Sunday, 27 February 2011

Paul da Madriz

The final ringing session of the week was at Paul da Madriz where we had set up a roost catch for Water Pipits. The roost catch in the reeds was predominantly made up of Water Pipit where as the nets in amongst the Willows and scrub produced more of a mixed bag.

This was the first time that I had handled or even seen Water Pipit in the hand and so this was a good opportunity for me to learn about this species. The Identification and Ageing/Sexing Guide by Lars Svennson didn't have much to say about Water Pipit, suggesting reference to Rock Pipit, the species from which Water Pipit had previously been split. All of the Water Pipits were aged as Euring 5's - birds hatched in the previous calendar year (2010). We came to this conclusion based on the wear of some tertial and greater covert feathers. All Pipits have very worn flight feathers at this time of year, but due to the obvious difference in age between some of the feathers, ie feathers they had left the nest with and still retained - so there was a contrast between worn and really worn.

Juvenile Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)

Water Pipit - 18
Blackcap - 3 (1)
Chiffchaff - 4 (1)
L.T.Tit - 1 (2)
Chaffinch - 4
Great Tit - 2
Robin - 3 (1)
Wren - 1
Blue Tit - 1 (2)
Sardinian Warbler - (1)

TOTAL: 38 (8)

As the nets were opened in the morning, a Snipe was flushed and flew into the reed bed nets to give Paulo Ferreira his first Snipe, a situation he was most pleased about. Not content with one ringing 'tick' he later made his way to Paul do Chopal at Coimbra to ring his first Coal Tit...a rather unspectacular way to earn the new nickname 'The Twitcher'!

The ringing session was relatively slow, however towards the end of the morning, as Paulo commented on the yellowness of one of the Chiffchaffs that was being taken out of the net. Upon closer inspection, this was an Iberian Chiffchaff and this first of the year, probably one of the earliest that Paulo has caught. I got some good photos of the two Chiffchaffs that I will post later in the week when I have time.

Paulo Ferreira rings his first Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

The reed bed


Snipe - 1
Chiffchaff - 2
Iberian Chiffchaff - 1
Blackbird - 1
Blackcap - 2 (2)
Sardinian Warbler - 1
Blue Tit - (3)

TOTAL: 7 (7)


And then sadly, we had to return back to the UK with work on Monday. Alas, in seven weeks I shall return for more sessions at Veiga da S.Simao, Caminha and.....well, you'll have to wait and see!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Water Pipits and a Belgian Suprise!

Yesterday we were on our own at Veiga da S.Simao and as a result it took us a little longer to put up the nets and we didn’t put up any additional nets. Whilst we weren’t expecting to catch as many birds as the day before, we were still pleased with our return for our efforts. My first House Martin of the year flew over as we were eating breakfast followed by half a dozen Swallows mobbing a Marsh Harrier that was patrolling the margins of the Lima River.

A pollenised Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

A first-year male Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)

As expected, the majority of the birds were caught in the first two net rounds and the catch was mainly made up of Blackcaps and Chiffchaff coming to mp3. We retrapped a female Sardinian Warbler from the October trip, but the rest of the retraps were from the previous day. During the morning we observed White Stork, three Marsh Harriers and Kingfisher as we were ringing, enjoying the sun and the 17 degrees!

We packed up the nets at 12:30 to pack up to be ready to head south to my other family in Coimbra. Reflecting on the two days, we have ringed over eighty birds, mainly Blackcap and Chiffchaff – our target species. In April I will return to Veiga with Tineke and the gang to see if we can track down any migrating Aquatic Warblers, as well as surveying the avifauna as we have done so far.

Veiga Da S. Simao

Blackcap - 14 (2)
Blackbird - 1
Robin - 1
Cetti’s Warbler - 1
Dunnock - (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 3 (1)
Chiffchaff - 8 (1)

TOTAL: 28 (5)

Today we were up at a rather sleepy 5:30 to make our way through the fog to Santa Olaia to ring Blackcaps. Last year this site was a major catch for Paulo and his ringing group, catching large numbers of Blackcap, including multiple foreign controls. This year, the congregation of migrants is yet to start, however there were good numbers of Blackcap around, as well as singing Chiffchaff and Firecrest. Half of the nets were set in a ancient cork oak woodland on the side of a hill, overlooking the Mondego Valley near Montemor-o-Velho and the other half in one long line amongst bramble and cork oak at the bottom of the hill. We were joined by an old friend, Joao Pedro Neves and it was good to catch up, as well as my collaborator on the Blackbird Project, Miguel Araujo.

Miguel extracting on the hill

The first net round brought the bird of the day and I was priviledged to process 22Z5032, an adult Song Thrush from Belguim! An excellent record. A good number of foreign Song Thrushes are shot by hunters in Portugal and Paulo (and also the guys in PBG) get handed rings by hunters.

