A round up of our bird ringing activities (all birds ringed under licence from the British Trust for Ornithology with schedule one authority where appropriate), birding trips and other wildlife sorties within the UK and whenever we get chance, elsewhere.
Today's session in theory looked a good
one, heavy frost, lots of Redwing, and a few Fieldfare had been going over the
house for the last week or so, but upon setting up at first light we flushed
around 50 or so Fieldfare out of the orchard, which had the feeling of not
boding well, and it did not, as they did not come down again in this particular
orchard, with 50-100 seen feeding in the other adjacent orchards. Despite
having the Redwing tape playing it only pulled one in, plus later a female
Sparrowhawk, with the only other bird caught being a single Blackbird. So in
all, a rather frustrating day, with lots of Fieldfare around, none coming into
the orchard where we had set up. One thing that might have helped is setting
up the night before and opening the nets half an hour before dawn, which might give
one decent catch, though probably just the one, but that would be better
result than the one we had.
After an absence in the field due to the rather poor weather we managed a run out to Stanwell Moor today, where on a previous field visit around 50 Meadow Pipits were present, about 20 Sky Lark plus a couple of Jack Snipe.
The site was very wet and the flood plain area around the mounds were, as their design suggest under a fair bit of water. As we set up around 150 Fieldfare were twoing and froing, always at a great height between the berry bushes alongside the M25 and the surrounding high trees, with a few Meadow Pipits calling. Nets set, and we waited and waited, despite a tape on for Redwing, a few came and looked at the nets and went, Meadow Pipits seemed in short supply, a walk with a hand net failed to capture the two flushed Jack Snipe, but around midday a few Meadow Pipits dropped in and we managed in the end six, one being a retrap from November, which based on previous Meadow Pipit re-trap rates was in it's self a success. A quick look for the Bittern as we left failed to produce it, but the reed/carr ride was under water due to the continuous rain we all have had.
We also got chance to test the new cars 4x4 capabilities!
The flood plain areas seems worthy of a lamping attempt at some stage for Snipe and Jack Snipe, when we get the enthusiasm for it.
We made a late pm visit, primarily to see what was roosting at the site. The results, well were rather negative. The Starling roost seems to have moved, there were no Redwings roosting, which was not totally unsurprising, plus there seemed to be little else coming to roost, no Reed Buntings were picked up. The only gain from the visit was that Cetti's Warbler D710057, first rung on 16/11, was still there and the Bittern was seen briefly, low in flight. Otherwise the session only produced two birds!
Before returning back to Buckinghamshire we did a bit of a run around after some less usual birds reported to be in the area by others. We started off at Edgefield Wood where a group of up to 13 Parrot Crossbills has been seen over the last few days. At first it seemed as though our luck was out. We couldn't hear large groups of birds moving between the stands of tall conifers and while we wandered about, listening for dropping cones. Then we heard a small group of Crossbill pass over head and as Chris headed off in the direction of a small stream, I noticed a male at the top of a conifer in the middle distance. We homed in on the general area and were pleased to be able to watch a group of what turned out to be 8 Parrot Crossbills feeding above us for about 10 minutes.
We then travelled the short distance to the rubbish tip where we watched a Glaucous Gull loaffing with other gulls in a field.
We next took a walk around an area of heathland adjacent to Holt Country Park. It was devoid of birds on the day but looked promising for birds and insects and we'll try again at a different time of year.
We then tried to find the Richard's Pipit at Kelling Quaggs without success. The sea had been in, right up to the footpath, leaving hay, plastic and rubbish ( ranging from board walk, a paper back book and part of a hide) all about. We saw three Stonechats including a colour-ringed bird, deep red over bright pink on the left, dark green above metal right. We shall try to establish the origins of this bird.
We rounded the afternoon off by discovering a locally owned, reasonably priced cafe. Excellent!!! Another to be recommended along with that at Natural Surroundings.
We were very lucky to have been invited to join the owner of the reserve for a morning of mist netting. We had never ringed at the site before and really appreciated the on site cafe with fresh teas and coffees close at hand and a range of delicious goodies to eat. Of course, toilets are always a bonus when winter ringing.
View down to the river at Natural Surroundings reserve
We were very pleased to get a Common Redpoll. It was the only Redpoll caught on the day.
After a drive up to Norfolk we stopped in to Titchwell for a look around the reserve, freshly remodelled following the tidal surge of the previous week.
There were loads of birds in the single basin that still held fresh water. Amongst the Golden Plover was an individual with aberrant plummage.
It was obvious that the bank was only just high enough to prevent sea water from swamping the fresh marsh as the high tide mark showed.
The viewing platform had been washed away, the dunes were pretty
much gone with tufts of grass scattered down the beach.
There is now nothing to keep the sea from flowing into the salt marsh
on the higher than average tides.
New channels have been carved into the salt marsh.
The pools across the bank now resemble a wader scrape.
