Saturday, 9 November 2013

A few wild flowers

I spend a good deal of my working life working to protect and improve grassland sites for wildflowers (amongst other taxa). They take a lot of looking after as we need to keep nutrient levels low enough for the wildflowers to thrive. We protect and enhance existing meadows by cutting & removing the grass once a year and removing scrub regrowth and we increase grassland areas by removing nutrient loving brambles and scrub.

I thought I'd share with you a few of the flowers I've seen this year:

Above: A Bee Orchid

Above: A Pyramidal Orchid (not yet fully in bloom)

Wild orchids are the signature species of many a grassland site and a site stuffed full of them is a sure sign that it is in healthy condition. The Bee Orchid is rarer than the Pyramidal Orchid on the site I took these photographs at.

Above: Common Toadflax

The Common Toadflax is a later flowering plant that, this year, benefitted from an early cut when we removed a lot of coarse grass that would have outcompeted this plant otherwise. A colony of 30+ plants this year were the first I've ever seen. They're not flowering now but if you want a tip for things to look at this time of year, this very wet weather is good for autumn fungi forays.

Moving on though, a Green Wood Ringer post would not be complete without the mention of birds and ringing. There has been nothing out of the ordinary to report of late except for two good catches of birds ringed at Priory Country Park (93 and 73) and the reaching of 1000 captures for the year at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (including the 2000th new bird for the site).

I am awaiting official reports of recoveries & controls from the Ivel Ringing Group secretary that should include a Lesser Redpoll ringed by me and controlled in Northumberland.

A weekend trip to my Dad's in October to clear out his loft left little time for ringing but a gap in the weather and an early start produced a nice bird.

Above: A grinning Bald Coot (my brother Mark) meets a young Sparrowhawk!

Enthusing other people (family, friends, the wider public) about wildlife and birds is part of what I do and I hope it makes people more appreciative of the world we live in and inspires them to take better care of it. I do my little bit by monitoring birds and taking practical action to create, protect and improve habitats. Embarrasing my little brother along the way is a rare bonus!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A lengthy round up!

Firstly, a quick note to say sorry about the incorrect formatting on my last post - I don't know what Blogger did, but it certainly wasn't written in one big block!

It's been a while since I posted some photogrpahs and accounts of my ringing activities. I have been out ringing, in between scattering my Dad's ashes, dealing with his stuff, bad weather and taking well earned rests!

Scattering my Dad's ashes went as well as could be hoped for. Everything went smoothly, it didn't rain although the clouds did look threatening! My dad would have liked the moody skies, the location, how we did it and that we were joined by a pair of Ravens, a Sparrowhawk and with near perfect timing and as I'd hoped, just after the last scattering - a Red Kite. He would have liked that too.

I also did some ringing at my dad's house. There were few birds about but I did manage to catch 20+ House Sparrows (more than I've ringed there before in total) and a new species - Chiffchaff. Elsewhere, however, the best day started thus:


Sunrise at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve, above, on 20th August 2013. The sunrise was good as I drove into the site but as I walked round the corner carrying my equipment, I had one of those moments where you just have to stop and say 'wow' and drink in the beauty of the moment.

The day continued well with 78 birds in total (retraps in brackets):

Great Spotted Woodpecker 0 (1)
Dunnock 4 (1)
Robin 3 (1)
Whitethroat 3 (0)
Blackcap 3 (0)
Chiffchaff 4 (1)
Willow Warbler 6 (0)
Coal Tit 1 (0)
Blue Tit 5 (13)
Great Tit 3 (20)
Chaffinch 3 (1)
Goldfinch 4 (0)

and best of all...


Above: Spotted Flycather (2nd ringing record for the site, previous being in 2011). A juvenile, presumably on migration or a local roaming around.

