Sunday, 6 January 2019

Black Park CP - 4th January 2019

The first session of the year could have gone better! After three hours in cold conditions we had only ringed 6 birds, so it was time to pack up and go home to pick over what was left of the Christmas goodies.

Lesser Redpoll aged 5

Totals: 6

Robin - 1
Goldcrest - 2
Blue Tit - 2
Lesser Redpoll - 1

But in spite of this morning being so poor, here is a reminder of why we monitor birds. Here's news of one we did earlier.

Redwing RZ01278   was ringed on 2/11/2017 at Black Park when a juvenile. The bird was found dead on 17/10/2018 at Mikkola, Sodankyl√§, Lappi, Finland  SF83 67 28N; 26 8E. It had flown into wires a few days short of 349 days since it was not freshly dead when found. The eventual location is 2303 km NE of where we ringed it. Sodankyl√§ is well north of the Arctic Circle in north-central Finland, some 300km north of Oulu on the Gulf of Bothnia.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Staines Moor - 31st December 2018

On the last day of the year we decided to give the Water Pipits on Staines Moor another try. The weather was good, but we were amazed just how much the flooded pools had shrunk over so few days. Added to that the large flocks of Redwing noticed on the 26th were nowhere to be seen.

We set a full height double by some brambles and two two panel doubles along what remained of the pool that the Water Pipits had favoured when we last visited. There were certainly fewer Water Pipits about, perhaps five in total and most of these were only flying over. We had one decent chance, but once that bird had walked under the net and away from the pool, we knew we weren't likely to catch it.

A flock of 20 or so Redwings came in but all managed to evade the nets. We had to be thankful for the two resident Song Thrushes that were caught and a surprise bonus bird in the form of a Dartford Warbler. The bird was caught in the bottom panel of the nets set for, and with the audio-lure playing Redwing and becomes the first Dartford Warbler captured by the Colne Valley Ringing Group.

3M Dartford Warbler

Totals: 3

Song Thrush - 2
Dartford Warbler - 1

Wraysbury GP - 30th December 2018

A last chance to monitor this site before the new year, so we skirted the mound of rubbish that has been illegally dumped in the car park, set five nets on C6 and waited to see what was happeneing on site.

We could see that a large number of corvids were coming into the horsefield periodically, also good numbers of gulls again in the area where the horse graze. Perhaps opportunities for another time.

We got a few Goldcrest and just three of the Redwing that were flying overhead from time to time. A Chiffchaff was unexpected, although we do know that they regularly over winter at our Broadwater and Stanwell Moor sites. Wraysbury C6 seemed a  bit too open and exposed although C4 would definitely be a more attractive prospect having better cover and feeding for small birds. Perhaps the hot summer and mild winter have encouraged more summer migrants to spend the winter.

1st winter Chiffchaff

Age 3 Redwing

The third of the Redwings caught was particularly dark and had a wing of 122mm compared to the other two with 114 & 116mm. The weight was also higher at 71.4g versus 66.2g and 61.4g. The undertail covert feathers had some extensively dark centres, but not all, leading us to ask ourselves whether this might have been coburni rather than the usual iliacus. We decided that being well within the range of iliacus and these birds being so variable we would not record it as anything else.

Total: 16 (4)

Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Redwing - 3
Chiffchaff - 1
Goldcrest - 4 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 5
Blue Tit - 1 (1)
Great Tit - 0 (2)

Stanwell Moor GP - 28th December 2018

A late start and plans to visit Wraysbury were changed to cover Stanwell instead, as fewer nets would be needed. It did mean that we managed to avoid the eyesore in the form of a huge amount of fly-tipped rubbish inside the main Wraysbury gate. An unfortunate reminder of the importance of not leaving the gate unlocked. I would add that noone from our group has been to the site for quite some time.

So, Stanwell it was and we put up a couple of doubles and a 12m 2 panel. We didn't get many birds, but we managed to connect with a small Long-tailed Tit flock, a couple of Redwing and a controlled Cetti's Warbler making the morning most worthwhile.

Control 4M Cetti's Warbler Z371107

Age 3 Redwing

Totals:  16 (2)

Robin - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 1
Redwing - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Goldcrest - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 5
Blue Tit - 3
Great Tit - 1

The sad sight that is the car park (behind gates that should be locked) at Wraysbury since a really large lorry dumped its load there.

Wraysbury fly tipping. The gate in the background provides a 
sense of scale to the volume of rubbish dumped.

Staines Moor - 26th December 2018

Following a walk on the moor on Christmas eve, to walk a dog that actually is in this case just for Christmas as it will be returning to its own home in the new year, we returned (minus dog) to try for one of the 12 Water Pipits that we had seen while hoping to see one of the colour ringed birds that we'd done at the start of the year. We only managed three then, but they are the only UK colour ringed Water Pipits, so despite the low success rate we've had, worth trying to get more observations and individuals marked for the project.

We erected a total of four two panel nets in a flooded area, where dog walkers are currently avoiding walking their animals, and used audio lures. The birds were not especially responsive and there appeared to be fewer than a couple of days before.

3A, age 3 Water Pipit

It was looking as though the session was another failure when a Meadow Pipit was captured, and while we had that bird in the hand, a Water Pipit flew into the net closest to where we had based. 3A, a first year bird, became the fourth bird captured and marked with a colour ring this year.

Age 3 Meadow Pipit

Total: 2

Meadow Pipit - 1
Water Pipit - 1

Friday, 14 December 2018

Black Park CP - 14th December 2018

Our first day out ringing since returning from Cyprus and we opted for Black Park, quite close to where we live and not possible to ring throughout the whole year due to heavy usage by dog walkers. Once it gets colder there tends to be fewer people using the park. This was to be our first visit this year.

