Monday, 31 January 2011

A lorra, lorra, Lotti's!

It was just myself and Neil Diamond yesterday at Crosby Hall and with the usual nets set, we had a tidy haul of the usual suspects. The small number of Brambling that had been frequenting the feeding station seem to have moved on whilst the number of Carduelis finches seems to have increased. We had a similar situation last year, with the catch rate of Goldfinches and Greenfinches building through the first four months of the year. We'll have to see whether it follows through!

Male Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

L.T.Tit - 12 (5)
Goldcrest - (1)
Treecreeper - (1)
Blue Tit - 8 (10)
Great Tit - 4 (11)
Dunnock - (2)
Robin - (3)
Chaffinch - 4 (1)
Goldfinch - 7
Greenfinch - 2
Blackbird - 1

TOTAL: 38 (34)

I had to pick Moxey and The Mothership up from Lime St Station in Liverpool straight from ringing and as reports had started to filter through that Waxwings were residing in my very own Bootle at Berry St no less! As I was driving down Scotland Road, I didn't see anything there either however, on the way back we saw a flock of about 30 birds on the corner of Leeds St.

This morning, on my daily commute to the dark side of the Mersey, I couldn't see any in the same place, but Moxey turned up later in the day when the flock had reappeared and now grown to about 80. Despite Moxeys best efforts, he was unsuccessful in his attempts to catch the Velvet Bomba's. I got out of work as quick as possible but moments before I arrived, the flock had moved off. Bugger!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Chilled Out

We were joined by Charlie Parker this morning at a very cool and crisp Brook Vale. The themometer in the car was reading -6 deg when we arrived so we had to keep moving to keep warm! We put the usual nets up, three at the feeding station, three in the reeds and the 'Cettis' net. Whilst Brook Vale hasn't been that productive recently, I visit the site at least three times a week to feed up and the feeders have been getting emptied regularly.

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)

A slow start gave us an opportunity to do a little more clearing of willows that are starting to succeed the reed bed. Although our cutting materials were pretty light, we cleared some of the branches that are overhanging the main ditch. The water in the ditch has been stagnant for some time with little access to open sky. In September, the Rangers cleared an area alongside the ditch as part of the ongoing management of the site. Over the coming months, the hopes are to remove more willow to 'open up' the reed bed and in the short term, this will look ugly, but in the long term it will improve the quality of the reed bed.

Adult Male Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) with unusual beak colouration

First-year Female Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

The catch rate throughout the session was slow but steady which gave Charlie a good opportunity to get to grips with some of our common species and the basic ageing and sexing techniques. The highlight of the session was the first-year female Bullfinch that we caught in the Cettis net, one of only two birds caught in that net. There was an absence of Reed Buntings today with only one observation by Charlie flying away from the feeding station. I am suprised that we don't catch more Reed Buntings at Brook Vale, with the feeding station and the size of the reed bed, it seems perfect.

L.T.Tit - 1
Wren - (1)
Blue Tit - 9 (8)
Great Tit - 1 (2)
Chaffinch - 4 (1)
Bullfinch - 1
Greenfinch - 8 (1)
Goldfinch - 5
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Robin - (2)
Woodpigeon - 1

TOTAL: 31 (16)

The plan for tomorrow is to head once again to Crosby Hall. Fulwood is being left for a while and we are unable to start in the Woodhams until February, Crosby Hall is feeding well, so hopefully this week, the feeding regime will pay off with the plan to focus on catching Robins, Goldcrests and finches.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Another grey day...

The forecast for Sunday was about the best that we had received for over a month, dull and cool with not very much wind. However, we were cursing the Met Office (and associated forecasters) when we had a brief shower, thankfully it didn't last. We were hopeful of a decent catch at Crosby Hall given that the feeders were getting emptied daily during the week, but unusually we started off quite slowly.
Canela - Guardian of the bird bags!

Throughout the morning, each net round was yielding c.15 birds with a high number of retraps. Interesting there were a large proportion of retraps that were birds ringed in the winter of 2009 of species including Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Goldcrest and Goldfinch. Given the numbers of birds that we ring at Crosby Hall, maybe that isn't suprising, but to me it indicates a good survival rate given the two severe weather 'events' that we have had since the time of ringing. It also raises the question of how wide the cold weather displacement was. Most birds will probably moved out of the woodland and into gardens where there was a higher density of food due to supplementary feeding. However, I sometimes wonder how many birds looked further afield, whilst it is well documented with thrush and finch species, do we see the same with our titmice?

