Bird News for UK March 2014

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The famous Manchester Peregrines are back for an eighth season

The famous Manchester Peregrines are back for an eighth season

Usually at this time, these impressive birds of prey are preparing to raise chicks, but their first egg was only laid this week – which is much later than normal. However, there is a chance other eggs may appear very soon, so members of the public are being urged to watch the peregrines – either in person or online – and report any developments.

Peregrine fans around the world can watch the birds’ activity on the live webcam, made possible for the fourth year running thanks to the technical experts at Manchester Digital Development Agency (part of Manchester City Council), and from April 18, all ages can join the RSPB in Manchester city centre to get closer to these incredible creatures.

Jo Keene, RSPB Senior People Engagement Officer in Northern England, said: “There are a number of reasons why the peregrines are late laying eggs. It could be the age of the birds or the fact one of last year’s juveniles is still in the area, which can upset the balance.

“Whatever the reason, we are delighted one egg has been seen at last. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a couple more eggs, as there is still time, so we are really urging people to help us keep an eye on the peregrines and let us know if they spot anything – there has never been a more important time to watch them.

“Also, in a bid to enable as many people as possible to get the chance to see the peregrines, we will be in various locations around the city centre from April 18 to July 20, armed with powerful telescopes.

“Whether you are on your way to work or browsing the shops, it is a great opportunity to see the fastest birds on the planet, so keep an eye out for the RSPB green marquee and come and join us. The peregrines are so fascinating to watch that once people have seen them, they usually follow their adventures online for the rest of the season.”

The latest peregrine news will be streamed worldwide 24 hours a day through the RSPB’s website www.rspb.org.uk/datewithnature, while regular news updates are available via Twitter (@mcrperegrines) and the RSPB North West Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RSPBNorthWest). People can also report any peregrine activity on the Twitter page or the RSPB North West Facebook page.

Since the Peregrines started breeding in Manchester City Centre, they have successfully raised a total of 29 chicks. The project forms part of the RSPB’s Date with Nature programme of events, which make rare and spectacular wildlife accessible for everyone to see.

Catch the peregrines in action now by visiting www.rspb.org.uk/datewithnature and clicking on the Manchester Peregrines page in the 'Find a date' section.

10 out of 10 for 'Greg the egg'

A Coventry man has firmly cemented his place as the UK's most convicted egg collector with his tenth and latest prosecution, three more than any other collector.

On 3 March 2014, Gregory Peter Wheal (50yrs) of Vinecote Road, Coventry appeared for trial at Coventry Magistrates Court. This followed an incident in September 2013 when a West Midlands Police Officer attended his home on an unrelated matter and found four birds' eggs on display in his lounge.

These were seized and later identified by RSPB as two guillemot, one razorbill and a mute swan. Wheal told the court his interest in birds' eggs was locally well known, and he was called by nickname 'Greg the egg'. A couple of years earlier he had been approached by two people asking if he was interested in having a few eggs they had apparently held for a number of years. Wheal stated he believed these were old eggs taken before the start of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and therefore legal to keep.

The court were not satisfied with the details provided and fined him £200 with £300 costs. Mr Wheal's previous nine convictions stretched between 1987 and 2007 including courts around the UK at Lerwick, Oban, Holyhead and Norfolk. His previous two convictions resulted in custodial sentences.

RSPB Senior Investigations Officer Guy Shorrock stated, "Having examined numerous eggs involved with Wheal's previous court cases, we felt it unlikely these were eggs taken by Wheal himself and this was properly reflected by the court result. However, with his level of experience in this area he should have known to take more care and not take possession of birds' eggs without having reliable information relating to their history".
Notes

For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Guy Shorrock Senior Investigations Officer UK Headquarters The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL Tel 01767 693197, Mobile 07885 255830.

Fresh hope to stem serious decline of threatened bird

Fresh hope to stem serious decline of threatened bird

RSPB Scotland scientists have uncovered new evidence that could help to halt the dramatic decline of a rare upland bird.

Scotland’s population of ring ouzels – popularly known as mountain blackbirds - has dropped by 36% since 1999 and these striking birds are vanishing from many of their former haunts in the rocky hillsides and gullies of the highest parts of the country.

As the elusive birds begin to return to breed in the uplands from wintering in the mountains of North Africa, a long-running project in the Cairngorms has shone new light on the mystery of their disappearance and offered fresh hope for giving them a home.

Intensive research at Glen Clunie in Aberdeenshire has suggested that the decline there is likely to have been caused by a drop in the survival of young birds in their first year.

It is thought that the low survival rate could be influenced by a lack of suitable habitat. Ring ouzels are known to forage for invertebrates in short grass and a mix of grass and heather early in the summer, before switching their diet to blaeberry and rowan berries later on. They also need access to deeper vegetation, such as heather, to hide their nests and newly-fledged young.

Scientists now hope that creating suitable habitats at breeding grounds could help to attract the birds with safe nest sites and abundant foraging areas, as well as concealing young birds from predators.

RSPB Scotland scientist Innes Sim has been studying the ring ouzel since 1998.

He said: "The widespread disappearance of this stunning mountain bird is deeply worrying.

“Through our long-term studies in Glen Clunie we have identified that improving first-year survival may be the key to stabilising, and eventually reversing, the population decline.

“Over the next three years we will be attempting to improve conditions for ring ouzels, by providing the mix of habitats that we have identified as being important for successful breeding and the survival of recently-fledged young."

Scotland is home to two-thirds of the UK population of ring ouzels, which are distinguished by their black plumage and striking white breast band.

The population has probably been dropping for more than a century, and the most recent nation-wide survey shows this decline has continued at an alarming rate.

It found an estimated 3,520 breeding pairs in Scotland in 2012, compared to 5,503 in 1999, when the first national survey of the birds was carried out.

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