Good cirl bunting news from England


This video is called Cirl Bunting singing (Emberiza cirlus).

From Wildlife Extra:

Cirl buntings make a comeback in south Devon

The cirl bunting once faced extinction in the UK. However, it is now making a comeback in its south Devon stronghold.

In November 2008 the RSPB purchased Labrador Bay in Devon from Teignbridge District Council.

A contributing sum of £100,000 towards the purchase came from Devon County Council as compensation for what had been predicted to have a significant impact on cirl bunting habitat – the South Devon Link Road.

The plan for Labrador Bay was to have a reserve that would provide a safe-haven for this colourful bunting, providing all the vital elements it needed to flourish: safe nesting habitat and plenty of food, seeds in the winter and insects in the summer.

Cath Jeffs, cirl bunting project manager said: “At the time of purchase, we estimated that there were three pairs of cirl buntings on site.

“There are now 21 pairs breeding and over 50 birds that winter on the site – we are well ahead of our projected target, which is a fantastic achievement.

“The RSPB has done lots of habitat improvements including hedge and grassland restoration, and it seems that the cirl buntings approve.”

It was hoped that by providing a very productive cirl population on the reserve it would help fuel expansion to other areas.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Communities, said: “We wanted to ensure that the construction of the South Devon Link Road maintained a balance between the economy and the environment, and by helping the RSPB buy this wonderful reserve it will improve its value for wildlife and preserve it for future generations.

“This has provided a positive impact for the cirl bunting population as a whole, as well as other wildlife such as bats.”

A key component of the cirl bunting success story has been community involvement and the support of local volunteers.

The farmer who cultivates the land adjacent to the reserve holds wildlife as a key consideration, and the cirl bunting population that lives off the reserve and around the village of Stokeinteignhead is benefitting as a result.

Labrador Bay nature reserve is now acknowledged as one of the best sites to see cirl buntings in the UK and visitors are rarely disappointed.

For more information visit here.

There will be guided cirl bunting identification walks on the reserve at 9.30am, Sat 26 July, Sun 26 Oct 2014, and Sun 25 Jan 2015.

Wild beavers back in England after 200 years


This video from England says about itself:

Beaver in Devon

30 sep. 2013

Beavers are a vital missing link in the UK’s ecosystem and the wetland environment is suffering from the loss of beaver activity. In principle we support the EU’s call for governments to reintroduce lost endemic species and note that England is one of the few remaining countries not to reintroduce beavers.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wild beavers spotted in Devon

European beavers are back in the wild

February 2014: After an absence of more than 200 years a small population of European beavers, Castor fiber, has been seen wild in the English countryside. A family group of three were filmed by Tom Buckley on the River Otter in East Devon. They are believed to be the result of an escape or unsanctioned release.

It is highly significant because it strongly suggests that a small breeding population of beavers now exists outside of captivity. This would be the first time since the 18th century that European beavers had been breeding in the wild in England. Beavers were finally hunted to extinction during the 18th century as a result of being highly valued fur, medicinal value and meat, not because they were viewed as a nuisance species.

“We believe that releases of European beavers should be properly planned. We do not support unlicensed releases of any animals or plants, said Devon Wildlife Trust in a statement.

“However, now that a small European beaver population has established itself in East Devon we believe that they should be left alone and observed, using a rigorous monitoring programme. This group of beavers provides us with a unique opportunity to learn lessons about their behaviour and their impact on the local landscape.

“We believe that, given the right conditions, the return of the European beaver, a formerly native mammal, will be of overall benefit to river and wetland habitats in the UK.”

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Good English red-backed shrike news


This video is about red-backed shrikes in Bulgaria, May 2010. A female, and then a male.

From Wildlife Extra:

Successful fledging for England’s only red-backed shrikes – Butcher birds

England’s only nesting “butcher birds” successful on Dartmoor

September 2013. RSPB have announced the fledging of two youngsters from the England’s only nesting pair of red-backed shrikes in 2013. The birds, at a secret location on Dartmoor, have been under close watch to guarantee their safety in a project managed by the RSPB with support from Dartmoor Study Group, Devon Birds, Devon & Cornwall Police, Forestry Commission, Dartmoor National Park Authority and Natural England.

