Swift couple reunited in English nestbox


This video from England says about itself:

Special first moments of Swift arrival from migration – BirdLife nestbox

20 May 2015

This is the exciting moment the second swift arrived at the BirdLife nestbox, after the pair spent 9 months separated on their huge migrations to Africa! The pair exhibit some very interesting bond-affirmation behaviours. Imagine you had spent 9 months apart from your partner!

Video captured by Shaun Hurrell by filming the live feed screen which is in the BirdLife staff room. The swifts can’t hear the background noises, but they do get disturbed midway through by someone walking past the nestbox outside.

From BirdLife:

Special first moments captured on video when second swift returns from migration

By Shaun Hurrell, Sat, 23/05/2015 – 15:57

How would you behave when reunited with a loved one after spending 9 months apart? (and after spending 9 months without sitting down!)

For the BirdLife swifts, spending so long apart on their migrations to Africa is a yearly occurrence. But this is the first time the very first moments of being reunited have been captured on camera – from a nestbox on the side of the BirdLife offices in Cambridge, UK.

Swift, Apus apus, mate for life and tend to return to the same nextboxes year after year. However, the incredible little birds spend almost thier entire lives flying – they even sleep on the wing – and pairs take separate migration routes.

Recorded by BirdLife staff during their lunch, the footage above most likely shows a pair re-affirming their bonds in preparation for nesting.

According to local experts, the ‘wing flapping’ behaviour exibited in the video is a way of stopping aggression when the two meet again or when a bird attracts a new partner. However, courtship and encouraging a new prospective partner to use a nestbox are usually rather more drawn-out affairs than the behaviours displayed here, thus it is very likely that this is last year’s pair meeting up again and re-affirming their bond. Ahhhh :)

Spending only 3 months in Europe to breed, these swifts in Cambridge are ‘on loan’ from our central and southern African colleagues. Swifts have one of the longest migrations of any bird in the region of 22,000 km.

Every year, BirdLife staff wait with excited anticipation for the sound of screeching swifts around the BirdLife offices. But with knowledge of challenges migratory birds face in the Mediterranean and the huge threat of illegal killing, this is always a worry.

Swifts are already struggling because of the lack of traditional roofing eaves and spaces for them to nest, so installing a swift box on your house in Europe is one of the best things you can do to help the species.

Thanks to Dick Newell from Action for Swifts for installing the nestbox and camera at Bird Life’s offices in Cambridge, and to Edward Mayer and Mark Smyth from Swift Conservation for their advice.

The arrival of migratory birds signals a change in seasons, when life is in full swing. Use this cue to get out and enjoy nature, and at the same time give something back. Follow our advice and make simple changes to make your garden, balcony, or school bird-friendly with Spring Alive this year.

Spring Alive is a movement started by a BirdLife, organised by OTOP (BirdLife in Poland) to encourage children and adults to take action for the migratory birds they learn about. This season, Spring Alive has provided easy-to-use information and directions to help you to help birds.

And once you have done it – share it – show and tell us about your achievements on the Spring Alive facebook and flickr pages!

Portuguese birds, new Internet site


This is a lesser spotted woodpecker video from Portugal.

From BirdLife:

Portugal’s birding at your fingertips

By Nuno Barros, Tue, 26/05/2015 – 14:50

Now available at your fingertips, all you need to know about more than 100 species of bird and birdwatching in mainland Portugal, the Azores and Madeira archipelagos. Yes, you can find all the information you need to know about all the best birding sites that the country has to offer, itineraries, and many other interesting facts and figures on the Portuguese Society for the Study of Bird’s (SPEA/BirdLife partner) new website.

Found in the south-western part of Europe, Portugal is a small but beautiful country, home to friendly people, a huge myriad of habitats, and many southern European bird species. In the last few years, more and more birdwatchers have come and discovered the many wonders of birding in Portugal, mostly in the Alentejo and Algarve regions. The country’s year round great weather conditions and ease of spotting elusive birds like the Black-winged Kite, Little Bittern, Great Bustard or Azure-Winged Magpie draws birders from far and wide.

Even in the peak of winter you can expect to see more than 100 species in a week, and with a bit of luck, enjoy some sunny days. And Portugal is so small, so it’s easy to jump from one amazing birding hot spot to another, and along with the local cuisine, culture and landscapes, a visit is simply a must.

There are certainly many other places to go birdwatching in Portugal and it’s islands, but this platform provides birdwatchers with what SPEA thinks are all you need to know about the “best” birding sites around, places that not surprisingly overlap with Important Bird and BiodiversityAreas (IBAs), the conservation background that is SPEA’s stronghold.

So all bird lovers, we invite you to come and explore our website, and see what this magnificent corner of Europe has to offer. You can also come to our next Sagres Birdwatching and Nature activities Festival, from 1-4th October, to celebrate some of Portugal’s birdwatching wonders.

Good red knot news from New Jersey


This video from the USA says about itself:

Staff writer Abigail Tucker recounts the scene of a beach littered with horseshoe crabs and a sky filled with red knots. Read more here.

From the Conserve Wildlife Blog in New Jersey, USA:

19,077 Red Knots Counted – The Most Seen in New Jersey in a Decade

May 25th, 2015

An Update on the 2015 Delaware Bay Shorebird Project

By: Dr. Larry Niles, LJ Niles Associates LLC

Despite the threatening forecast of a cold drizzle and strong winds, our team persevered to complete the first bay-wide count of this season. On the New Jersey side of Delaware Bay, we counted 19,077 red knots – the most seen in the state in a decade. With Delaware’s shorebird team recording 2,000 knots along their entire shoreline, the total knot count of 21,077 is not far from the 24,000 seasonal maximum of the last three years.

