Sunday 31 December 2017

Black Park CP (am) and Stanwell Moor GP (pm) - 22nd December 2017

We expected this might be our last venture out in 2017 as the forecast for the next few weeks was not looking good, and this turned out to be true. Even checking the Broadwater site this pm (31/12) resulted in a very heavy downpour with hail as soon as we were out of the car, with the wind becoming much stronger as the front moved through :)

Black Park CP

The visit was primarily to see if any Goldcrest or Redpolls were still noticeable in the area, and as it turned out they were not. In fact it was very quiet with only a small moderate sized Siskin flock around that disappeared fairly quickly once the sun was higher. A few Redwing were caught first thing, but very few Thrushes were heard going over.

Total - 7

Redwing - 3
Goldcrest - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 2

Stanwell Moor GP

In the afternoon we made a visit to see the site foreman and to see if anything was roosting in the willow/carr.  Again this site was also very quiet and nothing came into roost to speak of apart from about half a dozen Redwing. Only three birds were caught, all Goldcrest, two of which were re-traps.

Total - 1 (2)

Goldcrest - 1 (2)

Thursday 21 December 2017

Stanwell GP - 19th December 2017

The wind looked quite low with freezing fog forecast. As it turned out there was no fog although there had been a drop in temperature and everything was completely frozen.

We decided to put a double along the track, a walk-in trap on the mound for Meadow Pipits and three singles in the reedbed, including a new ride through an area with a lot of new reed and willow growth. This area had been completely dry the previous year when the water level was artificially low due to water being pumped out to prevent lorries raising excessive quantities of dust, and since the water level has risen the reeds have really thickened out.

One of six Chiffchaff captured on the day

We had a few birds to start with, tapes brought in wintering Chiffchaff and there were even a few Redwings too. The Long-tailed Tits managed to evade the track net, as they usually do, but there were a few Goldcrests to attract to the net in the reedbed, bringing a few other species with them, although playing Firecrest and Cetti's Warbler proved fruitless.The Meadow Pipits were nowhere to be seen - so we were glad that we'd not put up a three net configuration.

 The species diversity was quite good, largely due to a number of singles of different species captured specifically Song Thrush, Blackbird, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch. Linnet and Long-tailed Tit.

 4M Reed Bunting

3F Chaffinch - nice to get one without diseased legs

Brett have been working to relandscape the area immediately next to where we ring. It's all done now with nothing left but to let the grass grow. This area has seen a lot of changes over the years.

The track has been improved and gated while the area behind
 was levelled and set to seed. December 2017

This area has changed a lot over the years. When we started ringing here there was a disused conveyor belt, still there 2009.

Conveyor belt and shingle heaps June 2009 - back then we'd get 
Little Ringed Plovers here.

June 2015 - hardcore storage and we were never sure 
whether access would be possible with the vehicle.

More storage for recycling April 2017

By September they started work on shifting 
the mound of earth and metal. September 2017

There should now be less disturbance near our rides.

Totals : 24 (5)

Blackbird - 0 (1)
Songthrush - 1
Redwing - 3
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 0 (1)
Chiffchaff - 6
Goldcrest - 5 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 1 (1)
Great Tit - 3 (1)
Chaffinch -1
Linnet - 1
Reed Bunting - 1

Wednesday 20 December 2017

WWT Welney - 18th December 2017

It's years since we visited this place - back then the footbridge was accessed by metal steps so it was definitely before the current visitor centre was built.  Bumped into KV, which was nice, who was only there because he lost his hat when he visited the day before, so as a bonus we had a bit of a catch up.

Adult Whooper bathing.

When we finally got into the hide there was a lot quite close by. The Whooper Swans were interesting to watch. There were several family parties and they were greeting individuals that they seemed to recognise and having the odd spat from time to time, feeding in the lake and on some rotting potatoes as well as taking care of their feathers. 

There were some Mute Swans sporting orange darvics, so these would be birds ringed by MR within the same scheme as that, that we support when colour ringing swans on the Thames.

Mute Swan 4BLI

Mute Swan 4BLR

We also collected some colour rings on Whooper Swans.

Whooper Swan Z3N (black on yellow)

Whooper Swan YCK (black print on orange)

It was possible to see some colour ring combinations on the roosting Black-tailed Godwits, not always both legs however. At least 3 full combinations were obtained, one from Icleand and the others from the UK PP and JG schemes.

