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.
We were joined by MRB and Margaret for one of our infrequent morning sessions at the site. We deployed nets in the reedbed area, the bramble lined spit and the cut through. We could see birds moving about the site but the route taken by birds working the hedgerows avoided our nets by and large. The reedbed was a little more productive and it was good to know that there were still Reed Warblers for the catching (despite the absence of their song on the last couple of visits).
Our most significant find was an adult Blue Tit V791026, ringed at the site on 22/12/2007 as an adult making it at least seven years old.
A walk around the site the previous day had produced a good number of birds in an area between the sailing club and the CES site across the stream. The section once was an area containing low trees and a fairly extensive patches of blackberries, but due to degradation by 'unofficial' use of the area for grazing ponies, which have almost doubled this year, the habitat is much less, but in what there is, seemed 'alive' with birds. I decided to make a ringing visit the next day, not without some concerns for the nets due to the four hoofed friends, but it went off okay, though the ponies remained ever close and needed a watchful eye keeping on them. With just four nets in a fairly confined area, 60 birds were processed, mainly Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiff-chaff.
Totals: 55 (5)
Dunnock - 6
Robin - 2
Whitethroat - 11 (1)
Garden warbler - 4
Blackcap - 18 (2)
Chiff-chaff - 12 (2)
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit -1
It being some time since we'd been at Stanwell in the evening, we arrived at 7pm to see what was happening at the site. GDB joined us and a 60ft net was swiftly put up in the filterbed area. We found that the reeds had again fallen across the path and ride but this didn't create too much of a problem and three further nets were erected. Unfortunately, one of the wooden pegs floated up from the lake bed and during our efforts to re-set the nets we ended up with the fixed post snapping off close to its base. The nets were clear at the time but we were sorting it out when a small group of swallows came for a look. Two Hobbies then took an interest in the small flock - and that was the last we saw of them. For all our effort we ended up with three Great Tits and two Chiffchaffs in the knowledge that the nights were really closing in and 7pm was really too late to start.
Chris decided to call back to do some 'gardening' on the 28th and caught a Cetti's and a Reed Warbler in one net while he did some site maintenance.
Following on from our last visit when in excess of 80 birds were ringed, we arranged to meet PD, MRB and Margaret to give the site another go. We had all net up before 8am and began catching soon after. We were also joined by MBR, Caroline, Jessica and Amy - once they finally found the site.
There was a Cetti's Warbler, singing throughout the morning but it managed to evade our nets. We managed to better our previous total with the leading species being Chiff-chaff with four birds still present from the 13th. There were also good numbers of Willow Warbler and Blackcap with a few Garden Warbler for good measure. The catching began to drop off after 11am and we were all packed and off site shortly after 12.30pm.
We started the day at Pendeen. There was a northwesterly blow, less strong than when we were last here and a minimal chance of rain. There were fewer people to scan for passing seabirds and of course some time was given up to discussing the precise events of the day all but one dipped on Red-billed Tropicbird. We spent about three hours scanning the waves and saw hundreds of Manx Shearwater with some Sootys and Balearics. There were a few groups of Scoter and several Arctic Skuas but not a glimpse of Great or Cory's, even at a great distance off shore.
The coast at Pendeen
We then drove to Kenidjack. It's been years since we visited and although we saw nothing more interesting than a Buzzard, a Whitethroat and several Chiffchaff, it was extremely promising due to the open nature of the vegetation and definitely worth a look when migrants are about.
We then checked out Sennen Cove. Birds tend to collect in the area below the car park. Chris had a quick look but the only find was a Wheatear on the parking area.
Sennen Cove directly below 'migrant trap' area.
The final stop off before driving back to Buckinghamshire was the Hayle Estuary. The tide was out and all the gulls were scattered over a wide area. A close check for anything out of the ordinary or wearing colour rings eventually turned up a Med Gull to round off our week spent in the West Country.
The final day of our monitoring efforts dawned (since Saturday was forecast to be much too windy) and we were up at 5am and on the reserve within 20 minutes. This primarily because we had the extra drive of starting after light SE winds overnight. We put up two further nets to make the most of the newly mowed viewing rides and had Aquatic playing at every likely netted location. We also arrived to find the water levels significantly higher after the boards were removed to allow water in from the high tide.
The nets in the newly mowed rides caught well early on giving us some reedbed species retraps as well as Stonechat and Reed Bunting.
Age 3 Reed Warbler
Aquatics failed to put in an appearnace, but the SE wind did produce something as the morning ticked over slowly a Citrine Wagtail flew in to the pool, being identified, initially on call, by CL and local watcher DP. It wasn't long before a few phone calls were made and all the local birders turned up to wait expectantly for its reappearance. It took a while but the bird eventually showed well. There was also a Wryneck seen at Porthgwarra, so there were at least some drift migrants turning up!
Juvenile Citrine Wagtail (with ultra visible wing bars - even in flight.)
