It's always nice when a ringing recovery does not mention that the bird was killed by the neighbours cat or hit by a passing car.
I was therefore delighted to hear last week from BTO that the young female Blackcap that overwintered in my garden in Somerton from December 2013 until March 2014 was retrapped in central Czech Republic a fortnight ago (526 days and 1319km since).
We are used to Dutch and German bred Blackcaps overwintering but this one is a rare treat!
As my geography is woeful, I had to do a Google Maps search just to make sure my fancy was correct. From the Czech Republic to Sumerton is uphill! North ward that is, not by much - 120 miles or so. What does she follow? Could she be ‘feeling’ the Gulf Stream? Or is it she just follows the food, hopping from country to country as it gets colder. Fascinating stuff whatever is happening.
There was a female blackcap coming the other way that was ringed in the Czech Republic in September 2011. It turned up at Five Bells on 30 November 2012.
There are good numbers of blackcaps about this year ( 31 ringed in the garden this month).
My theory is natural selection. Birds that travel south for the winter get predated or killed by thoughtless human beings while those that travel west are more likely to survive despite our colder weather.
According to current studies our winters are actually less cold or cold for shorter periods and it is the sheer numbers of garden feeders now that make the UK a good wintering prospect. Stuart Bearhop did some work with this conclusion a few years ago and now followed up by Kate Plummer at BTO.