Sunday, 12 November 2017

Brilliant Beaks

I'm a little behind on my blog posts after going away last weekend. Two weeks ago I visited RSPB Arne, the charity's reserve on the west side of Poole Harbour. As always I saw some great wildlife.

I was really pleased to spot a curlew from the hide.

Curlews are the largest British waders and are recognisable by their size and the curved beak. Curlews are in a lot of trouble at the moment. They used to breed in sizeable numbers in the New Forest but a 2016 survey recorded only 40 breeding pairs in the forest. It's estimated that across the South of England there are less than 200 breeding pairs and it's possible the bird will be extinct in the area within 20 years(1). 

This is obviously greatly concerning and is likely due to loss of habitat and nests being disturbed by people- curlews are ground-nesting birds. More needs to be done to protect this stunning birds before we lose them completely.

A more common wader I spotted at Arne was this group of redshank

Redshank are easily recognisable through their bright orange legs. A fair number do breed in the UK but there are some 130,000 birds wintering here(2). As many as half of these will have migrated here from Iceland. They feed on invertebrates in the mud which they probe with their short bill. 

I also spotted some more unusual birds which can be seen in this photo:

The black birds at the back here are cormorants and there's also what looks to be a less black-backed gull amongst them. It's the white birds at the forefront that are most interesting though and you can just make out from some of the bills, particularly the individual in the centre, that these are spoonbills.

Spoonbill spend most of their time inland at reedbeds, lakes and rivers but sometimes move to marine environments in the winter(3). They are migratory birds which have gradually been coming to Poole Harbour in greater numbers. This year there around 75 birds, a new record, due to the rising population in Europe(4). They were extinct in the UK but in the early 21st century a breeding colony was formed in Norfolk and this year a pair successfully bred in Yorkshire. The growing numbers of birds in Poole Harbour mean it is possible they may one day breed here.

One final bird for today is this Great Spotted Woodpecker which I saw yesterday. 

It's likely this woodpecker is on a dead branch looking for grubs. The way the bird's beak is attached to the skulls allows it to use great force on the branch and not give itself concussion(5). This is not the only way woodpeckers are adapted to reaching grubs- they have long tongues which can 40 millimetres beyond the tip of the beak!

1: Wynn, R. (2016) 'New Forest breeding Curlew survey: 2016 results'. Online here.
3: BirdLife International (2012) 'Platalea leucorodia' IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2013.2

1 comment:

  1. So sad that curlews could be extinct in that area in a few years 😞 their beaks are amazing!