So the week had come to an end with no sightings or captures of Aquatic Warbler at Marazion and no more volunteers to man the coming weeks. There will still be some autumn ringing at Marazion but not on a daily basis (weather permitting) as would be the case, were there any more volunteers.
We had been warned to expect a tractor at 9am to cut extra viewing rides so knew that there would be some disruption to our usual routine. As it happened, the tractor arrived early and we had to take down the dogleg double pannel from the junkas as well as our own 30ft net before 8.40am.
The catching still went fairly well although species were limited and we continued until 1pm before packing in.
Newly cut viewing ride
The afternoon was spent at Nanquidno where we located two Pied Flycatchers and photographed some rather splendid insects and plants.
Day three on the Aquatic Warbler project and we got to the site a little earlier as the wind was swinging around to something like the right direction. We had heard reports of increased numbers of birds in the region but there wasn't much evidence of that at Marazion. We managed a total similar to Monday and will have to carry our hopes of catching an Aquatic over to Thursday.
Adult Willow Warbler
Juvenile Sedge Warbler
Later in the morning, once it began to warm up, the butterflies and insects began to fly about and amongst the Common Blues, Small Coppers and Clouded Yellow was a Black-tailed Darter.
The second day was very still at first with a wind that freshened as the morning went on. The sun shone strongly making the nets all too visible. It seemed that there were fewer birds around and we were glad of our extra 30ft that brought us a few extra species including Stonechat.
After some foul weather at the weekend we finally got to drop nets for our first ringing day. It was a little breezy and came over cloudy from time to time but we seemed to do pretty well in comparison to figures from the previous week. We had Aquatic Warbler playing in most rides on site but the wind direction was wrong and there really wasn't much of a chance as far as they were concerned, but we got some interesting birds, as well as the usual reedbed species and generally enjoyed our first day.
View across the marsh
There was time to watch the dragonflies and butterflies including some Clouded Yellows.
An afternoon visit to Cot Valley did not produce anything interesting though a few Small Pearl-bordered Fritllaries and Wall Browns were seen.
We were in Cornwall for the week to work on the Aquatic Warbler project, but inclement weather, squally showers and strong gusts meant that our start was delayed and we got the chance to get some sea watching in.
Saturday with SW 17mph wind with gusts reported as reaching 33mph saw us heading off to Porthgwarra, but we did not make it an especially early start and by the time we had breakfast we go there about 9.15, to find quite a few already there and a poor position, with little cover, and rain starting just as we settled down. Driving rain made sea watching difficult, especially with no cover, and optics spent a fair amount of time out of use trying to keep them moderately dry. In the brief moments where the rain was light enough to make any attempt to scan the sea worth while, apart from lots of Gannets and Manx Shearwaters, and few Fulmar and Kittiwakes, we only managed a single Great and Sooty Shearwaters, before deciding to abandon around 2pm as the rain was persistent and appeared to have no sign of letting up.
Sunday with W 15-17 mph wind we headed this time to Pendeen. We got there earlier around 7.30 and managed to get a fairly reasonable spot. With virtually no rain seawatching was much more manageable, with a single Cory's, Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters being seen, along with single Arctic and Pomarine Skuas, along with several Greats. Four Storm Petrel's were seen feeding offshore, with Gannets, Manx Shearwaters, several flocks of Whimbrel, a single flock of Bar-tailed Godwits containing a sngle Black-tailed Godwit, four Mediterranean Gulls and a Peregrine.
The bizarre bit of the day was around 9.30 some comes around the corner saying this bloke has just photographed a Red-billed Tropicbird and he has seen the photograph. A series of debates took place, over how come 60 other people failed to see it, including questioning with it was really true. What then unfolded was even more bizarre, someone suggested rushing off to Sennan, initially there was a little response, until this guy became quite agitated with a mate of his who was initially not overly responding to the suggestion of heading off to Sennan, when over half of the people present packed up and headed off on a wild goose chase. There was a group of Cornish lads there and one then over the next 30 minutes or so rang all his local birding mates, and in every call tongue in cheek said he was going to throw himself in. There is more on this event on Birdforum, which I have not even looked at, but speaking to a local birder it seems the bird was hanging around at the bottom of the cliffs for 7 or so minutes and the photographer took 40 minutes before heading up to tell anyone else and go and look for it at Cape Cornwall. Lord knows what stories are going around, and the photograph has not appeared as yet, allegedly it will only appear when one of the bird mags pays for it! Still no one can work out how 60 people seawatching missed it and bizarre the information come to light. The only bizarre good thing out of this, is that at least 60 people seawatching at the lighthouse missed the bird and it was not a case of 60% seeing it and 40% missing it, as can often happen on sea watches.
A late afternoon visit to the Hayle Est produced very little apart from a Whimbrel and a couple of Knot.
We were joined by KC and Sarah, hoping to repeat our success with
Nightjar. It was already chilling down as the last net was in place,
three doubles being erected on the clearer areas amongst the purple
heather. A mist soon began to rise, raising questions as to how well the
birds might be able feed with so few insects on the wing.
