Friday, 29 August 2014

Priolo Project

Visited the eastern side of São Miguel yesterday and met with Ruben from SPEA (Portugese Ornithological Society) who showed us around the Priolo Project. Priolo is the local name for the Azores Bullfinch and there is a great deal of hard work being done to restore the Bullfinch's natural habitat, the Laurel Forest. The biggest problem being the removal of the many invasive species that out compete the native species.
The endemic Azores Grayling

The endemic race of Goldcrest from Sao Miguel

Juvenile Azores Bullfinch or Priolo

Terceira Whales and Botany

Yesetrday, Pete and I headed out on a whale watching boat from Angra after failing to achieve our intended destination of exploring more marine banks further out to sea. Still a good trip with the main highlight being at least 6 Fin Whales. A seemingly unusual time of year for this species in the Azores. Other highlights included a few Great Shearwaters the usual Cory's Shearwaters and pods of Common Dolphins. Plus juvenile Roseate Tern and Azores Gull. Also managed a final visit to the Cabo da Praia Quarry, though nothing new this time, but good views of two Hudsonian Whimbrel. 

On Tuesday we met with a couple of botanists and explored some of the coastal botany of the island and enjoyed some local tea and cake too!
Exotic tree from Haiwai
Ivy Leaf Fern
Cecilia and Isabelle (botanists) and Pete
CT sampling the local tea and cake!

Common Dolphins
Juvenile Roseate Tern

Great Shearwater
Fin Whale off Terceira Island
Cory's Shearwater
Hudsonian Whimbrel

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Cabo da Praia Quarry, Terceira

A visit to the Cabo da Praia Quarry today produced some great views of a number of waders. Highlights included 2 Hudsonian Whimbrel, 4 Semipalmated Plovers (all adults) and single Short-billed Dowitcher and juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper.
Short-billed Dowitcher, Sanderling and Turnstone
Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper

Azores Again

Currently out in the Azores with Peter doing some broader natural history and more exploratory pelagics. Only had time today to get out for an evening from Terceira, but all very pleasant.
Hopefully more to report later in week.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Wood Sandpiper

Pretty pleased to find a Wood Sandpiper on the scrapes yesterday afternoon. A bit of rain is always a good thing! Only my second Wood Sand on the patch, the last being on the same scrape on the much later date of 9th September 2009. Typically, as with most decent waders on the patch it didn't stick around for long before flying off never to be seen again. Managed a quick digiscoped record for posterity!

Wood Sandpiper, Budleigh Scrapes 11th August 2014

And here is a better shot of a Wood Sandpiper I took on Lesvos!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Local Birding and French Kittiwakes in Devon

I have been enjoying finally spending some time at home over the last week and getting out birding locally. Notable birds for the time of year on the local patch have included:

Common Eider - Eclipse drake 4th August until at least 8th August west of Budleigh Cliffs
Sanderling - one moulting ad on rocks off Otter Head 9th August
Teal - a single bird on the Otter 9th August

More interesting however was the recent information I received back on a number of colour-ringed Kittiwakes that I saw with the Mrs whilst carrying out productivity surveys at the Kittiwake colony at Straight Point. This colony is the most important Kittiwake colony in Devon with over 160 nests and has been closely monitored by the RSPB since 2013 because of the recent national decline in Kittiwake productivity. Whilst carrying out the surveys, I noticed a colour ringed bird in the colony on 30th July, followed by another 3 colour-ringed birds on 4th August. All 4 birds were ringed in Brittany in the Finistère region. The birds consisted of an adult, a 2CY and most interestingly, two 1st year birds that only left the French colony during the last week of July before ending up at Exmouth 8 and 12 days later!

This year productivity at Straight Point has been 0.67 chicks fledged per pair which is pretty good for Kittiwake.

1st year Kittiwake (colour-ringed) photographed at Straight Point Exmouth 4th August. Ringed in Finistère, Brittany, France and fledged on 20/07/2014, last seen in it's natal colony on 23/07/2014.

Common Eider - Eclipse drake 4th August west of Budleigh Cliffs 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Devon Mega!

Don't think I shall be winning any awards for the very distant photos, but you can just about tell what it is!
Devon's 3rd Caspian Tern today was a real treat thanks to Matt Knott who found the bird early this morning off Exmouth seafront. A very fortuitous and very appreciated phone call from Matt later this afternoon had me make a small diversion to Mud Bank Lane and the rest is history!
I saw the bird again this afternoon from the Imperial Recreation Car Park quite a bit closer before it vanished!
You have to go back as far as July 2004 for the last record, seen for just a couple of hours at Dawlish Warren

Thanks again Matt for a great find!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Ovipositing, Peregrines and Great White!