Roosting Black-tailed Godwits

Bewick Swan - an injured bird that stayed throughout the summer

Whooper close-up

There were also quite a few ducks to see - Pintail, Teal, Shelduck, Mallard, Wigeon and some rather handsome Pochard.

Male Pochard

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Wraysbury GP - 17th December 2017

We returned to Wraysbury today with thrushes being the aim again. Although it was cold with a lot of frost and ice, this morning had a very different feel to the previous visit. The numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare were well down. It had only been a few days, but it looked as though the hawthorn bushes had been all but stripped and the remaining birds seemed to be feeding on rosehips.

Fieldfare with male pattern crown feathers

We put a single in an area by the stream that has recently undergone some pretty severe clearance. The first time of checking the net was very frustrating, as in the top panel was a bird that has never been ringed by Runnymede Ring Group before. It didn't look as though it was snagged in any way. The wings were both folded next to the body, the legs were bent at the knee and the neck appeared to be tucked down the front of its body. I was fairly sure it would get out really easily - and I was right. I was only abount 12 feet away when it lifted its head, straightened its legs then having cleared part of its body from the panel opened its wings and went. That was the closest I and Chris have come to ringing Little Egret.

One interesting observation was that something had clearly happened at the swing gate. There was a lot of hair, mainly on the C6 side of the gate and the soil had been dug away. A dog walker relayed that a Roe Deer had been stuck with its head in the railings for some time and it had eventually taken two men to man handle the animal out of its predicament.

Total: 15 (3)

Blackbird - 1(1)
Fieldfare - 2
Song Thrush - 1
Redwing - 4
Goldcrest - 1 (1)
Great Tit - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 4 (1)
Reed Bunting - 1

Thursday 14 December 2017

Iver Heath - 14th December 2017

The BTO in conjunction with Exeter and Oxford Universities, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology are looking at the origins and genetics of the UK's over wintering Blackcap populations. Prior to this winter period we were issued with a series of colour ring combinations to fit to any Blackcaps caught, plus if any feathers are dropped during handling these need to be collected and sent off for sampling.

We have already had a male Blackcap in the garden, but today we had a female, which with the use of a short period of audio lure was caught, processed and fitted with very light plastic colour rings, and released back into the garden. Alas no feathers were dropped and we have not applied to be added to the licence to take samples, so none were obtained.

 Blackcap, female, age 3

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Wraysbury GP and Staines Moor - 12th December 2017

Finally, we got a fine day without wind and it just happened to be after a night when the temperature had been forecast to drop to minus 6 in our area. Snow that fell two days before was still lying in some areas and frost and ice remained throughout the whole session.

We targetted thrushes and did quite well, but we were also very pleased to get eight pre-processed Robins, some dating back to 2014. Most of the Robins were carrying a lot of fat and were well prepared for the cold snap.


 Redwing with wing of 125mm and some dark centres to 
undertail coverts - but those legs look a bit pale for coburni.

Female Blackbird

Song Thrush aged 3

Totals: 50 (12)

Dunnock - 1 (1)
Robin - 1 (8)
Blackbird - 2 (1)
Fieldfare - 13
Song Thrush - 1
Redwing - 25
Goldcrest - 2 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 5 (1)

We returned to Staines Moor in the evening to probably try out the thermal imager for the last time before its return, and really did not find it much easier to use due to the lack of magnification, even on a slightly colder night. We did identify a couple of Jack Snipe, but these flew off. There were quite a few Snipe heard, along with a couple of Wigeon and a Redshank. There were a couple of mice picked up feeding on the weed found over the open water, and eventually a Pipit was picked up and caught in the hand net. A leg full of water was collected in WA's wellingtons, for what was expected to be a Water Pipit, but turned out to be a Meadow Pipit, which was duly processed and again returned to the same spot. A couple of Water Pipit were also seen later, but none picked up by the imager, and we left the moor under moderate drizzle.

Total: 1

Meadow Pipit - 1

Wraysbury GP - 5th December 2017

Today seemed the only day with wind low enough for mist netting and we decided to go to Wraysbury. We had six nets up and, over the morning tried for Fieldfare, Redwing, Chiff-chaff, Blackcap, Goldcrest and Firecrest.

