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.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Bird photography and the law

28 Apr 2017 1:49 PM

Remembering the rules when photographing nests
Wildlife photographers have a moral responsibility towards their subjects – and there are laws to consider too. Award-winning photographer Ben Andrew shares advice on taking pictures in the bird breeding season.

The accessibility of digital photography has, to an extent, turned us all into wildlife photographers. Everyone has a camera on their phone these days, and the sheer range and quality of equipment on the market, at all levels, has led to a huge upsurge in wildlife photographers in the UK in the last 10 years.

It’s great that so many people out in the countryside, enjoying wildlife and wanting to share what they see. But it’s crucial to protect birds’ interests while you’re taking photos – and protect yourself from the law especially at this time of year when millions of birds are nesting in the UK.

Wild birds and the law
All wild birds in the UK are fully protected by law.

The laws that protect birds in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all slightly different and it’s important to know the facts. 

'Long neck of the law' apprehends swan on A47 near Norwich

26 April 2017

A swan was given a "lift" by the "long neck of the law" after causing chaos during the morning rush hour.

The bird landed on the A47 near Norwich at about 07:00 BST and took a waddle through the traffic.

The swan kept Norfolk Police officers busy for about 40 minutes as they created a rolling roadblock to protect it, before persuading the winged wanderer into the boot of their car.

The beleaguered bird was later released safely into water nearby.


First-ever black winged kite spotted in Malta

Saturday, April 15, 2017, 12:06

Hunters record another rare bird
Two rare birds have been spotted in Malta - one by an activists' group and the other, ironically, reported by a hunters' organisation.

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said it had recorded the first-ever official record of a black-winged kite for the Maltese islands. 

The rare bird was sighted by a CABS team yesterday afternoon close to the Verdala Palace in Buskett just six hours after the end of the spring hunting season. 

The German activists followed the bird for half an hour but then lost visual contact after the kite flew off in the direction of Siggiewi. Before it disappeared the birdwatchers managed to film the bird for a few seconds.

CABS said that the observation has been reported to the Maltese Rarities Committee for birds.

The black-winged kite, the size of a small falcon, is a species primarily of open land and semi-deserts in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia. In Europe, the bird breeds only in Spain, Portugal and South-west France.

Meanwhile, the Kaccaturi San Ubertu said a member had sighted and photographed a rare bird - the pale-throated black-eared wheatear.

Although it is a common migrant in spring and autumn, the pale-throated race is a scarce migrant since it is seen mainly Spain, Portugal and Morocco, with some records in France. It has been scarcely recorded in the past in Malta.

KSU encouraged its members to keep an eye on all migrating birds and report any unusual sightings.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Shhhhh: small, 'secretive' birds transferred back to Porirua wetland

Image result for fernbirdYou might have more chance of hearing Porirua's newest residents than actually seeing them.

A group of "secretive" and at-risk native birds has been re-introduced into Pauatahanui Wildlife Reserve, a habitat they last occupied in the 1980s.

In the first transfer of its kind, about 25 Fernbirds - named for their distinctive tail - were transferred from Taranaki last week, Department of Conservation ranger Lee Barry said.

"They're quite secretive, they act like little mice," she said.

Would-be bird spotters should listen for the bird's distinctive call, a "u-tick" sound given as a duet by members of a pair, she said.

The birds, who look like tiny sparrows with long ragged tails, burrow through dense ground vegetation and were rarely seen by people.

"They also don't fly very well so people should look just above the vegetation which is where they sometimes flutter along."

Apart from a "couple of birds hanging about" in estuaries at Waikanae and Foxton, the breed had been largely absent from the lower North Island.

"In the 1980s there were still a few living at Pauatahanui but a fire destroyed the last of their habitat and the poor little guys had a hard time after that."

The birds were packed into individual carriers stuffed full of grasses to make the long trip south in the experimental move.

Barry said the environment the birds had come from was different to Porirua's so the tiny creatures might not stick around.


RSPB opens hotline to locate the UK's rarest breeding birds of prey

Last modified: 28 April 2017

The RSPB is encouraging farmers, birdwatchers and walkers to keep a look out for Montagu’s harriers, the UK’s rarest breeding bird of prey, as they begin this year’s breeding season.

