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.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Shhhhh: small, 'secretive' birds transferred back to Porirua wetland

Image result for fernbirdYou might have more chance of hearing Porirua's newest residents than actually seeing them.

A group of "secretive" and at-risk native birds has been re-introduced into Pauatahanui Wildlife Reserve, a habitat they last occupied in the 1980s.

In the first transfer of its kind, about 25 Fernbirds - named for their distinctive tail - were transferred from Taranaki last week, Department of Conservation ranger Lee Barry said.

"They're quite secretive, they act like little mice," she said.

Would-be bird spotters should listen for the bird's distinctive call, a "u-tick" sound given as a duet by members of a pair, she said.

The birds, who look like tiny sparrows with long ragged tails, burrow through dense ground vegetation and were rarely seen by people.

"They also don't fly very well so people should look just above the vegetation which is where they sometimes flutter along."

Apart from a "couple of birds hanging about" in estuaries at Waikanae and Foxton, the breed had been largely absent from the lower North Island.

"In the 1980s there were still a few living at Pauatahanui but a fire destroyed the last of their habitat and the poor little guys had a hard time after that."

The birds were packed into individual carriers stuffed full of grasses to make the long trip south in the experimental move.

Barry said the environment the birds had come from was different to Porirua's so the tiny creatures might not stick around.


RSPB opens hotline to locate the UK's rarest breeding birds of prey

Last modified: 28 April 2017

The RSPB is encouraging farmers, birdwatchers and walkers to keep a look out for Montagu’s harriers, the UK’s rarest breeding bird of prey, as they begin this year’s breeding season.

In 2016, five pairs of Montagu’s harrier are known to have nested in England (in Norfolk and SW England). It is essential that the small number of breeding attempts made this year are identified and protected from accidental damage, disturbance or persecution to give these magnificent birds the best possible chance.

Data from tracked individuals has shown that these special birds spend the winter in Senegal, West Africa. In 2014, an adult male Montagu’s harrier, named Mark, was tagged in South West England allowing the RSPB to follow the migration route these birds of prey take for the first time.

The core population of Montagu’s harrier usually returns to the same nesting areas each year. The RSPB has been working successfully with these landowners for more than 30 years; however, it is important that any new or unknown nests are located.

Montagu’s harrier arrive in the UK around May time to nest, before returning to Africa in August. It is possible to spot the breathtaking birds of prey on passage, particularly on the south and eastern coasts of England.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Rare Whooping Cranes visit Medstead

Corrina Murdoch , Correspondent / Battlefords News-Optimist

April 25, 2017 12:49 PM

The majestic Whooping Crane, currently on the endangered species list, paid the beautiful RM of Medstead a special visit April 18, and they seem to be stick around. These birds have been on the endangered list for many years now, with population numbers having dipped as low as 21 in 1941. Currently, according to Nature Canada, the population has risen to a global total of roughly 300. It is hoped that this number will continue to rise.

Though the rising population is seen as hopeful, the cranes do not have their future guaranteed. Their numbers have been growing gradually over the years, but the birds are very sensitive to human interaction and have been in an uphill battle over the last few decades. Various conservation groups are very vocal as to the need to keep these glorious creatures protected.

Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America at almost one and a half meters in height. They boast an ability to fly without stopping for ten hours, covering over seven hundred kilometers. During migration, this species is known to eat grain from farm crops. Perhaps this is why they were seen in the thriving farmland of the RM of Medstead.

Part of the magic lies in the fact that, though Saskatchewan has been a breeding ground for these creatures in the past, they have mostly been seen in the area of Midnight Lake, near Glaslyn. Reportedly, however, their primary locations are Wood Buffalo National Park (near the Alberta-Northwest Territories border) and down to the Texas Gulf Coast for their wintering. It is a special treat when any person has the chance to see these rare birds. 

Endangered crested ibis chick hatched in China after mother bird undergoes artificial insemination

Bird’s mother underwent artificial insemination as part of a breeding programme to protect the species’ numbers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 1:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 1:51pm 24 Apr 2017

The first crested ibis has hatched after its mother underwent artificial insemination as part of a programme in southwest China to protect the species’ numbers, according to a newspaper report.

The chick was born at a breeding station at Mount Emei in Sichuan province, the West China City Daily reported.

