Friday, 20 May 2016

Wraysbury GP - 16 & 17 May 2016

A brief window of opportunity for us, not only due to weather but also travel commitments. We had no takers from any of our new Ts able to do mid-week ringing although it was very late notice, us having only returned to the UK just two days beforehand.

We didn't expect too much as we've been seeing some rather low numbers from CESs reported on social media - so were happy with 30+ birds. A large flock of Starling was quite tempting, but the increased number of ponies, many now with foals, limited our efforts.

 Starling 5F

Reed Warbler 

 5M Chaffinch

Totals: 18 (14)

Robin - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 0 (1)
Blackbird - 1 (1)
Song Thrush -1(2)
Reed Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 4 (6)
Garden Warbler -5 (1)
Blackcap - 3 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 0 (1)
Chaffinch - 1
Starling - 1

Encouraged by the large numbers of Starlings present, we returned the following day and set one double and two singles in the area where the Starlings had been spending time on the Monday. Of course, they had changed their pattern of behaviour and were mostly to be found at the far end of the horse field. At the risk of pushing them off altogether, we resited one single and managed to catch a few - as fortunately, the ponies were very well behaved today.

 4F Magpie

 3JF Starling

 5M Starling 

   6M Great Tit L606145 not recorded since 27/07/2013
when the bird was ringed by RJM.

Totals: 16 (1)

Chiffchaff - 1
Great Tit - 0 (1)
Magpie - 1
Starling - 14

Czech Republic 9 - 14 May 2016

We had been in Prague since the 5th of the month. Our reason for visiting the country was to attend the Battle of the Nations event (full contact Medieval combat) as our son was in the UK team. There wasn't a great deal of time for birding although we did hear several Black Redstarts singing from the rooftops of Prague City, even seeing a couple. There were also Short-toed Treecreeper and Wood Warbler on Petrin Hill, along with several other species that we regularly see in the UK - but our main purpose, once the event had ended, was to try for some more interesting species in the south.

We set off, full of anticipation on the 9th, stopping off at Sadslavice where Marsh Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin and Grey Wagtail (the first of many, every day) were seen by the river. We also saw a Dipper at Vimperk. On arriving at Ceske Zleby there was a Common Buzzard overhead. We were out looking for owls until dusk but with no success.

The next day we were out before breakfast scouring the area around the hotel, turning up new for the trip, Yellowhammer, Siskin, Willow Warbler, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Whitethroat, Fieldfare and a couple of Raven passing over. After breakfast we drove to Boubinsky Prales, a site where Three-toed and Black Woodpeckers have been recorded.

The lake at the bottom of Boubin

 We walked all the way to the top of, 1328m high, Boubin.

View from the top of the tower

We had a fly by of Black Woodpecker, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest and Crested Tit among what seemed like hundreds of Chaffinch, coming to the conclusion that there are a lot of birds here with many being of the same species.

There were excellent views of Crossbill at the top of Boubin - but no sign of the elusive three-toed Woodpecker. After a long waalk down, we drove back via Stozec and heard Tree Pipit.

We travelled a litle further afield the next day, seeing Cuckoo before we left the hotel and Bullfinch in the grounds of a disused building in Stozec.  At Borova Lada we picked up Carrion Crow and Whinchat at Filipova Hut.

Borova Lada - a broad glacial valley

 It was quite slow going. We heard Corn Bunting at Srni Mechov, also seeing a Honey Buzzard and Linnet and photographing an Orange Tip butterfly.

 Orange Tip

 The last location was Srni, with excellent views of Serin and Greenfinch heard but not seen.

We left that hotel on the morning of the 12th, disappointed not to have seen almost any of the speciality species that he'd hoped for. We stopped off at a last few locations in hopes of seeing woodpeckers other than Great Spotted. At Sournarsky Most the habitat was promising, but the only new trip species was Garden Warbler.

 Rivers with beds of aluvial silt are common throughout the region

At Volary we added House Sparrow - so many birds that might have reflected a few days birding in the UK! We made a detour to Pekna where things improved a bit. On a walk up to the railway line we initially heard and then saw an Icterine Warbler and a Grasshopper Warbler.

Red-backed Shrike female

This location also turned up Red-backed Shrike, Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Greenshank, Sparrowhawk, Skylark and White-tailed Eagle.

As we continued north, Black-headed Gulls were at Horka.

