Wednesday, 25 May 2011

25th May 2011 - More Siskins, Tits, Jackdaws and a new Warbler

This week started with a trip up to Leith Hill in the evening to try to catch Nightjars, but the weather became a lot windy than forecast, although at least two males were seen and heard.  Before going for the Nightjars, I went up a few hours early to see if an evening session would be any different from my normal mornings here.  Happily, this produced another seven new birds including four Siskin, a Garden Warbler, a Song Thrush and a Great Spotted Woodpecker (latter two being new species caught on the heath).

The following day, a late afternoon visit to Warnham LNR to ring the last two boxes of the nest box scheme which were both Blue Tits and interestingly had two of the smallest broods of just five and six!  Whilst here a quick view of the Common Terns showed two pairs on eggs which the first pair had hatched at least two chicks by the time of writing.
Saturday morning at home produced the first two juvenile Robins of the year (above), and the last nest boxes of Blue Tit (again just five chicks) and Great Tit.  But the best catch was my first Lesser Whitethroat for the garden (below) and surprisingly it had a fairly well developed brood patch!  Because both sexes incubate the eggs (so both get brood patches) it wasn't possible to sex it but shortly afterwards a pair were seen in another part of the garden and a male was heard singing!  Why haven't I seen or heard them prior to this?
Back to Leith Hill on Tuesday morning and nine new Siskin (including many juveniles) and a new Goldcrest were highlights and with thanks to Stephen Menzie for the link to a paper about sexing juvenile Siskins that I will try on my next visit.  The following day I went to do the last two nests of Jackdaws on Leith Hill helped by colleague Ruby (above with one of the chicks).  One of the nests was in a beech tree and was quite interesting as the nest hole had no bottom, but had been filled with stick to make it so (below top) and a lower whole had had two eggs laid in it (below bottom).  I have presumed that as there were just two nestlings these two eggs had been laid by the same female and she had chosen to just incubate the top nest!
Birds ringed:
Siskin - 13
Garden Warbler - 1
Blue Tit - 16 nestlings
Robin - 2
Goldfinch - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Great Tit - 8 nestlings
Goldcrest - 1
Jackdaw - 5 nestlings

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

18th May 2011 - First Juvs and More Nests

Yes, more nests!  Starting this week with a Pied Wagtail nest under the eaves of the house next to my Leith Hill office, then a further trip to Warnham LNR to do more Blue Tit nestboxes.

I have been watching a nest of Chiffchaff at Village Greens Farm Shop in Ockley and they were finally ready for ringing.  So, on Sunday (15th) met up with Louise and Gary to ring these and a quick trip around the Jackdaw boxes on Etherley Farm, where four nests were now also ready for ringing.  Another box containing three chicks were still too small and will need a later visit.
For the rest of the day, Gary and Louise were trying to develop their nest finding skills in the woodland and around Leith Hill Tower.  Finds included a Great Tit nest in a tree tube, a Treecreeper nest, two Blue Tit nests (including one by one of the top windows of the Tower), two seperate female Chaffinch carrying food, a pair of Whitethroat carrying food and a female Firecrest carrying food!  Unfortunately, none of these were ringable until right at the end of the day another Chiffchaff nest was located and were perfect size for ringing!  I was on car park duty and whilst visiting the car park in Forest Green I stumbled upon a beautiful Greater Butterfly orchid (above and below).
Another two hour Monday morning netting session on Duke's Warren was rewarded with a catch of 15 new birds which included 11 Siskin of which six were my first juveniles of the year.  Although Siskin cannot be sexed at this age there certainly seemed to be two plumage differences, the first pale and more grey (below top) and the other bright and yellow (below bottom).  If anyone knows different please let me know!
The only addition to my garden ringing this week was a new Collared Dove that I caught in a potter trap on Saturday.