We arrived while it was too dark to set up and spent a while waiting for it to become light enough to avoid tripping up on the low level gorse. Five nets went up and during that time we heard Redpoll emerging from roost close by, but they didn't stay and not a single one was caught. Despite that disappointment, we caught over 40 birds, the species broadly representative of what could be expected in habitat such as this. There were fewer Goldcrest than anticipated and we caught more tits than anything else. There were two recaptured Blue Tits, APA0463 and APA0496, both ringed at the site on 23rd October 2017. We also managed to catch seven Redwing from a flock that we've seen feeding in the leaf litter under the mature trees of the heavily wooded area.

Coal Tit


Totals: 39 (2)

Wren - 1
Robin - 2
Dunnock - 1
Redwing - 7
Goldcrest - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 5
Coal Tit - 3
Blue Tit - 12 (2)
Great Tit - 5

Cyprus - 6th to 8th December 2018

6th December

The 6th was forecast to be the first decent day after rain and thunderstorms at some point over the previous few days. We decided not to chance setting up and instead drove over to Limassol. It was already raining before we arrived. We started off at the Zakaki hide where there had been some clearance, but reeds were already springing up fast. The water level was high and it was only possible to see Bluethroat along the roadside edge, there being no open ground in front of the hide. There we also saw Moustached Warbler and Water Rail. Penduline Tit was heard but not seen.

Water Rail

Cetti's Warbler

There was no prospect of driving around the back, the ground being so wet and we headed on to Ladies Mile to look at the gulls. Here there were many, many Blacked-headed Gulls on the pools. Chris managed to locate the Meditterranean Gull and there were big gull species too, Caspian, Armenian and Yellow-legged Gulls.

Armenian Gull


A flock of Greater Flamingoes

It was inadvisable to use the beach crossing due to the sand being very soft but we took the longer route and visited Bishop's pool, in the rain again, where the water level was just about the highest we'd ever seen.

Bishop's pool held Ferruginous ducks, Shoveler, Teal, Coot, Moorhen, 
Little Grebe and a single Black-necked Grebe.

Moving on to Akrotiri marsh, the site continues to look dreadful behind the scaffolding used to fence out the birders. There are more cows than ever now and the area looked over grazed. The birds seen from the hide were limited to a couple of Water Pipits.

We also looked at the tall hide and pools put in for Ferruginous Ducks. It was as devoid of life as every other time we have looked there.

It continued to rain into the afternoon.

There was supposed to be no rain after 2pm at Pafos and, having got back early, we tried a couple of nets by the sewage works. We had only got five birds when thunder began rumbling down from some rather dark and threatening clouds, with rain in attendance so we packed in at retreated into the dry.

Total: 5

Sardinian Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 4

7th December

This being our last full day in Cyprus, we decided to return to Kouklia. Grahame joined us and a total of 72 birds were processed. The Serin were still in the area, and a flock of Greenfinch has roosted closeby. We had the usual few Blackcaps. However a couple of men came through the site with a pack of dogs, we counted eight but they were all over the place and we never saw all of them at the same time. At one point a hare came dashing ahead of five dogs. I (Denise) had rushed round pushing nets up but found, on checking them later, that we had a large hole in one of our 18m nets.


Totals:  63 (9)

Robin – 1 (2)
Stonechat - 2
Cetti’s Warbler - 5 (2)
Sardinian Warbler – 5 (4)
Blackcap – 10 (1)
Chiffchaff – 3
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Greenfinch - 12
Serin – 24

We spent the afternoon walking walking in Secret Valley. It was clear that the recent rain had severely damaged the track and brought a lot of material down from the cliffs. We saw a lot of Song Thrushes, Stonechats and Jackdaws with a couple of Black Redstart. No sign of either Blue Rock Thrush, a species we've seen there before or Wallcreeper although the cliffs at the far end of the valley always look promising.

The lake in Secret Valley

8th December

Our flight wasn't until 6:30pm. On the one hand we could ring a few more birds if the weather was okay, but then we didn't want to be left with wet nets and bird bags and no way to dry them. We decided to do Kouklia one last time, possibly against our better judgement, this being a Saturday when more people have free time and following the dogs incident of the day before.

We put up a total of 42m. There was rain before the second net went up. After a pause we continued. We soon had a visit from a man and his dog who turned out to be the person farming the plot, now directly adjacent to where we ring. He was just seeing what we were doing and a very pleasant man. Later we were slightly alarmed by a truck coming down the track. Alarmed because the track is rarely used and one of the nets has guys that extend onto the track, and the net could be brought down if the guy were not seen by the driver. As it turned out it was the officer from the game fund that we had met in Polis. He had seen us and become suspicious. It's good to know that the game fund had patrols out looking for illicit hunting. He checked out licence thoroughly and hopes to join us when we return to Cyprus is the spring. We also found out that it is an offence to take a pack of dogs out, as we had witnessed the day before, and we should have contacted the game fund.

A rather green looking Kouklia. The result of the recent rain.

So we left Kouklia with the river running brown, wondering whether there will be any water in the spring.

Totals: 39 (4)         

Woodlark - 3
Robin – 1 (1)
Cetti’s Warbler - 2
Sardinian Warbler – 1
Blackcap – 7 (1)
Chiffchaff – 1 (2)
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Goldfinch - 2
Greenfinch - 2
Serin – 19