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.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Fifteen Whooper Swans electrocuted in Co Donegal


At least 15 Whooper Swans were electrocuted at a single site in north-east Co Donegal earlier this autumn, according to BirdWatch Ireland.

The swan carcasses were discovered lying under electricity lines near the village of Carrigans, close to the border with Northern Ireland. BirdWatch Ireland staff member Daniel Moloney travelled to the scene and confirmed that the swans had collided with the wires in flight and that they had each been electrocuted. A high proportion of the dead swans were juveniles.

It appears that the deaths were the result of multiple, separate collisions with the electricity wires over a period of several weeks. Some of the birds were freshly dead, while others showed varying levels of decomposition, indicating that they had died on different occasions.

The culpable wires were fitted with "deflectors", which are supposed to make them more visible to flying birds, but these appear not to have worked satisfactorily in this case. Indeed, several of the deflector devices had been knocked off the wires due to the swan collisions, further reducing the wires' visibility.

Algerian Nuthatch in decline


New research has found that Algerian Nuthatch has declined markedly in one of its strongholds over the past 25 years.

Algerian Nuthatch is, as its name suggests, endemic to Algeria. It is found only in the ancient, humid oak forests in the north of the country, occurring at just four known sites: Djebel Babor, Guerrouch Forest in Taza National Park, Tamentout Forest and Djimla Forest. The four sites are relatively close to each other and are all located in the Babor Mountains.

The study, led by Riadh Moulaï, concentrated on assessing population size at Guerrouch Forest during the breeding season, by counting the number of territorial singing males and conducting a systematic search for nest sites. The results were then compared to population data collected in the early 1990s.

The results showed a significant and worrying decline in the Algerian Nuthatch population at Guerrouch. The researchers found a very low population density of between one and two pairs of nuthatches per 10 hectares in the forest, a significant decline on the 2-3.1 pairs per 10 hectares noted in 1991 and the 3.25 pairs per 10 hectares in 1992. Moulaï and his team counted just 18 individuals in a 300-hectare section of surveyed forest, a stark contrast to the 91 individuals counted in an 800-hectare area of the same forest in 1991.

Moulaï, R, Bouchareb, A, Gheribi, A & Bougham, A F. 2017. Statut de la population et biologie de la reproduction de la Sittelle Kabyle (Sitta ledanti) dans la forêt de Guerrouch (Algérie). Alauda 85 (2), 2017: 101-107.

Biggest-ever influx of Coal Tits to British gardens

This November, Coal Tits were seen in over 70% of gardens, according to figures from the British Trust for Ornithology's (BTO) Garden BirdWatch (GBW). Cold weather or a lack of tree seeds in the wider countryside may be behind the rise in sightings.

Participants in the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch survey have been keeping weekly records of the birds seen in their gardens over the last 20 years, an incredible citizen science project that enables the BTO understand how birds use human habitats such as gardens. Coal Tits are among our smallest garden birds, and are often driven away from bird feeders by the larger, more aggressive Great Tits and Blue Tits. They have a habit of darting to a feeder, quickly taking a seed and hiding it in moss or a crevice to eat later. Coal Tits can be recognised by their striking black-and-white striped heads, and by their overall brown and grey plumage, with none of the yellow or blue colour seen in Great Tits and Blue Tits.

In the summer Coal Tits normally remain within woodland, and are recorded in fewer than a third of gardens. In the winter they ¬are seen in more gardens, and are generally recorded by at least 40% of Garden BirdWatchers in November, when they are driven to garden bird feeders by cold weather.

This is the perfect time to join Garden BirdWatch ready for 2018, or sign up a friend or family member as a Christmas gift. New joiners in December will receive a book on garden birds and wildlife and, for a limited time only, the BTO 2018 calendar, which is marked with Garden BirdWatch weeks and other bird survey dates. To find out more, please contact by email (, visit or call us on 01842 750050 (Mon-Fri 9am-5:00pm).

11 December 2017

Record breaking increase in Scottish Corn Buntings

The hard work of local farmers and estates in Angus and the East Neuk of Fife has been heralded as the reason behind the continued improvement of the fortunes of Corn Buntings.

This year’s survey results, which were announced by RSPB Scotland, revealed that last year’s record increase in Corn Bunting territories in Fife has been broken. While predictions that 2017 would be a good year for Corn Buntings in Angus have proved correct.

This year, in Fife, Corn Bunting numbers have increased by 26.2%, with 142 Corn Bunting territories recorded. This is the highest increase in Corn Bunting numbers in Fife in any single year since records began and surpasses 2016’s record 18% increase.

In Angus, Corn Bunting numbers have increased by 26.3%. This includes a range expansion towards Montrose, where six new Corn Bunting territories were found. It was predicted that Corn Buntings in Angus would have a good 2017 after it was confirmed that all Corn Buntings in that county would have access to the ‘Big Three’: safe nesting spaces, winter seed food and summer insect food for the chicks within one mile of their breeding territories this year.

