Find information, pages & articles on British & Irish Birds, Birding & Birdwatching...

Irish Little Egret turns up in Iceland! (BirdWatch Ireland)

The recently-published Bird Atlas 2007–11 has highlighted some very significant patterns and shifting trends in our bird populations over the past 20 years.  For all too many species these findings reveal declines and range contractions; however there are some positive stories too. One of the most remarkable of these has been the colonisation and subsequent spread of the Little Egret.  As the atlas has shown, this elegant heron is now widespread and is frequently observed throughout the country both during the winter and breeding seasons.  It is therefore easy to forget that it was as recently as 1997 that the first ever nesting record was documented in Ireland, following the first British record the previous year!  These events followed on from a rapid expansion of the Iberian breeding population in the early nineties, and their arrival to these shores throws up all sorts of interesting questions, such as the speculation as to whether their colonisation is linked to climate change.

Little Egret close to fledging at the Galway colony (Photo: Dario Fernandez Bellon)
Little Egret close to fledging at the Galway colony
(Photo: Dario Fernandez Bellon)

To try and learn more about the breeding ecology and dispersal of Little Egrets in Ireland, a monitoring and colour-ringing study was initiated in Co. Galway by Chris Benson and John Lusby, and this work has provided some interesting and unexpected findings to date. 

Successful scheme provides 'life rafts' for rare Scottish bird (RSPB)

Black-throated diver nesting on artificial island
Black-throated Diver by Chris Gomersall
A pioneering project to recreate ideal breeding habitat for one of Scotland’s rarest birds on some Scottish lochs has met with remarkable success.
The black-throated diver, a species that only breeds in freshwater lochs in the north-west of the country, is benefitting from the scheme to create special floating rafts that provide the necessary conditions to breed and raise chicks.

Birds of prey let loose by vandals at World of Owls sanctuary (BBC)

File image of an owl: Around 20 birds including owls are missing after they were broken out of their cages
Eagle Owl (Belfast Telegraph - More info >>)

Vandals have damaged enclosures at an animal sanctuary in County Antrim, releasing birds of prey into the wild.
It happened at the World of Owls Centre in Randalstown Forest. It houses 55 birds, 12 of which are now missing.
There are fears the escaped birds could starve, as most of them have been raised in captivity and have never known life in the wild.
Efforts are being made to locate the 12 missing birds and police are appealing for information.
The netting on many of the enclosures has has been cut open and rolled back by vandals, allowing the birds to escape.
World of Owls sign
The sanctuary is located in
Randalstown Forest, County Antrim (BBC)
After staff at World of Owls appealed for help on Tuesday afternoon, volunteers began to arrive at the sanctuary to mend the enclosures.
However, sanctuary staff have warned the public that if they spot birds of prey in the area, no attempt should be made to capture them.
Instead, if anyone sees birds of prey "behaving unusually" in the nearby area, they are asked to contact World of Owls on 028 94472307, so the birds can be recovered properly and safely.

Winter Thrushes Survey Update (BTO)

Redwing by John Harding
Redwing (BTO)

Thanks to the efforts of over 1,600 volunteers, our Winter Thrushes Survey covered more than 3,000 different locations in the first year of fieldwork. Over 12,500 visits were made overall, with Sussex hitting the top of the county leader board for core site visits. Initital exploration of the data suggest that winter thrushes switch from feeding in trees to ground feeding as the autumn progresses and that this switch may occur at different times for the different species.

Cumbria gamekeeper pleads guilty to killing buzzards illegally (RSPB)

PC Helen Felton with two dead buzzards
PC Helen Felton and RSPB's Head of Investigations Bob Elliot with illegally killed buzzards (RSPB)