Purple heather and the steadily rising mist behind one of our nets.
were very fortunate and managed to capture two juvenile Dartford
Warblers in the brief window before it became to dark. These were both
ringed by KC who had not handled the species before.
mist was extremely heavy and readily condensed on the nets. The first
Nightjar was seen just before 9pm, before it got really dark and it was
only about half an hour after that, one was caught in the net shown
4 Female Nightjar
stayed for a while as another bird made a sweep above our nets on a
couple of ocassions but it wasn't long before we had no reason to think
that there were any birds in our immediate vicinity. It was so misty
that headtorches illuminated nothing but white beyond four or so feet
and the decision to close just before 10pm was taken. The nets were all
very wet and we wondered to what degree the Nightjars collect moisture
when flying in such conditions. We were off site by 10.40pm.
After a few 4.30am alarm calls at Icklesham we decided to abandon an
early start, drop our son at the station and then visit Broadwater to
see if much was going on. We didn't have much expectation but went out
of curiosity as to how the site would be used by birds at this time of
We put up a run of 5 and a couple of singles, one
on the path where birds are regularly seen darting across and another
among the buddleas. This area has been avoided up until now as the
ground is too hard for pegging ( several areas of the site have areas of
concrete where buildings have been removed and road sections that are
impossible to penetrate) but there seemed to be a bit of activity so we
improvised using chunks of concrete and gave it a go. The nets were all
up by 9.30am.
Over the course of the morning we tried
various different audio lures but Long-tailed tit was the one that
really came up trumps. Although we didn't catch a single Lotti it proved
a great attractant to Chiffs and Willow Warblers. The birds just kept
coming and we didn't take down until after 2pm. The leading species was
Chiff-chaff with a decent smattering of Willow Warblers including one
with a ring from the Madrid (Icona) scheme.
MT7828 Icona Madrid Age 4 Willow Warbler
One of three Garden Warblers
warm temperatures and heat retaining substrate also encouraged some
stunning insects to remain still long enough for a photo opportunity.
was the start of our four day ringing
session, having arrived around 9.30 Thursday night. A 5am start was not
after still not totally recovering from the transatlantic jet lag. This
out to be a fairly quite day for Icklesham, with only 155 new birds
with nothing outside the expected species being trapped. We spent some
time at the scrape and found Greenshanks, Wood and Green Sandpipers on
Painted Lady basking in the sunshine
That evening, a roost
catch of 39 Sand Martins was made.
Total: 155 (31)
Sand Martin 1 + 39
Wren 2 (1)
Dunnock 0 (1)
Grasshopper Warbler 1
Sedge Warbler 70 (9)
Reed Warbler 30 (10)
Garden Warbler 3
Blackcap 0 (3)
Willow Warbler 28 (1)
Chiff-chaff 1 (1)
Blue Tit 2
Jackdaw 2 (1)
Bullfinch 0 (1)
Reed Bunting 0 (1)
We did Pannell Bridge area today as there
were quite a few of us present and we did 83 new birds, whilst the main site
processed 262 new and 63 re-traps, their best birds being a Nightingale, which
C extracted before we went to PB to set up, also two Tree Pipits. As we set off
to walk back we came across a Clouded Yellow outside the ringing hut.
Age 4 Sedge Warbler
The scrape was buzzing with hirundines but the Swallows stayed away from the roost lures and only a modest catch of around 80 odd Sand Martins was achieved at the main site.
Swallows picking insects from a tree top at the scrape.
Total: 83 (18)
Grasshopper Warbler 1
Sedge Warbler 24 (3)
Reed Warbler 26 (13)
Lesser Whitethroat 1
Garden Warbler 2
Willow Warbler 16
Chiff-chaff 2 (1)
Reed Bunting 0 (1)
For day 3 we were back at the main site and
slightly more new birds were processed than yesterday with 269
new birds, the best birds being two more Tree Pipits and a single Pied
Flycatcher. A Nightingale was seen around the moth trap area first thing, but
not well enough to tell whether it was the ringed bird from the day before.
Total: 269 (34)
Sand Martin 2
Tree Pipit 2
Dunnock 0 (2)
Blackbird 0 (2)
Song Thrush 0 (1)
Grasshopper Warbler 3 (1)
Sedge Warbler 109 (13)
Reed Warbler 67 (9)
Garden Warbler 7
Blackcap 2 (2)
Willow Warbler 50 (2)
Chiff-chaff 4 (1)
Pied Flycatcher 1
Reed Bunting 1 (1)
at the main site with a fairly small team kept us focused and active
with 343 new birds, including two more Tree Pipits and a rather nice
bright Wood Warbler.
Reed Warbler with randon white feathering on head and median coverts
The day warmed up nicely and a variety of butterflies were attracted to the buddlea bushes behind the ringing hut.