Song Thrush (Turdus Philomelos) from Brussells

The first net round brought the bird of the day and I was priviledged to process 22Z5032, an adult Song Thrush from Belguim! An excellent record. A good number of foreign Song Thrushes are shot by hunters in Portugal and Paulo (and also the guys in PBG) get handed rings by hunters.

The rest of the ringing session was dominated by Blackcap and Chiffchaff, although not in the numbers found during this week last year, it would seem that the majority of birds are yet to reach the site.

The nets at the bottom of the hill

Tineke getting stuck in!

Santa Olaia

Blackcap - 20 (11)
Chiffchaff - 23
Song Thrush - 3 (1) [1 – Brussells]
Blackbird - 2 (3)
Robin - 3 (7)
Blue Tit - (2)
Firecrest - 1
L.T.Tit - 2
Wren - 1
Great Tit - 1

TOTAL: 56 (25)

We later reconvened at Paul da Madriz to set up nets on the opposite side of the reed bed to the constant effort site. Three nets were put up in the reeds with an mp3 of Water Pipit playing and another ten nets were set amongst willow and scrub for other passerines. We were joined by Paulo Ferreira, a good friend from Aveiro who brought cake and strong coffee...it was well needed!

As we were waiting for dusk, a flock of upto 100 Swallows gathered overhead, looking for a roost site, Paulo will try and catch these next week. As dusk approached, we emptied the nets of about forty birds, of which probably twenty or so were Water Pipits.

I have never ringed Water Pipit, so I am excited to get my hands on them in the morning and learn more!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Anilhagem no Veiga da S.Simao

The four of us (Tineke, myself, Tó and Pedro) met up at 6am at Veiga da S.Simao to complete the first ringing session of 2011 at the site. The first time we ringed here was back in October 2010 and with ten nets, we ringed over eighty birds of which most were Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Given the current water level, that did reduce during the session, we had to rethink some of the net locations and come up with some new ones. We operated Linha Atricapilla (Blackcap line), Linha Colllybita (Chiffchaff line) and a new line that we opened up last night, Linha Igreja (Church line, due to its proximity to a small randomly placed chapel).

First bird of the day: Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

Tineke ringer her first Jay

First-year male Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

The weather this morning was not ideal; the wind was strong enough for it to make the nets stand out, but not strong enough to stop the ringing. Tineke was able to ring her first Jay whilst I was more excited at the fact that we had caught two House Sparrows – a rarity back home! The Blackcaps kept coming through the morning whilst the Chiffchaffs did tail off, one of the last ones being caught was a retrap from October. This raised an interesting point, we had assumed that the birds we were catching in October were birds on passage, but this individual has seemingly stayed put since then.

Blackcap - 24
Chiffchaff - 11 (1)
Dunnock - 2
House Sparrow - 2
Jay - 1
Coal Tit - 2 (1)
Blue Tit - 3
Great Tit - 1 (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 2
Chaffinch - 1
S.T.Treecreeper - (2)
Wren - 4
Cetti’s Warbler - 2
Stonechat - 1
Blackbird - 1

TOTAL: 57 (5)

Following a quick bite to eat after ringing, we headed further north to a town called Caminha, on the border with Spain. The reason for the trip was to check out a reed bed at the mouth of the Coura River as it enters the Minho River. Tó assures me that the reed bed has deteriorated in the past fifteen years and this was clear from the invasion of the juncos grasses. Access to the reed bed took a little adventure and some soggy feet, but we found a site that we will try in April and possibly follow up in July.

The retreating reed bed at Caminha (Spain in the background)

Tomorrow it will just be myself and Tineke at Veiga da S.Simao before we head down towards Coimbra via a brief stop in Porto to drop the ringing gear off.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Anilhagem no Parque Biológico de Gaia

We arrived in Portugal on Saturday afternoon, following a long journey that involved a taxi, a Virgin train, a National Express coach, an Easyjet plane and then a hire car, slightly bemused by how moist it was – I didn’t realised it rained in Portugal!!! We met up with my friends Rui and Tó (I taught them everything I know....yes, it only took 5 mins!) and had a coffee and enjoyed the now dry evening in the streets of Porto. We visited a veggie restaurant in Matosinhos was a cultural experience for Tó, his wife Claudia and his son Manel, before heading into Piolho in the centre of the city, drinking a few Super Bock (and a fruit-based drink for the lady). About 2am we headed to meet up with Rui who was at a birthday party and when we arrived, one of Rui’s friends told us that we had come to a swingers party....awkward...until we went into the next room of the club where everyone was dancing to Glen Miller!
Sunday was Tineke’s birthday, so to go ringing would have been suicidal. Instead we sat out the thunderstorm and took a walk through the streets of Porto, wandering through Ribeira and looking over the D’ouro towards the Port houses of Gaia.