Colin Burne, of Winters Park, Penrith, has today pleaded guilty to the intentional killing of buzzards on land managed by a private shooting syndicate in Whinfell Forest, near Penrith, Cumbria.
The 64-year old gamekeeper attended Carlisle Magistrates Court today where he pleaded guilty to three charges. These related to the killing of two buzzards on the 11 February 2013, killing five buzzards prior to this date and possession of a wooden stick as an item capable of being used to kill the birds.
He received a 70-day jail sentence, concurrent on each charge, suspended for 12 months.  In sentencing, the Judge stated that had it not been for his ill health he would have considered jailing him.
On Monday 11 February, this year, a cage trap containing live buzzards was found by members of the public on land managed by the shoot. Cage traps can lawfully be used to control certain crows species, but any non-target species which become accidentally caught, such as buzzards and other birds of prey, must be released unharmed. The next day RSPB Investigations Officers set up a covert camera near the trap site. When the footage was retrieved it showed Colin Burne entering the trap and intentionally killing two buzzards by beating them to death with a wooden stick.

Bugless Britain Leaving UK Birds Hungry This Summer (Earthweek)

A second consecutive wet, cool and unsettled summer across Britain has wiped out large populations of bees, moths and butterflies, according to a new National Trust report.

Satellite Image
Common Blue Butterflies (Earthweek) - Butterflies have been very scarce
across the United Kingdom this year, according to a National Trust report.

It warns that the drop in the number of winged insects could cause birds and bats go to hungry for the remainder of this year.“Insect populations have been really very low. Then when they have got going, they’ve been hit by a spell of cool, windy weather... so our environment is just not bouncing with butterflies or anything else,”said Matthew Oates, a National Trust naturalist who worked on the report.It says that the dearth of airborne insects could cause martins, swifts, swallows and warblers to struggle to survive in the coming months.A delayed spring that started with the coldest March in 50 years across the U.K. caused frogs and toads to struggle to breed in water that was still frozen in many rural locations.

Two thirds of tagged Cuckoos have left the UK (BTO)

Tor, one of the Cuckoos tagged in Devon, is in France
Cuckoo (BTO)

Of the 18 Cuckoos we are tracking with satellite tags this year, 12 have already left the UK. Of the remaining six, three were tagged in Scotland and three in Norfolk. Those tagged in Devon, Sussex and Wales have already set off on migration. We currently have Cuckoos in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Corsica. Take a look at the latest positions and blogs here.

Guillemot eggs are self-cleaning (BBC)

By Victoria Gill
Guillemot eggs have special structures on their shells that make them self-cleaning, according to new research.
A guillemot sitting on its egg
Guillemot (BBC)
The study began after scientists noticed the liquid-repelling properties of a batch of eggs that had water spilled onto them.
Further analysis revealed tiny cone-shaped structures on the eggs' shells were responsible for this property.
The findings were presented at the Society for Experimental Biology conference in Valencia, Spain.
Dr Steven Portugal from the Royal Veterinary College in London who conducted the research told BBC Nature that the project started with a "minor spillage" in the lab.
"I accidentally spilled distilled water over a batch of eggs," Dr Portugal recalled.
"And I noticed that the eggs from the guillemots stood out in terms of how the water droplets reacted on the surface.
"They formed little droplets - they didn't run down the egg."
The formation of water drops into perfect spheres is typical of hydrophobic or water-hating surfaces.
The best-known example of this in nature is a lotus leaf.
"It's been copied in engineering, because it's self-cleaning" said Dr Portugal.

The BTO at 80 (BTO)

A huge amount has happened in the eighty-year lifetime of the BTO. Whilst the life expectancy of a man has increased from 53 to 78 and that for a woman from 60 to 81, much of our bird life has fared rather less well.

In five pages we focus on the range of the BTO’s achievements over eight decades – from its role in the discovery of DDT’s impact on raptor populations, via the reactions to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and on to more recent concerns about farmland, woodland and migrant birds.
Throughout this period our members, whether amateurs or professionals, have helped to shed light on the issues facing Britain’s birds and the habitats we share with them.