In 2016, five pairs of Montagu’s harrier are known to have nested in England (in Norfolk and SW England). It is essential that the small number of breeding attempts made this year are identified and protected from accidental damage, disturbance or persecution to give these magnificent birds the best possible chance.

Data from tracked individuals has shown that these special birds spend the winter in Senegal, West Africa. In 2014, an adult male Montagu’s harrier, named Mark, was tagged in South West England allowing the RSPB to follow the migration route these birds of prey take for the first time.

The core population of Montagu’s harrier usually returns to the same nesting areas each year. The RSPB has been working successfully with these landowners for more than 30 years; however, it is important that any new or unknown nests are located.

Montagu’s harrier arrive in the UK around May time to nest, before returning to Africa in August. It is possible to spot the breathtaking birds of prey on passage, particularly on the south and eastern coasts of England.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Rare Whooping Cranes visit Medstead

Corrina Murdoch , Correspondent / Battlefords News-Optimist

April 25, 2017 12:49 PM

The majestic Whooping Crane, currently on the endangered species list, paid the beautiful RM of Medstead a special visit April 18, and they seem to be stick around. These birds have been on the endangered list for many years now, with population numbers having dipped as low as 21 in 1941. Currently, according to Nature Canada, the population has risen to a global total of roughly 300. It is hoped that this number will continue to rise.

Though the rising population is seen as hopeful, the cranes do not have their future guaranteed. Their numbers have been growing gradually over the years, but the birds are very sensitive to human interaction and have been in an uphill battle over the last few decades. Various conservation groups are very vocal as to the need to keep these glorious creatures protected.

Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America at almost one and a half meters in height. They boast an ability to fly without stopping for ten hours, covering over seven hundred kilometers. During migration, this species is known to eat grain from farm crops. Perhaps this is why they were seen in the thriving farmland of the RM of Medstead.

Part of the magic lies in the fact that, though Saskatchewan has been a breeding ground for these creatures in the past, they have mostly been seen in the area of Midnight Lake, near Glaslyn. Reportedly, however, their primary locations are Wood Buffalo National Park (near the Alberta-Northwest Territories border) and down to the Texas Gulf Coast for their wintering. It is a special treat when any person has the chance to see these rare birds. 

Endangered crested ibis chick hatched in China after mother bird undergoes artificial insemination

Bird’s mother underwent artificial insemination as part of a breeding programme to protect the species’ numbers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 1:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 1:51pm 24 Apr 2017

The first crested ibis has hatched after its mother underwent artificial insemination as part of a programme in southwest China to protect the species’ numbers, according to a newspaper report.

The chick was born at a breeding station at Mount Emei in Sichuan province, the West China City Daily reported.

About 50 crested ibis were collected in Henan, Zhejiang and Shaanxi provinces last year and taken to the centre to take part in the breeding programme, according to the article.

The first egg was laid in March and finally hatched last week.

Staff had to crack open the top of the egg after the bird’s head got stuck.

The tiny chick has been placed in an incubator to help ensure its survival.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

RSPB survey shows unusual visitors flock to Hampshire gardens

Unusual visitors flock to Hampshire gardens

A NATIONAL charity has issued the Hampshire results for its Big Garden Birdwatch survey.

The RSPB survey results show that common garden visitors such as robins, starlings and blackbirds have been joined by more unusual visitors.

UK gardens have seen a boom in the number of visits from unusual migrants such as waxwings and it’s good news for Britain’s favourite bird, the robin, as the numbers seen visiting gardens are at their highest level for more than 20 years.

In the UK as a whole, nearly half a million people took part in the world’s largest garden wildlife survey counting more than eight million birds during the 38th RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Hampshire residents rallied to the call for participants with 13 per cent more people taking part this year compared with 2007.

The event – held over the last weekend in January – revealed an explosion in the number of recorded sightings of waxwings. These attractive birds flock to UK gardens in winter once every seven or eight years when the berry crop fails in their native Scandinavia. Known as an “irruption”, results showed that waxwings were seen in around 19 times more gardens in the south east in 2017 compared with previous years.

