Monday, 27 December 2010

And the thaw begins...

The forecast looked pretty bleak this morning, depending on which forecast you paid attention to. Nevertheless, Neil Diamond joined myself and Tineke down at Brook Vale for a session in the hope that the onset of the Great Thaw would see a rise in numbers at the feeding station. We were not rewarded as richly as we had hoped, but there was some quality in what we caught. Neil ringed his first GRSWO, the first for the site and we also caught only our second Fieldfare for the site this year.

(Comrade) Neil Diamond gets busy with a REEBU

The constant SE breeze was a hindrance and no-doubt influenced our catch rate but as in recent days, there hasn't been such a high density of feeding birds at Brook Vale. This is in stark contrast to Crosby Hall, where there is a high concentration of feeding birds and it is of no surprise that this is the more rural of the two sites. With this in mind, it is curious to note that Ian has reported upto ten Reed Buntings feeding in his garden in Thornton (c2km from Fulwood) at a time, some ringed on the right leg (Ian rings on the left leg). The Reed Buntings seemingly making a choice to head into the gardens, where there is a greater risk of predation (cats, Sparrowhawks et al.) over the feeding stations at Brook Vale and Fulwood Marsh.

Fieldfare - 1
Great Tit - 6 (3)
Blue Tit - 4 (2)
Chaffinch - 2
Greenfinch - 5
Reed Bunting - 2
Blackbird - 1
G.S. Woodpecker - 1
Wren - (1)
Robin - (1)
Dunnock - (1)

TOTAL: 22 (8)

Interestingly, two Black-headed Gulls and a further Redwing were caught in the mist net in Moxeys garden on Sunday. The BHG's are a new species for the garden and the Redwing is the fourth in as many days.

I'm off to Holland for a few days, returning on 31st December in time to get to the Stoke vs. Everton game at the Britania Stadium. So that is me done for 2010. Moxey is due to give Crosby Hall an overdue session before the end of the calendar year. The Woodhams feeding station is now up and running (now that the Pheasant population has decreased somewhat) so Moxey should be getting in there a bit more regular. With 2011 looming, the anticipation for a busy spring and summer starts to build...just got to get through January, February and March first!

Have a good one!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Ringing at Ho-Ho-Home!

...sorry I couldn't resist. Through this week we have been very active at the feeding stations at Crosby Hall, Fulwood Marsh and Brook Vale. When I have been filling the feeders, I usually retreat to a distance to watch and see what comes to the feeders. This makes a change from the usual feeding routine as I am usually feeding up in the dark after work.

In the past week, the number of Reed Buntings at Brook Vale and Fulwood have increased, with birds now visiting the feeding stations, something that they weren't doing before the cold snap. Woodcock have also become more visible, with the number of observations at eight in three visits to Rimrose Valley. On Friday, there were three Snipe seen at Brook Vale, in addition to three Water Rail. Whilst at the feeding station, I did my best to break as much of the ice as possible (which brought a Snipe in within twenty mins) although given the temperature, it quickly refroze. A Buzzard was getting a hard time from seven Magpies and flew across the football fields, during weather like this, birds of prey are bound to suffer, as reported by the BTO (here)

A mist net in Moxey's garden (allowing for birds to be removed immediately) has yielded a few goodies over the past few days:

L.T.Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 3 (2)
Great Tit - 2
Coal Tit - 1
Wren - 3
House Sparrow - 1
Redwing - 3
Blackbird - 8 (2)
Fieldfare - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Robin - 1 (1)
Collared Dove - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Starling - 2
Sparrowhawk - (1)

TOTAL: 29 (6)

The Sparrowhawk was originally ringed on the 4th December in Thornton by Ian, a short-term retrap and a cracking male!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A slight improvement...

The plan today was to see if the air temperature was high enough to complete a short session at one of our feeding sites. We didn't want to be out too long, as we wanted to keep disturbance to a minimum, so we headed down to Brook Vale at about 10am - giving the birds time to feed up in the morning. I've been curious during this cold snap, to know how the birds are coping, what their fat scores are like and their overall weight so collecting a small sample of birds would allow us to see this.

With just two nets at the feeding station, we caught three Reed Buntings, one Chaffinch, a retrap Dunnock and a Great Tit. One of the Reed Buntings got out of the net before we could get to it. It was encouraging to see that every one of the birds that we caught in the hour that we had the nets up was above average weight with all of the birds carrying fat reserves. The Chaffinch weighed in at 26.3g, which is well above average despite the weather. This small sample suggests that some of our small birds are doing well and I think that this is largely due to the efforts of people who feed wild birds, as most birds have moved into gardens where there is a greater concentration of high-energy food.

Whilst we were at Brook Vale, we recorded Woodcock, Water Rail (in flight, no squealers) and Buzzard. The numbers of birds in the area was relatively low, hopefully that is because they were in the gardens, but I have no doubt that there will be a high mortality rate from this cold weather.

From Brook Vale we headed on to Fulwood to feed up, the tables were cleared but the feeders still had some food in them, we might give it a go there tomorrow. Onwards to Crosby Hall - the feeders and table were almost out of food, so we fed up and pushed off to a distance to watch. The birds came in straight away.