And so to today’s shenanigans – we picked Pedro (one of the PBG trainees) up at 6am and headed to Parque Biologico de Gaia to complete the PEEC (Constant Effort) session that was cancelled from Saturday. We were joined by three other trainees Camilo, Edna and Miguel. In addition to the PEEC nets, we put another two, using calls for Blackcap and Firecrest. The calls worked almost instantly and Tineke was soon extracting the first Firecrest she had ever seen, given my enthusiasm for Regulus, she knew exactly what it was. Of the five Firecrests that were caught, four were caught using calls but probably only one third of the Blackcaps were attributed to the calls.

The glamourous side of ringing!

Pedro & Camilo - 'Seriously lad, this is a fecking Blackcap!'

Adult Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia Brachydatyla)

Miguel and a Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

One of five Firecrest (Regulus igniacapilus)

The dark-faced Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

During the session, we caught a good selection of birds, the trainees were enthusiastic about the Redwing where as I found the Song Thrush more interesting based on the fact that we have ringed seven times more Redwing than Song Thrush in the past year, back home in Liverpool.

Once the six hour ringing session was finished, the nets were taken down and plans began for the two-day ringing trip to Viana do Castelo. Things did not run smoothly. When we arrived in Veiga da S.Simao we were met with a swollen river and a rather flooded ringing site. There was just myself, Tineke and Pedro at this point, so Tineke and Pedro donned the chest waders and myself just the usual wellies. The water level had risen by about 80-100cm meaning that the ringing site was under water but was mostly accessible with boots. Back at the car we had a bit of a rethink and we were able to identify an area where we could switch nets to, targeting Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

Chiffchaff - 4
Greenfinch - 3
Robin - 3 (1)
Blackcap - 12 (5)
Redwing - 1
Song Thrush - 2 (1)
Blackbird - 3
Chaffinch - 1
Firecrest - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Dunnock - 1 (1)
L.T.Tit - (2)
S.T.Treecreeper - (2)
Great Tit - 1 (2)

TOTAL: 37 (14)

Early start tomorrow. Update in the evening.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

...if Spring wont come to you...go to Spring...

On Saturday, I will be heading back to my second home in Portugal (I don't actually own any property, but I do spend an awful lot of time there). With a couple of ongoing projects, such as the Blackbird Project and trialling new ringing sites in the north of the country, it's going to be an action-packed trip provided the weather stays in our favour.

The plan is to spend a day or two in Porto celebrating Tineke's birthday and spending time with friends. I've spent quite a lot of time in Porto over the last six or seven years and it really is an under-rated city, the nightlife is pretty good and some of the history and architecture.

On Monday, we are planning to ring at Parque Biologico de Gaia targetting Blackcaps that will be concentrating in preparation for their northward migration. Following the ringing session we will head to Viana do Castelo, to set up the ringing site at Veiga da S. Simao, where we first ringed in October (you can read about that ringing session here). We will ring at Veiga da S. Simao on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday, hooking up with some trainees from Porto and Viana. Whilst we are in the northern reaches, we will go and check out a reed bed site at Caminha near the Spanish border with the possibility of ringing there in the last week of July.

On Wednesday we will head south to Coimbra to spend time ringing with one of my greatest friends, Paulo Tenreiro. There are a number of possible ringing sites, one of which has given large numbers of Water Pipit so far this winter, and the others will provide more opportunities to catch wintering Blackcaps. We'll stay in Coimbra until Saturday, leaving after the APAA (Portuguese Ringers Association) board meeting, to which I have recently been elected to the fiscal board, on Saturday.

In local news, I have gradually done a bit more clearing at Brook Vale, but it is a big job. There is a significant amount of Willow and Sycamore encroachment on the reed bed and it is vital that this is removed. In the short term, the effect will look ugly, but ultimately improve the quality of the reed bed. The feeders are getting emptied every other day and there have been decent numbers of Chaffinch and Greenfinch building at the feeding station. Moxey is hoping to get ringing sessions in at Brook Vale and Crosby Hall whilst I am away, it's good to keep it ticking over.

In the absence of any local photos, here are some from previous summers:

With an adult Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) and Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola)

Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)

Crested Tit (Parus cristatus)

Scouse Ringer & Siobhán with three Nightjars (Caprimulgus Europeas)

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Sunshine, Safari and a control Chaffinch

I headed down to Crosby Hall this morning with Charlie Parker for an early start and after a bit of off-roading in my Clio, we were all set up with the usual five nets. By 8am we were joined by Daniel-Oh-Donnell (heartthrob extraordinaire) and the delightful-but-dangerous, Natasha The Ninja.

