Friday, 28 February 2014

Spring migration and Scandinavian visitors

Since my last post there has been a marked change in both the weather and the bird activity.  We have seen a series of still, clear and sunny days since the awful storm on Valentine's night and this seems to have brought out the birds in numbers.  Spring has definitely sprung with so many birds giving breeding calls, Crossbills and Ring-necked Parakeets already nesting and I have already seen five species of butterfly!

Siskins in particular have seen a huge jump with this last week seeing just shy of 70 new birds caught and many of which with significant fat reserves meaning they are building up and starting their spring migration back to the north and Scandinavia.  But the real highlight was catching a fabulous adult male Brambling (see below) which was already wearing a ring from Denmark!  Real proof of the migrations of these birds and quite an amazing record and is only the 9th ever Danish ringed Brambling to be found in Great Britain.  I can't wait to get the full details of where and when this bird was originally ringed, but can take some time.

What an amazing looking bird......

...beautiful markings on its back

clearly see the word Denmark on the ring

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Mega Extravaganza - RLB, Goshawk and TBC

Sunday became one of those days that I will remember for a long while and find very difficult to beat.  Sue, Paul and I met at 5.45am to set up nets for another ringing session at Leith Hill and although cold to start with the clear night it very quickly warmed up as the sun came up and there was very little wind.  We hoped for a good session after our first bird caught was one of up to five Woodcock that we saw during the morning (below), the first I have ever caught up here.

The rest of the session continued as normal with good numbers of Siskin, a few Lesser Redpolls and a Common Redpoll.

At about 9.55am a buzzard rose from up the hill from the north circling on a thermal and very quickly we realised that it was something special - a ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD.  It rose closer and closer giving us great views before it continued to soar off to the west following the greensand ridge.  I have only seen this species once before on the north Kent coast, whilst Paul had seen many from his regular excursions to Sweden.  Only a few minutes later we heard a familiar sound and looked across to see the female TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL fly over with a single Common Crossbill.  This bird hasn't been seen since 10th December, but a combination of increased availability of drinking sites with the weather and all the Crossbills having paired up to breed has made it difficult to track down.

If that wasn't enough half an hour later another raptor came into view, also from the north circling up on thermals a male GOSHAWK.  This is only the fourth time that I have seen one on Leith Hill, but this is the first male that I have seen.  It continued to rise up to a very great height, unlike the buzzard and soared off in a south-easterly direction.  After this we saw at least eight Common Buzzards doing similar maneouvres rising up on thermals and surely seemed like everything was making the most of the first properly sunny day of the year!

Other highlights of the morning were at least ten Brambling, 15 Common Crossbill in ones and twos and a singing Woodlark.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

A Visitor from the Continent

I took advantage of a very short break in the weather this morning and ringed for 2 hours in a garden on the far eastern slopes of Leith Hill at Holmwood.  I only caught 28 birds of three species, with 23 Lesser Redpolls including 18 new birds, two recent retraps, a retrap from winter 2012/13, a British control and only my second ever Belgian control (see below).

Below the ring number you can make out the name Brussels

Stunning adult male Lesser Redpoll from Belgium