Weather conditions leading up to the Birdwatch meant that this year UK gardens were treated to a range of different visitors.

There was also a large jump in the numbers of other migrants, such as redwing and fieldfare, as the sub-zero temperatures on the continent forced them to go in search of milder conditions. The south east saw numbers of redwing triple while our gardens saw a five-fold increase in fieldfare sightings.

Dr Daniel Hayhow, RSPB conservation scientist, said: “In the lead up to the Birdwatch there was some speculation as to whether we could see a ‘waxwing winter’ and the results prove that to be the case. Flocks of these striking looking birds arrived in the UK along the North Sea coast and will have moved across the country in search of food, favouring gardens where they can feast on berries.” 


Acid-free rivers herald renaissance of Wales’ Dippers

Bird Notes columnist Julian Hughes of RSPB Conwy reveals what birds have been spotted in the past week and where to go birding in the coming days
ByAndrew Forgrave
20:50, 24 APR 2017

National Grid’s news last Friday that Britain ran without coal for the first day since before the Industrial Revolution is a landmark in tackling climate change – and good news in the hills.

If you were around in the 1980s, you might remember “acid rain”, a subject that is rarely mentioned now.

Sulphur and nitrogen oxides from coal-burning power stations mixed with water vapour and fell as acid rain, the effect greatest in the hills with its heavier rainfall.

The Dipper was the canary in the upland coalmine (an ironic analogy, I know). Dippers eat aquatic insects – such as Mayflies – that are sensitive to acid levels and were wiped out from the many acidic Welsh streams.

A long-running study in Wales, led by Cardiff University, shows that Mayflies have recovered in 60% of streams monitored; good news for birds such as Dipper and Grey Wagtail.

Dippers can now be found on many of North Wales’ fast-flowing streams, nesting in crevices under bridges. The first fledglings were out of the nest last week in the Conwy Valley .


Monday, 24 April 2017

Rare birds spotted at Belfast's Window on Wildlife

Last modified: 24 April 2017
A pair of rare birds have been spotted at the RSPB’s Belfast Window on Wildlife (WOW) nature reserve.

Avocets, which are the symbol of the nature conservation charity, aren’t resident in Ireland so the arrival of the unusual visitors on Sunday had birdwatchers flocking to the Belfast Harbour Estate to catch a glimpse.

It’s not known where they have travelled from, although investigations are underway to trace the coloured rings spotted on the leg of one of the birds.

Chris Sturgeon, warden at Belfast WOW, said: “I couldn’t believe it when one of my colleagues got in touch with the news. I arrived early this morning and they’re still here, with reports they have been seen mating!

“There’s no reason why they couldn’t breed successfully here. The reserve is in great condition and there is ideal feeding habitat for wading birds.”

These distinctively-patterned black and white waders have a long up-curved beak, perfect for foraging in the mud for insects, crustaceans and worms.


Rare Bird Shot in Paraparaumu

Monday, 24 April 2017, 4:38 pm
Press Release: Department of Conservation

Rare Bird Shot in Paraparaumu

A New Zealand Falcon/ kārearea has been found shot dead in Nikau Valley, Paraparaumu.

The birds are fully protected by law, and Department of Conservation (DOC) are investigating the killing. Whoever shot the bird may face up to 2 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Simon and Katie Ford were devastated to discover the bird – still warm – in their back paddock in Eucalyptus Way last Thursday.

“We are planting native trees and want to encourage the birds back. We were shocked someone would shoot such a beautiful animal,” said Katie.

“We did hear from neighbours that some teenage boys at our end of the valley have been seen target shooting in the last week. A few people have responded on our valley Facebook page about seeing the bird in the few days prior and are horrified that it has been killed.”

DOC biodiversity ranger David Moss says shooting the falcon is unacceptable, no matter what the circumstances.

“It was a direct hit from a low calibre weapon, such as a .22 and appears to be intentional. For someone to shoot this bird is appalling. Not only is the kārearea a threatened species, it is a symbol of New Zealand and graces our 20-dollar note.” 

