Rooks’ intelligence research in Britain


This video is called Rooks at the Tehidy Woods Rookery; in Cornwall.

From Wildlife Extra:

Are rooks one of our most intelligent birds? A survey has just been launched to find out

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) are asking the general public to help them discover just how intelligent rooks are.

Studies done with rooks in the lab have shown that they are extremely intelligent and able to solve complex puzzles using objects and teamwork.

However, apart from their social behaviour, little is known about the behaviour of them in the wild, and especially in gardens.

Anecdotal evidence sugests that rooks can quickly learn to how to unhook feeders in order to drop them on the ground, or how to pull up food dangling by a string with their feet, but the BTO want to know more.

To achieve this the BTO is running a Garden Rook Survey over next six months from 1 July till 31 December.

They will be asking the people to monitor the rooks in their garden and look at their feeding, caching, tolerance, object play, social and vocalisation skills.

Clare Simm, the Garden Rook Survey organiser said, “This is going to be a really exciting survey, learning about what rooks do in gardens across the country.

“We can’t find this out without the public though so if you get rooks in your garden, whether it’s regularly or once in a while, we need your help.”

Click HERE to find out more.

First ever glossy ibis nest on Vlieland island?


This video is called Glossy Ibis at Chapel Amble – Wildlife in Cornwall.

Warden Anke Bruin reports from Vlieland island in the Netherlands about a glossy ibis couple in Kroon’s polders nature reserve.

The normal glossy ibis nesting time, in the Mediterranean, is May-July.

Could this be the first time ever of a glossy ibis nest in the Netherlands? Ms Bruin asks.

In 2012, a glossy ibis couple started to make a nest in the Netherlands, but did not continue.

Glossy ibis nesting attempt in England: here.

Giant barrel jellyfish video


This video says about itself:

Swimming with a giant Barrel Jellyfish

23 June 2014

This Barrel Jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo) was filmed in the Percuil Estuary, near St Mawes, Cornwall. Large numbers of these, the UK’s largest jellyfish species have been seen this year around our coast. they are totally harmless and feed on plankton. They do have stinging cells but they are not able to get through human skin. They can grow to 80cm wide and weigh up to 30 kilos!

Wildlife Extra writes about this:

A man swimming with his dog in Cornwall captured some amazing footage of a giant barrel jellyfish. …

The film gives a perfect example of the size as Matt’s dog Mango swims by.

According to the Torquay Herald Express, sightings were reported to the Marine Conservation Society at Petitor Cove, at Brixham breakwater, Teignmouth, Coryton Cove, Dawlish and in the River Teign off Bishopsteignton. In Torquay harbour there were more than 100.

Peter Richardson, the Marine Conservation Society’s biodiversity programme manager, said the charity first started getting reports of barrel jellyfish in mid-April, off Teignmouth, and during May and June there were daily reports, mostly from Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, but also south Wales and north Scotland.

Dr Richardson said: “This year is a very unusual year for barrel jellyfish in the south west. It’s normal to have barrel jellyfish in UK waters but this is the first time since we started our survey in 2003 that we’ve had quite so many reports from the south west.

“This species is the only one that can survive multiple seasons so we think what we’re seeing in the south west is a lot of adults that survived the mild winter.

“We’ve also had a pretty good start to the basking shark season this year and they also feed on plankton, so it could be the south west seas are productive at the moment. We’re really pleased.”

To report sightings of jellyfish, turtles and basking sharks go to www.mcsuk.org.

Spoonbill and plover news from Vlieland island


This video is about two Kentish plovers in Cornwall.

Warden Carl Zuhorn reports about birds on Vlieland island in the Netherlands.

This spring, so far there are about 160 spoonbill nests at five places on Vlieland. Some spoonbills are still returning now from spring migration.

On the Vliehors, the west of the island, there are three Kentish plover nests.

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Good basking shark news from Cornwall


This video says about itself:

Jonathan Bird’s Blue World: Basking sharks and Lampreys

8 May 2012

In 1998, Jonathan made a remarkable discovery about Basking sharks, the second largest fish on Earth. While diving with Basking sharks in the frigid waters of the Bay of Fundy, Jonathan saw parasitic lampreys on the backs of the sharks. This had never before been documented, so he returned the next year with a shark biologist and a lamprey biologist to attempt to recover living lampreys from the backs of Basking sharks. They didn’t think Jonathan could do it. Wait until you see what happens!

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Conservationists rejoice as Cornwall is awash with basking sharks

Paul Gallagher

Friday 09 May 2014

So many basking sharks have already been spotted in British waters that experts are declaring this the best start to shark season in living memory.

