Friday 28 February 2014

Iver Heath garden - February 2014

Things started to pick up this month as Siskins returned to the garden to utilise the sunflower hearts. The number of Siskins processed over the month totalled 37 new birds, compared to one in January, with one re-trap of a bird we did in 2012 and another UK control. Unfortunately we are competing with our neighbour who also has feeders out as well, just underneath a large laurel and the birds seem to prefer these as they offer more immediately available cover and I suspect the net is a bit of a distraction for them as well.

Totals (Feb) : 63 (5)

Robin - 2 (1)
Goldcrest - 0 (1)
Blue Tit - 9 (1)
Starling - 4
Goldfinch - 9
Siskin - 37 (2)
Lesser Redpoll - 2

Black Park - 26 February 2014

The weather give us another chance to visit, this time to a new area where we had seen a flock of c50 Chaffinches when we left after the previous visit, but it was without much success as apart from some Chaffinches up in the tops no large flock appeared on the ground to feed on the beech mast, A Crossbill flew over as we were setting up and mid morning we came across a pair of Mandarin nest prospecting in a hole about 30 feet up in a beech. Seventeen birds were processed of nine species, with Coal Tit the lead species, with five. Quite a few birds were caught as male/female pairs indicative of pairing up taking place.

Treecreeper - 6

Totals: 17

Woodpigeon - 1
Robin - 1
Goldcrest - 2
Coal Tit -5
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Nuthatch - 1
Treecreeper - 2

Monday 24 February 2014

Black Park - 19 February 2014

Another day where getting out was possible, and with lower wind speed predicted it was decided to give the open area of Black Park, our usual site in the park a try, so I met up with GDB who came down from Bicester to give it a try for Redpoll and Redwing. Whilst in the process of setting up four Crossbills flew over and a flock of 30 odd Chaffinches put in an appearance but soon moved on. Another flock of 50 odd were found in an area of Beech mast as we left the park. No Redwings put in an appearance but we had a slow trickle of Redpolls and a single Goldcrest, but nothing else.

We caught one Common Redpoll with a Stravanger, Norway ring, which was pale and had a 79 wing, a considerable range beyond Lesser Redpoll wing length (max 75), but only weighed 12.1, plus another, female with a wing of 73, which is within Lesser range and only a weight of 11.9. We have caught other Common Redpolls this winter where the birds felt bulkier and weighed 13-14g.

The problem with Redpolls - as you go through the various regions they are found in - colours vary, in even within the two groups Lesser and Common groups, some more obviously than others, sizes vary, as do weights - within what has been termed the Common/Mealy group, a Scando bird, or one from Iceland or Greenland, will all show variations in birds from these three areas, and is the variation between these various clines sufficient that they are true species or just ssp? And, where Commons meet Lessers are they distinctly separate that there is no regular interbreeding? This is not an issue in Greenland or Iceland as there are no local breeding Lessers, but as we know isolation might be the only interbreeding inhibitor. But, even if they are lumped, we can still do the Lesser/common ssp bit - as we do with the various races of Chiff - just so we can still argue over what ssp it is, rather than the species.

 5 male Common Redpoll rung at Stravanger, Norway
79 wing weight 12.1

5 female Common Redpoll with 5 male
Lesser Redpoll, wing 73 weight 11.9

Total: 11 (1)

Goldcrest - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 9
Common Redpoll - 1 (1)

Broadwater GP - 18 February 2014

One of the rare opportunities to get out these days provided a chance to meet up with MRB and Margaret at Broadwater. We only set four nets taking a fairly easy approach which only resulted in 15 new birds and one re-trap, but with an interesting mix of ten species, with the highlights being two Redwing and a Bullfinch.

Total: 15 (1)

Wren - 1
Dunnock - 2
Blackbird - 1
Redwing - 2
Song Thrush - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Blue Tit - 3
Great Tit - 0 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 3
Bullfinch - 1

Sunday 16 February 2014

Bletchingley - 16 February 2014

After what seems like an awfully long time when it has been impossible to ring due to adverse weather, we finally spotted an opportunity when reduced wind speed allowed us the chance to get nets up provided the site was sufficiently sheltered.

We returned to our friends' garden in Bletchingley and erected four nets around the many and varied feeders in the garden.

As expected, there was plenty for us and JH ( assisted by Allison) to do and we completed having processed in excess of 180 birds.

Amongst the retrapped tits were 4 Blue Tits and 3 Great Tits that were first ringed on 25th March 2012. Nuthatch 4M TJ77614 and Great Spotted Woodpecker 6F LC56807 were from 9th December 2012.

 One of several Starlings on the day.
Note the pinkish hue to the lower mandible.
It's a girl!

Many thanks to Ralph and Pat for their hospitality.