Coal Tit (Parus ater)

A first-year female Brambling was a first for Neil Diamond, who is starting to find his feet. Whilst telling Tineke that Neil had the Great Tits, his reply of 'thanks for noticing' shows that he is settling in pretty well!

Neil Diamond and his first Brambling

First-year female Brambling (Fringilla montefringilla)

The thrushes were pretty absent, with only two Blackbirds seen during the session, one of those being the first-year male that was sampled and added to the Blackbird Project data set. We were also treated to a bit of a display by a Kestrel attempting to hunt at the bird feeders.

It was unusual that there was a decent sized flock of Goldfinch that took residence in some of the larger Beech and Pine trees that didn't come down to feed, natural food must be abundant enough at the moment that they don't need our tasty sunflower hearts and nyjer!

L.T.Tit - 4 (3)
Goldcrest - 1 (1)
Treecreeper - (2)
Blue Tit - 6 (16)
Great Tit - 7 (23)
Coal Tit - 1
Chaffinch - 5 (3)
Brambling - 1
Goldfinch - 1 (2)
Robin - 1 (11)
Dunnock - (1)
Nuthatch - (1)
Blackbird - 1

TOTAL: 28 (62)

With things slowing down at the feeding stations at the moment, Moxey is going to start feeding up at Banks on the Ribble Estuary with the prospect of Wigeon and Shelduck on the agenda...fingers crossed!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Found them....lost them...

After last Sunday's damp squib - seven birds ringed at Crosby Hall in between the rain showers, a dry day was met with great anticipation here in South Sefton. Having been invited to the Oyster-card-carrying-catchers cannon-net at Heysham, we decided to dip out. Rising fuel prices, foggy weather and all that suggested that it would be more productive to stay local. Almost 200 Oycs were caught and you can read about it from Seamus' perspective here.

Myself and Tineke arrived at Brook Vale later that we would usually, a rather lax 8:15am! Heading immediately to the feeding station, we flushed a flock of about 40 Chaffinches that were roosting in the scrub. So that's where the Chaffinches were! Alas, the two Chaffinches that we caught in the first net round were all we would catch.

We were joined by Daniel O'Donnell, no gigs this week (apparently even the Womens Institute can get sick of him after a while!) so he brought his daughter along, Natasha-the-Ninja, for her first taste of bird ringing. I have to say, her identification was pretty sharp for an 11-year old!

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

I have kept up my three-times-a-week feeding schedule at Brook Vale for a while now, the feeders have been getting emptied every other day so I think we were justified in expecting a big catch - maybe the fog had something to do with it.

Elsewhere, Moxey headed to Ince and was joined by Charlie Parker but they didn't seem to have much luck either, only thirteen ringed there. Moxey headed to Crosby Hall where the feeders are getting emptied daily now, with the nyjer feeders taking a bit of a battering, so we are hopeful of some finches tomorrow - Siskins preferably!

Ince Blundell

Blue Tit - 5 (7)
Great Tit - 1 (26)
Chaffinch - 3
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 2 (5)
Coal Tit - 1 (5)
Nuthatch - (1)

TOTAL: 13 (44)

Brook Vale

Blue Tit - 3 (5)
Great Tit - 4 (4)
Chaffinch - 2
Greenfinch - 10
Goldcrest - 1
Wren - 1
Reed Bunting - 1
Robin - (1)
L.T.Tit - (2)

TOTAL: 22 (12)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Wet & Windy

This morning we were joined by another potential trainee, who, for the purposes of this blog, will be nicknamed Daniel O'Donnell - for his uncanny resemblence to the Irish singer and the continuing theme of trainees being named after musicians. The forecast wasn't giving much promise for a successful session, strong winds and intermittent rain don't make for ideal ringing conditions. As an Evertonian, I am used to pissing in the wind...eternal optimism....with little reward. Therefore, a catch of 71 birds of which 30 were new, including two Treecreepers and one Goldcrest, was quite rewarding.

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)

In conditions such at those found here on Merseyside today, it helps to have a multiple ringers - one, in this case Moxey, keeping an eye on the nets and another, myself, handling the ringing away from the nets. The birds were promptly extracted during intermittent drizzle and sent down to the ringing table, where they were promptly processed and released. If I had been on my own this morning, we wouldn't have been able to operate as efficiently as this.

