Saturday, 20 November 2010

A good day - Cetti's Warbler and Siberian Chiffchaff

Another early start on Rimrose and once again, it was left to me and Tineke to set the nets, the usual line at the feeding station, one in the willows and we were finally able to get a net in the reed bed. The reed bed has been fairly inaccessible since the summer - the water level in the reed bed has increased significantly and with my time in Portugal over the summer, the lines had become overgrown.

The early start once again paid dividends, although there were less thrushes about - we didn't see or hear a single Fieldfare. There were a lot more Blackbirds than there had been recently but the Redwing numbers have decreased, with only 19 Redwing were seen in flight. Early on, four Blackbirds and four Redwing came to calls, as well as a young male Reed Bunting.

One of four Redwing

I had taken two Potter traps along this morning to see if we could catch any of the Moorhens or Water Rails that have been on the Valley in abundance in the past few weeks (we heard at least five individual Rails). We were rewarded with two Moorhens - a good early ringing tick for Neil Diamond (who had, at this point arrived, along with Moxey who had been to feed up at Crosby Hall).

One of two Moorhens

A first year male Reed Bunting

After last weeks excitement involving Firecrests and control Goldcrest, I wasn't really expecting anything special. On an early net round, after a couple of retrap Wrens, it looked like we had another - but I saw a grey bellied Wren-shaped bird at the far end in the Willows - from a good distance, I thought 'House Wren' - joking around of course, but from the end of the net, I recognised this bird.

A couple of expletives and a scramble for my phone and it was in the bag. A first-year female Cetti's Warbler. Me and Moxey had speculated all summer that Rimrose Valley offered a number of excellent breeding sites for Cettia cetti. In fact, North Lancs Ringing Group have recently blogged on the Cetti's situation up their way - Cetti's Warbler - The Mystery Deepens.
I would say the mystery has deepened as this bird was a first-year female (wing length 55mm)!

Coincidentally, Ian had a free morning before heading off to the Bird Fair at Martin Mere and arrived in time to ring (and see) his first Cetti's Warbler. I've ringed hundreds of Cetti's Warblers in Portugal over the years so I was made up to see Ian ring the bird, the first ringed by SWLRG!

Ian Wolfenden - the wolf that got the cream!

Cettia cetti

Ten tail feathers = Cetti's Warbler

I thought that was that, a steady morning ringing steady numbers of Chaffinch and Greenfinch with the odd Goldcrest and Bullfinch thrown in for good measure. However, on the penultimate net round of the day, we caught an unusual Phylloscopus. When we got back to the ringing table, we gave it a thorough examination and took photos. Given the emargination on the primaries, it was clearly a collybita and we suspected that it was likely to be the tristis subspecies. The bird was very pale and very striking in comparison to the Chiffchaff we caught earlier on in the month, which was much browner. Svennson came out and given the wing length, pale colour and biometrics, it fitted with the description of the tristis form. Whilst Moxey is a vastly experienced ringer and I also have over ten years experience as a serious ringer, we don't claim that we have got this one right. Make your own mind up on this one, as always, I would love to hear feedback from anyone with more experience of handling this bird.

Phylloscopus collybita tristis (?)

Slightly blurry wing, back and tail

Back, rump and tail

In-hand shot

Goldcrest - 1
Wren - 2 (2)
L.T.Tit - 1 (2)
Chiffchaff tristis - 1
Bullfinch - 2
Cettis Warbler - 1
Goldfinch - 1
Great Tit - 1 (8)
Blue Tit - 8 (5)
Chaffinch - 13 (1)
Reed Bunting - 1
Moorhen - 2
Greenfinch - 13 (2)
Blackbird - 6
Redwing - 4
Dunnock - (2)
Robin - (2)

TOTAL: 56 (24)

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

First Fieldfare...

