Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Drivers of low breeding success in the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in England: testing hypotheses for the decline

Interesting report on Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in the new issue of Bird Study by Elisabeth C. Charman, Ken W. Smith, Ian A. Dillon, Steve Dodd, Derek J. Gruar, Andrew Cristinacce, Phil V. Grice & Richard D. Gregory. Here is a brief overview of the paper.

Capsule The breeding success of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos minor is now lower in England than previously reported and also lower than found in studies elsewhere in Europe.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Thermos

Aims To quantify the breeding success and identify the causes of nest failure. To test the hypotheses that breeding success is related to aspects of food limitation and parental care, and inclement weather during the nesting period, or to interactions with Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Methods Nests were monitored in three regions of England, recording survival and causes of failure. We measured aspects of food limitation and parental care, rainfall and Great Spotted Woodpecker interactions at nests, to explore whether there was any evidence that these factors were related to breeding success. We compared results to other studies from the UK and continental Europe.

Results Nest survival was 52%. The average number of chicks produced from successful nests was 2.8. Chick-stage daily nest survival was positively related to provisioning rates, indicating that food supply may be limiting. The most common cause of nest failure was presumed starvation of chicks after the disappearance of an adult. Some females ceased visiting nests, leaving provisioning solely to the male. This behaviour has been reported elsewhere in Europe, but in the present study males were unable to compensate fully by increasing their provisioning rates, leading to poor nest survival. Provisioning rates and chick-stage daily nest survival were negatively associated with rainfall. Nest predation by Great Spotted Woodpeckers occurred but was a less frequent cause of failure. Aggressive interactions were recorded between the two woodpecker species but these were unrelated to breeding parameters.

Conclusions Low breeding success is most probably related to food shortages in the breeding period. Simple population modelling using parameters from the present study and from published work shows that if the low productivity that we have observed is replicated throughout Britain, it would be sufficient to account for the observed population decline. However, the possibility that survival rates are also low cannot be ruled out.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Thermos

Sunday, 26 February 2012


The first record of Tropical Mockingbird for the Western Palearctic! Presently in Gibraltar, originally thought to be a Northern Mockingbird until better views were obtained. Here is a photo of the bird by Charles Perez. Follow this link for more photos and account of the finding of this MEGA bird from the excellent Rare Bird Spain Website. Keep up the good work guys.

Tropical Mockingbird © Charles Perez

Who said Mallard were boring???

Just catching up with a few of the great blogs that I read and the following, from the Lower Derwent Valley NNR blog caught my eye, its about Mallard...:

[Ring number] GN12614, a Mallard caught and ringed at Wheldrake on 28/06/99 was re-caught today [Saturday 25th 2012] at North Duffield Carrs. That’s nearly 13 years since ringing and makes it at least 14 years old. Interesting that it’s not been re-caught since, so you have to wonder where it’s been since we last saw it. It’s certainly a good age for such a popular quarry species, the longevity record [for Mallard] from the BTO ringing in the UK is 20 years and 5 months.

This is cool, and one of the great things about ringing! Anyone who doesn't know the area Wheldrake is a few Kms north of North Duffield. Where has it been for the last 13 years??? Loads of waterfowl ringing goes on in the LDV so really surprising that its not been recaught prior to now!

Drake Mallard Photo Bert de Tilly

I was at a Wedding up in Pateley Bridge this weekend, a really beautiful location and had a great time. There was plenty of Red Kite about which is always nice to see! A morning walk round the village of Spofforth with Mike Bowman Images was really enjoyable too with lots of Red Kite, singing Yellowhammer, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Dunnock, vocal Great Spotted Woodpecker, several Long-tailed Tit and nest prospecting Jackdaw.

