Working on Orford Ness brings with it the privilege of views of some spectacular landscape and coastline. This privilege also brings the hazard of getting distracted, admits Lead Ranger, David Mason.
My office window has a view of the marshes in the distance and, closer, a patch of bramble and grass, as well as a powerline.
It can be very distracting at this time of year as many birds are actively nesting, feeding, perching and singing here.
Today, a stonechat has visited to feed on the grass and a linnet and whitethroat have been singing nearby.
Other days might bring a short-eared owl or an avocet, as well as a view of the new born lambs across the field.
Some days I am not sure how I get anything done at all!
We have been watching four cuckoos displaying on the bushes and powerlines around the site over the last few weeks.
It is a rare privilege to see these birds as well as hear their evocative call. It has been a bit frustrating trying to take a decent photo though as they don’t sit still for long and are soon mobbed by small birds trying to chase them away as they try to lay eggs in the nests of meadow pipits, reed buntings and various warblers.
Our dedicated group of bird ringers produced the goods however and even caught one in their ringing nets, which is no mean feat either as they are often difficult to catch as well.
The Ringers, who are licensed by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), carefully apply lightweight metal rings to the bird’s leg. This can reveal useful information about the bird’s movements when it is recovered.
As technology has advanced, new methods of tracking have developed, which have parallels with the testing and use of telemetry and radar once carried out at Orford Ness. The BTO have been carrying out a programme of tagging cuckoos and other birds with electronic tags and tracking these with satellites. They have found that cuckoos follow migratory corridors on their arduous 6,000 mile journeys from the rainforests of the Congo to their summer breeding grounds in the UK.
They have also identified autumn and spring stopover areas within Europe that provide critical resources for the cuckoos as they migrate. This helps identify migratory corridors and key habitats that are vital for cuckoos and other birds and can help other conservationists determine what needs to be done to help protect them throughout their journey.
The BTO have also been tracking the movements of lesser black-backed gulls on Orford Ness using this technology for some while, although not on cuckoos from the Ness as yet.
To find out more about their work with cuckoos, click here for some more detailed information. There is even a Cuckoo called Dave!