Sunday, 4 September 2011

Just another days ringing...

David Howes & I went to Sandy Smith Nature Reserve yesterday (03/09/11) with the main aim of ringing Blackcaps (there are lots on passage at the moment) and to try something new.

I wasn't sure it was going to work, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

Having seen before how to catch Meadow Pipits and having bought new nets especially (nets of the same lenght being a requirement for this to work) I sussed out where best to put the nets the night before. It was time to test my skills.

The wind wasn't a problem when we arrived so we set about erecting nets, however the ground was very hard and it was proving difficult to put the guy poles in the ground. We found a brick and ended up bashing them in (even that was difficult!).

My ringing license permits me to use tape lures, so on went the tape and the wait started. Were there any Meadow Pipits about we wondered?

More waiting.

We went back to my car for something and on our return, hey presto - Meadow Pipits arriving, landing on the top of the net, on top of the poles and on the guy ropes! One mad dash later and..

Above: One of 3 Meadow Pipits ringed - new to my self caught list and new species ringed for the site.

With there being a lack of Meadow Pipits coming back after the first round, we put nets up elsewhere - a 30ft in amongst some plum trees (this net caught nothing but leaves and twigs!) and a 60ft in some ash regeneration near the wood with all the plum trees.

These nets weren't doing particularly well either to begin with, and going back to the Meadow Pipits, there were none so having passed the skills test it was time to concentrate on Blackcaps.

Wren - and that was it for that net round! However whilst David was extracting the Wren (that's what helpers are for after all!), my attention was drawn to an area dripping with birds (Goldfinch, Green Woodpeckers, different varieties of Tits and a species that I couldn't quite see properly to clinch the ID though I had a good idea). Wren extracted and we both looked and said - we can get a net in there between the teasels and the trees (Plum, Elder, Hawthorn etc.), so we erected a 60ft and 30ft jap net in a dog leg around the corner where all these birds were - the emphasis on were because they disappeared when we went to put the nets up!

So we left the nets alone to see what was happening. 15 minutes later and I went for a sneak peek - a few birds were in the 60ft in the ash regeneration. A net with a bird in is never bad news. A Marsh Tit was seen hanging around nearby too. Another 15 minutes later and we went back to find nearly 20 birds in that net! Mostly Blackcap, a couple of Chiff Chaffs, a Robin, a Whitethroat.

Extraction began - half way through my attention was drawn to a Green Woodpecker noisily flying out from the teasels, staying low, towards the net. Still low enough, still towards the net - RUN! I wasn't going to give this a chance to get out of the net. Approaching 2 more were already in the net!

Above: 2 Green Woodpeckers - a new species ringed for the site. Sadly, one got out of the net before I could get to it. I shall remember for the future now I know where to go to catch them! There are lots on site.

This was turning out to be a great day. A couple of Goldfinch, another Blackcap, a Long Tailed Tit and one other bird made these 2 extra nets productive.

David ringed most of the birds - I just took a Green Woodpecker and one or two others to keep me happy whilst I scribed. However the last bird from the round was for me:

Above: A juvenile Spotted Flycatcher! This is only the second species I have never ringed before and caught myself (the first being Grasshopper Warbler). Needless to say, the 3rd species new for the site on this really really great day!

Above: The Spotted Flycatcher from the front.

Having now cleared the area of the majority of birds, we were left with a few Wrens to punctuate the waiting.

We gave up eventually at around 1.30pm. Gathering up all the equipment we were walking back to the cars when my eyes caught sight of a bird that appeared to come out of a rabbit hole! This rabbit hole was in the hollow dug out by The Greensand Trust to create a bee habitat (the geology is greensand & therefore the ground is very sandy). We got the binoculars out and identified the bird but could we turn this ordinary day (ha ha) into a spectacular day?

After making sure it wasn't going to be a waste of time, a net was hastily erected and 5 minutes later (that included a bit of jumping for joy) I was ringing this:

Above: The birds 'armpit' feathers.

Above: The birds tail.

Above: I'm ring the bird. Know what it is yet?

