It looks likely that BB, Peter, Skinner, Waller and Whortle have failed to complete their migration this year, or their tags are no longer transmitting, and so we will be moving all of them to the inactive section of the website.
Updates from our Cuckoos
Read the latest updates from our Cuckoos on their migration.
Further transmissions unlikely to be received
Cuckoos missing off the map
From time to time we ‘lose’ one or two of our Cuckoos only for them to reappear several days, or even weeks, later. We are never entirely sure why this might be at the individual level but during the course of the project we have noticed similarities between some of the ‘lost’ birds.
We have lost some of our birds just prior to them making a large movement and we think that this might be because they move into denser vegetation in order to feed up before embarking on a long flight. Moving into denser vegetation may mean that the solar panel that recharges the battery for the tag is in shade for periods of time and the battery receives a poorer charge, which in turn results in poorer performance from the satellite tag.
Once the birds have put on enough weight to begin their journey they move into the open and the tag begins charging again and the birds ‘reappear’. We also see the same thing happen, although to a lesser extent, when birds complete a long movement and presumably move into denser vegetation to rest and feed up
Lack of signals
Several of our Cuckoo tags have not sent transmissions for over 10 days; BB, Hennah, Peter, Skinner and Waller.
This means they are not currently shown on the main map by default, although can be switched on using the tick boxes under their photos. It's not uncommon for Cuckoos to disappear for up to several months during mid-winter as tag charging conditions in the forest are poor so we won't really know their fate unless we receive further transmissions. If they fail to move northwards when expected then either the Cuckoo may have died or the tag may failed or degraded. Our greatest concerns are still for Peter and Waller who were in the same area when signals were last received, all the way back in October.
No recent signals from Peter and Waller
We are concerned about whether we will receive further transmissions from Peter and Waller. They were in the same area and just 5km apart from each other, close to the Congo river in Democratic Republic of Congo, when signals were last received. Looking at the map, they seem to be in an area of unbroken canopy so the solar-powered tags may not be able to charge as they are not receiving light. The worry when batteries cannot charge over several months is that they may start to degrade and are not then able to switch on again when they do receive light. We will have to wait and see whether we receive further signals from the tags in future.
Early arrival of Cuckoos in the rainforest
Six of the tracked cuckoos (Peter, Dudley, Emsworthy, David, Livingstone and Stanley) are already within the Congo rainforest block. The first of these to arrive was Stanley on 16 September, the earliest of the tracked cuckoos ever to arrive there by 12 days! He was followed by Emsworthy on 19 and Livingstone and Dudley on 23. Previous to this year, the earliest Cuckoo had been Chris, who arrived there on 25 September in 2012.
Since then, David arrived on 24 and Peter on 28 September 2014. David was five and four days earlier than in 2012 and 2013 respectively whilst Livingstone was 13 days earlier than last year. It is very interesting to note that all four of the cuckoos who beat the previous earliest arrival date came from northern Cameroon and the adjacent part of Chad, a region that has received over 50mm less rainfall than usual over the past month and more than 100mm less over the past three months.
A period of recovery
With most cuckoos now in the Sahel region, we're entering a fairly quiet period in the annual cycle of the tagged cuckoos with less movement than during the migration season.
Birds who completed their desert crossing will spend time in the Sahel recovering their body condition, and some may stay quite a long time. In previous years, cuckoos have stayed in this area for as much as several months, while others spend a shorter amount of time before moving south into the humid zone forests.
The eastern Sahel in Chad and south Sudan has received plenty of rain recently, and thus conditions are likely good for cuckoos. Northern Cameroon was slightly drier than average in August, and so cuckoos such as Derek, Dudley, Stanley, and Emsworthy may be moving on if foraging conditions aren't suitable.
Twenty-two birds still going strong
We are still following twenty-two birds. Currently two cuckoos are in France – Walpole and unnamed cuckoo 134957.
Five birds are in and around the Po Valley in northern Italy – BB, Chris, Stanley, Waller and Livingstone.
Six birds are in Spain – Two of these are big movers this week. After finally leaving the UK, Derek hasn’t hung around. After a brief stop in central-western France, he is now in central-northern Spain, just south of Tolbanos de Abajo. It is Maji that has provided the biggest surprise though. He seems to be taking a tour of the European mountain ranges. Having spent a time in the Austrian Alps, he is now in the central Pyrenees!
David is still in Montenegro and Ash is still in Croatia; both of these birds could make the move to Africa any day now.
We now have seven birds in Africa, six of them south of the Sahara. Emsworthy is the latest to arrive here and he is currently just south of Lake Chad, in an area that Chris also favours. Three other Cuckoos – Peter, Hennah and Dudley – are also close to Lake Chad.
Two New Forest birds in south Italy
New Forest bird Hennah recently moved to the south of Italy and is in the region of Calabria. Signals received throughout yesterday and toady show that Peter is following in his path and also heading south through Italy. Ths last signal received indicated he was still a little further north than his fellow New Forest bird, in the Salerno region, but he may well have continued his journey. We'll find out how close he gets when we receive further signals.
New Forest birds taking different routes
Our New Forest birds seem to be taking very different routes. Gilbert has recently moved futher west to Portugal from his previous location in Spain, while Hennah is still north-east of Rome in Italy with Peter just a little further north, remaining in the Po Valley.
Taking the Italian route
From France, via Corsica, Ash appears to now be in Italy. He joins Hennah, who had also been in France and perched in the Pyrenees close to the France/Spain border but who also recently changed direction and headed to Italy to take this more easterly route. Whortle, Peter, Waller, and Livingstone are all also currently in Italy.
Scottish Birdwatchers' Conference
Every year the Scottish Ornithologist's Club arrange a one-day Scottish Birdwatchers’ Conference, organised by a local branch of the SOC, in conjunction with BTO Scotland.
Bird ID (Residential, Berry Head, Devon)
Develop your bird identification skills on this weekend course for relative beginners and improvers. Expect a combination of indoor sessions covering the basics of bird identification and outdoor sessions to build your...