First bred here in 2010

Kevin Rylands from the RSPB said; “This is now the fourth year they have returned to Dartmoor, (Read about how they first bred in 2010) but last year they failed to breed successfully, probably due to the awful weather. A lone male visited the previous breeding site in May this year but failed to find a mate. Fortunately though a pair was found at a new site in June and this bodes well for the future of the species on Dartmoor.”

Extinct in UK

Red-backed shrikes were driven to extinction in the UK at the end of the last century and egg collecting remains a major threat.

“As in previous years we used a combination of volunteers, staff and sophisticated wildlife surveillance equipment as part of site protection and monitoring. Although it’s been hard work, the efforts have been rewarded with two youngsters fledged. We are particularly grateful to the volunteers involved and to Devon Birds for funding some of the cameras used on site as part of Devon & Cornwall Police’s Operation Wilderness.”

Wildlife Crime Officer, PC Josh Marshall, said “I deployed Operation Wilderness cameras to assist with the protection of the birds. Cameras were downloaded at regular intervals to ensure the security of the site”.

Butchers

Red-backed shrikes are a migrant species who return from Africa in spring. They are also known as “butcher birds” due to their uncompromising eating habits, which involve catching small creatures and often impaling them on sharp thorns or barbed wire. These ‘larders’ can hold caterpillars, beetles, bees, lizards and even small mammals. Once a familiar breeding bird across the country, they declined to extinction, last breeding in England (East Anglia) in 1992, before their return to Dartmoor in 2010.

“The red-backed shrike is a beautiful bird with striking feeding habits,” explained George Harris, Chairman of Devon Birds. “Its loss from Devon last century was tragic, which is why we are so keen to support initiatives such as this, with necessarily wide-reaching partnership involvement, intended to see this bird’s recovery in Devon. It’s a big aspiration, but success will be worth the effort!”

Kevin Rylands concluded “We hope red-backed shrikes will continue to re-colonise Dartmoor but that is dependent upon birds returning next year, finding suitable habitat and not being disturbed. In addition to facing threats from egg-collectors, red-backed shrikes, along with many other migratory birds, are in great danger when travelling between the southwest and wintering grounds in Africa, with many trapped and killed en route.

The extent of habitat and amount of large insects and other available prey on Dartmoor has no doubt contributed to the recent success of this species. Surveys have shown that Dartmoor (and other SW uplands) holds a wealth of species previously widespread in lowland areas such as cuckoo, meadow pipit and whinchat and the RSPB is working with conservation partners to ensure that this important upland and its fringes can provide the food and nesting sites that birds need.

Hybrid Red-backed Shrike at Hidd (Bahrain) – Bird record by Jehad Alammadi: here.

Good British seabird news


This video from Britain says about itself:

7 June 2012

A documentary about Lundy Island. A place of peace and tranquillity, where a wealth of wildlife and stunning scenery attracts vistors from all around the world all year round……But with plans for a new offshore wind farm, named the Atlantic Array, the unique wildlife of Lundy could be in jeopardy.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Lundy bird populations soar after rats eradicated

Findings will give encouragement to a similar project due to get under way this autumn on two of the isles of Scilly

Steven Morris

Tuesday 30 July 2013

A project to eradicate rats from a rocky island off Devon has resulted in a tenfold increase in the population of an endangered burrowing seabird that nests there, conservationists have revealed.

Wildlife charities are delighted that the removal of rats from Lundy, in the Bristol Channel, has apparently led to a dramatic boost to the number of Manx shearwaters and other birds on the island.

A similar project costing £750,000 is due to get under way this autumn on two of the isles of Scilly, St Agnes and Gugh, to wipe out the descendants of brown rats that swam to shore from shipwrecks.

Survey teams from the RSPB who returned to Lundy 10 years after the launch of the seabird recovery project found that the number of breeding pairs of Manx shearwaters had leapt from 300 to 3,000. Puffin numbers had increased from just five birds to 80, while razorbills and shags had also made substantial gains.

Helen Booker, RSPB senior conservation officer in the south-west of England, said: “This is such an exciting result, better than we expected, and the rate of increase is an indication of just how important rat-free islands like Lundy are as breeding site for seabirds.”

David Bullock, head of nature conservation for the National Trust, which owns Lundy, said “Once the rats had gone from Lundy, the number of pairs of shearwaters went from hundreds to thousands in matter of a few years.”