Above: It's a Wheatear. It was carrying some fat - a bird on passage. There aren't many birds of this species that have been ringed in Bedfordshire.

Above: A happy very chappy. My 3rd self caught ringing tick, hot on the heels of number two! And the 4th new species ringed for the site in one day. A spectacular day complete.

Above: This post however, wouldn't be complete without a picture of David. Thanks for helping and I couldn't have done it without you. A learning experience for both of us.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Priory Country Park - Of late

The Constant Effort season is over at Priory Country Park. All 12 visits were completed (including the odd extra visit). I haven't posted CES totals for a while and on this occasion, for my ease, I'm going to lump visits 8-12 all into one (including non-CES birds/sessions).

238 new birds, 57 retraps (in brackets) of 23 species:

Wren 8 (1)
Dunnock 6 (6)
Robin 6 (7)
Blackbird 10 (8)
Song Thrush 8 (1)
Sedge Warbler 1 (0)
Reed Warbler 24 (1)
Whitethroat 25 (6)
Lesser Whitethroat 2 (0)
Garden Warbler 19 (2)
Blackcap 91 (8)
Chiff Chaff 2 (3)
Willow Warbler 2 (1)
Blue Tit 8 (5)
Great Tit 6 (3)
Long Tailed Tit 0 (1)
Chaffinch 3 (0)
Goldfinch 10 (0)
Greenfinch 1 (0)
Bullfinch 4 (3)
Treecreeper 0 (1)
Sparrowhawk 1 (0)
Wood Pigeon 1 (0)

We'll start with the standout total for Blackcap. This site has always been good for Blackcaps - more Blackcaps have been ringed than just about all other species in the park. The total above includes birds caught outside the CES. On Saturday 27th August I caught 26 Blackcaps (the majority new and the majority male). These birds must have moved on and another lot moved in as by the following Wednesday (31st August) I caught 30 Blackcaps (only one retrap from the weekend and only because it's from a late brood & not ready to go yet).

I call on all ringers north of Bedfordshire to get a move on and ring some Blackcaps! Out of all the Blackcaps I've ringed here in the last week or two, none have been ringed other than on site. You can increase my chances of catching one of your birds!

Above: Female Blackcap

Above: Male Blackcap

Above: This bag contains a big living ball of feathers (see below)!

Above: A Wood Pigeon (the big ball of feathers).

Above: A Lesser Whitethroat. This bird represents one of two ringed on 27th August. This species used to be more regular in the park but there have been very few records this year. I assume therefore that these two birds (juveniles) were migrating through the park (we would likely have caught the adults & juveniles earlier if they had bred).

Above: Normally seen in the skys above & normally too good at airobatics to be caught. This juvenile Sparrowhawk is obviously still learning then!

Sandy Smith Nature Reserve - Of late

It's been a while since my last post. That's because I've been having an interesting time ringing at every opportunity I get. It's left me too knackered to organise myself to count up totals and edit photographs. I've also been up & down from East Yorks helping build a Heligoland Trap.

Ringing at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve between my last post and the end of August. 160 new birds and 80 retraps of 20 species (retraps in brackets):

Kingfisher 1 (0)
Wren 11 (2)
Dunnock 9 (7)
Robin 3 (0)
Blackbird 4 (1)
Grasshopper Warbler 0 (1)
Sedge Warbler 4 (0)
Reed Warbler 1 (0)
Whitethroat 36 (9)
Garden Warbler 2 (0)
Blackcap 22 (1)
Chiff Chaff 3 (0)
Willow Warbler 3 (0)
Coal Tit 1 (0)
Blue Tit 20 (23)
Great Tit 22 (36)
Chaffinch 3 (0)
Goldfinch 13 (0)
Bullfinch 1 (0)
Treecreeper 1 (0)

The Reed Warbler (on passage with a good fat score & not a resident) represents a new species on the 'ringed' list for the site as does Bullfinch and Treecreeper.

Above: Reed Warbler caught whilst on passage.

Above: A male Bullfinch.

Above: A Treecreeper

Monday, 18 July 2011

Guess who?

