Saturday, 18 March 2017

Staines Moor and Little Marlow GP - 16th & 17th March 2017

16 March

We made an early morning visit to the Moor in an effort to try to do some monitoring work with the Water Pipits, but were unsuccessful. Three Little Egret were present, six Sand Martin, and at least five Water Pipits. Numbers are often higher in March as migrants also pass through.

17 March

After a visit to Beaconsfield we dropped into Little Marlow, where upon arrival we were meet by two Peregrines, a male and female chasing each other around the site for a few minutes, the usual stream of Red Kites with the odd Buzzard as well, a little Ringed Plover on the spit and Sand Martins coming and going with 17 seen during our time there.

Little Ringed Plover

Group of Tufted Duck

 Nesting Cormorants

Couple of Red Kites over

Great Crested Grebe


The resident pair of Mute Swan were showing interest in nesting at a spot close to the path, attracting the attention of the single remaining Black Swan that was one of three introduced a few years back. This bird was quite aggressive  to other birds and has apparently become increasingly so over the last few weeks.

Cob and pen

Chobham Common - 15th March 2017

It was a delightful morning to be out on the common. We went to monitor Dartford Warblers and saw a total of 14, in the warm spring sunshine, two of which wore rings. We only used a couple of 2 panel nets and managed to catch two new birds, with several having whipped over the top. Even 'though the wind was quite low the birds had no trouble spotting the nets. A Robin was an unexpected bonus and additional species seen included Great Grey Shrike, Reed Bunting, Snipe, Buzzard, Red Kite and Stonechat (no less than 10). All this in a fairly confined area of the common, which suggests the Dartford Warbler population is extremely buoyant at present.

Dartford Warbler on gorse

Total: 3

Robin - 1
Dartford Warbler - 2

Necessary permission and permits to capture birds at this site and use tape lures for Dartford Warbler are held.

North Norfolk 10th & 11th March 2017


A run up to Norfolk started with disappointment at Cockley Cley as the Great Grey Shrike failed to put in an appearance until well after we had given up looking and moved on as our time was restricted as we had to be elsewhere before midday. We did have a singing Wood Lark though, and there was a movement of Finches and Thrushes, with Brambling and Fieldfare over. The Pallid Harrier did not appear to be putting in an appearance at New Holkham so we quickly moved on.

It was early afternoon before we'd taken care of non birding related matters and we arrived at Holkham. Initially we walked up to the hide over the fresh marsh, which still held quite a few Pink-foot and White-fronted Geese. A Cetti's was singing out in the middle of the marsh, with the usual Marsh Harriers over the marsh, with Red Kite and Buzzard over Holkham Park. Great White Egret and Spoonbill were back with two of the former and a single of the latter seen, which was colour ringed, alas with one of the colours not being readily identifiable. A walk along the beach into the middle of the bay, as often is the case in March found the sea relatively quiet with just a few Common Scoter and Red-breasted Mergansers present, finishing off late afternoon a small group of ten Shore Larks that were still present at the eastern end of the bay.

Mixed Goose flock

White-fronted Geese

Holkham Bay and Dunes



Having spent the night at Caley Hall, Old Hunstanton, we first of all dropped into Holme. Again the sea was fairly quiet with just three Eider, six Red-breasted Mergansers and 13 Long-tailed Duck present. Passerine movement was limited, although four Stonechat were present suggesting some movement of this species and a few Pink-footed Goose went over the marsh.

A quick look at Thornham failed to produce any Twite, and a visit to Thornham Deli just reiterated just how Norfolk has changed with a small jar of honey costing £11 and a loaf of fancy bread £2.50. 

Curlew at Thornham

We then finished off with a visit to Titchwell which produced the usual nice mix of waders, with a couple of Ruff present, but we did not come across the Little Ringed Plover that was present earlier in the day. The resident population of Red-crested Pochards seems to be growing with six males and two females seen. The sea again was still fairly quiet with only seven Red-breasted Mergansers, two nice groups of Long-tailed Ducks, totalling 22, mostly splendid males and a group of Scoters, that contained (mostly) a number of Velvet Scoters, which were slightly too far out in a slightly misty haze to be sure of their identity except when flapping their wings showing the white panel in the wing. 

Red-crested Pochard, male & female

Common Gull on Titchwell beach, one of quite a few which
were present moving north.