Totals:  148  (37)

Ring-necked Parakeet - 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker -  6 (2)
Blackbird - 1
Dunnock -  1(2)
Robin - 8
Blue Tit -    71 (24)
GreatTit - 26 (8)
Nuthatch - 1(1) 
Starling - 7
Chaffinch - 6
Goldfinch - 14
Lesser Redpoll - 6

Sunday 9 February 2014

Windsor - 7 February 2014

Due to the ongoing wet and windy weather, as we needed to visit the outdoor shop in Windsor, we also took an opportunity to check out the Swans on the River Thames. The number of colour-ringed birds seemed less than there were in the 1990s, but we managed to read six darvics and nine BTO rings. We do not expect any exciting information back as a number also had the swan-upping rings on the birds, and all will undoubedly prove to be local birds. One bearing orange ring 4AEX had been released by Swan Rescue at Ruislip Lido but had returned to its favoured haunt.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Iceland - 30 January to 2 February 2014

The 8.35pm flight got us to Keflavik for just after 11.30pm to find that the first snowfall of the winter in the Reykjavik area had been falling all day. The rental car was completely iced up and, as we made out way to the Arctic Comfort Hotel in Reykjavik it was interesting, to say the least, since all the road signs were still covered with snow (and too high to be cleared  - we did try), still we negotiated the snowy conditions to arrive, some how, at our hotel at around 2am. The sky was completely clouded up with no chance of seeing the Aurora Borialis - one of our main reasons for making the trip.

Day one

We began the day before there was any light and drove from the capital eastwards. We noticed a Buzzard, a species very well known to us, sitting upon a lamp post. At the time we didn't realise its significance but on returning home we found that there were only four previous records.
It was only just beginning to get light by 9.30am.

Winter wonderland

We began the day with a run to a garden centre where an American rarity, a Lincoln Sparrow, had been present. We parked up and walked into the garden centre where it had regularly been seen at a bird table.

Lincoln Sparrow

The table was busy with Snow Buntings and Blackbirds coming for seed and scraps in the harsh conditions. A few Starlings were also present, with a single Common Redpoll, a fly over Common Crossbill and a pair of Ravens.


We watched the visiting birds as the light came up and when the staff eventually arrived were offered hot drinks, although time constraints meant that we couldn't accept their hospitality.

We returned to the car with snow covered jeans and boot laces frozen solid then travelled to Harnarfjordur to look at the birds in the harbour. We found good numbers of gulls, mostly Iceland, one group of about 30, with a single Kumelins Gull and a bird showing characteristics of Thayers Gull, a few Glaucous, Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls. Ducks were represented by Eiders, Red-breasted Mergansers, Goosanders and a few Long-tailed Ducks, with three Wigeon and Mallard also present. Red-throated and Great Northern Divers were also seen, and wader represented by Oysterchatcher, Redshank, Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper. A couple of Greylags flew over and a single Guillemot was seen

Access was refreshingly simple. No problems getting to the water's edge, as you are just able to drive around the various dock and waterfront areas, as we found at all the sites we visited.


  Iceland Gulls

 Kumelins Gull

Thayers Gull?

We joined the Whale Watching boat and left Reykjakic at 1pm, hoping that the next three hours may bring views of Humpback Whale, Minke Whale, Orca, Dolphins and Porpoises.The Harbour before departure held the usual mix we had seen earlier with the addition of Black Guillemots, Shags mostly rather than the Cormorants seen at Harnarfjordur, and Black-headed Gull, along with a few Commons.

Black Guillemot

Red-breasted Merganser


 Reykjavic from the sea

Stunning views of the rugged coastline


We looked, and looked, and looked but not a single cetatean put in an appearance, although there were plenty of Fulmars and an odd couple of Gannets.

That night we drove away from the city and hoped to find shimmering Northern Lights but had no joy, though succeeded in flushing three Ptarmigan from the roadside, giving a wierd view of three white birds disappearing in the headlights.

Day two

Before heading East we stopped at the frozen Tjornin lake in the town centre. Just a small area remained free of ice, holding ducks, geese, gulls and Whooper Swans.

sole Pink-footed Goose

Common Gull

Iceland Gull

Whooper Swan

We took a look at Reykjavic harbour again.


Black Guillemot

Glaucous Gull

We then headed towards the Geyser and Gullfoss area via Helluvtan lake where there was a female Hooded Marganser. Also in the area were a few Whoopers, a single Scaup, a Common Goldeneye and a few Tufted Ducks.

 Hooded Merganser - just, really.

 We then travelled to Pingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir), taking in the lack of birds (apart from Ravens that periodically punctuated the hinterland).


 The lake at Thingvellir.

We visited Geyser to see, hear and smell the geothermal activity.

The Great Geyser only erupts every 6 hours or so and we weren't lucky. Strokkur, however is more reliable and went off every 5 to 10 minutes. Stokkur reaches a height of 30 metres.

The water reaches tempertures between 80 and 100 degrees C.

We completed our tour of the Golden Circle by visiting Gullfoss.

Gullfoss, meaning Golden Falls

On the way back at Olfusa we had a group of around 15 Barrow's Goldeneyes, all female/juveniles.

Day three

Our final day we headed off to Grindavik, but on route stopped off at Krisuvik geothermal pools

Grindavik again had a simliar selection of species as expected in an Icelandic harbour, but we also managed to pick up four Halequin Ducks (two males), three Kittiwakes and a Grey Heron. We failed to find any of the Gyrs reported in the aera.

Great Northern Diver

 Iceland Gull

Glaucous Gull

Final stop off at Njardvik found the other side of the peninsula very windy making viewing difficult and we failed to find the American White-winged Scoter that had been in the area, just picking up the expected mix of Ducks and Gulls.

Glaucous Gull 


Our last chance of viewing the Northern Lights disappeared as we flew south to the UK. Perhaps we'll be lucky another time.