Somebody who shall remain nameless said to me upon seeing this: "Yes, I could recognise you in a line up". Ta! I might as well be put out to pasture now!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Photographs recovered

Thanks to my brother Mark (techno geekus), I was able to recover the photographs I accidentally deleted from Saturday's mega ringing session at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve.

Above: A juvenile Grasshopper Warbler

Above: An adult female Greenfinch

Above: An adult male Greenfinch

Above: An juvenile Greenfinch

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Ton up!

Another early start at the weekend = another ringing session. I woke up hoping for a good session, perhaphs 50 + birds (as per recent sessions here), a juvenile Grasshopper Warbler (there should be some about now) and the usual complement of Whitethroats. Could I break my record of 64 birds from 2 weeks ago?

Upon arrival the sun was beginning to rise, burning off the early morning fog and the air was still - an unusual occurrance recently and particularly at this site!

3 nets were erected (2 x 60ft and 1 x 30ft). I was soon catching birds: (retraps in brackets)

Blue Tit 13 (5) = 18 [13 juveniles]
Whitethroat 40 (6) = 46 [40 juveniles]Blackcap 9 (0) = 9 [7 juveniles]
Garden Warbler 0 (1)
Great Tit 6 (8) = 14 [14 juveniles - yes all of them! Where are the adults?]
Dunnock 2 (0) = 2 [both juveniles]
Chiff Chaff 3 (0) = 3 [all juveniles]
Sedge Warbler 3 (0) = 3 [all juveniles]
Wren 1 (1) = 2 [one juvenile]
Goldfinch 5 (0) = 5 [1 juvenile]
Greenfinch 4 (0) = 4 [NEW SPECIES ringed for SSNR - one Juvenile]
Willow Warbler 1 (0) = 1 [an adult]
Grasshopper Warbler 1 (1) = 2 [the new one being a juvenile]
Chaffinch 1 (1) = 2 [one juvenile]

111 birds of 14 species! 80 new birds and 31 retraps.

I suspect having missed a weekend out (last weekend), I caught more birds than I normally would do. By 12pm I had caught nearly 80 birds and the final tally of 111 birds was at 3.30pm. Having slowed significantly and with other things to do, I took the nets down!

Another ringing session today (CES Visit 7 at Priory CP) and 35 birds were caught. Click here for more info.

Sitting here writing this and processing the photographs, my very tired brain deleted yesterday's photographs :o( without the chance of recovery. I would have shown you Greenfinchs (a juvenile, an aduld male & female) and a juvenile Grasshopper Warbler. Whoops! Maybe another time. Now for some sleep!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Special Mission

With relevent permissions and a ringer with the correct license, I went on a special mission today: to ring a peregrine juvenile.

Above & Below: This peregrine is a male based on it's small size.

A first for me and a great experience!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Recovery at last!

My first ringing recovery (i.e. a bird I ringed found elsewhere).

A female Great Tit (ring number L098462) ringed at my dad's house in the Cotswolds, found freshly dead 496 days later on 14th May 2011 at Chedworth, Gloucestershire, 8km away.

I'm pleased as I was beginning to think I was doing something wrong!

Another 100+ weekend

Priory Country Park CES Visit 5: 48 birds of 13 species (retraps in brackets):

Whitethroat 3 (2)
Robin 3 (1)
Wren 3 (1)
Chaffinch 1 (1)
Dunnock 2 (2)
Blue Tit 3 (0)
Blackcap 3 (1)
Marsh Tit 1 (0)
Great Tit 5 (1)
Chiff Chaff 1 (0)
Bullfinch 0 (1)
Reed Warbler 2 (0)
Long Tailed Tit 9 (2)

Above: Marsh Tit (only the 4th of this species ringed at Priory CP).

Above: Thanks to Dave Kramer for this photograph of me exhaling after a net round with 20birds.

Thanks to John Anderson for scribing whilst we were processing a large 'tit flock', and to Dave Barnes and Dave Kramer and John again for helping David and myself release all the long tailed tits at the same time so that the family party remained together.

The good numbers on CES seem to be holding up - so long as a passing tit flock leaves behind a good few members of its party!

