UK Bird News July 2017

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Chicks for Nottinghamshire bee-eaters !

After touching down in East Leake quarry on 25 June, the Nottinghamshire bee-eaters have successfully hatched chicks – just the third time this has happened in a decade.

Nearly 10,000 people have come to see these spectacular birds, some travelling from as far afield as Cornwall and County Durham. But while visitors have been enjoying the birds, behind the scenes RSPB protection staff have been guarding three active nests. We are delighted to announce that the first of the nests has hatched!



Yesterday afternoon the behaviour of the adults attending 'nest 3' changed with a burst of visits and prey items going into the nest. The other two nests are now also on the verge of hatching and we expect all three will have young by the weekend.

24hr wardening will continue until all the nests hopefully successfully fledge young. The threat of human disturbance has now been replaced with that of predators. A fox has been seen and deterred from the quarry several times in recent nights, so we still have a way to go.

Bee-eaters and nest in burrows that reach up to 10ft (3m) often in sand banks, in which they lay 3-8 white eggs.

Says Mark Thomas, RSPB senior investigations officer: “Bee-eaters are sociable birds and nest together in small groups. Often pairs will enlist the help of a single, younger bird to help bring food and rear their chicks. Bringing up junior is very much a community effort.”

Birdwatchers can expert their first views of the chicks in around three weeks’ time, once they fledge.

Please remember that bee-eaters are Schedule 1 species and their nests are protected from disturbance.

Finally we would like to thank all the brilliant volunteers, CEMEX (particularly quarry manager Scott Saunders), Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, farmer Brian Burton and all the visitors!

How to see the bee-eaters: Follow your sat nav to LE12 6RG. Car park open 6am-7pm at a cost of £5 (half of which goes straight back to the RSPB to help us protect the wildlife you love).

UK’s largest mainland seabird colony revealed

New figures reveal dramatic change in number of seabirds making their home on the Flamborough and Filey Coast, in Yorkshire.
• Colony is now home to over 412,000 seabirds including gannets, puffins and razorbills making it the largest mainland colony in the UK.
• Survey of the 17 mile stretch coastline took a team of six experts 253 hours.
• RSPB calling on full national census to better understand how seabirds are doing around the UK.

Gannets, puffins and razorbills are among the hundreds of thousands of seabirds that make up the largest mainland seabird colony in the UK on the Flamborough and Filey Coast, new figures have revealed.

The 400ft chalk cliffs around the Flamborough and Filey coast – a proposed Special Protected Area (pSPA) - offer some of the most spectacular views of seabirds in the country. Stretching 17 miles from Bridlington to the north of Filey, the coastline includes special sites such as RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Flamborough Headland and Filey Bay. Each year, the Heritage Coast cliffs come alive with the sights, sounds and smells of hundreds of thousands of seabirds arriving to nest and raise their chicks.

The latest count of the birds, which took a team of six experts 253 hours during May and June this year, has revealed the colony is now home to 298,054 breeding seabirds, which fledge over 113,000 young making it the largest mainland colony in the UK.

Since the last national census in 2000, there has been a dramatic change in the number of seabirds making their home on this stretch coast. The latest figures show the numbers of gannets have increased from 2,550 to 13,400 pairs (425%), guillemots from 31,000 to more than 57,000 pairs (+79%), kittiwakes from 42,000 to 45,300 pairs (+7%), razorbill jumped from 5,700 to 19,000 pairs (+230%) and the number of puffins reached 1,440 pairs.

Keith Clarkson, Seabird Census Project Manager, based at RSPB Bempton Cliffs said: “Every year our senses come alive with the sights, sounds and smells of hundreds of thousands of seabirds that turn the cliffs at Bempton Cliffs into a bustling hive of activity – there are few more striking wildlife spectacles in the UK that fill your senses like the seabirds at Bempton.

Despite the dramatic increase in numbers at this site over the past 17 years, the pattern isn’t mirrored around other parts of the UK’s shores. Since 1982, the UK’s Seabird Population Indicator – based on breeding numbers for 13 species of seabird from a handful of colonies – has declined by 22 per cent, with most of this decline taking place over the last ten years, putting some species and sites in a vulnerable position.

The dramatic change in breeding populations on the Flamborough and Filey Coast pSPA highlights the need for a National Seabird Census to understand these changes and pinpoint conservation efforts. Since the last population census 17 years ago, there is likely to have been changes throughout other seabird colonies around the UK coast.

Keith Clarkson added: “This latest survey highlights the international importance of this stretch of coastline is for breeding seabirds. While the birds at sites such RSPB Bempton Cliffs are doing well, the national indicator suggests that seabirds around the rest of the UK are struggling. It is vital for the future of our seabirds that we now have a national census to learn more about the colonies around the UK and to pinpoint our efforts to help save them.”

Funded by Natural England, the survey took a team of RSPB experts 34 days, or 253 hours, including 214 hours spent on the sea counting the seabirds on the cliffs from a boat.

Anne Armitstead, Natural England’s Yorkshire Coast Project Officer, said: “It’s wonderful that at Flamborough and Filey Coast numbers are increasing. Attracted by safe cliff nests and plentiful food out at sea, Flamborough is now the most important colony for gannets and kittiwakes in England. Sadly, elsewhere across the UK, seabird numbers are in decline and detailed bird surveys like this provide important evidence to inform our protection work with the RSPB and other partners.”

The Hen Harrier Re-issuedThe Hen Harrier Re-issued
An acknowledged classic of narrative nature-writing, Donald Watsons The Hen Harrier was the culmination of a lifetimes study of this beautiful upland bird. A gentle, warm and wonderfully written book, The Hen Harrier stems from an age of amateur conservation, from the pen of a man who cared deeply about birds and their habitats, especially of the Scottish borders where he conducted much of his research and painting. The book was among the last of a dying breed; it would be thirty years or more before writing on our natural history would again reach the heights of accessibility to nature-lovers exemplified by Donald Watson and his peers. The book starts with Watson setting down more or less everything known about harriers which at that time often consisted of information sent by letter to the author, rather than published in a journal before moving on to the story of Watsons years studying nests in the south-west of Scotland. With a foreword by conservation champion Mark Avery, this edition of Watsons greatest work is particularly timely. The conflict between grouse-shooting interests, which has overseen the virtual extinction of the harrier as a breeding bird in England through illegal persecution, and an increasingly vocal conservationist lobby is the number one conservation issue in Britain today. Donald Watsons narrative soars like a sky-dancing harrier throughout this book. Read it, and be taken back to a simpler age of nature conservation by a true master of the art.

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