A group of just over 20 birders met for a walk at Stanwick Lakes yesterday morning at 9am. It was -6C but a sunny day.
Our leader, local birder Bob Webster, organised us for a brisk walk around the frozen lakes where the best birds were some yellowhammers and bramblings on some game cover and a woodcock and red kite.
It was a lovely sunny day and walking kept us warm.
I took the opportunity to give Bob a badge to mark the fact that he has completed 35 years of volunteering for the RSPB - leading walks, doing conservation work, surveys and being a leading light with the local RSPB Group. Thanks Bob - you are one in a million!
'I'm gonna live forever I'm gonna learn how to fly'
Aren't birds amazing? Yes they are!
This is the track of a kittiwake that flew 231km, almost half way to Norway, to look for food to feed to its chicks in a colony in Orkney.
Each dot on the map is a location recorded by the GPS tag which gets a fix every 100 seconds to an accuracy of between 5 and 15 metres. The points are coloured by speed to highlight areas where the bird has a slower passage time (red) indicating either foraging or resting on the water. The green dots are where the bird is moving at intermediate speeds and blue dots are where the bird is flying quite fast. The outward leg is characterised by lots of twists and turns which we interpret as searching for food, but the inward leg takes a much more direct route home.
The FAME project is collecting lots of such fascinating data. We were all surpised that kittiwakes would travel so far to catch food. There are plenty more surprises in store, I am sure. And plenty of useful information about what birds do and where they go to do it. This project will be a real eye-opener.
At the 'Wow!' level, here are details of this journey:
Here is a detailed breakdown of the information in the track:
• 29th June 2010.
• Bird tagged just after 15:00 and went and sat on a loafing rock at the RSPB nature reserve of Copinsay
• Then a quick check of the nest where the partner was now brooding the chicks and then off to sea leaving colony at 15:45 and flying ESE
• Gets to the first ‘loop’ seen on the outward leg at 20:00 and spends an hour searching before moving on another 45 km to the next ‘loop’. Here, between the hours of midnight and 02:45, the bird sits on the water and seems to drift in a straight line. While kittiwakes can forage at night, this one seemed not to.
• At dawn it flew on a further 60 km and foraged in the final ‘loop’ for about 2 hrs before making a direct line home.
• The journey home took almost 5 hrs and that was a distance of 231 km. That means the average speed was about 46km/h which is approaching what is thought to be kittiwake top speed.
• It arrived home at a few minutes before 16:00 and the tag was removed 42 minutes later.
At the 'That's useful!' level, we will use this type of information to demonstrate that kittiwakes forage further than was thought and that therefore developments (eg windfarms) should assess their impacts over a greater distance.
'Baby remember my name'
This work was funded by the European Union Regional Development Fund through the Atlantic Area Transnational Programme.
It was -8C at 0730 this morning but a collared dove was nonetheless singing outside our house.
I guess if 21 December is the shortest day then we are well into spring now!
In which EU country are people most concerned about biodiversity loss in their own country? Greece
Do the people of Italy, Germany, France or the UK take global biodiversity loss the most seriously? Italy
What are the strongest reasons, according to the EU public, for protecting nature? A moral imperative
Which EU country has the highest proportion of its inhabitants claiming to make personal efforts to save biodiversity? Portugal
In which EU country is awareness of the Natura 2000 network the lowest? Italy (but second lowest is the UK).
Now this report is perhaps out of date, and relies on people being honest (and equally honest in different countries!) but it is an interesting snap-shot on what people say they think about nature. It's easy to believe that we are a nation of animal lovers but does that shine through these results? The UK is rarely a leading country on any of these measures - but quite often lagging behind.
It will not have escaped regular readers of this blog that it is an exceptional winter for waxwings in the UK - much larger numbers than usual have been seen and they arrrived early in the autumn.
Reports have come in from much of Scotland, the north and east of England, north Wales and Northern Ireland. My daughter saw some by the frozen canal in Preston, they have been seen at The Lodge several times, they were seen at the BTO headquarters the day that I visited them. Waxwings have been seen at lots of RSPB nature reserves and, for the first time, at Hope Farm too.
They have even arrived in rural Northamptonshire and have, as is their wont, been showing off in supermarket car parks and seedier edges of towns. Today, surely under the disguise of visiting relatives and shopping there was every chance of catching up and seeing some of these elusive birds. Well, that's what I thought anyway.
Diamond Drive in Irthlingborough failed to deliver a waxwing as did the Tesco in Northampton. Hey Tesco - every little waxwing would help! There were c30 here yesterday! Woodford Halse, just close to where brother-in-law lives (and where I once saw a rose-coloured starling) was waxwing-free too.
But the top spot, and a bit up-market from Tesco (?) was the Sainsbury's at Kettering. Now I only usually go to Kettering to see my team, Rushden and Diamonds, beat our local rivals at the beautiful game, but when one is dipping on waxwings then special measures may be needed. Kettering was packed with waxwing spotters - most of whom seemed to be carrying plastic bags, rolls of wrapping paper and not the usual binoculars and telescopes. However, waxwing-watchers and shoppers outnumbered the waxwings by several thousand to none - a similar score to the Diamonds usual supremacy over the Poppies (I wish!).
There ought to be a rule along the lines of four dips and you're out! So heading homeward through the Christmas traffic I reached for some culture and turned on the coverage of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge. Would the chosen chorister get the notes in Once in Royal David's City or not? They always do, but this time he did far better - as the mellifluous tones came out of the radio they called out a flock of c30 waxwings in Eskdaill Street. Not far from Sainsbury's, just round the corner really. Brief but good glimpses were all I got before this flock flew off and I couldn't rediscover them.
But it must be Christmas if the nature God or gods are giving me waxwings. Thank you for saving them up - nice present!