Keep an eye out for ringed Spoonbills

Over the autumn and winter we’ve received reports of several colour-ringed Spoonbills, giving a great insight into where these strange birds originate.

Green V463

This bird was ringed as a chick at Høje Sande, Ringkøbing Fjord in Denmark in June 2023 and turned up at Marazion Marsh on 28th September, before unexpectedly wandering back north to Potteric Carr, South Yorkshire, seen on 10th-15th October. Realising the error of its ways, it returned to Marazion Marsh four days later and commuted between there and Hayle estuary until at least 9th December.

Spoonbill and Little Egret, Martin Webb
Great White Egret and Spoonbill – Alex McKechnie

BW[AE]

This second bird has an equally interesting, but far more extensive, history. Ringed as a chick at Schiermonnikoog, Oosterkwelder in The Netherlands in July 2006, it spent its first winter 470 km away in France before returning to The Netherlands. It spent its second winter in Poole Harbour, Dorset, then again returned to The Netherlands. Subsequent winters were as follows:

  • 2008-09: Devon and then on the River Tamar in Cornwall in February 2009
  • 2009-10: Yealm estuary, Devon, then back on the River Tamar in January 2010
  • 2010-11: France in September/October, Dorset a week later and River Lynher, Cornwall in December 2010, then back to Devon in January
  • 2011-12: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2012-13: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2013-14: No sightings
  • 2014-15: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2015-16: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2016-17: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2017-18: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2018-19: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2019-20: France in October, then Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2020-21: France in October, then Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2021-22: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2022-23: Poole Harbour, Dorset
  • 2023-24: Poole Harbour, Dorset and Roiver Lynher, Cornwall on 16th January

So this bird is pretty faithful to a wintering area, but does wander a little and really does highlight the value of reading colour rings on birds.

Spoonbill – Rick Napp

Many thanks to the colour ring coordinators for their feedback on the reports and of course to the photographers who reported them. If you see any colour-ringed birds, the Bird News team can always help track them down so do let us know.

Record-breaking year for Cornish Choughs

Alongside many partners, we are thrilled to announce that Cornwall’s Chough population has had a record-breaking year, with 39 breeding pairs fledging over 100 young. This is a 60% increase in the number of fledged chicks compared to last year and a real milestone for a bird that was once extinct in Cornwall, but even greater against a backdrop of decreasing Chough populations elsewhere in the UK.

Cornish Chough Breeding figures 2021-23:

  • 2021 – 23 successful pairs fledged 66 young
  • 2022 – 25 successful pairs fledged 71 young
  • 2023 – 39 successful pairs fledged 112 young


Choughs, Peter Crumpler


After more than 20 years of conservation efforts to bring them back to their Cornish home, Cornwall’s Choughs are now well on their way to becoming a healthy and resilient population. Choughs are spreading around the Cornish coast with a pair breeding on the Roseland again this year, which is the first time since 2016 (which was the first time in almost 200 years), and they are continuing to spread north of the Camel Estuary.

Paul St Pierre, RSPB Conservation Officer, commented: “We want to thank everyone involved in surveying and providing the conditions for Choughs to flourish. It has taken a while, but finally the tide has turned for Choughs in Cornwall. One of the primary goals has been to re-establish a link between the Chough population in Wales and Britany, and this year brings us closer than ever to achieving that objective. By continuing to implement effective land management practices and safeguarding suitable nesting and roosting areas, we can ensure a bright future for Choughs in this region, while also witnessing their expansion along the coast into Devon and other areas beyond.”
Not all of this year’s young will survive to adulthood and raise families of their own, but the higher the number of fledglings that survive each year, the more robust the birds become against extinction in the future. Cornwall’s oldest Choughs continue to show the youngsters the way to do it, with the oldest, a male who is 18 years old, fledging five chicks with his mate for the third time in four years. And a pair breeding since 2011, which includes one of the oldest breeding females at 14 years old, doubled their fledglings this year with four chicks.

It has taken decades of close partnership work to get Cornwall’s Choughs back to this positive result. From the conservation expertise of the RSPB, to the passion of Cornish nature-friendly farmers and land managers who have brought back grazing to the cliffs, the vital funding for this land management from Natural England, the coordination and cooperation of conservation organisations like National Trust, and the dedication of volunteers who monitor the birds, plus those that report the valuable sightings to Cornwall Birds (CWBPS), to make this a conservation success story.Kate Evans, National Trust Senior Visitor Experience Officer for West Cornwall, added: “’We are thrilled to be celebrating a nature conservation success in Cornwall, as numbers of Choughs go from strength to strength each year! It’s with great thanks to the dedicated volunteers who give their time to monitoring Choughs, helping us to build a picture as the population grows in number and range.”

