Friday, 27 February 2015

Chobham Common - 27 February 2015

Time to monitor the Dartford Warblers again and generally check out what's happening at the site as the transition from winter to spring starts.

We visited two areas of the north side where we saw seven birds at the first location, two of which were seen in extremely marginal habitat. Some birds were already paired up. While the Little Grebes were being very vocal on the pond, a pair of Buzzards soared overhead with two Red Kite also present.

Moving along to the large car park, we did a circular walk seeing another four Dartfords, one carrying a ring (in an area that we've not ringed in). GPS data was recorded to be passed on to trust staff. We also had three Reed Bunting and a Woodlark was singing, advertising its territory to all.

Singing Dartford just feet from the footpath (bearing ring).

Our work last year identified many more breeding pairs than the staff had known about. Population density of Dartford Warblers appears to remain quite high after the main winter period, since three of the eleven birds were in less than ideal habitat where we would not usually have expected to see them. This is probably happening as birds seek out suitable territories and compete amongst themselves for space.

All schedule one authorisations are in place, ready for our attempts to collect data on the common over the coming months.

Martin Mere - Duck catch 24 February 2015

On the previous day we had driven up to stay with our friend BH who was not only attending the session but also overseeing the processing of the duck bi-catch from the Whooper Swan catch. We had taken a walk around Sand Mere and had a brief look at Marsh Side where the tide was high, but the wind was exceedingly strong and viewing conditions were difficult.

Next morning we were on site for 8am. There were lots of people ready to take, what could potentially be, a sizeable catch, all equiped with waterproof trousers or waders and jackets, rubber gloves and face masks. We had the health and safety talk aimed to inform about how to reduce the risk of contracting Bird Flu and learned of how the catch would be organised. We were also told that BBC North West would be filming throughout the session, marking the 40th Anniversary of Martin Mere and 25 years of the swan pipe catches.

We joined the duck team and got into position while the Swan team went to the trap, basically a large heligoland trap in the water. As we waited a small group of Shelduck rose above the barns. Shortly after, a much larger flock of duck went up as a dustcart some distance away made a loud clang as the operatives went about their business.

For a while apparently, it had seemed that there may be no catch at all, as ducks were reluctant to venture into the swan pipe after grain. Then one plucked up the courage and others followed.

Soon after the crates housing the duck catch were brought to us. It was a shame that all the Pintail, Pochard and Wigeon had been lost and just 14 Shelduck remained.

Many were retraps but a few birds needed to be fitted with rings, as well as biometrics, ageing, weighing and sexing.

Ringed and ready for other data to be recorded.

Meanwhile 40 swans (26 new and 14 retrapped) were kept in holding pens before being sexed and prepared for the ringing and measuring process.

Holding pens

Some birds already had metal rings and those would have a darvic added. Some, especially the juveniles ( obvious from their pale yellow bills) would need metal and plastic rings, whereas a few others already had a darvik fitted.

  White on red ANN

Each bird was wrapped in a plastic jacket to make carrying the birds more manageable and remove the risk of injury to birds and humans alike.

Vercro fastenings ensure a snug fit.

Then the birds were taken to the processing barn to await processing.

Form an orderly queue.

 The bill pattern is individual to each bird.

Iris colour was surprisingly variable.

Each bird was checked for rings then those without, got a metal ring on the right leg for females and the left for males. The darvic was applied to the other leg. My bird, a young female, was YCF.

 Rings were applied to black on orange YCU an adult male.

Wing measurements are taken.

NWT was weighed as filming continues in the background.

Then one last interview.........

 The last birds are released.

 Boot dip and spray down with antiseptic before
a speech, round of applause and CAKE!

Totals: 32 (22)

Whooper Swan 26 (14)
Shelduck 6 (8)

Stanwell Moor - 20 February 2015

We were joined by EP and tried again for pipits. There was a bit more success than the previous session, despite there being so few birds about,  but five birds fell well short of our expectations. A couple of jack Snipe were seen, but very few Snipe were present, but a flock of c20 Lapwings, with a couple of birds displaying was hopefully a sign of things to come.