A wildlife tour group reported sighting 19 basking sharks up to 25 feet in length last weekend as the eight-tonne travellers begin to arrive off the south west coast.

The animals, which travel to temperate waters and can stay in British regions until October, have been growing in numbers year on year according to The Shark Trust. A total of 266 Basking Shark sightings were reported to the Trust last year as it hopes for an even higher number in 2014.

“To see so many this early has been an absolute honour and it is exciting to consider what the rest of the season may hold for us,” said Captain Keith Leeves, a veteran skipper with AK Wildlife Cruises, told the Western Morning News.

“We have been blown away with the size of the sharks too, with several sharks being over 20 feet long, which is something truly special to behold! This has been one of the best starts to a shark season in living memory.”

Crew Member Billy Burton said: “Guests have been absolutely blown away by the sightings they have had. There is something awe-inspiring about seeing a 25-foot shark approach you, mouth wide open.”

The cruise company has raised concerns about basking sharks, the second biggest fish behind whale sharks, after spotting a number of sharks with chunks missing from their fins. It said the most likely cause for the damage was encounters with boats navigated by negligent skippers and holidaymakers. AK stressed the importance of following the guidelines from the Shark Trust when around the animals.

The swelling numbers led Penzance-based operator Marine Discovery to urge people to be more cautious than normal when on the water around the south west coast.

A spokesman said: “At this time of year basking sharks can be found feeding off the Cornish coast and it’s fantastic to see them. However it is important to remember that they need to be approached carefully so as not to disturb their natural behaviour, this feeding time is a crucial part of their yearly cycle.

“If a shark thrashes its tail and dives or stops feeding and dives then it is likely you have disturbed it. If this happens learn from the mistake and try not to repeat it.”

Exeter University student Tom Whitlock said he saw four basking sharks, one of three plankton-eating sharks alongside the whale and megamouth sharks, on a recent cruise trip along the coast.

Basking sharks became a protected species in 1998 meaning they cannot be targeted, retained or disturbed in British waters.

A spokesperson for the Shark Trust said: “It may come as a surprise to many, but sharks are a natural part of UK marine fauna; whether native or vagrant, over 30 species of shark, as well as over 16 species of skate and ray, can be found in British waters. However, shark, skate and ray numbers have dropped dramatically in our waters due to the impact of poorly managed fisheries.

“Sightings of sharks are mainly reported in summer months when more people are out on the water and should be treated as a privilege rather than a point of concern. Sharks make an easy target for dramatic headlines but it remains far more dangerous to drive to the beach than to swim in our seas.”

British sharks

At least 21 species of shark are resident inhabitants and commonly found around the coasts of Britain all year round, including the Smallspotted Catshark, Porbeagle Shark and Basking Shark, according to The Shark Trust.

Its website says: “Blue Sharks and Shortfin Mako Sharks are seasonal visitors, appearing in British waters in summer during their trans-Atlantic migrations. A few species, Smooth Hammerhead and Frilled Shark may be vagrants, occurring infrequently off the British coast, with their main distribution ranges being outside British waters. At least 11 shark species, including the Portuguese Dogfish, Black Dogfish, Kitefin Shark and Gulper Sharks are only found in deep water.”

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Good Chinese rare bird news


This video from Britain says about itself:

Snow Bunting at GodrevyWildlife in Cornwall.

Snow buntings have a rare relative in East Asia, about which there is news.

From BirdLife:

New breeding sites found for Asia’s rarest bunting

By Martin Fowlie, Thu, 05/12/2013 – 11:11

Three previously unknown breeding sites of Asia’s rarest bunting have been discovered by a team from the Beijing Bird Watching Society working with BirdLife’s China Programme.

Rufous-backed Bunting Emberiza jankowskii, also known as Jankowski’s Bunting has declined drastically because of conversion of its habitat to farmland, and it is now known only from a restricted area in north-east China.

In April and May this year, breeding buntings were found at six sites, including three new, in the Xing’an League of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. At least 70 birds were identified, mostly singing males. At one previously known site near the Ke’erqin (Horqin) National Nature Reserve, the population had doubled to 41 birds since 2011 after the area was fenced to prevent livestock trampling in the breeding season.

In June 2012, BirdLife’s China Programme and the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society organised the first local workshop on the conservation of this species. Most of the recommendations have been implemented: production of education material; formation of a communication network of local government agencies, nature reserves and researchers; and surveys in suitable areas of sandy grassland with Siberian apricot bushes.

