Monday, January 30, 2017

A Boost For Corbu

Readers of Another Bird Blog will recollect that the farmland Corn Bunting pops up now and again in my posts.

But the shorthand of “CORBU” is now a long lost entry in notebooks of recent years as the Corn Bunting is a species which has all but disappeared from local farmland in the breeding season. The sound of those “jangling keys” is becoming a distant memory of the spring and summer.

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

We still get winter flocks but we do not know for sure where they come from as they are a difficult species to monitor and catch for ringing purposes. I saw a flock of 60+ just yesterday over Rawcliffe Moss way in what is the usual time of January to March, but otherwise the species is now simply very uncommon and bordering on seasonally rare. 

Fortunately there are people who in a small way are trying to redress the balance in favour of the Corn Bunting, and every little helps, especially if it inspires others to follow suit. I read in late December of Scotland’s Corn Buntings receiving a boost. 

A number of farmers in Angus and Fife and Angus deployed winter seed and other management on a number of farms and estates as part of a Corn Bunting Recovery Project. Survey work in the earlier part of 2016 year saw the highest increase in Corn Bunting numbers in Fife in any single year since monitoring began: between 2015 and 2016, the number of territories increased by 18 per cent, from 62 to 73 on participating farms. 

Birds also recolonised areas where they hadn’t been seen in years. This first local range expansion in the East Neuk area of Fife is very encouraging and gives hope that the species may start to spread once again. The expansion came after the East Neuk Estates Group, comprised of six estates, made a collective commitment to support the recovery of the local Corn Bunting population, doubling the area of wild bird seed mix plots in an instant. 

Edward Baxter, a member of the East Neuk Estates Group, was delighted to hear the news. He said: “This year’s large increase in Corn Bunting numbers and the range expansion shows the positive effect of collaboration over a wider area through the involvement of large estates.” 

Corn Bunting

Corn Buntings in Angus can also look forward to a good 2017 as all the birds in that county will have access to the ‘Big Three’: safe nesting spaces, winter seed food and summer insect food for the chicks within one mile of their breeding territories from next year onwards. 

Neil McEwan is the latest farmer to join the Corn Bunting Recovery Project in Angus. He said: “We are very happy to start working alongside the RSPB Scotland and other local farmers by filling in the last food gap for Corn Bunting in Angus. These birds were in rapid decrease in the area but thanks to all the Corn Bunting management in the region we have seen them stabilise.” 

This small piece of good news comes after decades of dramatic declines for the UK Corn Bunting population. In Eastern Scotland numbers fell by 83 per cent between 1989 and 2007, earning them the unfortunate accolade of being one of the fastest declining birds in Scotland. Farmers and land managers are using a combination of agri-environment scheme options, voluntary action and upgraded greening measures to help make the future of the Scottish Corn Bunting more secure. 

A total of 34 farms as well as the East Neuk Estates Group are currently involved in the Corn Bunting Recovery Project in two of the last Corn Bunting strongholds.
Corn Bunting

The work of farmers, land managers and estates was recognised when they were nominated and then shortlisted for the Nature of Scotland awards in the highly competitive Food and Farming category and earlier in 2016, one of the Corn Bunting farmers in Fife won the Marks and Spencer Farming for the Future award. 

So a tiny bit of good news for the Corn Bunting. If only our local Lancashire farmers would do something for their Corn Buntings. 

In local news. There’s been another outbreak of Avian Flu at a business “linked” to the first. So much for the "exclusion zones".

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Take Your Pick

Friday. After clearing frost from the screen I set off into bright sunshine. Things rapidly went downhill. 

I found a nice selection along Lancaster Road – 2 Buzzards, a Kestrel and about 40 Fieldfares in their usual field. The farmer recently cleared his midden and left some puddles, still unfrozen in the shelter of the hedgerow. Here were a dozen Chaffinch, a Grey Wagtail, a Pied Wagtail, a couple of Meadow Pipit, and then a pair of Mistle Thrush rattling off at my arrival. 