This evening I thought I'd take a quick look at North Duffield Carrs, it was fairly quite but a single Barn Owl and almost 40 Curlew were good. No sign of any more Short-eared Owls unfortunately. There had been a Bar-headed Goose on the reserve in the morning but unfortunately this had gone before I got down there.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Egg collector given Asbo preventing travel to Scotland

I reported on the appalling crimes committed by Matthew Gonshaw (below) back in December 2011 here

This news has just come out this evening and is a fairly decent result and will at least go half way to helping stop him, though it seems to miss the point that there are rare birds in England/Wales too which will still be 'up-for-grabs'. I personally feel he should be put in prison each breeding season, or under house arrest or something like that... however he doesn't really seem to be learning from his previous convictions. What would stop him? Removing his hands might go some way...

The following is from the BBC.

An egg collector from London has been banned from travelling to Scotland during the nesting season for ten years.

An anti-social behaviour order was issued against Matthew Gonshaw because of his repeated trips to take eggs of birds like golden eagles and ospreys.

He had previously admitted 10 charges of theft and possession of rare eggs.

Gonshaw, 49, was jailed for six months last December at Thames Magistrates' Court.

The Asbo prevents him travelling to Scotland between 1 Feb and 31 August.

He has also been prevented from visiting RSPB and Wildlife trust land for the next decade.

RSPB Scotland said the order would strengthen the penalties he would face for any future wildlife crimes.

'Serial criminal'

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, he could receive a £20,000 fine and a five year jail term for breaking the conditions of the Asbo.

RSPB Scotland's head of investigations Ian Thomson said: "Matthew Gonshaw is a serial criminal, and has repeatedly targeted the eggs of some of our rarest species.

"Over the decades he has plundered hundreds of birds' nests, feeding his selfish desire to add to his egg collection.

"We welcome this decision by the English courts for the strong signal it sends out and as an effective measure to protect our breeding birds."

Gonshaw, of Bow, east London, is currently serving his fourth prison term for egg collecting.

The Haul

The Haul


Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). North Mole, Gibraltar. Perhaps from 15.2 until 24.2 at least (Charles PĂ©rez & Keith Bensusan/GONHS).

News via Rare Bird Spain Facebook Page

EDIT Sunday 26th: Just got back from a couple of days away with no internet to find this bird has turned into a TROPICAL MOCKINGBIRD - a first for the western palearctic!! Pretty happy on a ship I guess! Still not seen any pictures in a brief search though.


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Great Grey Shrike in the HAND! (and its alive)

Approximately this time last year (20th February) a Great Grey Shrike turned up at North Duffield Carrs Nature Reserve, just a mile form my house! Read all about the initial discovery here.

After a few days of it vanishing for long periods it was figured out that the bird was moving between the North Duffield Reserve and nearby Skipwith Common Nature Reserve (both very large areas) where occasionally it would show well - such as like it did here a month into its stay.

It was enjoyable and very educational to be able to watch this bird on a number of occasions during the late winter - it was covering a large area so there was hope/expectations of it turning up anywhere in the local area! My garden would have been nice (my garden was half way between the two regularly used sites)!

Despite all of the above views one Sunday afternoons sighting was the best and resulted in the following images... (these are all taken on my old Blackberry which unfortunately didn't have a very good camera - motto = keep your proper digital camera battery fully charged!). This is the first time I've put these pics on my blog, for some reason I was really busy at the time and just forgot all about them! They are not the best but you get the idea...

Great Grey Shrike Andy Walker (phone pic)

Great Grey Shrike Andy Walker (phone pic)

Great Grey Shrike Andy Walker (phone pic)

Great Grey Shrike Andy Walker (phone pic)

Great Grey Shrike Andy Walker (phone pic)

Great Grey Shrike Andy Walker (phone pic)

Great Grey Shrike Andy Walker (phone pic)

Great Grey Shrike Andy Walker (phone pic)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

An Interesting Look at a Kestrel...

Monday mornings drive to work was interesting for a number of reasons. I've touched on the singing Corn Bunting (which, as expected was still on his post this morning. 3 days and counting!). However the main interest was in a strange mix of birds: Blackbird, Common Gull and Kestrel. What do these birds all have in common? Well they were all road collision victims on the country lanes I drive between mine and York.