To further raise the profile of the bunting, a second workshop was held in November 2013, in Ulanhot, capital of Xing’an League. Key outcomes included agreements by the local government to work for the conservation of Rufous-backed Bunting and to provide information on Siberian apricot habitats to inform future surveys. The conservation of the species will be promoted during “Love Birds Week”, a nationwide event held every spring. Nature reserve staff and local volunteers will be trained to assist with surveys and conservation projects.

In addition, it has been recommended that Rufous-backed Bunting be listed as the official symbol of the Xing’an League. An award-winning documentary film by local wildlife photographers Mr Dong Guijun and Ms Du Shuxian will be used to promote this species within and outside China. Studies of the winter distribution of the Rufous-backed Bunting have been discussed with the National Bird Banding Center of China, including colour-ringing to monitor local movements.

“These discoveries are very encouraging. When new sites are found we must work with the local government and landowners to protect them” said Vivian Fu, Assistant Manager of the China Programme.

Terry Townshend, a BirdLife Species Champion, who has been campaigning for action for the species, attended the workshop and commented, “The outcomes of the workshop demonstrate a genuine commitment from the local officials in Xing’an to help protect and conserve this beautiful bird.  I am optimistic that, provided we can secure further support, Rufous-backed Bunting will be saved from extinction.”

This work has been aided by the Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust and Oriental Bird Club and is being undertaken with the support of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

If you’d like to help this important conservation action too please make a donation here.

Red-billed tropicbird in Cornwall


This video says about itself:

12 June 2012

A visit to the tropical island of Saba to study the rare and beautiful Red-Billed Tropicbird.

From the Daily Telegraph in Britain:

Sighting that left twitchers afraid of being gulled

When a rare tropical bird never before seen in Britain appeared off the coast of Cornwall, it seemed it had chosen the perfect spot.

By Nick Collins, Science correspondent

7:45AM BST 01 Sep 2013

On the clifftop were 40 of the country’s most avid birdwatchers, their binoculars ready for a sighting of it.

But the fleeting appearance of the red-billed tropicbird, which usually lives off the African coast or in the Caribbean, was spotted by just one of the group, 49-year-old Tom Whiley.

And while the sighting was undoubtedly the highlight of his 38-year birdwatching career, it was only the start of a long struggle to get his version of events accepted. The episode has quickly become highly controversial among birdwatchers.

Although Mr Whiley took photographs as the bird flew past, he faced scepticism from others. Details of the incident have been scrutinised on birdwatching forums, amid frenzied — but unfounded — speculation that he faked the entire episode.

The group, some of whom had come from across Britain, had gathered near Pendeen, at the tip of Cornwall.

Mr Whiley, an electronics engineer, had set up his tripod down a slope, a short distance away from the main group, who were on the cliff above him. He spotted the bird as it was flying more than 1,000ft off the shore.

“I got it in the binoculars first and thought I needed to get shots of it because it was something I hadn’t seen before,” he said.

“I leapt down to my tripod and banged off two bursts of about 20 shots apiece.”

When he checked the image on the digital camera’s screen, he approached the group, fearing some distrust.

“I had predetermined what I would do because it can get really bad. They were all still sea-watching, so they hadn’t seen it.

“There were top sea-watchers from the UK there, so it is all very embarrassing for them. I am sure if they had put their scopes on it would have been obvious, but it didn’t happen.”

Mr Whiley, from Torquay, believes he eventually convinced the group about the veracity of his sighting.

However, since the coup, on Aug 18, birders have been dissecting the incident, expressing doubts on online forums, with hundreds of comments posted.

Some doubt that such a highly visible and unusual bird — with its bright bill and long tail feathers — could have been missed by so many seasoned watchers.

They have also tried to undermine his story, claiming that from his vantage point, he would have been unlikely to spot the bird.

Some also noted that as there was no coastline in the shot, it could have been taken elsewhere. One has even suggested that the shadow of the wing is in the wrong place for the time of day, implying the photo had been digitally manipulated.

A blog entitled “So what really happened at Pendeen?” described the sighting as “the greatest prize in UK sea- watching”. It was written by a birder who was present but describes as “unforgivable”, the length of time Mr Whiley waited to alert others.

Red-billed tropicbirds have been seen in British waters on a handful of occasions.

It is thought to have been blown off course by stormy weather, or to have followed the gulf stream.

Dominic Mitchell, editor of Birdwatch magazine, which records all sightings, said: “I am completely happy that it is a genuine record, and we will be publishing it as such.”