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!

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