Countryside-Birding


Birders naturally look back on their year in birding. This being the last article for the year, I’ll do the same as I have done for the last 40 plus years.

You might think that after such a long time practising the hobby, things become staid. No. Birding keeps giving. The more you put in, the more you get out.

And 2017 was no exception. There were many highlights.

The biggest surprise was the Amur Falcon in July. It was the first record for Cornwall but only the second record for Britain, making it extremely popular. Several hundred birders travelled overnight to reach the furthest western tip of Britain. Those assembled at dawn were rewarded with great views, but by 9.30am, it departed. One more opportunity on July 17 allowed a few more the chance to see this tiny raptor.

The second highlight of 2017 must surely be the sheer quantity and variety of seabirds around our coast.

Summer 2017 will be remembered for exceptional numbers of Wilson’s Petrels, Fea’s Petrels and vast numbers of assorted shearwaters, gannets, dolphins, whales and bluefin tuna. With sea temperatures increasing, there’s good reason to suggest more of the same next year.

Cornwall has also set a new record in the highest number of species recorded in one year.

A remarkable 300 species have been spotted with the stunning female Snowy Owl at Chapel Carn Brea on December 12 helping reach that number.

Away from the highlights of the year, a study is being undertaken by students from the Penryn Campus.

The Blackcap is one of Europe’s most com- mon breeding songbirds.

More Blackcaps are now spending the winter in Britain and Ireland than ever before. Scientists at the British Trust for Ornithology have linked this increase to garden feeding and warmer temperatures. But what exactly do the birds gain by wintering here, and where are they coming from?

Last year, researchers from the BTO, Oxford and Exeter Universities began teaming up with garden owners across Britain and Ireland to study the Blackcaps that visit gardens in winter.

They fitted 36 Blackcaps with geolocators, miniature devices that track their movements throughout the year. They marked dozens more with coloured leg rings. The birds need to be recaptured in order to retrieve the data stored on the geolocators. Encouragingly, four returning birds have already been sighted this winter.

Preliminary analysis indicates that one of these birds spent last summer in France before migrating north to Britain for the winter.

If you have Blackcaps visiting bird feeders in your garden, keep an eye out for any with coloured leg rings – especially in the vicinity of Penryn, Falmouth, Feock, and Devoran.

Already this winter, one marked bird has been seen in a garden in Redruth, about eight miles from where it was originally captured.

If you see a Blackcap with coloured leg rings, take note of the arrangement of colours on the legs, or take a photograph, and submit a report to Benjamin Van Doren at Oxford (benjamin.vandoren@zoo.ox.ac.uk) or Dr Greg Conway at the BTO (greg.conway@bto.org).

To attract Blackcaps to your garden, try providing high-energy foods such as fat balls and sunflower hearts.

The scientists hope that insights gained from British Blackcaps will help them understand the mechanisms behind bird migration and predict how they adjust to future global change. The researchers hope that Blackcaps will reveal how birds are adapting to these pressing environmental challenges.

 

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.