Male Northern Shoveler

Male Eurasian Teal

Monday, 6 March 2017

Truss's Island, Thames at Windsor, Bury Lake & Ruislip Lido - 4th March 2017

The weather has been against us, what with wind and rain ringing has been impossible at our sites for quite a while now. We have been out a couple of times looking for metal ringed birds and today we decided to do some local sites where we could collect Darvic and metal rings on Mute Swans. We started at Truss's Island where there are many regular Darvic ringed sans and also recorded some BTO metal rings, taking particular efforts with the birds with two metal rings having been caught for swan upping.

The result of our efforts was close to 100 records.

We also managed to catch up an unringed swan with fishing line wrapped around one foot. The leg was swollen with the line digging in quite severely. The bird was released once the line had been removed.

 Truss's Island Staines

It took several photos of the upside down metal ring on this Black-headed Gull but the full number was recorded eventually.

EX42797 Ruislip Lido

Total: 0 (95)

Mute Swan - 0 (92)
Canada Goose - 0 (2)
Black-headed Gull - 0 (1)

Friday, 17 February 2017

Broadwater GP - 17th February 2017

Knowing how few birds we've caught at this site, at similar times of year, we weren't expecting much as we joined MRB and Margaret for a morning at Broadwater.

We put up eight nets and thought we might be lucky to get twelve to fifteen birds. We actually did slightly better than that with 23 birds altogether, including a Jay, some Chiffchaffs and what might be the last Redwing of the winter.

 Redwing aged 5

Jay aged 5

Totals: 12 (11)

Blackbird - 3
Redwing - 1
Wren - 0 (1)
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 0 (2)
Chiffchaff - 3
Goldcrest - 1 (2)
Long-tailed Tit - 0 (4)
Blue Tit - 1 (1)
Great Tit - 1 (1)
Jay - 1

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Cyprus 3rd to 6th February 2017

3rd February

Another meeting with Graham at the fields adjacent to Paphos Sewage works at Acheleia. On the way down from the main road we had a very large female Peregrine sat in the filed that was possibly of the race calidus.

We had a later start than normal and had a few nets in the hedgerow and in the Olive grove where birds are frequently seen to cut across from the hedgerow and out of the fields. It was clear that the Alfalfa had been cut the day before and this seemed to have an affect on the numbers of birds around. There was less about but we had a good proportion of recaptures, always important for really useful data.

Chiffchaff was the most frequently caught new bird (9), supported by Blackcap, Serin, Sardinian Warbler and Robin. There were also 11 retraps in all, comprised of Sardinian Warbler (6), Robin (3), Cetti's Warbler (1) and Blackcap (1).

A Sparrowhawk and Bluethroat were also seen.

Total: 25 (11)

Robin - 3 (3)
Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 4 (6)
Blackcap - 4 (1)
Chiffchaff - 9
Goldfinch - 1
Serin - 4

Towards the end of the day we tried a likely drinking spot at Anarita Park. We were hoping to get a few Corn Bunting. We set a couple of two panel nets and settled down to wait. We could see the Corn Buntings gathering in their favoured trees further up the hill and it was looking very good until the sheep and goat flock drifted over in that direction with a shepherd looking for asparagus close to where the flocks were gathering. It wasn't long before they all departed and we caught nothing more than a few Chiffchaff and a Stonechat. We had a female Blue Rock Thrush on one of the small rocky mounds whilst sat in the car.

Total: 6

Stonechat -1
Chiffchaff - 5

4th February

This was to be the last day designated for a full morning's ringing and we returned to Neo Chorio to a site some distance from Agias Minhas, the area that we've ringed in the past. We managed to get a couple of doubles up with two more single full height nets. The species seen were different to those around the church, lots of Black Redstart being the main difference, with at least 17 seen, and still plenty of Robins, some Sardinian Warblers, and Stonechats, but not a single Chiffchaff to found.

 5F Black Redstart

 5F Stonechat

Recaptured 4F Sardinian Warbler 35372.

This is clearly, from the dark colouration, an old individual. We do not have access to the entire database but current rings are numbered 477** so we wonder exactly how many years ago it was ringed.

Afterwards we had a trip up along the Arodes plateau fields and picked up the resident Bonelli's Eagle, along with Sparrowhawk and Long-legged Buzzard, also decent sized flocks of Sky Lark and Chaffinches on some recently ploughed fields.

5th February.

Our final day in the Paphos area, so we just had a drive around a couple of sites. Mandria was fairly quiet with a single Buzzard, Red-throated Pipit, and a large Sky Lark flock of some 350 or so birds. We then just finished off with a final visit to Anarita Park which again held nothing special though the male Finsch's Wheatear was being particularly showy.

6th February.

