Society News from March 2013

DEVON BIRDS & DNP sponsor tagging of four CUCKOOS this summer

Posted March 21st, 2013 at 9:56 am by George & Julia Harris

In July Away I Fly?Cuckoo John Walters

Cuckoo, cuckoo, what do you do?
In April I open my bill;
In May I sing all day;
In June I change my tune;
In July away I fly;
In August away I must.

If there is a bird that is very well known to birders and non-birders alike it must be the Cuckoo.  Its name is its song and its unique method of getting other birds to incubate and rear its young sets it apart from all other UK birds.  That song once heard across large areas of the Devon countryside is now mainly reserved for Dartmoor in April, May and June.

In those ten to twelve weeks female Cuckoos can lay between 2 - 15 eggs; all in different nests and in Devon mainly in those of the Meadow Pipit.  The hatchling  Cuckoos waste no time when hatched in ejecting any other eggs or young from the nest so that all food delivered to the nest is for their consumption and they even mimic the begging calls of their host’s chicks to keep supplies of caterpillars coming in.

Meanwhile, as they grow bigger, their real parents will start their return journey to Africa in July leaving their young to follow much later using their own “built in” sat nav.

Well, 2013 could be a very good year for the future survival of Dartmoor’s Cuckoos.  Four healthy male birds are being tagged to enable scientists to track them to understand the routes they take back to their wintering sites in Africa.  The scientists hope that the knowledge gained about where they fly, where they stop to feed, where they spend the winter and how they make the return journey will help to point to why numbers have declined by 60-70% over the last 20-30 years.

Some of the reasons for their decline could be due to changes in agricultural practices, predation and food availability in the UK but the data from tagging will tell scientists much about their whereabouts and survival during the other nine months of the year when they are out of the country.

Devon Birds are combining with the Dartmoor National Park Authority to fund these four birds to understand more about how to conserve them as an iconic species for Devon and Dartmoor.

Our website will carry news of their journey across Europe and the Mediterranean and then hopefully into Africa before crossing the Sahara Desert and settling down to winter in countries like Cameroon.

Our jointly funded cuckoos will be caught and fitted with their satellite tags in May this year.  Each bird has a customized tag and they will be named as they are released. 

The tagging is part of the national project run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). They have already tagged Cuckoos from Scotland, Wales and East Anglia.  How will our Cuckoos compare?  Most of the above Cuckoos cross the English Channel at the narrowest point, Kent, so will ours move east and then head south for Kent, or will they risk a longer sea crossing?

Information on earlier cuckoos here


25th March Mike Langman "Make a note of it" - Plymouth 7.30pm

Posted March 15th, 2013 at 10:44 am by George & Julia Harris

 Come along and support this new venture and help the Plymouth Group get their Indoor Meetings off to a great start

First Meeting at Hyde Park Social Club, 5 Saint Gabriel's Ave, Plymouth PL3 4JQ

Enquiries: Liz Harris 01752 789594                        

25 Mar Mon 19:30 

"Make a Note of It" - Mike Langman

a fun and practical talk on how to make quick field notes to help with bird identification

Yellow-browed Warbler sketch Mike Langman


FIELD TRIPS & INDOOR MEETINGS Apr/May

Posted March 15th, 2013 at 10:39 am by George & Julia Harris

Please note that members and potential members are all welcome at any branch meeting, so you can pick and choose to suit your availability and aims. However please make sure you have read the notes and instructions and if it is your first meeting contact the Branch Secretary to check nothing has been changed.  A small charge is usually made for Indoor Meetings.

FIELD TRIPS

LUNDY ISLAND   Sunday, 12th May Devon Birds annual trip to Lundy sailing from Bideford Quay at 7.30am Tickets available on the website or from Mark Humfrey tel 01271 344556

EAST DEVON Branch  Enquiries: David Jannaway  tel: 01395 567159.

