The surprising story of Holkham

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Holkham’s story has taken a strange turn recently.

She was the only bird we tagged in 2018. She migrated to a slightly unusual site to spend the summer: a series of small islands clustered in the mouth of the Oslofjord, Norway (see here). She returned to the same location in 2019, tending to favour one of the larger islands, known as Midtre Bolaerne. Then, towards the end of the summer, she disappeared. Our last communication was received in early September.

In February this year, however, we received an email to say a woodcock that we had ringed had been recovered. We were slightly surprised to see that it was a record of a bird that had been captured and released by another ringer back in  August 30th 2019. Checking the ring number, we discovered the bird was Holkham.

One of the islands close to where Holkham spent the summer, Store Faerder, is a bird observatory where birds of all species are caught and ringed. Such observatories are an important source of bird migration data and a network of similar observatories exists around the UK. It was on Store Faerder that Holkham was caught, but the capture details that we were supplied contained no information about her tag.

I made contact with the observatory, who provided contact details for the gentleman that was on duty that day, but so far I have not heard any further information about Holkham. We were really eager to hear how she was and particularly wanted to know whether her tag was still attached and whether she remained in good condition. Understanding any potential welfare implications of our tagging is important and we welcome any possible opportunity to check that the birds are healthy and unhindered.  We’d be very keen to speak to whoever handled her that day. Because we’d not had any new information from the tag we suspected that it may have fallen off prior to her capture, or perhaps removed by the Norwegian ringers if it appeared to be causing her a problem.

And until recently, that’s where the story went cold. Then, on the 20th March 2020, Holkham’s tag started transmitting again. She was no longer on Store Faerder but back on Bolaerne where she had spent most of spring 2019. We received no transmissions to show whether she was back in Norfolk over the winter, but this new evidence shows without doubt that she is still alive and still tagged. She’s moving on a regular basis and behaving in much the same way as she did in spring 2019.

If anyone is able to provide any information about Holkham please contact me on: cheward@gwct.org.uk

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