We stopped off at a few places on route back to Larnaca airport, A quick stop off at Ladies Mile just on the off chance the Red Knot was still around, but we had no high expectations, and it wasn't. The usual flock of a couple of thousand Black-headed Gull was present, along with four Slender-billed, four Common, and at least 15 Armenian and a few Caspian Gulls. At Larnaca we had a look at Menou and Spiro's Pools which held a few Shelduck and common waders, including a Greenshank and 123 Golden Plover, plus two Spectacled Warblers were seen at Spiro's Pool. Finally a quick visit to Larnaca Sewage works which held briefly all the wintering Geese, with 51 Greylags and the eight White-fronted Geese, plus 33 Ruddy Shelduck, before they all flew off. Gulls were coming in all the time to bathe with at least 43 Caspian Gulls, several Armenian, and a single Heuglin's Gull, with the third winter Pallas' Gull still present. Fifteen Black-necked Grebes were now present, when we had none on our last visit.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Cyprus 1st & 2nd February 2017

1st February.

On the first of the month we worked our usual spot along the dry stream bed at Kouklia, then did the drinking pool for a spell in the early afternoon before moving closer to the coast for a try at finches, thrushes and warblers using the reedbed as a roost. Figures have not been separated out but all Thrushes came from the roost, with 45 Song Thrush being seen to come into the orchard, and most Chiffchaffs were caught in the two panel net when coming down to bathe or drink.

One of many Chiffchaffs on site

4M Spanish Sparrow (SPASP)

Two panel net by the drinking pool

Total: 70 (2)

Song Thrush - 3
Robin - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 6 (2)
Blackcap - 10
Chiffchaff - 46
Spanish Sparrow - 2
Goldfinch - 1
Chaffinch - 1

In between the two sessions at Kouklia, we took a drive around the fields at Mandria, which apart from a large flock of around 350 Sky Lark, we saw the female Hen Harrier again and not too much else.

2nd February.

In the morning we drove up to Arminou dam to a pool and fields that has been good for Chiffchaff and finches. On arrival we found that the elevation and high sided valley had caused the temperature to drop significantly to what we had been experiencing down on the coast. There was a heavy frost, rock solid ground and iced over puddles. It seemed that the area was devoid of all life except a mule and there were no attempts to capture birds as it would be some time before the sun warmed the valley.

Frost on the ground in sunny Cyprus

We explored the surrounding area, finding a quiet bridge at Tzelefos, one of the old Venetian bridges, with Siskins feeding in groups, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Short-toed Treecreeper, Coal Tit and Jay. We set up a net in a spot likely to have birds coming down to drink but had only just got the net set when a minibus arrived with Cypriot tourists. They were a little noisy, but less so than the party of students who then arrived with water sampling equipment. By now Chris had found a place that thirsty birds seemed to favour, although the disturbance seemed to be driving the birds away from the bridge. We took down and were just about to leave when a jeep safari, five vehicles in all, roared through the ford then parked up while the Russian tourists enjoyed the previously tranquil spot. Time to leave.

The bridge while we still had the place to ourselves.

We returned to the diminishing drinking pool for the afternoon, this time placing a two panel net by the pool in the stream bed with a second full height net along the far bank for extra captures. The bulk of the birds were Chiffchaff again, only three recaptures from the previous day with one bird that had been ringed at this site in November. One Goldfinch that was caught could not be ringed as it had one foot affected by growths on the foot. This was at first thought to be papillomavirus. However, mite infestation may be a more likely cause. We were surprised and saddened to find that some Chaffinches that we've caught have been affected by papillomvirus - an affliction that has been much less common here than in the UK. This year we've found that about one in every three Chaffinches caught here is affected although it is usually only seen in one foot or leg with the other seemingly unaffected.

Total: 89 (4)
Song Thrush - 1
Robin - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 8
Chiffchaff - 63 (4)
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Serin - 3
Goldfinch - 10

The text below is produced by the BTO.

Growths on legs and feet

A number of different agents may cause swellings on the legs and feet of wild birds. Some of these are caused by mites of the genus Knemidocoptes and result in scaly legs. The 'scales' themselves are dry encrustations made up of material produced by the bird in response to the irritation caused by the mites, together with skin debris thrown up by the mites as they burrow into the tissues. As well as forming on the legs, the 'scales' may also form around the beak. These mites are members of a wider family of mites that cause mange in domestic animals and scabies in humans.

Another cause of warty growths is the Fringilla papillomavirus which affects Chaffinches and Bramblings. These growths may vary in size from small nodules to larger warts that engulf the whole leg. The warts develop slowly over a long period and affected individuals may otherwise appear quite healthy. Some individuals may become lame or lose affected digits.