He said such a rapid recovery must have been aided by birds from other colonies, probably including those on islands off the Pembrokeshire coast, settling to breed on Lundy.

The results will provide encouragement for a similar project on St Agnes and Gugh, 28 miles off the south-west tip of mainland Britain. Here an estimated 3,100 brown rats are blamed for preying on Scilly shearwaters as well as storm petrels, terns and the Scilly shrew, a rodent found only on the archipelago.

From this autumn, poison bait will be laid for the rats as part of a 25-year Isles of Scilly seabird recovery project, which is being run with cash from the National Lottery, the EU’s Life fund and other sources.

It follows a 25% fall in bird numbers in recent years. The project is deemed feasible because the islands are surrounded by deep water, and so it is thought unlikely once the rats there are removed that others will be able to repopulate it.

It is deemed particularly important because St Agnes and Gugh are close to the uninhabited island of Annet, which has significant colonies of seabirds.

Jaclyn Pearson, project manager for the Isles of Scilly recovery project, said it had the backing of the 75 residents of St Agnes, though some of the children had taken some convincing.

She said the bait stations were designed to be accessible only to rats, and a stock of the antidote had been ferried across in case a cat or dog got to the poison.

See also here.

The world’s biggest rat-killing campaign underway on South Georgia Island: here.

Dutch Sandwich tern’s journey to England


This video from England is called Sandwich terns return to RSPB Coquet Island.

From Dawlish Warren Latest Sightings blog in Britain:

Sunday 21st July 2013

Another couple of darvic rung Sandwich Tern today, a juvenile (White NL1) and its probable parent (Red ELV) from the same colony as yesterday’s bird, Markenje, near Ouddorp, Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands. The parent was rung at Heist, West-Vlaanderen, Belguim [sic; Belgium] in July 2007, whilst the colour ring was added when it was retrapped on the Ythan estuary, near Aberdeen in August 2011. The next sighting was on Markenje in June 2013 before it appeared at the Warren this morning.

What is most interesting is that this is a bird that chose to migrate north in 2011 (in its 5th calender year), but this year migrated in a different direction. This would suggest that terns indeed make a choice, to migrate north, south or west after the breeding season, showing that a network of protected sites are essential for the survival of this species. Thanks again to Pim Wolf and, in Scotland, Ewan Weston for the rapid dissemination of ringing data.

Scottish golden eagle on camera trap


This video from Britain is called Real birds eye view! Golden Eagle in flight – Animal Camera – BBC.

From Wildlife Extra:

Golden eagle caught on camera trap in the Trossachs

May 2013. A golden eagle in a Trossachs glen chose to perch in front of a remote camera trap placed by the Woodland Trust Scotland. The cameras are triggered by motion and take photographs of animals passing in front of them.

Richard Eadington, the Trust’s ranger at Glen Finglas said: “We’re using the remote cameras to get a good picture of the wildlife that can be found on the estate. It’s virtually impossible for a person to get that close to an eagle in the wild and using the cameras give us a chance to see what is going on when there is no-one around.

Black grouse and pine marten

“So far we’ve managed to get pictures of wildlife including black grouse and pine martens, and I would love to track down a wildcat. We’re really grateful for the fantastic support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery who have provided the cameras.”

Golden eagles can be seen all year round in wild and upland areas of Scotland. Their wing span can reach more than 2 metres, making ‘goldies’ one of the largest birds of prey.

Glen Finglas estate sweeps from just below the summit of Ben Ledi down to the shores of Loch Venacher and offers scenic walks ranging from 15 minutes to 15 miles. It is part of The Great Trossachs Forest, one of the most significant woodland regeneration projects to take place in a generation.

September 2013. There have been several reported sightings of a very large raptor, believed to be a Golden eagle, in North Devon in the last month or two. A pet bird from Escot Park did go missing for a week in July, but returned to Escot: here.

September 2013. A camera trap set out for endangered Siberian (Amur) tigers in the Russian Far East photographed something far more rare: a golden eagle capturing a young sika deer: here.

Canadian lynx discovery in Britain


This video is called CANADIAN LYNX – Species Spotlight.

From Wildlife Extra:

Museum find proves exotic ‘big cat’ prowled British countryside a century ago

Canadian Lynx shot in Devon in 1900

April 2013. An old skeleton, found in a warehouse of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, of an animal shot around 1900 in Devon has proved to be that of a Canadian Lynx.

