News archive

September 2018

Friday, 21 September 2018

The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS)

The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS)

If you find a dead bird of prey telephone PBMS on 01524 595830

The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS) is a long-term, national monitoring scheme that quantifies the concentrations of contaminants in the livers and eggs of selected species of predatory birds in Britain.
They monitor the levels of contaminants to determine how and why they vary between species and regions, how they are changing over time and the effects that they may have on individual birds and on their populations.

The aim of the PBMS is to detect and quantify current and emerging chemical threats to the environment. It achieves this by monitoring the concentrations of contaminants of concern in bird carcasses and eggs. This provides information on the extent of risk to vertebrate wildlife (and potentially Man) and how this varies temporally and spatially. Such variation can result from market-led or regulatory changes in chemical use. It may also be associated with larger-scale phenomena, such as global environmental change, which can alter the environmental fate and behaviour of chemicals.

PBMS monitoring provides evidence of the effectiveness of mitigation measures, such as those incorporated into national and international regulatory directives.

Which birds do they want?

The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme welcomes submission of all species of bird of prey.
Current funding allows for analysis of Barn owl, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Red kite samples. Other species are analysed when time and funding permits; these include Buzzard and Tawny owl. Other birds of prey that we receive that are suitable for analysis are retained in a long term archive facility at CEH Lancaster.

If you find a dead bird of prey telephone us on 01524 595830

How to send us a dead bird
If you find a dead bird of prey, please telephone 01524 595830. We will send a submission pack (containing everything you need, postage paid) to the address you provide. We will acknowledge receipt of the bird.
If you are unable to collect the bird because you saw it on the motorway or a busy, dangerous road, please contact your local Highways Agency. They may be willing to help. Please do not endanger yourself to collect a dead bird of prey.

More information can be read on the The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme website

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

August 2018 Newsletter - Edition 93

August 2018 Newsletter - Edition 93

We produce newsletters three times a year and all RSPB Chester Local Group members receive them automatically.

To guarantee you don't miss out, click on the Join tab and fill in the web form. It is a steal at family £10, Individual £6, Concession (Seniors or Students) £5.

You can download our August newsletter here.

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Sunday, 2 September 2018

Turtle dove

Long distance migration

Migration: welcome to nature's runway!
Everyone knows that swallows fly south for winter, and so do many other birds - but they don't all go the same way, or to the same area. Let's take a closer look at 10 species and their surprising long-distance journeys...

The swallow is one of our most familiar, cherished migrant birds. Because swallows feed as they fly along, there's no need for them to feed up before setting off. And in recent warm winters, small numbers of swallows have tried to survive in southern England! But most of these dainty birds, weighing less than 20 g, will cross seas and the Sahara desert to make it to South Africa, where insect food is plentiful.

Since 2011, our friends at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have been using satellite tags to find out more about that famous messenger of spring, the cuckoo.

Until this project, nobody was sure where the UK's cuckoos went for winter. It turns out that most fly south via Italy, though others cross Spain, they all finish up in the Congo rainforests within quite a small area.

Swifts are a common sight in many villages and towns, but their numbers dropped by 47 per cent since 1995.

It's likely that fewer places to nest here is one factor, but the BTO has helped to fill the gap in our knowledge about where they spend the rest of their lives.

A tiny geolocator 'backpack' recorded data which revealed a journey to west Africa, then on to central Africa for a few months, and then all the way to Mozambique on the east coast!

Turnstones can be seen around our coasts at almost any time of year.

These bold wading birds are very adaptable and are happy to look for food - including fish and chip scraps - at seaside resorts to supplement their natural diet. This seems strange when you learn that 'our' turnstones migrate to the wilds of Greenland or Arctic Canada to breed.

It must be a very different place from Scarborough or Cromer...

Not only is the hummingbird hawk-moth an amazing insect to look at - it does look and behave just like a hummingbird - but it undertakes a mammoth migration, too.

'Hummers' come to the UK from as far as north Africa and the Mediterranean, especially when there are southerly winds to help. Research into the silver-y moth (named for the Y-shaped markings on its forewings) has found that moths don't just get blown long distances by accident, but that they can tell when the wind speed and direction are favourable!

Thanks to satellite tracking technology, we now know where the famous ospreys of Loch Garten go in winter - and how they get there. The rivers and coasts of west Africa are the normal destinations, but weather and inexperience make for some hair-raising journeys.

Migration isn't easy, even when you're a big, powerful bird.

Turtle dove
The UK's population of turtle doves has plummeted by a shocking 93 per cent since 1995.

We need to understand more about what's happening to them, so pioneering RSPB scientists fitted a turtle dove, named Titan, with a satellite tag so we could learn more. We didn't know where he would go, so it was fascinating to follow his journey from Suffolk to Mali - and back again.

The blackcap is a common warbler which sings from the UK's woodlands through spring. Come September, they'll be on the move again. But while most of our birds will head south to Spain, Portugal and maybe north Africa, a different - much smaller - population of blackcaps will be on their way to us.

Some blackcaps from central Europe are making the most of our bird-feeding habits and spending winter with us. It's adaptation in action.

Black-tailed godwit
The black-tailed godwit is a long-billed, leggy wading bird which gathers in large flocks on UK estuaries from late summer through to spring.

The birds in these flocks breed in Iceland and might also visit the Netherlands, Portugal or France during winter. Pairs even manage to synchronise their return to Iceland, despite spending winter apart!

A small number of black-tailed godwits breed in England, but these birds head to western Africa for winter instead.