UK Bird News June 2012

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Jubilations as first Chichester Cathedral peregrine chick takes flight

Jubilations as first Chichester Cathedral peregrine chick takes flight

Yesterday morning [Wednesday 6 June], the first of four peregrine chicks, recently hatched from the famous nest site on Chichester Cathedral, took flight.

At six weeks old, one of the male chicks was the first to brave leaving the nest. He spent most of his time perched on the side of the Cathedral, with occasional short flights across to other parts of the magnificent building.

These first tentative flights around the Cathedral have been enjoyed by visitors to the RSPB’s Date with Nature project which has watching the peregrine family since April.

The peregrine was identified from photos as ‘black 54’, the smaller of the two young males in the nest.

All four chicks were fitted with black, numbered rings three weeks ago by Graham Roberts of Sussex Ornithological Society.

Molly Dailide, project organiser, said: “Over the past few days, the young have been flapping their wings a lot, strengthening their muscles for the first flying lesson.

“There has been a real buzz about the project as visitors get excited every time a chick jumps up onto the top of the nest box or into a castellation on the turret, wondering if it’s going to fly for the first time or not.

“When we arrived yesterday morning, we realised one of the chicks had fledged, and was much further down from the nest, giving us really good views.

“It won’t be long before the others follow his lead, and then the fun really begins with great views of all the birds flying round chasing each other and trying to catch prey for themselves.”

The Date with Nature project has been based in the Cathedral’s café garden since it launched back in April but now have a viewing area on the front lawn. Visitors will be able to use telescopes and binoculars to get close-up views of the chicks as they learn to fly.

Molly added: “The project only has 4 weeks left to go so if people want to come and see these amazing birds in flight now is the time to do it. They’ll gradually venture further and further afield as they learn to hunt for themselves.”

Over the next few weeks, visitors to the Cathedral will be able to watch the young peregrine and his brother and two sisters as they take to the skies and chase each other around the Cathedral.

The RSPB will be based on the Cathedral Green every day until 8 July, helping visitors view the peregrine family using binoculars and telescopes. Entrance to the Cathedral and use of the equipment are free.

This is the 12th year the peregrine pair has bred on top of the Cathedral, in a nestbox provided by the Sussex Ornithological Society.

The Date with Nature project runs until 8 July and live footage from the nest camera is now being broadcast at:here

School children get interactive with sea eagles

Children from Portree primary school on the Isle of Skye have been among the first visitors to try out new technology at the RSPB sea eagle exhibition at the Aros Centre in Portree. The new touch-screen kiosks allow visitors to learn more about the lives of sea eagles through quizzes, games and video-clips.

Chris Tyler, RSPB information officer at the exhibition, said: “We are always keen to try new ways of communicating with visitors to Skye about these magnificent birds. As well as the screens we have developed some new leaflets on the best places to see eagles in Skye and Wester Ross and some special guides which help birdwatchers to tell apart golden eagles, sea eagles and buzzards. These are proving very popular!”

Also on hand for the visit to the Aros Centre were RSPB field teacher Sarah Stephenson, who has been assisting the children with their sea eagle project, and RSPB conservation officer Dr Alison MacLennan.

Dr MacLennan said: “These developments form part of the SEEVIEWS project which seeks to increase understanding of sea eagles among local people and visitors alike. The project would not have been possible without the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Highland Leader for which I am very grateful. Later in the year we plan to premiere a new film about the sea eagles of Skye at the auditorium in the Aros Centre. Hopefully this will add further to the experience visitors gain who come to the sea eagle exhibition.”

Donald MacDonald, managing director of the Aros Centre, said “ We are delighted to see these developments at the sea eagle exhibition. We have had a long and fruitful association with the RSPB and are very pleased to see the visitor experience being enhanced by this continued investment in the exhibition.”

Where eagles dared

Innovative new research has revealed the impact of human persecution and habitat destruction on Britain and Ireland’s native eagle species over a period of 1500 years.

The study, published in the journal Bird Study, indicates that both white-tailed and golden eagles were once found across large tracts of lowland and upland Britain and Ireland but populations plummeted as a result of human activity.

Using a combination of placename analysis, historic records and modern knowledge of the species’ ecology, researchers were able to estimate the former range and population of both eagles between 500 AD and the present day.

The resulting maps paint a sad picture of decline as golden eagle numbers dropped by two-thirds from 1000-1500 pairs in 500AD to 300-500 in 1800, while 80-90% of white-tailed eagles were lost over the same period.

Continued killing by humans eventually led to the extinction of the white-tailed eagle in the early years of the 20th century, while golden eagles still struggle in some parts of their range as a result of illegal killing.
Striking results

Richard Evans, of RSPB Scotland and lead author of the study, said: “The results of this study are striking as they provide compelling evidence that eagles were widespread throughout most of Britain and Ireland in the Dark Ages. Between 500 and 1800 we see massive loss of eagle range in the south, which is consistent with the effects of habitat loss and killing by humans, rather than the influence of climate change on habitat, or competitive exclusion, as some have suggested.

“This trend continued in the years up to the First World War, until the only eagles left in all of Britain and Ireland were golden eagles in the highest hills and deer forests of Scotland.

“Recovery of golden eagles since this low point has now stalled, while limited recovery of white-tailed eagles has only been possible by reintroduction. Although the reintroduced white-tailed eagle (also known as sea eagle) population is healthy, at present they occupy only a fraction of their former range.”

RSPB Scotland Head of Species and Land Management, Duncan Orr-Ewing, said: “Reintroduction and other conservation efforts supported by many land managers are now attempting to restore our native eagle species across their former range. The results of this study will help to inform current and future eagle recovery programmes in the UK by improving our understanding of where these species should naturally occur in our landscapes.”
Important part

Commenting on the study, Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said: “This informative study tells us much about the former distribution of eagles across Scotland. Birds of prey are an important part of Scotland’s biodiversity and our eagles are hugely popular with locals and visitors alike.

“The recent marked increase in sea eagles demonstrates how conservation and management efforts are beginning to make a real difference for these beautiful and iconic birds. The Scottish Government is also committed to working with our partners to tackle eagle persecution, with 2011 figures showing a welcome reduction in poisoning incidents for birds of prey.”

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2012 |  UK Bird News June 2012

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