British Birds December 2012

Published on 09 December 2012 in Latest issues

Changes in the wintering population and distribution of Slavonian Grebes in Shetland In Shetland, wintering Slavonian Grebes occupy sheltered voes and feed in water depths of less than 20 m over muddy and sandy sediments. Systematic counts found that the wintering population in the islands doubled from just under 100 individuals in 2000/01 to just over 200 in 2011/12; and there is good evidence to assume that it has quadrupled in the past 30 years. This trend is likely to be a result of an increase in the Icelandic breeding population. Recent counts from Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides indicate that some 600 individuals now winter in these three archipelagos and account for a much greater proportion of the British wintering population now (c. 55%) compared with 20 years ago (<20%).

The bird populations of Ramsey and Grassholm The year 2012 marks 20 years of RSPB ownership of Ramsey Island, in Pembrokeshire, while 2013 marks the 65th anniversary of the purchase of Grassholm. Ramsey is currently better known for its Red-billed Chough population, but the eradication of rats in 1999/2000 means that the island’s burrowing seabird populations (notably Manx Shearwaters) are slowly recovering. Grassholm supports the fourth-largest Gannet colony in the world. This paper describes the changes in bird populations on both islands during the period of RSPB ownership.

John Nelder: statistics, birdwatching and the Hastings Rarities John Nelder, who died in 2010, made various contributions to ornithology. The most dramatic was the statistical analysis of the Hastings Rarities, which demonstrated beyond doubt that some of them could not be genuine. With a fine display of forensic statistics, he showed that various other characteristics of the records were so unlikely to have occurred were they entirely genuine that it was unreasonable to accept that they were.

Second-calendar-year Eleonora’s Falcons attending breeding colonies in Sicily Surveys of breeding colonies of Eleonora’s Falcons in Sicily showed an unexpectedly high proportion of second-calendar-year birds attending breeding colonies. On average, around 20% of all aged birds at breeding colonies were 2CYs. There is evidence that this proportion is increasing at one colony, which may be an early warning signal of colony decline.

Obituary Reginald John Hall Raines (1925-2012)

BTO Research Update Freezing winters – a test for Britain’s wintering Little Egrets?; Ringing recoveries now mapped online

Reviews, news & comment and recent reports complete the December issue.

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