Sunday, 19 December 2010

Snow play.

It finally gave up chucking down the white stuff by 8pm with 6 inches on the ground here (or on top of the wheelie bins as below).

So I went out for a walk in the dark. At least I'd get the chance to walk in the snow before other people!

Above: Not a snowberry bush!

Above: The bridge over the River Great Ouse at Castle Mill.

Above: The snow on steps used by horse riders (I assume).

Above & Below: Various animal tracks were visible in the snow. I'm guessing I saw rabbit, stoat, muntjac, badger & fox though I the tracks in the above photo must have been made by something smaller.

Below: Of course I left my own tracks.

Where the path from Castle Mill joins the Willington loop, I began leaving messages -my initials (see photo below), directions to Go Outdoors, a smiley face, the words 'this way' with an arrow pointing over a bridge, at another bridge an arrow pointing at the water with the words 'troubled water' (as in Bridge over ...), the words 'I want more' (as in more snow), and best of all - on a bench covered in snow, the words 'bum here!'

On a short walk to Castle Mill this afternoon I found this Muntjac (see photo below) searching for food in the snow and a surprise Woodcock sitting on the ice in the lock at Castle Mill. It flew away as I reached for my camera!

An update from my dad - he had a foot of snow in the Cotswolds and it took him 3 hours to drive 12 miles from home to M5 junction at Cheltenham! Good news is that despite the snow that his flight from Bristol Airport took off - with him on board - and he's now in Mallorca! With a free upgrade to his room!

Oh, and I won the 'who got the most snow' competition with the little brother in Southampton. Better luck next time Mark!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

It'S NOW everywhere!

It's been snowing for 2 hours now and we've got 4 inches I reckon (most of that in the last hour). The most snow I've seen in Bedfordshire in the 4 years I've been here.

I stayed in bed this morning and was in dispair watching the cricket score on teletext. Aussie score going up and up, England wickets falling as quick as the snow is right now!

I didn't wait around to find out what the end of day total was in the cricket, I headed out. First to buy xmas presents (no I'm not telling you what I got) and bird food. Then I fed the birds at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve. I've put out some nijer seed to see if it will attract the siskins (I'm told it should). They'll need the extra source of food right now as natural food will be scarce in this weather.

A month ago there were 150-200 siskins, that dwindled to about 75 last weekend. Today I reckon on 250+. If it wasn't for the weather, I'd be out ringing.

A walk around the reserve yeilded 13 Meadow Pipits, 11 Fieldfare, a few Redwing, 5 Green Woodpeckers, 2 Kestrels, a chaffinch on the newly filled feeders,a mixture of tits (Blue, Great & Long Tailed) and 2 snipe. I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Jay.

More xmas shopping on the way home and then back home just as the snow was starting to settle on the minor roads.

I checked in with the folks today, Gloucester has had a bit of snow overnight, it thawed a bit in the sun, then they're getting some more. The Cotswolds had a couple of inches in 1 hour this morning, whether they've had any more I don't know but my dad was packing for his flight to Mallorca tomorrow. Good luck dad - I hope the flight isn't cancelled!

I'll phone Southampton now to see if I win the 'who's had the most snow' competition with my brother (he won the other week).

Sunday, 12 December 2010

2 new species for Sandy Smith NR

The first two birds out of the net this morning at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve were both new species to be ringed on this site. A Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Coal Tit.

In the end, 2 Great Spots were ringed but just the one Coal Tit.

Above: A coal tit.

Above: A Great Spotted Woodpecker

Dunnock 3
Blue Tit 13 (mostly retraps)
Great Tit 3
Coal Tit 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 2
Chaffinch 1 (2nd of this species ringed on this site)
Robin 1
Siskin 2

26 birds of 8 species.

Above: A female Siskin.

A combination of factors (weather, wind, human error) meant a reduced catch of Siskin today as compared to last time. The flock of Siskin was also smaller than it was (now circa 75 birds - about half the size).

The stonechat was seen again. A curlew was heard (somebody else saw 3 on site in the afternoon). A flock of 25 Redwing went over as did a flock of 12 fieldfare.

A buzzard was heard but not seen. Usually the kestrels are much in evidence hunting nearby. Not today. A jay was heard and the Green Woodpeckers were happily flying around away from the netting area!

The last update on my Bedfordshire ringing (weather permitting) for this calender year should come next weekend. Then it's Gloucestershire ringing.

One for the family

Thanks to Dave Kramer for this photo.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Marsh Tit

Between 8am and 12.30pm today 30 birds of 10 species were caught, ringed and released in 'the rough' at Priory Country Park. New (retrap)

Great Tit 4 (6)
Blackbird 3 (0)
Great Spotted Woodpecker 0 (1)
Blue Tit 4 (4)
Dunnock 1 (0)
Wren 0 (1)
Marsh Tit 1 (0)
Long Tailed Tit 0 (3)
Bullfinch 0 (1)
Robin 0 (1)

Above: This Marsh Tit V670965 (an adult) is only the third caught & ringed at this site (the second this year, the only other being in 1993).

