The latest report from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) shows just how amazing some of our birds are. During 2019 some of them undertook incredible journeys, taking them from Britain & Ireland to distant shores (or vice-versa). Top of the list of long-distance travellers was a Manx Shearwater that journeyed more than 11,016 km from its breeding colony on the Isle of Rùm in Scotland to the seaside resort of Las Grutas in Argentina.
During 2019 around 3,000 trained and licensed bird ringers fitted uniquely-numbered rings to 1,047,521 birds, enabling them to be identified for the rest of their lives, providing insights into the journeys they take, the pressures they face and how long some of them live.
Other long-distance voyages recorded included a Scottish Arctic Skua that flew to Brazil (a straight-line distance of 11,016 km), a Swallow that covered 10,358 km to make it to South Africa, and a Sanderling and Sandwich Tern travelling distances of 10, 295 km and 10, 218 km respectively, also to South Africa.
Of those 1,047,521 birds, top of the list was Blue Tit with 150,284 individuals ringed, followed by Blackcap. Although, traditionally Blackcaps are summer visitors, increasingly they are now seen in winter too, which BTO research shows is the result of a combination of warming temperatures and more opportunities to find food in gardens.
Age records were also set for a few birds. A Fulmar caught on Sanda Island, Kintyre had been ringed 41 years, 11 months and 17 days earlier on the Isle of Canna, near Mallaig, making it the oldest Fulmar in the Britain and Ireland that we know of. Meanwhile, a Siskin caught near Tarbet in Argyll and Bute, became the oldest known individual of its kind after having been ringed at the same site 8 years, 6 months and 10 days earlier in 2010; life for a Siskin is clearly much more hazardous!
To get a complete picture of each aspect of our bird’s lives, the BTO also collects information on their nesting attempts, from the point at which a nest is built, right through to when the young birds leave the nest or to the point at which the nest failed. Volunteers taking part in the Nest Record Scheme monitor nests to help provide evidence for the impacts that changes in the environment, such as habitat loss and climate change, have on the number of fledglings that birds can rear. In 2019, around 700 nest recorders collected data on 41, 269 nests; again, Blue Tit was the most-commonly recorded, followed by Great Tit, Tree Sparrow, Barn Owl and Swallow.
Dr Rob Robinson, Associate Director, Research at BTO, said, "Without fitting birds with uniquely numbered rings and monitoring their nests we wouldn’t be able to follow their lives and our knowledge of them would be much poorer. Many of our birds are in trouble and it is vital that we begin to understand why. The information we get from ringing and nest recording can’t be collected any other way. The data gathered by our fantastic volunteers help us to determine whether species are in trouble and, if they are, at what point of the lifecycle the problems are occurring."
He added, "None of this would be possible without the dedication and commitment of our volunteer ringers and nest recorders who monitor these birds each year and we thank them all for their contributions to the Schemes."
More information can be found in the, the Online Ringing and Nest Recording Report.