‘Adopt a bird’ to boost conservation efforts

 April 24th, 2017   
Annette Chrysostomou 
Members of the public are being encouraged to ‘adopt a bird’ by BirdLife Cyprus to contribute to the conservation of priority species and their habitats in Cyprus.

“This is a new part of the organisation’s effort to raise awareness about the birds of Cyprus and fund its critical conservation work,” the conservation organisation said on Monday.

The scheme asks people to make a €35 donation to the NGO to symbolically adopt a bird. Donor have a choice of one of three species: the greater flamingo, the griffon vulture and the European roller.

In return, they will receive an adoption package.

The package includes an illustration of the bird they have chosen by award-winning illustrator Daphne Christoforou printed on A4 archival-certified paper, an adoption certificate and postcards with information about the bird to help the ‘adoptive parent’ learn more and spread the word.

The three birds have been chosen because they are not only visually striking, but also a conservation priority both in Cyprus and Europe and depend on habitats such as wetlands and farmlands which BirdLife Cyprus works hard to protect.

Thousands of flamingos come to the island’s salt lakes during the winter months. In spring and summer the rollers breed on Cyprus’ farmlands. The vultures, the largest birds on the island, are the most threatened of all of them.
To adopt a bird see or contact Elena Markitani by calling 22-455072 or mailing

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Homing pigeons share our human ability to build knowledge across generations

Date: April 18, 2017 Source: University of Oxford

Homing pigeons may share the human capacity to build on the knowledge of others, improving their navigational efficiency over time, a new Oxford University study has found.

The ability to gather, pass on and improve on knowledge over generations is known as cumulative culture. Until now humans and, arguably some other primates, were the only species thought to be capable of it.

Takao Sasaki and Dora Biro, Research Associates in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, conducted a study testing whether homing pigeons can gradually improve their flight paths, over time. They removed and replaced individuals in pairs of birds that were given a specific navigational task. Ten chains of birds were released from the same site and generational succession was simulated with the continuous replacement of birds familiar with the route with inexperienced birds who had never flown the course before. The idea was that these individuals could then pass their experience of the route down to the next pair generation, and also enable the collective intelligence of the group to continuously improve the route's efficiency.

Watch this greedy bird down bacon and sausages in Llanberis - and give Iolo Williams one of the biggest shocks of his career

The TV naturalist reckons the sight of a heron being hand-fed sausages was on a par with 'seeing a whale for the first time'

TV presenter Iolo Williams was left stunned by an extraordinary wildlife encounter in the unlikely surroundings of Llanberis.

For his latest TV series he came across a cheeky heron that pays a daily visit to a back yard in the village.

For several years Ifan Rowlands has been hand feeding the friendly bird a diet of bacon and sausages.

“One of the great pleasures of this work is that, from time to time, you encounter something totally unexpected, something you’ve never seen before,” said Iolo.

Video here

Friday, 21 April 2017

Bird at German park gets new leg from 3-D printer

Associated Press 10:19 a.m. ET April 10, 2017

Berlin — Soeckchen the secretary bird is now strutting around her home in northern Germany with an artificial leg produced using a 3-D printer.

Keepers at the Weltvogelpark bird park in Walsrode found 2-year-old Soeckchen (Little Socks) in her aviary with a broken left leg. Her lower leg had to be amputated.

Zookeepers turned to Lars Thalmann of e-Nable, which makes free prosthetic hands for children. The dpa news agency says it was the first time the organization had made a prosthesis for an animal.


Farmers spot threatened species in annual bird count

Lucinda Dann
Monday 10 April 2017 5:55
Farmers recorded a total of 112 species in this year’s Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC), including 22 on the list of “threatened” farmland birds.

In the fourth annual count, organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), 975 farmers recorded 240,000 birds across 316,996ha.
Conservation concern
Eight species on the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern, including fieldfare, starling, house sparrow, song thrush and yellowhammer, were among the 25 most abundant birds spotted during the 2017 count.