There were a lot of winter thrushes in the area around the nets, but few came to the tapes and we spent most of our time watching them fly into and out of the tops of bushes. That said we did manage one Fieldfare and three Redwings. We found a lot of Chiff-chaff on the Stanwell Moor site at our most recent visit, however there was none apparent at this site. Blackcap was tried since we hold some colour ring combinations for over winterers, but again no luck. Goldcrest made up half the catch today, showing that the site holds reasonable numbers of these little birds in the winter months - and a Firecrest was probably best bird of the day.

3F Fieldfare

3M Firecrest

Totals: 17 (2)

Fieldfare - 1
Redwing - 3
Robin - 2
Goldcrest - 8 ( 1 retrap, 1 control KKD 760)
Firecrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 1

Stanwell Moor GP - 2nd December 2017

We are just doing a few easy ringing sessions to get back into the swing of things, but most sites in our part of the UK in mid winter are never overly busy, potentially due to being too urban, and without any truly wild habitat. There is another group fairly local to us that maintain a feeding station, which is potentially the best way in a poor countryside area to maintain fairly high data in collection, and for them whilst the catches of around 100 are mainly Blue and Great Tits, the data they obtain has real added value as they ring around 500 or so Tit pulli, and this provides them with a good set of survival data from re-traps year on year.

However, we do not, and have to make the best of our sites by seasonal targetting. Stanwell is particularly good for controls so there is extra value in feeding in to the tracking of individual birds. We also regularly get wintering Chiffs.

We decided to focus on winter thrushes, wintering Chiffchaff in the reedbed and on the mound, and Meadow Pipits.

There was an interesting observation of Woodcock in the reedbed, flushed as we went in to set up. The nets went up without much bother and being a bit blowy we opted to use just the walk-in trap for pipits.

We began attracting Redwing, many more than the five actually caught and realised that a net on the far side of their favoured bushes may result in more captures, but continued earth removal on that side has meant that there is a very narrow ridge that really isn't suitable for a net as clearing it would be problematic.

We did quite well for Chiffchaff with five caught, also Goldcrest seem to be remaining on site as there were  seven new and two retrapped, relatively recently ringed, birds.

The Meadow Pipits were slow to take an interest in the audio-lure, but in the late morning two groups came in, with six captured including a control. By the wonders of DemOn we know that the bird was only ringed a couple of months ago, and we look forward to further details.

Juvenile Meadow Pipit ADB8290

Juvenile Goldcrest

Total - 29 (7)

Meadow Pipit - 5 ( 1 control ADB8290)
Blackbird - 2
Redwing - 5
Dunnock - 2
Robin - 1 (1)
Chiffchaff - 5
Goldcrest - 7 (2)
Blue Tit - 1 (1)
Great Tit -  1 (2)

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Staines Moor - 28th November 2017

As the Brewood ringing group have had some success with thermal imaging at night we had managed to get hold of a thermal imager via a London University on loan, so tonight we gave it a trail on the Moor. The one used by Breewood is a Pulsar XD50S camera which has a capability to magnify similar to binoculars up to x2.8 with a range of 1250 metres. This specific model is no longer available but has been replaced by the XP50 but has a high price in the region of just under £4000, but there are other models XQ50F that are similar price at around £2500 as the XD50S, that have ranges up to 1500m with two other models that have a ranges of 1350 and 1000m. They are very much in the high financial outlay for most ringing groups, and Brewood where fortunate to be grant funded for the purchase by the West Midlands Bird Club.

It soon become obvious, that ours a hand held device not dissimilar to carrying a mobile phone,m without any magnification capability would have it's limits as it is used for examining rocks from a fairly close range. We though did have some moderate success on walking along the bank at close range surveying and quickly picked up a single Jack Snipe that was caught utilising a hand net.

Jack Snipe

The bird was processed and returned to the same spot as it was originally found at.

Again the imager picked up what turned out to be a Water Pipit, which interestingly showed that the roost overnight on the weed a few feet in from the bank overnight. The bird was not caught unfortunately as we are trying to colour ring the birds on the Moor to discover their local movements, actually how many are present and with luck where they go to bred in the summer, and whether they return the following winter. 

A Short-eared Owl was seen hunting over the Moor, which is never really dark due to the light pollution, which always leaves the area seemingly under late twilight light.

