Sunday, 28 October 2012

Scouse Ringer no Outono: Back to the Minho

As I mentioned in my post last week, I've been in Portugal this week but despite getting back on Thursday, I haven't had a chance to update the auld blog. My visit at the same time last year was a bit of a washout with four days of constant rain, this year, there was an improvement with one day without rain.

On Monday morning, myself, Tó and Ricardo met up at Veiga da S.Simão but from the outset it looked unlikely that we would get any ringing done. We took this opportunity to compare the accuracy of various weather forecasting apllications on our phones. Comparing the forecasts of Accuweather and WindGuru (also available for the UK and worth a look, as is the Met Office app - although consistently inaccurate), we finished on a score of WindGuru 2 - 0 Accuweather over the week. With the weather calling the session off, we turned our attentions elsewhere and absorbed a little culture.

A break in Mondays showers

Only me and Tó were able to attend Tuesdays session and our chest waders were much needed as there was a significant amount of flood water on the site. As we were only two, we stuck to three lines, the atricapilla, collybita and igreja lines and as it consipired, it was a sensible move to just stick to these nets. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky, in contrast to the previous day, and by 9am, the temperature was rising to a very pleasant 20 deg and 27 deg by the time we packed up at lunchtime. As we had expected, much of the activity would be in the first couple of hours and the first two net rounds yielded about eighty birds, mostly Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

A significant improvement

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

We also caught a single Savi's Warbler, a juvenile bird, that was in no real condition to migrate yet, with no visible fat to score and a muscle score of 2. Most Savi's Warblers will already be back in Africa by now, so the future of this individual is uncertain, but isn't that the savage beauty of nature?

Savi's Warbler (Locustella luscinioides)

The warbler count was boosted by a few Cetti's Warblers, a species that was largely absent during our sessions at the end of July, but turned up at the end of August. Sardinian Warblers were also present, and contributed to the eight birds recaptured from previous ringing sessions. During the session, an Osprey was hunting along the river, a regular observation during our ringing sessions at this time of year.

Praying Mantis

It was a pretty busy morning all in all, with 96 birds ringed and 8 recaptures, all of which were from previous ringing sessions at this site. We've now completed a full two years of monitoring at Veiga da S.Simão and it will be interesting to take a look back at some of the data and use this to plan for a project to monitor the bird life at this site.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Quick Update

Just a quick update from me today as I have a plane to catch. As usual in the half term break, I'm heading back to Portugal to spend some time with ringing with my Portuguese colleagues.

Myself and Moxey have had quite a busy week. Moxey managed to get a brief session in at the feeding station at Ince Blundell during the week but the catch was almost exclusively made up of tits. One Nutchatch was the exception. It's unusual to have a session at this time of year where species such as Robin, Dunnock, Wren and Chaffinch are so absent and given past successes at Ince Blundell for Goldcrest, they also appeared absent. The totals below do not include birds retrapped:

Blue Tit -   13
Coal Tit -   9
Great Tit -   11
L.T.Tit -   6
Nuthatch -   1

TOTAL:   40

Yesterday, me and Moxey were joined by Dan for a session at Kings Moss. Following last weeks success, we had a much quieter session with little to no visible migration. We did, however, record two new species for the site: ten Raven flew over towards Liverpool - a species becoming more common and at least one Crossbill.

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)

Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)

At the feeding stations, we managed to catch another five Reed Bunting, a further three Lesser Redpoll and a single Yellowhammer. The pines yielded a total of three Goldcrest and a single male Blackcap made up the only warbler of the day.

Goldcrest -   3
L.T.Tit -   1   (2)
Wren -   3
Dunnock -   1
Great Tit -   3   (5)
Blue Tit -   3   (8)
Coal Tit -   1   (1)
Blackcap -   1
Yellowhammer -   1
Chaffinch -   2
Robin -   2   (2)
Goldfinch -   7
Lesser Redpoll -  3
Reed Bunting -   5
Greenfinch -   6   (1)
Song Thrush -   1
Blackbird -   1

TOTAL:   44   (19)

This morning it was me and Moxey once again, enshrouded in mist at Brook Vale. The first net round yielded little as most birds seemed to be sitting tight  rather that the usual dawn movement of birds out of the roost. We noticed a distinct lack of thrushes and it wasn't until the second net round that we caught the first two Redwing of the autumn, a good return given that only ten were seen. Over the next few weeks the numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare will hopefully build up to produce some significant catches. We don't get large concentrations of these species in our area, but sometimes on passage we can have some success.

