Friday 19 July 2013

Stanwell Moor - 18 July 2013

Our last chance for a while, CRW joined us on another warm, bright evening with hirundines across the lake on our arival. Again, it looked quite promising. We put up a run of three nets through the reeds and extending out into the lake, becoming increasingly shallow with every hot day, and a single across the gap at the lake edge. Two Little Egrets were sighted flying over.

We got our first bird, a juvenile Swallow, at 7.45pm then waited over an hour before a Reed Warbler and Whitethroat just after 9pm. There had been a few Swifts, Swallows and Sand Martins about but hopes for a decent roost were dashed when they made themselves scare after a Hobby turned up and hung around, although the source of interest was not avian but the large Dragonflies that seem to get most active in the last hour before dusk.

Totals: 5

Swallow - 3
Reed Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 1

Bernwood Forest - 18 July 2013

This was meant to be a Purple Emperor day, but again it was very hot, but two were seen, with one mud puddling, but it went up as I found it. Up to 15 Silver-washed Fritillaries were seen, along with three White Admirals and a single Purple Hairstreak.

As I walked out of the car park a family party of five Ravens flew over, and at least three separate sightings of Marsh Tit were had.

Purple Hairstreak

Purple Emperor

Chobham Common - 17 July 2013

This site has been worked by Runnymede Ringing Group for some years but there is much of the common that hasn't been covered. CL and DKL proposed to try an alternative area while the main group returned to a well known location. While scouting for clear areas sufficient to site two or three double configuration nets, a Nightjar flushed from very close by, revealing a nest with two warm eggs. We also found a Tufted Duck nesting close to a drainage ditch - her nest contained eight eggs. Yet more evidence of late breeding this year.

A total of six nets were put up, with at least three Dartfords calling and singing from the surrounding area. A female was also seen just off the path. The male was caught very quickly, in the time it takes to return to out temporay base after setting a net and turn round. One beautifully marked male, head down in the second shelf.

4M Dartford Warbler

Some fifteen minutes later at five to nine, Chris checked another net and returned with an adult female. This was a different bird to the one seen earlier being caught some distance away.

4F Dartford Warbler with BP4

As the darkness drew in, the sound of distant churring started earlier than we expected. It wasn't long before a single bird flew in the direction of our nets, passing right over them. By this point we had begun to play the audio lure. The bird drifted off but we  continued to hear calls from up to three different directions with ocassional wing clapping as it became properly dark. A single bird drifted through a few times before it became too dark to see without head lamps. An adult female was captured and processed at 22.20hrs.

 View of the wing

 View of tail

 4F Nightjar with BP5

Once processing was completed we made a final net check, and finding no further captures began to pack up. Audio lures may not be played for lengthy periods and after the initial evidence around and just after dusk, birds could no longer be heard in the distance and there had be no indications of activity in the immediate vicinity. We were off site and on our way home by 23.30hrs.

The main team caught a Blackbird before it got dark but did not catch any Nightjar, despite keeping nets open a little longer than us.

Totals - 3

Nightjar - 1
Dartford Warbler - 2

Homefield Wood - 17 July 2013

The visit was primarily to look for White-letter Hairstreak, but it was hot and butterflies seemed to come down to nectar very little. A single Dark Green Fritillary was whizzing around the meadow, and up to eight Silver-washed Fritillary in the woodland ride and one of the few butterflies that did come down (on the usual dog poo) was a single Purple Emperor.

Purple Emperor

Stanwell Moor - 15 July 2013

Despite nigh perfect weather with little more than the slightest of breezes and cloud building up, the hirundines just didn't stay around as the sun sank below the horizon.

Sunset towards the M25, over the proposed site for a new recycling plant.

Two Little Egrets and a Hobby were seen overhead, but the evening was very generally quiet with just a handful of passerines recorded on the ringing sheet.

Totals: 3 (1)

Reed Warbler - 2 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 0 (1)

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Black Park - 14 & 15 July 2013

Well, still no Purple Emperor, but daily sightings of White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillaries with 3 and 7 on each visit for White Admiral and 6 and 10 for the Fritillaries. A walk along a lane on the 15th in Iver failed to produce any White-letter Hairstreaks, but did produce one Purple Hairstreak.

Silver-washed Fritillary

White Admiral

Large Red Damselfly

Common Darter

Broad-bodied Chaser


Meadow Brown

 Small Skipper


Saturday 13 July 2013

Black Park - 13 July

Another visit for PEs but being a Saturday it was rather busy amnd the visit was not a long one, but three White Admirals and twelve Silver-washed Fritillaries.

 White Admiral

Silver-washed Fritillary

Herts & Cambs - 12 July 2013

We joined Peter Wilkinson for a day monitoring boxes provided for Barn Owls. The boxes are sited, often in pairs, no less than 1Km apart. We found out about various recommendations with regard to siting boxes including design, height, distance from roads and premium habitat. Also about signs of birds present.

Pellets and whitewash

The first box was occupied, not by Barn Owls but by Stock Dove. Two pulli were carefully ringed ensuring that they remained upright at all times to ensure that any crop milk did not enter their lungs.

2 of 2 Stock Dove pullus

We meandered from farm to farm checking out each box. There was evidence in some that Barn Owls had been roosting although there had been no breeding attempt. Then we had some success in the first barn box.

Investigating an occupied barn box

We found two owlets home alone. They were brought safely down for processing.

Two downy chicks - there was just enough emerged feather to tell that they were a male and female

Each chick was weighed

Owlets usually lie quietly, looking around but not flapping

We continued to visit boxes, seeing tell tale signs of Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Stock Dove and Squirrel occupation.

 Chris having a look (and sniff) to determine the occupants before opening the box

 Barn box with one youngster

 Powder puff baby

 The belly is examined and coded. Three means completely full.

 Emerged section of P6 (on both wings) is measured to indicate approximate age in days

She is returned before the female comes back

Some boxes had females that flushed before we got to the box. Some were on eggs so a further visit has been schuduled for 5 weeks time.

 Duck! No - Barn Owl for definite! But seriously, this female left as 
    Peter was checked his footing and it was further away than the angle 
makes it appear.

Then we went to an A-frame box, attached to the back of a barn,and overlooking an expansive field to find a trio of siblings.

Good hunting ground - sufficient to support 3 young in what looks like being another poor vole year. 

 Chick 1 (female)

 Chick 2 (female) awaiting process

Chick 3 (Male)

This newer box had been found (pellets found within) but it had not been taken up this breeding season. A male was seen vacating the tree only 10 feet away. That tree has a cavity but there's no way to be sure whether there is a brooding female with chicks or eggs.

A-frame box

Tree with cavity - contents to remain unknown

Another box had a female that we managed to catch. Her single owlet was too young to determine its sex so that will be ringed a bit later on. The female was unringed.

 Checking the primaries for signs of replacement.

 Third claw had a serated edge (not visible on photo) to preen the facial disk. This only develops fully in or after third year.

 A rather successful box. Three young but too small at the present.

 Three chicks with freshly delivered field vole (we saw her leaving as we approached).

Well used roost below the box. 

We went to the final few boxes but found no more owls.

Another empty box with evidence of roost use. Showing how boxes gradually fill up.

 Box with cold Stock Dove eggs

 Nothing this year.

A Kestrel box - roosting only but wood shavings added to encourage breeding. Provision of clear view and flyway will be suggested to the farmer. We spoke to owners or managers at most sites and all were keen to know whether they had owls or other birds in residence.

Many thanks to all the land owners, and to Peter for sharing the day with us. It was fantastic.

Totals: 9

Stock Dove - 2
Barn Owl - 7