Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Evening session on Rimrose

This evening me and Tineke met up with Steve and Natasha at Fulwood to have some fun in the reed bed. The wind was slightly stronger than we wanted, but we stuck at it, moving nets around to try a number of different locations.

I haven't managed to post anything since the Barn Owling last week, mainly because I haven't managed to get out. A short session at Ince Blundell on Saturday wasn't much of a success with only a couple of birds being ringed and with Tineke away at Glastonbury (much jealousy!) and the trainees otherwise engaged, I took advantage and managed to get a load of GCSE and A Level planning boxed off!

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) female

Tonight we covered a small section of reed bed and willow carr at Fulwood and after a slow start, the catch rate picked up. I was expecting that we would have a crop of fledged warblers to pick from, however there was a distinct absence of young Reed Warblers, with only one being caught. The Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff were all juveniles though, as were the titmice.

Juvenile Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

Juvenile Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Reed Warbler - 5 (1)
Sedge Warbler - 1
Dunnock - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Great Tit - 2
Blue Tit - 2
Dunnock - 1
Greenfinch - 1

TOTAL: 14 (1)

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Bumper BAROW's

I met up with Moxey and Brian this evening to head out and check a few nest boxes that should have been ready with chicks at the right size for ringing. We had a 100% success rate this evening and even picked up a Brucie Bonus in the way of four Kestrel chicks, fledged today, bouncing around in the bottom of a hay barn.

Two of the four Kestrels

At the same farm, we ringed four Barn Owl chicks and I was even able to lift the female out of the box (without being mauled this time) and she was unringed. We then moved on to a number of different farms, picking up a few Swallows, some more Barn Owls and a single Stock Dove.

Voles Beware!

We have now ringed forty Barn Owls, with plenty left to go back to when the chicks are big enough, which is an increase on last year. Although average brood size has been low, the condition of the birds has been pretty good. Of the forty birds ringed, three have four have been adults - higher than any year in the recent past.

Barn Owl - 18
Swallow - 7
Kestrel - 4
Stock Dove - 1


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Sand Martin from Santo André goes local!

Getting home from work yesterday, I logged on to see what was going on in the world of blog. The weather has been pretty difficult locally, so there has been a lack of ringing lately, with the exception of a few nest boxes. It was great interest that I read Kane Bride's blog to read that he had caught a Sand Martin with a Portuguese ring. Given that we ringed almost 3000 birds in Portugal last August in Santo André only 49 where Sand Martins, caught with Swallows coming into roost, I was alerted to the possibility that it could have one of 'ours'.

With a little bit of checking, A310342 turned out to have been ringed on 28th August 2010 by us and has now been controlled by Kane at his site in Shakerley - not all that far away from us!

Thanks to Kane (I nicked the image) - this is a great record and the first Lisboa Sand Martin to the UK!!!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Blown off......

On Friday night, me and Tineke met up with Moxey and Brian (from the Northern Division of SWLRG) to check a few more Barn Owl boxes. We managed to cover a lot of ground, despite spending a good forty/fifty minutes trying to search for a Little Owl nest that we failed to locate.

Barn Owl (Tito alba)

During the course of the evening, we ringed nine Barn Owls (including one adult - inflicting some serious pain on my fingers at the top of the ladder - much to the amusement of the farmer and his family!). We also picked up a brood of five Swallows (the first of the year) and three Kestrels.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Most of the broods of Barn Owls that we have ringed so far this year have been 2-3 chicks, with most being a healthy size with the occasional 'runt'. We picked up our biggest brood of the year so far, five chicks, all healthy and well fed, that just so happened to be at one of the highest barns on the agenda!

Following the success of Friday night, the rest of the weekend has been anything but a success! I was due to be getting observed this weekend for my training endorsement for my permit and Seumus Eaves of Fleetwood Birder fame was due to pop down to run the rule. Sadly, the weather has been too windy to ring on Rimrose Valley for the past couple of days so we'll have to wait a few weeks for the next opportunity. It's the first time I haven't ringed on either a Saturday or Sunday for a very long time which at least gave me an opportunity to get ahead on my planning for the new GCSE and A Level courses I am teaching!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

300th Swift ringed (finally!) and some more Barn Owls

Moxey managed to get out to the sewage farm yesterday morning before the temperature rose too much and managed to catch another fifteen Swifts of which eleven were new birds and four were retraps. This now takes us to 308 Swifts ringed this year which is still lower than our total of 322 birds ringed in 2010. As I have said before, me and Moxey are going to crunch some numbers over the next few weeks and try and write something about ringing Swifts.