The Bullfinch was first ringed as a youngster on 11th October 2008 (also recaught a few times inbetween) and a retrap Great Tit was first ringed in Box 4 in May this year.

On my last visit (27th Nov.) I retrapped a Blackbird that was first ringed in August 2005 as a youngster.

Now I need to recover from the lurgee - until I go out again tomorrow!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Wintering Siskins

Target species aquired! Here's how the story goes:

Weekend no.1: After finding a flock of Siskin c. 150 to 200 strong at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve I set about the task of ringing some. I watched them fly well over the net rides. So I went out and bought some feeders and some food.

Weekend no.2: Feeders up for a week. Birds still flying high over the net rides!

Weekend no.3: Feeders up for a second week, tape lure at the ready. 14 new birds ringed! This was treble the number of siskin I've ever ringed before.

Above & Below: Siskin no.1.

Above & Below: A fistful of Siskin

Above: A green knuckle ride!

Above & Below: The tail shape (pointed) in the photograph above is indicative of a juvenile bird (born this year) whereas the rounded tail shape in the photograph below is that of an adult (born last year or before).

Many of the 14 Siskin caught were males and many of them juveniles. None had rings on, though I am hopeful that I will get some interesting recoveries as there is a good chance of this with Siskins.

Interestingly, the biometrics (wing length & weight) were remarkably similar amongst all the birds (wing length 73 or 74mm and weight around 12.3 or 12.4grams).

See earlier post for other species caught in the same session.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A loooooooong day, but a good'un!

Last weekend was a long one - Ringing sessions as follows: Saturday at Priory Country Park and Sunday at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve.

Saturday's totals: 24 birds of 9 species:

Long Tailed Tit 2
Great Tit 2
Blue Tit 9
Goldcrest 2
Blackbird 4
Wren 1
Robin 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Dunnock 2

See for photographs and further info on these birds.

Sunday's totals: 38 Birds of 8 species:

Blue Tit 11
Great Tit 8
Siskin 14*
Song Thrush 1
Robin 1*
Chaffinch 1*
Kestrel 1*
Dunnock 1

* = New species ringed for the site.

Above: Robin (first ringed on the site)

Above & Below: I was definitely not expecting this juvenile female Kestrel in the net!

Above: A digiscoped image of a stonechat that was hanging about ... just outside the reserve!

There was also a fly over Curlew (cold weather movement) heading South West. A Snipe flying East and 23 lapwing going South East.

Above: A photograph of a Dunnock just for the Sandy Smith Nature Reserve records!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Two sites, two different sets of results

Two different sites: Saturday - Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (SSNR), Sunday - Priory Country Park (PCP).

Each has their own feeding station but the habitat at each is different. At SSNR, I ring in a patch of Alder regeneration and at PCP I ring in a patch of thorny scrub.

At SSNR I caught 1 Dunnock, 3 Wrens and the other 28 birds were Blue Tits and Great Tits. 32 birds of 4 species.

At PCP, I caught 7 Long Tailed Tits, 6 Blue Tits, 5 Great Tits, 3 Wren, 1 Dunnock, 3 Blackbird, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Song Thrush and 1 Sparrowhawk. 30 birds of 10 species.

A greater range of species can be regularly found in the habitat at PCP whereas SSNR is a more specific habitat and carries fewer species. Birds at Priory come to the ringing area to feed and roost. Where I ring at SSNR, birds pass through on their way to feed elsewhere (mainly the tit flocks at this time of year) - hence the feeders to bring them in!

Above: One of 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers caught at Priory Country Park.

Above: A juvenile male Sparrowhawk. The visible bulge on his brest is not fluffing of the feathers, we believe this was his lunch! My first self caught Sparrowhawk.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Species number 86

At Number 10 on my 'most want to ring' list (see right hand side of the page), I wasn't expecting for it to be this easy to tick Bearded Tit off the list. When news started coming in over the last couple of weeks that there were groups arriving - and staying - in the county, this became a little more achievable.

I have Mark Thomas to thank for this ringing opportunity (and apparently Martin Stevens for finding them). I ringed 2 of these beauties:

Above: A female Bearded Tit.

Above: A male Bearded Tit.

Above: In all, 9 were ringed and displayed (as above) before releasing them. Thanks to Mark Thomas for this photo.

Which one?

Bearded Tit - The choice is yours...

Above: Had to dig this one of me out of the archives - long & curly hair with ginger tinted beard. Hummmmm.

Below: One of today's birds at Broom, Bedfordshire.

