Friday 30 December 2016

Stow on the Wold - 30th December 2016, Blue Rock Thrush

Another bird that we really ought to have gone for sooner, only a short distance away in the greater scheme of things, a species that we'd not seen in the UK but have seen on numerous occasions abroad.

The visibility was very poor, but we made several circuits of the streets searching for the bird on a roof or chimney pot. Eventually it was turned up, in a back garden, by another birder who also searched proactively rather than stand waiting with the crowd.

 Male rock thrush on trellis

and on the gutter 

The first sighting of the day was much later than the last couple of days and had it not been found then, we would probably have given up in the foggy conditions.


Saturday 24 December 2016

Truss's Island - 20th December 2016

This morning we met up with Mike Reed to catch and ring Mute Swan at Truss's Island. Usually we're relatively certain of how a session like this will progress, but this time it was a little different - and I'm not talking about the pigeon with the unusual neck attire.

As usual, birds were fed on the ramp until we could get them into a position where catching was possible.

Enticing swans into reach.

Metal and Darvic rings are fitted.

The alpha numeric codes are easily read, whether birds are on land or in the water.

Processed birds continue to feed once released back to the river.

Then, just as the captures were slowing down, a car drove up with eight cygnets in the back. Our session just happened to coincide with their release from Swan Support. They had already been ringed at the centre, but we were able to add Darvic rings, vastly increasing the chance of sighting reports.

The additional eight youngsters had Darvics added, then made their way down to the water and the assembled flock.

There were some opportunities to engage members of the public and quite a few people took an interest in our activities and reacted positively to the information that we were able to share with them.

We did try to ring the pair at Stanwell but both were much more wary than usual, prompting us to think that a past problem of people going on site to shoot at wildlife may have returned.


Mute Swan - 12 (16)

28 Darvics applied to 12 new birds, 8 pre-ringed birds captured and 8 pre-ringed birds prior to release.
Other observed birds included black on white T3Z, L3O & L3N , and birds already in Mike's study 4DAZ, 4DAD, 4DAJ, 4DAG, 4DAR, 4CIW, 4DAH, 4DAT, 4DAF, 4DAU, 4DBE, 4DAQ, 4DBE and 4DAQ - all black on orange. Metal ring W28390 was also read in the field.

Wraysbury C6 - 18th &19th December 2016

18 December

Again it was another foggy day and with Chris, Lara and Waheed still slightly lagging after yesterdays run over to Pitsea, with few birds around, and also what was present were moving around little, we decided to wrap up at 10.30am with just four birds processed.

Total: 4

Robin - 1
Redwing - 3

19 December

So having been at C4 on the previous day and done really poorly with just 4 birds ringed, we had seen large flocks of finches and thrushes on our way out so returned to C6 to try our luck.

Of course, things are never the same the next day and the very large flocks just didn't materialise. We did catch some birds however, and did a little better than the previous day.

 Age 3 Redwing with much abraided tertials

3F Blackbird

Total: 11 (5)

Blackbird - 2
Redwing - 2
Robin - 0 (1)
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1 (3)
Great Tit - 1
Dunnock - 0 (1)
Goldfinch - 4

Pitsea, North Thames Gull Group - 17th December 2016

This weekend was the first outing for Lara and Waheed to the tip at Pitsea tip to gain experience with larger species and gull ringing with the North Thames Gull Group. Unfortunately it was a foggy day, so the scenic views of the tip were rather limited, and alas so was the ability to Gull watch and look for colour rings. But, neither did it reduce the ability of the smell to get into everything! It is getting increasingly difficult to get food waste brought to any tip in the UK these days, and sometimes there is a longish wait before the first dust cart with any arrives with anything that will draw the gulls in. Fortunately today we did not have to wait long, but the Gulls that came in for the first catch were mostly Black-headed Gulls. We then had a fairly lengthy wait for the second catch, as the Gulls seemed reluctant to come in and feed, despite the compactors going over it several times, they seemed not to respond, but eventually they did, and we ended up with a bigger catch, with more larger birds this time, though just restricted to Herring Gulls. The bonus was a single adult Mediterranean Gull and an interesting Glaucous x Herring hybrid.