I've found a few interesting birds in the last year on the roads in the area such as Lesser Black-backed Gull, Green Woodpecker and Great Tit! I try and stop, (where safe!) to check them for rings etc.

The Common Gull was a bit of a mess and the Blackbird was too dangerous to stop for, however the Kestrel was not in too bad condition so I grabbed it. I thought there was quite a good chance it may be ringed but unfortunately it wasn't. It was also good to be able to see this species up close and personal, just a shame it was not still alive!

Back home I grabbed some photographs of the bird.

Kestrel - side view

Kestrel - open wing upperside

Kestrel - Close-up of primary coverts

Kestrel - back view spread tail

Kestrel - spread tail

Kestrel - the feet

Kestrel - underwing (secondary/inner wing)

Kestrel - underwing (primaries)

Kestrel - chest and flanks

Kestrel - back rump and tail

Monday, 20 February 2012

Spring IS here says Mr Corn Bunting

Spring is definitely here! This morning on the local patch dog walk yesterdays Yellowhammers that were showing indications of getting into the spirit of spring by making a few vocalisations were in full song. Great stuff!! I had at least 2 males singing this morning.

Other birds noted on the walk were 2 Barn Owls (one of which came quite close as we walked near a nice grassy headland), the Great Spot was very vocal and a Kestrel was out and about nice and early too. At least 7 Roe Deer were distantly mooching across a winter wheat field. Several Lapwing were about and Golden Plover was heard somewhere but not pinned down. There appeared to be more Chaffinch singing and a pair of Bullfinch were noted in some scrub. Skylarks again were singing away.

I was in the office today - nothing of note seen here today, however en route to the office I had a few interesting sightings involving a Common Gull, Kestrel and Blackbird... tune in tomorrow to find out more about that one!

Highlight of the drive to work however was the return of 'Mr Corn Bunting'. Mr Corn Bunting sits on a gatepost between Elvington and York during the breeding season and sings there pretty much all day long! Today was the first time he's been back this year - therefore spring IS here. In fact he was singing so loud this morning I heard him through the closed window of my car! I will try and record how many days he's there for this year! My bet's on 207 days... Any takers... I'm interested to learn whether this represents an early singing date - Anyone have any input on this....?

Corn Bunting: Photo Chris Gomersall

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Another YOC Area Kingfisher

Didn't get out birding today but during my morning dog walk I had the bonus of a patch tick in the form of a Kingfisher! It was sat on a fence post next to a small field drain before flying off down the drain. That's about the 4/5th Kingfisher I've had this year - all but 1 in the York Recording Area!

Kingfisher (phone pic)

A flock of c130 Lapwing flew north and the dawn (well dawn +2hr) chorus consisted of Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin, Wren and Skylark - the usual singing birds of the last few days with Yellowhammer starting to make noises like they are soon to start up too.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Bubwith Ings 18.02.12

Went for a quick look at Bubwith Ings late this afternoon to see if anything different had dropped in since my visit there on Thursday.

There seemed to be more Wigeon and Teal which made up the majority of the waterfowl present on the flood (which is rapidly decreasing in size unfortunately). Several pairs of Shoveler and three Tufted Duck were new. Pintail numbers appeared up with Mallard and Gadwall numbers similar to Thursdays totals. A dozen or so Greylag Goose were on the floods, as were similar numbers of Mute Swan.

A flock of 132 Lapwing held a single Golden Plover and seven Curlew. A single Heron was flying about while 2 Cormorant flew south along the river. A few dozen gulls (mainly common and black-headed) were present roosting with several Great Black-backed Gulls also present - though they seemed more intent on trying to catch Teal!

For a while the birds were showing fairly well, that was until a giant female Peregrine went low through, temporarily putting everything up! It didn't really make a major attempt to catch anything and carried on its way south. Kestrel and Buzzard were also noted flying about. Though no owls seen today - it was very windy mind.

On the way back to my car I had a (presumably the same) Little Grebe on the river near Bubwith Bridge. As darkness arrived several Whooper Swans flew in from the fields and just as I got back to my car several hundred Common and Black-headed Gull dropped in to roost/bathe. There was not many large gulls that I could see - just a handful of Herring and Great Black-backed Gull.