 Ceske Krumlov

Around midday, we stopped off at Ceske Krumlov, the site of a castle (with gardens) in the middle of the town. Again none of the sought after woodpeckers but some nice views of White Stork, Collared Flycatcher, Redstart, Hawfinch as well as Collared Dove and Coot.



We got to the first of the fishponds at Vrebenske Rybnisky in the afternoon. On the islands, we saw Spoonbill, Night Heron and Caspian Gull. On the water were Pochard. Red-crested Pochard, Greylag, Gadwall, Egyptian Goose, Golden, Black-necked Grebe and Great Crested Grebe.

Red-crested Pochards

Along the margins, around the reeds and bushes were Redshank,Nightingale, Reed Warbler, Moorhen and Tree Sparrow.

There was heavy rain forecast for the following day but the morning at least, remained dry. There were Great White Egret in the fields as we drove through Trebon and a walk at Stara Reka gave us Wood Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Golden Oriole. The rain started not long after we reached Rozmberk. We had views of Common Sandpiper, Common Tern, Black Tern and Hobby from the car but were limited to watching from one area as the tracks around the ponds were for cycling and walking only - a fact not apparent from the map! While driving past Luznice a few Lapwing were spotted in a field. The rain was heavy and persistent so after seeing Great Cormorant at Koclirov and hearing Great Reed Warbler with two Kingfishers seen at Velky a Maly Tisy we drove on to our hotel in the out lying area of Prague. As we arrived the rain was just about stopping.

Divorka Sarka

We had a few hours before our flight next morning so gave Divoka Sarka one last try for woodpeckers - we did get one new trip species but it was, sadly, just a Green Woodpecker. The park became busy very quickly but we did see Honey Buzzard, Willow Tit and Pheasant and heard Lesser Whitethroat.

 Honey Buzzard

 Green-veined White

On reflection the specialities are clearly very difficult to see and you have to be lucky. Various trip reports frequently have brief views seen by only one or a few people - and this may be why the tour groups haven't visited in a couple of years. It's a nice place (although the weather can be changeable even in May) but if we were to return it would be to spend more time at Sumovo in the south with a lesser degree of expectation that there is a real chance of goodies such as Ural, Tengmalm's or Pigmy Owl, or Three-toed, White-backed, Lesser or Grey-headed Woodpecker.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Broadwater - 3 May 2016

For us this was mainly a run out to see Bob, Mike and Margaret, but Denise did also manage to process a couple of birds in what was to some extent a slightly quiet morning.

There has been some quite obvious opening up of access through the site by the local fishing club since they decided to renew their fishing rights lease, which indicates there is likely to be more use by them than there has been in the past. We had been placing some nets along the open access areas, but with this potential increased use of the site by them we are looking to move them into less disturbed areas where hopefully they will not be considering any further scrub clearance.

 Widened entrance track 

 Nets that will need to be relocated

Totals: 10 (5)

Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Robin -1
Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Garden warbler - 1
Blackcap - 3 (1)
Chiffchaff - 2
Long-tailed Tit - 0 (3)
Great Tit - 0 (1)  

Monday, 2 May 2016

Stanwell Moor GP - 1 May 2016

The water level was high with the lake edge currently half way along the second net in the four net run. We managed to get this run up, and a single in the filter bed. With so much disruption on the main site it is no longer possible to put up anything else in the immediate area. All the weedy areas have disappeared under mud - although the Whitethroats are back in their bramble clump along the edge of the field (no crop, just gas burners) and we very much hope that they still have sufficient areas where they can forage for food.

So we had to make do with five nets at a time of year when we expect catches to be low. There were a few Reed Warblers singing in the reedbed and Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler could both be heard during setting up. We also saw a couple of Roe Deer, never seen before in the 8 years we've worked this site - unfortunately one left a deer sized hole in a new 18m net on its first outing.

Only 4 birds today.

 Male Reed Bunting

Totals: 4

Wren - 1
Reed Warbler - 2
Reed Bunting - 1

Friday, 29 April 2016

Wraysbury GP - 28 April 2016

With some dreadful weather due over the coming days we made the most of a brief spell with manageable wind and went to Wraysbury to put a few nets on C6. We only put up 5 singles but were pleased to get a few migrants, including reoccurring birds, as well as some local breeders.

There were a couple of Willow Warblers and it was good to see some back after the terrible year they seem to have had from the low numbers present in 2016.

Willow Warbler

Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Blackcap were also present.

One of two Garden Warblers.