The study of the Canadian lynx, rediscovered by research team member Max Blake among hundreds of thousands of specimens at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, details records unearthed at the museum which showed the animal had originally been mislabelled by Edwardian curators in 1903 as a Eurasian lynx – a close relative of the Canadian lynx.

The animal’s skeleton and mounted skin was analysed by a multi-disciplinary team of Durham University scientists and fellow researchers at Bristol, Southampton and Aberystwyth universities and found to be a Canadian lynx – a carnivorous predator more than twice the size of a domestic cat.

Earliest example of ‘Alien big cat‘ in Britain

The research establishes the animal as the earliest example of an “alien big cat” at large in the British countryside.

1976 Wild Animals Act

The research team say this provides further evidence for debunking a popular hypothesis that wild cats entered the British countryside following the introduction of the 1976 Wild Animals Act. The Act was introduced to deal with an increasing fashion for exotic – and potentially dangerous – pets.

The academics believe such feral “British big cats” as they are known, may have lived in the wild much earlier, through escapes and even deliberate release. There is no evidence that such animals have been able to breed in the wild.

Shot in Devon

The records also showed that the lynx was shot by a landowner in the Devon countryside in the early 1900s, after it killed two dogs. (Another lynx was found in a freezer in 1991 in Norfolk).

“This Edwardian feral lynx provides concrete evidence that although rare, exotic felids have occasionally been part of British fauna for more than a century,” said lead researcher, Dr Ross Barnett, formerly of Durham University and now Marie Curie Fellow with the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen.

“The animal remains are significant in representing the first historic big cat from Britain.”

Co-author Dr Darren Naish, from the University of Southampton, added: “There have been enough sightings of exotic big cats which substantially pre-date 1976 to cast doubt on the idea that one piece of legislation made in 1976 explains all releases of these animals in the UK.

“It seems more likely that escapes and releases have occurred throughout history, and that this continual presence of aliens explains the ‘British big cat‘ phenomenon.”

The researchers point out in their paper that Eurasian lynxes existed in the wild in Britain many hundreds of years ago, but had almost certainly become extinct by the 7th century.

Kept in captivity

Morphometric and stable isotope analyses identified the specimen as a Canadian lynx, while analysis of its bones and teeth established it had been kept in captivity long enough to develop severe tooth loss and plaque before it either escaped or was deliberately released into the wild.

Ancient DNA analysis of hair from the lynx proved inconclusive, possibly due to chemicals applied to the pelt during taxidermy.

Julie Finch, head of Bristol’s Museums, Galleries & Archives, said: “Bristol Museum, Galleries and Archives were pleased to be a part of this ground-breaking research, which not only highlights the importance of our science collections, it establishes the pedigree of our 100-year old Lynx and adds to our knowledge and understanding of ‘big cats’ in the UK.

“Our museum collections are extensive and caring for them requires the considerable skills of our collections officers. We have an amazing collection of taxidermy animals on display and we welcome museum visitors to come along, to take a closer look and discover more about the natural world.”

Dr Greger Larson, a member of the research team from Durham University and an expert in the migration of animals, said: “Every few years there is another claim that big cats are living wild in Britain, but none of these claims have been substantiated. It seems that big cats are to England what the Loch Ness Monster is to Scotland.

“By applying a robust scientific methodology, this study conclusively demonstrates that at least one big cat did roam Britain as early as the Edwardian era, and suggests that additional claims need to be subjected to this level of scrutiny.”

The lynx is now on public display at the museum. For further details, click here.

The research was published in the academic journal Historical Biology.

BIG CATS IN BRITAIN

Despite years of claims and alleged sightings, there has never been any proof that big cats are roaming our countryside. A lynx that was shot in Norfolk in the early 1990s was apparently an esapee from a local zoo, and there have been several claims that ‘Small big cats’ such as leopard cats and swamp cats have been run over, there has never been any proof that these land based Nessies exist.

There is, of course, great conspiracy theories that suggest it is all a great police and government cover up, along with UFO and man on the moon. That will be the same police that broadcasted their efforts to destroy a toy tiger on a golf course in Hampshire in 2011.

If you want to read more, have a look at The British Big Cats Society website – still displaying a photo of the lynx from the early 1990s.