The forecast for Sunday was much better than it has been for Saturday, so we set out for the usual pre-dawn set-up ready for the Thrushes leaving the roost at Brook Vale. There weren't as many thrushes around as there had been in previous weeks but before I had even put the music on, I had a mystery bird in the net. As I was finishing putting up the line, Tineke went to get the music and as I walked along the net to open, a bird - smaller than a Water Rail - flew along and into the half open net. Naturally, I legged it, but the bird got out and scampered into the reeds. I guess it'll be one of those 'the-one-that-got-away' stories, so to rationalise, I'll believe it was a Water Rail and the half-light obscurred my judgement. That just leaves the imaginative part of my brain wondering whether it was a Crake species... I'll just have to get some Potters down I think!
Last weeks first-year male Sparrowhawk

Amongst the dawn thrushes was one Song Thrush, seven Redwing and a Fieldfare (at least one got out as I was getting to the net). The thrushes were soon off to feed and then the finches came - interestingly and in total contrast to the Saturday at Crosby Hall, finches were dominant over tits in the ringing totals. Moxey arrived to see the thrushes (again leaving me and Tineke to do the donkey work!) and Neil Diamond came down mid-morning as he continues his introduction to ringing. Neil Diamond is a useful aquisition to the team - his cheeky tarpaulin came in very handy! The rain showers kicked in around 10am and were intermittent after that, so we stuck with it until about midday, opening and closing as best we could.

Adult Fieldfare - the first for Brook Vale

Fieldfare - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Redwing - 7
Blackbird - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 5 (9)
Goldfinch - 2
Chaffinch - 5 (1)
Bullfinch - 2
Greenfinch - 18
Goldcrest - (1)
Great Tit - (3)
Robin - (3)
Dunnock - (2)
Wren - (2)

TOTAL: 44 (21)

The annual total for Brook Vale is now standing at 770 - that is since mid-May and includes healthy totals of Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blackcap and Reed Warbler. We're pretty pleased with that and we are looking forward to seeing what kind of total we could post for the whole year of 2011.

With an increased feeding regime at Fulwood Marsh, I hope to give that a go at the weekend, although Crosby Hall is still looking good, as is Brook Vale - spoilt for choice you could say! Fingers crossed for the weather!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Firecrests are like buses....

The humble yet elegant Firecrest has, for me, been somewhat of a 'bogey' bird. That bogey was beaten thanks to Paulo Tenreiro on my recent trip to Portugal, where we caught three at Santa Olaia - a fantastic day! Having missed out on Firecrests due to bad timing and misfortune I was glad to break the duck, so to speak. Five ringing sessions later. Crosby Hall. One mile from where I grew up in Crosby. Two Firecrests in one day.

First-year (EURING code 3) Male Firecrest

Before the Firecrests turned up, I was already pretty happy. Although I started the session on my own, Moxey joined later on, in time to see a few Redwing (the first caught at CHET) and a young female Brambling (also the first caught at CHET). Unusually, there was a complete lack of finches, only one Greenfinch was seen, a couple of Goldfinches were heard. As a result, the session was dominated by Blue Tits and Great Tits, although seventeen Blackbirds were caught, fifteen of which were sampled for the Blackbird Project.

Goldcrest and Firecrest

The mp3 and speakers had, so far, brought in the Firecrests and a couple of Goldcrests and over the course of the morning and early afternoon, this increased to six Goldcrest ringed and one control, a young male, ring number BVK638 - if this is one of yours, let me know! Moxey reckons it might only be the second or third Goldcrest control that SWLRG has had.

The 53 and 122 to Crosby Hall

I am not really one for 'trophy' shots, however, this photo is a tribute to my friend Oliver Slessor, who volunteered at AuBO in Canada, when I was running the ringing and education program there. Oliver always had to have a photo taken with any 'new' bird. So here's to you Ollie!

