Sunday, 27 April 2014

Have you heard of Ken?

 Eilish Rothney, Trinity Broads Warden

Ken the cuckoo, photo BTO
Ken the famous Trinity Broads cuckoo that is. He is named after Ken Saul, a long standing volunteer who has been active on Burgh Common for 30 years where “Ken” was caught last summer and had a tracking tag fitted.

Why? I can hear you asking. The 'Red Listed' cuckoo is one of the UK's fastest declining migrants and, until recently, was one of which we knew least about once it left the UK. Would a British Spring be complete without the cuckoos’ distinctive call that we take so much for granted? It is worrying to know we have lost over half of our breeding cuckoos during the last twenty-five years. Clearly we need to understand all aspects of the cuckoo’s annual cycle before we can begin to suggest what might be driving the decline.
Cuckoo on River Ant at Ludham, photo by Liz Dack
Whilst the cuckoo has been well studied during the breeding season here in the UK, once they head off on migration very little was known about the routes they take or where in Africa they spent the winter months. There has only been one recovery of a young bird that was found in mid-winter in Cameroon and that was 82 years ago. If we can pinpoint areas of importance then we can look at whether there are pressures there which could explain the losses of the British cuckoo.

Since 2011 the British Trust for Ornithology has been attaching satellite-tracking devices to cuckoos from Norfolk to find out more about their important stop-over sites and wintering destinations on the way to and from Africa. The tags are new technology and are solar-powered, transmitting for 10 hours and then going into 'sleep' mode for 48 hours, to allow the solar panel to recharge the battery. Transmissions are 'blogged' on the BTO website, follow the link below. And you can follow Ken's journey from Burgh Common to East Gabon for Christmas and now we are tracking him back to Norfolk – as of 19 March he had reached the Ivory Coast already covering nearly 1,000 miles.

If you are interested in sponsoring Ken – please see the BTO website.

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