Grey Wagtail

At Gulf Lane the Linnets numbered 250+ and there was another Buzzard circling behind the farm where 4 Stock Doves eyed up the barn. There was little to see at Braides Farm where the frosty flood had deterred the usual melee of waders and wildfowl. I made do with a Kestrel and a mixed flock of several hundred Golden Plover and Lapwing partly hidden in the distant and undulating pastures. 

At Conder Pool I caught up with the Great White Egret, perhaps the one I saw some months ago leaving the mainly Little Egret roost at Pilling But since then there have been multiple sightings of more than one Great Egret, the next candidate to become a more common occurrence in our area. 

Also on the pool - 3 Little Grebe, 40 Wigeon, 2 Goosander, and 5 Black-tailed Godwits “over”. 

Great White Egret

Black-tailed Godwits

On the incoming tide the Spotted Redshank flew over the water, east to west.  Across to the distant bridge I could see the wintering Common Sandpiper bobbing along the water’s edge where the count of Teal here and on the pool surpassed 150 again. The light was failing with patchy mist on the way and by now I was on ISO1200. 

At Pilling I happened upon some geese where amongst a couple of hundred Pink-footed Geese were ten “Russian” White-fronted Geese and the single Red-breasted Goose. The latter, almost certainly a feral/escape bird has been a major target bird of recent weeks to the car loads of bird watchers heading into the Fylde. 

But the first mentioned are the truly wild geese, here to spend time many miles from the freezing Russian winter. 

Russsian White-fronted Geese and Red-breasted Goose

Thirty years ago White-fronted Geese, both “Russian and “Greenland” used to be more common amongst our huge wintering flocks of Pink-footed Geese but nowadays both races of white-front are very scarce. So uncommon are they that they have become a target for recent convert birders who may have never seen the species. Likewise the white-fronts are a “must see” for those bird watchers who maintain a year-list in keeping up with the Joneses. 

As the name suggests the white-fronts originate from western Russia where the breeding population numbers some 200,000 adults. The adults together with their young of the year, in total up to about 600,000 birds, spend the winter in some numbers in the Low Countries of Europe. There are up to 300,000 in Holland alone. In recent years the Dutch afforded extra protection to the similarly wintering but seriously endangered Lesser White-fronted Goose by way of safe roosting areas and tighter regulation of shooting. This policy also helps the White-fronted Goose and probably accounts for the reduction of numbers seen in the UK and here locally in Lancashire as the white-fronts now have less reason to leave Holland and fly the North Sea to the UK. 

Meanwhile the Red-breasted Goose breeds in Arctic Siberia, mainly on the Taymyr Peninsula with a summer population of around 80,000 adults, much further east than the Russian White-fronted Goose. There has been a strong decline in numbers of Red-breasted Goose in recent decades but most winter along the north-western shores of the Black Sea in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine (occasionally moving further southwest to Greece). Some birds may now winter farther west as indicated by recorded counts of 2,000 birds in Hungary as in the winter of 2014, whereas counts previously only accounted for a few hundred. Given the worsening outlook for the species as a whole, the Red-breasted Goose was lifted from a species of Least Concern to that of Endangered status in 2007. 

Our single Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis turned up at at Pilling a couple of weeks ago and seemed to arrive with a number of Russian White-fronted Geese, up to twenty of the latter. The usual 'carrier species' for a genuinely wild Red-breasted Geese is the related and dark-bellied form of Brent Goose, Branta bernicla bernicla, another resident of high Arctic Russia which also winters in the area of the Baltic Sea coasts of Denmark and Holland. 

Red-breasted Geese are common in captive wildfowl collections, most notably in the UK at Wildfowl Trust collections at Minsmere, Sussex and Martin Mere, Lancashire where the species has bred in recent years. Here they mix freely with captive, feral and wild geese that inhabit the many acres of managed wetland and where a feeding policy is employed. 

As a very attractive and ornamental goose it is also popular with private collectors with a couple of hundred pounds spare with which to enhance their assortment of exotic waterfowl. Despite the purchase cost escapee Red-breasted Geese are fairly frequent given the amount of skill, time and experience required to prevent the geese from reverting to their natural inclinations to fly. 

In Holland the Red-breasted Goose sells well. 