Hilary Mitchell from Cornwall Birds (CBWPS) said: “We would like to thank everyone who has sent us their Chough sightings this year. It’s been an unbelievably successful breeding season. All the records we received by email and to our bird news website meant we could identify new nests for volunteers to monitor. It also made a big difference when chicks started to fledge with lots of reports of Chough families coming in. Keeping track of our Kernow Chough population has been a real challenge this year, but it’s a nice problem to have! To put it into context, in 2013 we only had five successful breeding pairs (fledging 14 chicks), compared to 2023 with 39 successful pairs and 112 chicks, numbers well beyond our wildest expectations.”

The next chapter of the Cornish Chough story is in everyone’s hands – if you see Choughs in Cornwall please email your sightings to [email protected]

Cornwall Birds (CBWPS) are keen to receive all records; some people have been lucky enough to see Choughs in their gardens so please let us know if you see this happening and what they are eating, so the team can find out how common this behaviour is.

Can you help the West Country’s Cirl Buntings this spring?

  • The RSPB are appealing for volunteers to help carry out this year’s Cirl Bunting Survey across Devon and Cornwall between April-August
  • Last year volunteers recorded Cirl Buntings in almost 60% of the 2km by 2km survey squares
  • Six of these survey squares recorded Cirls for the first time
  • This year extra volunteer support is especially needed in the South Hams and South Teignbridge area
  • Just over 30 years ago Cirl Buntings were in a state of serious decline and had already vanished from Cornwall and Somerset. With the support of the RSPB, farmers and landowners have been able to bring the Cirls back from the brink.

The RSPB are appealing for volunteers across Devon and Cornwall to help them carry out their annual Cirl Bunting Survey, between April-August of this year. People can register to take part in the survey on the Cirl Bunting Action Hub, visit: bit.ly/RSPBCirlHub

Here volunteers can select a 2km by 2km survey square local to their home on the RSPB’s map and plan a survey route through their chosen patch along Public Rights of Way and covering the areas that cirl buntings are likely to make their homes. No specialist skills are needed to take part other than an interest in birds and a pair of binoculars. The Cirl Action Hub offers guidance on how to identify cirls by sight and sound.

Volunteers will be asked to visit their chosen survey square twice; first visit before the end of May and second visit anytime from June to the end of August, leaving two weeks between visit one and two. They will then record information about any cirl bunting they see or hear and submit their findings either online or via post.

This year the RSPB are putting a special shout-out for surveyors in the South Hams and South Teignbridge area, which had low coverage last year.

Just over 30 years ago Cirl Buntings were in a state of serious decline and had already vanished from Cornwall and Somerset. With the support of the RSPB, farmers and landowners have been able to bring the Cirl Bunting back from the brink.

Cath Jeffs, RSPB Conservation Officer, said: “Taking part in the Cirl Bunting Survey is a fantastic opportunity to get to know the amazing wildlife on our doorstep. As well as hopefully spotting a cirl or two, volunteers will discover the other farmland bird species they share their local patch with. And most importantly, survey volunteers will be contributing directly to science. The data that volunteers help us gather over the coming years will allow us to spot trends in Cirl numbers, so that we can identify any early warning signs and act quickly to help to help ensure the Cirl Bunting population does not become in danger of being lost from UK again.”

Cath continues: “The volunteer support we received for last year’s survey was fantastic and with the results just in we’re pleased to say that nearly 60% of the survey squares which returned their data, recorded cirls in them. In fact, six of these locations recorded Cirls for the first time since surveys began in the late 1980s; this is really positive news”.

Eighty years ago, Cirl Buntings were widespread across southern England and parts of Wales, but by 1989 they were down to only 118 pairs mainly confined to Devon. These plummeting numbers were due to changes in farming practises, which made it hard for the cirls to find food and suitable nest sites.

In 1992 the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (a government-funded agri-environment scheme, CSS) launched a Cirl Bunting ‘special project’ option for farmers. Under guidance from the RSPB, farmers provided low input spring barley crops which, after harvest, were left as weedy stubbles until the end of March. This created an important source of winter seed food for the birds.

In 1993 the RSPB employed a Cirl Bunting project officer in the south west to work directly with farmers and landowners to encourage them to provide more homes for the Cirl Buntings. By 1998 numbers increased to 450 pairs and in 2016 they passed the 1000 pair mark.

