Bird News for United Kingdom 2006

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Bird News England (Archive)
Bird News England (Archive)
Breeding success for England's hen harriers.BTO population trends.News on roseate terns and puffins on the RSPB's reserve Coquet island (left).
Bird News for Scotland 2006
Bird News for Scotland 2006
News of Scotland's key breeding species including capercaillie, corncrake, chough and hen harrier.....

Reserve purchase brings RSPB tally to 200

19-12-2006
The RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) has announced the purchase of its 200th nature reserve.
Sutton Fen in the Norfolk Broads countryside is one of the finest examples of an unpolluted valley fen in Western Europe and one of the most important nature conservation sites in the UK, home to a stunning array of birds, insects and plants.
Great Bitterns Botaurus stellaris, Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus, Garganey Anas querquedula and Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti are among the birds which flourish in the area, alongside a nationally important population of insects, including Norfolk Hawker Anaciaeschna isosceles dragonflies and Swallowtail butterflies Papilio machaon.
Common Cranes Grus grus are known to have bred nearby and the RSPB hopes they can be encouraged to use the site in the future. The fen is also a haven for plants once found all across the Broads but now restricted to this one site.
Graham Wynne, RSPB chief executive, said: “We are delighted that Sutton Fen is our 200th reserve. The chance to give long term protection to a site as magnificent as this only comes along once in a generation.
'Sadly, such sites are becoming increasingly rare, so it is wonderful to have the opportunity to look after what is nothing less than a national treasure.'
The landmark purchase was made possible by the generosity of supporters, plus two charitable grants.
"Sadly, such sites are becoming increasingly rare, so it is wonderful to have the opportunity to look after what is nothing less than a national treasure" - Graham Wynne, RSPB Chief Executive
Further work being undertaken by the RSPB includes the creation of a huge new wetland along the Ribble estuary in Lancashire. Work will begin in March to re-flood 170 hectares of farmland at Hesketh Out Marsh, which was reclaimed from the sea 25 years ago.
The result will be a mix of saltmarsh, saline lagoons and muddy creeks, providing a wetland haven for thousands of wintering birds such as Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, Dunlins Calidris alpina, Pied Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta, Common Redshanks Tringa totanus and Eurasian Wigeons Anas penelope. Sea level rise means the UK’s saltmarsh is vanishing at the rate of 100 hectares a year. As well as helping to replace this lost habitat, the new marsh at Hesketh will also act as a natural flood defence.
The land has been bought thanks to funding from Environment Agency and the Northwest Regional Development Agency through the Lancashire Rural Recovery Action Plan.
Another project is being undertaken at the 380-hectare Saltholme site near the mouth of the River Tees in north east England.
The RSPB is working with the Teesside Environmental Trust to transform the former industrial site into a new kind of nature reserve which is expected to attract 100,000 visitors expected every year, and become one of the largest tourist attractions in the region, offering people the chance to get close to nature.
It is hoped new species of birds like Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Avocet will join more familiar wildlife such as kingfishers, swans, herons, butterflies and dragonflies.
An iconic ‘Wild Bird Discovery Centre’ will be at the heart of the site, providing a family-friendly experience of wildlife, and facilities for recreation, education and local community activities.

Helping stone-curlews at Manor Farm Salisbury Plain - Wiltshire

The RSPB are delighted to announce that thanks to supporters, they have successfully purchased Manor Farm, 731 acres of farmland in Wiltshire, as the RSPB's newest nature reserve!
The RSPB thanked all who have supported this project so far, and to the Heritage Lottery Fund for their grant of £933,000 and to the SITA Trust for their grant of £175,000 towards this project.
Large areas of wildlife-rich chalk grassland will be restored to encourage one of the UK's rarest birds, the stone-curlew, to breed. The project is ongoing and therefore society needs to raise an additional 1 million pounds over the next five years to develop Manor Farm for wildlife and future generations to enjoy.
With the aquisition of Manor Farm, which covers 296 hectares of land in the heart of Wiltshire, the RSPB will restore the area, which is now mainly arable farmland, back to chalk grassland. In 10-15 years, wildlife will thrive there once again.
The newly restored chalk grassland will create ideal long-term breeding sites for stone-curlews - as opposed to farmland, where they are especially vulnerable.
Manor Farm lies directly between the UK's two most wildlife-rich areas of chalk grassland, Salisbury Plain and Porton Down.
For the sake of the stone-curlew and all other wildlife which could return here, please help the RSPB to restore chalk grassland to Manor Farm.
Click here to find out how you can contribute towards this project

Young Red Kites have flown from a nest in Shropshire

At last, young Red Kites have flown from a nest in Shropshire , the first since a nest near Ludlow in 1876. The parents are almost certainly birds from Wales. It is particularly fitting that it is these native birds that have re-colonised Shropshire as the 1876 record was the last known breeding of kites before they became extinct in England as a result of sustained persecution. Full story here......

