Category Archives: 2016

Secret Valley Herons

(Rich Steel, May 01, 2016)

A few weeks ago, I received an email with a couple of photographs attached  taken on a compact camera of a heron nest. This  had been sent to a photographer I know who lives down south, who knowing it was in my area, then forwarded it on to me. The nest was supposed to be one of around ten at a location close to home, which I have driven past many times, and never knew a heronry was there. My good friend lives just round the corner from the herons and he did not know they were there either. So before I get any further I would like to send a big thanks to Ben for sharing the information with me.

The heronry is on the edge of a new housing estate located in a narrow, shallow heavily wooded valley. Where birds have nested in the tops of trees growing from the valley base, by standing on the valley ridge effectively puts you at the interesting perspective of being level with the nests. Given the dense tree growth along the side of the valley there is only one small gap which is clear of vegetation to allow you to photography the birds. When I say small I mean its a 2ft clear hole through the branches which, with some careful camera positioning allows you to photograph three different nests. Each of the nests was occupied one with 4 well grown young, another with 3 and the third with an adult bird which was presumably sitting on eggs.

This is the first time I have photographed a herons nest and it reminded me a little of a scene from Jurassic Park especially with the ‘primeval’ sounds of birds from adjacent nests as adults came back and forth with sticks to build up their nest or fish to feed their rapidly growing young. I did three sessions in total before the spring tree growth obscured by small window through the trees. It proved to be a waiting game as the action only really starts in earnest when the adult returns to the nest with the next fish meal which seemed to occur every 60 to 90 minutes. In the intervening time, the chicks would spend their time sleeping, preening, moving sticks around and stretching their wings and building their wing muscles with some flapping exercise.

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Birds follow green spaces to move between feeders

(Daniel T. C. Cox, Richard Inger, Steven Hancock, Karen Anderson,
Kevin J. Gaston, 23 November 2016 ,Photo Lewis Collard)


The benefits of feeding stations are obvious — to the birds that visit them and the people who maintain them — but many gardens are small and separated from other yards by roads, rivers, and other barriers. In order to maximize the benefits, we need to understand how birds move between feeders.

Between June 2013 and August 2014, researchers in southern England employed radio-frequency-identification technology to find out. They equipped 452 Blue Tits and Great Tits, relatives of chickadees, with tiny transponders and placed receivers on 51 feeders. Each time a tagged bird visited a feeder, the receiver recorded the date and time as well as the identity of the bird.

The results promise to help planners looking to improve their communities. The researchers write in the journal Scientific Reports that a higher percentage of vegetation cover increased both the likelihood that birds would move between feeders and the frequency of movement. In areas where green space was highly fragmented, birds moved between feeders in vegetated corridors. Large trees and shrubs were especially important to connectivity, write the researchers, while road gaps did not prevent movement between feeders but did decrease the frequency of visits. — Julie Craves

Read the whole study

High Mercury Levels Pose Another Setback for Arctic Birds

(Katie Valentine, July 22, 2016)
Gone unchecked, the element can lead to sickness, sterility, or even death in breeding shorebirds.

Life in the Arctic has its challenges. The shorebirds that breed there each summer have to complete some of the longest migrations on record. Once they arrive, they’re forced to deal with harsh living and foraging conditions—made worse by the ill effects of a changing climate.

Now scientists are adding another hardship to the list: mercury poisoning. A new study by researchers at McGill University and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that Arctic shorebirds are exhibiting high levels of mercury, which could be dangerous for their population numbers. “The concentrations in some were much higher than we would have ever expected for small birds that are foraging on insects,” says Marie Perkins, a PhD candidate at McGill and lead author of the study.

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Europas första tundrasparv upptäckt i Sverige

(Erik Hansson, Natursidan, 2016-11-12)

Strax söder om Staffanstorp i Skåne upptäcktes vid lunchtid lördagen den 12 november Sveriges och Europas första tundrasparv av Simon Fors. Fågeln kunde fotograferas och lockade dessutom ivrigt. Den sågs under hela dagen av ditresta fågelskådare och sågs även under morgonen den 13 november.
Tundrasparven lever i norra Nordamerika och flyger om vintern söderut i USA. Den anses ha ett väldigt stort utbredningsområde och är enligt IUCN ”livskraftig”. Förhoppningsvis gäller det även den individen som flugit fel och hamnat i Sverige. Fågelskådare som åker dit uppmanas att ”parkera med förstånd” då det är ”ganska svårparkerat”.

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New study doubles the estimate of bird species in the world

(American Museum of Natural History, 2016-12-12)

New research led by the American Museum of Natural History suggests that there are about 18,000 bird species in the world — nearly twice as many as previously thought. The work focuses on “hidden” avian diversity — birds that look similar to one another, or were thought to interbreed, but are actually different species. Recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study has serious implications for conservation practices.

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With climate change, not all wildlife population shifts are predictable

(University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2016-11-28)

Wildlife ecologists who study the effects of climate change assume, with support from several studies, that warming temperatures caused by climate change are forcing animals to move either northward or upslope on mountainsides to stay within their natural climate conditions. But a new study of lowland and higher-mountain bird species now shows an unexpected and “unprecedented” inconsistency in such shifts.

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