During last year’s survey, volunteers Tracy and Simon Gould, made the fantastic discovery of the very first Cirl Bunting on farmland at Shillingford Organics on the outskirts of Exeter. Owner Martyn Bragg, has been carefully managing this field, with guidance from the RSPB, to give Cirl Buntings a home for the past 23 years and finally they have arrived. Martyn is “over the moon”.

Tracy and Simon said: “We signed up to carry out the RSPB survey initially for the 2sq km square containing both our home, and our local veg box grower – Shillingford Organics. We were delighted to encounter our first singing male Cirl Bunting at Martyn’s farm, announcing his presence after all these years of waiting, in ‘bold as brass’ fashion, from the dip of a telegraph wire above a wide hedge line.”

Wanderings of a Greylag Goose

The wanderings of a Greylag Goose

The bird was trapped and had a collar fitted  in Sweden 5/6/2000 and it then wandered locally in Sweden until it was seen in the Netherlands on 31/10/2004 It then stayed in the Netherlands until it was located in Schleswig Holstein on 16/12/2006 Relocated in Denmark on 10/3/2006 and then back to its home territory in Sweden by  19/8/2006 Reported again in the Netherlands 16/12/2007 but back in Sweden between 19/8/2008 to 5/11/2008 It was then undetected until 28/2/2010 when it was found at Druridge Bay, Northumberland (1) On 23/4/2010 it was at Seahouses (2) By 23/4/2010 it was at Scarborough Yorkshire (3) 9/5/2010 Radwell Lakes, Bedfordshire (4) On 13/5/2010 it was reported near Colchester, Essex (5) but on 17/5/2010 it had returned north to Rattray Head, Aberdeen shire (6) Back south again by 20/9/2010 it was near Canterbury,Kent (7) On 9/10/2010 it was seen flying past Portgwarra and settling at the Hayle Estuary on 10/10/2010 It was last seen on the Hayle Estuary on 6/11 It was relocated at Drift Reservoir on 16/11 and last reported there on 31/12/2010 It was then found back on the Hayle Estuary on 3 & 7/1/2011 Finally, it has been relocated at Longham Lake, nr Bournemouth, Dorset (SZ 062982) on 10/1

Where is it now?

Photographed on the Hayle Estuary 14/10/2010 by Adrian Langdon

More Information on this bird

The bird was ringed as an adult bird with a family and as you suspected it is a female. The population at Lake Yddingen where it was marked is a genuinely wild population that was established some time in the late sixties of Greylags spreading from other lakes in Scania. Of course with a species like the Greylag where there has been reintroductions in many places you can of course not be sure that they have a portion of genes (and characters) of other races like rubirostris. I do not however have any notes on any deviating racial belonging of this bird, but I did not take part in the actual catching of it. There can of course be connections between Greylags from this wild population and feral birds in the neighbouring cities. We know of some neckbanded Greylags from the wild population that have moved to the feral populations in the city of Malmö. There have not been an introductions in the area during the last 30 years at least and there has always been a small, genuinely wild population remnant in the province of Scania even during the sixties before the population explosion of the Greylags.

 

Leif Nilsson

 

St George’s Island gull ringing update

Update on Gull ringing project on St George’s Island Nature Reserve, Looe Oct. 2010

With over 70 breeding pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls, The Cornwall Wildlife Trusts reserve at St. George’s Island supports a significant breeding colony of these magnificent birds. Having a wing span of around 1.5m they truly are one of Britain’s most impressive gulls and following a proposal by Pete Kent (the CWT’s East Cornwall Reserves Officer) this summer saw the start of a ringing project to learn more about these birds. The ringing scheme will last for at least five years and hopefully much longer and is a partnership between CWT and the Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society

For many years Dave Curtis, a local ornithologist and David Conway, CWT’s Loveny warden, have been recording the number of Great Black-backed Gulls breeding on the Island. This new ringing project will help us gain a better understanding of their ecology and life histories. The local ringing co-ordinator, Bruce Taggart, said ‘It’s hoped that analysis of the Great Black-backed Gull data, will allow us to investigate dispersal patterns, site fidelity, survival rates and longevity, as well as monitor long term population trends.

The ringing project started in June when a team of ten volunteers visited the Island on two occasions. Forty nine Great Black-backed Gull chicks were caught and fitted with a BTO ring on the left leg and a white plastic ring engraved with a red identification code on the right leg. The code starts with the letter L, followed by a colon and then two letters and a single figure, eg L:AA1. Bruce requested that anyone seeing a ringed bird report their sighting via email: [email protected]. You will receive a full life history of the bird and receive regular newsletter updates on the progress of the project.