Bird slaughter in the Near East - documentation of poaching in the Lebanon (CABS)

Trophy exhibition on Facebook
This Lebanese poacher proudly displays a shot White Stork
This Lebanese poacher proudly
displays a shot White Stork
A freshly-shot, still living Short-toed Eagle is proudly presented as a trophy. Armed men pose with freshly killed cranes and pelicans. Another hunter holding a dead Lesser Spotted Eagle grins into the camera lens. His hunting companion has neatly draped his bag for the day - hundreds of shot song birds - on a bedsheet. Two children, hardly eight years of age - inspect wide-eyed two dead Honey Buzzards that their father has brought back today from the hunt. Another still life shows nine freshly shot White Storks in the foreground with behind them the hunter, completely relaxed with a cigarette in one hand and the beak of one of the storks in the other. Such photos give an idea of the incredible damage that Lebanese poachers inflict on the European bird populations. There are several hundreds, perhaps thousands of such trophy pictures. Most are taken by the poachers themselves to show off to other hunters. Some of the photos are even posted on the Internet for friends and acquaintances to see. They prove in great detail that species gravely endangered in Europe are being killed on a massive scale in the Lebanon. And they are especially authentic because they are taken by the hunters themselves. Scientists and conservationists in Europe are now alarmed about the scale of the killing because the Lebanon straddles one of the most important routes for European migrant bird species, the Eastern Flyway. This route is used every spring and autumn by millions of song birds, as well as hundreds of thousands of storks, eagles and other birds of prey.

More than 140 species are affected by poaching
A child with a shot Cuckoo
A child with a shot Cuckoo

The Lebanese Environmental Movement (LEM), with support from CABS; has monitored the hunters’ Facebook pages for months and meticulously collated more than 700 photographs as proof of the poaching of European migrant birds. The result is a comprehensive photographic documentation that has rendered bird and wildlife conservationists speechless. CABS experts need a full two months to analyse the photographs and count and identify the birds. A total of 13,100 birds are shown on the photos, of which 11,213 can be identified at species level. The spectrum includes song birds such as the Ortolan Bunting, Golden Oriole and Common Redstart, as well as numerous water birds and birds of prey as for instance Lesser Spotted Eagle, Red-footed Falcon and Egyptian Vulture.

Birdwatchers see rare White-throated Needletail fly into turbine on Harris (BBC)

The White-throated Needletail on the Isle of Harris, by David Campbell

An enthusiast who travelled to the Western Isles to view a rare bird has told of his "dismay" after watching it fly into a wind turbine and die.
The white-throated needletail, which breeds in Asia and winters in Australasia, was spotted on Harris.
About 30 birdwatchers travelled to the island to see the unusual visitor, which has only been recorded five times in the UK since 1950.
However, they then saw it die after colliding with the wind turbine.
Birdwatcher David Campbell, from Surrey, told the BBC Scotland news website that the incident took place late on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Campbell, who is now making his way home to south east England, said: "We just watched the whole thing with dismay."
He added that on a previous bird watching trip he had seen a migratory wryneck hit by a train.
A relative of the common swift, the white-throated needletail is said to be the fastest bird in level flight.
It is reported to reach a top speed of 105mph.
'Very rare'

Environment cuts prompt call for new deal on nature (RSPB)

Skylark at the grassy edge of a small field
Skylark by Andy Hay

Cuts to the environment budget announced today prove the need for a radical rethink on how we protect our threatened wildlife.

That's the message from the RSPB following today's announcement that Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), alongside several other Government departments, is set to be hit with a 10 per cent cut. 

Added to the cuts that have already been announced, this leaves Defra's budget at almost half where it was in 2010 in real terms. Today's cut is likely to fall disproportionately on conservation as spending on flooding issues and the badger cull is likely to be protected.
The news comes a month after the groundbreaking State of Nature report was launched by Sir David Attenborough and 25 leading conservation organisations which revealed that our wildlife is in serious trouble with 60 per cent of UK species in decline.
'We need a radical rethink of how we can protect our plants, animals, rivers, seas and landscapes'
Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: 'These latest cuts signal the urgent need for a sea change in the way we protect our wildlife. 
'Clearly Defra is not alone in suffering cuts on this scale and with the economy in the shape it's in it we would be foolish not to expect the coat to get cut to fit the cloth.
'However the State of Nature report published in May laid the facts bare about the worrying declines in our native species. Without investment in the future of our natural environment the situation will only get worse.