Last night I came straight from work to meet Moxey and we headed out to check a few boxes for Kestrels and Barn Owls. We had a very productive night, ringing thirteen Kestrels and nine Barn Owls.

Barn Owl (Tito alba)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

There is still loads of boxes to check and plenty to go back to. So far only one of the established boxes that we have checked has been vacant which is suprising considering the number of Barn Owls that were found dead during the previous winter.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

First Buzzards for SWLRG

On Friday night, me and Moxey headed to some private land to ring the first Buzzard chicks for SW Lancs Ringing Group! We had missed the young at this nest last year, we had been too late and the birds were too big to safely take from the nest. It looked like we had left it a bit too late this year, but eventually I was able to lift the birds off the nest and get them down the tree.

The nest was pretty large, about 1.4m wide, which doesn't sound like much, but when you're at the top of a pine tree that is swaying under a combination of your own weight (and I'm not that heavy) and the wind, it wasn't that easy to get the birds off the nest.

Feisty Buzzard (Buteo buteo) chick

The two chicks

Following the successful ringing of the Buzzards, we headed to a nearby farm and ringed two Barn Owl pulli. There had previously been four chicks in this nest, but only three when we returned, one of which was too small to ring and is likely to fall victim to its siblings.

On Saturday morning I met Steve at Brook Vale for another ringing session and similar to last week, we were hoping to pick up some fledgling warblers. Charlie overslept - which, although he was unaware of this, put a huge target on his head, but more of that later.

We had hoped to catch some fledgling Whitethroat and Blackcap given the breeding density in the dell area, however we were unsuccessful. We supposed that the birds must have fledged midweek and were more mobile around the country park.

The weather was forecast to be dry and calm. By 8am we were hit by a freak hail shower and we continued to get intermittent showers for the rest of the morning as the wind got up. By 10:30 we were all packed up with nothing too special to report.

The highlight of the morning, was catching this in the top shelf of a net in the dell:

Short-tailed Field Vole (??)

The vole must have been dropped into the net by the Kestrel that had been hunting the fringes of the playing fields and it gave me and Steve a bit of a laugh. Now, I thought it was only fair that as Charlie overslept by two hours, we had a little fun...can you see where we are going here?....

Let me just say this, if it had been the Bullfinch that I said it was (or should it be Short-tailed Bullfinch?) then I was very impressed that Charlie pulled the 'bird' out of the bag, after thirty seconds of fiddling, with the vole in the ringers grip. Cue Moxey, Steve and me pissing ourselves laughing!!!

Chiffchaff - 3 (2)
Wren - 4
Reed Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 5 (4)
Robin - 6 (1)
Linnet - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit - 1 (1)
Blackcap - (4)
Song Thrush - 2 (1)
Blackbird - 2 (2)

TOTAL: 27 (16)

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Flicking Swifts: The Movie

After a little creative editing and a soundtrack provided by The Eels, here is my first video footage of myself and Moxey flicking Swifts at our sewage farm site.

The footage was shot on a 'quiet' day, so there weren't many birds around, but hopefully this gives a little flavour of what flicking is all about!


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Big Catch Up!


After a long drive back on Wednesday night, having spent the day birdwatching at Radipole Lake in Weymouth and partaking in a spot of (unsuccessful) fishing on Chessil Beach, I decided to take a couple of hours sleep before heading out ringing.

Fulwood was the destination as it was easy to operate a couple of double panels on my own, catching breeding reed bed warblers on territory. It was a mild and overcast morning and an absolute belter to be out on - there was no-one around for hours, just me and the sounds of the Reed Warblers, the recently ringed Grasshopper Warbler reeling away and the hyperactive scratchings of the Whitethroats.

