As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Egg rescue helps boost population of rare bird

5th June

Press Association 2018

Conservationists who rescued eggs from muddy farmland have helped boost the population of a rare wading bird which is likely to be threatened with extinction in the near future.

There are around 60 pairs of black-tailed godwits in the UK, where they are red-listed by the RSPB and possess Near Threatened status globally.

Flooding forced godwits in East Anglia’s Nene and Ouse Washes, where about 46 of the UK’s 60 pairs can be found, away from the safety of their natural wetland nesting habitat and on to farmland.

Some of the eggs, on land hit by heavy spring downpours, were in “such bad condition that they resembled muddy potatoes”, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) said.

Conservationists, working with farmers, rescued 32 eggs from the farmland.

The WWT said 42 chicks have hatched so far this year as part of the wider Project Godwit.

Rare Harry Potter owl spotted in North Wales for only the fourth time in history

Bird Notes columnist Julian Hughes of RSPB Conwy reveals how the Snowy Owl got twitchers in a flap, and outlines 11 birding events in the coming days

Andrew Forgrave Rural Affairs Editor
11:02, 19 JUN 2018
UPDATED11:39, 19 JUN 2018

Early June can be an excellent time for rare birds, Anglesey’s most memorable being a Black Lark at RSPB South Stack in 2003 that brought thousands of birders from across the UK to see a bird hardly ever witnessed in western Europe.

Last week’s twitch to Amlwch was not on the same scale, but the sight of a Snowy Owl on the Anglesey coastal path will live long in the memory of those fortunate to see it.

Reported by walkers over several days, it proved a one-Friday wonder for birders with no sign since.

This same female was in Pembrokeshire in late May; readers may recall that one was also reported from Holy Island in late March .

Snowy Owls found in Britain usually originate from Arctic Canada, some undoubtedly hitching a ride on trans-Atlantic freighters.

More than a dozen appeared in Britain last winter but this is only the fourth ever seen in North Wales, and the last on Anglesey was in 1972, so it drew a keen crowd from as far away as the English Midlands.

Original habitat is best, but restoration still makes a big difference

Date:  June 13, 2018
Source:  American Ornithological Society Publications Office

A new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications presents some of the best evidence to date that restoration efforts in Missouri's Ozark Highlands make a difference for nesting songbirds that breed there. Recent studies support that these efforts are making a positive impact on the ecosystem and increasing the survival of bird species that breed there.

A new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications presents some of the best evidence to date that restoration efforts in Missouri's Ozark Highlands make a difference for nesting songbirds that breed there. The reduction of Missouri pine savannah and woodland areas has caused birds that rely on these habitats to decline. Current efforts to bring these habitats back are under way and include prescribed fire and thinning tree stands. Recent studies support that these efforts are making a positive impact on the ecosystem and increasing the survival of bird species that breed there.

Botswana raptor declines shock researchers


A two-year project, repeating a famous bird survey by driving more than 12,500 miles across Botswana, has confirmed researchers' worst fears: many birds of prey are fast disappearing from one of Africa's last great wilderness areas

Reported sightings of several iconic species of eagle and vulture declined by as much as 80 per cent when compared with the previous survey, while some migrant species recorded last time have vanished, according to the study published this week in the international scientific journal Biological Conservation.

The data is based on a return trip to a network of roads criss-crossing most of northern Botswana, an area first surveyed over 20 years ago by a former Wildlife Biologist with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Botswana, Dr Marc Herremans. Driving at similar speeds and using a similar vehicle, researchers retraced Herremans's route across gravel and tar roads. Bird of prey were initially spotted with the naked eye, before optics were used to positively identify the species involved, as in the original survey.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Hen Harriers breed in Bowland


Hen Harrier has bred in Forest of Bowland, Lancashire, for the first time since 2015.

RSPB wardens discovered two Hen Harrier nests on the United Utilities Bowland Estate in early spring and have been monitoring them closely ever since. The nests were visited recently by the wardens under licence, who were delighted to find four healthy chicks in each of them. A single male harrier has fathered young at both nests and is now regularly taking food to each.

The good news makes a welcome change to the procession of reports of satellite-tagged Hen Harriers either killed or disappearing in unexplained circumstances.

Hen Harrier remains on the verge of extinction as a breeding bird in England owing to the continuous illegal persecution of the species associated with driven grouse shooting. Although experts estimate there is sufficient habitat for at least 300 pairs across northern England, last year there were only three successful nests in the whole country. Bowland used to be known as England's last remaining stronghold for breeding Hen Harriers, but both 2016 and 2017 proved blank years after just a single chick fledged in 2015.

New generation of cuckoos tagged by BTO


As part of an ongoing study to find out why Common Cuckoo is declining, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has fitted a further 10 individuals with tiny satellite tags this summer.

The study aims to better understand the reasons behind why we have lost almost three-quarters of our Common Cuckoo population over the past 25 years. It has already identified important migration routes via stopover sites in northern Italy and southern Spain, and the precise wintering locations in the Congo rainforest.

Mortality of cuckoos taking the route via Spain has been linked to population decline within the UK. What scientists at the BTO would like to know now is how well our cuckoos make it to and from Africa in different summers, and specifically, how relatively important conditions in the UK and southern Europe are in contributing to a successful – or otherwise – Saharan crossing in autumn.

Sister species of birds reveal clues to how biodiversity evolves

June 19, 2018 by Hayley Dunning, Imperial College London

Extensive new datasets about the world's birds are helping to solve the riddle of how life on Earth diversified.

By combining global datasets on bird characteristics, citizen-science species sightings and genetics, researchers have begun to answer some key questions in biodiversity. The results are published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution, in two parallel studies that include Imperial College London researchers.

The first paper compiles body measurements and estimates of evolutionary history for hundreds of closely related bird species (called 'sister species') to study how new species evolve.

In most cases, new bird species begin to emerge when one population is isolated geographically from others, such as by a mountain range. Later, the diverging species may extend their geographical ranges, bringing them back into contact.

These encounters can play out in one of three ways: the species can interbreed and form a single species again; they can stay separated but with hard borders between their two ranges; or they can continue to expand their ranges until they coexist over a wide area.

What determines whether emerging species stay separate or coexist? The team, led by Dr. Jay McEntee at the University of Florida, used a vast citizen-science database of bird sightings worldwide to identify where sister species were seen in the same place at the same time, allowing the timing and extent of coexistence among sister species to be estimated.
Different traits allow coexistence

The researchers found that if sister species had very different traits that affect their way of life, such as beaks adapted to different foods, they were more likely to coexist sooner and over larger areas.

In contrast, those with very similar traits appeared not to overlap successfully. The researchers think this is because there is 'interference' between the species, such as interbreeding, or competition for resources like food.