About 50 crested ibis were collected in Henan, Zhejiang and Shaanxi provinces last year and taken to the centre to take part in the breeding programme, according to the article.

The first egg was laid in March and finally hatched last week.

Staff had to crack open the top of the egg after the bird’s head got stuck.

The tiny chick has been placed in an incubator to help ensure its survival.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

RSPB survey shows unusual visitors flock to Hampshire gardens

Unusual visitors flock to Hampshire gardens

A NATIONAL charity has issued the Hampshire results for its Big Garden Birdwatch survey.

The RSPB survey results show that common garden visitors such as robins, starlings and blackbirds have been joined by more unusual visitors.

UK gardens have seen a boom in the number of visits from unusual migrants such as waxwings and it’s good news for Britain’s favourite bird, the robin, as the numbers seen visiting gardens are at their highest level for more than 20 years.

In the UK as a whole, nearly half a million people took part in the world’s largest garden wildlife survey counting more than eight million birds during the 38th RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Hampshire residents rallied to the call for participants with 13 per cent more people taking part this year compared with 2007.

The event – held over the last weekend in January – revealed an explosion in the number of recorded sightings of waxwings. These attractive birds flock to UK gardens in winter once every seven or eight years when the berry crop fails in their native Scandinavia. Known as an “irruption”, results showed that waxwings were seen in around 19 times more gardens in the south east in 2017 compared with previous years.

Weather conditions leading up to the Birdwatch meant that this year UK gardens were treated to a range of different visitors.

There was also a large jump in the numbers of other migrants, such as redwing and fieldfare, as the sub-zero temperatures on the continent forced them to go in search of milder conditions. The south east saw numbers of redwing triple while our gardens saw a five-fold increase in fieldfare sightings.

Dr Daniel Hayhow, RSPB conservation scientist, said: “In the lead up to the Birdwatch there was some speculation as to whether we could see a ‘waxwing winter’ and the results prove that to be the case. Flocks of these striking looking birds arrived in the UK along the North Sea coast and will have moved across the country in search of food, favouring gardens where they can feast on berries.” 


Acid-free rivers herald renaissance of Wales’ Dippers

Bird Notes columnist Julian Hughes of RSPB Conwy reveals what birds have been spotted in the past week and where to go birding in the coming days
ByAndrew Forgrave
20:50, 24 APR 2017

National Grid’s news last Friday that Britain ran without coal for the first day since before the Industrial Revolution is a landmark in tackling climate change – and good news in the hills.

If you were around in the 1980s, you might remember “acid rain”, a subject that is rarely mentioned now.

Sulphur and nitrogen oxides from coal-burning power stations mixed with water vapour and fell as acid rain, the effect greatest in the hills with its heavier rainfall.

The Dipper was the canary in the upland coalmine (an ironic analogy, I know). Dippers eat aquatic insects – such as Mayflies – that are sensitive to acid levels and were wiped out from the many acidic Welsh streams.

A long-running study in Wales, led by Cardiff University, shows that Mayflies have recovered in 60% of streams monitored; good news for birds such as Dipper and Grey Wagtail.

Dippers can now be found on many of North Wales’ fast-flowing streams, nesting in crevices under bridges. The first fledglings were out of the nest last week in the Conwy Valley .


Monday, 24 April 2017

Rare birds spotted at Belfast's Window on Wildlife

Last modified: 24 April 2017
A pair of rare birds have been spotted at the RSPB’s Belfast Window on Wildlife (WOW) nature reserve.

Avocets, which are the symbol of the nature conservation charity, aren’t resident in Ireland so the arrival of the unusual visitors on Sunday had birdwatchers flocking to the Belfast Harbour Estate to catch a glimpse.

It’s not known where they have travelled from, although investigations are underway to trace the coloured rings spotted on the leg of one of the birds.

Chris Sturgeon, warden at Belfast WOW, said: “I couldn’t believe it when one of my colleagues got in touch with the news. I arrived early this morning and they’re still here, with reports they have been seen mating!

“There’s no reason why they couldn’t breed successfully here. The reserve is in great condition and there is ideal feeding habitat for wading birds.”

These distinctively-patterned black and white waders have a long up-curved beak, perfect for foraging in the mud for insects, crustaceans and worms.