This is good news in either of two completely different ways. One explanation is that perhaps most of the knots have already come to the bay. If so, they are in good time to make weight and are getting close to an on-time departure for the Arctic. The alternative is that even more will arrive and we will exceed our counts of the recent past. Good weights promise good Arctic production; more knots offer new hope.

The numbers of ruddy turnstones (12,295) and semipalmated sandpipers (56,788) are also close to the seasonal maxima counts of the recent past, so they too may soon brave the long flight to their Arctic homes. Our cannon-net catches of turnstones, sanderlings and knots point to weights building quickly.

But the real shorebird wonderland of the bay continues to be Egg Island. Few people see this this vast intertidal marsh, and fewer still appreciate its wonder. Egg Island – actually a peninsula – juts miles out into the bay, nearly to the shipping channel. The marsh cradles one of the most diverse bird faunas of the mid-Atlantic. All along its mucky eastern flank, short-billed dowitchers, dunlin, semipalmated sandpipers, black-bellied plovers, and semipalmated plovers comb the eroded banks for crab eggs drifting in the water column from better crab breeding sites. The crabs themselves attempt to breed in the overhanging edges of the spartina marsh, a lost cause; however, because the muck lacks oxygen and the eggs cannot develop. This is bad for crabs but good for shorebirds because most of the eggs end up on the sod banks, easy prey for shorebirds.

But this week, the wonders of Egg Island overwhelmed us. Our team – Humphrey Sitters, Phillipa Sitters and this blog’s author – wove along the shallow shoreline in our intrepid 17-ft Carolina skiff, counting thousands of shorebirds – 8,226 knots, 4,125 ruddy turnstones, 3,000 sanderlings, and 21,000 semipalmated sandpipers. The flocks swirled around the peninsula’s sandy western shore, alighting, then flying, and then alighting again. It was a shorebird dance that was a wonderful sight for increasingly tired-out shorebird scientists.

Wildlife in Britain, video


This is a 2013 RSPB video about wildlife in Britain.

Migratory birds coming back in Britain


This video from England says about itself:

26 May 2015

While BBC Springwatch allows us a fascinating glimpse into the intimate details of the lives of breeding British wildlife for three weeks this spring, here at the RPSB a small group of volunteers has helped to produce their own series of films introducing some of the characters you might see on you TV, the places they live, the struggles they face and how they are being overcome.

Migration is one of nature’s great events. Here, Paul Green, assistant warden at RSPB Minsmere nature reserve, talks about the exciting return of our summer migrants, and the astonishing journeys they’ve made to get here.

Unfortunately many migrating birds are declining in numbers due to loss of habitat, decreased availability of food, and climate change, both here in their wintering grounds and the countries they pass through on migration. The RSPB’s Birds Without Borders project aims to improve the breeding success of some of our most rapidly declining summer visitors, ensure safe passage for birds on migration, and deliver sustainable conservation initiatives that provide benefits for both migrant birds and people. Find out more here.

Find out more about bird migration here.

First ever Kurdish wheatear in France


This video says about itself:

The Kurdistan Wheatear (Oenanthe xanthoprymna), also known as the Kurdish Wheatear, Chestnut-rumped Wheatear or Red-rumped Wheatear, is a species of bird in the Muscicapidae family. The Red-tailed Wheatear (O. chrysopygia) was formerly considered a subspecies of this bird but is now often regarded as a separate species.

From Birdguides.com in Britain:

Rarity finders Kurdish Wheatear in Auvergne — a first for France

At 1,464 m Puy de Dôme is the highest point of the Chaîne des Puys, a chain of extinct volcanoes in the Auvergne region of France. The summit, often very windswept, is covered by an alpine meadow on which the Romans built a temple dedicated to the god Mercury. In spring and summer, it is a very busy place as a lot of tourists visit, either by walking or by train. Typical breeding species include Water Pipit, Skylark and Crag Martin.

Situated near Clermont-Ferrand, the site is easy for me to visit and I regularly make the ascent early in the morning, at a time when I am often alone and birds are easy to observe. On Sunday 17 May, on the ruins of the Roman temple, I observed a wheatear of a species unknown to me, but I had no field guide, no camera and I was in a hurry. I thus went back to the summit the following afternoon.

On arrival at the temple at 4 pm I immediately found the bird in the same place, and watched it for one hour. It was very showy, coming to within 10 metres. By this point there was no doubt: this wheatear, with a black throat, white supercilium, grey-brown back and a rusty red rump, was a Kurdish Wheatear!

Perched on the walls of the temple it hunted insects and sang in the sunshine, indifferent to the people surrounding it, making for a wonderful observation in perfect conditions. How had it arrived here, so far from its breeding range in the Middle East?

Arriving back home I learned that this was the first known sighting in France, and indeed Western Europe. The bird was still present on Tuesday 19th, when it was twitched by several French birders, but not seen thereafter. What a symbol that this rarest of visitors chose to settle at a location which asks to be classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site!

Kurdish Wheatear has a restricted breeding range from eastern Turkey to south-west Iran and winters in the Sinai, eastern Egypt and Sudan. This represents the first record for France and continues an excellent run of vagrants in the country so far in 2015 which includes the first national records of Asian Desert Warbler and Bimaculated Lark, the second Eastern Black Redstart and White-crowned Black Wheatear (the latter the first since 1884), and third Little Swift.

Alex Clamens

Friday 22nd May 2015