Brook Vale

Reed Bunting - 2
Chaffinch - 1
Great Tit - 1
Dunnock - (1)

TOTAL: 4 (1) Garden

Blackbird - 3
L.T.Tit - 1
Redwing - 1
Blue Tit - 1
House Sparrow - 1
Robin - (1)

TOTAL: 7 (1)

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Not much better...

Yesterday I told the world (or the few readers of this blog) how much I hated snow. Today, that opinion hasn't changed. In fact it has intensified. However, today there is a new outlet for my venom...Sefton Council. For those of you that are not in the UK, or aware of the icy weather that has the UK by the proverbial 'cojones' - then I will tell you that it is cold. Here in Crosby (where Moxey resides) the coldest temperatures in the UK were recorded last night, at -17.6 degrees. I had temperatures like that daily when I was living in Buffalo, a city that coped with lake-effect snow with relative ease. This is England, and we are a nation that is incapable of dealing with temperatures outside of a 20 degree buffer (2-22 degrees). Below that temperature and we're having an Arctic Blast, above it, it's a Heatwave. Quite laughable really, if it wasn't for the fact that everything has to stop!

Back to Sefton Council. There clearly hasn't been a single road ploughed outside of Bootle, the state of the A565 was an absolute disgrace when you consider that there hasn't been any snowfall since Friday night.

It's Moxey's birthday today. We eventually managed to make it to Southport - despite some sideways driving through the dunes - Colin McRae would have been proud! We got to Southport Marine Lake to find about 300 Coot, 50-odd Mute Swans, 1 Black Swan, 20 Pochard, 15 Wigeon and 8 Teal amongst the Mallard and Mongrels. Perfect for catching Coot, not exactly. There were plenty of Coot wanting to be caught, but there was no opportunity to get close to the Coot, the Mute Swans easily bossed them out of the way. The Coot that did get close were very wary and catching would have been difficult.

Mute Swans rule the roost

We gave the birds a good feed, plenty of grain and a few loaves of bread before we made the perilous journey to Crosby Hall to fill the empty feeders. The air temperature wasn't too low today, despite the overnight record low, averageing a balmy -3 degrees. With possible snow forecast overnight it doesn't look good for tomorrow, but the weather is 'forecast' to improve.

Blue Tit - 2 (1)
Great Tit - 1

If you see milder weather, please send it to Merseyside!

Monday, 20 December 2010

I don't like snow!

Overnight temperatures reached -11 degrees in Bootle, so that ruled out any mist netting that wasn't in the garden. By 8am I packed a flask, four loaves of bread, a bucket of grain and some colour-rings and headed to pick up Moxey for a Coot catching session at Crosby Marina.

We made a startling discovery's bloody difficult to catch Coot when there isn't a single Coot on the Marina. Back to the warmth of car sharpish! So instead we went to Brook Vale and Crosby Hall to fill the feeders...The feeding station at Crosby Hall had been absolutely decimated - there were scores of birds on the food in seconds as we walked away. We stayed to watch for a while; Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and titmice were straight onto the feeders and getting very defensive of the precious food reserves.

Back at Moxeys, me and Canela kept warm by the fire as I had the net open in the back garden. More birds bounced than stayed in the net and the gardens were 'flooded' with thrushes. Redwing escaped before I could get to it late on, but three new Blackbirds sampled for the Blackbird Project. Also gave me an opportunity to do some marking - a rare moment of forward-planning!

Blackbird - 3 (1)
Starling - 2
Wren - 1
Blue Tit - (1)
Robin - (1)

TOTAL: 6 (3)

The forecast for tomorrow doesn't look too good...maybe the northern reaches of the ringing groups boundaries may get explored! Oh, and it's Moxeys birthday tomorrow!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Bloody Freezing!

Whilst most people are tucked up warm inside their living rooms, watching Britains Got (No) Talent or Strictly Come Prancing, I am sat here cursing the bloody snow! There are two reasons for this. Firstly, why couldn't the snow come during term time so that we could all have a few days off? Secondly, and most importantly of all, it means I can't get out and mist net.....well, technically I can, but I chose not to.

Weather for....dogs (apparently) Crosby Hall

During this cold weather, we have been out to the feeding stations daily to keep them topped up so that the birds have a plentiful supply of food to aid their survival (keeping warm on nights that reach -13 degrees - as they have here on Merseyside - is an energy expensive exercise). We have ringed decent, although by no means spectacular, numbers of Goldcrest so far this winter, but weather like this will surely take its toll on the population.