Sandy Smith Nature Reserve - 19/06/11

64 birds of 14 species: (retraps in brackets)

Great Tit 12 (6)
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 (1)
Blackbird 2 (0)
Dunnock 0 (3)
Wren 0 (1)
Chaffinch 1 (3)
Blue Tit 7 (2)
Sedge Warbler 0 (1)
Whitethroat 7 (6)
Chiff Chaff 4 (1)
Garden Warbler 1 (0)
Goldfinch 3 (0)
Grasshopper Warbler 0 (1)
Willow Warbler 1 (0)

Priory Country Park CES visit 5 - 18/06/11

Above: A juvenile Great Spotted Warbler.

Above: Adult female Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Green Wood Ringer strikes!

My first self caught Green Woodpecker!

The red in the malar stripe (below the eye) makes this a male.

Seeing a Green Woodpecker in the hand was one of my main motivations to become a bird ringer. I can't count the number of times I've seen one and willed it to go in the net!

As it flies away from you, laughing, the flash of green sticks in the memory.

The chance (however small) of someday having another one in the hand will keep me getting up at silly o'clock most weekends for a long, long time! And whilst I'm waiting for the next Green Woodpecker I might catch a few other birds that will put a big smile on my face too.

To see more info on the other birds I caught today (including only the second Coal Tit to be ringed at Priory Country Park) on CES visit 4, please click here.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Juvenile behaviour!

No, not my behavior, or my brothers (for once)! It's the time of year when we start seeing good numbers of juveniles from the early breeders.

SSNR 30/05/11: 21 birds of 8 species (retraps in brackets)

Great Tit 9 (0) - including 6 juveniles
Whitethroat 4 (1) - the retrap being first ringed as an adult June 2010.
Grasshopper Warbler 1 (0) - the 5th this year for this site and the first female
Blackcap 1 (0) - only the third of this species for the site
Dunnock 0 (2)
Chiff Chaff 1 (0)
Sedge Warbler 1 (0)
Great Spotted Woodpecker 0 (1) - A regularly caught male.

SSNR yesterday 04/06/11: 55 birds of 11 species (retraps in brackets)

Blue Tit 4 (3) - all the new birds were juveniles
Great Tit 4 (0) - including 3 juveniles
Whitethroat 6 (3) - one of the retraps being from June 2010
Chaffinch 9 (1) - including 6 juveniles
Goldfinch 7 (2) - including 2 juveniles
Garden Warbler 3 (0) - 2 males and a female (NEW FOR SITE)
Grasshopper Warbler 0 (2) - a pair
Willow Warbler 1 (0) - the first adult caught on site
Blackcap 8 (0) - mostly adult males except 1 adult female and one juvenile
Dunnock 0 (1) - first ringed on 3rd March 2011
Sedge Warbler 0 (1) - a retrap from May 2011

This is not typical of visits to SSNR and it came as a very welcome surprise. I suspect there are a few reasons for this:

1. weather - overcast first thing (lifting but not completely later on) and wind from the east ('light' to start with increasing to 'far too' by the end of the session). Normal = windy and from the west. Perhaps this was partially responsible for catching a lot of blackcaps (rarely ringed here) and the Garden Warblers (where did they come from?!?).

Above: Garden Warbler

2. I've not ringed at this time of year here with a feeding station. Without this, the catch would consist mainly of Warblers.

3. Juveniles - it's that time of year. Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks, Whitethroats, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Song Thrushes, Chaffinches, Starlings, Blackcaps - I have seen fledged young of all these species around Bedfordshire. Some examples coming up (all juveniles):

Above: Great Tit

Above: Blue Tit (taken at Priory Country Park).

Above: Robin (taken at Priory Country Park - no juvenile Robins have been caught so far at SSNR).

Above: Blackcap

Above: Goldfinch

Above: Chaffinch

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sardinia Birds 3

This will be the last update on Sardinia Birds (for this year!).

Above & Below: Zitting Cisticola (Fan-Tailed Warbler).

I saw these in Menorca last year but never got a good view. The two phographs above were taken on the last day where we visited the salt pans virtually next to the airport. It was well worth the visit and at one point, a Zitting Cisticola was so close I couldn't focus the telescope on it. I found them in the long grass along a fence line and the second photograph was taken as I was observing it moving in and out of the cut grass left on the ground looking for food.

