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Turtle Doves in Norfolk (by Richard Campey)

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In the last week there have been numerous sightings of Turtle Doves by Choseley Barns, Holme and RSPB Titchwell. Turtle Doves have declined by 96% since 1970 and the UK faces the real possibility of this bird becoming extinct in the UK as a breeding bird in the next couple of decades. This makes it the fastest declining migrant species in the UK.

 

The RSPB latest inforamation and reasearch:

Last July, the RSPB fitted a small, lightweight satellite tag to a turtle dove from Suffolk, before it embarked on its mammoth migration journey.

In a UK science first, the RSPB was able to track Titan, the tagged turtle dove, on his 5,600 km migration route from Suffolk to Mali, and back again, all in real time.

Through the night flying mostly under the cover of darkness, Titan flew across epic landscapes such as the Atlas Mountains, Sahara Desert and the Gulf of Cadiz. The satellite tag also uncovered that he travelled around 500-700 km per night flying at a maximum speed of 60 km per hour.

Dr John Mallord, RSPB Senior Conservation Scientist, said: 'This is the first time that we have ever been able to track a UK-breeding turtle dove to its African wintering grounds. 'Previously we largely relied on ringing the birds, which didn’t give us half the amount of data Titan’s tag has. On top of his wintering grounds, we also have his migration route, where he stopped to rest and refuel and how long he spent in different places.

Titan's outbound journey to Africa, where he wintered for six months, took around a month to complete. On his return the avian jetsetter spent two weeks making his way through France, initially following the Atlantic coast, before leaving from Dunkirk and touching down in Suffolk. 

The latest satellite reading shows that Titan has returned to the same area he was first found and tagged in Suffolk.

Next steps

RSPB scientists and partners at BirdLife International hope to explore the key habitats, land use and food resources throughout the migration route in order to understand the reasons behind the alarming decline. The research will help plan and implement conservation actions on a local and international scale to help save turtle doves from UK extinction.

John continued: 'This winter we will be returning to Senegal, an important wintering area for turtle doves, and a staging area for Titan on his way to Mali, to explore the reasons why they might be declining at such an alarming rate. 

'There are many factors on the wintering grounds that could play a part in the alarming decline of turtle doves such as; a lack of reliable water sources, scarce food resources and limited suitable roosting sites. We plan to investigate all possible reasons.

'Historically, hundreds of thousands of turtle doves have wintered in Senegal, although there are suggestions that these numbers are lower nowadays. So it is vital that we focus our conservation efforts on wintering sites such as these to get a better understanding of the reason why they are declining and eventually put measures in place to help a recovery.'

Follow Titan

For more information on Titan’s journey and how the RSPB and Operation Turtle Dove partners are helping to stop turtle dove declines, visit: rspb.org.uk/titan
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Wheatears (by Richard Campey)

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Wheatears have been turning up on the Norfolk coast in the last few days. Sightings from Cley to Hunstanton and though mostly coastal they have been seen inland at Roydon Common. Numbers  will build up in the coming months and a recent survey estimated some 240,000 will remain in the UK.

The wheatear is a small mainly ground-dwelling bird. It hops or runs on the ground. It is blue-grey above with black wings and white below with an orange flush to the breast. It has a black cheek. In flight it shows a white rump and a black 'T' shape on its tail. It is a summer visitor and passage migrant. Birds breed mainly in western and northern Britain and western Ireland, although smaller numbers do breed in southern and eastern England. It winters in central Africa.

Below pictures of adult male showing two differently marked birds, adult female, caharacteristic T patterned tail, young wheatear

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Red-flanked Bluetail at Titchwell (by Richard Campey)

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Saturday afternoon RSPB Titchwell added a new species to it's reserve list in the form of a first year/female Red-flanked Bluetail. It is a rare but increasing vagrant to the UK normally seen in the autumn. A migratotory insectiverous species breeding in northern Asia and wintering mainly in south-east Asia. Their breeding range however is slowly expanding westwards through Finland where some 500 pairs now breed. The bird pictured was taken on Brancaster Golf Course in 2008

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Bearded Tits getting showy (by Richard Campey)

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With these calmer conditions mid month, it's an excellent time to look for Bearded Tits. Favourite sites for good close up views are Titchwell RSPB reserve and Cley Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve. Very active and mostly down in the reedbed they will occasionally shuffle theur way up the reeds to sit a top before flying off to another set of reeds to do it all again. They seem do do this more frequently on calm days so now is a great time to try to see and photograph these colourful birds.

It is estimated there are 630 pairs breeding in the UK. 

