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Friday, January 1, 1999 Published at 19:26 GMT


Resurgence of the Robin

The robin suffered a poor breeding season in 1996

One of the UK's favourite garden visitors, the robin, is making a comeback.

Latest figures reveal there was a 38% increase in numbers this summer over the previous 12 months, according to the British Trust for Ornithology.

The robin has recently endured poor breeding seasons, causing the numbers of adult birds to dwindle.

The findings from the BTO's Constant Effort Sites scheme compare the birds caught by ringers from two successive summers.

The BTO's Dawn Balmer said: "The ringers can send their records from the early morning sessions in quickly to BTO headquarters and we can process their results rapidly by computer."

[ image: The red kite was among the rare birds spotted last year]
The red kite was among the rare birds spotted last year
The results come from some 79 sites around the country and the BTO says it is confident that the trends they show are correct.

The robin was not the only bird to receive a boost to its numbers. Two other species also increased their adult population - the wren and the migrant blackcap.

But two other migrants, the whitethroat and sedge warbler, and one resident, the reed bunting, had fewer adults caught.

For the robin and wren these results more than compensate for the poor numbers of adults in 1997, which followed a poor breeding season the previous year.

Sedge Warbler worries

This is the second successive year that adult sedge warblers and whitethroats have been caught in low numbers.

The ringers also catch lots of young birds so that CES ringing can give a good idea of how successful the breeding season has been.

And in a challenge for business sites organised by the BTO, Anglian Water's Rutland Water reservoir is in a clear lead with 177 species, while British Steel's Teesside site, which won with 185 species in 1994, is in second place with 159.

Rare birds

Results from the third quarter of July to September - always an interesting time for birds and birdwatchers alike - show a host of rarities and some late breeding records.

Three dotterel passed through Loveden Estates' Polybell Farms as they headed south. Three of the birds had been seen there in spring on their way north.

Temminck's stint was seen at British Sugar's Bury St Edmunds site and Rutland Water.

Meanwhile,a white-rumped sandpiper turned up at British Steel's Teesside works and a grey phalarope was spotted at Yorkshire Water's Eccup Reservoir.

Other unusual birds in the quarter included little egret, leach's petrel, red kite, osprey and several caspian terns.

Goose population takes off

With over 1,300 Canada geese at Rutland Water, it looked like these birds had had a successful breeding season.

And seven pairs of Egyptian geese, an introduced species like Canada geese, bred at the same site.

Garganey, the UK's only summer migrant duck, may have bred at several sites but this has been difficult to confirm because of its somewhat secretive habits.

One of the declining farmland bird species, the turtle dove, was spotted at nine sites and breeding was suspected at several of these.

The sighting of a juvenile cuckoo at British Sugar's Allscott reedbed indicated successful breeding was going on there. And a long-eared owl bred successfully at Polybell Farms.

The final results for the challenge will be announced early in the New Year.

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