Thursday, 23 January 2014

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A Finnish Woodcock, Caught in Norfolk, Wintering in Germany

Until today, we had not heard from Wensum since the 26th October. Back then, she was recorded spending time in southern Sweden, assumedly on her way back from her summer home in Finland to Norfolk where she was tagged last winter. But new data received today place Wensum in northern Germany on the 19th January 2014.

We had expected to see most of the woodcock returning to the same winter sites year on year. This is certainly the pattern shown by other woodcock that we have studied with satellite-tags or geolocators in the past. Yet Wensum has not conformed to this pattern.

Olwen is the only other bird we are hearing from regularly at the moment. Just like Wensum (s)he has bucked the trend and instead of returning to her tagging site in Wales has only made it as far back as East Yorkshire. So why are this year’s birds not choosing not returning to their 12/13 wintering grounds?

It seems likely that the milder winter weather has a lot to do with it. In extremely cold conditions more birds are pushed into the UK, particularly the South and West, where temperatures are kept comparatively clement by the warm gulf stream. In a mild winter, like this one, the pressure to perform such long migrations is lessened; without the push of cold conditions it makes little sense to fly any further than necessary. Until recently the temperature in northern Germany where Wensum is currently wintering has hovered above the 0°C mark meaning it is warm enough for woodcock to feed in unfrozen soil.

This does beg the question though: does Wensum usually winter in Germany, but happened to be in Norfolk last year due to an unusually cold February 2013? Or does she usually winter in Norfolk, but has stayed in Germany this year due to a mild winter 13/14?

Interestingly the weather has just taken a turn for the worse in Germany, and forecasts seem to predict that it will get colder still in the coming months. This may mean that Wensum is forced to move further; but will it be to Norfolk?

Wensum wintering in Germany

We've received a data update for Wensum. It seems having left Norfolk in March last year she's now wintering in Lower Saxony in Germany. So far she has covered over 4,200km.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Olwen displays unusual behaviour

The very newest data from Olwen (12th January 2014) still shows that (s)he is in East Yorkshire.

It seems very unlikely that Olwen will make the move to Wales as we were expecting. This unusual behaviour does not conform to what we have seen in other birds, most of which show a high degree of fidelity to their usual wintering sites.

Maybe cold weather in the North-east could push Olwen across to Wales – though this remains to be seen. A detailed update on Olwen will be posted here shortly.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

'Unique' bird migration discovered using geolocators

Scientists have discovered what they are calling one of the world's great bird migrations using geolocators - the same technology we use in our Woodcock Watch project.

Geolocator tags were fitted to 10 rare red-necked phalarope from Scotland and one has now returned, revealing an annual migration west across the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean - a roundtrip of 16,000 miles. Read more from BBC >

Monday, 6 January 2014

First Data of 2014 - Olwen Update

Olwen has provided our first location update of 2014 and is currently in East Yorkshire. (S)he (tough one to sex!) left Wales in March and has travelled nearly 6,000km to western Russia and back.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Moluccan Woodcock is 'not so endangered' after all

A team of researchers has captured the first known photographs of the elusive Moluccan Woodcock (Scolopax rochussenii) and, in a rare case of good conservation news, suggest that it may be less threatened than previously believed...Read more >