|British Birds: 109: 448-459|
|British Birds: 109: 350-352|
|Unringed White Stork over the car, Exminster 10/05/2016|
|[Siberian] Chiffchaff one of three near home 29/12/16.|
It was also a privilege to get some Fulmar (mainly dark phase birds but also variation in bill colour) shots in Bob Flood and Ashely Fisher's latest Albatrosses & Fulmarine Petrels multimedia guide, in their North Atlantic Seabird series. I've been a great fan of their book / video combinations. What was even better the excellent illustrations within were all done by friend and local artist John Gale.
One of the lows for me was the 2015 Devon Bird Report which came out in 2016, hence in this review. Having been heavily involved in the past (1994-2009), I was also co-editor 1996-1998 (what a dyslexic editor!!). But there's more to editing than just spelling and grammar!! We once had an amazing editor in Pete Reay et al. - the halcyon years from 1999–2009. The report won 'best' award a few years on the trot and it was a honour to have been part of a great team. It was always going to be a hard act to follow. I was coaxed back in for DBR2015, but certain aspects relating to the use of my own records, are to be frank embarrassing, I won't say anymore as this review is generally upbeat. But before moving on there were couple of interesting things I found in 2016 while researching for writing the raptor account. (1) 2015 was the first year since 1969 with no accepted Honey-buzzard records! (2) It was the best Red Kite year, with a 'super' influx. But when it came to writing Red Kite, on receiving the data I thought hey there's a lot of sightings missing here, including that of 28 I remember seeing on the blog! So I painstakingly went through the Devon Bird news blog and extracted all the Red Kite records into excel. I seem to remember it added c120 new records, almost doubling the database. Guess what, many people put their sighting on the blog but then don't send them in! Perhaps people think putting things on the blog means it automatically gets into the DBR database. Well it did for Red Kite for one year only (as I passed the extract on to the data manager) and I've moved on. One thing the report always contains is excellent WeBS data etc and photographs, just needs a dam good edit and more consistent approach. Surely my five counts of 60+ Mandarins on the river Dart near home are worth an individual mention, like 88 on 06/02/2015 (I'm not after initials its the big counts that are important). Hopefully Devon Bird's new recorder will influence this and I wish him well.
There was also the Devon Bird Atlas published in 2016 with much pomp and ceremony. I'm not a great fan of atlases but of course did my bit to help, bit of surveying, then validating at the data collection stage, and then writing etc. The problem with Atlases the day they are produced they are already out of date. One thing the Devon atlas showed me is how flawed some of Sitters data was (just look at Kestrel, massive observer bias and that applies to other species). At the end of the day we still see the trends of what we already know is happening. But as birds don't recognise county boundaries, for me the National BTO Atlas 2007-11 is far more meaningful. Mark Avery wrote a review of Devon's, a bit harsh but to the point here. Its OK Mark I certainly wasn't offended. In Mark's review he called Sitters Atlas excellent, but how can it be if the data is flawed?
But what about my other great passion, monitoring raptors? Well a mixed year. At my local site the Peregrines produced four young (well four were present just prior to fledging). So that was the first time in 28 years of my monitoring (and the site being occupied) they had produced a four! I was really looking forward to watching four young playing over the town. But we never speak too soon with this site as they can be targeted just post-fledging (poisoned by folk who do not like Peregrines, as they have been in a least four times in the past). Well the young seemed to fledge OK, but something was wrong, I was not seeing them playing around as they should. Subsequent visits located just two young females, not flying well and unable to get any height! I first suspected mild poisoning and monitored them intently over the next days, although I wasn't altogether convinced their symptoms matched poisoning. From previous experience, with the modern pesticide abuse (Aldicarb & Carbofuran as used in 2005 & 2011), which sadly I've seen here, death is usually pretty quick and you just find the corpse. Anyway, their condition was not improving, they would just sit around low down with no major flights or play. So I contacted some falconer friends for advice and asked if they could help me catch them and take them in, to assess their condition and possibly keep for treatment. This meant seeing whether suitable facilities were available, Dave Scott could do it and Leonard Hurrell at a pinch!
|They look like two healthy juvenile females, full cropped because the adults are feeding them. But they're too thin! Time to call an expert.|
So last but not least to my passion for Goshawks. Over many years I've built up very good working relations with many landowners and forestry organisations. Finding breeding sites, helping plan around the birds. E.g forestry operations to take place so they don't affect the birds breeding success; and where possible putting in retentions (safe mature stands to keep the birds nesting in). Its a good relationship and we've had much success to the point where the birds are doing OK. One particular valley though had a major setback a few years ago when the area was taken over by a massive pheasant rearing shoot and my single productive pair there, unsurprisingly disappeared!! Luckily the area was subsequently bought by a conservation friendly organisation. Great news and I located two new pairs there after two years, but..... also there was now much better public access. Move on to 2015 and unfortunately one path passing close by a nest had a bad effect as with increased public access the site failed and the other site raised just a single. So one from two pairs in 2015 was not good. So for 2016 with the kind cooperation of the landowners I asked if we could close the track for the breeding season, as the birds had built a new nest that was easily looked down into, to see if it made a difference. The outcome was very successful and this pair reared four and the other three. That's seven more young in that valley and they take many Grey Squirrels as this family portrait shows. I should say of course I'm licenced to work with Goshawk and Peregrines.
|In all my years of monitoring I seldom find a nest that can be looked into by a track. Closure of the track meant four young fledged - a great success.|
Lets see what 2017 brings! Happy New Year.