Birds ringed:
Pied Wagtail - 4 nestlings
Blue Tit - 59 nestlings
Dunnock - 1
Siskin - 11
Chaffinch - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Chiffchaff - 10 nestlings
Willow Warbler - 1
Collared Dove - 1
Jackdaw - 12 nestlings

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A Batch of Recoveries

After ringing nearly 5000 birds last year I had hoped for more recoveries than I have currently received, but got a recent batch of 13 recoveries that has redressed the balance somewhat.

The first four were all Mallards - three of which were all juveniles which had been ringed on 6th June 2010 at Warnham LNR, two of them were shot just 3km away in Warnham on 31st December 2010, whilst the third was shot 18km away in Pulborough (furthest movement so far).  The fourth was an adult male that was ringed at Coot Pond, Horsham on 28th November 2010 and was shot at Warnham again just 2km away on 21st January 2011.  These are the 2nd - 5th recoveries of this species; with the first in 2009 also being a juvenile shot in Warnham.

The next two were Grey Herons from the Warnham LNR colour ring project as follows:

1504256 (A04) ringed in nest CP15 (one of four chicks) on 28th March 2010 found freshly dead 'Taken by Animal' in Westbury, Wiltshire 129km W on 4th Oct 2010 (map below).

1505253 (A35) ringed in nest MP5 (one of three chicks) on 28th May 2010 found freshly dead 'caught up in fishing line and weights' at Burton Millpond, West Sussex 24km WSW on 30th October 2010.

These are the 4th and 5th recoveries of the Grey Heron project and so far gives absolutely no trend for dispersal from the colony as one moved close E to Weir Wood Reservoir, West Sussex, one moved far NE to Rainham Marshes, Essex, one moved close N to Capel, Surrey, then the other two as above!  The only direction not taken is South.

The next was a nestling Woodpigeon ringed at Horsham Hospital on 14th July 2010 was found in Horsham on 30th July 2010 with a broken femur and taken to a local vets where it was looked after.  Although not a great story, this is actually the first recovery for one of my Woodpigeons.

An exceptional juvenile Great-spotted Woodpecker ringed at Chesworth Farm on 14th June 2010 was found freshly dead 'Taken by Animal', possibly a cat, on 2nd November 2010 86km E in Ivychurch on the edge of Romney Marsh, Kent!  This is a huge dispersal for this species which generally doesn't move any further than a couple of kilometres and makes you wonder whether it would have eventually migrated across the Channel if it hadn't died (map below)!  This is just the third recovery of this species for me for which the other two also died and moved no distance at all.
A Long-tailed Tit ringed on 22nd December 2011 at Warnham LNR was found dead having hit a window 2km away on the edge of Horsham on 12th February 2011.  Again, this is my first recovery of this species.

Two Blue Tit recoveries show different movements - a juvenile ringed at Chesworth Farm on 28th June 2010 found freshly dead in Horsham just under a month later on 23rd July 2010 having gone less than a kilometre whilst another juvenile ringed at Warnham LNR on 3rd September 2010 was caught and released by another ringer 10km away in Slaugham, West Sussex on 4th March 2011.  This again being my furthest movement of this species.

A first year female Great Tit ringed in my Warnham garden on 21st March 2010 was caught and released by another ringer 15km away in Gomshall, Surrey on 8th February 2011, again the furthest movement of this species for me.

The last was yet another first recovery for a species being a Goldfinch that was ringed as a breeding first year male on 14th June 2010 at Chesworth Farm and found freshly dead 'Taken by cat' just 2km away in Horsham on 22nd December 2010.

What will come next?

11th May 2011 - A Nesting Week

This was a full on week of ringing with the grateful help of Gary, Louise, Kevin, Eddie and Jake.  The week was mainly focused on going around nests and nestboxes that have been under observation over the last few weeks, but also a couple of netting sessions and a few surprises.
The week started with the first surprise being a Tawny Owl that was reported to us at Leith Hill dazed on the side of the road.  Went to inspect and indeed a beautiful female (above) was sat on the side of the road.  She was showing a developed brood patch, so obviously had a brood of young nearby and after about five minutes she had recovered, so quickly ringed and released her so that she could get back to her young.

