Sunday, October 2, 2011

Doing Solitary

This morning there were spits of rain on the conservatory roof. But optimistic as ever I headed to Out Rawcliffe for another solitary ringing session and hopes of a decent catch. On the moss it wasn’t quite raining, just very cloudy, so I put up three nets and kept fingers crossed for early morning migrants.

Meanwhile just a mile or so away at Nateby a birder I know had found a longer distant migrant, a Solitary Sandpiper which had traveled a bit further than any Meadow Pipits I might catch. It’s not my photograph of Solitary Sandpiper, and it’s a number of years since I saw lots of them in pre-digital camera Canada. Thanks to Dario Sanches for the picture taken in Brazil, the country where the Solitary Sandpiper should be right now.

Solitary Sandpiper by Dario Sanches

Drizzle came in fits and starts but within an hour I had to abandon ship having caught just 6 birds, 3 Meadow Pipit, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Goldfinch and 1 Goldcrest. The pipits were on the move this morning, coming in from the west and north-west then heading off south and I counted 60+ in the hour. Meadow Pipits may have been still on the go from yesterday’s huge movement but Chaffinches were not, with less than 20 birds perhaps due to visible cloud cloud to the north that would impede their progress.



But now for a more disturbing topic about birds. I saw Colin the gamekeeper this morning who gave me yet another ring taken from a dead Greenfinch in his St Michael’s garden, the third casualty in recent weeks; this latest bird was picked up from directly under the garden feeder. I have emailed the BTO with the information as it is another ringer’s set of rings.


It is sad to see our Greenfinches or indeed any wild bird dying in this way, but since summer 2005, trichomonosis, a disease caused by a microscopic parasite has been reported in finches in gardens. Since then, outbreaks have been seen every year during the late summer and autumn. Greenfinch populations have been recorded dropping by a third, and Chaffinch populations by a fifth in those parts of the country that suffer the most serious outbreaks, Because of the lack of Greenfinches locally it appears that the North West of the UK and the Fylde may be one of the seriously affected areas. Chaffinches appear to visit gardens less than Greenfinches around here, a fact which may have spared their local population from suffering the same fate as Greenfinches.


The trichomonad parasite lives in the upper digestive tract of the bird, and its actions progressively block the bird’s throat, making it unable to swallow food and the bird dies from starvation. Also, birds with the disease show signs of general illness, for example lethargy and fluffed-up plumage, but affected birds may also drool saliva, regurgitate food, have difficulty in swallowing or show laboured breathing.

Transmission of infection between birds happens when they feed one another with regurgitated food during the breeding season, and through food or drinking water contaminated with recently regurgitated saliva. If trichomonosis is suspected, it is recommended to temporarily stop putting out food, and leave bird baths dry until sick or dead birds are no longer found in the garden. This discourages birds from congregating together, which although a natural enough phenomena may actually increase the potential for the disease to spread between individuals.


Good hygiene practice, specifically the regular cleaning of all feeders, bird baths and feeding surfaces, is an essential part of looking after garden birds and will help to lower the risk to birds of diseases in general.


Kay L. Davies said...

Oh, Phil, how very sad for the greenfinches. It sounds like a terrible death.

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

Kay L. Davies said...

I love the photo of the little Goldcrest!
— K

Christian said...

My neighbour and I have temporarily taken our feeders in for this very reason Phil. Really sad to see the finches (Green and chaff in my garden) with this parasite, and I've seen three. I'm going to wait a few weeks before putting the feeders out again.

There was even a feature on 'The One Show' about it, such is the wide-spread nature of the problem.

By the way, when you see will next, can you let him know that preparations for building work have begun at a Barn Owl site, just outside of Preston. The site has had planning permission for one house, so I think he'll know which site I'm referring to. He ringed 5 owlets there this spring and I am concerned about the 2 birds who presently reside in one of the buildings that is to be knocked down. It would be perhaps worth having somebody qualified to keep an eye on proceedings for the good of the owls.

Seasons said...

Phil, it is very sad to hear of the painful way the trichomonosis parasite kills these little birds. It is painful to picture, holding such a beautiful dead bird. I hope, many people read this and similar information so as to help in any small way. These pictures are very beautiful. You have a great privilege to be near these birds, to hold, and study them. Take care!

Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

It looks like a combination of Green and Wood Sandpiper, with the white lores of Green and the streaks of Wood!

Russell said...

I seem to have been reading about diseases affecting birds more frequently these days in Australia and Asia as well. I wonder if its because more is being written or studied about it or if diseases are on the increase everywhere. I hope the Sandpiper gets to where s/he needs to be without harm.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

A very sad story indeed Phil. What an awful death. I think that Trichomonosis is what the Peregrine Falcons here are treated for. One would never be able to treat that great many of birds as you are speaking of though...and how very unfortunate. For the Peregrines, it is when the parents eat Pigeons with T, and then feed it to the young. What course of action can be taken with the bird seed to rid the area of this problem...for whatever it is, I hope they can stop it in it's tracks...Best to you~

eileeninmd said...

Very sad news about the greenfinches. I hope everyone helps by putting away their feeders and baths. On the brighter side, your photos are beautiful. I love all the pretty birds, especially the goldcrest.

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