Totals: 5

Meadow Pipit - 5

Norfolk - 17 to 19 February 2015


A run up for a few days birding in Norfolk and sorting out a few family issues, saw us taking a detour off the A10 to Landbeach tip via Long Drove at Cottenham, which after slightly frustrating viewing through the hedge, a nice large first winter Glaucous Gull appeared on the rubbish. We then headed to Roydon Common where unusually the Great Grey Shrike was showing well, actively hunting, followed by dropping in at Thornham Harbour where the flock of 50 odd Twite were actively flying around, with a single Spotted Redshank in one of the channels amongst the more common waders, followed by an end of day visit to Titchwell, with four late afternoon Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard, a fairly empty high tide sea apart from a few Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers, and around 40 Common Scoter, but no Long-tailed Duck. A single female Goosander on the back of the fresh marsh was slightly unusual, with waders being supplemented by those pushed off the beach onto the reservoir by the high tide, plus eight Ruff and 24 Black-tailed Godwit, one of which bore colour rings L R/O R R/O(letter Z).


Most of the day was spent sorting out the family issues, but late pm we managed to find some time to get out on the marsh at Burnham Overy. Unfortunately the only Geese were a solo Egyptian, and a few Brents, Greylags and Pink-foots, with about 15 Black-tailed Godwits on the mud and on the marsh. Raptors were quite well represented with two Rough-legged Buzzards, at least four Marsh Harriers and a group of six Red Kites that spent some time tumbling together over the dunes before heading onto Holkham fresh marsh




The weather forecast for the day was high wind with rain to follow later, so we decided to give the Cley coast line a miss and lazily headed inland to Livermere Heath to join the gulls and pigs, which was soon joined by the rain. Scan through the gulls was done mainly from the car, especially as in one area getting out would have meant stepping into something, that still hung around the outside of the car until cleaned two days later, but we did pick up an adult Caspian Gull and a very nice 3rd winter Iceland Gull, before leaving the gulls and pigs to the rain, with a brief stop at Mildenhall to look at a single lonely Waxwing in the rain, before heading off home.

Gulls and pigs, or pigs and gulls if you prefer, and lots of mud.....

Monday, 16 February 2015

Broadwater - 16 February 2015

Today we tried netting away from the usual area. The footpath is very slippery at this other place and being a thin strip of land between the River Colne and Broadwater Lake, with a footpath running along it, this isn't the easiest place to site nets. We took a selection of shorter nets and, with MRB and Margaret, got 4 singles up.

This is a regular site for wintering Chiffchaff, and it's unlikely that we would have otherwise tried here as the mud and brambles coupled with close proximity to water make it a place that requires great care when working. Further to this, most birds simply move away from the normal target area later in winter and we suspect that they congregate along the banks of the Colne .

We caught a few birds before the rain forced us to take down again, but not before we'd confirmed that some birds are moving over to the river in winter, thanks to Goldcrest EPV868, initially ringed 13th December 2014, that was retrapped. We also caught one of the Chiffchaffs - unfortunately it was not one of at least three ringed birds that we've observed there.


Totals: 9 (1)
Chiffchaff - 1
Goldcrest - 2 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 4
Great Tit - 2

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Stanwell Moor - 14 February 2015

The weather looked promising with low wind speed and very little in the way of gusts and as it turned out there was virtually no wind at all until 10.15am. Perfect conditions for pipits at Stanwell.

The nets went up like a dream and all the audioboxes were working well too. There was just one snag and that was a distinct lack of Meadow Pipits. The birds are usually found on Staines Moor or at Stanwell. Somedays they commute between the two - but today there was a definitely preference for Staines. It can't be helped, some days just go that way. It's surprising that we managed the single bird that we caught.

 Meadow Pipit aged 5

A small flock of Lapwing were on site as we arrived and a single Barnacle Goose flew over north.

Total: 1

Meadow Pipit - 1

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Black Park Country Park - 11 February 2015

It's some time since this site was worked as catches have been rather low following groundwork for regeneration of the heathland. CL, ESA & RMA set nets in the area where ringing has taken place before. There were small roaming flocks of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll about and, despite further vegetation having been removed from the locality, a catch of 10 Lesser Redpoll was taken. No other species were captured.

5M Lesser Redpoll

Total: 10
Lesser Redpoll - 10

Broadwater - 10 February 2015

A team of CL, MRB, RMA, ESA and Margaret went along to monitor the site. Once again there was no sign of the local wintering Chiffchaffs that no doubt were sticking close to the River Colne at the other end of the lake. Just 14 birds today and most of these retrapped birds including three Goldcrests.