During the morning I made a quick trip over to Flamborough to check on my caravan ready for some spring visits up there - seemed fine after the recent bad weather. I made a quick stop at North Landing to show Jenny the sea where several Gannets were showing well.

Driving back home from Flamborough I had a giant Peregrine hunting the edge of Holme-on-Spalding-Moor tip - not sure if it was a 'proper' bird or if there was some falconers bits and pieces mixed in with it?

Friday, 17 February 2012

7 Barn Owls!!!

This morning I had at least 2 local Barn Owls during my dog walk, ranging much more widely over the last couple of days. Again vocal Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Yellowhammer and first singing Song Thrush of the year (2 very vocal males), Dunnock, Robin and Chaffinch all in full song too.

I was in the office today - not day-dreaming about Yellowthroats in Gwent, honest!

Had my head down most of the day so didn't really notice anything major over the city, a Sparrowhawk was up displaying at lunch time.

The drive home was moderately exciting with a Woodcock flying along one of my roads home at dusk, followed a short while later by another Barn Owl out hunting, this time along a roadside verge.

This brings me nicely on to my blog post title: 7 Barn Owls.... This week I have seen at least 7 birds (Barn Owls!), 2 at a secret location and at least 5 in the LDV within a few mils of my house! Not a bad average! Along with 3 Short-eared Owls, 1 Little Owl and 5/6 Tawny Owls its made for an enjoyable week! The large number of Woodcock and the Jack Snipe were cool too!

Hopefully will get out somewhere this weekend, a mad dash to South Wales anyone???

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Spectacular Nocturnal Survey + Local Patch

Last night I did a nocturnal bird survey for work. I wasn't meant to be doing it but last weeks snow made some survey rearrangements necessary so I stepped up to the plate for the joyous event of a survey from 8pm to 3am (this after a full day in the office too!) Love it!!

The survey was however much more interesting that I'd expected! Highlights were numerous and included the following:

1. 1x Jack Snipe - feeding in a puddle!

2. 27x Woodcock - all over the place! Some giving really good views. I managed a picture (record shot) of one of them on my phone (below). Not great but you get the idea!

Woodcock (Phone-binned) in the middle of the night!

3. 2x Barn Owl - very good views (Barn Owls all over the place at the minute!)

4. 4x Tawny Owl - very vocal with one showing very well

5. 260+ Lapwing

6. Wigeon (several heard)

7. 2x Mute Swan

8. 1x Red-legged Partridge - sat in a field looking a bit confused!

Today I was fairly tired so didn't get out until late morning, the local dog walk produced several smart Yellowhammer and a vocal Great Spotted Woodpecker. Skylark were up and singing for the first time this year which was nice to hear. A couple of Mistle Thrush were in a spot I've not had them before which was cool.

A stop off to look for owls drew a blank but a check of the river resulted in great views of Little Grebe - not that you'd believe it from the picture below!

Little Grebe - (Phone-scoped)

Floods on Bubwith have appeared since the snow melt which allowed the river to burst its banks, these floods held 500+ Wigeon, 50+ Teal, 20+ Mallard, 20+ Pintail (mainly drakes), 5+ Gadwall, 250+ Lapwing, 6 Curlew, Grey Heron and Cormorant with a few gulls (mainly Black-headed and Common with a sprinkling of Great Black-backed) present. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard were all evident. In addition, a flock of approx 155 Pink-footed Goose flew west over South Duffield.

After the long and successful trip south for the Spanish Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco and Paddyfield Warbler a couple of weekends ago (read all about it here) another trip down south may be on the cards, Common Yellowthroat in South Wales.... tempting, very tempting!!!....

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Owls about that: Amazing SEO Pictures!

Barn Owls were again present this morning with all three seen again, even though I was a bit later than on Monday morning.