Due to the weather, we stuck to the three nets around the feeding station, not wanting to get caught short if the rain came down heavy. As a result, we were low on diversity, with Blue Tits making up 2/3rds of birds ringed. Daniel O'Donnell showed off his identification skills by picking up on the Treecreeper in the net before I had, from range I might add!

Ince Blundell

Blue Tit - 20 (19)
Great Tit - 2 (22)
Treecreeper - 2
Goldcrest - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Woodpigeon - 1
Blackbird - 1
Chaffinch - 2

TOTAL: 30 (41)

Myself, Tineke and Canela headed down to Crosby Marina following the Ince Blundell session for a walk and a bit of birdwatching. I counted 45 Coot, 5 Tufted Duck, 8 Canada Geese and about 60 Mallard on the boating lake. A quick scan of the Marina gave 64 Black-headed Gull, 2 Coot and 3 LBB Gulls - nothing special, but the two intrepid windsurfers and the swell weren't making things easy. A loaf of bread brought the first Coot and Canada Goose of the year, much to the amusement of Canela, from a distance!

We then headed off to Brook Vale to feed up, disturbing a small mixed flock of Goldfinch and Siskin from the feeding station. Following the recent rainfall, the water level has risen several centimeters and the Water Rail have become very quiet!

Coot (Fulica atra)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Crosby Marina

Coot - 1
Canada Goose - 1

Fingers crossed the weather will not fulfill the forecast tomorrow, the plan is to head to Crosby Hall with Neil Diamond - taking time out from his busy recording schedule, apparently the album is almost finished!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Scouse Ringer & Moxey's 2010 Totals

I have finally managed to get the totals together for 2010, a year that can only be considered to be a success in birding terms, from mine and Moxey's point of view anyway! From the cold snap early in the year, bringing Moxey the Pochard and Tufties, to the heat of the summer, ringing warblers at Brook Vale, back to the cold depths of winter, catching thrushes in the woods.

Here are the totals:





Tufted Duck




Red-crested Pochard




Mute Swan










Barn Owl


Tawny Owl


Black-headed Gull




Stock Dove


Wood Pigeon






House Martin


Great-spotted Woodpecker


Grey Wagtail












Song Thrush




Cetti’s Warbler


Sedge Warbler


Reed Warbler


Lesser Whitethroat




Garden Warbler






Willow Warbler






Long-tailed Tit


Coal Tit


Blue Tit


Great Tit






















Reed Bunting




Here are some of the personal highlights:

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) & Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) at Crosby Hall

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) at Brook Vale

Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) at Rimrose Valley - the first for SWLRG

During 2010, I started ringing at two new sites, Brook Vale and Fulwood Marsh, both on Rimrose Valley. Both have been productive, Brook Vale started in May and finished on 908 birds ringed with Fulwood starting much later in October and in six sessions, almost 200 birds were ringed.

Two trips to Portugal in the summer and in October were also very successful, with a record number of birds being ringed at Santo André by ourselves during August (2814 birds ringed, 15 foreign controls).

Many thanks are due to all the landowners and organisations that have cooperated and allowed us to operate on their land. Cheers guys!

2011's ringing campaign is already well underway, with a couple of additional sites to start this year (keeping them under wraps for the time being) and a few new trainees on the go and three trips to Portugal already this space!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Where did the finches go?

With the wind speeds still gusting at the 15mph mark, we headed into Crosby Hall for a morning session today. With no trainees in tow (Neil Diamond is working on his latest album) it was just Canela, Tineke and myself. Net location was determined by the breeze, so it was just four nets for the morning, two at the feeding station, one in the Rhodi's and one in amongst some yew trees, a new location, in the hope of catching some more Goldcrests.

The sun was out and the breeze wasn't as strong as forecast by the time we had all the nets up. The half dozen Chaffinches we disturbed early on at the feeding station didn't really seem interested, with only two being caught in the first net round. Amongst all the tits we picked up the first Brambling of the day, a young female, and it was one every net round after that. There was a similar situation in the Rhodi's, with three Redwing caught, coming to a mp3 mix of Fieldfare and Redwing. Unfortunately there wasn't a single Fieldfare heard or seen and even Redwings were fairly thin on the ground compared to last week.