A session previous to this, on 10th August, again at Sandy Smith NR, exactly 100 birds were caught of 14 species:

Wren 4 (1)
Dunnock 3 (2)
Robin 1 (1)
Reed Warbler 1 (0) - 2nd this year and only the third ringed for the site
Whitethroat 8 (1)
Blackcap 3 (1)
Chiffchaff 9 (0)
Willow Warbler 2 (0)
Long Tailed Tit 3 (1)
Marsh Tit 1 (0) - only 3rd ringed for the site
Blue Tit 8 (8)
Great Tit 7 (29)
Treecreeper 1 (0)
Chaffinch 4 (1) - there are a LOT of juv chaffinches this year!


Above: Marsh Tit

It's been an interesting year so far at SSNR. New for year totals of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Long Tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Treecreeper and Chaffinch are all higher than in previous years (operating since 2010) whilst Redwing and Jay have been added to the ringing list this year.

Last year, I set myself a goal of reaching 1000 captures at SSNR for the year (and just made it). This year, I have been keeping tabs on my progress and (adding yesterdays total of 41) I have reached 870 captures (of 30 species), putting me ahead of schedule in comparison to the previous two years.

Breaking this down into effort, I reckon I've had 1 or 2 more nets up and they've been up for longer rather than making more visits. I've also got wiser about the catching some species, but then some species are more abundant this year and some are less so. So, a bit of swings and roundabouts then!

Before reaching 1000 for this year though, I think the next milestone will be the 2000th new bird ringed as 39 more new birds are needed for this.

A quick mention for Priory Country Park - with the help of other members of the Ivel Ringing Group & visitors, we completed all 12 visits of the Constant Effort Survey. I haven't studied the results in any depth but I can tell you that overall, this is one of the worst recorded years since it started in 1992. I will put something up soon about this on the Ivel Ringing Group Blog.

Lastly, I can now share a photograph with you from a ringing session on 7th July, 2013. 


Above: A Juvenile Jackdaw

This is the second Jackdaw (both juveniles) ringed at SSNR following one last year (when I didn't have my camera with me). This was caught on the day my dad passed away. A day which, apart from the obvious, was a perfectly nice and enjoyable day.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

More recoveries and a surprise in the nets!

News of other recoveries have now reached me and are as follows: LESSER REDPOLL, ringed Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (Bedfordshire) 24/11/12, controlled Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire 05/05/13. 275 km, 162 days, NNW direction. SISKIN, ringed Sandy Smith Nature Reserve 08/12/12, controlled Callander, Stirling 530 km, 154 days, NNW direction. REED BUNTING, ringed Sandy Smith Nature Reserve 26/05/12, field observation Southill, (Bedfordshire) 12/04/13. 6 km, 321 days, NE direction. A ringing session on Tuesday of this week in my normal ringing area at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve produced a surprise Spotted Flycatcher! When my photograph downloading capability has been restored, I will share a photograph with you. It was a lovely day, starting with a spectacular sunrise (also photographed), a flyover Red Kite and included ringing a number of willow warblers (always nice) and Chiffchaffs as welll as a Coal Tit and several Goldfinches. A total of 78 birds. A days ringing at Priory Country Park on Monday produced just 23 birds on the Constant Effort Survey but did include the first Lesser Whitethroat of the year and a juvenile Woodpigeon! Also of note (but a sad occasion), I found a dead mole near the ringing area. I took a few photographs. I didn't realise they had such big teeth! CES totals have been in the 20's for the latter half of the season (apart from one exceptional total of 51) and this year is going to go down as one of the worst in 20 + years. Just one more visit is needed to complete the full collection of 12 visits. More information about CES visit totals can be found here (or just click on the Constant Effort Survey link at the top of the page).

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Latest news

I'll start with the best bit of news:

The original ringing details for the Siskin I caught in December last year (see here for original blog post) with a Bruxelles ring on it have come through.

It was ringed in Wibrin, Luxembourg, Belgium on 24th February 2012 as an adult female (Euring code 6) and was recaptured by me 288 days later (on 08/08/12) at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve. A movement of 474km in a WNW direction.

I'm pleased with that one.

