April 2009

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2009 |  April 2009

Squawking squatters

Squawking squatters

Post boxes, rubbish bins, clothes-peg bags and even the pockets of jeans drying on a washing line have been found with nests in them, proving that garden birds will set up home almost anywhere.
We are asking gardeners to beware of nesting birds anywhere and everywhere this spring, with reports of nest sites in some very unusual places.
Most gardeners will be cautious of nesting birds in trees, shrubs, hedges and nest boxes and take care when titivating around these sites during the nesting period.
Picture ; Robin nesting in tool tidy Mike Harefield

Any nook or cranny

head with access via the ornament's mouth. And wrens in particular favour hanging baskets.
Blackbirds have also be found nesting on car wheels, blue tits have constructed nests in communal ashtrays, and mistle thrushes have set up home on a set of traffic lights.
Richard James, RSPB wildlife adviser says: 'Birds are usually very grateful for the nest sites we provide such as nest boxes and nesting pockets but there are many that find slightly more unusual places.
'We have heard it all – pigeons behind satellite dishes, robins in tool boxes and some birds even get into people’s bedrooms! One pair of pigeons got through an open window and nested on a bed and one swallow pair sited their nest on an electric plug socket in a bedroom.'

Don't disturb
If you do accidentally disturb a nest then it is important to leave the vicinity of it as soon as possible so the parents can get back to it quickly. The longer the parents are away from the nest, the more vulnerable the young are. Avoid that area while the birds are nesting. If a nest has been exposed, it should be re-covered so it appears undisturbed to the birds and is protected from the elements and predators.
It is a criminal offence to intentionally damage a nest and anyone doing so could be fined or even jailed under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Richard James says: 'To have birds nesting in your garden is a real honour as they painstakingly chose their sites and not everyone is lucky enough to enjoy the sight of baby birds at this time of year.
'Most people would be horrified if they disturbed a nest so we're urging everyone to be mindful at this time of year.
'Bear in mind that any nook or cranny could be a nest site – they may not be obvious but you'd be surprised what creative homebuilders garden birds can be!'

They're noisy, smelly and glorious

They're noisy, smelly and glorious

They're back – thousands and thousands of seabirds have again returned to Bempton Cliffs and to celebrate their return, a special welcome weekend is being planned.
Daphne Pleace, from the nature reserve near Bridlington, says: 'At this time of year, the cliffs are a stunning spectacle. Noisy kittiwakes, soaring gannets and smelly guillemots and razorbills – now's the time to experience the sights, sounds and smells of one of England's most important seabird colonies.
'Already lots of people have seen our puffins as they fly on and off the cliffs and pop in and out of the cracks and crevices where they make their nests.'
As well as having that feel-good-in-nature experience, visitors to the reserve on Seabird Welcome Weekend (25 and 26 April), can chat with staff and volunteers, have a guided walk, do the treasure hunt, and enjoy a coffee.
'As amazing as our seabirds are, that's not the only wildlife visitors will be able to enjoy,' Daphne adds. 'We've tree sparrows nesting and squabbling right outside the door to the Visitor Centre, dozens of toads frolicking in our pond, and they might even be lucky enough to see boxing hares or roe deer in the nearby fields. No wonder people call it one of the UK's major wildlife events.'
Picture Andy Hay RSPB IMAGES

Egg-citing times at Loch Garten osprey centre

The birds at RSPB Scotland's Loch Garten osprey centre have laid their second egg, with a third expected tomorrow morning (Wednesday). By visiting the live nest-cam at www.rspb.org.uk/lochgartenlive, people will have an excellent chance of seeing regular female EJ and new male Odin with their new clutch.
Richard Thaxton, RSPB Scotland Osprey Centre Manager said:
"So far, Odin has looked like a terrific catch for EJ. Since he arrived he has been supplying female EJ with plenty of fish to replenish her resources after migrating back from Africa, and last Thursday lunchtime she laid her first egg. A full clutch of eggs is laid over the course of a several days so it was Sunday morning before we saw the second. Three is the usual clutch-size for ospreys and we expect the last egg to arrive on Wednesday morning. People can visit the live nestcam before work in the morning and maybe catch a glimpse of this happening live!"
Mystery surrounded Odin when he arrived due to his lack of an identifying leg-ring, but staff and visitors at Loch Garten can have no complaints over his commitment to the nest.
"Because he is un-ringed we don't know know his history or his age" said Richard Thaxton, "but judging by his confident swagger and clear competencies, it looks like he's been at this love lark for a season or two previously. We’ve had first year rookie males in the past and you can just tell that it's all new to them. But Odin looks very self-assured, is doing all the right things and EJ seems happy with him."
Once the final egg is laid, the eggs are expected to hatch in around 6 weeks.

Watch out for the 'skydancers' this spring

Watch out for the 'skydancers' this spring

The clocks have gone forward. It is lighter in the evening. We all hope that spring is in the air. But, spring is not the only thing that may be in the air!
The RSPB is asking walkers, postmen, farmers, milkmen, birdwatchers, in fact anyone who's out and about in the uplands of northern England to report any sightings of one of England's rarest birds of prey, the hen harrier.
The 2009 appeal for sightings of hen harriers has been launched in a bid to find out where these birds are trying to nest in northern England. Hen harriers are one of the least familiar but most spectacular of the UK's birds of prey. The male bird performs a magnificent aerobatic display or ‘sky dance' in spring and provides food to his mate in spectacular food passes.
Peter Robertson, the RSPB's Conservation Manager in Northern England, said: 'It's great to enjoy watching and listening to birds such as curlews and skylarks while you're outdoors, but we are again asking outdoor enthusiasts to look out for hen harriers.

