Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Stanwell Moor - 18 August 2014

We visited Stanwell Moor this morning with the intention of limiting our efforts to 5 nets in the sheltered reed bed area due to rather windy conditions. Although we only netted between 6.45am and 11am we still managed 26 birds, rather more than we thought might be captured.
There were a few juvenile Reed and Sedge Warblers passing through, of which one Reed Warbler carried fat scored at 6. Of the five Chiffchaffs, two were retraps from the previous month and there was also a Willow Warbler in the mix.

A tale of not two, or three but four Cetti's.
We were very pleased to extract a juvenile Cetti's Warbler at around 7.30am. We don't expect to catch more than three or four Cetti's each year, although we are aware that the number of singing males heard in spring and early summer has increased in the last three years.  The bird, ringed as D859679, was aged 3 and assumed to be offspring of one of the three males that held territories within earshot of our usual ringing base earlier this year.

 Cetti's Warbler aged 3

At 9.30am it was initially thought that the bird had wandered into the nets for a second time, but on closer inspection the ring number was D859134, a bird ringed on 15th July. The bird was another juvenile.

D859134 retrapped juvenile Cetti's Warbler.

We were really quite pleased with ourselves as the only other time that we've caught two Cetti's in one day was when they appered to be very recently fledged siblings caught together. However, two further birds were extracted at 10.00am. The third Cetti's was another 3 and the fourth a 3JJ.

We can only speculate as to what we missed because the alarm failed to go off at 5.15am!

Totals: 22 (4)

Blackbird - 2
Wren - 1
Robin - 1 (1)
Cetti's Warbler - 3 (1)
Sedge Warbler - 2
Reed Warbler - 7
Chiffchaff - 3 (2)
Willow Warbler - 1
Blackcap -2


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Broadwater GP - 16 August 2014

At last, a chance to get back to ringing, despite having only just been to a French ringing camp, with the bonus of good company in MRB and Margaret who as a bonus understand us completely! We only had 5 nets up and didn't expect too much with today a continuation of the prevailing westerlies but 36 wasn't so bad.

 ACR SCH adult

 EBN130 an adult Chiffchaff that was first ringed on 13/08/13 as a 3J.

 Ongoing complete tail and wing moult


Totals: 31 (5)

Blackbird - 1
Robin -1
Dunnock - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Garden Warbler -1 (1)
Blackcap - 6
Willow Warbler -10 (1)
Chiff-chaff - 5 (2)
Goldcrest - 1
Great Tit - 1 (1)
Long-tailedTit - 1
Chaffinch - 1

Friday, 15 August 2014

ACROLA Ringing Camp Donges, Loire Estuary - 6 to 13 August 2014


This year we are volunteering at the Donges ringing station on the Loire estuary in France. The ACROLA (Association pour la Connaissance et la Recherche Ornithologique Loire et Atlantique) station monitors birds passing through the reedbeds and  Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola, are of particular interest as these birds are a globally threatened and declining species.

Over the last three years, we have participated in projects at Le Havre, France and Marazion, Cornwall where Aquatic Warblers have been recorded in the past. This is the furthest that we’ve travelled to support the project, but our drive from West London to Portsmouth, ferry to Caen and on to Donges, west of Nantes is nothing compared to the journey undertaken by millions of birds along the Atlantic flyway to Africa. ACROLA is one of five organisations collaborating on collection of data on birds that use the Atlantic coast in the Atlantic Flyway Network.

 
This diagram, by the Atlantic Flyway Network, shows the 
European Atlantic Flyway with main migration routes to and 
from Africa.

The five study centres of the Atlantic Flyway Network, in France the Loire Estuary : Association ACROLA, Gironde Estuary : Biosphere Environnement, and in Spain Adour Estuary : Association OISO, Txingudi : Aranzadi Sciences Society and Urdaibai : Urdaibai Bird Center.

