Monday, 28 October 2013

Good news for Amur Falcons so far

After the atrocities involving the trapping of an estimated 100,000 Amur Falcons in Nagaland, north-east India last autumn (see video here) were revealed, quick conservation measures were put in place to avoid a repeat in 2013.

So far in 2013, more than 300,000 Amur Falcons have arrived in Nagaland on migration. However, thanks to a campaign organised by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), squads of ex-hunters and youths from three villages in the area have been patrolling the falcon roosting areas day and night to ensure they are safe. The squads report that not a single falcon has been killed, thus honouring the pledges made by local Naga villages to help save the species.

Large flocks of Amur Falcons, such as this photographed in South Africa in February 2012, will hopefully be a commoner sight in years to come thanks to efforts in Nagaland. 
Image © Gary Waddington
WTI and Natural Nagas started the project to prevent the slaughter of Amur Falcons earlier this year, with support from CAF-India in collaboration with Nagaland Forest Department. The Village Council Members of three villages pledged that their respective villages would not hunt or kill falcons and made it a punishable offence. This was preceded and followed by a number of awareness campaigns and meetings with the villagers.

The original article, on the WTI website, can be found here.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Sardinian Survivor?

Tuesday I needed a change of scenery after two weeks of Yellow-browed Warblers and little else on my usual patch. I took the opportunity to head up to one of my favourite birding sites - Mire Loch at St.Abbs Head NNR (Borders) - to catch up with the male Sardinian Warbler that reappeared on 25th September after first being present in June.

Sardinian Warbler, Mire Loch 27.09.2013 Bruce Kerr

Active and showing well as it fed in the low canopy just above the main path, I watched it for a while before moving off through the scrub to search for migrants. A couple of Yellow-browed Warblers, a Mealy Redpoll and rear end views of an elusive Red-breasted Flycatcher later it was time to go.

On the drive back south I began to wonder about its prospects if it stayed and what was the latest date for previous Sardinian Warblers, so resolved to dig out some details when the opportunity arose. 

The BirdGuides ORB Archive was a good place to start. Delving into the records revealed that by the end of the 20th century none had made it past 11th November; an adult male in Shetland in 1992 holding the prize for staying power.

Perhaps the best indication of whether a Sardinian Warbler could make it through a British winter came in 2002/03 when a male first found in Norfolk at Old Hunstanton between 27th September and 15th October 2002 was thought to be the same individual that reappeared over 16th-24th Marsh 2003.

Again in 2003, a male and female in Skegness, Lincolnshire made it through to 4th January and 11th January respectively. Was it a coincidence that all three of the longest-staying individuals recorded in Britain happened in the same year? What seems apparent is that winter 2002/03 was fairly tame, perhaps on the dry side with little by way of prolonged snowfall or rain after the Autumn, at least on the east coast (see here for one summary). The second half of winter, the first three months of 2003 provided the sunniest start to a year since 1893 (source).

Hardly a revelation that mild winters help might increase the chances of one of these Mediterranean warblers getting through a whole winter. So the prospects for the St. Abbs Sardinian, in its location sheltered from the worst of the gales to the east, are probably not brilliant, but given a mild winter it might at least make it into 2014.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Topical Record Shot

In the thick of Autumn we've been a little busy to get any further record shots, or even any blog posts, up since mid-September. However the Sora currently lingering on Tresco jogged the memory of our webmaster Dave Dunford to search through his prized collection of record shots for this stunning example of the genre taken in 2005 on Lower Moors of the last Scilly Sora.