The project has already begun to pay dividends. In August, shortly after fledging 6 juveniles were sighted at Looe. Then in early September another two were seen at Downderry but on the 16th September we received our first foreign report. L:AJ1 was seen on Omaha Beach, Vierville sur Mer, France, 81 days after ringing and a distance of 275 km from St Georges Island.

Three days later L:AK6 was reported from Parelle Beach in Guernsey. This bird was was ringed on the same day as L:AJ1 and had travelled 161 km. Two further Guernsey sightings of L:AK6 followed; at L’Eree Beach on 21st and 23rd September. Interestingly a Guernsey ringed Great Black back was seen at Downderry on 20th September so maybe these birds crossed mid Channel!!

Bruce commented ‘It’s early days yet but it shows how important colour ringing is in understanding what is happening to these gulls. Did L:AK6 and L:AJ1 follow their parents or head out into the English Channel alone? Only continued ringing, monitoring, reporting and time will tell.’

L:AB1 at Looe Beach on a grey August day.
Photos Jerry Lanfear

L:AA3 at Looe Beach, 18th August 2010

 
                                                               
 Great Black-backed Gulls on Parelle Beach,  Guernsey,
19th September 2010. Photos Paul Veron
Great Black-backed Gull L:AK6 on L’Eree Beach,
Guernsey, 21st September 2010.

 

 

Gull ringing project on St George’s Island, Looe

Gull ringing project on St George’s Island, Looe.

This year saw the start of a Great Black-backed Gull ringing project in Cornwall. Following a proposal by Pete Kent (Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s East Cornwall Reserves Officer) a ringing project has been set up in partnership with CBWPS to learn more about these gulls.

With over 70 breeding pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls, St. George’s Island supports a significant breeding colony of these magnificent birds. For many years local ornithologist, David Curtis and Colliford Lake’s Loveny warden, Dave Conway, have been recording the number of Great Black-backed Gulls breeding on the Island. This new ringing project will build on their work and help us understand the gulls’ ecology and life history, as well as monitor population trends.

The ringing project started in June when a team of volunteers visited the Island on two occasions. The team was faced with quite a challenge as the Island is also home to breeding Herring gulls as well as Great Black-backs and many nests and young birds were well nests hidden amongst tall vegetation!

Eventually 49 Great Black-backed Gulls were caught and fitted with a BTO ring on the left leg and a white plastic ring engraved with a red identification code on the right leg. The code starts with the letter L, followed by a colon and then two letters and a single figure, e.g. L:AA1. The local ringing co-ordinator, Bruce Taggart, has requested that anyone seeing a ringed bird report their sighting via email: [email protected]. In turn they will receive a full life history of the bird.

Bruce says ‘We hope that analysis of the data, will allow us to investigate dispersal patterns, site fidelity, longevity, and survival rates in these gulls, as well as monitor long term population trends. We have already noted a high mortality during the egg or early chick stage which warrants further investigation.’

As Great Black backs are long lived birds the ringing scheme will last for at least five years and hopefully much longer.

Claire Lewis, the warden’s assistant for the Island says, ‘We have long wondered what happens to the fledged gulls and now, with the participation of the public this exciting new project give the us the opportunity to discover more about the gulls and in turn assist us with the management of the nature reserve’.

Bruce Taggart

Major national success for Cornish artist

Major National Success for Cornish Wildlife Artist

Three Choughs – Lizard Point                                                               Daniel Cole

This painting won the 2009 RSPB award at the SWLA (Society of Wildlife Artists) exhibition at the Mall Gallery in London. The artist, Daniel Cole, lives and works in the St. Austell clay district. He has travelled extensively birdwatching and researching his art. He has produced the illustrations for many field guides and bird books. More recently he has moved away from illustration and concentrated on Gallery and private commission work. His father, Sid Cole, is a well known St. Austell birder. More of his work can be seen at www.pinkfootgallery.co.uk and www.swla.co.uk.

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit

 

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit….

Colin Selway recorded a colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit at Walmsley Sanctuary on 3rd September 2008.   He was able to trace it to an Icelandic ringing project and Sigga Beta provided the following history.  It is a male bird, which was first ringed in Iceland back in 2000.  As you can see, it has visited a number of different regions of the UK and Ireland.

