found last autumn in upstate New York in a marshy area 500 yards from the shores of Lake Ontario. We reckon we might know what it is... but we're prepared to be completely wrong — we'd love to hear what you think what it might have once belonged to!

All photos by Rod Gehan

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Spring jolly

The sun is shining; Blackbirds are singing; I even took the fleece lining out of my jacket this afternoon!

The day started with mothing — plenty in the traps after the mild weather, including this Dotted Border showing off its dotted border.

Then onwards to Barnes where this Caspian Gull was pottering about on the wader scrape and a female Bombus lapidarius pottering about the flowerbeds.


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Batumi Raptor Count intern position

The Batumi Raptor Count (BRC) seeks a motivated and passionate intern to work with BRC on developing conservation and monitoring programmes in the Republic of Georgia.  The intern will live near the Black Sea city of Batumi, capital of Ajara region, from April 16th to September/October 2012.  The intern will be required to act as the BRC’s representative “on the ground” and also assist with the organisation of monitoring, education and ecotourism work.  This is a unique opportunity to play a key part in a major conservation activity and is also an excellent chance for the intern to get experience of applied conservation work.  BRC aims to keep the costs to the volunteer low and will provide free accommodation, food, in-country transport and cover the costs of travel to and from Georgia.

As well as organising our activities volunteers will also get the chance to participate in the 2012 autumn migration count where >80,000 raptors can be seen in a day!

Lesser Spotted Eagle & Steppe Buzzards — photo: Stephen Menzie

Please visit the BRC website to download a PDF with more details, including how to apply, or contact Danny Heptinstall — or if you know someone who you think might be interested in the position, do pass along this information.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

2012 Annual Scottish Birdwatchers' Conference

This year's BTO/SOC Scottish Birdwatchers' Conference, held in partnership with Argyll Bird Club, takes place at The Corran Halls, Oban on Saturday 17th March 2012. The conference will showcase leading scientific research on some of Scotland's most iconic wildlife and internationally recognised habitats found on the Isles and mainland of the beautiful west coast.

A PDF of the full programme can be downloaded here. Attendance costs £29 and included conference fee, lunch, and teas & coffees. For further information/booking enquiries please contact Anne Cotton at BTO Scotland: or 01786 466560.  Ensure you book your place before 26th February 2012 to avoid disappointment.

A free BTO-led Wetland Bird Survey walk will take place on Sunday 18th March.  Further details can be found on the conference pdf.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Sneak peek at Bird Atlas 2007-11

The latest news from Bird Atlas 2007-11 is now online: you can download the pdf here.

The Atlas field work is now complete and the newsletter includes details of local atlas projects, preliminary results, breeding season coverage, and a look at species pages from the book.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Blizzard of birds hits frozen gardens

Huge numbers of birds have swept into gardens over the last few days, latest results from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch reveal.

Fieldfares and Redwings, both migrant thrushes to our shores, have led the charge. Compared with the preceding week – when thousands of people took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – over five times as many Fieldfares have recently been seen in gardens, and over twice as many Redwings.

The results, collected by participants in the year-round BTO Garden BirdWatch survey, show that numbers of other thrushes, such as Song Thrush (up 72%), Mistle Thrush (up 49%), have also increased hugely over the past week. Numbers of the familiar Blackbird are up by a third.

Gardens have been inundated across the UK, even where snow has not settled. In southwest England, for instance, where conditions are typically milder than elsewhere, numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare have rocketed. Here and in Wales, gardens are likely to be providing a refuge for many birds displaced from further north and east.

The exciting activity, featuring notable increases of Pied Wagtail, Woodpigeon, Brambling, Wren and Jay, shows just how much things can change in a week.

Tim Harrison, BTO Garden BirdWatch, commented: “Many householders will be really disappointed that this huge influx of birds has come a week too late for their RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch count. Thankfully, however, people can make their garden count all year round through BTO Garden BirdWatch.

Data collected by BTO volunteers show how sensitive our resident bird populations are to severe winter weather. Last winter’s cold snap saw numbers of Robins and Wrens drop by a third, Song Thrushes by a quarter and Dunnocks by a fifth, compared with the five-year average. Fortunately, many of these losses were offset by a bumper breeding season during 2011 but there are now lots of inexperienced birds out there feeling the cold.

Tim continued: “The survival of these birds is on a knife-edge but there is much that householders can do to help. Peanuts, finely grated cheese and beef suet can provide a calorific hit; windfall or fresh fruit will help sustain thrushes, and sunflower hearts are a particular favourite with finches. The other important way to help is by counting your visitors. You can do this whatever the weather through BTO Garden BirdWatch.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Britain's birds need runners

It is well known that some of our favourite birds are in trouble. Birds like the Swift, Cuckoo, House Sparrow and Starling. If you can run, you can help.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), based in Thetford, Norfolk, has reserved a number of places in this year’s Brighton marathon, to be held on 15th April, and it has a small number of them left. By taking part for the BTO, money raised will help conserve Britain’s birds. Last year, runners in the Brighton marathon, helped to fund much-needed research into birds like the Cuckoo, Nightingale and Swift, all of which have shown dramatic declines as breeding birds in this country.

Rachel Irvine, of the BTO, commented, “It is amazing what people will do for Britain’s birds; we have had people jump out of aeroplanes, shave their beard off and cycle coast to coast, all to raise vital funds for research and conservation. Over the last twenty-five years, we have lost over half of our breeding Cuckoos and, more recently, over half of our Nightingales and a quarter of our Swifts. Whilst we know some of the pressures that these birds face, we don’t have the whole picture; until we have this it is difficult to target conservation action to help reverse these declines. By running twenty-six miles you can help birds like these that travel up to ten thousand miles each year. Right now we are tracking Cuckoos in their winter quarters in Congo, Central Africa, using the very latest satellite tracking technology. These birds have already told us a lot we didn’t know but there is still a lot more to learn."

If you want to secure a place, or for more information, please visit or call Rachel Irvine on 01842 750050

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

BTO Bird Atlas Species Auction

Next week the BTO and BirdWatch Ireland will be running a joint auction of the last seven bird species for Bird Atlas — Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern Diver, Hen Harrier, Oystercatcher, Iceland Gull, Fieldfare and Hooded Crow. If you would like to take part please visit the auction webpage for the auction details. Don't miss out on this last chance to see your support of a species displayed in Bird Atlas 2007-11!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Peeping Peregrine

Some of us would complain about a nosey neighbour who peeked through the window and into our bedroom each day, but not Deirdre Baker — she receives a daily visit from a curious Peregrine Falcon that nests nearby.

Deirdre, who’s feathered friend has been perching on the windowsill of her apartment in Stroud, Gloucestershire, since early December, said: “It was a bit of a shock when I first spotted him, but after a while we got used to each other.  He flies over to my window each morning as soon as it’s light and doesn’t leave, apart from to search for food, until dusk.”

Until recently, Peregrines were widely regarded as birds of wild crags or lonely sea cliffs, but changing landscapes mean they have adapted to living in more unlikely places. To a Peregrine, a tall building offers the same benefits as a cliff face: high, away from danger, and surrounding areas offering a good source of food (usually, in cities, Feral Pigeons). Iconic locations they have chosen as their homes include London’s Tate Modern, Lincoln Cathedral, Birmingham’s Fort Dunlop, Manchester’s Exchange Square and Cardiff City Hall.

Peeping Peregrine — photo by Deirdre Baker