Incredible journeys of our birds

A roving woodpigeon has made the record books of the Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report with a remarkable journey - flying to Brittany in France.The woodpigeon had flown more than 600km from Docking in west Norfolk before it fell to the gun of a hunter four months later.

A roving woodpigeon has made the record books of the Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report with a remarkable journey - flying to Brittany in France.

The woodpigeon had flown more than 600km from Docking in west Norfolk before it fell to the gun of a hunter four months later. This exceptional movement contrasts with the typical range of adult woodpigeon, which seldom range more than an average 2km from a ringing site.

There were other impressive reports, particularly of smaller birds, with a kestrel from Mileham, near Fakenham, flying 300km where it was found dead in Tyne & Wear. It was ringed in June and then found 25 days later.

And a barn owl, one of more than 100 recoveries, had flown 90km from Dersingham to Yarmouth while another, a seven-year-old managed 20km from Thornham to Wighton, near Wells.

And a kingfisher, ringed at Manor Farm, Titchwell, was found more than a year later at Otley in West Yorkshire, a distance of 187km. Only four per cent of kingfishers travel more than 100km, so this was noteworthy.

Another small bird, a dunnock, was ringed at Sheringham and eight days later was caught again 32km away at Burnham Market. A great tit also recorded a remarkable journey of 152km from Shimpling, near Diss, to Kilnsea on the East Yorkshire coast.

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One Norfolk blackbird also made headlines when it flew 1,669km from Kettlestone, near Fakenham, to Finland in just 23 days. It was only the 13th blackbird ever recovered in Finland and was identified at Uusimaa, near Helsinki.

There was also movement of blackbirds from France, Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden with one bird, unusually flying 280km north during the winter from Sheringham to Chester Le Street, near Durham.

The latest ringing report reveals that the number recovered in 2006 was the lowest for seven years at 39,301 birds of 120 species and the lowest number of species for 20 years. The general consensus of the teams of ringers was that “the birds were just not there to be caught.” In 2005, a total of 46,433 birds of 129 species were recorded.

The only true rarity to be ringed was a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Holme Bird Observatory while the most common species was the greenfinch with 5,173 handled, followed by 4,360 blue tits and 2,767 chaffinch, as recoveries were made from 22 countries.

A long-distant flight was recorded by a common tern, which spent most of the winter on Breydon Water after flying 8,449km from Namibia. This eight-year-old bird was most unusual in spending the winter so far south on the coast, about 300km from Windhoek.

Most common terns head for sunnier climes along the West African coast between Sierra Leone and Ghana, so flying further south is surprising.

A record for longevity was also established by a lesser whitethroat, which was ringed at Snettisham Coastal Park in May 1999 and then recovered seven years later. Given that it was at least a year old, it beats the existing record of five years and eight months.

Progress on the Norfolk Bird Atlas also continues apace, reports the editor, Moss Taylor, who said that all 1,458 “tetrads” or 10km squares had been visited at least twice. As a result a total of 214 species had been recorded and some 125,000 records have been submitted for the winter database since 1999.

And the summer survey teams also visited the same areas, also at least twice, and recorded 310 species, of which 157 are thought to have bred. The predicted 85,000 summer records will be about 30pc more than the previous 1980/5 Norfolk Bird Atlas.

Mr Moss thanks the army of 370 volunteers, who have spent about 25,000 hours on collecting the sightings, for the book, which will run to about 500 pages and will be published next year.

The latest report also includes a comprehensive list of the Birds of Norfolk, which now includes 420 species. The oldest record is from 1792 when a wallcreeper was observed, then in 1830 when a Steller's eider was observed. The last full list of 396 species was published in 1992.

The 50th annual Norfolk Mammal Report received a total of 3,277 records. The number continues to increase year by year, said Dave Leech, of the BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, IUP24 2PU. The reports have documented the expansion of the urban fox population and the growth of the muntjac and Chinese water deer numbers.

t As from January 1, Dave and Jacquie Bridges are taking on the responsibility as joint county recorders with Neil Lawton. All 2008 sightings should be sent to 27, Swann Grove, Hempstead Road, Holt NR25 6DP or e-mail to dnjnorfolkrec@aol.com

All 2007 records to the current editor - giles.dunmore@tiscali.co.uk

t Copies of the 2006 report, which costs £10, cheques payable to Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Trust , to Tony Leech, of 3 Eccles Road, Holt NR25 6HJ.

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