As well as the a few new Whitethroat 4M D085929, initially ringed on 13/07/2013 and not recorded since was captured.

5M Whitethroat

The most numerous migrant species was Blackcap including two birds, ringed on C4 last year. Z527464 had been ringed on June 20th and Z071412 was ringed on July 12th. A third retrap, Z761002, was ringed on C6 on July 23rd and recorded again on C4 on August 8th. All were 3Js. There was also a control, 6F L280740.

Control - 6F Blackcap L280740

Totals: 15 (10)

Robin - 0 (3)
Dunnock -0 (1)
Lesser Whitethroat -1
Whitethroat - 3 (1)
Garden Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 5 (4)
Chiffchaff - 1
Willow Warbler -2
Blue Tit -0 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 1

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Negev, Israel - Part 4 21 - 24 April 2016

Day 11 - 21 April

We met Darren at 4.15am and drove, for 45 minutes, to his CES site, Eshkol Park , in the Western Negev. On arrival the road was still muddy in places - just as well we had not come a few days earlier as originally planned. It didn't take too long to get the 10 nets up with only a couple of missing guys - the water had been through at this site too.

The park where this site is situated has natural springs so birds have a reliable source of water most of the year. The high proportion of Cetti's warblers being directly linked to this. We had a few new species for our trip with Syrian Woodpecker and an extremely late staying Sardinian Warbler and Robin.

 Syrian Woodpecker


 Sardinian Warbler
Ortolan Bunting

Cetti's Warblers look less rich brown here with more sandy tones.

 Graceful Prinia age 3

 View towards the nets

 The park has been developed with many non-native plants.

Totals: 51 (17)

Syrian Woodpecker - 1
Robin - 1
Thrush Nightingale -2
Rufous Bush Robin - 2
Graceful Prinia - 2 (3)
Cetti's Warbler - 5 (7)
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler -10 (5)
Great Reed Warbler - 1
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler -1
Sardinian Warbler - 0 (1)
Lesser Whitethroat -3
Blackcap - 13
Great Tit - 1
Collared Flycatcher - 1
Spectacled Bulbul -2 (1)
House Sparrow - 3
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Ortolan Bunting - 1

After the catch we took a slow drive to take in local habitat areas. We birded too, seeing a Quail, Whinchat, Black-eared Wheatear and a few Bee-eaters that nest in the area.

In the afternoon we drove around Yeroham Lake, seeing that the water level was still high. We found a Spur-winged Plover pair with a couple of chicks. One was large enough to take a ring.

Spur-winged Plover chick

Although we have found a few pairs with chicks, others were a long way behind these, still displaying - potentially some nests and/or chicks were lost in the flash floods.

Day 12 - 22 April

We were at the Matash for 5am and found that the irrigation had been switched on. Some areas were quite wet and care had to be taken to avoid slipping on wet mud in the dark. In addition to Darren and ourselves there were a couple of Darren's ex-trainers and two others that arrived a little later. We took a good first round, but as the morning progresed there were no new species for our trip.

 Leaks in the irrigation system allow birds to drink, bathe and shower!

 Lots of grackles, but they all know about the nets so there will
probably be no more captures until after the chicks fledge.

The bird numbers soon dropped off and nets were taken down just after 10am due to the heat.

Totals: 95 (4)

Common Cuckoo - 1
Hoopoe - 3
Thrush Nightingale -4
Rufous Bush Robin - 1
Graceful Prinia - 1 (1)
Reed Warbler - 2
Great Reed Warbler - 1
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - 7 (1)
Barred Warbler - 2
Eastern Orphean Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 5
Blackcap - 57 (2)
Pied Flycatcher - 1
Great Tit - 1
Masked Shrike -1
Greenfinch -2

After an early lunch we headed out to Ein Yorge'am again, hoping to see species that we've yet to catch up with. The pools left after the rain have now mostly dried up and tempertures reach well into the high 30s each afternoon. On arrival we saw a couple of Sinai Rosefinch, then over the next couple of hours watched the Arabian Babblers, Tristram's Grackles, Blackstart, Rock Martins, Pallid Swifts, White-crowned and Mourning Wheatears.

 Arabian Babbler

The Arabian Babblers, as we have seen before, hunted individually but together as a group. This time one bird seemed to keep watch while the others fed. 

 Arabian Babbler

We were treated to the spectacle of two Barbary Falcons, one adult and one juvenile, hunting Rock Doves in the gorge as we left.