Early on, a Buzzard left its roost to be mobbed by half a dozen Jackdaws and as the sun started to rise, the Woodpeckers began their tattoo on the trees. The Woodpeckers were particularly vocal today, along with the Nuthatches, beginning their courtship rituals no doubt. The first net round brought a Blackbird amongst the Goldfinch and ever-present Blue Tits.

Spring is coming - Snowdrops (Galanthus sp.)

The second net round brought the Brambling, just as Moxey arrived to take Daniel and Natasha to the Woodhams. We decided to split up today due to Sunday's weather forecast which meant that we were finally able to get into the Woodhams and see what was about. So myself and Charlie were left with the Crosby Hall birds. Game on!

The catch rate was pretty consistent at both sites, Blue Tits putting in a good performance along with Goldfinches and Greenfinches. We were alerted by text message that Moxey had caught a 'stonking' male Siskin, a species yet to be caught at Crosby Hall. A GS Woodpecker and a control Chaffinch (L624819 - if this is yours, let us know!) brought proceedings to a close for Moxey and the St Helens Two.

Following the mornings ringing, I headed to Brook Vale to fill the feeders. The water level had risen by about six inches since I was there on Wednesday and six Mallard were taking advantage of the area that we cleared last week. One Water Rail squealed away as I filled the empty feeders, the flock of 20-30 Chaffinch/Greenfinch remained patiently waiting for me to be done. As I left, a Kestrel and Buzzard 'had words' over the railway before the Kestrel headed off towards the docks.

Juvenile Coal Tit (Parus ater)

Adult Male Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)

Crosby Hall

Blue Tit - 26 (6)
Great Tit - 1 (8)
Treecreeper - (1)
Coal Tit - 2 (1)
Chaffinch - 3
Brambling - 1
Goldfinch - 8 (1)
Robin - 2 (2)
Dunnock - (1)
Nuthatch - (2)
Greenfinch - 8
Blackbird - 3 (1)

TOTAL: 52 (23)

The Woodhams

Blackbird - 1 (1)
Blue Tit - 19 (4)
Great Tit - 7
Coal Tit - 2
Nuthatch - 1
G.S.Woodpecker - 1
Robin - (1)
Siskin - 1
Chaffinch - 5 (1)

TOTAL: 37 (7)

The sun shines at Brook Vale

The weather forecast for tomorrow looks bleak. Fingers crossed the forecasters get it wrong!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

A little bit bleugh!

On Friday night, I met up with Moxey to fill the feeders at Brook Vale and do a little bit of extra clearance now that the days are getting longer. The feeders were only half empty, but that was probably due to the wind speed causing the feeders to be bobbing all over the place. We were able to clear some over hanging willow at the back of the feeding station, opening up a small patch of open water at the fringe of the reed bed. A female Sparrowhawk hunting at dusk and a Buzzard coming in to roost were the only highlights of this hour on Rimrose.

Understandably, ringing was off this morning. The wind has been gusting at upto 40 mph overnight and a constant drizzle that strengthened during the morning meant that mist-netting would have been impossible. Instead, myself and Tineke met up with Neil Diamond at the National Trust Property at Formby Point to scope out possible ringing sites to investigate. A flock of 20-30 Linnet, a mixed flock of finches and a possible Tree Sparrow leaves me hopeful that one of the two sites that Neil is going to start feeding will prove fruitful.

Following our jaunt around the dunes, we headed up to Croston and later Leyland to spend an exorbitant amount of money on bird food that should hopefully see us through to the summer. I'm pretty sure I saw sparks coming from the back of my Clio as we lumbered back to Liverpool with close to 350kg of bird seed in the back!

I then had to shoot in to Liverpool for my penultimate session with Neil Hargreaves of Dermagraffiti who has been tattooing me since September. The piece is really starting to come together now and after twelve hours, I'm read for it to be done!

The weather looks better for tomorrow but I'm not sure if we will be about...maybe some Coot are on the cards...in the meantime, enjoy some shots from when I was in Canada.

An after hatch-year Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

An after hatch-year Male Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

A much younger Scouse Ringer and Moxey, demonstrating bird banding to the eager masses!

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

Bonaparte's Gull (Chroicocephalus philidelphia)

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Coot sighting

Whilst we haven't ringed large numbers of Coot lately, let alone colour-ringed as much as we would have liked to (might have something to do with so many already being colour-ringed at Southport), I did manage to get a couple at Crosby Marina recently. I got an email from Kane on Sunday when I was on my way to see the Waxwings telling me that we had gotten a sighting. Excellent I thought! Having seen more Coot than I ever had when I was in Zealand, Holland I was hoping for a North Sea crossing, something exotic! However that was not to be and the Coot had turned up in the Potteries at Westport Lake in Stoke-on-Trent.


The bird in question, Coot (Fulica atra)

This is the first sighting of a SW Lancs RG Coot outside of the area, hopefully the first of many!