Sunday, 15 March 2015

Check out Facebook instead

I apologise that it has been almost a year since I posted on my blog!  I have now decided that I am going to post on my Facebook page instead, as it is easier and reaches a greater audience.  If you want to continue following please find me on Facebook.

Thanks for following.

Sam Bayley

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Spring Catch Up

It has been an interesting spring so far, with the majority of summer migrants arriving early, although Whitethroats and Garden Warblers seem to be lagging a bit behind on Leith Hill.  Willow Warblers have come in in good numbers, but it seems that a number of them have gone against their usual rule of doing a full moult in Africa before returning and instead have many old feathers remaining.  Not sure what this means, but certainly something for the ornithologists to think about....!  The first Cuckoo also arrived on Leith Hill really early, 7th April, way ahead of the BTO satellite tracked Cuckoos who were still in Africa at the time.

Some of the winter visitors seem to have remained for a bit longer than normal with Redwings and Redpolls still present on 14th April and at least two Brambling still present today.  The female Two-barred Crossbill has also started to reappear more regularly at Leith Hill, but still very elusive.

Today also saw the first three fledged Siskins of the year, which is the earliest date I have ever had them (never in April before), and also did my first nest ringing of two Tawny Owl chicks (photo above) and two Blackbird chicks.

Not long now before Nightjars arrive...!

The start of a Leith Hill Tower Migration Watch this spring by a select few has also produced a few unusual species for Leith Hill, such as Sand Martin, Little Grebe and Tufted Duck and hopefully will produce more to come and give more of an idea as to the species that pass through.  Being the highest point in the south-east and a prominent landmark we are hopeful of it bearing fruit.

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

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Recoveries from 2013

The following are some of the recovery results from this last year.

Greylag Goose

The male from a pair of Greylag Goose trying to cross the busy A29 at Rowhook with their single gosling on 30th May turned out to be colour ringed bird 13L, not seen for over three years.  Having been originally ringed as an adult at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve in Kent on 25th June 2006, I spotted this bird three times at Warnham LNR on 11th Jan 2008, 25th Sep 2009 and 28th Dec 2009.  It was also spotted at Walland Marsh in Kent on 10th Jan 2009, but the next and last sighting after mine was at Scotney Court Gravel Pit not far from Walland Marsh at the far eastern end of Sussex.  Although Greylag Geese do move about a bit, this bird seems to keep changing its breeding and wintering sites.

Barn Owl

Although this was the worst year I know of for the breeding of this species, I still had four recoveries.  The first was a nestling female from Kingsfold in 2012 which was found dead under a nest box in Warnham on 20th March just 3km away.  Then in a nestbox at Faygate I controlled an adult male which was the sibling from the same nest in Kingsfold having paired up with a female originally ringed as a nestling in South Godstone, Surrey.  But the fourth was a bit special to me as we retrapped an adult male at Leith Hill which I had originally ringed at Paynes Green as a nestling in 2007 whilst training and was the first Barn Owl I had ever ringed (below).

Blackcap and Chiffchaff

I don't get very many warbler recoveries and the two I got this year were both originally ringed elsewhere in Surrey.  The first was a Blackcap that was ringed as a 1st year male in Worplesden on 22nd Sep 2010 and I caught in Rhododendron Wood, Leith Hill on 4th Jun and although this is just 18km away this bird has flown to at least southern Europe and back twice in between.  The other was a Chiffchaff which was ringed as a juvenile in Ripley in July and caught at Duke's Warren, Leith Hill in September.  These two movements are shown in the map below:


Although the numbers were down for this species year I still had two recoveries.  A 1st year female that I caught in Oct 2012 was found dead having hit a window in Romsey, Hampshire (82km away) on 15th Jan.  The other recovery I caught in December and am awaiting details of where it was originally ringed.

Blue Tit

The large majority of Blue Tits don't move more than about 5km within their lifetime, although there are always a few that don't fit the mould.  The four recoveries I had last year were all over 5km, three of which were caught at Rhododendron Wood, Leith Hill just over that distance.  L991303 was ringed at Gomshall on 5th July as a juvenile and captured on 10th Oct 2011, 30th Dec 2012 and 8th and 15th Apr 2013 7km away.  X398234 was ringed as a 1st year at Ewhurst on 28th Oct 2008 and caught on 30th Dec 2012 and 13th Jan 2013 6km away.  Y746712 was ringed as an adult at Gomshall on 30th Oct 2012 and caught on 12th Aug and 8th Sep 2013 7km away.  Blue Tits as a rule disperse as a 1st year to find breeding grounds and then stays around these grounds for the rest of its life, whereas this last bird seems to have dispersed as an adult.

The fourth recovery was a juvenile ringed in my Warnham garden on 9th Sep 2012 and caught on 12th Feb 2013 at Queen Mary Reservoir 37km away!

These are all shown in the map below:


This was my best year for this species with 19 recoveries, a  number of these were very local recoveries, but the map below shows all that were over 20km away.

Two of these are worthy of further comment.  X403389 was ringed at Slaley, Northumberland on 5th May 2009 as a 2nd calendar year male on breeding grounds, then caught on 30th Nov 2011 at Duke's Warren (winter grounds) and again here on 1st Mar 2013 showing winter site fidelity.  The other is L247289 which was ringed on St Mary's, Isle of Scilly on 17th Oct 2010 as a 1st year female and caught at Duke's Warren on 29th Mar 2013.  This is interesting because not only has it come from an unusual direction compared to all other recoveries, but also it was ringed on the Isles of Scilly, where this species is scarcely seen.  In contrast, considering the large numbers of Siskins that are ringed in East Anglia I am yet to have a recovery or capture from there.