The 'Oliver Slessor' Shot

Crosby Hall

Firecrest - 2
Goldcrest - 6 (1 control)
Redwing - 3
Blackbird - 14 (3)
Robin - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 2 (1)
Great Tit - 16 (14)
Blue Tit - 22 (12)
L.T.Tit - 10 (1)
Coal Tit - (2)
Chaffinch - 5 (1)
Brambling - 1
Wren - 1
Treecreeper - 1
Nuthatch - (2)

TOTAL - 85 (34) 1 control

The weather turned out a lot better than the forecast suggested, the winds were not as strong an it remained dry - definately a day worth getting out of bed for!

Brook Vale tomorrow, weather permitting - hoping to catch some more Redwing and break the duck with the Fieldfare! Here's a picture of last week's Woodcock from Fulwood:


Thursday, 11 November 2010

Something brighter on a blustery day!

I have been without internet for the past few days, hence the lack of my usual weekly update. Whilst the weather today has been positively blustery, the weather yesterday wasn't so bad and Moxey was able to get into Ince Blundell and catch around 50 birds, mainly made up of titmice. This follows on from a productive Saturday morning at Brook Vale that saw a young male Sprawk disrupt the 70-80 Fieldfare and 60-70 Redwing that were trying to get caught in the line. We did however ring four Redwing and the Sprawk. Total ringed ended up as 59, cut short by a rain shower that became persistant.

Sunday was a different story. A frost and a missing mp3 player meant we weren't at full potential catching capacity, but I did manage to catch and ring my first Woodcock. Interestingly it has since been blogged elsewhere that there were observed movements of Woodcock over the weekend and into Monday. The Woodcock was the only highlight however and a total of 13 birds were ringed, before an early dart and a hot shower!Since the weekend, I have added more feeders at Fulwood which seem to be taking a bit of a battering and Moxey reports good activity at Crosby Hall and Brook Vale. The weekend forecast doesn't look promising, but hopefully we'll manage to squeeze a few hours in somewhere, especially at dawn, to try and boost our totals of Redwing (the highest we have had in the group for a number of years).

To brighten those that are looking at a weekend that is forecasted to be too windy to mist net, here are some previously un-posted pictures of my most recent Portugal trip (October Half Term).
Getting some ringing in at Taipal

Ageing and sexing Penduline Tits according to Svennson

Short-toed Treecreeper (C. brachydactyla)

Cetti's Warblers enjoy a challenge!

Taipal in the morning


The ringing team at Veiga da S. Simao

Sunset at Viana do Castelo after the Nictocorax

Tó Pereira looking out over the Lima River at Veiga da S. Simao

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Portugal Trip by Moxey

Moxey in Portugal October 2010

21st October

Left Liverpool at 9.30am and arrived in Porto at 11.30am courtesy of Ryanair. Was met immediately by my great friend Paulo Tenreiro (PQT) and treated to a tour of the Douro valley. This was a new experience for me even though I have visited Portugal over 30 times. Some very spectacular scenery and the wine terraces were amazing. Douro wines are some of the best in the world - just ask Alex Ferguson after meeting Jose Mourinho. The region is not only famous for its Port wine.

The wine terraces of the Douro Valley

The weather was great- warm and sunny with not a cloud in the sky. In other words typical Portuguese weather. Paulo as per usual was well organized for the trip with great food and cold Super Bock. Our destination was Vimioso which is near Miranda de Douro in the north east of the country. We arrived after dark and while Paulo slept in the camper van I as an 'old man' was treated to a room in a small hotel.

22nd Friday

Paulo was up bright and early and had the day planned. We were to look for a good ringing site for the course he was running on Saturday and Sunday as well as touring the area. He had identified a couple of sites where roads crossed over rivers. The first site was a few kms outside Vimioso on the road to Miranda. It looked immediately very promissing. Cirl bunting was singing and a small party of Red-rumped Swallows were hawking over the river. The hillside seemed to be alive with birds and we identified a number of potential net sites.