Female Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

By 10am, I was ready for a brew, so I headed to Moxey's having ringed the following:

Reed Warbler - 6
Whitethroat - 2
Sedge Warbler - 2 (1)
Reed Bunting - 1

TOTAL: 11 (1)


Tineke wasn't too pleased when I woke her on Friday morning at ten to three but she knew she had to pay-off the brownie points I had earned taking her down to Dorset. Off we went to Fulwood to net the side of the canal, only our third session in this area. I was hopeful that some of the early breeding warblers would have young on the wing, following the fledgling Blackcap and Whitethroat that we had the week before at Brook Vale.

Moxey joined us by 7am, but by this point, the sun was out and the temperature was rising quickly. Reminiscent of ringing in the reed beds in Portugal, activity tailed off by 9am.

The only birds of real interest were the Great-spotted Woodpecker - not sure what it was doing there! and catching our first juvenile Great Tits of the year. Only one of the Blackbirds was a young bird, so I would expect over the next week or so to see a big increase in the number of young birds.

Juvenile Great Tit (Parus Major)

Wren - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - (1)
Blue Tit - (1)
Blackcap - 3 (3)
Whitethroat - 4 (3)
Linnet - 2
Dunnock - 3 (1)
Robin - 3 (1)
Great Tit - 4 (3)
Greenfinch - 2
Blackbird - 8 (1)
G.S.Woodpecker - 1

TOTAL: 32 (14)

Later on, one of my colleagues from school came all the way from Chester with his wife and three children to see some Barn Owls, Kestrels, Jackdaws and Stock Doves. They were in for an unprecedented treat, as two boxes had adult Barn Owls and one had an female Kestrel that was lifted off. The only species that we didn't get was the Stock Dove, with one nest falling to a predator.

Barn Owl (Tito alba)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

We have a number of Kestrels and Barn Owls that should be ready in the next week or so, so it will be busy times here in SW Lancs!

Barn Owl - 2
Kestrel - 2 (1)
Jackdaw - 5

TOTAL: 9 (1)


I couldn't call on Tineke on Saturday, two 3am mornings on the bounce would probably have been pushing my luck! Instead, Neil was available, so I picked him up at 3am and off we went to Brook Vale. We operated the same nets in the dell and just the line and 'Cetti's Warbler net' within the reserve. We had all the nets open by 5am, slightly later than I had planned, alas, the Reed Warblers were already jumping into the net.

Catching four Reed Warblers in the first net round wasn't really a suprise to me, however, the fact that they were unringed did. This sort of contradicts my earlier theory, but does add some weight to the dual influx theory - that there are two main arrival events to their migration, birds arriving in late-April/early-May followed by an influx in the beginning of June.

Over at the dell, we continued to add to the totals of Linnet, Blackcap and Whitethroat with a total of eleven birds of these species being ringed. Robins are showing signs of a successful breeding season, with seven juveniles ringed, following on from eight the previous week.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) with a skin infection

The Jay caught at the feeding station line provided some entertainment when we handed it to Neil to ring - his second. Ringing Jays is so much easier when you keep the bird in the bird bag as long as possible - as Neil found out!

The reeds continue their regeneration, now supporting at least eight different Reed Warblers although there are at least one other unringed pair. Hopefully the reed bed will remain unburnt next year and the benefits will be seen, despite the act of vandalism.

Chiffchaff - 2 (1)
L.T.Tit - 5 (2)
Robin - 8
Reed Warbler - 4 (1)
Linnet - 3
Blackcap - 4 (1)
Whitethroat - 4 (2)
Dunnock - 2 (5)
Goldfinch - 1
Great Tit - 4
House Sparrow - 2
Song Thrush - 2
Blackbird - 1
Jay - 1

TOTAL: 43 (12)


This morning I met Moxey at the sewage farm, hopeful of breaking the 300 Swifts ringed, but as we arrived, there weren't very many birds around. The weather was much calmer than it has been recently (the wind was actually below 15mph!) and this made flicking much easier.