 

The drive down was surprisingly smooth and we arrived at the ringing camp, met all the ringers on site and pitched the tent. This is the first camping experience for a long time. I cannot say that I had no concerns about more than two weeks in a small tent, because I did. The toilet facilities are interesting as is the shower.  Most of the established ringers have caravans or vehicles that they live in as the project runs from May to September. The French ringers had some English although are not too comfortable using it a lot – and we struggled with French so this made for an interesting time.It was good to meet people so passionate about birds. Most made us particularly welcome,and communal mealtimes usually included some attempts at communication using the limited English or French available.


 Communal eating area

However the ringing arrangements were not what we are used to in the UK. 

We discovered that there are only some 200 qualified bageurs in France with many unqualified people in support. The supporters are more than the equivalent of our 'helpers' as they scribe, extract and many also ring.

Day one (6th) 

Today there was a lot of rain and there was no ringing in the morning and no opportunities for us in the afternoon although terrestrial nets were operated by two trainees who managed everything between themselves. We went off site and visited Cote Sauvage at Pointe du Croisic.  The sea watching was obviously passed  its best by the time we arrived, nevertheless Balearic Shearwaters were seen and a few colour rings, on birds loafing about on the rocks recorded, including  4.AUG black lettering on orange as used by the North Thames Gull Group, on a Greater Black-backed Gull, and two coloured ringed Shags, green EL and the other yellow 2DS.

 Pointe du Croisic

 A favoured spot where gulls frequently gather at high tide

We moved on to Marais Salants de Guerande (salt pans) to look for more gulls and waders. It looked very promising but delivered little more than some Avocet, Black-winged Stilts, Great White Egret, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Common Sandpiper. There were more gulls, including a Yellow-legged Gull and some terns.

 Guerande salt pans


Day two (7th)

We made it into some of the four Acrola rides today but have yet to see most of the nets. There were some Aquatic Warblers and DKL was allowed to do a retrap as her first bird at the camp, but the next bird, a new Aquatic, I was told not to ring and I was taken off ringing in favour of a French a trainee who had several under his belt already. We were both allowed to do a few birds at the end of the session. A system of two ringers and scribes is operated here and a lot of Sedge Warblers had been ringed and flung without full data taken, which was disappointing considering the number of qualified people present. The end total was just over 300. Birds are released through the bottom of the weighing tube so getting photographs is a bit difficult.

Two scribes and two ringers at any one time.

Melodious Warbler  (I (DKL) would have liked to ring one as it 
would have been a new species for me).

Great Reed Warbler Aged 1a (birds are usually aged as 1a (3) or +1a(4))

Nightingale

Reed Bunting with high degree of black in wings and mantle

Totals for 7th Aug

There were four new Aquatics (ACROLA) but we didn't manage to see any of them. Sometimes a second station is opened up and Acrola captures seem to be fairly successful there, and this mornings they also had another two Aquatics at one other area operated nearby. We spent some time photographing the butterflies on site that afternoon.

Brown Argus

 Wall

Day three (8th)
Another day when bad weather meant no morning ringing. We made the trip over to St. Nazaire and looked at the submarine pens and the Eco Musee (as it rained the whole time we were there).


 Submarine pens - St. Nazaire

We discovered, on returning to the campsite, that that we may use the showers at the public Donges campsite (an absolute relief as the poor weather just wouldn't heat the solar powered shower on site.)

Solar-powered shower (black container to soak up the heat)

The lads were working the terrestrial nets again and we were offered the chance to do a few Starling but our literature on ageing via eye colour was not received too well, despite the 98% success rate claimed by the paper, which we had with us and showed the ringer in charge. There was supposed to be an attempt at a Swallow roost, but the nets were dropped at 10pm, too late as birds were already in - none were captured.


 Antargaz refinery (across the Loire)at dusk

Day four (9th)


Ringing this morning with some extra people who turned up as it was a Saturday.  We did a bit of extracting. Most birds were ringed by the same people although DKL took a place when a lot of birds were left behind and ringers went off on the next round. There was a total of 602 today but not much chance to see ringed birds due to direct release from bottom of pot. Again, many Sedge Warblers were just aged and released if first years. CL was offered the last 5 birds of the day but that seemed pointless and no more than a token gesture after such a busy session. Also five Aquatics were ringed at another secondary ringing station nearby operated by one ringer and a helper only. The totals from the secondary sites or any pm ringing sessions do not appear on the total sheets shown as they only relate and are only collated on the ringing done at the wooden hut structure.