I thought they may have gone off to roost before I got to their favourite field but luckily they were still out feeding. As cool as Barn Owls are though they can be trumped, for example by Short-eared Owls. There was at least 1 again on the local patch this evening, with another Barn Owl too! So another owltastic day! Apparently there was at least 6 Short-eared Owls in the lower part of the Lower Derwent Valley (LDV) on Saturday - awesome stuff. I wonder what the record count in the LDV is???

Check out this incredible set of hunting Short-eared Owl pictures taken just up the road by Paul McMullen. These are reproduced here below with permission.

Short-eared Owl © Paul McMullen

Short-eared Owl © Paul McMullen

Short-eared Owl © Paul McMullen

The rest of my walk this morning was fairly uneventful but the snow having almost gone now made for a nice change! There was a couple of Dunnock and Chaffinch in full song too! Spring here soon!

I worked at home today, didn't notice too much in/around the garden as I had my head in a laptop most of the day however I did notice a Cormorant fly over while having my breakfast and a male Sparrowhawk while I was having my lunch that was putting the fear of god into the local Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch - oh and I had a Tree Sparrow fly through. Thats about it. Honest!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Barn Owls are just Great!

The day got off to an absolute belter, I took the dogs out at dawn for their morning walk. The snow had started to melt quite considerably and it was much milder than the previous few days which made a nice change!

I headed towards a small area of set-aside/fallow land (about 80m squared) I noticed there was a Barn Owl up hunting over it - great stuff. Always nice too see.

As I approached the field I caught sight of another flash of white. Another Barn Owl was hunting in the same area!

As I was taking in the two birds I couldn't believe my eyes as a third bird got up and started hunting in the same small area. I watched all three birds as they foraged over the field for about 10 minutes before they went out of view and I had to crack on. Amazing stuff.

Barn Owl © Richard Hampshire

The only other birds recorded of note was a single Great Spotted Woodpecker, a few Fieldfare, Reed Bunting and two Kestrel.

I spent the day in the office in York City Centre. The highlight here was late morning when a male Goosander flew through following the route of the river. Loads of gulls flew over duing the late afternoon, presumably heading towards the Wheldrake gull roost.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Good Birding at Potteric Carr

Went to the Natural Art Open Day at Potteric Carr Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserve today which was good fun. There was some amazing artwork on display which was great to have a look at. I got a couple of really nice limited edition prints of an Osprey and Bittern from Mike Bowman Images which I'm really pleased with. Check out Mikes website - highly recommended.

Whilst at the reserve I thought it only polite to have a little look around to see what I could find, however the first stop, as usual was the cafe. This actually paid off as due to the lack of seating inside I was forced outside onto the park benches. No worries I could bird while enjoying my cup of tea. Assorted tits and finches moved through the vegetation towards the bird feeders and the smell of a Sparrowhawk was in the air. However it was due to being sat outside that I found bird of the day - as a juvenile Iceland Gull flew low overhead, straight over the cafe!

A short walk around the reserve resulted in a very showy Great Spotted Woodpecker that was incredibly vocal high in the treetops (phone photo below).

Great-spotted Woodpecker (phone-scoped)

Great-spotted Woodpecker (phone-scoped)

However highlight was a very showy Kingfisher that caught a couple of fishes in front of us. Unfortunately it was sat in the dark under a bridge so I wasn't able to get a brilliant shot but the following gives an idea.

Kingfisher (phone-scoped)

I got home in time for a quick blast to Bubwith Bridge to see if I could scope anything off there in the fading light, a large flock of Wigeon and Mallard were on the river, a Barn Owl hunted a distant field and another Kingfisher flew down the river.

A great weekend!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Some Good Local Birds

The morning dog walk was a rather Baltic -11 C. (it was 8am) but made for some nice landscape scenes with the heavy frost and lying snow. There was however very few birds about, a couple of Tree Sparrow, Fieldfare and Sparrowhawk being the highlights.

Cold morning

Cold morning

By contrast a late afternoon walk was very enjoyable, and a barmy -2 C. I took a route along the River and it wasn't long before I connected with a female Kingfisher. It was sat deep in a bush but I managed to get a couple of record shots on my phone, not the best but you can just about tell what it is!

