As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Rare Trumpter Swans Visit Taltree Arboretum & Gardens


Two trumpeter swans have flown in to Taltree Arboretum & Gardens’ wetlands, joining the resident mated pair that live at Taltree year-round. The visiting trumpeter swans flew in on Sunday, May 11 and have been spotted by visitors around the wetlands on Taltree’s Bluebird Trail.

The swans have been considered rare or completely extinct in most of the United States by the early 20th century. Their population has increased enough to remove them from the endangered species list. They have not been able to sufficiently grow their population in the Great Lakes region due to an increase in competition for habitat by the non-native mute swan.

“To have a pair of these rare birds join our residents is very exciting. The last time we had a visitor was three years ago when our birds were new to Taltree,” said Stephanie Blackstock, Interim Executive Director at Taltree Arboretum & Gardens.

RSPB calls for swift action!

Posted on: 16 May 2015

The public have been asked to help the RSPB build up a clearer picture of the number of Common Swifts across the country.

Swifts travel around 12,000 miles every year from Africa to Britain and Ireland to feed and breed. They are aerial acrobats, swooping high through the skies with distinctive scythe-shaped wings. In fact, they are such adept fliers that they eat and sleep on the wing, not touching the ground unless they are nesting.

Common Swifts like to nest in the cracks and crevices of buildings, high up in the eaves. They pair for life, meeting up each spring at the same nest site which is ‘renovated’ and reused year after year. Unfortunately, as old buildings are fixed up or demolished, these sites are often lost which means that it can be difficult for a displaced pair to find a suitable replacement site in time to lay eggs and raise a brood, before it’s time to head back to warmer climes in August.

The population of swifts in the UK has declined dramatically in recent years and, as a result, the species is now Amber-listed (of medium conservation concern). In order to help them, the RSPB wants to know where they’ve been seen and where they're nesting.

Hen Harriers: the bird of prey that could soon become extinct

Suspicions are high and time is limited. The hen harrier, which could become Britain's national bird next month, is dying out. But what, or who is responsible? Joe Shute investigates

7:05AM BST 16 May 2015

Thursday afternoon in the Forest of Bowland and since the previous evening there have been no sightings from the hen harrier nest hidden halfway down the fell. A volunteer who stayed up all through the night keeping a telescope trained on the site is now asleep, and four of us sit on the open heather for the day shift, staring out across the valley towards a steep ravine – known in Lancashire parlance as a clough.

Suddenly, a hen harrier appears, scything along the top of the moorland ridge.These birds of prey are known as sky dancers for their elaborate aerial displays and as it dives down its grey plumage flashes off the black boggy earth. It is a male, and not the one who is supposed to be providing food for the nesting female, but still those present breathe a sigh of relief as we watch the bird swoop. A glimpse – any glimpse – is at least proof this fragile population hasn’t yet been wiped out altogether.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Griffon vultures are exposed to high concentrations of lead in their diets

Date: May 19, 2015

Source: Plataforma SINC

Summary: Because of their position on the food chain and their dietary habits, Griffon vultures from the Iberian Peninsula are exposed to accumulation of heavy metals in their tissues. A study reveals that, due to their diets, wild populations of Griffon vultures in Catalonia show the presence of a high amount of lead, which affects their immune systems and reproductive function.

Bird migration changes on Fair Isle revealed

A major survey into bird migration from Africa over the past 60 years has revealed substantial changes in behaviour.

The Fair Isle bird observatory has recorded bird migration at its station between Shetland and Orkney since 1938.

A new initiative - the Fair Isle migration project - has now analysed records from the sanctuary since 1955.

The study has also revealed changes to the times of the year the birds are migrating.

The research has concluded spring migration has happened much earlier in recent years for many species, such as the swallow, which is arriving up to three weeks earlier than the birds did in the 1950s.

For other species, such as the willow warbler, spring migration has occurred much later.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Hundreds of birders flocked to Chicago's Montrose Harbor over the weekend in hopes of catching a glimpse of a species so rare that it nearly went extinct.

The Kirtland's warbler has been on the federal endangered species list since 1967, was once known to nest only in a small area of Michigan and has been seen in Illinois just a few times in the past two decades.

Kim Ainis, of Chicago, learned of the sighting Saturday through the Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts email listserv. When she saw the bird was still reported to be present Sunday at the harbor's Magic Hedge, she grabbed her binoculars and headed out.

Robot owls decode bird alarm calls

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - 2:30pm

Using taxidermied, robotic birds of prey, scientists are exploring the nuances of bird warning calls and how they’re transmitted across the landscape, The New York Times reports. At one time, scientists thought that birds’ alarm calls were short-lived and produced to warn other nearby birds of imminent danger. Now, it’s possible that the calls could be spread across the landscape, picked up by various species of birds and passed through a forest at more than 160 kilometers per hour. The calls themselves could even be detailed enough to signal the difference between a pygmy owl or Cooper’s hawk. Even other species such as squirrels and chipmunks may eavesdrop on the calls and understand, at least somewhat, that the chirps signal an approaching predator, the scientists say.