Many of these bags hold 2 or 3 Sedge Warblers


 Keeping occupied between rounds

DKL did ask to see one of the Aquatic Warblers after it was processed, by the ringer in charge, but the bird was released. 

The only way due to the speed of the ringing to get a feel for what had gone through, or even what had been ringed was to look at the end of session sheet.

Totals sheet for 9th


We spent the afternoon at the Foret de Gavre and saw some butterflies but not many birds other than Crested Tit and Serin. 

 Brimstone 

 Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Wood White

The departure date was brought forward that day – a combination of tent and weather conditions 
(ohh so damp) having a detriment effect on both of us and ringing opportunities really aren't shared as we had been lead to believe, to make you want to stay until 21st. Shame really as a bit more engagement with the ringing would have perhaps made the tent discomfort more worthwhile.

 Our tent stood up to the wind and rain quite well but it was very damp after days of rain.


We returned to find the access road flooded on a couple of occasions.

 Waves breaking on the banks of the Loire.

Day five (10th)
A very windy day. 'No ringing today' again so we visited La Croisic and the salt pans where we recorded Common Gull with red colour ring AEE3 and saw some more Avocets, Whimbrel and gulls. Terrestrial nets were open on our return but not much happening.
Day six (11th)

A 7am start today due to the tidal conditions. It got windy and we closed at 10.30am with some 200 birds processed.  One more Aquatic today but did not see it, however did get a glimpse of a Spotted Crake in the hand. DKL was allowed to do final seven birds of the day, one of which was a Savi’s Warbler. No secondary ringing station was operated today.

 Another cloudy, breezy start to the day.

 Savi's Warbler

Total sheet for 11th

We went to the walled city of Guerande in the afternoon. Well worth a visit to see the beautiful buildings, cobbled streets and sample the delicious cuisine.

Guarande

Day seven (12th)
Another day when the start was delayed due to rain. We ended up extracting as rain started and had to close. Nets were reopened in a brief respite from the deluge but soon had to be closed again. DKL was permitted to ring at the session end. Another Acrola today but was missed by DKL whereas CL managed to see the head during processing by the 14 yr old trainee. We finished off around 10.30am.

In lieu of an Aquatic Warbler image for the blog.

Totals sheet for 12th

We returned to Batz-sur-Mer in the afternoon to see the Great Blockhaus - central command for the last pockets of German resistance to the allies reclaimation of the French Atlantic coast. 

 The Blockhaus as it stands today.

Reconstruction of the Blockhaus, disguised as a villa, as it looked in 1945

We also visited Paimboeuf on the opposing bank, via the massive bridge spanning the Loire. We managed to get a Spoonbill colour ring but were foiled with regard to three colour ringed Avocets that we spotted off in the distance.

Glanville Fritillary at Paimboeuf

A regular on the drive out of the ringing camp was this Turtle Dove and today we finally got a photo on our return.

Turtle Dove

Day eight (13th)
Having missed so many days due to bad weather we were raring to go. A high tide was expected and it was suggested to CL that his thigh waders were insufficient, despite the fact that other team members were permitted out in thigh waders and in one case, wellingtons. In view of the circumstances, and knowing how much ringing we were likely to be permitted to do, we went off, instead, to the Briere Marshes where we saw Black Kite and Night Heron in the beautiful landscape and enjoyed some rather wonderful crepes at Breca!

Briere Marshes

Auberge de Breca

On returning that evening we met a new arrival, Hubert who was actually the scheme organiser, and had agreed to our visit. It was a change from the usual routine to be offered a bird from the terrestrial nets (for the benefit of 'the boss' we felt). We couldn't help but feel that things may have been a bit different had he been present throughout, since he had been very keen for visiting ringers to participate in the scheme. It seemed that the sentiment as to how visiting, qualified ringers contribute to the scheme, is perhaps not unanimous.