Despite some similarities - and its name - scientists have decided it is not actually related to the tit family, Paridae (which includes blue, great and crested tits). It was removed from the tit family and placed in Paradoxornithidae, the parrotbills, before further research revealed it belonged alone in its own family, Panuridae.

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Bluethroat getting some colour (by Richard Campey)

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The long staying Red-spotted Bluethroat just over the border in Lincolnshire is still present on the 11th and it's throat pattern is getting more colourful by the week. The feathers are abrading to reveal the stunning pattern that adult birds display. These birds are usually seen on passage in May and early June (the 'white-spotted' bluethroat passes through slightly earlier in spring - in late March and April), and again in August to October, so to have a bird here at this time of the year is really very unusual.

Incredibly approachable this bird has been delighting hundreds of birdwatchers and photographers who have visited Willow Tree Fen near Spalding, a Lincolnshite Wildlife Trust reserve. Richard Campey visited the site a couple of days ago and reports the bird being incredibly confiding showing down to just a couple of meters and at times could be heard singing in the reeds. A truely great experience. Quite how long it will stay before heading back north to breed is anyone's guess, but the longer it stays the more striking it will look.

Bluethroats are a declining spring and autumn migrant.

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blue

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Glaucous Gulls (by Richard Campey)

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Several immature Glaucous Gulls have remained to the end of the month, with birds at Cley Marshes and Thetford. The bird pictured opposite is a full adult from it's breeding grounds high up in the Atctic.Several were blown south by strong northerly winds earlier in January. The most commonly occuring birds for Norfolk are immatures with their biscuity brown plumage. There was an adult in January at Cley. The immature by the beach raod at Cley was recently seen feeding on a seal carcass washed up after the floods.​Main identification features include all ages having pale wingtips. It is bigger than a Herring Gull and bulkier with larger bill and a square shaped head.

About 170 over winter in the UK annually

 

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Shorelarks at Holkham (by Richard Campey)

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just ahead of storm Doris and there are still up to 33 Shorelarks at Holkham Gap. These distinctive larks with yellow and black face markings are developing their black 'horns' (feather tufts) as they start to come into their breeding plumage . From Lady Anne's Drive walk along the boardwalk and then head east, they are most often seen on the sandy saltmarsh, inland of the dunes.

They are almost exclusively coastal birds. Numbers vary greatly from one winter to the next. In a good year, a few hundred may be present, but in others they can be very scarce.

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Black Redstart at Wells (by Richard Campey)

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The long staying Black Redstart appears to have finally moved on. For much of the beginning of February it could be seen along East Quay at Wells-next-the-Sea and was most often found near the sailing club. Richard Camopey went to look for the bird on the 9 February on a particularly dull morning with a bit of sleet thrown in. After looking around on the roof tops and slipway he finally located it running around by his car and along the pavement right outside the sailing club. The bird was actively feeding in the gardens along East Quay and then flew off to the fishing sheds further down the lane.

The black redstart is a small robin-sized bird that has adapted to live at the heart of industrial and urban centres. Its name comes from the plumage of the male, which is grey-black in colour with a red tail. With fewer than 100 breeding pairs in the UK, the black redstart is on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern.

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Short-eared Owls - A winter marvel (by Oliver Reville)

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Another bird to look out for in Norfolk during the winter months is the graceful and striking Short-eared Owl. These owls migrate to Norfolk from Scandinavia in the Autumn and spend the winter here on our coast before leaving again in the Spring to breed. 

They can be tricky to find at times, making discovering a hunting bird even more rewarding and memorable. Their long winged, bat like flight is unmistakable and their large yellow eyes give a piercing stare. 

Call - Click to hear (Opens new window)

Identification

A larger owl than Barn Owl due to the length of the wings. Both sexes have black eye masks which increase the brightness of the large yellow eyes. The wings are coursely patterned above but generally pale below with black tips. The body is also pale below with slight streaking nearer the neck and face. On occasion they will raise short ear tufts which can be tricky to see. 

DSCF1090 DSCF0294

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Waxwing eruption continues (by Oliver Reville)

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Norfolk, and most of the UK, is currently being invaded by groups of Bohemiam Waxwing. This northern European species migrates south during the winter to escape the freezing temperatures of the high latitudes where food is scarce. In some years Britain sees these eruptions first hand and groups of these characterful birds can be found. 

Call - Click to hear (Opens new window)

Identification

The size of a starling with a compact build and thick, short neck. The large crest is distinctive, especially when combined with the black face mask and bib. Bright yellow, red and white contrasts with black on wings, tail tip is also yellow. Flight is undulating and they are often heard before they are seen. Male and Female are very similar other than under close inspection. 

Female Bohemian Waxwing


Female Bohemian Waxwing

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