The scene at the feeding station

Feeding Up

With our scheduled trip to Brook Vale this morning called off - Neil Diamond reported -10 degrees on his car in Norris Green - a lie in (until 9am - the latest I have slept since....[insert pre-2009 date here]) was had, before a trip to ASDA to get some loaves (no fishes) and we headed down to Crosby Marina to see if we could snaffle a few Coot. Unfortunately, there was quite a lot of open water on the Marina and only about forty Coot, split between the frozen boating lake and the Marina. Almost straight away, I was able to grab a Coot, but after that they were too wary - I assume they were quite well fed and easily bossed out of the way by the Canada's. Despite the warriness, it looked to improve until dogs - not on leads - did their best to flush the birds. You would think that people would have the common sense to keep their dogs on leads during these conditions, not only to protect their dogs from going through the ice, but also to show consideration for the birds that need to feed. And yes, we had left Canela at home - responsible dog owners see! We finished with one Coot and one Mallard (we also had a Canada, but realised we didnt have any rings so we went and picked some up from Ian for next time).

Cold Feet!

An auld Coot - complete with colour rings

With any luck, the air temp will rise over the next few days, but the forecast isn't so favourable. I'll keep circulating the feeding stations to keep things topped up in the meantime. If the mist netting remains off, I expect to be out trying to catch more Coot...

Friday, 17 December 2010

Great Reed Warblers

Reading back through the ringing totals at Lagoa de Santo André for the past few years, there has been a significant drop in the number of Acrocephalus arundinaceus being caught. In 2009, only 7 individuals were ringed although this increased to 23 in 2010, almost all of these birds were caught in a location that had not been netted in 2009.

Whilst most GRW's are caught at the end of July/beginning of August, you would still expect that, at one of Portugal's most important coastal stopover sites, you would catch birds on migration. It would suggest that the majority of the birds caught are breeding birds or young at the natal site.

Looking through Julio Neto's results from Salreu, near Aveiro, he was only able to ring 11 individuals during the year (see Julio's blog here). Paulo Tenriero, who rings in the Mondego Valley, has only ringed 5 individuals this year (see Paulo's website here) although he has never caught large numbers.

GRW's breed in and occupy the same habitats as other species, such as the Reed Warbler, and yet they haven't shown such a significant decrease in population. This suggests that the wintering grounds in Africa are where the problems lie. The BTO's Out of Africa appeal will hopefully go some way towards providing some answers to the factors that are affecting the survival of many of our summer visitors.

Sunday, 12 December 2010


After an enforced break from blogging, largely due to an incompetent ISP, I was finally got back online on Friday - to a backload of emails and blogging. Despite the break, I have been out, as usual, twice a weekend since I was cut off. Both weekends were Rimrose doubles, one session at Fulwood and the other at Brook Vale.

Cold start at Fulwood

Over the past two weeks, nothing exceptional has been caught. The Cetti's Warbler was caught again on Rimrose, one week after it had been ringed showing it was coping well with the cold snap. Last weekend a Long-eared Owl was very nearly caught at Fulwood Marsh at dawn but the largest bird that we caught was rather unwanted, a cock Pheasant making a mess of the bottom pocket of one of my 15m's!

Cetti's Warbler - surviving well during the cold snap

This weekend started with a trip to St Helen's to get my car serviced which meant there was no Rimrose trip, so Moxey went to Ince seeing as we hadn't done much there in the past few months. A slow but steady return at the feeding station, dominated by tits and the odd Chaffinch. We headed to Crosby Hall in the afternoon to fill the feeders (completely emptied in 24hrs) ready for today's session. A quick stop at Brook Vale to fill the feeders and to install a Rail trap gave us tremendous views of Sparrowhawk and Water Rails screaming from the reed bed.

Incle Blundell

Great Tit - 15 (18)
Blue Tit - 9 (6)
Coal Tit - (10)
Robin - 1 (4)
Goldcrest - 1 (1)
L.T.Tit - 1 (1)
Chaffinch - 5

TOTAL: 32 (40)

We arrived at Crosby Hall slightly later than our usual pre-dawn arrival, with five nets set up by 09:00 which meant that we missed most of our Redwing opportunities, but we did catch three earlier on which were the first for three weeks. An early flurry of finches was replaced by tits and a constant stream of Blackbirds that were seemingly all over the place! There were some big Blackbirds, with scores of 4 for fat and weights as high as 132 grams. Two new Great-spotted Woodpeckers are the first at Crosby Hall this year both of which were first-year males. As the morning progressed and the temperatures rose four Goldcrests came to mp3 while the finches tailed off. Overall, a sucessful morning.

Crosby Hall

L.T.Tit - 1
Wren - 1
Goldcrest - 3 (1)
Blue Tit - 22 (15)
Great Tit - 9 (11)
Coal Tit - 4 (3)
Chaffinch - 16 (1)
Goldfinch - 7 (2)
Robin - 7
Greenfinch - 3 (1)
Nuthatch - (1)
Redwing - 3
Song Thrush - 1
G.S.Woodpecker - 2
Blackbird - 15

TOTAL: 94 (35)

With a new wave of cold weather due by the end of the week, there will be plenty of early evening feeding trips to our five sites, to keep the feeders topped up. Depending on the weather, I'm also hoping to be joined by my friend Oliver Slessor for a few days next weekend, before I head down to Dorset to visit Tineke's family before Christmas. I should, weather permitting, be able to get a session or two in before I head to Holland to visit more of Tineke's family in Zealand.