125,000th ringed birds

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A moment from Tibor Krúg’s life long passion for bird ringing. © Daniel Szimuly

Two days ago a fantastic milestone has been reached by one of the most experienced bird ringer from my homeland in Hungary. Tibor Krúg, a Hungarian ringer had his 125,000th ringed bird, a Barn Swallow, which was an extraordinary achievement of an individual bird ringer.

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Tibi with his 125,000th ringed bird, a Barn Swallow. © Daniel Szimuly

I met Tibi in the late 80s for the fist time when a few of us decided to start organised summer bird ringing at the local wetland, the Ferencmajor fishponds near the village of Naszály. Tibi has been playing key role in the Ferencmajor Bird Ringing Camp (now a ringing station) since the beginning. In the 90s I had the privilege to work with him and to enjoy his special storytelling and he always made us laugh. His enthusiasm for bird ringing is unquestionable and we would fail to mention a case when he said, “it is impossible to trap that bird…” If he failed, he tried again and again.

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Barred Warbler is one of Tibi’s favourite birds to ring and it is a regular visitor in the bird ringing camp. © Daniel Szimuly

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A day like this could help Tibi to reach his next milestone. This image was taken a few days ago when the ringer marked more than 400 birds. © Daniel Szimuly

Born in 1952, he ringed his first bird back in 1979. It was a Rook, as he remembered, but ringing data was only available from 1980. Twice in his bird ringing career he ringed over 10,000 individual birds within a year. According to him, the best ringed birds were Arctic or Black-throated Loon, White-backed Woodpecker and Yellow-browed Warbler. He also have some remarkable recoveries including a Little Stint ringed in the far Siberian Russia.

During the 36 years of bird ringing he inspired a lot of young birders to start ringing and also taught dozens for proper identification and handling of birds. From here I would like to congratulate Tibi for this great achievement and I wish him to be able to reach the next major milestone in a few years time.

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New technologies, like this special canopy net, helped Tibi to easily get some special birds, like European Golden Orioles, which otherwise would be very hard to trap. © Daniel Szimuly

We need Pokémon-free areas

Pokémon Go drove the half of the world crazy in the last few weeks and although the number of active users are declining these days there are still an incredibly large number of people using their mobile phones for hunting down these little bastards. Using Pokémon Go by millions also means there is a lot higher pressure on the environment than before as above the regular outdoorists a new gaming generation is now spreading out to parks, streets and all sort of locations, for playing Pokémon Go. They are not necessarily the most environmentally sensitive people though…

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Last week, while birdwatching at the Ferrybridge and the Fleet at Portland in Dorset, I witnessed a man and his son entering the mudflat and playing Pokémon Go while disturbing dozens of shorebirds. They entered the tidal zone where shorebirds have just arrived to feed after long hours roosting during high tide. It was far beyond the acceptable disturbance level but they felt they had to get those Pokémons in the middle of the mudflat. Small flock of Dunlin and Common Ringed Plover were flushed from the fresh feeding grounds and had to move to the much narrower muddy edges of the Fleet.

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I’m afraid this is not a solitary observation and most of the users only focus on gaming and don’t really care about the environment with all its complexity. While it is a good thing that the ‘flat-ass generation‘ (as I call them) has started walking off the gaming chairs, they should also be informed how to be a part of the nature in a sustainable way. On the other hand Pokémon Go developers should start to work with conservation organisations to develop Pokémon-free areas. They would care less about the middle of the mudflat if there was no Pokémon popping up there. Theses areas should be excluded where those little cyber creatures could be collected from. It is already a sensitive issue.

Lifers at the sea

Three hours after I arrived home from the Birdfair ‘Birds and Beers’ afterparty I picked up my older daughter, Szandra for a day trip to Portland Bill. We haven’t been out together for years so it was just about time. I targeted to find a Balearic Shearwater which I missed to see in the previous years. Despite the three hours long drive mainly in pouring rain we had a very pleasant weather at our arrival. Sun came out and the visibility was decent although we had a very strong wind. A couple of birders with scope found at a wind-protected area next to the lighthouse.