By 9am, the Swifts numbers started to increase and while Moxey monitored the three static nets, I concentrated on flicking. The static nets produced the majority of the hirundines that were all caught in the first two hours, including one control House Martin - L072510 - get in touch if this is your bird!!!

The Swifts weren't really playing ball today, sticking to the tops of the trees as much as they could and they weren't present in any significant numbers, maybe only about 200 birds present. As the temperatures started to rise, so did the Swifts, too high to flick and so we called it a day, three short of having ringed 300 Swifts this year.

I've had a number of people get in touch recently that were unfamiliar with flicking and today I was able to get some good footage of both myself and Moxey doing a bit of flicking, so when I get some time, I will try to put together a video.

Swift - 42 (3)
House Martin - 21 (6) + 1 control
Swallow - 6

TOTAL: 69 (10)

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

An afternoon at Arne

RSPB Arne has been on my 'to-bird' list pretty much since I met Tineke, but the last couple of times I have been down here, in deepest Dorset, I haven't had time to get there. Yesterday I did, with Tineke, Canela and Jan in tow.

Before I talk about Arne, in the morning we headed to Henbury Forest, where Tineke's pony is in livery. So whilst Tineke went for a drive in Meg, I followed behind with Canela, who is turning out to be quite the birdwatcher! There was a pretty good selection of birds in the conifer dominated woodland, Goldcrests were singing, flittering in and out of the pines, while Nuthatch squabbled away noisily. We also heard plenty of Chiffchaff and as we reached the more low-lying, heath at the top of the hill, there were Willow Warbler and the occasional Woodlark calling. On the return trip, a family of Great-spotted Woodpeckers kept us company and Treecreeper was also heard.

Then on to Arne. There were three birds that I was keen on seeing yesterday, Dartford Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Sandwich Tern, mainly because all the other birds I could see at Arne, I could see relatively easily on my usual patch, or not far away. First up, we headed across the heathland to look for the Dartford Warbler. The staff at the visitor centre had explained that even in the light winds, the Dartford's would be difficult to see, especially as most were feeding young. However, when we reached the first hide, with a bit of patience, I did catch a brief glimpse of a male, as expected, on top of a gorse bush, before it dipped down and didn't reemerge.

Hide 1: Dartford Warbler seen from here

From the hide, we headed back across the heathland towards the car park, but carried on to the farm on our way to the Double-decker Hide that looks across to Poole. On the way I had a very washed out Stonechat that caused a momentary ID-crisis, but once it turned the panic was over.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba)

After we had passed the farm, we the trail passed through areas of heathland, and wet oak woodland and this is where we encountered the Sika. Most of the Sika were out on the salt marsh, but quite a few had ventured into the woodland, which gave Canela some entertainment as they scrambled up the bank and over the path in front of us.

Sika deer

As we reached the Double-decker Hide, I was able to tick another box on the list: Spotted Flycatcher, a single bird carrying food. There were occasional observations of Spotted Flycatcher on Rimrose Valley last year, although I am yet to see one there, and they are not exactly abundant in SW Lancs, so to be able to get good views here, was pretty good for me.

From the hide, we looked out over the salt marsh towards Poole but there wasn't much around. A couple of hundred Black-headed Gulls and seventy-odd Shelduck were busy feeding on the mud flats. A single Redshank and a family of Mallard were about the only other birds around, so we headed on to Shipsal.

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

From Shipsal, we looked across to Brownsea Island (also on my to-bird list), Long Island and Round Island. It was here, sitting on a buoy, that I had Sandwich Tern, a single bird. This was the first time that Tineke had seen Sandwich Tern and so it was a good opportunity to show here the differences between gulls and terns. A small flock of waders, mainly Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlin were amongst the gulls and these were later joined by a substantial flock Canada Geese.

The view from Shipsal

From Shipsal, we headed back to the car park, encountering more Sika, plenty of Chiffchaff and a whole posse of Wren (about 13 in a group!). So, all three boxes ticked = one happy Scouse Ringer.

Today we are heading over towards Weymouth, so I am hoping to stop in at Lodmore or Radipole Lake, but I am not sure if we'll have time because we'll be driving home tonight, ready for a ringing session in the morning.