'Hen harriers have already been seen in Northumberland and at the RSPB's Geltsdale reserve on the Northumberland/Cumbria border, but sightings from members of the public are vital to help us find new birds and new nesting areas. In 2008, reports of hen harriers received via the hotline contributed information that helped us monitor and protect these rare birds.'
It is estimated that the heather moors of England should have around 200 pairs of nesting hen harriers, but in 2008 there were only ten successful nests in England. The majority of these were in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire. The most successful nest outside Bowland was in Northumberland, where five chicks fledged. However, birds could appear and attempt to breed on any of the north's moorlands.
Peter added: 'Sadly, hen harriers are all too often the victims of illegal killing or their nests are illegally destroyed. If we receive information about the location of birds, we can monitor their progress and help to protect nests. People can also report suspected incidents of killing or disturbance, which we will investigate.'
Harriers are smaller than a buzzard and larger than a crow. They have long wings and long tails. They are often seen hunting low over the ground. Male and female harriers have strikingly different plumage. Male has silver-grey upperparts, white underparts and black wing-tips. The female is larger and is dark brown with buff markings on wings and a long grey-brown tail with a white band at the base.
Picture Male Hen Harrier Andy May RSPB IMAGES
Reports of hen harriers can be made to the Harrier Hotline on 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate). Details can also be e-mailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk. Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a grid reference where possible.

Peregrines are back in Cardiff city centre!

For the second year in a row one of the fastest and meanest additions to Cardiff’s skyline will be WOWing visitors in the Welsh capital.

A pair of peregrine falcons have been winning the admiration of commuters, shoppers and town workers in Cardiff, inspiring even the most ardent city folk about wildlife on one of the city’s iconic buildings.

The peregrines have nested on the clock tower of Cardiff City Hall and are now the centre of attention for a viewing project opening this weekend (Saturday 4 April) led by RSPB Cymru, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales and Cardiff Council.

One of the fastest creatures on the planet, the peregrine falcon is seen in towns and cities across the UK. Nesting sites include the Tate Modern in London, cathedrals in Lincoln and Chichester and Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre.

They have traditionally been associated with wild crags or lonely sea cliffs but changing landscapes mean they have adapted to living in more unlikely places. All they ask for is a place to breed and a food supply they can catch.

To a peregrine, a tall building like an office block or clock tower offers the same benefits as a cliff face - it is high, safe from danger and the surrounding areas offer ample prey. Surrounding parks, and urban pigeons in particular, offer a ready supply of food.

These amazing record-breaking birds reach speeds of more than 100 miles an hour as they hunt (note 2) and are incredible to watch, with their menacing black hoods and bright yellow talons.

Sarah lewis of RSPB Cymru is leading the project, said: “The peregrines have retuned again this year to their high rise lodgings on Cardiff City Hall, it’s an amazing spectacle to see right in the middle of the city.”

“The spot they’ve chosen shows that anywhere can be a haven for wildlife - you don’t have to travel miles into the countryside to have a memorable experience, and anyone visiting or shopping in Cardiff is able to come and have a look and see the birds”.

The ‘Date with Nature’ project will encourage people in Cardiff to see the fantastic birds for themselves through telescopes and binoculars set up most days outside City Hall until the end of August.

A nest-camera will beam live footage to a screen inside National Museum Cardiff so that visitors can get close-up views of the pair. Visitors will even be able to keep up with all the action from the comfort of home by viewing the footage online at

On Saturday 4 April there will be several activities taking place within National Museum Cardiff to launch the season. Talks have been organised throughout the day looking at the characteristics and adaptations of birds of prey and the RSPB's work to save them. Life size models of peregrine, eagle and red-kite’s will be showcased for this.

Puppet-making workshops will be held, giving children of all ages the opportunity to get their hands dirty and then take the puppet home with them. Families will also be able to take part in a Wildlife Quiz in the Museum’s main hall, and will be asked to go and find things in the Gorsedd Gardens before returning to the Museum to receive a small prize.

Sarah continued: “Peregrines have had a troubled history, suffering from intense persecution in the past, and indirectly falling victim to pesticides used in farming during the 1950s. However, thanks to better legal protection and control of pesticides in the UK, the peregrine population is now increasing and their appearance in city centres like Cardiff proves the resilience and adaptability of these stunning birds.”

Executive member for Sports, Leisure and Culture, Cllr Nigel Howells, said: “We are really excited that these fascinating birds have come back to Cardiff and settled in City Hall. It should be a spectacular view over the weekend and I hope everyone enjoys these birds while they are in our city.”
As part of the nationwide ‘Date With Nature’ scheme, the RSPB will be showing people incredible wildlife spectacles in a range of places across Wales. As well as peregrines in Cardiff, people will be able to get close views of nesting Ospreys near Porthmadog, Choughs at Llechwedd Slate Caverns, take a wildlife cruise from Beaumaris or visit a Black Grouse lek in Denbighshire.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2009 |  April 2009

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