Sunday, 28 May 2017

Delaware Bay, New Jersey - Cannon netting 11th and 12th May 2017

At the start of our visit we were fortunate enough to get out on the first two catches of the season. The first was at the South Reeds Beach where over 200 Red Knot were measured, ringed,tagged and feather samples taken for DNA analysis. There were also 40 or so Sanderling. Chris and I were fortunate to be placed in Clive Minton's group with Clive fitting tags and taking feather samples, Chris scribing, Angela Clive's sister ringing, Renn weighing and completing DNA bags and myself taking wing, bill and head & bill measurements.

Processing the catch with Renn and Clive.

Three groups process the birds. 

Red Knot (Calidiris canutus)

Sanderling (Calidiris alba)

The second catch focused on Ruddy Turnstone. The net was set just a few metres from the main house and birds were so keen to feed that firing took place within 15 minutes. Birds were processed on the house deck in very difficult, windy conditions. No photographs were taken. My team consisted of Clive, Jenny (PhD student), Patti (Citizens United), Joanna Burger (Professor). Chris worked in a team that included Larry Niles, the project organiser.

After these first two catches we became dedicated resighters, collecting data on what flagged birds were present, when and where they could be found. 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Red Knot project, Delaware Bay, USA - May 2017

Every year Red Knots accompanied by Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling and other waders make the northward journey up the Eastern coast of South and North America. This year Chris and I will be involved with the monitoring process at one of their Spring migration stop overs. The birds converge on Delaware Bay and time their stay to capitalise on the food available from spawning Horseshoe Crabs.

Just as the Horseshoe Crab eggs draw the birds, the migrating waders attract a large team of scientists, environmental workers and volunteers from across the world to participate in a study that has spanned 20 years.

The first studies began in 1997 at which time the unregulated collection of spawning Horseshoe Crabs for bait was commonplace. Following media coverage of this,the work being done on the beaches and reports of wader population decline, the practise of Horseshoe Crab harvesting was banned.

Since then fencing off of key areas at key times of year also worked to protect the waders and crabs and there are now various community projects such as 'return the favour' where volunteers turn over stranded crabs at night, allowing them to return to the sea and spawn again, and beach stewards  protect the beaches by working to ensure that the restricted areas are upheld.

The people at the  core of these studies were instrumental in organising beach restoration after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Key beaches had been left without sand, rendering them unsuitable for spawning, but the scientists worked with local people to coordinate an intervention to source sand involving a range of people from experts on sand grain size, to local business men and organised local companies to supply sand, making it possible to restore 2.6 miles of beaches to the correct conditions so that crabs could spawn successfully and birds had eggs to forage on.

Studies have focused on Horseshoe Crabs and birds. Data is being used to inform population numbers and changes, timings of migration of short, medium and long distance migrants and general bio-metric indicators such as wing, bill, head and bill length and weight.

The Delaware Bay is affected by economic pressures, with Horseshoe Crabs taken to be bled for Lysate (used in the cosmetics industry) and moves to expand the aquaculture for producing of oysters. This a concern, as siting of oyster racks on the inter-tidal mud flats poses a threat to waders foraging in that these areas are avoided by the birds and may also affect Horseshoe Crab movements.  

There are other studies along the Atlantic flyway and some birds from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and SE USA can be identified from metal rings and coloured flags. Birds have also been fitted with geo-locators, but the data can only be retrieved  when the bird is recaptured and the equipment removed.

Chris and I will be doing counts and recording colour rings and flags in the field mostly, but we hope to get on to some catches and work with the long established team on this most worthwhile project.

North Reed's Beach, 

Friday, 5 May 2017

Stanwell Moor GP - 5th May 2017

We can hardly believe it but this is actually the first time we've ringed here this year. The track is now clear again and has been raised by about 20cms. We had to do a bit of tidying in the reed-bed ride and from the start we both thought we might be luck if we struggled our way up to double figures.
We only had four nets up, and in truth with work that's been done by the lake and the vehicle movements many places where we used to put nets are no longer viable either due to removed bramble bushes or heaps of building recycling waste.

We were spot on, in that we did get exactly ten birds. The real bonus was a French ringed Reed Warbler.

A check on the mound next to the M25 for Lapwing pulli was unsuccessful, though we did locate one nest with four eggs.

Reed Warbler with Museum Paris ring 7181736

Total: 5 (5)

Wren - 0 (1)
Robin - 0 (2)
Reed Warbler - 2 (1)
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 0 (1)
Reed Bunting - 1

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Barcelona, Spain - 30th April 2017 (an unexpected entry)

Our visit to Barcelona was not bird related. Of course there will always be a few sightings, we saw Little & Cattle Egret in the marshy fields around the airport, Serin, Collared Doves and Blackbird (with an apparent 'Spanish' accent) in the city parks and heard and saw lots of Monk Parakeets in quite a few parts of the City.

This was not only a new species for us, if you considered escapes as such, but it also gave a chance to see subjects of a monitoring programme to study the dispersal of this invasive species. Several birds were wearing numbered medallions.

We were actually there for Battle of the Nations, full contact Medieval Combat sport as our son is in the UK team and we were providing media support. Over 30 countries took part and our team came 4th in the 21 v 21 competition, best placing in 5 v 5 bohurts was 6th, and the captain came third in sword and shield.

Team UK

If you think this sounds interesting, then there's plenty to find on YouTube. In the meantime, here's a link to one of their victories, same fight taking place over two rounds:

Staines Moor & Reservoir - April 2017

We've made several visits to these two locations over the last week. The moor is a good place to see common migrants and we hoped to see Wheatear passing through the site. We haven't and are wondering whether the grass is just a bit too long. On our first try Chris thought he heard a snatch of Grasshopper Warbler song from the area of the board walk from Stanwell, but the song was not repeated. Later a bird was reported from that same area and in spite of return visits we didn't manage to see or hear it again.

One corner of the moor seems to be particularly attractive to butterflies and we managed to get a few shots.

Green-veined White

Male Orange tip

Today, the 23rd, we managed to hear and see Grasshopper Warbler on the moor proper.

Even though we still haven't seen Wheatear there, we have now seen all common migrants (although not all in the UK) with the exception of Garden Warbler, and one of those is bound to crop up sooner or later.

The River Colne at Staines Moor

 Grey Heron (CL)

Reed Bunting male (CL)

The reservoir has had some good birds of late, Great Northern Diver, Black-necked Grebe, Arctic Terns and Little Gulls - usually a long way off and not due to this, not photographed.

The gull raft was quite close though, allowing us to get a good image and read darvic 23K1.

Black-headed Gulls Staines Res (23K1 on back edge in centre)

Wraysbury GP - 22nd April 2017

We gave Wraysbury another try and found it disappointing as expected. The nets caught the wind a lot, only to be expected since much of the vegetation that provided windbreaks has now gone.

We only used one ring as everything else was a retrap, but then, we only had nine birds. The Great Tit was ringed as a 3J, on C4,on 21st June 2014 and had not been seen since then

Total: 1 (8)

Dunnock - 1 (3)
Blackcap - 0 (1)
Goldcrest - 0 (1)
Long-tailed Tit  - 0 (2)
Great Tit - 0 (1)