News archive

November 2016

Saturday, 26 November 2016

All-day walk around Thorney Island. Leader Chris Vine

All-day walk around Thorney Island. Leader Chris Vine

It was a bright cool day when twelve of us met at the small parking area at the western end of Thornham Lane and the breeze was sometimes even cooler.

The usual suspects were on show as we set off along the lane, Robin, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, and Magpie. While in the water works there were Moorhen, Black Headed Gull, Crows and Feral Pigeons (mainly Fantail Doves).
Further down the lane looking over the open fields there was a Kestrel hunting and in the distance Buzzards were soaring on a thermal. In the hedgerows there were Collard Doves, Blue Tits, Song Thrush and ever noisy House Sparrows.
Once clear of the buildings and out on the sea wall we found Brent Geese, Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Little Egret, Grey Heron and Pintail. For a short period there was even a Marsh Harrier cruising by, but he didn't hang around for long.
Shelduck were out on the mud along with Curlew, Redshank, Grey Plover, Turnstone and Dunlin.
Out in the channels and Great Deep there were Little and Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall and Red Breasted Merganser. At east one of the group even managed to spot a very distant Avocet.
Other birds of interest seen on our walk out to Pilsey and back included Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kingfisher, Mediterranean Gull, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Jay and many more. A grand total of sixty two species recorded.

Chris Vine

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

RSPB Bittern breeds in Oxfordshire for first time in 150 years

RSPB Bittern breeds in Oxfordshire for first time in 150 years

Bittern is once again part of Oxfordshire's breeding avifauna with at least two pairs nesting at the RSPB's Otmoor reserve.

Thanks to the hard work of volunteers, who along with the RSPB and Environmental Agency have invested countless hours planting greater than 150,000 reed seedlings by hand over seven years, the reedbed has matured to become the centrepiece of the reserve, which is situated just north of Oxford. Not only is it home to Bitterns but also Otters, Marsh Harriers and even Common Cranes.

This breeding success is welcome news for these enigmatic birds, who've endured a tumultuous history in Britain and Ireland. In the late 19th century Bittern had vanished from our shores; prized as a medieval banquet dish, they were hit by hunting as well as by loss of their reedbed habitat. They started to re-colonise slowly at the beginning of the 20th century, but due to continuing habitat loss their numbers slumped yet again, and by 1997 there were as few as eleven booming males across the country.

To advertise themselves to potential partners, male Bitterns make a distinctive 'booming' sound in the breeding season. While the first booming male was recorded at Otmoor in 2013, it was only recently proved that successful breeding had finally taken place, with the discovery of two nests.

David Wilding, RSPB Site Manager at Otmoor, said: "We are delighted to finally have Bitterns breeding in Oxfordshire once again, and with the amazing habitats created at Otmoor we hope to hear Bitterns booming here for years to come. We owe much of this success to our brilliant team of volunteers. Otmoor has also benefitted from generous funding and we are extremely grateful to each of our funders as, without their support, this achievement would simply not have been possible."

Graham Scholey, Environment Agency, added: "When we embarked on this project many years ago with the RSPB, Bittern was one of the target species which we hoped would be enticed to breed at the new reserve. That they have now finally bred at this wonderful wetland is testimony to the efforts of all those involved in establishing and managing the site. This is the icing on the cake of what has been a great habitat creation success story."

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Bird watching in Tenerife

Bird watching in Tenerife

During a recent family holiday during the month of October with my Grandchildren in Tenerife I managed the odd spot of bird watching. I was even fortunate enough to add a few new birds to my life list in the form of the Atlantic Canary, Barbary Partridge, Stone Curlew and Sardinian Warbler. I was staying in the area of Amarillo Golf which lies on the southern coast of Tenerife between the airport and Los Americas. The southern coast has very little greenery and consists mostly of volcanic rock covered with coarse shrubs and various cacti. The only green spots are the many golf courses which are always a good starting point to go for birding. On most of the golf courses one will find Berthelot's Pipits and if lucky a Hoopoe (this bird escaped me this time around). It was on a nearby golf course that I found my first ever Barbary Partridge.