Crow, Rook or Raven? (BTO)

Carrion Crow. Photograph by Jill Pakenham
Carrion Crow (BTO)

A black crow flies over - but is it a Crow, a Rook or even a Raven? Our latest bird ID video attempts to help you to separate these confusing species, along with their smaller cousins: Jackdaw and Chough. Watch the Corvids bird ID video now. If you enjoy our Youtube channel, subscribe for free to receive updates when new videos are posted.

Related Downloads

Jonathan Franzen and Emptying The Skies (CABS)

World premiere of the film about CABS in England

Bonn/Sheffield. The activist operations by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter for better protection of migrant birds are the theme of a new documentary film that has its world premiere at the Sheffield Docs Film Festival this weekend. Under the title Emptying The Skies the New York bestselling author Jonathan Franzen and director Roger Kass expose how millions of European songbirds land in the cooking pot every year, under the pretext of retaining ‘old traditions’ and ‘sustainable use’.
Bestseller author and bird lover Jonathan FranzenBestselling author and bird lover Jonathan Franzen (CABS)The screenplay is written around a group of international activists from the Committee Against Bird Slaughter, who travel every year in spring and autumn to the poaching hotspots - mainly in Southern Europe - to combat illegal bird hunting and trapping. Jonathan Franzen and the film crew shadowed the operations - now well known internationally as CABS bird protection camps - for more than two years before the results were ready for the silver screen. The film locations were in Cyprus, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
In addition to impressive scenes, which vividly present the viewer the scale and destructive power of bird killing, the film shows how British, German and Italian CABS members risk life and limb to prevent rare bird species ending on the tables of poachers or gourmets. On Cyprus, where the film team and the conservationists discover huge trapping sites with mist nets and limesticks, Jonathan himself only escaped an attack by irate poachers by the skin of his teeth. Other members of the team were not so lucky and two Italian conservationists required hospital treatment after being beaten. “I hadn’t thought I would end up in a war zone” remarked Franzen..
Jonathan Franzen, who achieved worldwide fame with his novels Freedom and The Corrections has for years been an enthusiastic bird watcher and conservationist. The film Emptying The Skies is the adaptation of a more than 20 page article on hunting of migrant birds in Europe that he wrote for the New Yorker magazine, and which was published earlier this year in his collection of essays Farther Away(Fourth Estate, London)
Contact for further information: Committee Against Bird Slaughter, David Conlin (international affairs), An der Ziegelei 7, D-53127 Bonn, Tel.: +49 172 3946671, mail:, web:
Link to official Facebook page of Emptying the skies:

The Ultimate Site Guide to Scarcer British Birds (BirdGuides)

Updated 3rd Edition, by Lee G R Evans
When Lee Evans' Ultimate Site Guide to Scarcer British Birds was published in 1996 it became an instant classic. For the first time in one place, British birders could discover how and where to see over 100 rarer and more difficult-to-find species. These are the birds that can make birding such an exciting and rewarding activity: there is nothing quite like the thrill of tracking down and observing elusive and attractive species such as Hawfinch, Spotted Crake and Honey Buzzard.
Now BirdGuides has re-published Lee Evans' original guide in a fully revised, updated and extended edition. The information has been carefully reviewed for accuracy and also remembering the need to protect vulnerable breeders. The species accounts have been further enhanced with more than 60 new vignettes from illustrator Ray Scally.
For each of the 142 species covered this book tells you all you need to know, including:
  • where to look - up to six pages per species, detailing up to 50 sites, often including maps and grid references
  • when to look - detailed notes explain the best time of year for each site
  • how to get there - and exactly where to look within the site
  • how good your chances are of seeing the bird at each location

Lee G R EvansLee Evans is among Britain's best-known twitchers and one of only a small number of birders who have seen over 500 species in Britain. A keen year-lister, he aims to see well over 300 species of bird in the wild in Britain each year. He holds the UK record, achieving 386 species in 1996. Evans runs the British Birding Association and UK 400 Club. Without doubt, Lee is among the most obsessive birdwatchers in Britain, having driven over 1.8 million miles in quest of rare birds.
Sample pages
Sample page 1Sample page 2
(Click for larger versions.)
Softback, 165×246mm, 327pp.

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