Welsh Ramsey island bird news


This video from Wales is called RSPB Ramsey Island – why is it special?

From Wales Online:

Ramsey Island conservation staff serenade Manx Shearwaters as part of population survey

20:43, 1 July 2015

By Liz Day

It is thought that Pembrokeshire‘s three islands are home to more than 50% of the world’s population of Manx Shearwater

Conservation staff on an important island nature reserve in West Wales are spending their days serenading seabirds as part of a population survey.

Wardens on Ramsey Island in Pembrokeshire lower an MP3 player into each burrow and play a recording of a duetting pair of Manx Shearwaters, encouraging the birds inside to call back.

Site manager Greg Morgan said: “This is the only way to accurately survey a species that spends most of its life either at sea or underground.

“We play a short burst of a recording and listen for a response. At this time of year, the birds are incubating eggs, so you have the best chance of getting a response because at least one of the pair should be home by day.”

Success story

Greg, who has counted thousands of burrows on the island, is accompanied by his sheepdog Dewi.

“He loves Shearwater surveys, as he can sniff them out long before I get to the burrow,” he said.

“He usually lies down outside a burrow to tell me if it’s occupied or not. He is very well trained and it’s not unusual for dogs to be used to for seabird surveys.”

Greg describes Manx Shearwaters, which have amber conservation status, as the island’s biggest “success story”.

When the RSPB took over Ramsey in 1992, it was full of rats that arrived on shipwrecks in the 1800s and nearly wiped out the species by eating eggs and chicks.

Puffins had become extinct on the island and a survey in 1998 revealed there were just 850 pairs of Manx Shearwaters.

Last year, volunteers on the island installed a puffin sound system and planted decoys in an attempt to lure the distinctive birds to breed on the island, so far without success.

Healthy bird populations

Rats were eradicated from the island in 1999 and although Puffins have not been reintroduced, the population of Manx Shearwaters has rocketed. The most recent population census, carried out in 2012, recorded 3,800 pairs.

It is thought that Pembrokeshire’s three islands – Ramsey, Skomer and Skokholm – are home to more than 50% of the world’s Manx Shearwaters. Skomer is home to 300,000 pairs, while Skokholm has 45,000 pairs.

Greg and his wife Lisa, the island warden, carried out the last full population census in 2012 and between them counted more than 12,000 burrows.

The next full census is due to take place next summer and the wardens are hoping the population will have continue to grow.

“Fingers crossed our next survey will see the population go from strength to strength,” said Greg.

“We have no reason to think that the number will not have increased again. There is plenty of habitat here and the island is still rat-free.”

Migration monitored

To ensure that no rats access the island, there is a quarantine process for visitors and all supplies are inspected before arriving.

Other surveys carried out this year have revealed there are currently 4,400 Guillemots on Ramsey – the highest number ever recorded. There are also 1,200 Razorbills.

“This number is down slightly on previous years, but Razorbills are one of the species hardest hit by the storms in 2013, so it is not surprising,” explained Greg.

Later this month, he will attach data loggers to the Manx Shearwaters to monitor their migration to South America.

The birds leave their nest sites in July to migrate 7,000 miles to Argentina where they spend the winter before returning in late February and March.

For more informations, see rspb.org.uk/ramseyisland.

Good bird news from Wales


This video is called Skomer Island, June 2013.

From the Skomer Island Blog in Wales:

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Seabirds doing well on Skomer

Skomer’s seabird counts have come to an end for 2015 and we’re pleased to say it’s good news. Most of our seabirds appear to be doing very well with record counts of Puffins and the highest counts of Guillemots and Razorbills since modern records began. The graphs show that there have been ups and downs but things haven’t looked this good for a while.

After a good year for gulls last year, it seems that things are back to a slow decline in breeding numbers. Our once 20,000 strong Lesser Black-backed Gull [colony] is now down to around 8,000 pairs and Herring Gulls are also clearly having a hard time of it. But it’s not all bad news. Great Black-backed Gulls, however, are doing well with 123 pairs breeding around the island this year. Kittiwakes also, which are struggling in other areas of Britain, are doing well (or perhaps ‘less badly’ is a better term) with an increase of 4% from 1,488 nests in 2014 to 1,546 in 2015.

Fulmars are holding their own and this years count was only 28 different from last years with 584 occupied sites. Counting the Manx Shearwaters is a little more of a challenge but signs from this year’s census show that the population remains healthy.

