Monday, 12 May 2014

Missing birds

It seems strange that there is only one record of a Magpie reaching Shetland, this was found on Fair Isle in April 1987. Although along time before this bones have been found in excavations at Jarlshof near Sumburgh,, dating from the 9-10 Centuries. It has been suggested that these were actual brought into Shetland (bird alive or dead)

It does seem strange to find this out, living in the magpie capital of Britain before moving up to Shetland. Sheffield has a very high population of magpies, a bird that is sedentary- so no wonder it does occur as a migrant in Shetland . In Sheffield it has been blamed for the decline of small birds especially in gardens although a survey by the BTO found that magpies had no effect on song birds whether they were in large or small numbers. They are very loud birds always drawing attention to themselves and it is a bird that is easily identified.

In winter they tend to roost together and I saw over 24 birds coming into roost in a large bush beside the river don. At this time of year they will be breeding, with birds nesting from two years old. They lay 6 green/ blue eggs spotted with brown in April. after building a large dome nest.

Young birds stay together until about September when they disperse but many don't survive the first year. The oldest bird was found to live until it was 21.

Another bird very common in the wood of Sheffield is the Nuthatch, this very attractive hole nesting bird can even be found close to the city centre. Its habit of walking down the tree trunk is a common feature of its behavior. Its is blue / grey above and orange below with a black eye stripe making it very distinctive.

It is resident only in England and is again sedentary like the magpie making it very doubtful whether any birds would ever make it as far north as Shetland. Early records from Fair Isle in the late 1930's and early 1940's must have been misidentified. Any recorded movements nearly always show avoidance to open water.

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