In the March issue of British Birds:

The use of stable-isotope ratios in ornithology
Stable isotopes – we’ve all heard of them, but how many of us really understand them? Here, Tony Fox and Stuart Bearhop, two people who really do know about them but can also communicate in largely non-technical terms, discuss their relevance to birders. They show how stable isotope studies have become increasingly important for research ornithologists in the last 20 years. Because stable isotopes vary geographically, and according to specific biological processes in the environment, they provide a significant forensic tool for understanding more about avian biology and ecology than conventional techniques alone can tell us. Many examples are given to illustrate what sort of results are possible – including evidence of why the recent record of Baikal Teal in Denmark might well be a genuine Siberian vagrant.

Long-billed Murrelet in Devon: new to Britain
Kevin Rylands describes the first record of Long-billed Murrelet for Britain, in Devon in November 2006. Initially misidentified as a Little Auk, its true identity was established when photographs of the bird were posted on the internet. This was the second record for the Western Palearctic, following the discovery of a dead bird on Lake Zurich, Switzerland, in December 1997. The identification, distribution and taxonomy of this species are reviewed.

The Dorset Yellow Bittern
A juvenile Yellow Bittern was found freshly dead at Radipole Lake, Dorset, on 23rd November 1962. At the time, the bird was dismissed as being a likely escape from captivity, but subsequent information on the potential for long-distance vagrancy led to the record being assessed by BBRC and BOURC. As Tim Melling, Bob McGowan and Ian Lewington discuss in this paper, the identification as Yellow Bittern was accepted by both committees but, as a result of anomalies with the bird’s plumage and the rather unusual circumstances of its discovery, BOURC rejected the record as a first for Britain.

Conservation research news
this month covers topics ranging from nesting rafts for Great Northern Divers to wind-turbine collisions to whether silage can be good for birds.

A bumper crop of notes and letters also include a wide diversity of subjects, from the origins of White-billed Divers and murrelets in Europe via unusual Marsh Harrier plumages to Siberian Chiffchaffs. Another contribution from Alan Dean on the last topic focuses on colours, and includes a printed colour swatch to help observers distinguish ‘grey-and-white’ and ‘brown-and-buff’ individuals.

Book reviews, news & comment, BBRC news and recent reports make up the remainder of the issue.

See the British Birds website at http://www.britishbirds.co.uk for full details of current and back issues, and to download a sample copy of BB.