The more interesting bird sightings at Titchwell included Great Northern Diver (2), Red-necked Grebe, Long-tailed Duck (16), Mergansers, Common Scoters, Ruff (77), Avocet (11), Black-tailed Godwit (12) and Marsh Harrier (2).
Another visit, this time just with EP, and the first heavy frost of the year, which had not been evident at home. The frost went pretty quick, but a lack of sun meant everything got fairly damp as it thawed.
We set up the same as last time but used larger mesh nets 20*20 this time and added an extra one to them, and set a single 60 in a slight dip.
The catch pretty well mirrored last time with a few Lesser Redpoll and Redwing, a Dartford was seen coming to the tape lure, but failed to cross the net area, a second was heard and a Stonechat seen. Three Reed Buntings were an additional species on this outing.
Another roost session, with just ourselves, which restricted the nets being set only between the coach and car parks, leaving the area between the coach and lorry park uncovered, which is where the majority of the birds went, resulting in a catch of two, one of which could not be rung due to a foot infection.
We spent the weekend at the BTO conference and very interesting it was too, but that meant that we've not been out for the last three days! Keen to get back out in the fresh air we arranged a meet with Margaret and MRB to try our luck at the orchard. It wasn't that cold and the session was a bit disappointing with no Redwings or Fieldfare for us this morning. The sum total of our efforts amounted to a load of Tits, a Goldfinch and a Blackbird. However, there's usually something of interest and today it was a young Blue Tit with an unusual pattern of colouration on the primary and median coverts. It almost looked like a very strong fault bar on the primaries, however there was no other such patterning on the primaries or tail.
Unusual colouration on primary and median coverts. The colouration
was present on the lower quarter or so of the feather but upper portions
were pale grey.
Blue Tit age 3 - D710227 - We hope to recatch
this bird after its next moult and see what happens.
A visit by a team of four, including EP, ESA and RMA to a new area of the common on the south side of the M3 by Butts Hill. The area consisted mainly of scattered young silver birch, the odd conifer tree, a small area of bog and an clear fell area. Nearby are a number of equestrian centres bordering the common on the south side. The are we set up in was not that far from the entrance - thankfully for once as visits to this site can often be a bit of a trudge over varying terrain.
We set up three pairs of nets and one double panel pair. One set was not put in a particularly worth while location, whilst the other two were sited in fairly okay locations, hence why only these caught. We also play the newly acquired Redwing tape supplied by a ringer via the BTO ringers forum, as being better than anything else available to bring Redwing in, and it did work, but as we only had small mesh nets up we appeared to have lost one or two that just extracted themselves from the net.
First bird of the day was another Dartford Warbler, which was added to when we caught a female later, plus a couple fo Stonechat, a few Lesser Redpoll, one which was a control, ten Redwings, though up to 60 were at times in the Silver Birch, with the addition of a mixed Tit flock took the days total to 48 birds.
This is the second year of monitoring Pied Wagtails in the motorway services car park, although efforts have not previously started as early as this due to delays in obtaining permissions from the controlling company.
A quick reccie last week confirmed that birds are again present and the roost trees remain unchanged since we last netted the roost in February. A small team of five arrived at 3.15pm to erect nets, but fewer nets than planned were used due to HGVs being parked in front of part of the proposed site. From past experience we know that birds prefer a clear flyway and birds will not usually approach the trees between or over the lorries. So,we went with just two three panel 40s along the top of short hedge, and a single 60 at the back of the coach park.
We were ready with plenty of time to spare and it was really quite dark by the time that birds curtailed their promenading around the tarmac and made a concerted effort to settle down for the night.
A catch of 23 was taken with all being new birds. Thanks to Margaret, MRB and EP who joined CL and DKL for the session.
Another visit to Coursers Lane Fields with MRB and PD, with the additional support of EP. Conditions were looking good, but there seemed to be fewer Bunting and Finches visible, but whether this was due to the flying club being active or just a genuine lack of birds was difficult to tell, but there seemed to be no shortage of Tit species. Only one Yellowhammer was rung, though Reed Buntings at nine was reasonsable, along with five new House Sparrows. No Tree Sparrows were caught though birds were present.
A visit to Chobham with Margaret and MRB, perhaps against our better judgement in view of the poor return from the last two visits when we got 5 birds and then a trip out lead by PCD returned just 2 birds being caught last week. There are no large flocks of small finches or wintering Reed Buntings this year and the thrushes merely shuttle between the two neighbouring golf courses at some height overhead. That said, MRB missed out on a trip in the summer and has never had a chance to ring Dartford Warbler so ever optimistic we gave it a go.
We found an area near the railway line and put up a dog leg and an open box for Lesser Redpoll. We then made good use of a strip cleared through the heather for when cattle are fenced in during the summer. This took two three panel 40s and two two panel 40s in a straight line.
We had an inauspicious start with three Great Tits but things soon started to look up with a retrapped Lesser Redpoll (D709736) swiftly followed by a Dartford Warbler.
