Society News from May 2013

Mid Devon Walk - 25 May

Posted May 19th, 2013 at 3:49 pm by George & Julia Harris

For the morning Mid Devon Walk on Dartmoor last Thursday, 25 May I decided to stick to the edge of the moorland, along Throwleigh Common, some lanes, fields, and byways to hopefully get a nice mix, despite it being quite cold and very breezy. 

We were 16 in number - we weren't able to hear as much as we might have done because the wind was so strong, and most birds were tucked well down out of sight, and many sightings were as a result brief.  It was also very chilly, but we had over 30 species seen and/or heard between us, and two of us went out again after lunch and saw or heard another nine species! 

The highlights for me in the morning were spotted flycatcher, and garden warbler, and I have never seen a yellowhammer clinging on so strongly to a small wildly waving rowan, as I observed in the afternoon!

It was a lovely group, with lots of people contributing different things of interest to the day, be it local knowledge, plants, butterflies, bird ID by sight, and by sound, which really added to the enjoyment, in a delightful area, and I think it left us all wanting to return on a day when we could feel warmth, hear more against the wind, and get a better opportunity to absorb all that is there.  I really appreciated everyone's input and company, and thoroughly enjoyed myself, as I think everyone did.

Our next meeting is Thurs 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 – Leader: Peter Howard

Mary


Bird Books For Sale

Posted May 14th, 2013 at 10:19 am by Steve Waite

Vernon Bellerby has kindly offered to reduce the listed price of the books advertised for sale at the below link by a FURTHER 50% for all Devon Birds Members.

It's certainly worth a look at this impressive list of books: http://forum.devonbirds.org/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=11


Four Cuckoos tagged - and on the move!

Posted May 13th, 2013 at 9:03 am by George & Julia Harris

This May with the BTO and Dartmoor National Park we tagged four cuckoos and can now follow their progress.  We gave them Dartmoor names Dart, Ryder, Tor and Whortle and you can follow their movements around Dartmoor and on their migration probably later this month.

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 were 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 hopefully 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 jointly with the Dartmoor National Park Authority http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/lookingafter/laf-naturalenv/cuckoo funded these four male 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 were fitted with their satellite tags in May this year.  Each bird has a customized tag and they were named as they were 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?

Maps showing the latest information of their progress are available here you can click on their individual names and follow each one.


Taw/Torridge Field Trip - Woody Bay, April 2013

Posted May 8th, 2013 at 12:37 pm by George & Julia Harris

It was a damp misty morning as 17 members set off from Woody Bay to walk the coast path to Wringapeak, a rock formation favoured by nesting seabirds.  Bird song filled the air as we made our way through the ancient woodland, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Blackcap, and was that a distant Redstart?

Gradually the mist lifted revealing fine views towards Valley of the Rocks and Lynmouth, and below us a lone House Martin skimming over a garden lake.  Someone then spotted a Nuthatch going in and out of a nest hole and we stood watching for a while as it went to and fro with nesting material.

Wading over a small stream by a waterfall a Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff were heard then seen.  As the sun came out, the coconut scent of gorse was heavy in the air and golden saxifrage and violets dotted the banks as we made our way to Wringapeak.  Telescopes were soon set and trained onto the ledges below, where Razorbill, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Herring and Great-black-backed Gull were nesting.  We wondered if the low numbers of Guillemot, only 5 could be seen on the sea, could be the effect of the sea pollution reported the previous week from the South Coast?  

After a picnic lunch we headed to Shallowford, an area high on the open moor above the village of Barbrook, passing 15 Wheatear perched on a paddock fence on the way.  Approaching Shallowford we spotted a Tree Pipit on top of gorse, and with Swallows flying overhead we parked and set off to walk a little way over the moor soon seeing another Tree Pipit.  As we approached the ford, we could see vigorous splashing in the water as a pair of Lesser Redpoll took a bath - the male in brilliant summer plumage - what a delightful scene  to end the day.               45 species seen.

Maria Fernandes


Ringing and Colour Ringing

Posted May 7th, 2013 at 10:10 am by George & Julia Harris

Nik Ward, Council Member and Ringing Secretary wrote an article for our website last autumn explaining the history and reasons for ringing. Recently Nik has written a new article on Colour Ringing which gives details of many of the species colour ringed in Devon, the article can be found HERE.  

From the Home Page, many articles can be found under the heading Birdwatching, including the new Colour Ringing article and the original article on Ringing. 

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