First-year Male Brambling (Fringilla montefringilla)

First-year Female Brambling

Elsewhere, Buzzards were regularly heard but not observed and a female Sparrowhawk was seen heading in the direction of the feeding station, sending the Long-tails mental. Throughout the ringing session, there was only one Goldfinch seen and not a single Greenfinch. I discussed with Moxey when he made his brief appearance, dressed for the occasion, and we have come to the conclusion that the Chaffinches must be out in the fields. Moxey has only noticed on in his garden during the week, Ian is reporting the number of birds in his garden (1000+ ringed in 2010) have also gone down, so unless there has been a significant movement out of the area, they are most likely out in the fields. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to get out and do some watching to see if we're right.

Moxey: Dressed to impress!

Robin - 2 (1)
L.T.Tit - 1 (1)
Blue Tit - 13 (11)
Great Tit - 5 (7)
Brambling - 3
Chaffinch - 2
Redwing - 3
Coal Tit - (3)

TOTAL: 29 (23)

We're now in the unusual position of having ringed more Brambling than Chaffinches at Crosby Hall this calendar year...I can't really see that lasting!

During the week I hope to have all of my IPMR updated so that I can post a 2010 this space!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Goldcrests doing better than expected

After the recent cold weather, the impact on our smaller birds had been widely predicted to be quite harsh. The BTO reported on our larger birds such as Barn Owls and Buzzards as having a particularly hard time, with casualties reported. The Goldcrest is the smallest bird found in the British Isles and with body mass ranging between 4.5 and 6 grams, a species that predominantly feeds on insects and therefore a species that you wouldn't expect to fare well with prolonged periods of cold weather and snow cover.

The weather conditions today dictated that if we were to go ringing then we would have to go somewhere sheltered which meant either Crosby Hall or Ince Blundell. The snow on Friday, that thankfully melted promptly, had prevented Moxey from heading in to Ince and with the shoot on the estate that was where we headed.

The ringing session was dominated by titmice at the start with a distinct lack of Chaffinches, presumably most of these birds are still in the gardens following the cold weather. A lone Treecreeper, the first of the year, turned up at the feeding station - the first that Charlie Parker had seen in the hand.
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)

Back to the Goldcrests. The 15m net down in the Rhodi's turned up two Blackbirds and two Goldcrests in one net round so an mp3 player and speakers was put out and a further four Goldcrests were caught. Interestingly, four of the six Goldcrests were retraps, of those retraps one was a second-year female that had bred at Ince - caught in May 2010 with a brood patch and carrying an egg. One of the other Goldcrests was ringed as a first-year male in November 2009 and has been caught on six occasions since then meaning that this bird has survived the cold weather of early 2010 and the pre-Xmas cold snap when temperatures reached a local low of -17.6 degrees.

Just as rain stopped play, Moxey picked up a new species for the site, two female Siskins coming to the feeding station. The Siskins were presumably part of the twenty-strong flock that I had seen flying as I was driving past Freshfield-cats-and-dogs-are-more-important-than-humans-Rescue Centre. This is the time of year when we would expect to start seeing more Siskins in our area, with a resident of Rimrose Valley Road, opposite Fulwood Marsh, reporting Siskins in gardens.
First-year Female Siskin (Carduelis spinus)

Goldcrest - 2 (4)
Blackbird - 1 (1)
Wren - 1
Robin - (2)
Treecreeper - 1
Siskin - 2
Great Tit - 14 (22)
Blue Tit - 16 (10)
Coal Tit - (3)
Dunnock - (1)
Chaffinch - 1

TOTAL: 38 (43)

Monday, 3 January 2011

Change Of Plan

Having started to put the nets up at The Woodhams in the half-light, we looked to be set for some early thrushes and the possibility of some Tree Sparrows, we had to down tools and relocate to Brook Vale. Having lost the pre-dawn advantage, I wasn't expecting a big catch but I was expecting a few Reed Bunting and a mixture of finches.

Proceedings got off to a slow start with Greenfinches making up the early numbers, amongst (mainly) retrap titmice. The occasional Redwing fly-by's didn't respond to calls as they had at Crosby Hall yesterday and unusually, no Fieldfare were recorded during the session. As the numbers increased at the feeding station the weather stayed calm and dull for near-perfect mist netting conditions. Two first-year male Reed Buntings were the only birds to be caught in the reed bed, coming to calls late on during the session. We managed to catch only our second G.Spotted Woodpecker for the site, however Neil 'butterfingers' Diamond managed to let it escape as he was putting it in a bird bag!

First-year Male Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

The slow but steady catch rate and the surplus of man (and woman) power allowed us to clear a new net ride - one for the summer - taking down a few young willows at the edge of the reed bed. All in all, a rather uneventful ringing session that provided Neil Diamond and new recruit Charlie Parker (continuing the musical theme) some good training opportunities. Moxey also made new ground today, manageing to make and bring his own flask of coffee!