Today started with an early morning phone call from fellow birder and friend Matt Knott. Now when my mobile rings early in the morning and I see it is Matt, it means only one thing - a rarity!
With yesterday's amazing news of a Black-browed Albatross past Portland Bill, I must admit, I was slightly nervous about what Matt was going to tell me! However, it wasn't the albatross, but a good bird nontheless - Matt had literally just had a Great White Egret fly over his head at nearby Exmouth and head my way! Now, Great White Egret is a bird I have always hoped to find on the patch, but I couldn't resist heading straight out to see if I good "luck in" on Matt's bird - despite a quick dash out of the house and to the seafront and Otter, I sadly had no joy. A well deserved find for Matt for his early starts! Matt - if you are reading this - don't ever worry about ringing too early- I am always keen to hear about rare birds whatever time - no problem and thanks for the call.

Other highlights this weekend were a couple of juvenile Peregines that have recently fledged and an Emperor Dragonfly ovipositing in our garden pond! 
Ovipositing Emperor Dragonfly in our garden pond

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Leave our Beavers alone! Sign Petition

One of the Beavers happily minding its own business on the River Otter in April this year
Is DEFRA wasting public money on trying to re-capture a family of "wild" living Beavers on the River Otter in Devon?

Maybe? so it would seem:

George Eustice (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Camborne and Redruth, Conservative)
"We intend to recapture and rehome the wild beavers in Devon and are currently working out plans for the best way to do so. All decisions will be made with the welfare of the beavers in mind. There are no plans to cull beavers."

Up to three animals have been living on the River Otter for at least two years now without any known detrimental effect.
So what is the problem and
why the big fuss about them now, despite them having been living happily on the River Otter for at least 2 years?

Disease Risk? Lethal Tapeworm? - Negligible or Low
It has been suggested that a reason for the proposed removal of beavers from the River Otter is because of a "lethal tapeworm"
Echinococcus Multilocularis (EM) which beavers "can" carry?
This parasite is clearly fairly nasty but according to the DEFRA a beaver infected with EM : "can only transmit the infection directly to other beavers, wildlife or the environment through a definitive host (dog or fox) scavenging the infected beaver’s organs."

As such the
report clearly states the risk from the parasite as being either neglible OR low but uncertain dependent on the origin of the beavers.
Worth noting DEFRA's definitions of risk are:

Negligible = So rare that it does not merit to be considered
Low = Rare but does occur

Origin of River Otter Beavers?
Obviously, the beavers origin are unknown, but let's be honest, the chances of them having escaped from somewhere fairly local to Ottery St Mary would seem reasonable, as this is where the animals were first reported.....
Escot House, is a privately owned 19th Century home based in Ottery St Mary which do have a captive collection of beavers. They were imported from Bavaria, but Escot have apparently not had any animals escape.
Even if they had escaped from Escot, according to the DEFRA report: "A beaver imported from Bavaria (or other endemic area) poses a low risk of being infected with associated uncertainty"

Surely there is a better solution to all this than taking the seemingly brash approach and permanently removing the beavers from the River Otter because of a low disease risk?

If the risk to human health is more of a concern than I interpret it and it is essential they are captured then get the animals tested. Assuming they are free from the parasite, then allow a licenced legal release back to the River Otter.
But don't just put them in a zoo and make that the end of it.

This is a great opportunity locally to use the River Otter as an English Beaver study trial site.....

Good article from the Ecologist HERE

Sign petition to at least show your support for the Beavers in the wild and help stop the beaver's permanent removal HERE or HERE

Full DEFRA report can be seen HERE


"The risk of E. Multilocularis being imported and introduced in to a definitive host species (e.g. fox or dog) via beavers is dependent upon the probability an infected beaver is selected for import, it survives quarantine, it dies in a location accessible to a host species and is scavenged by a host species resulting in infection. Beavers infected with
E. Multilocularis cannot transmit the infection directly to other beavers, wildlife or the environment.
Onward transmission can only occur by a definitive host (dog or fox) scavenging the infected beaver’s organs.

Historically, beavers have been imported from two main areas namely, those from endemic E. multilocularis countries (e.g. Bavaria, Germany) and those from free countries (e.g. Norway). For imports from E. multilocularis free countries, the risk of importing infected beavers and infection being established in indigenous UK wildlife is considered negligible.

For beavers imported from endemic areas, the risk of being infected and resulting in the establishment of E. Multilocularis in wildlife is considered low but is uncertain due to the factors involved (e.g. beaver escaping, a fox scavenging an infected dead beaver, infection established in intermediate host species).
The consequences of E. Multilocularis being introduced into the definitive species (e.g. foxes) in the UK include disease establishment, loss of disease free status and therefore an increased risk for the human population being exposed to the parasite. To minimize the risk of E. multilocularis being introduced and establishing within UK wildlife, the only suitable risk mitigation measure would therefore be to source beavers from UK captive bred populations or from countries which are currently free of E.multilocularis"