"Out of devoted love for waterfowl, the founder Mr. P. Kooy established our breeding farm on a 12 acre area bordering the sand dunes in the most northern part of the province of Noord-Holland. A most ideal spot due to the freshwater supply of the dunes and the sea-climate. Several first breedings were the result. 

Among these first breedings we achieved, were the Eyton's Tree Duck, Hottentot Teals, Baer's Pochard and the Radjah Shelduck. Jean Delacour and Sir Peter Scott mention this achievement in 'Waterfowl of the World'. Besides all species of swans we keep almost every species of geese on our farm. 

Many pairs of Red-Breasted Geese lord over the many other species on our beautifully planted ponds. The Orinoco Goose, the Emperor Goose, the Hawaiian Goose and the Cape Barren Goose are always available as well as many others. We have on our farm about 150 different species of waterfowl and the stock fluctuates between 1500 and 3000 birds.” 

Red-breasted Geese

“You pays your money and takes your pick” goes the saying.

Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Saturday.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Touch Of Flu

It was too windy for ringing this morning and I was out birding when I heard the news via Jean. She’d stopped for a word when she saw me counting the 300 strong Linnet flock. 


“The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed avian flu (H5N8) in a flock of farmed breeding Pheasants at Pilling, 14 miles from Preston in Lancashire. A 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone have been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading. The flock is estimated to contain approximately 10,000 birds. A number have died and the remaining live birds at the premises are being humanely culled to stop infection spreading. 

A full investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection. Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.” 

I knew this could only be Hi-Fly at Pilling where Pheasants, Red-legged Partridge, and Mallards are bred in huge numbers for release by the shooting industry. Many of their bird are kept in open cages where they inevitably come into contact with wild birds like gulls, doves and pigeons on the lookout for spilt food. 

Outbreaks of this latest strain of the disease began in European Countries in late 2016 and then spread via wild migratory birds moving from the Baltic into NW Europe and the UK and then coming into contact with captive birds in outdoor situations. 

So then I switched on my phone, and there was the email from the BTO and our Linnet site bang in the blue zone. 

 No Ringing

“Dear all, 

A further outbreak of Avian influenza H5N8 was confirmed near Fleetwood, Lancashire and a 3 km Protection Zone and a 10 km Surveillance Zone has been declared. Please see the map. I am emailing you as you are based relatively locally and to inform you of the temporary ringing suspension. Effective immediately, as a precaution, the following measures apply: All ringing is suspended within the 10 km surveillance zone (yellow area) as outlined on the map until further notice. Ringing elsewhere in Britain & Ireland is not affected at this time (with the exception of any other Avian influenza Surveillance Zone suspensions). 

Ringers are reminded to follow basic precautions to reduce the spread of disease - see the BTO website for details.” 

Hi Fly is just a couple of miles from our Linnet ringing site at Gulf Lane, Pilling, so there will be no ringing there or anywhere else for a number of weeks. 

Not good news, but I was out for some birding so I carried on up to Cockerham and Braides Farm. 

Gulls, Lapwings, Curlews and Starlings dominated the flooded field with several hundred of each, plus a couple of dozen Wigeon, 2 Shoveler, several Teal, and 2 Buzzards along the sea wall. 


I checked out Conder Green to see 170 Teal, 30 Wigeon,30 Redshank, 12 Shelduck, 3 Little Grebe , 1 Spotted Redshank and 1 Grey Heron. Two Oystercatchers were back on the pool after an absence of some months. Although it is only late January they are back with a purpose and will waste no time in setting up a breeding territory on this prime site. 


Redshank and Spotted Redshank

I drove to Cockersands which for an hour or more proved a little disappointing except for a really good mix of small birds along the shore and in the paddock; 3 Reed Bunting, 15 Linnet, 4 Goldfinch, 8 Greenfinch, 4 Tree Sparrow, 2 Stock Dove, 3 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing and 1 Song Thrush. 

Tree Sparrow

Don’t forget. “Click the pic” and make sure you don’t catch that winter flu. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday Short

When I got up and looked outside I could see a slight frost together with a little breeze shaking the bare branches of the weather-vane damson tree. 