Redwing (Turdus illiacus)


Goldcrest -    (1)
Wren -   2
L.T.Tit -   9
Chiffchaff -   1
Blackbird -   3
Song Thrush -   1
Redwing -   2
Greenfinch -   3   (1)
Blackcap -   1   (1)
Robin -   3   (1)
Coal Tit -   3
Chaffinch -   2   (3)
Blue Tit -   2   (1)

TOTAL:   32   (8)

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Green Party

It was just me and Moxey for this mornings session out at Kings Moss. It was two weeks since our last session up at the plantation, and with two or three visits a week to keep the feeders topped up, activity at the feeding stations has been hotting up. As it stood, the only site that we have that could have been operated this morning was Kings Moss, the forecast for the rest of our sites (all of which are within 3km of the coast) was rather moist.

The bird of the day award belonged to the humble, often unappreciated, Greenfinch. Other ringing blogs, can be a useful source of mid-week information for us and by checking out The Hairy Birder blog from our friends on the Fylde, we took inspiration in Seumus and Ian's attempts at calling down passing Greenfinch. Today was a day when there wasn't much in the way of visible migration, except for 4000 Pink-footed Geese, 60 Fieldfare heading south and a slow and steady stream of Skylark, also moving south. If it wasn't for the mp3 player, we would have had no idea that there were so many Greenfinch passing with each net round yielding double figures, including two controls (birds ringed by another ringer). The final total ended up at eighty-two, our biggest single catch of Greenfinch in recent years.

 Greenfinch (Chloris chloris)

Elsewhere, we had success with other finch/bunting species. Following on from Moxey's midweek Redpoll at Hightown (amongst another decent catch of Goldcrest), we caught another, as well as a total of five Reed Bunting, one of which was a local control. As I mentioned earlier, activity is picking up at the feeders now and hopefully over the next few weeks, the Yellowhammer will also find the food and we can pick up where we left off in the spring.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)

There was nothing in the way of warblers and the last remaining Chiffchaff and Blackcap appear to moved on although birds are still present on Rimrose Valley and on the dunes. We had another good catch of Goldcrest, the majority of which came from a small pine stand, their foliage of choice.

Wren -   5
Goldcrest -   8   (1)
L.T.Tit -   3   (5)
Chaffinch -   9   (1)
Goldfinch -   13
Redpoll -   1
Linnet -   1
Dunnock -   1
Robin -   1   (2)
Coal Tit -   4   (1)
Blue Tit -   16   (10)
Great Tit -   14   (7)
Meadow Pipit -   2
Reed Bunting -   4   (1)
Greenfinch -   82   (3)
Song Thrush -   1

TOTAL:   165   (30)

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Double Header Sunday: More Regulus!

On Sunday morning I headed down to Hightown - on my own this time as Moxey had a Sheffield run to do (not actually Moxey going for a run in Sheffield - but taking my younger brother back to university.....the thought of Moxey running!!!). Anyhow, as I was on my own, I only put five nets up and it was a pretty slow start. As dawn broke, it sounded like there were good numbers of waders roosting on the Alt estuary, only a few hundred meters away, and not long after, the pink-footed geese started to move like continuous waves of lancaster bombers.

Pink-footed Geese (Anser brachyrhynchus)

As birds started to move, it was Goldcrest that dominated the catch, much as they had the previous day on Rimrose, curiously, the Goldcrest weren't that vocal and if it wasn't for the nets, it wouldn't have been clear just how many were in the area, highlighting the importance of these monitoring methods. A couple of young female Blackcaps were followed by two Chiffchaff later on, but these were the only warblers to be caught. The warblers are really starting to tail off now but these will shortly be replace by the winter thrushes, moving in from the continent.

