Wednesday, 27 April 2011

26th April 2011 - Bulls and Gardens

Numbers are still low with just 29 new birds ringed on another beautifully sunny week from two sessions at Leith Hill and two sessions at my Warnham home.
Friday and Sunday mornings were on Duke's Warren again with the help of Ray and Derrick and delivered not only the first Garden Warblers (above) of the year, but also the first Bullfinchs (below).  Other highlights included another breeding female Siskin and Goldcrest.  Also one of the three new Willow Warblers (bottom) caught had a much greyer colouring akin to the northern acredula subspecies, although not able to be verified.
Whilst at home on Saturday and Monday, a whole two days of netting produced just five new birds in the form of three Blackcaps and two Robins, although the four retraps included an incubating Treecreeper and Nuthatch.

Other sightings included at least four Cuckoo, 2 Red Kite and a lingering Brambling at Leith Hill, whilst a single Cuckoo, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Hobby were recorded from my garden.  But the highlight of the week was this morning (Tuesday) when an early morning visit to Leith Hill to show Matt Farmer the Wood Warblers was interrupted when on his route up to the hill he flushed a HOOPOE from the middle of the road!  Although much searching at the time and during the rest of the day failed to relocate it - lucky Matt!

Also below is a very poor video of one of the male Wood Warblers singing at Leith Hill, apologies for the quality, gaps and a wailing child in the background! The second half is the best bit:
Birds ringed:
Garden Warbler - 4
Siskin - 1
Great Tit - 3
Bullfinch - 2
Chaffinch - 2
Whitethroat - 3
Dunnock - 1
Blue Tit - 2
Willow Warbler - 5
Goldcrest - 1
Blackcap - 3
Robin - 2

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

19th April 2011 - Nesting Season Begins

Just a single ringing session this week at Leith Hill on Monday (18th) and although only ten birds were caught they involved my first two Whitethroat of the year (below).  Also a breeding pair of Siskin with the female sporting a full brood patch and a retrap adult from earlier in the month.  The most frustrating was one of the three Cuckoos that were present bouncing out of one of the nets!!
Although, I have spent quite a bit of time nest hunting and have managed to ring a nest of Blackbird and a nest of Song Thrush at Leith Hill and two more nests of Song Thrush at home.  Other active nests located included singles of Tawny Owl, Mandarin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff and Blackbird.

Birds ringed:
Siskin - 2
Long-tailed Tit - 2
Goldcrest - 1
Willow Warbler - 2
Whitethroat - 2
Blackbird - 4 nestlings
Song Thrush - 11 nestlings

Monday, 11 April 2011

11th April 2011 - Start of Heron Season

Quite a variation of ringing this week with two mornings at Leith Hill, two mornings at home and the start of the Heronry ringing at Warnham LNR.

On Monday (4th), a couple of hours in the morning at Leith Hill proved very poor compared to recent visits with just three new birds caught - two Lesser Redpoll and a Willow Warbler.  There were very few Redpolls around on this morning and by the end of the week they seem to have nearly all gone, departing to their more northerly breeding grounds.
Wednesday (6th) and Sunday (10th) mornings were spent doing some ringing at home in the garden which produced just 37 new birds of 13 species including the first Collared Dove (above), Jackdaw (below) and Blackcaps of the year.  I catch very few warblers at home even in the autumn and never in spring, so to catch 11 of three species here in two sessions was outstanding and all very fatty migrants.  Also managed to find a few nests of Song Thrush (2), Blackbird (1), Blue Tit (4), Great Tit (2), Jackdaw (3), Long-taled Tit (1), Magpie (1), Greenfinch (1), Chaffinch (1).

Phil (aka 'Ice') with chick
Saturday (9th) was the start of the Grey Heron ringing at Warnham LNR, with great thanks to tree climbers Gary and Phil (pictured above with chick) who volunteered their time climbing the 40ft trees to access the nests. The timings of when these birds breed can be very dependant on the weather at the beginning of the year as well as during the nesting time. After the cold, snowy weather in January, they seemed to start nesting quite late, so planned to visit the colony a couple of weeks later than last year, but the unseasonal hot weather of the last two weeks meant that the chicks have grown very quickly. This meant that we were unable to ring four nests as the birds were too far advanced. A week earlier would have caught up with three of these, but I was on my brother's stag do in Bristol - so enough said! 
Chick showing defensive crest
We still managed to ring 15 birds from five nests, with orange colour rings with black digits added to above the left knee for easier identification in the field. The only other nests were one with three eggs and another still being built, totalling just 11 nests. This is a huge decline compared to last year where 26 nests were recorded making this the biggest Heronry in Sussex. In fact, a whole area of Corsican Pine seems to have been abandoned where there were 16 nests last year! I am hoping that these might just be late starting, but the regular presence of Buzzards throughout the morning, seemingly coming out of this area, may give a clue to its abandonment! Maybe they will set up shop instead!
Chick being weighed
As I got to Leith Hill this morning for another session before work I was greeted by a huge flock of at least 100 Brambling flying around the heathland and I thought that I had hit the jackpot, so called Wes who joined me soon after.  After two hours of watching the spectacle we only managed to catch one, but what a pretty bird he was in almost full breeding plumage (below with Wes).  Only six other birds were caught including a female Coal Tit with a fully developed brood patch, meaning this bird is already sitting on eggs.  Also present were still a few Redpoll and Siskin, a late Redwing, the first Tree Pipits and at least three pairs of Woodlark.
Wes with Brambling
Birds ringed:
Blackcap - 8
Goldfinch - 7
Blue Tit - 7
Chaffinch - 3
Great Tit - 3
Lesser Redpoll - 2
Brambling - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Willow Warbler - 4
Chiffchaff - 3
Wren - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Collared Dove - 1
Grey Heron - 15 nestlings
Jay - 1
Jackdaw - 1

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

4th April 2011 - First Warblers

A session at home on Friday (1st) morning gave the real feel that spring is here and that birds were far more focused on breeding territory than coming to feeders as just two new birds were caught - a Song Thrush and a Blue Tit!
Whilst today up on Leith Hill, Duke's Warren was alive with Redpolls again with at least 100 in a mobile flock joined by about 40 Siskin and a few Chaffinch and Crossbill.  The catch of 56 new birds included 46 Redpoll of which two were Common Redpoll (making these the 6th and 7th caught on the hill this year).  Also my first warblers of the year were caught being two Willow Warbler (above) and a Chiffchaff (below) which had clumps of olive pollen stuck to its face from its feeding activities in southern Europe whilst migrating.
Other sightings here included a pair of Mandarin, a Tree Pipit and a singing Woodlark.

Birds ringed:
Song Thrush - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Robin - 1
Chaffinch - 2
Siskin - 4
Lesser Redpoll - 44
Common Redpoll - 2
Willow Warbler - 2
Chiffchaff - 1