I always like to attach a few photographs but because of more 'technical issues' I can't share them at the moment. So that has stopped me sharing my other ringing news with you. A quick review of the highlights are:

52 birds caught on CES visit 8 at Priory Country Park - an excellent total in a good year let alone in an average/poor year. 26 birds on CES visit 9 was more expected, but did include a juvenile Green Woodpecker.

At Sandy Smith Nature Reserve my last 4 or 5 catches have all been over 50 (with one of 86). Lots of juveniles have been caught including good numbers of Great Tit, Blue Tit and Chaffinch. Juvenile Willow Warblers have been caught as well as a couple of Chiffchaffs. Juvenile Blackcaps have been caught but not in good numbers. Whitethroats have also produced a few juveniles - more than last year, but still numbers are low. A juvenile Jackdaw was a highlight.

One remarkable achievement - including juveniles and adults, I have now ringed/recaptured 16 different Great Spotted Woodpeckers this year! The multiple recapture data is helping construct a good picture of what is happening locally with this species.

I'll restore the picture feed, hopefully, and will have further news soon. Ta ta for now.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A tribute


David Keith Green

25/02/1947 to 07/07/2013

My dad is pictured here outside his house in the Cotswolds with a Goldfinch I had just ringed. He was always feeding the birds at his house and very much enjoyed watching them. He was particularly interested in the comings and goings (mostly the latter) of the Goldfinches.

He died of a heart attack 2 weeks ago today. His funeral was on Wednesday 17th July 2013 at Cheltenham Crematorium where I gave this tribute to him:

Some of you will recognise this tie [I am wearing] - Dad knitted it himself to show the colours of the Spanish flag and he had no hesitation in wearing it at school. Knowledge, learning and languages were some of his passions and he certainly did his best to pass them on.

When we were kids, he would always speak in Spanish and by the age of 7, I was translating into English for my mum. I also remember at around the same age, marking Spanish Exam papers with him. I guess he was proud that his young son knew more Spanish than teenagers who were supposedly studying the language! The teacher in him was never far from the surface.

He taught me whilst at [Cheltenham] Bournside [School & Sixth Form Centre] so I also got to see his classroom techniques that included looking at his watch and asking people what the weather was like in French or Spanish. For the next person, he'd look out the window and ask them what the time was!

Since he retired, he was learning to relax and enjoy life more and actually spending some of the money he'd fought tooth and nail to hold onto! At every opportunity, he'd go on holiday abroad and I went with him to Menorca twice, Spain and Sardinia twice. I'd drag him around the bird watching sites and he'd drag me around the cultural sites. They'd always involve a lot of walking which we both enjoyed and we walked a lot of miles and we both managed to get a lot of mileage out of sharing our experiences with others.

He was well known to most, if not all of you for his money saving exploits. There are too many stories under this subject to decide what to tell you about. I will share a unique moment I shared with him whilst on holiday in Sardinia this year. We were at a restaurant and he was trying to make up his mind as to whether he wanted a glass of wine or not with his meal. I couldn't believe my ears when he actually used the words (and forgive my language here) "bugger the cost!"

I got my phone out and texted the news to my brother - warning him first to sit down before reading further. The reply from Mark came back to say that he was [lying down at the time] currently watching Dr Who, so anything in time and space was possible!

Back in this country, he would call every Sunday to hear my news and to share his. He would regularly mention many people who are sat here in front of me today; people who he cared about and called his friends. I think that sharing life is what brings us closer together.

I shall miss those phone calls, the walks and the holidays, the visits to his house, the sharing of news and much more. But most of all Dad, I'll miss you.

Mark (left) and myself after the funeral wearing the ties our Dad knitted.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Contrasting totals

On Friday of last week, I took the day off and, as the weather conditions were better than of late, I put up some nets at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (SSNR). A decision that proved to be productive with 68 birds captured. 60 of these were new and 8 were retraps of 13 species. 17 were adults and 51 were juveniles.

A while back now, I saw a Jay on my feeders and a couple of others around my netting area so it was only a matter of time:


Above: The first Jay ringed at SSNR (this being the 46th species I've ringed here).


Above: An adult Kingfisher.