A majority of the Gulls were colour ringed increasing the prospect of later re-sightings. We also had a good run of re-traps/controls on the day, with 27, including a Herring Gull originally ringed on 29 June 1995 on the Isle of May -  21 years ago, and a Black-headed Gull ringed at Godmanchester, Cambs on 9 December 1989 - 27 years ago.

adult Mediterranean Gull

Totals: 404 (27)

Black-headed Gull - 274 (21)
Mediterranean Gull - 1
Common Gull - 3
Herring Gull - 126 (6)

Saturday 17 December 2016

Broadwater GP - 16th December 2016

This visit would probably be the last of the year and we were on site with nets up before the Redwings began to move about. In addition, the new feeders have been up for a few days and all the food was gone when we arrived

We had  three nets in the area where Redwings roost and one of the ten nets was placed close to the remaining feeder. We also had the usual run of nets along the track.

As we've come to expect from this site, most of the Redwings did not fly about much before leaving the site, but we did catch a few. There seemed to be little else about other that a few tits and the feeders must have been emptied by squirrels since the area really didn't attract any birds all morning.

3M Blackbird

Total: 19 (8)

Wren - 1 (1)
Robin - 0 (2)
Blackbird - 2
Redwing - 7
Goldcrest - 2 (2)
Blue Tit - 5 (1)
Great Tit - 1
Dunnock - 1 (2)

Monday 12 December 2016

Beeley, Peak District, Dusky Thrush - 11th December 2016

Another early start, this time in order to head off towards Beeley where the Dusky Thrush has been quite reliable. The drive up was tortuous, particularly a very long section of roadworks with a reduced speed limit. It was after 11am by the time we were eventually there and failed to get a decent look at the bird that departed its usual patch of Hawthorn just after we arrived. We staked our claim to a spot on the mud, close to the dry stone wall that encompassed the small orchard where the thrush has been seen. There were plenty of people that had already seen it, but in the gloomy light some wanted better photographs, a video (the hope of one particularly optimistic individual) or just a better view. As we waited there were several exclamations that the bird had been spied only to be later dismissed as a Redwing.

It was seen briefly, not by us, before it disappeared to eventually take flight from a Holly tree making a diagnostic call, very different to the Redwings present. So, we pinned our hopes on 2pm. It had been seen on the ground, on the previous day, in the rain at that time. 2pm came, and went. Still no bird. Some 20 or so minutes later, Chris called 'that's it' as a bird arrived across the wall opposite - and it was! The bird stayed in the Hawthorn, feeding then preening. It was partially hidden behind twigs, and didn't drop onto the ground while we watched - so only record shots was possible.

Dusky Thrush

Sunday 11 December 2016

Broadwater GP - 10th December 2016

We haven't ringed at at this site for a while and were joined by MRB, WA and Margaret. We had a couple of nets up before the Redwings left the roost although few birds were caught early on.

 3M Coal Tit

 3M Bullfinch

3M Blackcap

We captured plenty of tits, several being retraps with a fairly high proportion of adult Blue Tits particularly. There were also singles of Coal Tit, Bullfinch and Blackcap.

Totals: 24 (14)

Redwing - 7
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 2
Goldcrest - 1 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 2 (2)
Blue Tit - 8 (3) Six of these birds being adults.
Coal Tit - 1
Great Tit - 1 (6)
Dunnock - 0 (2)
Bullfinch - 1

Saturday 10 December 2016

Wraysbury GP -9th December 2016

Having worked this area a few times now, we've been wondering how responsive the Redwings might be, at the end of the day, when coming to roost. The birds feed over a wide area and in spite of the large numbers we rarely catch more than a few in any net over the course of a morning. Perhaps it might to possible to draw them into the nets as the light fails at the end of the day.

We set 5 nets in close proximity, put the audio lures on and waited. We saw several large flocks arriving, but they were not pulled in and we only got three Redwing, a Song Thrush and a couple of Robins in total. We probably won't try again but at least we now know it it's not worth doing. 

Monday 5 December 2016

Wraysbury GP - 5th December 2016

We returned to Wraysbury on a frosty morning and put up a total of 9 nets. We caught quite a few more Redwing, three female Blackbirds including a a definite continental individual and several Robins, some of which showed signs that they may be about to move on. Z958037 was ringed on the 2nd weighing 19.9g and only three days later it increased to 22.7g with the fat score going from 2 up to 4.