I decided on a spot of local birding instead of a ringing session in the bare set-aside field within yards of the coast. And in any case Andy had told me he was going for an MOT - his car, I think. Whether the old banger will last for another year or two is up for debate. 

A thin layer of frost soon cleared from the windscreen and luckily the roads were dry and ice-free so I drove over the bumpy moss road towards Pilling. There was a Barn Owl hunting in the half-light, a couple of Song Thrush in good voice, and then about 40 Fieldfares leaving a roost. The Fieldfares flew up to tree tops for a brief look around before they set off for their day of searching the fields. I stopped to look across the moss at a Little Owl location to see not an owl but a Kestrel atop the nest box. Desirable houses are at a premium around here, but I doubt a Kestrel would even get through the small front door, never mind raise a family of five in such an enclosed space. It’s a dwelling perfect for a small owl, a Stock Dove, or maybe a Jackdaw, not a Kestrel. 


I was due to feed our Linnets. There are now a couple of Pheasants to feed, not to mention the several Stock Doves that arrived without an invitation. Birds are very skilled at finding food. Perhaps they do it from a mix of luck, experience, and through a process of watching and following their own or other species? But almost exclusively we feed Linnets, and no other passerines. Today they flew around until I counted two tight flocks of 100 and 80 that joined together and then dropped into the field and away from the seed I had left and where there is still natural food. 

The regular Little Egret is not interested in our seed and prefers to spend the day hunting the adjacent ditch. 

Little Egret

Several thousand Pink-footed Geese had dropped into the fields at Sand Villa where birders later found White-fronts, Barnacles and Beans and the likely escape/feral Red-breasted Goose. I got close to an overflow of several hundred geese close to Lane Ends and enjoyed their company until noisy cyclists came by and sent the geese off into the air again. The flock was exclusively Pink-footed Geese and I could not find any of the aforementioned species. For birders hoping to see oddities amongst the mainstream pinkies, according to shooters plus some of my own observations today and in the week, there are 10-20,000 geese scattered in many different flocks in a good number of localities. 

Pink-footed Geese

Pink-footed Geese

Sparrowhawks can be very elusive but I saw three today, all in different places, so there was no chance of duplication. One was a large adult female which sat briefly at the top of a row of conifers. The other two sightings were of smaller males which gave momentary views as they did their customary flap-glide and rapid disappearing act across the path of my approaching car. A female Sparrowhawk is half as big again as a male with corresponding weights and measurements in the hand. When caught for ringing purposes there are two different ring sizes for a Sparrowhawk, “E” for female and “D” for the smaller male. 



At home I did a spot of garden ringing with mainly Goldfinch, a Blackbird or two but not the single Fieldfare which rather likes sitting and chuckling aloud from the top of our neighbour’s sycamore. 


There’s more soon from Another Bird Blog. Now go back and “click those pics” for a close up. 

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday  and Anni's Birding Blog.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

If At First You Don’t Suceed

The week has been grey, overcast and quite wet; hardly the best weather for photography, birding or ringing. Tuesday’s forecast looked passable and just about OK to continue with the Linnet project, but when Andy and I met up at Pilling where the overcast sky turned first to drizzle and then rain so within the hour we aborted the mission. 

Wednesday was another no-go with rain more or less all day and we began to feel we’d never get there. Thursday dawned slightly better, in fact perfect for a ringing session by way of 100% cloud cover and zero wind. Bryan joined us today from his normal habitat of south west Lancashire where the red-listed Linnet has suffered a similar decline to the Linnet in our own area of north west Lancashire. 

After a number of weeks of leaving the Linnets a supplementary food of millet, nyger and rape to add to the natural of the set-aside it appeared today that the birds have finally begun to take some. That probably accounted for our improved catch of 30 new birds from the approximate count of 200/250 in the immediate area. Again, not a single recapture from previous weeks, and still just the one to show from 180+ ringed during visits October to 19th January. 

Ringing Linnets
Field Sheet

We were on the lookout again for any males that showed a greater degree of grey towards the rear of the head and so possible contenders for the forgotten Scottish race of Linnet. There’s one below, a first winter male with a very grey head which also displayed the blotchy beginnings of the red breast of spring and summer. 