This was the first Kingfisher ringed here for nearly 2 years. Recent hard winters and the flooding of nest sites have meant this species has been in decline recently. Sightings at SSNR used to be regular along the river up to 2 years ago but have been rare of late so nice to ring one.


Above: A juvenile Long Tailed Tit - one of many ringed on Friday. At 44 new for year Long Tailed Tits in 2013, this is the highest year total for the site.

Totals:

Kingfisher 1 (0)
Great Spotted Woodpecker 0 (2)
Wren 0 (1)
Dunnock 2 (1) - including a juvenile
Robin 0 (1)
Whitethroat 0 (1)
Blackcap 6 (0) - mostly juveniles
Long Tailed Tit 17 (1) - mostly juveniles
Blue Tit 3 (1) - mostly juveniles but surprisingly few of them
Great Tit 19 (0) - mostly juveniles
Jay 1 (0)
Chaffinch 7 (0) - including several juveniles
Goldfinch 4 (0) - including 1 juvenile

In contrast, a visit to Priory Country Park on Saturday morning, CES visit 6 was carried out and produced a meagre total of 12 birds. Of note were juveniles of the following species: Great Tits, Blackcaps and a single juv Whitethroat (suprisingly absent from SSNR the day before apart from one retrap adult). What a difference a day makes - even if it is a different site.


Above: A Juvenile Whitethroat 

CES totals have been low so far this year. I've started compiling totals and comparing them to previous years, but there's still a lot of work to do. We know nesting is later this year because of the cold spring weather (and therefore there has been less food), but juveniles are starting to appear and only time will tell how good a breeding year this will be. The last 6 visits will provide crucial information!

Elsewhere, I saved a juvenile Green Woodpecker from being squished on the road. It may have been injured (not flying) so it was put in a safer place and left unringed.

The weather for this weekend looks good (a lot less wind) so I hope to have more news.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Latest news & recoveries

The latest news is, and this comes as no surprise to you all, IT HAS BEEN VERY VERY WINDY. The jet stream being in the wrong place for the time of year (i.e. more or less over us rather than much further north) is causing the colder and windier weather to affect us, to the extent that I didn't manage any ringing last weekend.

Whilst no ringing does not make a happy me, the following information does!

Corn Bunting (NW59646) ringed as a juvenile at Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire was recaptured by me at Priory Country Park on 13/01/13, 557 days later. A movement of 23 km in a WNW direction. This, to the best of my knowledge, is the first recovery of this species for Bedfordshire (there are less than 100 nationally up to 2012 according to BTO online recoveries data). A nice result.

Long Tailed Tit (DPN712) ringed at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire, was recaptured by me at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve, Bedfordshire on 29/03/13, 556 days later. A movement of 26km in a SSW direction.

Lesser Redpoll (Y486464) ringed at Priory Country Park, Bedfordshire, was recaptured at Bourne Wood, Lincolnshire on 13/04/13, 167 days later. A movement of 71 km in a Northerly direction. This bird was ringed on the same day as a Lesser Redpoll was controlled that had been ringed at Bestwood, South Nottinghamshire. So we now have evidence of an Autumn movement south and a northerly spring movement.

In other news, we've ringed several junvenile Robins, 2 juvenile Blackbirds, a juvenile Dunnock, Chaffinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Despite it being a late breeding season (due to the weather), there must be more juveniles out there but without the right weather conditions for mist netting, this ringer won't be catching any of them!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Sardinian Birds 2013 - Final installment

This will be the last in my series of photographs of Sardinian birds. I've not run out of photographs, it's just that it would get a bit repetitive if I shared any more (and really out of date!).

I'm also expecting the bird ringing to pick up (first juveniles of Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Chaffinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker have been ringed), especially as the juveniles are beginning to fledge - even if the wind is reducing the catch or preventing me from getting out at all. There is news on the ringing front to come soon, but first:

Above: Bee-Eaters. We saw a number of these and found that they prefer cultivated land.