3M Dartford Warbler
As we were only seeing Redpolls in ones and twos, Chris switched one of the audio-lures to a new Redwing recording to see if it provoked a better response than the one that we've tried before. It was certainly more compelling than the old recording and birds rapidly dropped from their heading into some nearby Silver Birches. Rather fewer could be encouraged down to net level but we did catch one from the initial 'drop in'.
Redwing aged 4
The morning continued with a trickle of birds being attracted to the audio lures. They may not have been in large numbers, but the record sheet reflected true quality. We managed another couple of Lesser Redpolls but sadly still no Commons, as yet, this year.
Well, December has arrived and temperatures are still consistently a few degrees above freezing. Thrushes are in evidence around the orchard but there are still plenty of feeding opportunities away from the windfalls where the nets are sited.
RMA and ESA had joined us for the session so a smattering of larger species, not captured so often at the group's other sites, were most welcome.
We started off with the first Fieldfare of the winter.
There were also two Green Woodpecker, a new 3M bird and an adult female DE05144 that was first ringed on 15/10/2011 and had been caught on six ocassions since.
DE05144, one of the regulars
Along with two Song Thrushes and a Jay we also caught a female Blackcap and a good range of other smaller species.
3F Blackcap F0M2
3M Great Tit with deformed lower mandible
Totals: 21 (6)
Green Woodpecker - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 2
Fieldfare - 1
Song Thrush - 2
Blackcap - 1
Blue Tit - 6 (5)
Great Tit - 2
Long-tailed Tit - 2
Jay - 1
Goldfinch - 1
Chaffinch - 1
It's almost a year since we visited our friends in Bletchingley with nets, poles etc., but today was the day we'd arranged to try a catch and we took JHH and Alison to lend a hand. The garden is fed regularly and if anything, there are even more feeders than before. We have had some sizable catches in the past so we were expecting a lot from the two 40s, a 30 and a double panel 60 metre net.
There was hardly a minute when there wasn't a bird awaiting extraction. The team worked well with Alison scribing and two people ringing most of the time. JHH got a chance to compare lots of individuals from the same species, found out a bit about the benefits of ringing in natural light and processed her first Starlings and a Ring-necked Parakeet. Between 9am and 2.30pm we managed 172 birds including a few from previous years and Blue Tit T089789, a string known to have been issued to a local ringer and probably used in 2008 or 2009 going by the results on a previous recapture. Many thanks to Ralph and Pat for their wonderful hospitality.
A visit with EP mainly to target Meadow Pipits and Linnets, had us setting up on the eastern side of the mound and into an muddy area of scrub, which as you moved through clung to your boots in heavy clods, making working the area slightly unbearable. There were a few Pipits and Skylarks on the mound, but mainly on top and on the western side, and due to the motorway traffic noise the sound boxes were inaudible and birds failed to come into the catching area. Added to this, after spending half an hour strimming two rides for Linnets, it became obvious the flock was only 20 odd birds, and all in all the day was turning into hard work for low return, and by the time we gave up around midday we had a grand catch of one Meadow Pipit! We then spent two hours in the garden centre cafe discussing why we would not work this area again!
Today's outing whilst D was at work was with the Maple X team, PD, MRB and MBR, to ring an area with the emphasis on Tree Sparrows, with the addition of Buntings and Finches using an area set with wild bird friendly crop. Two of the target species were re-trapped and both had lost their pit tags and had new ones fitted. The pit tags are now embedded within the colour ring where previously they were glued onto it, and these did not always remain fixed to the colour ring. Whilst ringing, Ken Smith turned up to replace the battery on the pit tag reader fixed to the feeding station. It logs the presence of a bird every 15 seconds and is resulting in very detailed records of the Tree Sparrows at the site. There have been a couple of movements to and from the site, and use of pit tags has shown that one of these birds has remained at the site to bred, something conventional ringing may have not picked up, especially considering Tree Sparrows are not easy to re-trap.
3 male Yellowhammer
Tree Sapprow - the pit tag is part of the grey colour ring
3 female Stonechat
Total: 28 (15):
Dunnock - 2 (5)
Robin - 1
Stonechat - 1
Blackbird - 2 (1)
Blue Tit - 1 (4)
Great Tit - 0 (3)
Chaffinch - 2
Tree Sparrow - 0 (2)
House Sparrow - 2
Reed Bunting - 15
Yellowhammer - 2
Another 6.45am meet, this time with RMA and ESA, to try for Redpolls on the common. We tried a different area this time but there was still no sign of any large finch flocks. The Fieldfares and Redwings continue to shuttle back and forth overhead between golf courses on either side of the common but do not drop in to allow any chance of capture.
Chobham under a cloudy sky
We managed to attract a Dartford Warbler along with a couple of Wrens and Goldcrests.
Dartford Warbler male
There were a few visits from single and small groups of Redpoll but most just sat above the audiolures looking on before departing. Three were caught during the process of taking nets down.