Shooters were out in force this morning with 8/10 blokes from the six cars parked along the lane. As an aside, and on a point of interest, from many years birding around here, I’ve yet to see a female wildfowler in the midst of the males. Rather like birding, it seems that shooting is a mostly male sanctuary? 

We heard lots of gunfire but the sportsmen returned from the marsh with mostly glum faces and just two pinkies amongst them. The lowly return of just two Pink-footed Geese from the shooters’ combined 40 plus hours of lying in wait in the dark, cold and wet early morning marsh is not so good. Given that several thousand pink-feet flew from the marsh and mostly over the shooters’ heads, the geese and birds in general are much smarter than we think. 

Anyway, thank goodness, the shooting season ends soon. 

Shooting Season

Birders were also out in force this morning on the hunt for the elusive Red-breasted Goose of late and recently spotted White-fronts. We noted more than a couple of cars cruising by, pagers at the ready for news of the target bird. We heard that later in the morning the harlequin escape was spotted near Glasson Dock, on the move but possibly heading back our way. 

Never mind lads and lasses. If at first…………… Alternatively you could try to do some serious birdwatching or a few BTO surveys instead of careering around the countryside on a wild goose chase and adding to all that carbon emission.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Sun

The morning didn’t look too with heavy cloud, spots of rain and a northerly breeze. Luckily I’d spoken to Andy on Friday night to cancel plans to catch Linnets. 

Then suddenly about 0915 the sky cleared to leave a bright blue sky. Later than normal I set off birding, new camera at the ready. 

At Gulf Lane I counted 150+ Linnets in the set-aside as well as 11 Stock Dove. Looks like the doves have found the seed mix but when I took a closer look there seemed to be lots on the ground so I’m still not sure if the Linnets are taking much. Holes and pathways through the crop suggest that voles, moles and rats may be having a beano during the hours of darkness. There was a Kestrel hanging around and at one point it dived into the grass as if to grab a bite to eat but came away with nothing. 


At Gulf Lane/Braides/Sand Villa birds pushed from the rising tide and into the inland fields were very distant with best estimates of 1000 Lapwing, 600 Pink-footed Goose, 500+ Golden Plover,250 Curlew, 150 Redshank, 60 Wigeon, 25 Teal, 8 Whooper Swan, 4 Shoveler and 2 Shelduck. 

I decided to take drive down towards Cockersands but stopped first on Moss Lane where a small herd of mixed swans fed, 10 Mute, 12 Whooper and 8 Bewick’s. There have been 400/500 Whooper Swans in the extensive fields around here, almost a full day’s work to locate and count them all. Even then the counts come with a health warning because of the swans’ constant mobility. 

Whooper Swan

At Cockersands I stopped to watch a flock of about 80 Twite feeding quietly in and out of the marsh grass and tide wrack. It proved to be a good move as an hour or more later I was still there after a series of birds appeared. 

First came a Barn Owl which suddenly appeared from over the caravan site and where at the back are tumbledown farm buildings ideal for a winter roost. Like the Kestrel before, the owl dropped into the grass, did a quick about turn and disappeared from whence it came. There was just time for a few snatched shots. 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

It wasn’t just Twite feeding in the marsh, also 10+ Greenfinch, 3 Reed Bunting, 6 Linnet, a couple of Blackbirds, several House Sparrows, 2 Collared Dove and dozens of Starlings. In the paddock: 3 Fieldfare, 1 Redwing, 1 Song Thrush, 4 Goldfinch, 6 Tree Sparrows and more Blackbirds.






Collared Dove 

What of the new camera? Well a little sun makes all the difference for sure. I have to work on the intial exposure setting as well as getting used to a different set of buttons and changed menu, but so far so good. With 24 megapixels the crop factor is pretty good, ideal for those long range pictures that birds often demand.

