Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Did I reach my target?

Oh, yes I did ...
Oh, no I didn't ...
But which is it?

I'm in Gloucester now until the end of the year. Depending on the weather at my Dad's house, I might get some ringing in - there are 4 Blackbirds hanging around daily on the patio, each with a ring on (more than likely mine) as well as Dunnocks, Coal Tits and plenty of Blue Tits (no change there then!). Having done all the ringing I am going to do this year in Bedfordshire, it's time to do a final check on totals.

The final count for Priory Country Park this year was 986 handlings. The weather (mainly) and other commitments meant I didn't make a final attempt to catch the extra 14 birds I would need to make it 1000 for the year. Having caught over 1400 last year, I'm not so fussed.

As you may have read previously, my totals at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (SSNR) have been subject to much fretting over whether I would make 1000 or not. Last year, I reached 999 handlings. One more hour (or less) of effort in 2011 and I wouldn't have been thinking twice about my totals for this year, but as somebody pointed out I had failed (in jest, of course), I had to make sure of 1000 this year.

In my last post, I wasn't sure if I would make it. Decent catch totals in November and early December were making the target achievable, but totals suddenly dropped off after the cold snap melted and the rains returned. The luck that brought a foreign control Blackcap one weekend and a foreign control Siskin the next (with 70+ other birds), deserted me.

Heavy rain and strong winds stopped ringing activities on at least one day each weekend. So on Friday 21st, with a forecast of heavy rain for the weekend and parents demanding my return to Gloucester ASAP, I decided to take the day off work and set my nets. Come what may, at the end of the day, the likelihood was that if I hadn't reached 1000 handlings, that would be it. Being 25 birds short, I figured that it was possible (30 was the total on the previous weekend).

Liz, the Greensand Trust ranger for the site made an unexpected visit and gave me some encouragement!

Above: Shortly afterward Liz's visit (I say shortly but in ringing terms, 2 hours + is a long time if you're not catching many birds) I caught this Great Spotted Woodpecker. Handling no. 1000 in 2012 for SSNR.

Above: The entry on my data sheet. Bird no. 25 for the day = 1000 for the year.

I made it! Now for some well earned rest (and the inevitable cold that comes when you stop). Merry Christmas to you all. I hope you have a good New Year.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Hot on the heels...

... of the Strasbourg ringed Blackcap last weekend, today I caught a bird with a Brussels ring on! Not a Blackcap this time but one I've been hoping for since I first started catching Siskins at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (SSNR). Siskins here can prove very elusive when it comes to ringing them.

The area is full of mature Alders and as a consequence, the Siskins a) have lots of natural food and b) stay above net height most of the time.

When I do catch them, it is an entirely random event - the only reason I can offer is that, possibly, a bird of prey (Kestrel or Sparrowhawk) has spooked them whilst they've been near the netting area and have consequently flown lower and left with a ring on. Evidence for this being I've also caught a Kestrel at the same time as my previous highest single round catch of Siskin. This does not hold all the time though as they must come to the feeders occasionally.

Today I caught my highest single round catch ever (2 x 60ft and 1 x 30ft nets only). This also included my single highest round totals of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll.


Above: My ringing station with 40 bird bags, each with a bird in (about 20 birds was my previous high)! At the nets, I was faced with extracting 19 Siskin, 12 Lesser Redpoll + assorted others. It was a big surprise and I had to be quick!

A tip for other ringers who ring out of the back of their cars - I have plastic hooks (upside down so that the hooks are the right way up when the boot is open) stuck on the back window. They need to have very good adhesive and they work remarkably well. 4 for 99p was a very good investment!

 Above: The star bird from Brussels - a female Siskin.

Above: One of several male Lesser Redpolls. I've now ringed 61 at SSNR this year.

I have found ringing this year, particularly at SSNR, has been very rewarding. I've added a number of new species to the ringing list for this site such as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Mistle Thrush, House Martin, Brambling & Common Redpoll (there are a few more). Each one has been charming in it's own way and brings back memories. Adding to an already successful day:

 Above: A new species ringed at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve - Linnet.

Above: The white in the primary feathers extends to the shaft in males - as in this one above. It had a hint of red on its breast, also indicating it is a male.

The Linnet was caught late on and I am hopeful of ringing more of this species here.