In terms of coming to see the wonderful assemblages of seabirds on Skomer, July remains a good month to visit. Guillemot and Razorbills chicks, known as ‘jumplings’, because of the fact that they jump off the cliffs before they can even fly properly, are most obvious as they grow and prepare to leave. The Puffins are furiously feeding young in burrows and soon the ‘pufflings’ will be popping out to stretch their wings before leaving under the cover of darkness. Other birds are more leisurely in their breeding cycle. Fulmars and Kittiwakes are either still sitting on eggs or have small chicks and gull chicks will be in evidence right through July and August.

Ed
(Skomer Warden)

British bitterns increasing


This video is about bitterns at their nest.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Bittern conservation programme flying high as birds boom again

Scientists tracking the shy heron species’ foghorn-like song have recorded more than 150 males across England and Wales, up from 11 in 1997

Caroline Davies

Thursday 18 June 2015 00.01 BST

The once beleaguered bittern is booming, literally and figuratively, with conservationists hailing the success of a project aimed at bringing the shy member of the heron family back from the brink.

Scientists tracking the bird’s foghorn-like booming song have recorded more then 150 different males across England and Wales – up from just 11 in 1997. Its recovery is attributed to the restoration and management of the sizeable tracts of wet reedbed required for its successful breeding.

Declared extinct in the UK at the turn of the 20th century, the bittern was absent as a breeding bird between the 1870s and 1911. Following concern over a possible second UK extinction in the 1990s, a concerted conservation programme was set up. And 2015 has been an exceptional year, with numbers not thought to have been seen since early in the 19th century.

According to the latest figures, Somerset is the top UK county for bitterns, despite the species only becoming re-established in in the region seven years ago. More than 40 booming males have been recorded there following the restoration and creation of large wetlands in the Avalon Marshes, in particular the RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve, Shapwick Heath – run by Natural England – and Westhay Moor, run by Somerset Wildlife Trust.

The East Anglia region has more than 80 booming males, and remains a stronghold for bitterns in the UK, particularly in traditional sites on the Suffolk coast, and in the Norfolk Broads, but also increasingly in a newly-created habitat in the Fens.

Of the recorded males, 59% are on sites protected under international law, namely the European Union birds and habitats directives – setting out special protection areas or special areas of conservation, collectively known as Natura 2000 sites.

Martin Harper, conservation director at the RSPB, said: “The bittern is a species which proves that conservation can be successful, especially when you can identify the reason behind its decline and bring in measures and funding to aid its recovery.”

He said the special sites have been “vital to the conservation of the bittern and other key species in the UK”. But he added: “The European Union is consulting on the future of the birds and habitats directives. And we fear this may lead to a weakening of the directives, with potentially disastrous consequences for many threatened species.”

Simon Wotton, a conservation scientist with the RSPB, said: “In the late 1990s, the bittern was heading towards a second extinction in the UK, largely because its preferred habitat – wet reedbed – was drying out and required intensive management, restoration and habitat recreations. But thanks to the efforts to improve the habitat, combined with significant funding from two projects under the European Union Life programme, the bittern was saved, and we’re delighted that its success keeps going from strength to strength.”

Of key sites contributing to the recovery, Ham Wall, which was created from old peat workings, saw the bittern first nest in 2008, with 17 boomers recorded this year. Lakenheath in Suffolk, where carrot fields were converted back to wetland, recorded six booming males, while Ouse Fen in Cambridgeshire, which saw wetland created from former mineral workings, had its first confirmed booming in 2012, with 10 recorded in 2015.

See also here. And here.

Jurassic dinosaur discovery in Wales


This video says about itself:

New Welsh Dinosaur at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

9 June 2015

The skeleton of a new Welsh dinosaur goes on display at National Museum Cardiff.

The dinosaur is approximately 200 million years old, the oldest Jurassic dinosaur ever found in the UK. It belongs to the theropod group of dinosaurs and is related to Tyrannosaurus rex, although our dinosaur was walking the earth about 130 million years earlier than its more well known cousin.

The new Welsh dinosaur is a completely new species, previously unknown to scientists, making this discovery even more exciting.

See also here.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

The T-Rex has a Welsh cousin: New Jurassic-era dinosaur species discovered in Wales

The theropod, discovered by two brothers, dates back 200 million years

Pat Hurst

Tuesday 09 June 2015

A new dinosaur species has been discovered in Wales dating back 200 million years to the earliest Jurassic period, scientists say.

The fossilised skeleton of the dog-sized creature, a theropod dinosaur, is described as a cousin of the giant Tyrannosaurus rex and is believed to be the earliest specimen of a Jurassic era dinosaur ever to walk the Earth.

Described as the “find of a life-time” it was discovered on Lavernock beach near Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan by two fossil-hunting brothers, Nick and Rob Hanigan after storms in spring 2014.

A cliff fall on the beach, revealed several loose blocks containing part of the skeleton of the dinosaur, including razor sharp teeth and claws.