A view from the lighthouse to the Race. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Early starters at the lighthouse. © Gyorgy Szimuly

There was a large flock of Northern Gannet and some European Herring Gull over the Portland Race. The Race looked spectacular as the top of the waves were sprayed away by the strong guts. Shortly a couple of Manx Shearwater appeared and flew towards the west. One of the birders scanned the race and spotted a most probably European Storm Petrel through his scope. I stood next to him but with my binoculars it was impossible to spott a swallow-sized seabird over themassive waves. He lost the bird almost immediately as disappeared behind the waves. It would have been a life bird for me.

Some very lovely birdwatchers arrived at the spot and some of them seemed to be real experts on seabirds. They soon spotted the first Balearic Shearwaters among Manx Shearwaters. They were not to far and I could see the plumage differences between the Manx and Balearic Shearwater. I had a nice chat with the leading birder of the group and he showed me a few more Balearic Shearwater through his Swarovski spotting scope. I was so happy about the view it provided. He also spotted a storm petrel but I missed it again.

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Balearic Shearwater by Juhani Vilpo

Later this birder and another lovely lady found a larger shearwater with much longer wings than the Manx’s have. I could spot it and even through binoculars it looked to be larger with dark upperparts and contrasting white underwing. The underwing was too strikingly white for Sooty Shearwater. It was a Cory’s Shearwater. Just minutes later a Cory’s Shearwater was reported, heading towards the Race, by the Portland Bill Observatory staff.

Cory's Shearwater

Cory’s Shearwater by Xavier Martínez

eBird checklist from Portland Bill (07:50 – 10:52):

Northern Fulmar 7
Cory’s Shearwater 1
Manx Shearwater 27
Balearic Shearwater 5
Northern Gannet 130
Great Cormorant 3
European Shag 6
Common Murre 1
Black-legged Kittiwake 3
Mediterranean Gull 2
European Herring Gull 68
Great Black-backed Gull 19
Eurasian Jackdaw 2
Carrion Crow 3
Rock Pipit 8
Eurasian Linnet 2

Great Black-backed Gulls were flying against the wind over the Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Me watching the passing shearwaters in a little rock shelter. © Szandra Szimuly

This boat must have a had a very rough ride next to the Race. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Juvenile European Herring Gull in the quarry of the Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Enjoying coffee at the Bill with Szandra. © Szandra Szimuly

Spectacular view to the Chesil Beach and the Portland Harbour with the village. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Spectacular view to the Chesil Beach and the Portland Harbour with the village. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Another photo of the Portland Harbour.

Another photo of the Portland Harbour.

From the Bill we drove to the Ferrybridge where waders were waiting for low tide. A small flock of roosting Mediterranean Gull and a few Dunlin with two Common Ringed Plover were close to the bridge. As salt water started to recede small flock of waders arrived for feeding. While we had lunch in the cafe two Ruddy Turnstone and an Eurasian Oystercatcher joined the feeding wader flock. Unfortunately, tourists and visitors don’t respect the small area and disturbance was quite frequent.

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Roosting Mediterranean Gulls at the Fleet. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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A view to the Fleet from the Ferrybridge. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Feeding flock of Dunlin and Common Ringed Plover. © Gyorgy Szimuly

(Ferrybridge eBird checklist (11:39 – 13:30):

Eurasian Oystercatcher 1
Common Ringed Plover 46
Ruddy Turnstone 2
Sanderling 1
Dunlin 136
Black-headed Gull 5
Mediterranean Gull 73
European Herring Gull 6
Great Black-backed Gull 3
Sandwich Tern 2
Eurasian Linnet 2

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Standing on the Chesil Beach of Portland. © Szandra Szimuly

I have been in the darkest emotional depths with hopelessness in the last couple of months but this should be over now. This weekend was and excellent breakthrough and hopefully many will come.