Sunday, 25 November 2012

North West Bird Fair

This weekend has seen a mass migration of bird enthusiasts to WWT Martin Mere here in SW Lancs for the 2012 NW Bird Fair. An excellent programme of activities was laid on, including a range of talks from groups such as the Swift Conservation Trust, Brown Hare Survey and local birders Graham Clarkson and Alan Bedford. There was also a wide range of stalls, including the BTO, Wirral Ranger Service, Dee Estuary Study Group and the Bat Conservation Trust.

As part of the South-west Lancs Ringing Group contribution, Brian Hopkins, myself and Andy Dixon held a ringing demonstration at the Kingfisher Hide. The demonstration was very well attended and we were pleasantly suprised with the number of birds we were able to capture, with about seventy birds ringed. Visitors got the opportunity to see Tree Sparrow, Brambling and Goldcrest as well as some larger birds such as Magpie, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Woodpigeon.

 Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) - a local success story

Saturday, 17 November 2012


With some heavy overnight rain persisting into the morning, standard ringing sessions were not possible today. Given that the regimented body-clock wouldn't allow a prolonged lie-in, I headed over to Moxeys for a bit of scout for some Waxwings.

John Dempsey had reported a sizeable flock in Formby over the past couple of days and so it was there that we focused our attention. After about half an hour, we stumbled upon a group of four on the aerials of a house, close to where they had been reported earlier in the week. After watching the birds for ten minutes or so, they started feeding on a rowan situated in a front garden, about three metres from us. After a brief chat with the home owner, and the loan of Moxey's binoculars, we popped up a short net to see if they would come low enough in the tree.

Slim pickings on this Rowan

It didn't take long before three of the four birds were feeding in the bush and one of the three got caught as they vacated the tree. Shortly afterwards, the birds moved off, presumably to rejoin the larger flock that we were unable to find.

 Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

The individual that we ringed was a young female and is only the third to be ringed by SW Lancs Ringing Group, the others were caught by Moxey many years ago! Hopefully, as it seems to be a promising 'Waxwing Year', this will be the first of many.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Top Ten Updated

I've had a chance to update our top ten totals and they show an interesting shift in the balance of different species, with finches starting to come to the fore - largely due to two significant finch 'events' at Kings Moss. The number of Goldcrest ringed is also quite encouraging and, based on our ringing results so far this autumn, it would appear that they have had a relatively successful breeding season - I'm not sure how prominently Goldcrest feature in CES totals around the country but I would assume that it is not very.

1. Swift -   823
2. Blue Tit -   498
3. House Martin -   434
4. Greenfinch -   344
5. Chaffinch -   306
6. Swallow -   298
7. Goldfinch -   255
8. Blackcap -   252
9. Great Tit -   224
10. Goldcrest -   195

It has been another busy week for me at work, but on Wednesday night I will be giving a talk to the Bangor Bird Club about my work ringing in Portugal. To celebrate this event, I've included a picture from my talk.

Orphean Warbler (Sylvia hortensis)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

More From The Moss

After an extremely hectic week at work, it was a great relief to be able to get out this morning and get some fresh air with Moxey and Dan. We headed out to Kings Moss as it had been two weeks since we had last ringed there. Despite the overnight rain, we had a cracking morning in terms of weather, flat calm, clear skies and vivid colours from the changing leaves. In fact, the only thing missing from the autumal scene was the chacking of Fieldfare and the 'seep' of Redwing.

Thrushes weren't the only birds that appeared absent as we were putting the nets up, there was very little evidence of anything other than a couple of Chaffinch, the odd Blue Tit and an overhead Redpoll. By the time we took the first net round, we were surprised to find that we had managed to attract a significant flock of Greenfinch, peppered with the odd Goldfinch and a few Chaffinch.

This was the order of the morning with each net round yielding a catch dominated by Greenfinch, given by the low number of retraps, and that most of the retraps were caught together, it is possible that this was a dispersing flock, similar to those found last month during a session in which we ringed another large total of Greenfinch.

Greenfinch with tick: Following the Goldcrest/tick post, I wanted to share an image of this Greenfinch that we caught this morning that had been found with a tick - the tick was safely removed from the bird.

We have yet to see, let alone catch, a Willow Tit at Kings Moss this autumn and tit numbers in general are down. It's not too difficult to see the impact that weather has had on the hydrology of the site. On all of my recent visits there has been significant surface run-off with a build up of surface water in a lot of the lower woodland. This heavy rainfall during the autumn months is not too unusual, however on top of the rainfall earlier in the year, has left the groundwater table full. Time will tell how significant the impact of this rainfall will be on these populations, however when the population is small, it can have notable impact.

Female Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

Wren -   1   (1)
Goldcrest -   1
Coal Tit -   (2)
Blue Tit -   5   (5)
Great Tit -   5    (7)
Robin -    (1)
Dunnock -   4
Chaffinch -   17
Goldfinch -   8
Lesser Redpoll -   1
Bullfinch -   1
Greenfinch -   73   (5)
Song Thrush -   (1)

TOTAL:   118   (22)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Tick Watch: Goldcrest

This weekend we kept things slightly lazy, with two ringing sessions at our woodland feedings sites of Crosby Hall and Ince Blundell. I say 'lazy' because these sites require less nets and are relatively easy to operate and as it was only myself and Moxey this weekend, it suited quite well. As it happened, the wind speed and threat of rain showers meant we had to opt for the shelter of the woods in any case.

It was quite a slow weekend in terms of numbers, at both sites there was limited activity at the feeding sites and our most-ringed bird ended up being Goldcrest with ten ringed at Ince on Saturday and a total of eleven ringed at Crosby Hall. It was one of the birds caught at Crosby Hall on Sunday however, that was the most interesting and references the title of this post.

This Goldcrest was the victim of a tick that had managed to attach itself to the eyelid of the bird. We have noticed an increase in the number of birds in SW Lancs that we are catching with ticks and we had previously linked this to an increase in the number of cattle that are grazed at different times of the year in close proximity to our ringing sites. Whilst this may account for species such as Blackbird, Song Thrush and even some of the tits we have caught with ticks, the link to Goldcrest is one we have yet to see.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) with tick - CLICK TO ENLARGE

This then, raises another possibility. As we have seen a decent passage of Goldcrest move through our area in the past month, the origin of such birds (as last years recoveries from the Isle of May and Fife suggest) that our birds are likely of Scottish or Nordic origin. Therefore it is possible that the tick in question had its origins outside of the country. Returning to the bird, it was in good health with a body mass of 5.5g, given the overnight temperature dropped below freezing and the bird was captured at 8am - the resilience of these birds is amazing!