Wed 27 Mar 10:00 Fingle Bridge - Meet car park before pub.  SX743900

Fri 12 Apr 10:00 Ideford Common  Meet car park off B3192 at SX902790

Mon 22 April 10:00 Thurlebear Wood and Swell Wood - Meet  ST274213

Wed 8 May 09:00 Yarner Woods and Parke Meet Trendlebere c/p  SX783795

Thur 16 May 10:00 Fernworthy Dartmoor Meet  main car park SX669839

Thur 23 May 10:00 Venford Reservoir - Meet North car park SX686713 (Joint meeting with Taw & Torridge branch)

MID DEVON  Enquiries Sue Ellis Tel 01769 580970

Thur 25 Apr 10:00 Sticklepath (Finch Foundry NT Car Park) on old A30 4 miles from Okehampton. SX642941 for a moorland walk with woodland, along the river and out onto the moor.

Thur 23 May 10:00 NE Dartmoor SX659914 – Meet before Moor Farm (grassy area with plenty of parking space) for Moorland species

Thur 30 May Winkleigh Woods – SS650081 for Nightjars.  Parking in layby beside the woods, space is limited to six cars so please car share if possible.

PLYMOUTH Branch  Enquiries: Lesley Goonesekera tel: 01548 856011

Tues 23 Apr 10:00 Yarner woods-meet Trendlebere Down 0.3 miles past entrance. SX783795 For pied flycatchers/wood warblers

Sat 11 May 10:00 Dartmoor- meet Bennett’s Cross SX 680817.  Walk to Challacombe (toilets at Postbridge).  For redstart and cuckoo

TAW/TORRIDGE Branch  Enquiries: Jackie Bosley/Maria Fernandes tel: 01237 470089.

Thur 25 Apr 10:00 Woody Bay – Meet at lower car park SS676486 Shallowford  SS714451– in the afternoon

Thur 23 May 10:00 Venford Reservoir – Meet North car park SX686713 Joint meeting with East Devon Group. For car sharing meet Barnstaple Leisure Centre far end car park (charge) 8.00am SS559326

INDOOR MEETINGS 

EAST DEVON - INDOOR

Tues 9 Apr 19:30 AGM.  Followed by Guest Speaker Charlie Fleming at Blue Ball Inn (A3502) Sidford

SOUTH DEVON  Martin Lees, tel: 01803 852067. Court Farm Inn, Abbotskerswell, Everyone welcome.

Mon 15 Apr 19:30 Butterflies & Birds in Picos de Europa - Chris Protor

Mon 20 May 19:30 Birding around California – Dave Norman

TAW/TORRIDGE BRANCH The Castle Centre, Barnstaple    Enquiries: Vicky Hassell tel: 01237 452167

Tue 9 Apr 19:30 Restoring the Balance (Barn Owls and their conservation)  David Ramsden MBE  (Senior Conservation Officer, The Barn Owl Trust)

SOUTH DEVON BRANCH Indoor Meeting Court Farm Inn, Abbotskerswell Enquiries: Martin Lees, tel: 01803 852067


Field Meeting Report for Eggesford Forest, Tues 5 March 2013

Posted March 6th, 2013 at 9:05 am by George & Julia Harris

20 people attended the first field meeting for the Mid-Devon Branch on a glorious sunny day.  In the morning we walked the circular route, Hilltown Wood area, where the 20 bird species (1 for each person!) included siskin, nuthatch, robin, wren, great tit, crow, long tailed tit, jackdaw, goldcrest, dunnock, raven, buzzard, coal tit, tree creeper, wood pigeon, g/spotted woodpecker, blackbird, blue tit, coal tit, chaffinch.  This was followed by a picnic lunch outside the visitor centre. Following lunch 10 people joined the afternoon walk to the top of the forest and around West Hill where we saw blackcap, grey wagtail, starling, stock dove, sparrow, collared dove, magpie, stonechat, yellowhammer (3 male and 1 female) , pied wagtail, chiffchaff, bullfinch, skylark, redwing and fieldfare.

This was a very positive start for the Mid Devon Group and with everyone’s enthusiasm should make for many more successful walks. Please see website for details of future field meetings.                                 Annabelle Strickland

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