Zwin Natuur Park – Belgium (Wouter Faveyts)

Category: MBP newsletter content

Last updated: February 14th, 2023

Successful bird ringing campaign in the Zwin Nature Park in the autumn of 2022

For the fourth year in a row, the bird ring station in the Zwin Nature Park was manned by bird ringers in autumn. This continuous effort of scientific ring work was done in collaboration with our partner BeBirds, the bird ring service of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS). Numerous visitors to the Zwin Nature Park were able to experience the ringing up close at the ring hut in the park, learning about the species they could see, why birds are trapped for ringing and how bird migration works. This proved to be a very popular activity for our visitors yet again.

From 1 August to 11 November, a total of 7.054 birds got a scientific ring on the leg. On 15 of a total of 103 days in this period, ringing could not be done due to bad weather conditions. Especially at the end of the period, persistent, fairly strong winds from the southwest created conditions that often hindered ringing. Nevertheless, the effort was again constant. The most constant effort possible is important for the scientific value of the collected data.

Cetti's warbler_Zwin Nature Park_1080

 

In addition to the 7.054 birds that were newly ringed, there were also 539 recaptures of birds that had already been ringed before. Those captured birds were for a large part birds that had already been ringed in the Zwin Nature Park before, but there were also specimens that came from elsewhere. Some had previously been ringed in other places in Belgium, but there were also foreign recaptures from the Netherlands, France, Germany, Norway, and Denmark.

The total for 2022 was higher than last year’s total, when about a thousand fewer birds were ringed in the same period. The higher number in 2022 fits in with a broader picture in which clearly higher numbers of a number of songbird species were also observed at other ring stations in Belgium. Presumably, the predominantly warm, dry weather during the breeding season increased breeding success in many species. There may have been fewer failed breeding cases compared to 2021, when the wetter weather conditions during the breeding season may have caused an increased failure rate. In order to determine such annual fluctuations, it is important that an annual, fixed monitoring is carried out at scientific ring stations such as the Zwin Nature Park.

The higher numbers in 2022 are mainly due to the first part of the ring period. In the latter part of the autumn, and especially in late October and early November, the numbers were on the low side. There was no noticeable influx of any bird species in the later autumn of 2022 as we had in previous years (of Goldcrests in 2020 and of Blue Tits in 2021). In addition, the weather conditions in the later part of the autumn were not of that year to concentrate large numbers of birds along the coast (strong domination of winds from southwest to south).

A closer look at the results shows that there was no lack of highlights. In total, birds of 59 different species were ringed. The most ringed species was, as usual, the Blackcap, with 2.684 newly ringed specimens. The top three was completed by Eurasian Robin (742 newly ringed) and Reed Warbler (617 newly ringed). Species with notable numbers included Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Firecrest. In the table below, a number of species of which striking numbers are discussed in more detail.

Species Number of newly ringed in autumn 2022 Comment
Cetti’s Warbler366An absolute record number! By far the best year for this species ever since the permanent autumn monitoring in the Zwin Nature Park started in 2019. The total of 366 birds is an incredible increase of just 377% compared to the previous autumn record in 2020. There were five days on which more than 20 Cetti’s Warblers were ringed, with a peak day of 42 on 30/09. In 2022, the Cetti's singer was the fifth most numerous species to be ringed at the ring station. Just a few years ago, that would have been unthinkable. Likely duet o climate change, this species has increased very stronly in western Belgium in the past years.
Yellow-browed Warbler12The second best year since the permanent autumn monitoring in the Zwin Nature Park started in 2019. The best day was 30/09, with three birds. This species from the Siberian taiga has become a scarce but regular autumn migrant in Belgium, with fluctuating numbers passing through.
Sedge Warbler397A strong new record since the permanent autumn monitoring in the Zwin Nature Park started in 2019. The total for the autumn of 2022 is no less than 305% higher than the previous record from 2019. It was remarkable that not a single real top day with large numbers stood out. The number of Sedge Warblers was generally on the high side on a number of days. In August, almost as many Sedge Warblers were caught as Reed Warblers, while the latter species is normally more numerous. The best day was 6/08, with 28 new captures.
Firecrest253The second best year since the permanent autumn monitoring in the Zwin Nature Park started in 2019, and also an increase of 253% after the off-peak year 2021. The best day fell very early in the season, on 2/09 with 20 birds.
Wren155A strong new record since the permanent autumn monitoring in the Zwin Nature Park started in 2019. The total for the autumn of 2022 is 170% higher than the previous record from 2020. The best day was 26/10 with 19 birds.
Blackbird231A strong new record since the permanent autumn monitoring in the Zwin Nature Park started in 2019. The total for the autumn of 2022 is 253% higher than the previous record from 2020. The best day was 20/10 with 33 birds.

Scarce/special other species (rare/scarce in general or only rarely trapped at our station) this year were Water Rail, Spotted Crake, Common Sandpiper (7), Common Kingfisher (although only one is a low number), Wryneck, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Bluethroat (3), pied flycatcher (9), Savi’s Warbler (1 newly ringed + 1 recapture of a bird with a French ring), Barred Warbler (2), Spotted Flycatcher, Black Redstart, Tree Pipit (6), Stonechat (10) and Eurasian Bullfinch. The top catches this year were 3 Penduline Tits, 4 Siberian Chiffchaffs, Great Reed Warbler, no less than 4 Aquatic Warblers and – top-of-the-bill – a River Warbler (new species for the Zwin).

All results of the 2022 ringing season (and also of previous years) can be consulted in detail viahttps://trektellen.nl/site/info/2435.

The continuous autumn ringing effort is a large part of the scientific bird ringing in the Zwin Nature Park, but it is not the only bird ringing we do. In 2022, birds were also ringed under research programmes into the breeding process of White Storks, Common Terns, Little Terns, Barn Swallows, Great Tits and Blue Tits.

 

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