Young Red Kites have flown from a nest in Shropshire

At last, young Red Kites have flown from a nest in Shropshire , the first since a nest near Ludlow in 1876. The parents are almost certainly birds from Wales. It is particularly fitting that it is these native birds that have re-colonised Shropshire as the 1876 record was the last known breeding of kites before they became extinct in England as a result of sustained persecution. Full story here......

Climate change link to ouzel decline?

31-05-2006
Pioneering research work undertaken by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) has shown that a sharp decline in the numbers of one of the UK’s least understood birds could be linked to climate change.
Now conservation scientists from RSPB Scotland are to monitor the movements of the Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus using radio-tracking equipment, in the hope that the study will provide information to help them improve the status of the species. The species is in serious trouble in the UK with an estimated population decline of almost 60% between 1990 and 1999.

The climate change research work published in the Journal of Animal Ecology reveals that the drop in the ouzel’s population could be linked to recent increases in UK temperatures in July and August after most chicks have fledged.

One theory is that warmer weather has affected the species’ food supplies in late summer, perhaps drying the ground and reducing the availability of earthworms, or else affecting berry crops on moorlands. This shortage of staple food supplies may in turn affect the condition of adult and young birds as they prepare to return to their wintering grounds in Morocco.

"Changes in climate are perhaps affecting what is available for them to eat – most notably earthworms and other likely staples such as bilberries – leaving them in a poor condition to migrate in September." —Dr Colin Beale

Dr Colin Beale, who led the research, commented: "The drop in Ring Ouzel numbers is not caused by reduced nesting success by the birds – in fact this has increased as the population has declined. Instead, it seems that the problems begin after the breeding season when the chicks have fledged. Changes in climate are perhaps affecting what is available for them to eat – most notably earthworms and other likely staples such as bilberries – leaving them in a poor condition to migrate in September. These are the ideas that the new research is set to test."

Very little is known about what the birds do in the period after they finish breeding in the UK and before they migrate south for the winter. It is during this period that a number of Scottish birds – around 25 or so in the Highlands – will be fitted with radio tags and their movements tracked using radio receivers to monitor each bird’s individual behaviour.

"The Ring Ouzel is one of the UK’s least studied and most poorly understood birds, which is why our research into the problems it’s experiencing is so vital," said Dr Jeremy Wilson, Head of Research for RSPB Scotland. "We’re now hoping that this tagging project will help us find out more about what these birds feed on, what habitats they use and how far they disperse from their breeding areas before they migrate. The findings could be crucial in helping to manage upland areas better for ouzels – and protect them from the impacts of climate change in the future."

The RSPB also helped to establish the Ring Ouzel Study Group in 1998 - visit www.ringouzel.info

Bitterns.org.uk

Bitterns.org.uk

This website tells you all about a major project, which will give bitterns in the UK a much brighter future

In 1997, there were only 11 male bitterns calling in the UK. Thanks to concerted action by conservationists, numbers are recovering, with 55 booming males recorded in 2004 - up from 43 the year before. With the help of the EU LIFE Fund, eight organisations are working together to ensure that this upwards trend continues.

Click here for the Bitterns.org web site

Record breaking survey soars higher

This year's Big Garden Birdwatch, organised by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), enjoyed record participation. The results reveal more than 470,000 people, including 86,000 children, watched their gardens and local parks during the weekend of 28-29 January.

A staggering 8.1 million birds from 80 different species were counted in more than 270,000 gardens.

Despite Big Garden Birdwatch going from strength to strength, the same cannot be said for some of the UK's garden birds. Where the number of participants has continued to grow, the RSPB has recorded a sharp decline in the number of some birds seen in the UK's gardens since 1979.

Although the House Sparrow Passer domesticus retained its top spot this year as the most common garden bird, its numbers are still massively down from levels at the beginning of Big Garden Birdwatch. With an average of just 4.41 sparrows seen per garden this year, compared to an average of 10 in 1979, the species has seen a decline of 56%.

Having dropped off the top spot in 2004, the Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris continued to decline in 2006, with numbers per garden down to a quarter of those recorded in gardens in 1979.

"It's fantastic that there is so much interest in the wildlife around us with more people than ever enjoying the birds in their gardens. Even in the most built-up areas where you might not expect people to watch birds, Big Garden Birdwatch is extremely well supported. In Greater London, nearly 30,000 people spotted 400,000 birds this year." —Richard Bashford, Big Garden Birdwatch co-ordinator

However, it's not all bad news. The European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris and Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes have both seen their numbers increase over the past 27 years by 67% and 140% respectively, and many people noted larger numbers of Eurasian Blackbirds Turdus merula and Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos, probably due to colder winter weather this year. In fact, the Blackbird was also the most widespread species, recorded in 94% of all gardens.

In addition to the big increases seen in Big Garden Birdwatch, more than 1,300 schools involving 35,000 children and their teachers took part in Big Schools' Birdwatch. Children, with the blessing of their teacher, spent an hour gazing out of their classroom window to count the birds that share their school environment. The full results for the Schools' Birdwatch will be out in early April.