We then headed off after seeing a cracking male Black Redstart and some Rock Buntings to the spectacular Douro gorge seeing Red Kites on the way. Lots of Chiffchaffs were in the bushes and Woodlarks were in good voice. Unfortunately, the vultures did not show with the Egyptians having the excuse of being in Africa at this time. We moved north to Miranda - a beautiful town and then further north to lunch at another site overlooking the Douro. What a place - lots of birds including Crag Martins and I am sure at the right time lots of Warblers.

Then on to another potential site but this had houses near the river which were not marked on the map. So off we set to the first site. Rides were cut with the Cirl Buntings singing away. Nets were erected and then furled so everything was ready for the following morning. Then after dark back to Vimioso to meet up with Paulo Ferreira (PJF) and Miguel Araujo. Emanuel Ribeiro joined us and PJF drove us to Mogadouro where we had a fantastic steak - the biggest and best I have ever had.

23rd Saturday

Out to the nets so they were all open before dawn. It a was bright and sunny morning but very cold. Birds were everywhere and we soon had some good birds.Two Firecrests and a young male Green Wood pecker were in one line. Firecrest has been a bogey bird for Peter so I expect he did not appreciate my text. Paulo Had to leave to go back to Vimioso for 9 to give the course but not before he handed PJF a bag. The look on PJF's face when he took out his first Bullfinch, a stunning male,was a sight to behold.

The 'bogey' bird.

Miguel Araújo and the Green Woodpecker (for once Miguel was silenced!)

The day soon warmed up and bags had to be kept in the shade as there was not a cloud to be seen. Miguel is full of life (does he ever stop talking) and Paulo were great company. It was a memorable day with 99 birds ringed including Siskins,Black Redstart,Rock Buntings, Cirl Buntings, Kingfishers and Grey Wagtail. We also caught Dunnocks which made them very happy. They were amused by my comment 'there is only one thing worse than a Dunnock and that is a retrap Dunnock'. The day was rounded off very nicely with a Blackcap carrying a Dutch ring. Hilbre I hear also got one within a day or two of this.

Cirl and Rock Bunting.

A nice sight was a Goshawk being mobbed by a Sparrowhawk.

24th Sunday

Another early start but a quieter day.with only 28 birds ringed in the morning. It was a practical session for rthe course members. Paulo is a great communicator and teacher and he really held their attention. I am sure they gained a great deal from his presentations and explanations.

I had to leave the ringing early to go to Mass in Vimioso at noon. It coincided with the visit of the local bishop and lasted just over an hour. In that time all the nets were taken down and i was joined for lunch by the rest at 1.30. Then back to Brasfemes to spend the next few days at Paulo's.

25th Monday.

Way back in 1977 I participated in the Iberian Ringing Group visit to Portugal. I was based at the northern site at Lameira, Arzila. I had a great time and found the local people extremely friendly and generous. We could leave the camp unattended with all our valuables there without fear of anything going missing. Paulo is based at Arzila which is now a protected area and it was great to come back and visit it today. We put up a few nets and caught a few Chiffchaffs. Blue Tits and a Blackcap. One of the Blue Tits had grotty leg which is the first time I have seen it on this species. Chaffinches and Sedge Warblers are the usual species I see it on. While walking around the area I saw a Purple Gallinule and flushed A Barn Owl. Elsewhere Marsh Harriers and a Booted Eaglewere good sightings.

Paul do Arzila

26th Tuesday

An early start to arrive before dawn at Salreu, Aveiro.What a site! It is huge and the scope for ringing is enormous. It is the site where Julio Neto- another great guy rings. He has often invited me to come to Salreu and now I have finally made it. Paulo and I were joined by Paulo (even though it was his wife's birthday) and Joao Pedro Neves another good friend. Julio is in Sweden so was not with us.

The Chiffchaff net with PQT and JPN

The site is extremely important for the sub-species Lusitanicus of the Reed Bunting and we caught it along with the nominate race. They are much smaller and have a different bill.

