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 www.wwt.org.uk/Welney . 

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 http://blog.visitwales.co.uk/