National Woodlark and Datford Warbler Surveys 2006

A national survey for both species is planned for 2006, which will involve a collaboration with the BTO, RSPB, Forestry Commission, English Nature and JNCC. Since the mid 1990s, the populations of Woodlark and Dartford Warbler, have increased in size and range. Both species have a vulnerable conservation status in the UK and their current national status is uncertain. The organization of the survey will be jointly undertaken by BTO and RSPB, with BTO taking the lead on the analysis of the Woodlark data and RSPB leading on the Dartford Warbler Survey data.
Woodlark

Previous population estimates registered a six-fold increase between 1986 and 1997, moving the species from a precarious 250 pairs to 1,550 pairs. Since then, further increases have occurred where suitable habitat has become available, especially within forest plantations and more recently on arable farmland. Interestingly, however, population declines are also suspected in some areas, that may not simply reflect changes in the availability of suitable breeding habitat. Instead factors outside the breeding season may be implicated.

Dartford Warbler

Their sedentary nature belies their ability to disperse into suitable habitats when conditions become favourable. A population of around 1,800 pairs was recorded in 1994. Since then a recent series of milder winters has encouraged a further range expansion into coastal areas of East Anglia, South Wales, Exmoor, Dartmoor and Cornwall, presumably from core sites in southern England? This species was probably at its peak in the 19th Century when it reached parts of Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and even Shropshire, as well as Kent (Holloway 1996). In this context, there is still plenty of ground to be reclaimed, although sadly, many areas of previously suitable habitat have been lost permanently. Nevertheless, while some of the recent range expansion is well accounted for, our picture of the more dispersed breeding population is sketchy and a more accurate assessment of their national status and distribution is timely.

Survey Methods

Both species will be surveyed using similar methods. The recording unit will be a 1-km square. Survey forms for each species, containing maps, will be prepared for all 1-km squares, which are known to have been occupied by breeding Dartford Warbler and Woodlark since the previous national surveys in 1994 and 1997, respectively. In addition, all SPA's, which have been designated for either species, will be fully covered as part of this survey. A number of contract fieldworkers will be used to assist volunteers in coverage of these extensive sites.

In order to determine expansion into new areas a number of sample 1-km squares have been selected. For Dartford Warbler these contain varying amounts of both suitable habitat, up to 10 km away from known breeding sites and for Woodlark a combination of suitable habitat and underlying soil types, have been selected up to 10 km from known breeding sites. As the populations of both species are expanding it is important to consider marginal habitats which may now be occupied as traditional habitats have become fully occupied.

For each species two visits will be required during the survey period (see below), to record and map individuals at breeding sites (see Survey Methods), particularly males. In addition, some basic habitat recording is required to assess habitat within the 1-km squares and in each breeding territory (see Survey Methods). Where both species occur, it is possible to combine the last Woodlark visit with the first Dartford Warbler survey visit, to make a total of three visits.

Records of other species encountered are also sought, particularly: Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Stonechat, Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler and Hobby.

Survey Periods:

Woodlark: 15th February to 31st May 2006 & Dartford Warbler: 1st April to 30th June 2006.
for further information, click here

UK persuades world governments to commit to protecting birds of prey

The UK has persuaded governments from across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East to sign up to measures to protect migratory birds of prey and owls in the Africa-Eurasion region.
The next step is a conference of governments to consider exactly what needs to be done to protect these species. Defra will contribute £100,000 towards the costs of the meeting which will take place either next year or early 2007.
Research carried out for Defra and published in September this year, found that more than half of the 60 species of migratory birds of prey found in Africa and Eurasia including vultures, eagles, harriers, kites, kestrels and falcons, are under threat. In this region, they face major threats such as shooting, poisoning, illegal trade or loss of habitat through intensive land use.
The following actions are needed to protect these species:
protection from shooting, unsustainable exploitation (for example excessive trade), deliberate or accidental poisoning
protection and management of important sites;avoiding destruction of or damage to habitats
raising awareness about the threats to these species and the actions needed to save them
monitoring of population numbers and trends
Biodiversity Minister Jim Knight said:
"Being at the top of their food chain, birds of prey are particularly vulnerable to poisoning and pollution, as the toxins in their prey accumulate throughout their lives. Migratory birds of prey are also threatened by climate change, if, for example, the climactic conditions at their usual destinations become inhospitable or their food supply disappears. This makes them sentinels for environmental change and we should respect and conserve them for this too.
Birds of prey are already protected in many countries but, for migratory species, international co-operation is the key to conservation. Today we won the support of all 93 countries that are contracting parties to the Convention on Migratory Species to work together to protect these spectacular birds throughout their ranges – the areas where they live and breed, those over which they fly, and in which they overwinter.
"Now we need to work together to put this Recommendation into practice. I am pleased to announce that Defra will contribute £100,000, which should cover most of the cost of the conference. We will discuss with the other governments involved when and where to hold the conference."
more information can be found on the DEFRA web site here.

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