Whilst following a Southern Grey Shrike across a volcanic landscape in order to get a better photo I flushed a pair of Stone Curlews which other than a few quick glimpses eluded the camera.

North of where I was staying is one of a few freshwater reservoirs that exist on the island. This has been a good spot on previous visits and once again didn't disappoint me. I managed some really close up shots of a Eurasian Spoonbill. Other birds here were Wood Duck, Yellow-legged Gull, Grey Wagtail, Little Egret, the ever present Muscovy Ducks and Western Canary Island Chiffchaffs. In a past visit I spotted a Spectacled Warbler here.

I have always had a few target birds which are endemic to Tenerife that I always try and find when visiting the island and these are the Bolle's and Laurel Pigeons and the Blue Chaffinch. It was on a trip to some fresh water pools at a place called Erjos where I was hoping to find the Pigeons that I added two new birds in the shape of a Sardinian Warbler and the Atlantic Canary. Alas neither of the Pigeons was found even though they are reported in the area. The Blue Chaffinch has also eluded me once again. Other birds seen over the course of a couple of visits included Spanish Sparrows, Corey's Shearwater, Whimbrel, Plain Swift, Blackcap, Kestrel, Buzzard and Rock Dove.

If any of you plan on visiting Tenerife and would like details of where I found a few of the birds above I am always willing to help with the little information I have.

Graham Whitehead (Website Editor)

Tuesday, 15 November 2016


A quick introduction: My name is Graham Whitehead and I have been a member of the Chichester local group for about 4 years or so. I initially joined to fill my spare time with a spot of birding and get help from the more experienced among you. Little did I realise what effect it would have on me and being influenced by such a great bunch of members. Things escalated and I found myself writing the odd report and now even leading a few annual walks. As you can see I have now taken it upon myself to keep the local website pages up to date with news, events, reports etc.

What I am hoping is that members who go on trips, other than the organised events, i.e. a holiday that includes some or lots of birding could write a small report that might just be newsworthy. I am sure our members would find it interesting and maybe a useful bit of information for maybe a future trip themselves.

If anyone feels up to writing a short account then I can be contacted by e-mail at the following address:

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Common Swifts fly for 10 months without a break

Common Swifts fly for 10 months without a break

A new study has confirmed that Common Swifts can spend up to 10 months in the air without landing.

The research, published in Current Biology, involved attaching tiny geolocators to swifts in southern Sweden. The tiny logging devices, weighing just a matter of grams, are part of a revolution in miniature electronics that are enabling scientists to track smaller and smaller birds.

The loggers include an accelerometer, to record movement, and a light sensor. Given the duration of the day and night and the time of year, scientists can determine the north/south position. Noting when the sun is at the midday position gives an east/west location.

In 2014 and 2015, the team recaptured 19 swifts carrying these data loggers and found that, as expected, the birds were spending their winters in West Africa.

Dr Anders Hedenström, a biologist at the University of Lund, and his team reported that three of the 19 birds never rested. Some did rest occasionally at night for brief periods, but the data loggers showed that all the birds stayed in the air for over 99 per cent of the time when they weren't nesting.
The data confirms what has long been predicted  that the birds stayed aloft when not nesting. It also endorses the use of geolocators as an invaluable tool for monitoring birds' movements  to put it into context, around 50,000 Common Swifts have been ringed in Sweden over the past century, but only one ringed individual had ever been recovered south of the Sahara.

The recordings also showed that long ascents by swifts, observed during the summer, happen throughout the year. During these ascents, often at twilight, the birds climb up to almost three kilometres in altitude.

Dr Hedenström speculated that the birds may ascend to such heights to sleep safely. How birds cope with the need to sleep remains a mystery. A recent study showed that frigatebirds can sleep on the wing, albeit for much shorter periods than they do when on land. Currently the recording devices that observe brain activity weigh too much to fit to swifts, but this may well change in the future.