British Birds - November 2011

The November issue of British Birds is now out and contains the following papers, letters and notes:

Eurasian Bittern distribution and abundance in the UK during the 2009/10

By collating records from a number of sources, primarily BirdGuides, BirdTrack and county bird recorders, Simon Wotton and his colleagues found that there were a minimum of 600 wintering Bitterns in the UK during the 2009/10 winter. There were records from nearly 400 sites, the majority in England. They estimated that the winter population included some 208 resident UK Bitterns.

Important Bird Areas – The British Indian Ocean Territory
The Chagos Archipelago, which has been known as the British Indian Ocean Territory since 1965, holds 18 species of breeding seabirds, many of them in internationally important numbers. The entire area, with the exception of Diego Garcia and its immediate surrounding waters, was designated a Marine Protection Area in 2010, the largest MPA declared in the world so far. This UK Overseas Territory also hosts a Ramsar site based on Diego Garcia, as well as ten Important Bird Areas. All of these sites have been designated IBAs for their breeding numbers or congregations of seabirds – there is a paucity of landbirds and no endemics on BIOT. Human influence on the bird populations of the archipelago has been catastrophic. There is evidence of immense seabird colonies at one time but these had all disappeared by the late nineteenth century. Introduced Black Rats continue to suppress numbers of breeding birds in most islands of the archipelago, while the conversion of native forests to coconut plantations has seriously altered the terrestrial environment of most islands. In this paper, Peter Carr shows that there is evidence that a small recovery of breeding seabird numbers on some islands, and that returning many of the islands to a rat-free, coconut-managed state, which could assist seabird recovery, is a matter of funding and political will rather than a ‘green dream’.

Shades of grey: ‘eastern’ Skylarks and extralimital subspecies

The identification of vagrant forms of Skylark is a difficult topic, given the degree of variation within the currently recognised subspecies. Alex Lees and Alan Ball describe and publish images of a strikingly grey Skylark trapped in Lincolnshire in autumn 1988, which does not readily match reference material of other known subspecies. Published records of putative eastern Skylarks in Britain & Ireland are discussed. There remains much to discover about Skylark variation, and the classic trinomial system of nomenclature may not be the best vehicle for this task.

Topics this month are: the Great Bustard in Britain; the correct gender of
poecile and the scientific name of the Willow Tit; and the lack of awareness of Shetland windfarm plans.

Topics this month are: Large clutch and brood sizes of Whooper Swans in Poland; Migrating dragonflies as a food source for breeding Eleonora’s Falcons and migrating raptors; Turtle Doves breeding in the uplands; Blue-cheeked Bee-eater feeding on solifuge; European Green Lizard killing and eating Sardinian Warbler; Reed Warblers taking over the half-built deserted nest of conspecifics; and Food plants of the Goldfinch.

Reviews, News & comment and Recent reports complete the November issue.

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