July 2016–17 Archive from January 2017

Welcome to the January 2017 issue of The Harrier

Posted January 30th, 2017 at 12:45 am in Welcome

This issue of The Harrier has just squeezed in before the end of the month. The only excuse is that your Chairman has just returned from a two-week birding expedition to Tanzania in search of Mrs Moreau's Warbler, a rare endemic only found in the Uluguru Mountains. And just to prove that we found the bird, here's the evidence in the form of a not-very-good photo:

Although it looks a bit like a dodgy Robin, Mrs Moreau's Warbler is far more elusive but, once found, the birds have the endearing habit of singing a beautiful duet to each other. 

Fortunately, not all the birds - and we saw over 300 species - were quite so tricky to photograph, as this Fish Eagle proved:

But there's been lots happening in Devon this month as well. Catch up with all the news in this issue of The Harrier. 

Conservation Projects 2017

Posted January 30th, 2017 at 12:19 am in Conservation

At the Devon Birds Council meeting on 25 January, the most important discussion was about this year's budget and the conservation projects that we are supporting. Key projects include: 

Spotted Flycatchers - this is the second year of our financial support for this important project. In 2016, 20 Spotted Flycatchers were fitted with geolocators that, for the first time, will give us the information about where our birds are overwintering. This year, the birds will be recaptured and the geolocators will be removed so that the data can be analysed.

Spotted Flycatchers are in decline nationally but we need more information about their migration patterns and overwintering sites in order to implement conservation measures. 

Wood Warblers - this species has declined in Devon by almost half since 2012. The reasons for this precipitous decline are not fully understood and it looks as though it might be a consequence of habitat changes in the wintering grounds in Africa. To find out whether this is the case and to implement conservation measures that might benefit the birds, we need to find out where in Africa our birds spend the winter. In 2016, 17 male birds were captured and fitted with geolocators. This year, the team led by Dr Malcolm Burgess, Senior Conservation Scientist at RSPB will recapture the birds, remove the tags and discover where the birds have been since they were last in Devon.

Dartmoor Upland Bird Nest Group - 2017 will be the 10th season that the group has monitored nests on Holne Moor on Dartmoor. During that time, over 1500 nests of 30+ species have been located; this includes species of high conservation concern, such as Cuckoo and Whinchat. All nestling birds are ringed and the nest records are submitted to the BTO Nest Record Scheme. The research forms an important part of two PhD studentships as well as informing landowners and graziers of how to best manage the land for ground-nesting birds.

Moorland Birds Advisor - the publication of the Devon Bird Atlas revealed the increasing importance of Dartmoor for birds that were once widespread across the county. With support from RSPB and the Duchy of Cornwall, it is proposed that a Moorland Bird Advisor is appointed for a period of three years to work with landowners and farmers to improve the habitats on Dartmoor for many threatened bird species. Devon Birds has agreed to contribute towards the cost of funding this post. 

Willow Tits - for a second year, Devon Birds is working with Devon Wildlife Trust and the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre on a survey to locate Willow Tits across the county in areas where there is evidence that they once existed but are believed to have disappeared. This year the survey will concentrate on North Devon and the South Hams.

The total cost of funding from Devon Birds towards these key projects and others is over £35,000. We are grateful to a number of generous benefactors who have left legacies to Devon Birds that enable us to support this range of important scientific and conservation projects.


Carswell and Haldon Bird Surveys

Posted January 29th, 2017 at 9:47 pm in Surveys

Devon Birds has been asked to organise two important bird surveys this year. Now dates for the first meetings have been announced.

Carswell Farm is a 1200-acre dairy farm on the south coast between Mothecombe and Noss Mayo. As well as pasture, the farm has important areas of woodland and coastal scrub. Cirl Bunting are almost certainly present but almost anything could turn up here. The first survey will take place on 17 February - we are meeting at the farm (SX 59003 47779) at 8am.

Haldon Forest is one of Devon's most important wildlife sites. Devon Birds has been asked by the Forestry Commission to conduct a bird survey of some of the key parts of Haldon, particularly those areas that have undergone heathland restoration or been earmarked for it in the future. This promises to be a really interesting project - can we find Dartford Warbler or even Long Eared Owl or Honey Buzzard? The first survey takes place on 23 February at 8am. Meet at the FC Offices at Haldon (SX 88401 84756).

If you would like to take part, please email kevin.cox@devonbirds.org for more information. All are welcome.

Can you help find Dartford Warbler at Haldon Forest?

Reed cutting at South Milton Ley Reserve

Posted January 29th, 2017 at 2:46 pm in Conservation

Thank you to all the volunteers, over 30 of you, who turned out to help with the annual task of reed cutting at the Devon Birds' reserve at South Milton Ley. This is vital conservation work that helps the reeds regenerate and prevents scrub from taking over.


For more photos from the day and the full news story, click here: www.devonbirds.org/news/society_news

Bird of the Month

Posted January 28th, 2017 at 3:22 pm in Bird of the Month

The bird of the month is in this photo - but can you spot it?

It's a Surf Scoter that's been associating with a large flock of Common Scoter off the South Devon coast near Mansands and Sharkham Point. The bird is in Paul Albrechtsen's photo about a third of the way in from the right. To help, here is Mike Langman's sketch of the bird, an immature drake.