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday and Anni's Birding.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dodgy Days

I was desperate to go birding and experiment with my new 80D, preferably at a sensible ISO. All I needed was a decent spell of sunshine but that wasn’t to be. On Wednesday the sun appeared in spasms as 30mph westerlies and 50mph gusts pushed grey clouds across the sky. I ventured forth more in hope than expectation, but with yellow weather warnings I was due for a day or two of dodging the showers. 

Across the windswept moss I’d clocked up a pair of Kestrels, one of four territories noted in recent days. 

There’d been reports of several White-fronted Geese and even a Red-breasted Goose with the pinkies at Cockerham. Chances were the geese had already departed; seen off by the farmer or deterred by the day long procession of people keen to see the colourful goose, star of pager buzz but of dubious origin. 

Red-breasted Goose

I stopped off at Gulf Lane to feed the Linnets and where a shooter advised that the farmer had indeed moved the geese from his fields. A drive down his track in a Land Rover would send the geese into the air and seek out new grazing on a neighbouring farm. Farmers around here stick together - even to the extent of letting each other see the wild geese. Birders see a wild goose chase as fun sport, but for a farmer his livelihood goes down the drain when several thousand geese poop on his pasture. 

The shooter also advised that a birdwatcher had told him the flock of birds flying around the set-aside were Twite; that’s a major problem with these twitches - they bring out dodgy, part-time birders as well as suspect birds. I checked – yes, definitely Linnets, all 200+ of them; and a Little Egret sheltering from the wind in the dyke. 

Along Lancaster Lane is a major flood. Lapwings fed in their thousands with dozens of Redshanks, 30 Black-tailed Godwits, and then good numbers of Curlew and Golden Plover in the far distance. Skylarks appeared from the black stuff when flighty Lapwings caused temporary panic and mass flight of the assembled crowd. About 80 Fieldfares fed close to the hedgerow, partly sheltered from the wind but close enough to dash back should danger threaten, as they did more than once. Along the lane, and for the second time lately, I found another Kestrel hanging about a likely looking barn 

Mostly Lapwings


The wind raged across Braides Farm where many Lapwings hunkered down against the gusts that made their feeding hard work. 

I drove on up to Conder and Glasson where the high tide coupled with strength and direction of the wind would surely make Goldeneye and Tufted Ducks appear as if by magic? It did, with tightly packed counts of 45+ Goldeneye and 60+ Tufted Duck bouncing across the usually calm marina that now resembled a wave packed sea and made photography difficult. 

Tufted Duck and Goldeneye

At Conder Green the high tide had almost reached the road. From there and on the pool I managed to count about 200 Teal, 30+ Redshank, 4 Little Grebe, 15 Wigeon and 1 Sparrowhawk fighting against the wind to find something to eat.


Little Grebe

The weather isn’t much better today although there’s no sign yet of the predicted snow, but I ain’t going nowhere just yet.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pigeon Post

I’m rained off again today, so here’s a post about three members of the pigeon family of birds. 

Pigeons and doves constitute the bird family Columbidae, which includes about 310 species in the world as a whole. The terms "dove" and "pigeon" are used somewhat interchangeably. In ornithological practice, "dove" tends to be used for smaller species and "pigeon" for larger ones, but this is not consistently applied, and historically, the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the terms. 

We know all about Collared Doves Streptopelia decaocto here in the UK. The spread of Collared Doves across the United Kingdom from mainland Asia and Europe was very rapid. From the first breeding report in Norfolk in 1955 the species was subsequently reported breeding in Kent and Lincolnshire in 1957, with birds seen as far north as Scotland. Two years later Ireland was colonised and by 1970 there may have been as many as 15,000 - 25,000 pairs in Britain and Ireland. The BTO Common Birds Census revealed a five-fold increase in their population between 1972 and 1996 until some levelling off in the 1990s. By the Millennium and into the summer of 2014 the population stabilised at about 980,000 pairs. 

Collared Dove - Europe and Asia

Collared Dove

Now there’s news that the Collared Dove continues its spread into North America and Canada, with reports this winter of Eurasian Collared Doves in Calgary, Alberta, North West Canada. "We counted 38 on this year's Christmas bird count, and really in two spots. One of them here in Forest Lawn and the other over in Dover," said Phil Cram, with the Calgary Christmas Bird Count. They have been expanding throughout southern Alberta for the last 13 years, since they first turned up." 