 Blackbird 4F

 Song Thrush age 3

Robin, age 4

 Redwing, age 3

It was a strange day for additional observations with a Blackcap being seen along the footpath and a Peregrine passing over the ringing base late morning. We also saw Muntjac, Fox and a Hedgehog.

Total: 33 (5)

Robin - 4 (3)
Blackbird - 3
Song Thrush - 1
Redwing - 24
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 0 (1)
Blue Tit - 0 (1)

Sunday 4 December 2016

Staines Moor - 3rd December 2016

Today we tried for thrushes in the corner of the moor adjacent to Stanwell. We have seen lots of birds in this area but due to the height of the bushes weren't sure how successful attempts to catch them might go. We put up three double nets and played audio-lures, but there were far fewer birds and the temperature had raised by a few degrees.

There were 11 captures - we'll give it one more try if we get a forecast for a windless, cold and frosty day.

age 3 Redwing

Total: 11

Robin - 4
Song Thrush - 1
Redwing 6

Saturday 3 December 2016

Wraysbury GP - 2nd December 2016

After a couple of days with rather harsh frosts, we tried for thrushes amongst the berry bushes on C4.
There were a lot of birds first thing and it was clear that more birds roost there than remain to feed in the immediate area. We know that they also frequent the pony field, foraging on the ground, but with the ground quite hard they were more likely to turn to the berry crop rather than invertebrate food. As it happened there was no frost today, but the ground was still quite hard.

Our most numerous capture was Redwing.

Redwing, age 3

Adult and juvenile type greater coverts

We also caught a young male Sparrowhawk.

 Male Sparrowhawk, age 3

Song Thrush

An interesting retrap was Chiffchaff JRV022, only ringed three days ago, at Stanwell Moor, about a kilometre away.

Total: 26 (8)

Sparrowhawk - 1
Robin - 4 (2)
Blackbird - 1 (1)
Song Thrush - 1
Redwing - 13
Chiffchaff - 1 (1)
Goldcrest - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 1 (3)
Blue Tit - 1 (1)

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Stanwell Moor GP & Staines Moor - 29th November 2016

Stanwell Moor

By far the coldest day yet, this winter, with a very light wind and a heavy frost that lingered all morning. We set five nets, three in the reed-bed and another two across the track from the stream. There didn't seem to be much about and catching progressed slowly. In just over three hours we captured 10 new and 6 retrapped birds.

We caught four Chiffchaffs, all with fat scores of zero, a Cetti's Warbler along with a few Wrens and Long-tailed Tits, and three Robins which were all local re-traps.


 Robin, age 3

Cetti's Warbler, age 3

Total: 10 (6)

Wren - 2 (1)
Dunnock - 0 (1)
Robin - 0 (3)
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 4
Long-tailed Tit - 3 (1)

Staines Moor
This is a wintering site for Water Pipit, a species that visits the UK in relatively low numbers each winter. The annual number ringed in this country is usually low, 10 in 2015, 12 in 2014, 1 in 2013, 9 in 2012. One of these was a bird ringed in our adjacent site, Stanwell Moor, in November 2012 with another in November 2010. We managed to get permission to target Water Pipits over on Staines Moor and thought that a colour ringing project would be worthwhile, if catching was possible. This is a very open site with a lot of dog walkers, often with dogs running off the lead.

Today, at midday, we arranged to meet the Countryside and Commons officer responsible for the area for an initial try at capturing Water Pipits. We put up two, two panel 12m nets alongside the river, tried audio-lures (appropriate licence endorsements held) and waited. There were a few birds around, although more Wagtails than Pipits and we had no captures for quite a while. The first bird was flushed into the net by a birder walking by the river's edge.

 Water Pipit, 2513265, age 3

Water Pipit 2513266, age 3

As the temperature began to drop we also caught a second bird. Both were fitted with metal rings - and the order for colour rings will be put in very shortly as this first try leaves us hopeful that a reasonable proportion of birds present may be captured. This is being done to aid monitoring the birds using the Moor without the need for recapture, and hopefully will give an indication of whether they winter at the site for the whole winter period, how faithful they are to the site each year, longevity and hopefully with luck (if they are reported, from other locations, during the summer months) where they breed.

