WWT Slimbridge headstarted Curlew resightings update (as of 7th November 2019)


Since being released at WWT Slimbridge in July/August this year, 38 of the 50 (76%) headstarted Curlew have been resighted on at least one occasion. Whilst it is obviously impossible to say what has happened to the 12 that haven’t been seen, recent sightings give cause to be optimistic regarding their fate. A number of birds are being seen that haven’t been seen for months, an example being bird 53 which was recorded by John Sanders on 4th November at Littleton Warth that had only previously been seen on 11th July, the day after its release.

 

During the initial post release monitoring period (9th July – 31st August 2019), 36 out of the 50 headstarted birds (72%) were seen at least once and of these individuals, 30 (83%) were seen on multiple dates.

Cohort 1  Cohort 2 Cohort 3 Cohort 4 Cohort 5  Cohort 6
21 (seen 5 times) 24 (6) 23 (5) 25 (5) 63 (4) 71 (1)
22 (4) 28 (2) 52 (2) 29 (3) 72 (2)
33 (4) 32 (2) 40 (4)
34 (7) 39 (2) 58 (2)
36 (3) 45 (1) 59 (3)
37 (4) 49 (4) 57 (2)
38 (10) 53 (1) 46 (1)
54 (1) 50 (3)
44* (3)
48 (5)
51 (4)
62 (2)
61 (1)
65 (3)
67 (8)
68 (2)
* found deceased

All but one of the resightings during this period occurred in and around WWT Slimbridge. A single juvenile was seen at Guscar Rocks on 4th August by Mike Smart but was too distant to read the individual ring number. Although highly likely to have been a headstarted bird, it must be noted that two wild juveniles were colour-ringed in the Severn and Avon Vales in 2019 so it can’t be said for certain that this bird was from Slimbridge. Bird 44, a female from Cohort 4 was found dead on 3rd August and represents the only known fatality so far.

From 1st September there have been thirty confirmed sightings of fifteen of the headstarted birds, with at least one sighting from each cohort except cohort 6.

Cohort 1  Cohort 2 Cohort 3 Cohort 4 Cohort 5 
21 (seen once) 49 (3) 23 (3) 25 (1) 63 (3)
36 (1) 32 (3) 30 (3) 40 (4)  
  24 (2) 41 (1) 48 (1)  
  53 (1)   67 (2)  
      65 (1)  

The majority of the sightings have again come from WWT Slimbridge and the surrounding area, where the headstarted birds have been observed mixing with wild curlew in the high tide roost on The Dumbles and foraging for invertebrates in the wet fields.

There have also been a number of sightings further afield, with birds seen in high tide roosts at Guscar Rocks (14km), Aylburton Warth (11km), Pillhead Gout (18km) and Littleton Warth (19km) by locals John Sanders and Peter Hazlewood.

There has also been an unidentified individual seen at Newport Wetlands on 13th October by Tom Dalrymple (Senior Reserve Manager) whilst he was conducting a WeBS count. If the bird stays put, we are hoping that its individual ring number can be read and if confirmed as a headstarted bird this would represent the furthest sighting to date, with Newport Wetlands a distance of 45km south west of the release site.

We look forward to seeing where else the birds turn up and will continue to provide further updates over the coming months.

Dave Evans

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