Waxwing Winter

Posted January 28th, 2017 at 3:07 pm in Bird notes

The Waxwings are back this winter and the good news is they have reached us in Devon. The birds are often seen in supermarket car parks and this year it was the turn of Sainsbury's in Alphington outside Exeter where a flock of nine birds gave good views as they polished off the berries on the trees. There were also sightings from Topsham, Holsworthy and Peter Tavy. But the most visible flock was at Heathfield near Newton Abbot as the birds were frequently to be seen in the central reservation of the A38. If you're passing, please don't drive with your binoculars...

Steve Hopper's photo perfectly captures one of the A38 Waxwings.

The Christmas Robin

Posted January 28th, 2017 at 2:49 pm in Bird notes

In last month's Harrier, we posted a photo of the Chivenor Robin but we struggled to describe its aberrant colour.

Andy Lansdell wrote to say: "With regards to the descriptive name of the Chivenor robin (or rather robins as there are two!) why do we not use the name given by Hein van Grouw (senior curator of the Natural History Museum, Tring) in his paper published by British Birds 28.1.2013 "What colour is that bird?" as a 'dilution paste'l. This is the term I have been using on my photographs of both birds, as clearly other names do not comfortably fit."

Here's a link to Hein van Grouw's original article: What colour is that bird? 

And here's another photo, this one by Martin Bond, of one of the two Chivenor Robins.

Devon Heronries Census 2016

Posted January 28th, 2017 at 2:33 pm in Surveys

David Rogers writes: "The adjusted total (allowing for known colonies not counted) for occupied Grey Heron nests in Devon for 2016 was 204. To put that into context, numbers dropped from 217 in 2012 to 169 in 2013, and have been slowly recovering since. However we are still well below the glory days of the 1990s, when the count was regularly above 250. Low counts can usually be attributed to poor weather in earlier years. Adult herons are not easily deterred from breeding by bad weather, but losses of young birds in the nest will feed through to the breeding population in subsequent years. Long term changes at individual sites are harder to explain. Our largest colony at Powderham fluctuates between the mid-20s and 40, and was up to 35 in 2016. However its two former rivals, Arlington in North Devon and Beechwood near Plymouth, used to have counts regularly in the high 20s, but have declined markedly. Arlington has been in single figures, but reached 11 last year, while Beechwood is down to a single pair.

I would like to thank the team of observers who faithfully supply heronry records, and in particular Ron Greenwood, who has now retired after monitoring the Ashilford heronry near Tiverton ever since 1966.

Colin Scott's beautiful photo of a Grey Heron with a newt at Bowling Green Marsh captures the simplicity and elegance of a Japanese woodblock print.

The Harrier Digest - October-December 2016

Posted January 28th, 2017 at 1:19 pm in News

For members who like to keep a paper record of stories from The Harrier, here is the link to the Harrier Digest, a round-up of all the stories that have appeared online in The Harrier between October and December last year:

The Harrier Digest Oct-Dec 2016

Dartmoor Study Group

Posted January 28th, 2017 at 1:09 pm in Projects

Julia Harris writes: "Following the disbandment of the Dartmoor Study Group, I am pleased to let you know that we have given Devon Birds a cheque for £465.36, the balance made up from a surplus of fees received and from selling many back copies of the DSG Reports. This has been passed on with the understanding that the money will be used towards bird conservation on Dartmoor.  I understand that several projects have already been planned for 2017."

Dartmoor's Wood Warblers will once again benefit from the financial support offered by Devon Birds to a Dartmoor-based research project this year.

Grand Western Canal – new WeBS counters required

Posted January 28th, 2017 at 12:54 pm in Surveys

Peter Reay writes: "The Grand Western Canal is owned and managed by Devon CC as a country park, and it is also one of Devon’s important WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) sites – see Devon Bird Report 2009, p.75. The whole length, from Tiverton Basin to Fossend Bridge has been counted for WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) since 2003 by Ray Jones and Andrew Cunningham, and some sections have been counted for many years before that. However, Ray and Andrew are now having to step down, and new counters are urgently required to keep the counts going by walking the canal once a month and counting its water birds. It may not be the most exciting Devon WeBS site, but it is the most important site in the county for Mallard, Moorhen and Kingfisher. Anyone interested, and wanting to know more can contact either Andrew ajc321@hotmail.com, Ray ray1432.jones@btinternet.com or myself. Further information about WeBS is available on www.bto.org/webs where it is now possible to register as a new counter."

Peter Reay, 01364 73293 or peter.p.j.reay@btinternet.com.

Can you help?

Posted January 28th, 2017 at 12:29 pm in People

Keith Cutting, a birder from Kent has contacted Devon Birds to ask if there are any members would be free to guide him and a friend for a few days:

"I will be visiting Devon from 20th to 24th Feb with a birding friend. We will be staying in Brixham. Are there any Birding pals in the area who might be able to take us out for a day in search of local specialities please? Happy to pay for petrol and expenses."

If you're happy to help, please email Keith direct at keithcutting2003@yahoo.co.uk


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