A late tit flock as I was packing up boosted the ringing total, including one Blue Tit previously ringed at another site. The visual migration was pretty poor, with low numbers of Meadow Pipit flying over, mainly one's or two's, including one being terrorised by a Merlin. A couple of Sparrowhawk also flew over late on, with one Cormorant and a single Little Egret flew out towards the Alt.

Goldcrest -   13   (1)
Wren -   3   (1)
Greenfinch -   1
Blackbird -   1
Song Thrush -   2
Blue Tit -   4   (1)
Blackcap -   2
Great Tit -   4
Chaffinch -   6
Chiffchaff -   2
L.T.Tit -   5
Robin -   1
Meadow Pipit -   1

TOTAL:   45   (3)

I headed straight from Hightown to Crosby Hall and given that the weather was a significant improvement from the majority of what we have been dealing with, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I was joined by Dan and we put up the usual five nets. From the outset the feeding station pitched in with the majority of the birds, the first bird out of the net being a Great-spotted Woodpecker, giving Dan much amusement.

Great-spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocops major)

Chaffinches were caught in good numbers, and tits made up the rest but, as had been the pattern over the weekend, Goldcrest were abundant. Goldcrest were much more apparent at Crosby Hall, feeding in the Yews like hyperactive moths and although eight were caught and ringed, there were many more around.

As we were packing up, we had fly-pasts from Buzzard, Kestrel and a single Swallow with a Comma making a late butterfly appearance in the autumn sunshine.

Goldcrest -   8
Chaffinch -   18
Robin -   3
Great Tit -   7   (2)
Blue Tit -   14   (2)
Coal Tit -   1   (1)
Goldfinch -   1
Greenfinch -   5
Song Thrush -   1
Nuthatch -   (1)
G.S.Woodpecker -   1

TOTAL:   59   (6)

All in all, we had a good weekend, taking our annual Goldcrest total over the hundred mark and picking up some late migrant warblers. As I said earlier, we expect the thrushes to begin to arrive as we progress through the month and for the pipit passage to peak over the next week or two. With fingers (and toes) crossed, we hope for some settled weather, to bring more opportunities.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Crest of a wave?

The weather has prevented any real ringing attempts this week although Moxey managed to squeeze in two short sessions on Tuesday at Hightown and Ince Blundell. These sessions yielded little other than some Goldcrest and a couple of Chiffchaff.

This morning me and Moxey headed out to Brook Vale and with news of Goldcrests moving through and Yellow-browed Warblers turning up left, right and centre, we set out with high hopes.Things got moving from the outset and as usual, the majority of the birds were caught early on - this included a small haul of nine Goldcrest. Even at that early stage, this represented the biggest single catch of Goldcrest on Rimrose Valley. The final count ended up at thirteen birds captured, including one bird ringed by another member of the group during at least the previous calendar year.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)

The first net round also yielded the bird of the day, prompting me to ask Moxey to remove the bird with the read tail from the net....our first Redstart for Rimrose Valley, a bird seldom observed here. The bird was a juvenile female with 4 ESF of fat, but this wasn't the only migrant of interest this morning.

Juvenile female Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

Towards the end of the morning, a Reed Warbler caught us by surprise. This is our latest capture of Reed Warbler on Rimrose so far, although we usually curtail our reed bed activities after the second week of September. Given the timing of this capture, and given the capture of a Blyth's Reed Warbler at Fleetwood Bird Observatory the other week, we double-checked all of the measurements but the bird was a Reed Warbler. The bird was in reasonably good condition considering how late it is in the season, with 6 ESF of fat and weighing in at 15.6g - it will need all the help it can to make it to its wintering grounds.

Goldcrest -   12   (1)
L.T.Tit -   2
Wren -   5   (1)
Chiffchaff -   4
Blue Tit -   7   (2)
Great Tit -   1   (1)
Chaffinch -   7
Dunnock -   1   (1)
Robin -   5   (2)
Blackcap -   10   (1)
Redstart -   1
Meadow Pipit -    1
Reed Warbler -   1
Greenfinch -   (1)
Song Thrush -   1
Blackbird -   4

TOTAL: 62   (10)

 Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

With a bit of high pressure upon us, hopefully we'll start to see some movement down the coast over the next 24hrs.