On Saturday 17th December, Murray Brown, the RSPB’s Brecks Community Engagement Officer, led a well-attended walk, ‘Birds and Wildlife of the Forest’, at Brandon Country Park as part of the Wings over the Brecks project. One of the attendees Alin Tarca, who also volunteers with the RSPB Brecks team, was lucky enough to photograph a Stonechat in one of the heathland areas and on closer inspection of the photo, the bird was seen to be colour-ringed.
Colour ringing is becoming increasingly useful in the study of birds’ movements and survival rates and is especially effective on birds with long legs such as waders and herons, wildfowl (where coloured neck collars can be attached) or long-winged soaring species such as raptors when wing tags are used. Colour rings often incorporate a bold number to further assist in identifying the individual bird. This method is facilitated when birds are studied in open habitats or when they can be viewed at close quarters. Stonechat is one of a number of species that have been intensively studied in Thetford Forest since 2007 and the breeding population has fluctuated considerably during this period. The current population stands at about 40 pairs. The majority move away for the winter and a number of birds that have been ringed as nestlings have been re-sighted up to 100km away.
Murray forwarded the photos to partners at the British Trust for Ornithology who are also key players in the Wings over the Brecks project and who were able to identify the individual bird! It was a 1st year male that was ringed at the site on 16th October last year and surprisingly hadn’t been seen between then and the walk. It may have moved in from another part of the forest and, as long as the late winter is not too severe, it could remain to breed at the site.
Not only were the public enjoying their walk...they were collecting valuable scientific data too!
Murray Brown RSPB Brecks Community Engagement Officer