"This kind of habitat exists throughout the city, but once a pair establish here and have young and so on and so forth, that's how a little population will grow, and then from here they will undoubtedly radiate out," he said. So I would expect in 10 years’ time, we will see hundreds of these on our Christmas bird count." 

Eurasian Collared Doves made their way to North America via the Bahamas, where several birds escaped from a pet shop during a mid-1970s burglary; the shop owner then released the rest of the flock of approximately 50 doves. Others were set free on the island of Guadeloupe when a volcano threatened eruption. From these two sites the birds spread north through Florida, and now occur over most of North America. In a matter of approximately 30 years this dove has been sighted in southern Ontario, west, across the southern portions of the prairies, to a few sighting in Alaska, to southern California, east, across all the states to the tip of southern Florida, north to the US and Canadian Atlantic border. Collared Doves are now seen through all of Mexico, and into Central America. 

Collared Dove - North America

Just as in the UK, North American people helped make the Collared Dove at home. Bird feeders and trees planted in urban and suburban areas are cited as two of the main factors in the species’ colonization of the continent. Of a global breeding population of circa 8 million, 5% are estimated to live in the United States. 

Studies in North America on interactions between Collared Doves and other species have not yet shown a negative impact on populations of native birds, including the Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura, a related species that could be seen as a competitor in the food stakes. 

Mourning Dove - 

The number of individual Mourning Doves in North America is estimated at approximately 475 million. That large population and its vast range explain why the Mourning Dove is considered to be of least concern, meaning that the species is not at immediate risk and a legitimate target for hunters. As a North American gamebird it is estimated that 20 million (and up to 40–70 million) Mourning Doves are shot by hunters each year. 

As an introduced species, Eurasian Collared Doves are not protected from hunting and like the endemic Mourning Dove, the newcomer has become a popular game birds in rural areas of the Southeast and Texas. I trawled the Internet but couldn’t find any information on the number of Collared Doves taken by hunters in North America. 

The Mourning Dove and the Collared Dove are two distinct species related species to the Passenger Pigeon Ectopistes migratorius, another member of the dove/pigeon bird family. The Passenger Pigeon was hunted to extinction in America in the early 1900s, from a population numbering in the billions. The last confirmed wild bird is thought to have been shot in 1901. 

Passenger Pigeon - extinct circa 1900

Via Wiki - Today, more than 1,532 Passenger Pigeon skins (along with 16 skeletons) are in existence, spread across many institutions all over the world. It has been suggested that the Passenger Pigeon should be revived when available technology allows it (a concept which has been termed "de-extinction"), using genetic material from such specimens. In 2003, the Pyrenean ibex (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica, a subspecies of the Spanish ibex) was the first extinct animal to be cloned back to life; the clone lived for only seven minutes before dying of lung defects. 

A hindrance to cloning the Passenger Pigeon is the fact that the DNA of museum specimens has been contaminated and fragmented, due to exposure to heat and oxygen. American geneticist George M. Church has proposed that the passenger pigeon genome can be reconstructed by piecing together DNA fragments from different specimens. The next step would be to splice these genes into the stem cells of Rock Pigeons which would then be transformed into egg and sperm cells, and placed into the eggs of Rock Pigeons, resulting in Rock Pigeons bearing Passenger Pigeon sperm and eggs. The offspring of these would have Passenger Pigeon traits, and then would be further bred to favour unique features of the extinct species. 

The general idea of re-creating extinct species has been criticised, since the large funds needed could be spent on conserving currently threatened species and habitats, and because conservation efforts might be viewed as less urgent. In the case of the Passenger Pigeon, since it was very social, it is unlikely that enough birds could be created for revival to be successful, and it is unclear whether there is enough appropriate habitat left for its reintroduction. Furthermore, the parent pigeons that would raise the cloned Passenger Pigeons would belong to a different species, with a different way of rearing young. 

I'm hoping to get out birding soon and to try out my new camera. 

Log in soon and see how I do. 

In the meantime, linking to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Related Posts with Thumbnails