I called by the Dyfi Osprey Project this afternoon to have a chat with the dedicated team on site and to see what was happening (or not!) with 'our' birds. Its always good to have a chat with like minded people about birds but today for some reason 'volcanoes' was a popular topic of discussion! Anyway Tony Cross, 'the' kite man, called by and so naturally the conversation turned to kites. Raptors have certainly been the common theme hereabouts in recent days with merlin, goshawk, peregrine, buzzard, red kite - oh and osprey! Being seen from the Cors Dyfi reserve a kind of 'Raptor Rhapsody' one could say. There were a good number of sand martins and swallows about too. Were they moving through? Lord knows they seemed to be flying with a purpose but there are many colonies of sand martins locally especially on the banks of the river Dyfi. There were debates with some of the reserve visitors about the various features which distinguish sand martins from house martins (which we didn't see today).
So it was around 5pm and I was about to leave the reserve when a call came through on the radio from Bob, one of the project volunteers, that he had spotted an Osprey alighting on an electricity pole in the distance. This it transpires is one of its usual 'dining' perches. So we all rushed out onto the boardwalk to get a better view through a telescope. The Osprey which was presumed to be the 'resident' female was eating a fish which was draped over the pole firmly grasped in its talons. It was being eaten alive! No one could make out the species of fish concerned but it was assumed to be a grey mullet which is a favorite dish of the Dyfi Ospreys! Anyway we watched the bird as it gorged itself for about an hour before it finally took off and flew up river somewhere.
Following this I had a task to do which was visiting someone locally concerning a matter of kites. This rather regal and charming lady was in possession of an Amazon parrot which was nearly 100 years old! I had the privilege of feeding this bird one of its favorite tit-bits which was a 'Ritz' biscuit! (My last encounter with a captive parrot, a large colourful macaw at Chester zoo where I was a zoo keeper, resulted in it drawing blood from my finger when it landed on my head! Anyway that's another story!)
Parrots of course are long lived birds my aunt used to have an African grey parrot which must have been about 60 years old when it died.
Did you know that the greatest 'irrefutable' age reported for a captive bird is over 80 years of age for a male sulphur-crested cockatoo named 'Cocky', who died in London Zoo in October 1982. The highest ever reported age for a captive bird (unconfirmed) is for a male Siberian white crane which was named 'Wolf' and he is said to have been 82 years old when he died!
It seems the accolade for the oldest 'wild' bird must go to a female Royal Albatross named 'blue-white' who was in her 60's when she was last seen. She is known to have laid an egg at the ripe old age of 60! But we have old birds in Wales too. There is a manx shearwater which nests on Bardsey island which is probably in its mid 50's! There are likely to be other manxies of equal age even perhaps exceeding that age, who knows? If you bear in mind too that 'manxies', as they are collectively called, spend our winter off the coast of South America returning to our shores each Spring to breed on offshore islands. I will leave you to calculate the number of miles a 50 plus bird will have travelled in its lifetime!
A good place to see 'manxies' locally is anywhere really on the coast but Borth and Ynyslas are the most accessible beaches. Watch out for their black and white profiles as they 'shear' out at sea above the crests and the waves. During a feeding 'frenzy' on shoaling fish or fry, which may also include other seabirds such as gannets and auks, there can be many thousands of manx shearwater present then.