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

Friday, 20 January 2012

Birds in Cheshire and Wirral

Birds of Cheshire and Wirral – A breeding and wintering atlas — judged 4th place in the prestigious British Birds/BTO Best Book of the Year 2009 and the perfect model for future county avifauna and atlas publications — has taken another revolutionary step; its entire content has now been published online.  The publication can be accessed at:

The website contains the same graphics and highly informative information that was originally published in the book, accessible at the click of a mouse — and it's free to access everything.  CAWOS and the author are to be congratulated on this forward thinking move that well and truly brings bird atlases into the 21st Century.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Brush up on your thrushes

Both Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush are currently brightening up the grey January mornings with the far-carrying songs; but how to tell them apart when they're not singing?  The BTO have put together an excellent guide to identifying Song & Mistle Thrushes.

If you have Song Thrushes or Mistle Thrushes visiting your garden — or any other birds, for that matter — and would like to contribute your garden bird sightings to help the BTO monitor changing trends in garden wildlife, why not sign up for BTO's Garden BirdWatch?  Details of Garden BirdWatch can be found online: or email

BTO have also put together a thrush masterclass video:

If you enjoyed the video, you might like to take a look at British Birds Video Guide from where much of the footage originated.

Friday, 13 January 2012

New study reveals Slavonian Grebes’ breeding must-haves

Stopping the introduction of Pike into Scottish lochs could help ensure the future of one of Scotland’s rarest birds, according to research by RSPB Scotland. The study, led by RSPB and part funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), looked at what factors influence breeding Slavonian Grebes to choose certain lochs to raise young. It found that the moderately sized lochs with an abundance of small fish (sticklebacks and minnows) to feed on, clear water to hunt fish and plenty of nesting habitat were most suitable for the species. It also revealed that lochs containing Pike had fewer small fish, which are a valuable food source for grebes.

The Slavonian Grebe only began breeding in the UK in 1908; its population today remains restricted to northern Scotland where latest counts have shown only 29 breeding pairs remain. Conservationists hope a better understanding of species, particularly during the breeding season, could help determine what measures are needed to reverse the population decline. Ron Summers, RSPB Scotland’s Principal Conservation Scientist said “The Slavonian grebe is still a relative newcomer to the UK and as such we have much to learn about its behaviour and factors affecting its population size. This research helps us understand what kind of conditions are suitable for grebes when raising young. In this way, we can help ensure suitable habitat is maintained and that the species isn’t competing against others, such as Pike, for food. By considering these measures we stand a better chance of improving breeding success in the future.”

Tim Dawson, SNH South Highlands area officer, added: “We'd all like to make sure these striking birds not only remain in the Highlands, but also increase their small numbers. This study is an important first step, giving us information on how to help protect these vulnerable birds.”

Monday, 9 January 2012

African Bird Club awards reach £100,000

The African Bird Club Conservation Fund has reached a new milestone having awarded a total of £100,000 to bird study projects since it was launched in 1996.

In that time, ABC has assisted over 120 applicants in over 30 African countries. These have ranged from bird and habitat surveys, to educational and promotional materials for use with community projects. Assistance has also been given to expeditions poorly-known areas in Africa. Usually the grants are around £750-£1500 and are often awarded to applicants whose criteria do not match those of larger funds who work with larger projects. Applicants should normally be resident in Africa, but consideration will be given where the applicant is not in Africa, but involving colleagues who are.

The Club is particularly grateful to a number of individual members who have offered to finance specific projects that it has selected for support. This is a hugely valuable source of assistance and allows the Club to help a larger number of groups than would otherwise have been possible.

Full details of the ABC Conservation Fund can be found here:

Applications should be made by 28 February, 30 June or 31 October with a lead time of at least six months.

If you would like to help the Conservation Fund or apply for project support please get in touch. Email:

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Community service for former gamekeeper who poisoned four buzzards

From RSPB Scotland:
A 45 year old man, has been ordered to carry out 100 hours of community service after admitting to poisoning four Buzzards. David Alexander Whitefield was today sentenced for killing the protected birds of prey whilst working as a gamekeeper at the Culter Allers Estate in South Lanarkshire in 2009. On passing sentence, Sheriff Nicola Stewart said the punishment was a direct alternative to a custodial sentence and that poisoning is a serious offence.  
During an earlier hearing, Whitefield claimed he was under pressure from his superiors to reduce the Buzzard population “as he saw fit”, although he had not been specifically told to kill them or engage in illegal activity. RSPB Scotland was first alerted to the estate in April 2009, when a member of the public reported finding two sick birds and a dead Carrion Crow on a track near Coulter. Tests by Scottish Government laboratories revealed the crow had been poisoned with a banned substance known as Alphachloralose. Six months later, following similar reports, RSPB staff, accompanied by the Scottish SPCA, recovered a freshly-dead Buzzard lying on the remains of a rabbit; both tested positive for Alphachlorose. Finally, on 11th November 2009, the Scottish SPCA led a multi-agency search of the estate, involving police, the National Wildlife Crime Unit, the Scottish Government and RSPB Scotland. During the operation, they discovered a large quantity of high concentration Alphachloralose poison in buildings used by Whitefield. Deadly fumigants, including the banned chemical Sodium Cyanide, were also found in unlocked outbuildings.  
A search of a nearby small wood led to the recovery of a further two decomposing Buzzards and a third freshly-dead bird hanging in a tree. All three were later confirmed to have been poisoned.  
Speaking following today’s sentencing, Bob Elliott, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland, said: “We are pleased that Mr Whitefield’s actions have been viewed as a serious crime by the courts. We would like to commend Scottish SPCA for their hard work in ensuring this case resulted in a conviction.  Today’s sentence is a reminder that the illegal practise of poisoning protected birds of prey will not be tolerated. With the introduction of vicarious liability at the start of this year, it is imperative that landowners are now clear with gamekeepers that this intolerable activity has no place in today’s society, or they too could also find themselves facing serious criminal charges before the courts.”  
The conviction is Whitefield’s second for wildlife offences. On 1st October 2008 at Lanark Sheriff Court, Whitefield pleaded guilty to trapping a Buzzard for at least 48 hours, and failing to meet its needs whilst it was in the trap. This was the first conviction involving a wild bird under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2008. For that offence, he was fined £300.

One man and his metal detector

Finding a British ring and a Dutch ring in the pellets below an old Peregrine's nest almost 15 years ago sparked a passion for Mark Lawrence.  Searching below nest sites with a metal detector, Mark has managed to collect an impressive number of bird rings — adding valuable data to the ringing scheme in the process. Amongst the many rings he's found, there have been a significant number from foreign ringing schemes:

Starlings from Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania (5), Russia, Estonia, the Netherlands and Sweden; Redwings from Belgium (4), France, Sweden and the Netherlands (2); A Dutch Song Thrush; Blackbirds from Germany, and the Netherlands (2); Fieldfares from Norway and Finland; a Black-headed Gull from Lithuania; Common Terns from the Netherlands and West Africa; a Chaffinch from the Netherlands; a Sandwich Tern from Sweden; and Chaffinch, Woodcock and Sand Martin from France.

The full story of Mark's metal-detecting can be read on the BTO website: