Thursday, 31 March 2011

More Recoveries

Ian received another batch of recoveries from the BTO last week, here are the highlights:

Goldcrest (BVK638) caught on 13th November 2010 at Crosby Hall, was ringed a month earlier, 11th October, at Fife Ness in Scotland. That's a distance of 309Km!

Long-tailed Tit (DCY175) caught at Ince Blundell by Moxey on 25th November was originally ringed by the Merseyside Ringing Group at Woolston Eyes on 16th July 2010.

Most evenings this week I have been down to Brook Vale to do repairs to the fence that has been recently re-damaged. This is the likely access point for the arsonists that broke in three weeks ago and burned a large section of the reed bed.

This evening, Steve came down to meet me after work and we removed more of the recently cut back willows. There is still work to do that will be done over the next two weeks before I head to Portugal for ten days, hopefully all the willows in the reed bed that are now exposed following the burn will be removed by then.

Weekend plans haven't been set yet, the weather doesn't look too promising, but fingers crossed we'll be out and ringing in at least two locations.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Habitat Management & A Solo Session

On Saturday, I met up with the gang at Brook Vale to get cracking at some of the big willows that we hadn't yet cleared from the reed bed. With a little help from my old cub scout leader, Kenny, and the mighty muscles of Steve, Moxey and Charlie, we got stuck into the quagmire reminiscent of Glastonbury.

During the morning, there were at least three Chiffchaff calling successfully dodging the five Sparrowhawks that were seen hunting through the willows. With more of the pools now fully exposed due to the burn, there were a lot more ducks about, with upto twelve Mallard and two Teal coming in to land. As we were leaving the site, we heard our first Willow Warbler and with the arrival of these migrants, the anticipation of the summer is totally set in.

We managed to get a lot cut down and removed from the site, but in sticking to the management plan, we still have more work to complete in the next week or two. I am due to meet Steve down at Brook Vale on Thursday evening to take advantage of the extra hour of daylight.

Brook Vale - mid-management

When Moxey got home from Brook Vale, he opened the 9m in the garden following the first Reed Bunting record in the garden, interesting considering Ian has ringed almost fifty in his garden this year. Unfortunately there were no Reed Buntings to be had, however, this little beauty found his way into the net. A first-year male Sparrowhawk:

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

Sunday brought about a rare event, not only did the weather forecasters get the forecast right, but I completed a ringing session on my own, well, I did have Canela. It's unusual for me to go ringing on my own, but Neil was up in the lakes, Steve was with family and Moxey was in Formby trying to tempt a Jackdaw out of a church.

The fantastic weather, brightening and calm, gave me a fantastic opportunity to mend a 9m net that I inherited from Tony Duckels. So that was one thing I could cross off my to-do list, that somehow seems to keep growing. A reasonably quiet ringing session brought the first Song Thrush for Crosby Hall this year and the Chiffchaff from Friday was retrapped as two others sang elsewhere in the wood.

Nuthatch (Cita europea)

Blue Tit - 6 (6)
Great Tit - 2 (2)
L.T.Tit - (2)
Robin - 2
Goldfinch - 1 (1)
Chaffinch - 4 (3)
Greenfinch - 2
Song Thrush - 1
Blackbird - 1
Nuthatch - (2)
Chiffchaff - (1)

TOTAL: 19 (15)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Ringing Demo

Taking advantage of the extra day holiday afforded by the royal wedding (the bank holiday occurs during our Easter Break), I arranged a ringing demonstration for St Mary's Year 1 and 2 students at Crosby Hall. Getting on site bright and early, the first bird caught was a Chiffchaff - the first of the year!

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

The students arrived on time, although we heard them long before they saw us and to say that they were excited, was an understatement. I gave a talk to the same year groups back in December and it would seem that I made quite an impression. One particularly astute young man asked me early on if I had caught an Firecrest, whilst another little fella handed me a drawing of a bird that he had coloured and cut out, when I asked him what it was, he said 'that's a Red-headed Woodpecker'! Legend!

Scouse Ringer: Down wif da kidz innit!

The demo was a fantastic success, each year group took it in turns to see the ringing with some very lucky students getting to let the odd Great Tit go, whilst Moxey took the other year group to see the nets. Unexpectedly, I found myself being interviewed by one of the parents, who happens to be a journalist, and if I am completely honest, I'm slightly apprehensive of the headline...'Bird Men of Little Crosby' was mooted. I think I would prefer: 'Drop Birds, Not Bombs'. We'll have to wait and see.

Siskin (Carduelis spinus)

Once the students had left, myself and Moxey had the sun to enjoy. A pair of Siskin, some Chaffinches and a couple of Greenfinches being the 'meat' on the bones of a good session. March is coming to an end now...with Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler already here with more to follow...

Male & Female Siskin (Carduelis spinus)

Chiffchaff - 1
L.T.Tit - 1
Goldcrest - (2)
Blue Tit - 3 (14)
Great Tit - (7)
Coal Tit - 1
Chaffinch - 7 (2)
Goldfinch - 4
Greenfinch - 2
Robin - (3)
Dunnock - (2)
Nuthatch - (1)
Blackbird - 1
Happy school kids - 22

TOTAL: 22 (31)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A day of firsts...

Today was a day of firsts for myself and Moxey. Whilst I was stuck in school until 1:30 (INSET Day), Moxey had the nets open bright and early in Crosby and had a decent catch. Alongside a House Sparrow, there was an equally rare Tree Sparrow, the first for Moxey in the garden, a Chiffchaff later bounced out of the net and wasn't seen again. The totals below are for the previous few days.


Tree Sparrow - 1
House Sparrow - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Greenfinch - 4
Goldfinch - 2 (1)
Goldcrest - 1
Blackbird - 3
Great Tit - 2

TOTAL - 15 (1)

With the encouragement of Moxey's relative productivity in the garden, I booted it from the Wirral to Crosby to pick up the nets and we headed to The Woodhams to enjoy the fantastic weather and see if we could pick anything up coming in to roost later on. With the usual four nets, we managed a respectable catch and as expected, there were plenty of retraps. The second net round, after Moxey had headed home, brought the bird of the day, and probably the month! My first ever Lesser Redpoll, one of those birds that has always eluded me. I have seen plenty of Redpoll, but I have never caught one or seen one in the hand, until today!

Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis flammea cabaret)

Late on, the Blackbirds started heading into the rhodi's and we were rewarded with three new Blackbirds and a new Song Thrush, now the second of the year. During the afternoon, there were Redpoll in the pines, Tree Sparrows calling at the farm and the odd Buzzard flying over.


Blue Tit - (8)
Great Tit - (8)
L.T.Tit - 1 (2)
Chaffinch - (1)
Lesser Redpoll - 1
Blackbird - 3 (2)
Song Thrush - 1
Dunnock - (1)
Wren - (1)

TOTAL: 6 (23)

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

March Doldrums

On Saturday morning I met up with Steve and Natasha at Crosby Hall and later we were joined by Neil on a beautiful, mild and clear morning. Unfortunately, the birds weren't particularly interested in feeding at the feeding station resulting in a relatively low catch count compared to the usual totals for the site. One bonus however, was the first Siskin to be ringed at the site that was caught in amongst some Greenfinches.

The slow catch rate also provided an opportunity to do an inpromptu ringing demonstration to a group of six and seven year-olds from Warrington who were visiting the CHET Centre. I could see the relief on the faces of their teachers when we offered and for fifteen minutes or so, the children were captivated often laughing as their classmates were pecked by Blue Tits. Awesome.

Siskin (Carduelis spinus)

Elsewhere, Moxey and some other group members gave a demonstration to participants of the Birdwatching & Beyond course at Edge Hill University. You can read more about the demo here.


Goldcrest - 1
L.T.Tit - (1)
Treecreeper - (1)
Blue Tit - 3 (12)
Great Tit - 2 (13)
Coal Tit - (2)
Greenfinch - 4
Nuthatch - (2)
Robin - (2)
Dunnock - (2)
Siskin - 1
Chaffinch - 2
Blackbird - (2)

TOTAL: 13 (37)

Following the quiet Saturday session, I was hopeful of a more productive day at The Woodhams with Tineke. As we arrived it started to rain, something that wasn't forecast. The rain persisted, but being the eternal optimist (Everton fan remember?) we put up a couple of nets and kept them closed until the rain had stopped. By 8:30 we were in the clear, but most of the birds had seemed to have moved on. The first net round produced the first Song Thrush of the year in amongst the retraps. Encouragingly, we managed to trap another two Goldcrests, bringing the 2011 total to 13, rather better than previously expected, at times upto three could be heard singing at any one time.

First-year Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)


Goldcrest - 2
L.T.Tit - (2)
Chaffinch - 2
Blue Tit - 1 (7)
Great Tit - (3)
Goldfinch - 2
Coal Tit - 1
Dunnock - (1)
Blackbird - 1 (2)
Song Thrush - 1
G.S.Woodpecker - (1)

TOTAL: 10 (16)

Fortuitously, I have a day off on Friday, meaning I should be able to get in to Crosby Hall to give a long awaited ringing demonstration to the children of St Mary's Primary School in Little Crosby. Saturday, weather permitting, will see myself and the gang head down to Brook Vale to finish the habitat management and prepare the site for the breeding season.

With one eye always on Portugal, Paulo has reported catching his first Savi's Warblers of the year this week, with decent catches of Water Pipits also reported. In just over three weeks, myself and Tineke will return and I can't wait!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Quick Update

I haven't really got much to report mid-week, it's been a busy one at work as the main exam period creeps up and I look to start my Masters. However, I did manage to get down to Brook Vale this evening for a bit of a mooch with Canela. The usual large numbers of Magpies were out in force along the railway although the number of Woodpigeons has decreased on my last few visits. Robins were in full song, establishing and defending territories on a beautiful calm evening. A female Sparrowhawk did almost take my head off as I crossed the brook at the Seaforth end of the reserve although Canela didn't really seem to notice.

As spring approaches, I am really looking forward to the ringing opportunities that we'll have at our increasing number of sites. The fire damage won't start to look any better for a while yet and it really isn't a pretty sight, yet in the long run it will be good for the reed bed. It will be interesting to compare the number of breeding pairs of Reed Warblers from 2010, to 2012 once the reed bed has had a chance to regenerate. Provided the reed bed doesn't get burned again.

We're not the only ones feeling optimistic about the spring/summer ringing season, going by the number of bird bag orders that have started flooding in. Bird bags, satchels & 8th primary rulers here.

During the week, Moxey has managed to get a few short sessions in:


Chaffinch - 1
Greenfinch - 4 (2)
Dunnock - 1
Robin - (1)
Blackbird - (1)
Blue Tit - (1)
House Sparrow - (1)

TOTAL: 6 (6)


Coal Tit - 1 (1)
Great Tit - 2 (5)
Blue Tit - 4 (6)
Nuthatch - 2
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 1 (2)
L.T.Tit - 1 (1)
Goldcrest - 1

TOTAL: 13 (15)

One of the Greenfinches retrapped in Crosby was ringed just over one year before at Crosby Hall. We're now into double figures of Goldcrest for 2011 which is encouraging and I have blogged in the past at how well they have seemed to have survived during the cold snap this winter, however the number of Wrens suggests that they have taken a particular hit.

No photo's taken midweek, so here's a shameless indulgence of my favourite Regulus.

Firecrest (Regulus igniacapilus) PBG Feb 2011

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Moody March

March isn't a brilliant month for ringers, in fact it is widely recognised as the quietest month for ringers and one for habitat management and building up the brownie points. So without a family of my own, unless you count Canela, I spent another weekend ringing.

We started on Saturday morning at Formby, however the breeze was too persistent and the birds didn't seem keen on feeding, so we decided to call it a day by 10am and head to Crosby Hall to try and salvage something from the early start. The decision to go to Crosby Hall was justified when, in the first net round, we caught more birds than we had all morning at Formby.


Goldcrest - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Coal Tit - (1)
Chaffinch - 4
Robin - 1
Great Tit - 2 (2)

TOTAL: 9 (3)


Blue Tit - 8 (7)
Great Tit - 2 (3)
Coal Tit - 1 (1)
Robin - (2)
Goldfinch - 1
Chaffinch - 3 (4)
Greenfinch - 5

TOTAL: 20 (17)

On Sunday, myself and Tineke headed to The Woodhams in the rain, with the wind from the west, the rain soon tailed off and we had the nets up immediately. The westerly also meant that all the nets were sheltered, unlike last week, but unfortunately the numbers of finches present in the wood were much lower than last week. An early Siskin amongst the Goldfinches provided a photo opportunity, as did three Treecrepeers next to each other in the net.

Siskin (Caruelis spinus)

During the morning, the signs of spring were evident. Three Buzzards circled overhead, taking advantage of the thermals before stooping at each other midair. Chaffinches were calling and males were chasing each other in territorial disputes while dribs and drabs of Curlew flew noisily overhead.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

Blue Tit - 8 (7)
Great Tit - (10)
L.T.Tit - 2
Coal Tit - (3)
Treecreeper - 1 (2)
Chaffinch - 2
Goldfinch - 6 (1)
Siskin - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Robin - 2 (1)
Blackbird - 2 (1)

TOTAL: 25 (25)

By the end of the weekend, we posted a total much higher than I had originally aniticipated with our 2011 total gradually creeping higher. Chiffchaff's and Wheatears soon....

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Brook Vale Burns

I headed out to Brook Vale yesterday evening with Tineke and Canela to take down a few more willows and continue preparations for the spring/summer. As we walked down from Beach Road, past the allotments, we noticed a few isolated burns - the work of vandals, scallies, [insert appropriate noun for scallywag here] - and we were glad that they were small and isolated.

As we entered the reserve, walking towards the reed bed, we realised that we had a much bigger problem. About 50% of the reed bed was completely burnt out creating a massive open space punctuated by a few isolated willows.

In the short term, this is pretty bad news - it will greatly reduce the number of birds we can catch in the spring as they move northwards as well as reducing the number of potential breeding sites for the Acrocephalus warblers. In the longer term, it will prove to be beneficial to the quality of the reed bed, afterall, burning is one of the more successful reed bed management techniques. The burn should allow the regrowth to be stronger and less dense. As the pictures show, it also exposes the intruding willows which can now be removed much more easily.

Apparently the burn occured on Sunday and the fire crews were unable to tackle the fire, by the looks of the damage, it was a quick and low-intensity burn. Having got over the initial shock, I'm now trying to be philosophical and look to the future, thankful that this happened in March and not late April!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Siskins and Recent Recoveries

After the relative success of Saturday, I was joined by Daniel O'Donnell and Natasha The Ninja down at The Woodhams for an early start. Moxey has been keeping an eye on the feeders, keeping them topped up during the week and has noticed decent numbers of Siskin and Goldfinch feeding on the alder cones and subsequently, our nyjer feeders.

Since the pine plantation was cut down last spring, the feeding station in the alder plantation at the south end of the wood has been a lot more exposed and this was a problem for us. The net was pretty obvious due to all of the catkins and cones that fell into the net, so only two Siskin and two Goldfinch were caught the whole morning. The majority of the birds were caught at the Flea Moss feeding station, dominated by tits in the first two net rounds but replaced by Chaffinches and Siskin in the final net rounds.