Two netting sessions were had on Leith Hill catching a total of 18 new birds which included three Garden Warbler, four Whitethroat, five Willow Warbler and three Siskin and finally the first two Blackcaps for this site which involved one bird with a high fat score suggesting that this was a newly arrived migrant.

The only other netting session was in my garden at home where I have reduced to just a single net, but caught three new birds - a Blackcap and surprisingly a new pair of Long-tailed Tit (where have they been hiding?).
On Friday morning (9th) Gary, Louise and I went round all the Jackdaw boxes at Leith Hill and although the majority were still either on eggs or too young chicks we did ring an adult female and a brood of five.  We were also very surprised to find two Barn Owls in a box which I had been watching Jackdaws use over the last few weeks, one of which we caught and ringed (above).  Whilst going round we also managed to find a Chaffinch nest and a Treecreeper nest that were able to be ringed.  Generally Treecreeper nests aren't possible to be ringed, but occasionally they are and much caution should be taken.  A section of the loose bark had fallen off making them far more accessible than they should have been.
Afterwards a trip to one of my near neighbours, Bob Day, who wanted me to check two boxes at his house that he had seen activity at produced a female Mandarin (above) sat on eggs in one and then two Tawny Owl chicks (below with Bob) in the other.
This also saw the first visit to Warnham LNR for the Nestbox Scheme here of which there are 53 boxes at present managed by Friends of Warnham LNR!  Although a number were unused we still managed to ring 18 nests of Blue Tit and Great Tit as well as a couple of adults.

The last ringing this week involved a couple of Blue Tit boxes at my home and a nest of Pied Wagtails at the National Trust Surrey Hills head office in Mickleham.

A very fulfilling week!!

Birds ringed:
Garden Warbler - 3
Whitethroat - 4
Siskin - 3
Blue Tit - 2 + 108 nestlings
Blackcap - 3
Chaffinch - 4 nestlings
Pied Wagtail - 4 nestlings
Willow Warbler - 5
Treecreeper - 5 nestlings
Long-tailed Tit - 2
Great Tit - 70 nestlings
Blackbird - 1
Tawny Owl - 1 + 2 nestlings
Barn Owl - 1
Jackdaw - 1 + 5 nestlings
Mandarin - 1

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

4th May 2011 - Just a Few Nests

This last week has seen no new netting sessions, partly due to the high wind conditions, but also due to me spending the long weekend staying at Dungeness Bird Observatory!  But, I did manage to do a couple of Blackbird nests this week, one on Duke's Warren (Leith Hill) and another at home, with three (below) and four chicks respectively.
Whilst ringing the nest at Duke's Warren I heard rustling in nearby fallen leaves and on inspection found a Grass Snake had just caught a Frog and was dragging it into the undergrowth whilst trying to swallow it alive!  This was the first time that I had seen a snake kill and luckily had my camera with me to video some of it, but didn't want to disturb it for fear that it would abandon its meal:
video
I also did another visit to the Heronry at Warnham LNR which proved rather disappointing as only a single Grey Heron chick was ringable and no new nests were found!  This has meant a huge reduction in the population here this year from 26+ nests last year to just ten this.  Don't know any real reason for this, but a couple of possibilities could be increased pressure from the ever more present Buzzards or that there was a high mortality over this harsh winter.

My weekend at Dungeness was planned to have an amount of ringing, birding and time out with friends, this didn't quite pan out.  Although the latter was achieved, ringing was impossible as the wind was so strong, but the wind did make for a fantastic display of spring passage offshore with over 120 Pomarine Skuas, 14,000 Bar-tailed Godwits and lots of Black Terns over the weekend.  Whilst rarity interest came in the form of a Bee-eater which I missed by about five seconds, a Purple Heron which showed well and a Red-rumped Swallow which was found just an hour after I left!!  One of the best sightings though was a young female Badger that was a regular visitor to the back door of the Observatory on most evenings, completely unphased by the over excited people staying:
video
Birds ringed:
Blackbird - 7 nestlings
Grey Heron - 1 nestling