Anyone thinking of joining the ringing camp should be aware that having French would be a real advantage and speaking only English can lead to isolation from discussions and ringing arrangements although people were willing to give details when asked (if you can manage that or find someone with sufficient English). N and the two Ms, three of the regulars, were especially helpful. Our feeling was that most people were very nice, and only the ringing, the reason for our visit was a disappointment. We really didn't feel as though we were treated like qualified ringers, more like interested observers. We cut the trip short, as our original departure date was 21st August, at a cost of £99 in addition to our original crossing fare, since we felt that our presence was not needed and we would contribute more by ringing our own sites at home. It may be a case that it really depends on who is in charge since someone that we know has always enjoyed his visits there, but anyone thinking of joining the camp should bear in mind that they may not be a fully integrated member of the ringing team, especially if Hubert is not present and the ringer run the operation in his absence is E. As D had misconceptions about going, she did most of the limited ringing we were invited to do, around 100 birds out of around 1500 plus ringing during  the days ringing went ahead, which were mostly ringed by the ringer in charge E, a 18 yr old trainee, who in fact rang virtually all the time, with very few exceptions, including all the pm sessions. When usually only 2 people ring at once, it does make the potential to ring very limited, especially when the ringer in charge is ringing most birds in the busy period. At one stage on the busiest Saturday there was a third ringer, that the ringer in charge, and we had to stand and watch someone often holding between 2 - 4 birds in the hand at once, ringing and flinging them, such a waste when there were other people there to help processing. Also, when a net round was due, even those ringing, left what was outstanding and went on the net round. It felt at times if some, a small part of the team wanted to do everything.  We were never invited to engage in the Terrestrial pm ringing sessions, and one afternoon the nets were reset on the main site and we were again not invited to join them. E was also acted in what could be considered, as in a professional disrespectful way, checking Ds wing measurements, fact scores, and being dismissive on her sexing of a Reed Bunting on the white collar and my sexing of a Starling on eye. D was giving all her bird details in French, and at one point E asked the scribes could they understand her, to which they both said yes! There was in addition to the reed bed species present, most mornings a very obvious presence, mainly of Whitethroats in the Terrestrial net area in the am, that was worth of more work. We could run those nets am with a couple of additional nets in the marsh adjacent, but no invite was likely to be had. Alas, this could have all changed once Hubert had arrived to take over managing the operation, but all the good value that there could have been and will to try and see if it got any better, by then had gone. A sheer waste of our time and expense of going, overall. A real shame all round. We are sorry though that we did not stay once Hubert got to the camp, but it was the night before our departure, and we had already booked the earlier return ferry home.

Ds reluctance to go was due to the fact at Le Havre, there were two teams ringing (the year before there had been 4-5 of around 4 people), we got stuck in the one of 10, and again the qualified French ringers did most of the ringing, especially first thing, and even one of the French trainees, that had travelled some distance to get there, said it was a waste of her time, though oddly we did ring more at Le Havre than at Dognes. The other team at Le Havre consisted of only 4 -6 each day and was manged by Lorient who wrote the French ringing guide and he seemed a really nice guy, and those with him seemed to have a fair crack at ringing.

It does seem that some (probably a very small minority who we have done well to find) of the qualified French ringers (baguers) will, hog all the ringing, and not overly consider allowing you to provide more valuable assistance. So it does pose the question, to anyone thinking of going, to think twice of what the outcome might be, unless you can be really sure that you will be allowed to fully engage and be actively involved. We know other people that have had different experiences in France, and we probably might like to be busier than some of the other UK ringers that go, but we are sure there are a greater number of our French colleagues willing to allow you more engagement and treat you more as equals.Dognes does have great potential and the work they are doing there on Aquatics, and at the other stations is undoubtedly making a valuable contribution to their future survival, and safe guarding the migration stop over sites, hopefully.

We will say though, that away from the ringing, we could not fault the welcome and inclusion into the communal meals, and the engagement we had with them, especially as it often improved when E was not present.

Day 9 (14th)
 
We decided to pack in the morning, since the tent was dry, and called in at the Foret de Gavre on the back to Caen. We added Middle Spotted Woodpecker to our birding finds then made our way to the ferry terminal in yet more rain. The 4.30pm sailing took 6 hours and we were finally home by about 11pm. A trip that had been very much looked forward to really failed to deliver.