Nothing was picked up at any distance, and it was hard to pick out any positive images at times. It also became obvious that this specific imager would probably be of little use trying to locate Sky Lark on adjacent Stanwell Moor. 

Totals: 1

Jack Snipe - 1

Sri Lanka Birding November 2017 - Part 3 Udawalawe, Sinharaja & Talangama

The next morning we revisited the tanks and managed to see Black Bittern at the last chance.

Black Bittern

We had one last look at the fruit bats and the waterbirds while Parakeets and Barbets flew around in the branches above our heads.

Indian Flying Fox

Brown-headed Barbet

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Cattle Egret

Pied Kingfisher

Then it was time to move on again. We were only travelling for a couple of hours and reached the Grand Udawalewe Hotel for midday and had a brief break before setting off to the last national park of our tour.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

 Elephants again

Painted Storks

Next morning, we began our journey, culminating in a drive up a slow road punctuated by many hairpin bends, to Sinharaja. We made a few stops to watch birds, including close views of Black Eagle, along the way.

Here we were to stay in the Blue Magpie Lodge, a very basic lodge that in our case, provided a room not only with a resident Gecko, but also a creature that uttered eery screaching sounds while walking the walls. Again our arrival occurred close to midday and it was arranged that we would walk into the rainforest starting at 2pm. We were soon to learn that it is regular for rain to fall from 11am onwards - and that day was no exception. We were to walk 1.5km, up hill, before reaching the entrance gate. The rain was heavy and we put on rain jackets, but the humidity was such that we were still soaked when we got there. In the rain it was difficult to see birds. There were few clearings and we managed to connect with just one small flock and had closer views of the endemic Myna. We did manage to see a pair of Sri Lanka Frogmouth.

Sri Lanka Frogmouth

Green Garden Lizzard

We walked back in failing light and were grateful to be offered a lift down, in a jeep that was collecting two other guests at the lodge. Even though the track was tortuous and the vehicle appeared to be full of leeches, it was still better than walking.

Next morning we couldn't go straight into the reserve as there was a reliable site outside that we needed to visit. Here our guide was unable to locate the Serendib Scops Owl but we had no trouble seeing Sri Lanka Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush, Sri Lanka Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Spurfowl and Slaty-legged Crake although the light levels were low.

Sri Lanka Spurfowl

Slaty-legged Crake

Sri Lanka Junglefowl

Then, it was back in the jeep to head up to the reserve proper. The clouds were already drifting down amongst the trees and rain threatened.

Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush

Sri Lanka Tree Nymph

There were a number of interesting plants, including the below undentified orchid and a species of pitcher plant.

The rain held off until after midday, but once it started, there was a complete deluge. This is called a rainforest for a reason. We shared an umbrella and walked down to the starting point rather than risk the jeep journey on a track that would be awash. Of course, leeches are also more active in wet conditions.

The path becomes a river.

Back at Blue Magpie Lodge, once the rain eased off, we watched birds in the garden while pondering how we might pick up on a few endemics that we had still failed to connect with.

Legge's Flowerpecker - female

Yellow-fronted Barbet

Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot

Pale-billed Flowerpecker

Lakshma agreed to take us back to the park office first thing, where the Magpies are seen regularly in the early morning. We also hoped to see White-faced Starling.

Dusky Palm Squirrel

Yellow-browed Bulbul

We left for breakfast knowing that there was no chance of seeing these birds now. Sri Lanka Blue Magpie was particularly gaulling since in addition to staying at a lodge named for this bird, its image also appeared on the cover of the guide book that has accompanied us on our travels.

After a breakfast of oat cakes, pancakes and marmalade  we packed our things at set off for Columbo via the Talangama Wetland. Here we found that there was nothing new for us to see - it would have been a good place to start, but made a slightly lack lustre ending to our tour.

Grey-headed Swamphen

Common Tiger and Blue Tiger

Open-bill Storks

Pheasant-tailed Jucana, male and female

We carried on to the Mount Lavinia Hotel expecting that there would be no new species for our last full day in Sri Lanka. We did see some terns just off the beach and two more species, Roseate and Little, was added.

House Crows congregated in the palms between the hotel and the beach and these and the terns were the last birds that we had chance to watch. 

House Crows

Next day there was nothing on the itinery but to brave the Colombo traffic and be sure to make the airport on time.

View towards Colombo across the crow proofed balcony.