Todays totals are as follows (retraps in brackets):

Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 (0) - the third new one this month
Wren 0 (1)
Dunnock 0 (1)
Blackbird 3 (1)
Song Thrush 2 (0) - 4 this month constitutes a major increase at this site!
Goldcrest 1 (1) - the first retrap for this site therefore a site longevity record!
Blue Tit 5 (10)
Great Tit 0 (1) - I was surprised this was the only one I caught!
Chaffinch 2 (0)
Goldfinch 3 (0)
Siskin 18 (1 foreign control)
Linnet 1 (0) - a first ringing record for the site
Lesser Redpoll 22 (1) - only the second retrapped at this site & will be a site longevity record
Reed Bunting 1 (0)

76 birds - 59 new, 16 retraps and 1 control of 14 species. I now need 55 handlings at SSNR to reach 1000 for the year. It is probably now possible to do this in one visit, though it may well take 2. It's now looking more achievable!

Finally, this Blog is very close to 10,000 page views (only six more to go). I hope all my page viewers have enjoyed reading my mutterings and bird related adventures and will continue to tune in!

Monday, 3 December 2012

News just in

A Chiffchaff ringed at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve on 15th July this year was controlled in Letchworth on 27th August, 43 days later. A movement of 11km in an ESE direction.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Another day, more birds!

Ringing today took place at Priory Country Park. I wanted to try for Corn Buntings coming to roost again on the crescent but on inspection, the ringing rack was mostly under water (waders needed) so this plan was abandoned. I did put my nets up in the rough though.

It was a slow start but by the end of the day, I had caught enough birds to make it a successful day.

Above: An adult male Kestrel. Only the second to have been ringed at Priory Country Park in over 20 years. Perhaps the cold and the frost had forced this individual to hunt for food and shelter in or near the Rough (the main ringing area). It was being mobbed by a Magpie or two before it and the Magpie were caught in the net (the Magpie escaped just before I got to it!).

Above: A female Blackcap. 2 males were also ringed. Good records. After my Strasbourg ringed individual yesterday at Sandy Smith Naure Reserve (see here), we're hoping these will get recaptured somewhere on the continent next spring/summer!

Above: One of 6 Lesser Redpolls. I have now caught 25 Redpolls at Priory CP this autumn.

Totals for the day (retraps in brackets):

Kestrel 1 (0)
Wren 2 (2)
Dunnock 0 (1)
Blackbird 5 (0)
Blackcap 3 (0)
Goldcrest 1 (1)
Long Tailed Tit 0 (2)
Blue Tit 1 (2)
Great Tit 1 (1)
Chaffinch 1 (0)
Lesser Redpoll 6 (0)
Bullfinch 3 (0)

The Kestrel was the obvious highlight closely followed by the 6 Lesser Redpolls.

Ringing more Blackcaps, Lesser Redpolls and Blackbirds are a priority at the moment as these have more potential to go somewhere interesting - and be found (though in truth I'll ring anything I can catch at the same time!).

Whilst out ringing I spotted, deep in the brambles, one of my (presumed) stolen bird feeders! 10 minutes of work with the shears and I had retrieved it - in tact. I then put it back up with nyger seed in it. Before I left, I also found half of the peanut feeder so just one and a half left to find! I am now pretty sure they are there to be found, just that they are buried deep somewhere. If I can find them, I'll put them back up

I think that I got caught in a battle between people inappropriately using the park (building dens & stealing materials to do so) and the rangers (trying to stop it). The den builders probably thought the feeders were council property & threw them away to make them difficult to find. This ties in with damage to council property at the same time. Bizarrely given the situation, I enjoyed the exercise it took to cut back the vegetation in order to get the feeders. So it did me some good!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Are winter Blackcaps from the continent?

Having blogged in previous posts about catching a couple of winter Blackcaps recently. Our overwintering population of Blackcaps are thought to be continental in origin rather than being part of the summer population overstaying.

Perhaps the control juvenile female Blackcap I caught today at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve has something to add to this story. I can't show you as I didn't have my camera, but it had a Strasbourg ring on!

So it was hatched this year (on pointy tail shape for you ringers) and has moved roughly in a North Westerly direction since it was ringed, to find itself in the heart of Bedfordshire, England. And that's all I can tell you about my first self caught foreign ringed bird.

Totals today amounted to 55 birds (22 new and 33 retrap) of 13 species (retraps in brackets)

Great Spotted Woodpecker 2 (0)
Wren 1 (0)
Dunnock 1 (1)
Robin 1 (1)
Blackbird 4 (0)
Song Thrush 2 (0)
Blackcap 0 (1) A control from the 'Strasbourg' area!
Long Tailed Tit 0 (1)
Blue Tit 3 (18)
Great Tit 2 (10)
Chaffinch 0 (1)
Goldfinch 2 (0)
Lesser Redpoll 4 (0)

In my last post, I told you that I needed 186 handlings to beat my 2011 total for Sandy Smith Nature Reserve. After today, I need 131. If I'm lucky I can do that in 3 sessions, and if that luck holds, I can fit those 3 sessions in before the end fo the year. I'm still hoping!