Total: 2

Water Pipit - 2

Sunday 27 November 2016

Chobham Common - 26th November 2016

Our first ringing outing, now we're back in the UK, was to Chobham Common with LON and WA. The common was quite different to the last time we were there, partly due to the way all the deciduous trees had dropped their leaves - potentially likely to affect our effectiveness at netting Redwing, and also down to the complete absence of Lesser Redpoll that had been so evident back in October. Most of those birds had been passing through - now there would be far fewer on the common and we saw and heard none of them.

We did manage to catch some Redwing, although the Fieldfare passing overhead from the golf course were less inclined to come down to their gathering calls than Redwing.

We were quite surprised to capture three Dartford Warbler with only one of them being attracted by audio-lure, and a single Stonechat. We also saw two Jack Snipe.

 Dartford Warbler Z958020, 3M

 Dartford Warbler Z958031, 3F

Dartford Warbler Z958033, 3M

There was also a rather smart male Stonechat, and a Great Tit with aberrant plumage colouration.

 3M Stonechat

Great Tit with pale colouration in left wing and bronze sheen to mantle and cap.

To round off the morning there was a tit flock, captured just before packing up time.

Total: 37  (2)

Meadow Pipit - 1
Wren - 2 (1)
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 1
Stonechat - 1
Redwing - 7
Dartford Warbler - 3
Goldcrest - 5
Long-tailed Tit - 7
Blue Tit - 7
Great Tit - 1 (1)
Goldfinch - 1

Thursday 24 November 2016

Cyprus - Eastwards then home - 19th November 2016 (and 20th unexpectedly)

We had an early evening flight from Larnaka and packed and finished up at the house before taking a drive eastwards for some final birding. There was a new bird for us both at Akahna dam so we headed there first. The route near to the dam took us close to the abandoned town of Akahna, observation towers and the border with Northern Turkey. One year we really will have to explore the north.

At the dam there was plenty of water and several people fishing, this being a Saturday. We spotted the target bird, a young Great White Pelican, at the far end of the dam.

Great White Pelican

We had really good views of the bird and noticed an unusual pipit, with the Meadow Pipits, Water Pipits and White Wagtails along the shoreline. It was identified as a Buff-bellied Pipit but was distant and difficult to photograph. We were glad to hear later that Alan and Lyn Crane were able to find the bird the following day.

Asian Buff-bellied Pipit

Meadow Pipit

Jack Snipe and Snipe

We had good views of Jack Snipe and Snipe as we left the dam before having a look around the wet and marshy areas of Oroklini, then looking at the pools along the coast behind the Sewage works and the actual sewage pools at Larnaca. There were some Curlew in the field, a new species for the visit.

As the light failed we thought this to be the end of our Cyprus trip as we stopped off to eat then headed to the find that our flight was delayed until the following day. We were transported to the Palm Beach hotel where they arranged a free evening meal and breakfast as well as a room until our departure, for the airport, at 7am.

Now, under normal circumstances I wouldn't go in to detail about the transfer to the airport, but there were too many passengers to fit on one bus and while we waited for the second coach we both heard the call of a Yellow-browed Warbler from the trees along the access route to the hotel. We followed the call, pinned it down and got brief views - just as coach number two turned up, so no chance to photograph the bird and we're hoping that someone else manages to relocate the bird, last seen by the church next to the tennis courts.

Friday 18 November 2016

Cyprus - Kouklia, 18th November 2016

We returned to Kouklia for our final ringing day, in Cyprus, of 2016 and had another good day. There was another wave of Chiffchaffs, more Wood Lark and a couple of  extra goodies in the form of Kestrel, Spanish Sparrow and Crested Lark.

Kestrel male aged 6

 Crested Lark

Spanish Sparrow
Totals: 92 (2)

Kestrel - 1
Crested Lark - 1
Wood Lark - 6
Fan-tailed Warbler - 0 (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 4 (1)
Blackcap - 9
Willow Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 64
Great Tit - 2
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Chaffinch - 3

An afternoon walk to the back of  Secret Valley golf course provided an excellent view of a Bonelli's Eagle, Jackdaw, Stonechat, Goldfinch and Serin as well as spectacular geology.