Kingfisher - Phonescoped (note red to base of lower mandible = female)

Kingfisher - Phonescoped (note red to base of lower mandible = female)

Kingfisher - Phonescoped (note red to base of lower mandible = female)

Kingfisher - Phonescoped (note red to base of lower mandible = female)

The river was rammed full of Wigeon and Mallard with a few Teal, Pintail, Mute Swan and Moorhen present too. A quick scan of a distant field held a nice surprise - a hunting Short-eared Owl, my first on the patch. It was fairly distant, and after it caught a vole it got a bit of undesired attention from two local crows which chased it up quite high. I managed to get a record shot on my phone before it dropped back down low again.

Short-eared Owl - Phonescoped

Short-eared Owl - Phonescoped

Whilst walking back to my car a Kestrel was hunting the river bank and a Buzzard flew through to roost but the highlight came in the form of 2 further Short-eared Owl that showed really well. Unfortunately they were moving too fast to get any pictures!

Really pleased with 3 Short-eared Owl so close to home! I've said before this winter that there seems to be tonnes of them around. I wonder how many more are still out there to be discovered?

Off to Potteric Carr tomorrow for the NATURAL ARTS OPEN DAY. Looking forward to seeing Mike Bowman Images there and hopefully some Bittern activity too. Thermals at the ready!

Friday, 10 February 2012


Sick of standing out at your local smelly tip in a howling gale? Sick of standing out at your cold local reservoir in damp gloomy winter conditions trying to tell the difference between 2nd winter northern Herring Gulls and 2nd winter eastern Caspian Gulls or 3rd generation Caspian x Herring Gull hybrids? Bored of looking through 10,000 gulls at 1 mile range in the mist in the hope of picking out that elusive Glaucous-winged Gull, or even a bog-standard Iceland Gull? If so our BRAND NEW BUDGET GULL MASTERCLASS will be a perfect treat for you... and not half bad for only £4.95 per person(see below for your chance to receive a 20% discount).

Join our resident expert Ollie Metcalf B.A. (Budding Amateur) on a fantastic summer tour as we will help you learn about gulls in a whole new way. We will tour a wide range of habitats such as Scarborough and Bridlington Beachfronts on an August bank holiday weekend in the hope of delivering a fascinating range of gulls – don’t worry we’ll ignore anything that’s clearly not an adult (Receive a 20% discount if you promise not to ask any questions about any brown gulls during your tour). We guarantee nothing that may/may not represent a CASPIAN GULL will be seen (way too difficult), or your money back.

The expert guide

Itinerary: Day 1: What exactly is a gull?


Not a gull

Magpie © Teemu Lehtinen


Not a gull

Robin © Diamonddavej

You’ll soon be up to speed after a full day in the field with our crack team of experts.

Days 2&3: The gulls...

We will show you the incredible Herring Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull and Black-headed Gull. Spend time learning about these beautiful birds and how to identify them during the breeding season. It will be a pleasure to watch these birds as we eat ice cream on the seafront. You'll take away all you could possibly require to be able to ID these tricky birds all by yourself.

Herring Gull © Kurt Kulac. The bog standard 'seagull'

Yellow-legged Gull © Julio Reis. The bog standard 'seagull' with Yellow legs!

Lesser Black-backed Gull © Henry Bucklow. Like a bog standard 'seagull' but with a slightly darker back and yellow legs

Great Black-backed Gull © Andreas Trepte. Like a bog standard 'seagull' but with a black back and pink legs

Common Gull © Benoit Nabholz. Like a bog standard 'seagull' but a bit smaller. If you are lucky you might even glimpse a Kittiwake which is pretty much the same really.

Black-headed Gull © Hans Hillewaert. Has a brown not black head.

Mediterranean Gull © Martin Olsson. Like the Black-headed Gull but with a black head not a brown head

Note we can’t guarantee that you will see any of the above species, or that what we tell you will be correct but at least the ice cream will be nice (probably).

Please feel free to email for details.

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