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

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