Lesser Redpoll

This is by far the species with the most recoveries and from all across the British Isles.

None of these were of any particular note, but in the last three years I have had recoveries from 26 different British counties and two to Belgium.

Common Redpoll

A single recovery of a bird ringed at Duke's Warren, Leith Hill as a 2nd calendar year on 9th Jan 2012 which was then caught at Sharnbrook in Bedfordshire as an adult male on 19th Apr 2013.

In addition, I got late news that a 1st year that was ringed at Duke's Warren on 21st Oct 2011 was caught on 11th Jan 2012 at Masnuy-Saint-Jean, Hainaut in Belgium.  This was the first record of a Britsh ringed Common Redpoll to be recovered in Belgium.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Interesting Siskin

Today I have just passed the 200 mark for new birds in 2014!  A good session on Leith Hill with SW, PS, DC and DS produced 35 new birds including a Brambling, a Marsh Tit, 9 Lesser Redpoll (including a British control) and a Common Redpoll (below).

Although the most interesting bird was a 1st year male Siskin with an unusual moult.  As a rule with Siskins adults mould all feather after breeding whilst juveniles moult all body feathers, most if not all wing coverts (except primary coverts) and regularly the alulas and tertials.  But this bird has decided to be different and having done all of the above has then also moulted all of the outer primaries from 4 to 10 on both wings (below)?  Usually when passerine birds moult their primaries the primary coverts moult in sequence with them, but here all of the primary coverts have been replaced not just the ones relating to the replaced flight feathers!  Why has this one decided to do something different?

You can see the old juvenile feathers are brown, worn and have pale yellow markings, whereas the new feathers are black, fresh and have bright yellow markings.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

2013 Roundup

As is always the case, one year is never the same as another and 2013 was no different.  The biggest change this year was the start of a second ringing site at Leith Hill which produced just over 1000 new birds and has assisted in increasing the Leith Hill total to 2734 new birds, but there was a big reduction in ringing in my garden which has compensated.

2013 saw a good deal of highlights including a number of firsts with singles of Buzzard nestling, Cuckoo, Waxwing and Great Grey Shrike.  This year also saw large totals for Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin, BlackbirdRedwing, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Chaffinch and Siskin, but low numbers in Barn Owl, Spotted Flycatcher, Goldcrest, Redpoll and Goldfinch and a complete lack of Tawny Owl and Tree Pipit.

Big thanks go to Paul Stevenson, Sue Walsh, Martin Gray and Claire Boothby for their help and assistance during the year.

Totals were as follows:

                                                                                      Full grown         Nestling             Total

             Canada Goose                                                                  2                       1                       3

             Mallard                                                                             0                       3                       3

             Buzzard                                                                            0                       1                       1

             Sparrowhawk                                                                   2                       0                       2

             Kestrel                                                                              0                       3                       3

             Barn Owl                                                                          1                      0                        1

             Cuckoo                                                                              1                       0                       1

             Kingfisher                                                                        2                       0                       2

             Woodpigeon                                                                     1                       0                       1

             Stock Dove                                                                        2                       3                       5

             Green Woodpecker                                                         2                       0                       2

             Great Spotted Woodpecker                                          35                       0                     98

             Swallow                                                                             2                     47                     49

             Meadow Pipit                                                                    5                       0                       5

             Grey Wagtail                                                                   1                       3                       4

             Pied/White Wagtail                                                        1                       8                       9

             Waxwing                                                                           1                       0                       1

             Wren                                                                               75                       6                     81

             Dunnock                                                                         41                       6                     47

             Robin                                                                             135                       1                   136

             Redstart                                                                            5                       6                     11

             Mistle Thrush                                                                   1                       0                       1

             Blackbird                                                                        57                       9                     66

             Fieldfare                                                                           2                       0                       2

             Song Thrush                                                                   21                       1                     22

             Redwing                                                                        169                       0                   169

             Grasshopper Warbler                                                     1                       0                       1

             Reed Warbler                                                                   1                       0                       1

             Sedge Warbler                                                                 1                       0                       1

             Whitethroat                                                                   14                       0                     14

             Garden Warbler                                                            13                       0                     13

             Blackcap                                                                       110                       2                   112

             Chiffchaff                                                                     156                       0                   156

             Willow Warbler                                                             51                       0                     51

             Goldcrest                                                                        80                       0                     80

             Firecrest                                                                            8                       0                       8

             Spotted Flycatcher                                                           1                       0                       1

             Long-tailed Tit                                                               34                       0                     34

             Marsh Tit                                                                          9                       0                       9

             Coal Tit                                                                           61                       0                     61

             Blue Tit                                                                         665                     11                   676

             Great Tit                                                                       367                     11                   378

             Nuthatch                                                                         30                       0                     30

             Treecreeper                                                                    13                       0                     13

             Great Grey Shrike                                                          1                       0                       1

             Jay                                                                                     7                       0                       7

             Magpie                                                                              5                       0                       5

             Jackdaw                                                                            5                     37                     42

             House Sparrow                                                                 6                       0                       6

             Chaffinch                                                                     269                       1                   270

             Brambling                                                                        9                       0                       9

             Greenfinch                                                                     25                       0                     25

             Goldfinch                                                                        54                       0                     54

             Siskin                                                                            441                       0                   441

             Linnet                                                                               4                       0                       4

             Common Redpoll                                                           10                       0                     10

             Lesser Redpoll                                                             270                       0                   270

             Redpoll (Common/Lesser)                                              5                       0                       5

             Common Crossbill                                                        13                       0                     13

             Bullfinch                                                                          3                       0                       3

                                                   Annual Total:                      3316                   160                 3476