Dusk at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve

When I was a kid, I had a cardboard pencil holder which had bits of information about birds on the side of it - mostly now long forgotten but I've never forgotten that it said 'little owls eat beetles, moths & worms.'

Yesterday I saw a beetle, moth and worm devourer at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve. I tried digiscoping it but the result wasn't worth posting. I have an even worse photo of a barn owl (also seen yesterday) but I got good views of it hunting.

100+ Fieldfares flew west 'chucking' away as they went. I didn't find any bearded tits though (my main reason for going).

Above: I digiscoped this image - I got the frame I wanted of the top of a tree in the sunset but I also managed (accidentally) to catch the flash on the scope lens to create this interesting image.

I also took these ...normal... images of the spectacular sunset.

Today, I popped over to the site to see what was going on during daylight. 40+ Fieldfare arrived and left. I sent a fox fleeing away from me. Green & Great Spotted Woodpeckers were around, as were Jays. The usual big flocks of tits were moving around noisily.

Hopefully next weekend I will have more news about a particular species of bird that I saw there today (and there were lots of these winter visitors. A feeding station is now set up & could help my ringing efforts.

I also made a quick visit to Priory Country Park (well, a long one if you count the hour I spent talking to Jane the ranger who used to be a Volunteer Officer for me at BTCV!) to fill the feeders there.

Monday, 8 November 2010

A weekend near Aylesbury

One and a half days ringing and 88 birds of 19 species were ringed at Edgcott, near Aylesbury. The site is a 15 year old woodland plantation crisscrossed with rides where nets can easily be erected.

Blackbird 10
Blue Tit 9
Bullfinch 14
Chaffinch 2
Dunnock 3
Goldcrest 5
Goldfinch 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Great Tit 2
Greenfinch 1
Jay 1
Long Tailed Tit 19
Marsh Tit 1
Redpoll 3
Redwing 9
Robin 1
Song Thrush 1
Treecreeper 1
Wren 4

My favourites were Redpoll (unexpected) and Jay but I was also pleased with a Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

We also picked up a Goldcrest and Blue Tit that had been ringed elsewhere & not by us - I'd be very interested to find out where in Britain they have come from.

Above: One of three Redpoll.

Above: A Jay - for some reason Blogger has rotated this photo and I can't get it to change. Humph! I'll try again another time.

Above: Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Thanks to Dave for finding the site & helping.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Pied Flycatcher

This bird deserved a post all of it's own. It's the first of this species I've ringed and I'll let you enjoy the pictures.

Above: Pied Flycatcher

Below: A Pied Flycatcher digiscoped in Menorca earlier this year.

It's the way the wind blows

The winds turned easterly late last week, so I took up an invitation to go ringing on the east coast and it was an experience in extracting and ringing!

Dawn to dusk ringing and 208 birds were ringed on Saturday & we thought that was busy! We drafted in extra rings and help and ringed 311 birds on Sunday!

Birds were arriving all the time - the wind bringing lots of Brambling, Song Thrushes, Chiff Chaffs, Robins (I've never seen so many!), Goldcrests, Goldfinch some siskins and blackbirds amongst others. No foreign ringed birds or rareties though ...

Above: Bramblings.

And then the wind changed (at least the general weather pattern must have changed somewhere) and in so doing, turning off the easterly migration tap.

So, not having even seen a redstart on Saturday or Sunday, one turns up on Monday along with a late pied flycatcher (see more recent post for photograph). These must have been migrating from somewhere different to the birds we caught over the previous 2 days. We did continue to catch brambling, robins, thrushes etc. but only ringed about 50 birds. There were noticably much fewer birds arriving during the day.

We therefore had time to entertain Blyth (Mark & Jenny's 18 month littl'un) who is cuddling up to Norman (below).

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Ringing firsts

I've had great difficulty in deciding which of the following birds (see photographs) was my favourite. 1 day ringing migrants brought 4 new species into my hands & we watched as more and more birds arrived throughout the day.

Above: Last bird of the day was this female Sparrowhawk. I've held one before at Priory (but it already had a ring on) so this was a nice end to the day.

Above: This male Redstart was one of many on site.

Above: This female Ring Ouzel was a really nice addition to the ringed list.

Above: If you made me choose my favourite from the four, I think this Brambling would just about sneak it.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Horace the hog

Above: Horace

The plight of 'Horace the hog' is a sad one affecting many hedgehogs this summer. Many are struggling to find enough food during the nighttime so are venturing out in daylight in search of food.

Happily, due to the kindness shown by Alison and family, this story ends well. A young Horace was discovered in bright daylight and was taken in and given a drink. However, he wasn't quite out of the woods yet as he was still ill. A trip to the vets and it was discovered he still hadn't been weaned by Mrs. Hog but all was safe as they knew just how to deal with that.

Master H.Hog will be released back into the wild soon with a better chance of survival.

Above: Horace & adoptive family.