Blue Tit - 7 (11)
Great Tit - 3 (5)
Reed Bunting - 2
Chaffinch - 2 (1)
Greenfinch - 8
Blackbird - 2
L.T.Tit - (2)
Goldcrest - (1)

TOTAL: 24 (20)

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Back with a Bramb.....or two!

The first ringing session of 2011 kicked off in style today at Crosby Hall on a dull, dry day. Myself and Tineke were slighly late this morning, having to pick up my gear from Moxey's house before heading in to the feeding station. There was suprisingly little activity around the feeding station early on, but a single net in the Rhodi's yielded four Redwing. While Buzzards kee'd overhead, a flock of forty Fieldfare made their way towards Thornton.

The second net round brought a male Brambling and was followed by a female later on, both birds were 5's and in good condition. There was a distinct lack of finches throughout the morning and after the early thrushes, they were scarce too. It left titmice to make up the numbers in the absence of the finches, a Goldcrest late on brought some relief, a sign that some of the Regulus have survived the cold snap.

First-year Male Brambling (Fringilla montefringilla)

First-year Female Brambling

The last net round had me sprinting for a female Sparrowhawk, which, inevitably got away leaving me cursing! Shortly after Moxey, a late arrival, had a male Peregrine fly over the park with a male Sparrowhawk heading in the opposite direction.

DLH530 - a hardy Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)

L.T. Tit - 1 (2)
Goldcrest - (1)
Robin - 3 (2)
Coal Tit - (2)
Great Tit - 3 (10)
Blue Tit - 10 (7)
Brambling - 2
Goldfinch - 2
Chaffinch - 1 (1)
Greenfinch - 1
Nuthatch - (1)
Redwing - 4
Blackbird - 2

TOTAL: 29 (26)

We'll be heading to the Woodhams tomorrow, hoping to catch some more thrushes with the possibility of Tree Sparrows.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Back from Holland

On the 28th, I headed over to Holland with Tineke to spend one night in Amsterdam before taking the 2 1/2 hour journey to Zeeland and the town of Goes to finally meet her extended family. Amsterdam did exactly what it said on the tin, the Red-light District with its coffeeshops and bars actually provided the best birding, and I am talking about the feathered variety! Tineke reckons that I am the only guy in the world who can walk down a street lined with scantily-clad hookers and still be checking Coot for colour rings! Great-crested Grebe was the Amsterdam highlight, although I did see my first Ring-necked Parakeets in the 'wild' above Rembrandtplien.
Red-light Birding

We headed south on the 29th, hooking up with Marjin, Tineke's cousin, before arriving in Goes and being introduced to the family! I did my very best with Dutch, I can ask for a coffee, train tickets, if you have slept well and the basics, but it was just as well that the Dutch are very good with English! I also saw the advantages of having a flight attendant in the family - I quickly became aware of the exits in case of an emergency as well as being plied with as much food and coffee to feed a cheeky scallywag that has the munchies!

Enjoying 'stick' - the local speciality (it really is a stick!)

It was excellent to be able to get out into the countryside when we were in Zeeland and it straight away brought back memories of Southwestern Ontario and the straight roads and linear tree plantations. We went to visit a town called Veere with its massive church and grand town hall. The main canal had Little Grebe, Wigeon and Coot whilst Tineke was able to pick out Coot and another GC Grebe. We also took some time to visit Veere Mere, a large lake created by damming off both ends of a dyke. Jan was explaining to me how the water level is controlled during the year to create sufficient habitat for feeding waders. There much have been upwards of 5000 Wigeon here and 1000's of Coot (it sadly wasn't possible to check them all for colour rings). The photo below shows, however, that this site would be perfect for cannon-netting!

[insert cannon-net here]

Town Hall, Veere


Whilst I was away, Moxey did manage to get into Crosby Hall to complete a ringing session, the totals were:

L.T.Tit - (3)
Greenfinch - 1
Chaffinch - 7 (3)
Goldfinch - 8
Coal Tit - 3 (6)
Robin - 3 (2)
Blue Tit - 8 (27)
Great Tit - 9 (30)
Nuthatch - (1)

TOTAL: 39 (72)

The weather has got significantly better since I left for Holland, so I am hoping to get out Sunday and Monday before returning to work on Tuesday.