Above: Grey Wagtail. Seen by the spring at Su Goroppu (a gorge), this bird was very showy (presumably well used to lots of people as this is a very well visited site).


Above: Grey Wagtail. The hole in the rock above the bird was, presumably, a nest site as the bird disappeared inside for more than a minute (either that or a good source of insects!).


Above & Below: Flamingo. Strange looking birds, but nice to see in the wild. The pink in the wing is striking when seen in flight when they look almost comical!

I observed the birds appearing to scrape the bottom of the lake with their feet whilst feeding (presumably to disturb the food making it easier to catch - interesting behaviour. They also, from time to time, had arguements (either this or displaying to eachother) - puffing up the feathers on their back (almost swan like) and gesturing with their neck - occasionally making contact with bills.


The holiday in Sardinia started and finished with this species and is therefore a good place to end.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Again with birds from Sardinia

The bird ringing is still going slow and no juveniles have been caught yet so it's no wonder that I haven't stopped looking back at my bird photographs from Sardnia just yet!


Above: A Wood Warbler

This lovely little bird was awaiting us after a long walk uphill from one of the beaches we visited. We got back to the car park and were taking on board drinks when I saw it and decided to see what it was. Surprisingly, it let somebody (not me) within about a metre before flying off. I follwed it as it fed around the rocks next to the car park, bouncing around and flying from one rock to the next.


Above: A view of the rear of the Wood Warbler.

I like the way all the primaries, secondaries and tertiary feathers can all be seen, and that its head is to one side as though it's contemplating where the next meal is!


Above: Side view of the Wood Warbler.


Above: A Firecrest

A terrible photograph (the bird was too close for the camera to focus!) - but none the less the bird can be identified as a Firecrest. The long walk was worth it just to see this bird! At the end of this walk was the Wood Warbler (as above).


Above: A Hooded Crow

Whilst scouring the beachfront restaurants for (cheap) places to eat, I watched this Hooded Crow walking and hopping around the rock pools. I found this to be interesting behaviour...


Above: This is the exact point when the Hooded Crow picked out a crab from the rock pool!

On the second to last day, we went out for a pre-breakfast walk to the river in Orosei where there were plenty of birds flitting around including Cetti's Warblers, Jays, Turtle Doves and more Coot & Moorhen than we'd seen at countless other water sites.

The best find wasn't mine though as my dad got there first...


Above: How many Night Herons can you see in this photograph? You should be able to find a handful of them...

I guess it was a family party. They didn't move and it took me a while to realise there were five, but good views were had.

And that's it until next time when I'll continue the found in/near water theme.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Sardinia birds

Another random selection of photographs of birds from my holiday in Sardinia (mid to late April 2013).


Above: A Woodchat Shrike (commonly seen in Sardinia)


Above & Below: A Woodlark (we only saw 2 or 3 individuals)


In the top photograph, the diagnostic 'light, dark, light' patch on the edge of the wing is visible as is the eye stripe that joins at the back of the head.


Above: The Woodlark on top of the tree.


Above: A male Chaffinch. Good enough to put a bookmark!


Above: A different male Chaffinch feeding, on what I assume, are seed pods.

If you think that a Chaffinch photograph is a little out of place amongst the other photographs of birds from Sardinia, you'd be right. But I like the way birding is random activity, especially when exploring new places. You never know when you're going to get a good photograph or see a good species. One minute you could be watching a Chaffinch, next a ...


Above: Golden Oriole. This represents my best ever view of one (through the camera lens!).

Arbatax (not a place I would recommend to tourists to visit) is a port (air & sea) with a large, unkempt industrial area, next to a residential area (where we stayed for a night). A walk round the area was largely uninspiring with few highlights until, on the edge of the industrial estate, a flash of yellow flew by. This eucalyptus tree, in a car park, was its destination. This was the only photograph I got but I'm glad I got it! It slinked away very quickly.

I went with the procedure 'get the photograph and then look through the binoculars' (though in this case I was too late with the binoculars). I didn't see any other Golden Oriole's all holiday, so the walk was worth it!

There's more to come at a later date!