 Tristram's Grackles panting in the shade

When we finished our walk from the gorge floor back to the car the temperature had reached 42c. This is not usual for April, being more typical of late June temperatures.

 Day 13 - 23 April

In view of the high temperatures, and the fact that the area would have been packed during Passover, we decided against a trip to the Dead Sea, instead revisiting Nizzana. We hoped that the drier conditions might give up more species than our first trip.

We saw European Roller on the drive there, before we even started at the sewage works.  We got Tawny Pipit while we waited for the sandgrouse to come in. This time we watched with the sun to the right of us, not so good for viewing but less intrusive to the birds. They began to arrive at 8.30am. There were a few Black-bellied Sandgrouse first then two separate groups of Crowned Sandgrouse. This time there was not a single Pin-tailed and although two poorly seen and distant birds may have been Spotted Sandgrouse, views were not sufficient to claim them - so we still have yet to see this species.

 Crowned Sandgrouse

We covered the same areas as before, but this time there were no model aircraft enthusiasts to disturb the peace. We tried some additional tracks and side roads and added several species that had been nowhere to be seen before. The list now included Slender-billed Gull, Shelduck, Teal, Little Owl and McQueen's Bustard (an adult and juvenile) from Nizanna - Ezuz Road.

On the Mandtoric Road we saw some Barred Warblers, Redstart, Whinchat, Masked Shrike, Spotted Flycatcher, Cream-coloured Courser, c10 Crowned Sandgrouse (that flew over the car) and Dorca's Gazelle. So much better than the week before - just goes to show it all depends on the day.

 Cream-coloured Courser

Day 14 - 24 April

Our last ringing day and we worked the mulberry trees with Yorum, Darren and Elan. As expected, the Grackles avoided the nets but we did catch a few Golden Orioles - a real challenge to age and sex! There were a few Garden Warblers that we hadn't really seen many of, and despite it being the last day we still managed some less familiar species such as Laughing Dove and another juvenile Palestine Sunbird.

Golden Orioles - never easy

Garden Warbler

3J Palestine Sunbird

Laughing Dove

It was fitting that among the last birds from the nets as we took down, due to heat, at 10am was a Hoopoe - the national bird of Israel.

 Hoopoe - National bird of Israel

Totals: 115 (12)

Collared Dove - 1
Laughing Dove - 1
Hoopoe - 1
Thrush Nightingale - 1
Nightingale - 1
Graceful Prinia - 0 (2)
Reed Warbler -1
Great Reed Warbler - 1
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler -1
Barred Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 5
Garden Warbler - 4
Blackcap - 87 (8) 
Wood Warbler - 1
Spotted Flycatcher - 1
Palestine Sunbird - 1 (1)
Golden Oriole - 4
Greenfinch -2 (1)
Masked Shrike -1

We spent a bit of time packing and cleaning the apartment before taking one last turn around Yeroham Lake where we added Great Cormorant to our watch list.


The next day we were invited to take a traditional passover breakfast with Yoram and Edna on the morning of our flight and it was delicious. Thank you both so much for your wonderful hospitality.

Thanks also to Francis Argyle who settled us into the accommodation and explained a few things in advance, and to Darren Burns who found some alternative sites after the first two days when the regular places were washed out and who was very patient while we struggled to identify one piece of vegetation from another, locate guys and put nets up at four separate sites, in the dark, over the fortnight. We were also unused to the extreme tension that was required on many of the nets (Francis had set up one of the alternative places - and he really like tension) and two of us had not encountered the 'Israeli knot' before - but that has now been mastered and may even be used at some of our own sites from time to time.

Thanks also to all who helped with birding information, particularly good spots for desert species.

The ringing station at Yeroham is managed through Hoopoe Ornithology and Ecology The contact if anyone would like to spend time with the team at Yerolum is Darren (email:, who is always grateful of help, particularly at busy times of year. The organisation is keen to have more visiting ringers in the future and will help you with finding rented accommodation. 

A car is really essential, as much as anything else to get to the Negev from Tel Aviv airport (about one and half hours travelling time) and as we held equipment for part of the time (especially while Darren had car trouble) it was essential for us during the visit, but would also be useful if wishing to do any independent ringing whilst visiting.

We found this a most worthwhile visit and we'd be happy to speak with anyone who is thinking about a trip to the Negev to ring with Darren at Yeroham.