Steve and Natasha got off in time to see Liverpool do battle with Man Utd, leaving me and Moxey to complete the last couple of net rounds and collect some elder cuttings (for possible transplant to Brook Vale).

Blackbird - 1 (1)
Blue Tit - 17 (11)
Great Tit - 2 (7)
Coal Tit - 1 (3)
L.T.Tit - 5
Nuthatch - (2)
G.S.Woodpecker - (1)
Robin - 1
Dunnock - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Chaffinch - 11
Goldfinch - 4
Siskin - 4

TOTAL: 48 (25)

Elsewhere, Ian has received a new batch of recoveries from the BTO, amongst them were two birds ringed by me and Moxey:

Goldfinch ringed 07 March 2010, caught at Walney Bird Observatory 17 October 2010, a distance of 44 miles.

A Kestrel pullis ringed at Altcar 01 June 2009 found injured in Burnley on 09 February 2010, a distance of 35 miles.

We're still waiting on a control Goldcrest and a control Reed Warbler from Crosby Hall and Brook Vale respectively, looking forward to getting those back from the BTO. There were a number of other recoveries, including a Brambling to Norway. To read about it, head to the SWLRG blog here.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

New Site at Formby

This morning we had our first ringing session at our new site at the National Trust property at Formby. Neil volunteers at the Nat. Trust once a week and three weeks ago, myself and Tineke joined Neil for a site visit to check out possible places to put a feeding station and also find some scrub sites for spring/autumn warbler ringing.

We didn't strain ourselves to get to the site at the crack of dawn, but arriving on site just after 8am, we set three nets around the feeding station and one near the old wardens house in the poplar understory. As we arrived, we disturbed Brambling and Chaffinch from the feeding station, so we were pretty hopeful of a decent catch of finches.

A very civilised ringing table

Despite the early sightings of Brambling, that continued to call until mid-morning, a few Goldfinch fly-by's and half a dozen Chaffinches or so, the finches all seemed to disappear. This suggests that the optimum catch times will be dawn and according to the wardens, probably mid to late afternoon - but that was what this session was for - getting to know the site. By midday, the birds had dried up and we turned our attention to preparing further net rides for future visits, relocating feeders and checking out the dragonfly pond.

Neil negotiates his first Jay

Neil (he's chuffed, honest!) with his first Jay

Great Tit - 9
Blue Tit - 9
Coal Tit - 5
L.T.Tit - 2
Chaffinch - 3
Robin - 6
Goldfinch - 1
Jay - 1


March is a typically poor ringing month and it usually provides the opportunity to prepare ringing sites for the new growth come the spring. There is still a lot of work to do at Brook Vale, but work is progressing steadily. I am looking forward to what the spring/summer holds, now with three reed bed sites and their associated scrub (last year we only operated one) we hope to make good catches of Acrocephalus and Phylloscopus warblers and who knows, maybe another Cetti's?

We will be ringing at The Woodhams tomorrow with Daniel O'Donnell and Natasha the Ninja.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Iberian Chiffchaff

Last Friday (25th Feb) we were ringing at Paul da Madriz with Paulo Tenreiro and Paulo Ferreira, catching the first Iberian Chiffchaff of the year. Fortunately, we also caught Chiffchaff during the morning which allowed me to take a few pictures to show the differences between the two.
Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus) - note the yellowishness and bold, extended supercilium

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) - shorter, more diffuse supercilium

According to Paulo, it is common to find that ibericus returning from Africa often have moulted the outermost primaries, whereas collybita don't complete any primary moult until after their post-breeding moult.

ItalicIberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus) - P7, P8 & P9 have been moulted

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) - all primaries are of the same generation with uniform wear

In recent years, we have learnt a lot about the Iberian Chiffchaff and I am sure that we will continue to learn more in the coming years. I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time ringing in Portugal and I probably ring similar numbers of both Iberian Chiffchaff and Chiffchaff annually, but it these experiences that provide the opportunities to gain a real insight into the moult patterns and behaviour of these birds.