It was another excellent session with 125 birds ringed as well as 2 British controls - a Chiffchaff and a Reed Warbler.64 and 10 respectively of these species were ringed aswell as 15 Reed Buntings.

Around the marsh Marsh Harriers and Black-shoulded Kites as well as lots of White Storks werte seen. Water Rails were were very evident from their squeals and a Common Sandpiper flew down the channel.


After lunch in a local restaurant we adjourned to PJF's where a few coffees and ports were taken. Then back to Brasfemes and to await the Prodigal Son's arrival from ringing in the north with Tó and Rui.

27th Wednesday

Up again and off to Taipal with Paulo and Peter. Arrived before dawn and two lines of nets set up. Breakfast taken in Montemor and a single net set up for Firecrests to lay Peter's bogey. Another brilliant session with 89 birds ringed. The bogey was laid to rest with 3 Firecrests ringed. there were still some Reed Warblers about and lots of Chiffchaffs. I also encountered my first Penduline Tits since ringing on the Ebro Delta in 1975 with Dave Okill. Adult and juvenile birds helped get our eye in on the ageing criteria. We were once again struck by how clean our Treecreepers are compared to the Short-toeds.

Firecrest - the bogey laid to rest!

Moxey and PQT

Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) - Adult male (left) & juvenile (right).

After lunch, we made a short visit back to Arzila and then back to Brasfemes for our final night in Portugal before flying back to Liverpool from Porto on Thursday at mid-day in time for my wedding anniversary.

My thanks go to Paulo, Isobel and their daughters Ana and Daniella for as ever making us feel so much at home. They wine and dine us so well and make us so comfortable. Truly a great family and great friends.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Redwing & Late Chiffchaff

Only 24 hrs after returning from the Portugal trip, I was back at Brook Vale with Tineke to try and catch any late migratory Blackcaps and Chiffchaff that were still hanging around. I had heard Chiffchaff calling on Sandy Road when I was feeding up on Friday, so the Chiffchaff call was on the mp3 ready to go! The nets were up, as usual, before dawn and the Redwing call played, resulting in an early catch of eight Redwing. After the initial Redwing, it was a while before the catch rate picked up, with Greenfinches and Chaffinches proving the most active at the feeding station. I put the Chiffchaff and Goldcrest calls on following the early Redwing, which brought the Chiffy and a pair of Goldcrests.

A late Chiffchaff
Goldcrest - 2
L.T.Tit - 7 (3)
Chiffchaff - 1
Wren - 1
Blue Tit - 7 (2)
Great Tit - 7 (3)
Chaffinch - 7
Greenfinch - 8
Redwing - 8
Blackbird - 2
Robin - (1)
Dunnock - (2)

TOTAL: 50 (12)

Whilst most people were sleeping off a hangover, or just enjoying that extra hour in bed, myself and Moxey were out at the new site, Fulwood Marsh, to see if we could catch some more Redwing, Reed Buntings and other finches. Since setting up a small feeding station at the site, we have only ringed there twice. The Redwing were abundant with small flocks of 15-25 responding well to the calls we were playing, however only three were caught. The height of the surround willows meant that the birds were reluctant to come down low enough to be caught. We tried a couple of different locations which turned up Bullfinch and Goldcrest, later on Linnet and Reed Bunting responded to the calls.

Encouragingly, Siskin, Redpoll and Brambling were all either seen or heard, as well as flocks of upto 40 Fieldfare flying over. Whilst I don't expect to ever catch large numbers at this new site, it does offer prospects of a wider range of species to any of our other sites.

A juvenile female Goldcrest
Bullfinch - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Redwing - 3
Blackbird - 1
Wren - 1 (1)
Great Tit - 3
Blue Tit - 11
L.T.Tit - 2
Robin - 1 (1)
Goldcrest - 3
Linnet - 1
Reed Bunting - 1
TOTAL: 29 (2)

Over the next few days I will blog on me and Moxey's trip to Portugal and some of the ringing sessions while we were there - lots to show and tell!