The most abundant of these, fieldfares and starlings, were seen on more than 40% of farms. Blackbirds and woodpigeons were the most commonly spotted species, seen by more than 80% of participants. 
‘Farmer science’
NFU vice-president Guy Smith said: “It’s great to see, through the GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count a good bit of ‘farmer science’ where the people who know farms best – that being the farmers themselves – report back on the birdlife on their farms in a structured way.

“Having taken part in it myself it’s an hour well spent. And it’s great to see the results showing a good response and a wide variety of bird species.”

The GWCT organises the count annually as a simple means of recording the effect of any farmer-led conservation schemes, such as supplementary feeding or growing wild bird seed crops and game cover crops.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

New method for recording bird flight in 3-D

April 10, 2017 by Taylor Kubota

The wind rushing between skyscrapers is a substantial hurdle for anyone interested in operating small drones in urban areas. Yet, pigeons seem to have little trouble maneuvering through turbulent city skies. With sights set on unlocking the secrets of birds' smooth sailing, researchers at Stanford University have developed a new method for recording the shape of birds' wings during flight.

"We're trying to figure out how birds are capable of flying so well in these complex, turbulent environments and a lot of that comes from how they deform the shape of their wings, left versus right, to adjust to gusts quickly," said David Lentink, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Birds morph their wings through an incredible range of shapes, but until now we've known little about the angle, twist and asymmetries of each wing beat. After seven years of development, the Lentink lab may have figured out how to more closely observe birds' morphing skills. They've created a new way of automatically recording wing shape that works at high speeds and results in high-definition 3-D reconstructions. Details of their work are published in the Mar. 27 issue Journal of Experimental Biology.

Recording animal movement
Current techniques for recording animals in motion often rely on tracking markers attached to the animal or features of the animal like stripes or spots, an approach that can't directly or automatically reconstruct an entire wing surface at high resolution. Other methods, which use patterned light, are more easily automated but are too slow to record bird flight.

The Lentink lab has built on previous structured-light techniques, but their version automatically resolves body shape changes at high speed and in high resolution.

"The great thing about this system is it's the first fully-automated, high-speed reconstruction of birds in the world," said Marc Deetjen, a graduate student in the Lentink lab and senior author of the paper.

Read more at:

Chris Packham cleared of assault in Malta after confronting bird hunters

BBC wildlife presenter calls on EU to push Malta towards adhering to European birds directive after case against him thrown out

Patrick Barkham

Thursday 20 April 2017 12.24 BST First published on Thursday 20 April 2017 11.18 BST

The naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham has been cleared of two counts of assault in Malta after confronting hunters who had trapped wild birds.

A Maltese magistrate dismissed the case against the BBC Springwatch presenter after Packham produced video evidence in court that showed he was jostled by a hunter while filming an interview about the illegal slaughter of birds on the island.

According to BirdLife Malta, the charity supporting Packham, the judge criticised police and suggested they send the footage to “an Italian comedy channel” because their behaviour was so farcical.

The film and sound recordings show that after Packham was manhandled by a hunter, officers arrived and pushed away the presenter, his producer and his sound recorder.

“The prosecution were blown away by the fact that we have this damning evidence,” Packham told the Guardian after the verdict. “The police said I was assaulting the hunter and pushing him around. As soon as the judge saw our video evidence, which showed it was the other way around, he was incredulous.

“We’re not going to press any charges against the police or the hunter because we’ve got better things to be doing. At the moment there are a lot of embarrassed police officers and hunters.

“This highlights the problem that BirdLife Malta face on a constant basis when they are trying to get the law implemented. We’ve all got tremendous respect for the work they do out here because it’s demoralising and frustrating.”


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Call for nation plan for penguin conservation

Half the world's threatened penguin species live around New Zealand, and Forest & Bird is calling on the Government to protect them.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated 10 of the world's 18 penguin species were in decline, and Forest & Bird said five of them lived and bred in New Zealand and the sub-Antarctic islands.

In co-ordination with BirdLife International's Global Penguin Campaign launch, Forest & Bird has called for a national penguin recovery group, similar to the successful kiwi one, to combat the decline.

The Campbell Island population of the eastern rockhopper, once the largest in New Zealand, crashed by 94 per cent over a 45-year period to 1985 and has never recovered, Forest & Bird says.