Fancy getting up close and personal with your favourite bird? If you come to Minsmere this Thursday you'll get your chance with a bit of help of the bird ringers from the Waveney Bird Club. Here's a little taster.
Blog by Steve Piotrowski, Waveney Bird Club
When we sit as a family and make our choices as to where we would like to spend our holidays, we should regard ourselves as very lucky. We can hop on a plane and, in a matter of hours, we are delivered to our chosen destination. Our choice is usually about a warmer climate, different cultural experiences, relaxing from our busy lives and enjoying lots of food and drink.
For birds, their choice of travel is not for those reasons, but is their migratory instinct and purely about survival. A significant proportion of the birds that become star attractions at RSPB Minsmere’s Ringing Demonstration events spend their winter months in the heart of Africa. For example, swallows will overfly the massive expanses of the Saharan Desert to make a 12,000-mile round trip to and from South Africa. Most summer migrants will return to their nuptial areas each summer and attempt to breed at the same site as they were reared and fledged. Waveney Bird Club’s Ringing Secretary, Chris McIntyre, has been analysing the data gathered from Minsmere so far and has come up with some extraordinary long-distance movements.
Marathon fliers include one of Minsmere’s breeding nightingales (L131892). This male songster was over two-years old, and had therefore already been to and from Africa twice, before it was shown to Minsmere’s visitors in April 2010. This same bird made it back to Minsmere and to be admired again in May 2011. Nightingales spend their winter over 3,000 miles away to forage in a belt of savannah woodland that runs from Senegal to Kenya, so L131892 has to date clocked up an amazing 18,000 air-miles and made the arduous journey overflying the Sahara, against all the elements, on at least six occasions!
Another example was an adult male whitethroat (L722375) that was again at least two-years old and holding a breeding territory at Minsmere. This bird held centre stage at the ringing demonstrations in May 2011, then in July 2012 and again in June of this year. Whitethroats spend the winter in the Sahel region of Africa, just south of the Sahara, in the northern tropics from West Africa through to the Sudan, so this bird has clocked up a credible 24,000 air-miles.
Similarly, a 2+-year old female garden warbler (L722216) that was nesting at Minsmere in May 2011 was found again in June 2012 and this summer. Garden warblers winter in equatorial Africa from Senegal east to Kenya and south to Angola and Kwazulu-Natal so, like the whitethroat, has clocked up 24,000 air-miles.
To date, three of Minsmere’s garden warblers, eight whitethroats, two lesser whitethroats, three chiffchaffs and a nightingale have made it to their winter quarters at least once and returned to breed at Minsmere.
If you're planning to visit Minsmere this Wednesday, please be aware that we'll be burning vegetation on the Scrape. This essential habitat management work prepares the Scrape for next year's breeding season, giving nature a better home, and will help to improve the views for humans, too. You'll see staff and volunteers on the Scrape, but as birds aren't particularly keen on smoke, you may need to look for them at other places round the reserve.
Work at the Sluice has started, which will run until the end of February 2014. Contractors VolkerStevin, who are working on behalf of the Environment Agency, are carrying this out. The main sluice is being repaired and refurbished and so disruptions including vehicles movement up and down the sluice trail, and small diversions off the main trail will occur periodically. Thank you for your patience during these essential maintenance works.
by Lana Blakely, conservation intern
We’ve had a bit of drama last week in the form of a gorse and scrub fire! The wardening team, who were doing work in the reedbed, first noticed the fire. Plumes of smoke were coming from a northwesterly direction, and so one of us was sent out to investigate to see if it was on the reserve... and it was! We're not sure how the fire started, but it had caught the gorse and scrub and got to a fairly big size at the Westleton end of the reserve, quite close to the village! There's a photo at the bottom of this post.
The fire brigade was called and three fire engines arrived, a no less than four tankers of water were used to extinguish the fire! It started on the footpath and spread east. At one point the fire actually jumped across the road but was stopped thankfully. The fire brigade stayed during the night and have been present throughout the week.
Fortunately it wasn't all emergencies this week. The wardening team went on a visit to Botany Farm at Snape, where we were shown how the reedbed creation was progressing. Currently the pools have been created, and ditches are being dug where old channels used to be, and general earthworks and landscaping are being undertaken. This winter the whole area will be flooded to kill off the grass. More details on the Snape blog here. It was great to be able to visit and will be really interesting to see how the project develops over the coming seasons and years.
This week on the Scrape we’ve had 3 green sandpipers, 2 common sandpipers, 32 spotted redshank, 7 greenshank, 3 little ringed plover, 21 dunlin, 8 avocet, 14 black-tailed godwit, 2 little gull, 1 sanderling, 4 curlew sandpiper, 3 snipe, a great white egret on East Scrape, a wood sandpiper, a mandarin, and a bar-tailed godwit.
Elsewhere on the reserve there was a water rail family seen from South Hide, 50 common scoter, a golden plover, and 4 whimbrel offshore, 2 wheatear, 2 peregrines over the South Levels, 1 yellow-legged gull from Island Mere, and a kingfisher from Bittern hide.
Fire at north-west point of the reserve ©Mel Kemp/RSPB