Above: Slender Billed Gull

Having not connected with this species anywhere else in Sardinia (not that we tried specifically), we had read that this species was to be found at the same salt pans. This bird was not overly bothered by our presence and was the only one I saw - if only some of the other birds I saw would pose long enough for a photograph!

Unfortunately, I was not confident of my ID but I am fairly sure we saw a Black Kite here too.

Above: Kentish Plover. Beaches with sand dunes was where I found many of these (including 8 on one beach). Photographing them can only be at distance as they scurry away if you get anywhere near them! I also saw a few at different salt pans (also where I saw one in Menorca).

Above: This Curlew Sandpiper was on this pool on the same beach as the 8 Kentish plovers. The fading light wasn't good for great photographs though.

Above: Winchat. Probably the best photograph of the holiday.

Above: Horned (Shore) Lark. I left probably the second best bird (and the most unexpected) until last.

Walking along, a bird flew from the rocky shore to my left, across the very small headland to the other side. In a situation where any bird I find could turn out to be interesting or something I've never seen before, I'd have been annoyed with myself had I not checked out what it was. Once I'd seen it in the scope, I said "Dad, we're definitely interested in this bird!" The very obliging bird posed for quite a while in the end. Not sure if these are resident or passage migrants in Sardinia or very rare. Collins bird guide suggests this might be a rare record. I certainly didn't read anything before going suggesting you could see this speceis here.

I should do something to try and find out ...

Sardinia birds 2

There are a lot of suitable sites to watch birds in Sardinia but you have to travel to get a wide range of species. And travel takes time in Sardinia. We could only find 1 to 200000 scale maps (OS maps are 1 to 25000 in the UK) and these weren't that helpful by not showing all the roads!

When the map indicated that the route we wanted to take was going straight on through a town, we often found that due to chaotic one way systems, the actual route was far from straight forward. The lack of signs at major junctions was also not very helpful. And I don't recommend short cuts as you'll soon find yourself lost!

Wildlife tourism here is possible, it's just that signage, directions in literature and information are often hard to come by. Knowing enough Italian to ask for directions & understand them is essential!

Species such as Spanish Sparrow and Hooded Crow were very easy. But Crag Martin and Citril Finch took some travelling to find (slow going up & down those mountain roads) although this may have been just a result of the places we chose to travel to!

Above: A Woodchat Shrike.

Above: Spotted Flycatcher. Whilst sitting in the picnic/cafe area of a 'cultural location', a pair of Spotted Flycatchers were flitting around very close by. It was rude not to take a photograph!

Above: A Wheatear. I only saw this species above the tree line whilst walking up to the top of the highest mountain in Sardinia.

Above: Citril Finch. Again, only recorded above the tree line whilst walking up to the top of the highest mountain in Sardinia. It took us a long time to drive there, but once parked, it took only a minute to find these small finches.

Above: Funny story - the first species I saw on the holiday was a Starling. The plane had been on the ground less than a minute! But it was bothering me for several days. I kept on seeing Starlings but in my mind, I was questioning this ID. "They're a bit black" I was saying to myself. "They can't be blackbirds can they? No, I'm sure they're Starlings." But I'd not seen them up close because when I saw them, I/we were driving and they were at a distance. Anyway, when I finally looked up Starling in the book I found there was such a thing as Spotless Starling! My mind was easier but it still took a day or two to 'spot' one and confirm their spotlessness. The photograph (above) doesn't really show it very well.

Above: Hooded Crow. My holiday was punctuated with many shouts of 'what's that Edward?' My standard reply was - another Hooded Crow dad!

Above: Jackdaw. Whilst the hooded crow was common, this was only one of 2 Jackdaws seen (the other being at the same time as this one). The Hooded Crow (pictured above) and this Jackdaw were vying for position on the telegraph pole.

Above: Spanish Sparrow - this bird was one of many nesting in the roof of our hotel. They were everywhere and were by far the most recorded species on the holiday.

More to come yet!