24.04.00

Grafarvogur, Reykjavík, SW Iceland

Faxafloi

25.04.00

Grafarvogur, Reykjavík, SW Iceland

Faxafloi

25.04.00

Grafarvogur, Reykjavík, SW Iceland

Faxafloi

26.04.00

Grafarvogur, Reykjavík, SW Iceland

Faxafloi

04.03.01

Dublin Bay, Co. Dublin, E Ireland

E Ire

01.05.01

Álftafjörður, E Iceland

E ice

06.05.01

Skeidflot I Myrdal, Vik, S Iceland

S ice

05.03.02

Pagham Harbour, Sussex, S England

S Eng

14.03.03

Ribble Estuary, Lancashire, NW England

NW Eng

13.04.06

Bartle Pools, Higher Bartle, Preston, Lancashire, NW England

NW Eng

12.04.08

Earith, Ouse Washes, Cambrigeshire, E England

E Eng

03.09.08

Walmsley Sanctuary, Cornwall, SW England

SW Eng

 

Colour-ringed Greenshank and Common Gull

Colour-ringed Greenshank and Common Gull….

This Greenshank was colour-ringed as a juvenile on the Ythan Estuary in North-eastern Scotland in August 2006.  It has been seen several times in the River Camel area since then and clearly winters here.  This photo was taken by Andy and Shirley Park on Dinham Flats (R. Camel) on 26th September. For the latest news on this Greenshank see HERE

Colin Selway reports that this Common Gull was ringed as a pullus on 20th June 2008 at Sprogo Island, Korsor, Denmark (the co-ordinates for those who have Google Earth are 06 55.20N-010.58E).  Colin photographed it at the Walmsley Sanctuary on 2nd October.

Dutch Spoonbills flying the flag

 Dutch Spoonbills flying the flag

In early November 2007, 7 Spoonbills were reported from Wacker Quay, near Torpoint on the River Lynher, a tributary of the River Tamar in Cornwall. This is a regular wintering area for between one and three birds but seven is unprecedented. On 10th November, I led a birdwatching cruise on the Rivers Tamar and Lynher and found 6 of the birds together in Shillingham Creek, but the views were rather distant. However it appeared that two Spoonbills were sporting yellow leg flags and colour rings indicating they were of Dutch origin. If close enough views were obtained, the colour combination would enable the birds origin and life histories to be discovered. The 7th bird, an adult was on its own at Wacker Quay.

On the 25th November 2007 another birdwatching cruise with 70 people on board, obtained excellent views of 6 Spoonbills feeding together on the rising tide near Wacker. On two birds the yellow leg flags could be clearly seen, but the movement of the boat made it difficult to clearly see the other colour rings. Several photos were taken in the hope of fully identifying these birds later.

Then the detective work began. Back at home, I checked the internet and contacted Otto Overdijk of the International Spoonbill Working Group in Holland who confirmed they were Dutch birds. Photos taken by Nick Tomalin and Andy Nicholas were digitally enhanced showing that both birds were juveniles and indicated that Bird 1 carried metal/green/yellow flag on left leg and yellow/blue/red on the right. (Photograph A). Bird 2 showed light green/yellow/metal on the left and yellow flag/light green/red on the right leg. (Photograph B) These were emailed to Otto who was able to confirm the identity of the birds and provide their life histories.

Bird 1 was ringed as a nestling on 21 May 2007, on the island of Schiermonnikoog, the northern most inhabited island in the Dutch Wadden Sea and a National Park. It was seen again 64 days later at Lauwersmeer, another National Park 14 km to the south of Schiermonnikoog. Its next sighting wasn’t until it arrived on the River Lynher having travelled a distance of nearly 800 km.

Bird 2 was ringed, again as a nestling at Onderdijk on the west bank of the IJsselmeer on 6 June 2007. By the end of the month it moved to Den Oever, 21 km to the north west where it was seen on numerous occasions until 2 October. Its next sighting was on the River Lynher, having travelled 694 km.

It is interesting that these birds have come from breeding colonies 100 km apart, yet have homed in on the River Lynher as a wintering site. It is also interesting to speculate the origin of the remaining birds but they are probably of Dutch origin. The majority of the Dutch population winter much further south, in southern Spain or Portugal, many venturing even further, into West Africa. Hopefully, they’ll remain for more people to enjoy on the next bird watching cruise on 9 December (see Cornwall Birding website for details).

Thanks to Otto Overdijk and the International Spoonbill Working Group for their help in preparing this note.

 

Photograph A – Bird 1 by Andy Nicholas Photograph B – Bird 2. by Andy Nicholas
  Spoonbills on River Lynher, Cornwall on 25th November 2007. Bird 1 is second from the left
and Bird 2 on the right. Photograph by Andy Nicholas