RSPB Scotland have praised the dedication, passion and commitment of all those involved in the Corn Bunting Recovery Project. Yvonne Stephan is a Conservation Advisor for RSPB Scotland and helps run the Project. She said: “This record breaking increase of Corn Buntings is just absolutely amazing! I wouldn’t have dared to dream of such fantastic results in such a short period of time and it’s extremely encouraging that the Corn Bunting management is working that well. It shows what a difference the joint efforts and commitment of all the wonderful people on this project makes.”

20 December 2017

New research highlights extent of European bird killing


New research in the journal Bird Conservation International has exposed the shocking scale and scope of the illegal killing and trapping of wild birds in northern and central Europe and the Caucasus. The paper Illegal killing and taking of birds in Europe outside the Mediterranean: assessing the scope and scale of a complex issue estimates that 0.4-2.1 million individual birds per year may be killed illegally in the regions covered – mainly for ‘sport’ or ‘predator/pest’ control.

The illegal killing of birds remains a major threat in Europe, despite the fact that 28 of the countries recently assessed by BirdLife are parties to the legally binding Bern Convention (on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats), and 19 are also Member States of the European Union, obliged to implement its benchmark nature laws, the Birds and Habitats Directives.

The new paper offers a first scientific baseline on illegal killing of birds in those parts of Europe. The bird groups most seriously affected in terms of absolute numbers are waterbirds and seabirds, followed by passerines. In Azerbaijan alone, between 160,000 and 900,000 waterbirds are estimated to be killed illegally every year; raptors, as well as pigeons and doves, are also badly affected. The bird group with the highest percentage of species affected is the raptors, with 51 out of 52 species assessed in danger of illegal killing.

In the Caucasus, the main driver behind illegal bird killing is ‘sport’ and food, while in northern and central Europe, the major motivation is predator and so-called ‘pest’ control. Of the worst 20 ‘blackspots’ for illegal killing identified in these regions, 10 are in Azerbaijan, but EU countries such as Germany, The Netherlands and Bulgaria also feature.

Hatching of Javan Green Magpies caught on film for the first time

The hatching of Critically Endangered Javan Green Magpies has been caught on film for the first time.

The Javan Green Magpie is one of the world's most endangered species with only around fifty remaining in the wild, which places it on the verge of extinction. The reason: these beautiful songbirds are trapped for the illegal bird trade and vast swathes of their native forest have fallen silent.

Chester is the first UK zoo to successfully breed the species to give a vital boost to its global population, with the eventual goal of returning birds to their natural habitat.

Now, for the first time, The Secret Life of the Zoo cameras capture the moment magpie chicks are successfully hatched - as well as the courtship ritual between confident two-year-old Metina and her modest would-be suitor Permata who, at ten months, still has to earn his dating spurs. But as the tiny chicks emerge, their fragile lives are still vulnerable and there's no absolute guarantee of survival.

The Javan Green Magpie is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) but bird experts are warning that the situation may have worsened in recent months amid fears that the magpies may now be close to extinction in the wild - with no recent sightings reported.

The breeding of several new chicks in Chester since 2015 has given a huge lift to conservation efforts to save the birds.

27 December 2017

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Goose 'fitness tracker' reveals migration struggles


Greenland White-fronted Geese make a 600-mile round trip each year to overwinter in Scotland but not every bird finds it easy, according to new research from Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT). 

Specially designed bird ‘fitness trackers’ have revealed what happens to the birds as they struggle over the sea for long distances, trying to navigate the angry North Atlantic and getting blown off course by unpredictable storms. 

Migration is a particularly vulnerable time for Greenland White-fronts. One goose took just 14 and a half hours to fly from Iceland to Greenland, but two others took days to complete the same journey, being forced to spend a lot of the time bobbing on the sea.

WWT researcher Ed Burrell has just returned from the tiny island of Islay, Argyll, where he’s been downloading data from the bird fitness trackers. He said: “We’ve just downloaded all this amazing data from these individual birds to see what they’ve been up to. From studying the leg from Iceland to Greenland in May this year, we see what a difference a day makes. 

“We can tell that the weather turned on two birds who left the same evening, as they landed on the sea – so they wouldn’t be blown further, of course. By using an extra gadget called an accelerometer – a bird 'fitness tracker' so to speak – which measures the movement of the tag, we can tell that they bobbed about for a bit. To avoid the terrible conditions, the birds went for a swim.”

The blue-tagged goose left Iceland at 3.30 am on 6 May in calm conditions, arriving in Greenland 14-and-a-half hours later at a speed of 33.5 mph. The green-tagged goose left at 4 pm on 3 May accompanied by a good tailwind that later turned on the bird, blowing it towards the Arctic Ocean and forcing it to hunker down in the sea. It later landed in Greenland 53 hours after its journey began. 

The red-tagged goose had it even worse, leaving the same evening as Green, but taking a traumatic 63 hours to complete the trip.