It was analysed by experts from The University of Manchester, University of Portsmouth and the National Museum Wales who concluded it lived at the very earliest part of the Jurassic Period, 201 million years ago.

Dr John Nudds, senior lecturer in palaeontology at The University of Manchester said: “It is very rare to find this type of dinosaur at all and never before in Wales. In fact it is only the second dinosaur ever found in Wales.

“Theropods were vicious hunters who would prey on others. They were evolving rapidly at the start of the Jurassic period, but are only known from a few specimens worldwide.

“So this is a very exciting finding that could tell us a lot about how these species were evolving.”

It is thought that the fossil was from a juvenile animal as some of its bones are not yet fully formed. Research is still under way, with a scientific paper in progress which will reveal the name of this new species in the next few months.

The fossil will be donated to the National Museum Wales by the Hanigan brothers.

The new dinosaur’s name has yet to be revealed, although the Hanigan brothers revealed their idea of “RobandNick-A-Saurus” was turned down by palaeontologists.

Bank worker Rob joked: “Choosing a name was harder than picking one for my son.”

Dr David Martill, reader in palaeobiology at University of Portsmouth, said: “The new dinosaur was brought to my attention last year and I went up to Lancashire to see the specimen.

“There, laid out on the table, was the most beautiful little theropod dinosaur ever found in Europe.

Read more: Yorkshire dinosaur revealed to be 176 million years old

Palaeontologist proposes to wife in paper revealing new dinosaur

‘Strange wings’ bat-like dinosaur fossil found

“Although the bones were scattered on a few slabs of limestone, they were in excellent condition, and much of the skull appeared to be there.

“The teeth were small, but needle sharp, slightly curved and with the most wonderful steak-knife serrations on their edges.

“I then went to visit the discovery site, which showed that the dinosaur came from strata deposited exactly at the end of the Triassic and the start of the Jurassic. I now had the job to determine if this was a Triassic or Jurassic dinosaur. That took a lot of effort, but we are now convinced it is the first ever Jurassic dinosaur.”

The Welsh dinosaur was a small, slim, agile dinosaur, probably only about 50cm tall, which had a long tail to help it balance. It lived at the time when south Wales was a coastal region, offering a warm climate.

It had lots of small, blade-like, sharp, serrated teeth suggesting that it would have eaten insects, small mammals and other reptiles.

The dinosaur also probably had a fuzzy coating of simple proto-feathers, as did many theropod dinosaurs, and this would have been used for insulation and possibly display purposes. It may also have had simple quill-like structures for defence.

The rocks that contain the dinosaur fossil date back to a time immediately after the start of the Jurassic period, 201.3 million years ago.

At that time, the dinosaurs were just starting to diversify and the Welsh specimen is almost certainly the earliest Jurassic dinosaur in the world.

It is related to Coelophysis that lived approximately 203 to 196 million years ago in what is now the southwestern part of the United States of America. It also could be said to be a distant cousin of the much later Tyrannosaurus rex.

Nick Hanigan said: “This is a once in a lifetime find – preparing the skull and to seeing the teeth of a theropod for the first time in 200 million years was absolutely fantastic – you just can’t beat that sort of thing!”

The fossil will be on display at the main hall of National Museum Cardiff from June 9, until September 6, 2015.

Welsh osprey nest update


This video from Wales says about itself:

On 29th May, 2015, Monty and Glesni’s first chick hatched.

Here are 12 hours condensed into two minutes.

From the Dyfi Osprey Project blog in Wales:

2015 – First Chick Hatches!!

Posted 30-05-2015 by Emyr – MWT

Sometimes nature can be so unpredictable, yet at other times, you can almost set your watch to it.

This has been the case with Monty and Glesni in 2015. They arrived back from migration exactly on time, laid eggs exactly when we’d expect them too and bang on 37 days later, the first chick hatches from the first egg laid.

At first light on 29th May, 37 days after the first egg was laid, we were ready. So were the eggspectant parents. The early morning weather wasn’t good – wind and rain, but by early afternoon the sun was out and so were 300 visitors that came to see the first chick hatch at Dyfi Osprey Project. …

The official hatching time was 18:33 when the chick was completely out of its egg.

Many congratulations to Margaret Blakeley who won the Guess The hatching Competition – you had a time of 18:36 – just three minutes out. Second and third places go to Alan Aplin and Helen Edwards with times of 18:45 and 18:11 respectively. Please get in touch guys.

Lots more action to come over the weekend, but as I write this at 07:57 on Saturday morning, 30th May, Glesni is just feeding her chick for the first time; he seems to like flounder!

Let’s hope we get all three out – #Happy Days.