Saturday, 26 May 2012

Quiet at nets but busy with nests

What a difference a week makes!  Although the weather has dramatically improved the effects of the last month of wet and cold weather are still to be seen.

Since my last posting I have done three sessions at Leith Hill, with a much reduced average catch although highlights have included the first four Garden Warbler and first two Whitethroats of the year, whilst a new ringing species for this site was a Jay.

Whilst at North River, the first two Constant Effort Site (CES) sessions produced 30 new birds including five new ringing species for this site, with singles of Blackcap, Coal Tit, Jay, Whitethroat and Woodpigeon.  This site is really becoming a bit of a Blackbird speciality with another seven new now reaching 20 for the year so far.

I have also been focusing on a lot of nest ringing and in total have ringed nests of Blue Tit, Pied Wagtail, Jackdaw and Robin as well as ringing a female Barn Owl on a nest of seven eggs at Leith Hill.

Birds ringed:
Pied Wagtail - 7 nestlings
Great Tit - 4
Blackcap - 10
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 3 + 7 nestlings
Coal Tit - 1
Garden Warbler - 4
Chaffinch - 2
Whitethroat - 3
Blue Tit - 4 nestlings
Siskin - 19
Goldfinch - 2
Woodpigeon - 1
Jay - 2
Barn Owl - 1
Jackdaw - 12 nestlings
Chiffchaff - 1
Willow Warbler - 2
Wren - 2
Treecreeper - 1
Blackbird - 9
Song Thrush - 2

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

May Day Weekend in Dungeness

My annual long weekend to Dungeness Bird Observatory looked a bit daunting with the bad weather, but arriving on Thursday afternoon the forecast for Friday looked reasonable, so David, the Assistant Warden (AW), and myself set up the nets in the Trapping Area ready for the next day.

Getting up at 4.30am and staggering across the shingle I was hoping for a reasonable catch of 50 birds for the day, with the possibility of something exciting included.  The first round of the Trapping Area produced 15 birds and on returning to the observatory, warden David (very confusing being both Davids) had caught a Nightingale (below) in the Heligoland trap whilst erecting the two moat nets. 

Whilst I was ringing my birds, David checked the two moat nets and to our surprise brought back nearly 20 birds!  This was to be the start of one of the biggest spring falls known to occur at Dungeness.  We were joined by AW David and he and myself went back to the Trapping Area bringing back nearly 40 birds and this continued right up to the end of the day, by which time we had ringed 319 birds of 19 species!  This included 125 Whitethroat, 107 Willow Warbler (including three of the acredula subspecies), four Redstart, nine Chiffchaff, two Swallow, 14 Garden Warbler (plus a French ringed bird), four Sedge Warbler, 27 Blackcap, a Pied Flycatcher, a Lesser Whitethroat, six Spotted Flycatcher, a Wood Warbler and a Redpoll!
Willow Warbler - Acredula subspecies (northern race)

Wood Warbler

Pied Flycatcher - First year female

Redstart - very difficult to age female!!

Across the observatory area for the day the most abundant species were Whitethroat and Willow Warbler with estimates of around 1000 and 800 respectively along with 65 Wheatear (including many Greenland subspecies), 50 Garden Warbler and 150 Blackcap whilst more unusual species were represented by two Marsh Harrier, three Hobby, a Merlin, two Short-eared Owl, four Turtle Dove, three Cuckoo, three Nightingale, 20 Redstart, eight Whinchat, two Ring Ouzel, two Redwing, eight Lesser Whitethroat, ten Spotted Flycatcher and five Pied Flycatcher. There was also a steady passage of birds overhead with 60 House Martin, 350 Swallow, 13 Tree Pipit, 30 Yellow Wagtail and 30 Redpoll.  This truly paid homage to 'May 4th be with you'!

The rest of the weekend dropped to rubbish conditions and although the heligoland trap managed to add just into double figures for each day these were almost certainly birds that were left over from the Friday, but I did manage to see a Wryneck on Saturday morning and missed the Red-rumped Swallow on that evening.  The weekend was kept flowing by the company of the regular May Day weekend group, food and more food and a certain amount of alcohol......thanks a lot guys for a great weekend.
Me and my Pied Fly (David Walker)

As is always the way, 30 mins after I left on Monday I got a call that a Crested Lark had been found!  I struggled to resist the urge to turn back, but was now very ready for sleep!

Weather Stops Play!!

The wet and windy weather over the last three weeks has made it almost impossible to find decent conditions for any ringing.  Nests have now started to increase much more and I have now found in my garden nests of Song Thrush, Blackbird, 2 Robins, Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit, Dunnock, Wren, Goldcrest, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw and today confirmed a Linnet nest!  This is the second Linnet nets that I have had in my garden with the first in 2008 and in exactly the same spot outside my French doors!  One of the Great Tit nests was ready to ring today and the Blackbirds I ringed last week, but on returning from a weekend away, found the nest had been predated with bits of young Blackbird all over the garden!!  My bet is on a semi feral cat belonging to my neighbour.  Whilst locally to my house another two Tawny Owl nests were ringed, one with three chicks and one with one.

I have only managed to do one netting session at Leith Hill which was quite rewarding, with highlights being two Blackcaps, ten Siskin (including my first juvenile - above), four Crossbill (including a very juvenile bird - below), five Willow Warbler, a Nuthatch and three Blackbird.
Crossbill juvenile - note the heavy streaking across the whol plumage

Crossbill juvenile - a couple of replaced feathers in the face and on the breast may be the start of post juvenile moult

Crossbill juvenile - note pale tipped greater coverts

Crossbill juvenile - note streaked dull rump

Of the 13 other Siskin caught on this day, one was a control which had originally been ringed barely 2km away at South Holmwood in late March this year.

Birds ringed:

Tawny Owl - 4 nestlings
Crossbill - 4
Siskin - 10
Dunnock - 3
Blackcap - 2
Blue Tit - 1
Robin - 2
Chaffinch - 3
Willow Warbler - 5
Chiffchaff - 1
Nuthatch - 1
Great Tit - 8 nestlings
Blackbird - 3 + 4 nestlings