Totals: 6 (8)

Dunnock - 1
Robin - 1 (1)
Songthrush - 1
Goldcrest - 0 (3)
Blue Tit - 2
Great Tit - 1 (2)
Long-tailed Tit - 0 (1)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Broadwater - 2 February 2015

So, after a spell of uncertainly when it was unsure whose rings would be used on site, we now know that we are no longer ringing here under the Maple Cross umbrella. We shall,of course, continue to share data and Broadwater will become the first site covered by the newly formed Colne Valley Ringing Group.

Monitoring Broadwater in winter can be slow. Many birds move to the river and our nets are at the opposite end of the lake. We caught a total of 16 birds and 10 of these were retraps.

The two oldest retraps were Blue Tit Y386003 that was first seen when it was ringed as a juvenile on 15th September 2013. We also captured Long-tailed Tit EBN020 that was ringed on 22nd September 2011 and was then seen in the February of 2012 and 2013.

6M Goldfinch

Totals: 6 (10)

Wren - 0 (2)
Robin - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 0 (1)
Blue Tit - 3 (2)
Great Tit - 1 (3)
Long-tailed Tit - 0 (1)
Goldfinch - 1

Monday, 2 February 2015

Buckenham, Cantley and Broadlands revisited - 1 February 2015

Still on the lookout for Bean Geese we retraced our steps. The Wigeon were at Buckenham in even greater numbers and the water level had risen quite a bit since the previous day.

Cantley was just as devoid of Bean Goose as before although we saw some Golden Plover we then moved on to Horsey. There were Hundreds of Pink Feet spread over a large area. We gave it a good go but just couldn't locate any Bean Geese reported as being with the flock, but with 50% of the flock in the far field it was never going to be easy. An immature male Hen Harrier and Buzzard, together with several Marsh Harriers were seen, along with single Crane, Barnacle Goose, 12 Ruff and three Turnstone feeding in the same field as the Geese.

Pink Feet at Horsey

Buckenham, Cantley and the Broads - 31 January 2015

It was a very cold morning after snow after night, but the sight and sound of so many Wigeon made the walk well worthwhile. But, the Bean and Whitefronted Geese were absent, but there was a single Pink-foot and two Barnacle Geese. We didn't see any Bearded Tits that had been reported from a ditch there but while we were there was a group of Bewicks, followed by a smaller group of Whooper Swans passing overhead, and a Water Pipit on the marsh.


A look over the marshes at Cantley also brought no Bean or White-fronted Geese, just some Mute Swan, Lapwing and two Chinese Water Deer.

We spent some time at Halvergate Marshes where we managed to find two Rough Legged Buzzards, a Peregrine and saw a small group of Bewick Swans. It was disappointing to see a wing-tagged Marsh Harrier whihc failed to remain long enough on the ground to get the scope set up.

We then dropped in at Ludham were there was mixed flock of Bewick and Whoopers, possibly the same birds that had flown over Buckenham early morning. We did manage to find one white darvic, but just too far and muddy to read.

A look for the Smew at Ormesby Broad drew a blank but at least we saw a Bittern on top of the reeds at roost.

Record shot through the rain and failing light.

Lynford,Santon Downham & Stubb Mill - 30 January 2015

Just for a change we focussed on Broadlands this weekend, whereas we normally head for the North end of Norfolk. We dropped in at Lynford arboretum for a glimpse of the Hawfinch that have been so regular this winter. For us, they remained elusive and we never did manage to see them but did enjoy watching birds, mainly Marsh, Coal and Blue Tits, Nuthatch, Chaffinch and Blackbird using the feeding station at the bridge and the views around the park in general.

Lynford Arboretum lake

Next stop, Santon Downham with hopes of seeing the Great Grey Shrike, but that was no less elusive than the Hawfinch and although we took our time and walked the path along the river we had no luck. It was nice, however, to see a few Siskin and more Marsh Tits and Nuthatches.

Santon Downham

Last visit of the day was to Stubb Mill for the roost. We didn't get there until about 4.15pm but timed it just right as several Marsh Harriers and a couple of Hen Harriers came in. There was also a female Merlin and a sizeable flock of Pink-footed Geese, and the last to go over on their way to roost were 25 Cranes.

Stubb Mill roost site

Pink-feet dropping in


The sky was clear and the temperature plummeted so that the puddles were icing over by the time we got back to the car.