Thursday 27 September 2018

Castricum, Netherlands - 26th & 27th September 2018

We are now on our way to Gedser for the autumn and are travelling through the Netherlands, via a visit to see Jan Visser who we have known since our escapades in Georgia four years ago.

We had a 5am start and dropped the nets, set in the dunes, in conditions that were really too windy for our liking. There were also clap nets in front of the ringing base.

Despite the less than favourable conditions we caught 95 birds, with just a Meadow Pipit coming from the clap nets. Highlights were 5 Yellow-browed Warblers, a Barred Warbler and a Firecrest.

One of five juvenile Yellow-browed Warblers

Juvenile Barred Warbler


Castricum ringing base

Resetting the clap nets

Totals: 93 (2)

Meadow Pipit - 1
Robin - 4 (1)
Redstart - 1
Blackbird - 2
Song Thrush - 10
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 4
Barred Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap - 60
Yellow-browed Warbler - 5
Firecrest - 1
Reed Bunting - 2 (1)

The following day was less windy and rather warmer. Birds were frequently seen making their way south, most too intent on their journey to be tempted down to the clap nets. There were more birds ringed than the previous day, most coming from the first two rounds.

Juvenile Short-toed Treecreeper

3M Firecrest

Yellow-browed Warbler 

Totals: 160 (4)

Meadow Pipit - 8
Grey Wagtail - 2
Wren - 0 (1)
Robin - 7
Dunnock - 4
Stonechat - 1
Song Thrush - 10 (1)
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Garden Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 114
Yellow-browed Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 5
Firecrest - 1
Short-toed Treecreeper - 0 (1)
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit - 3 (1)

Jan said it was a shame the morning had been a bit boring, but there's no doubt that the catch beats Wraysbury, Stanwell or Broadwater hands down! We were rather surprised that the Cetti's Warbler (their fourth this year) caused more excitement than the Firecrest. But then we haven't had breeding Cetti's at Stanwell very long and they were not recorded there before 2009.
Many thanks to Jan, Arnaud, Cees, Andre and Piet for making us so welcome at Castricum and to Jan and his wife for their hospitality.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Broadwater GP - 24th September 2018

Now that storms Ali and Bronagh have passed, we were finally able to get out and see what the birds are doing. We chose Broadwater, this being our most sheltered site. We spent around three hours there, catching 30 birds over half of which were departing summer migrants. well probably since we do get a fair number of wintering Chiffchaff locally. There were also birds to remind us that winter is just around the corner.
3M Goldcrest

3M Blackbird with retained juvenile feathers on head

After a spectacular summer, the latest reports seem to indicate that winter 2018-19 may be just as memorable, but for different reasons. Snow in the UK, lasting over a four month period is what's forecast - so we shall see. 

Total: 28 (2)
Dunnock - 1
Wren - 1
Blackbird - 1
Blackcap - 5
Chiffchaff - 11
Goldcrest - 3 (1)
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit - 4 (1)

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Stanwell Moor GP - 16th September & 17th September 2018

16th September 

We took our chance to get to Stanwell in advance of the arrival of Storm Ali and tried for a roost, followed by a morning session the next day.

It was already quite windy, although the reed-bed nets were relatively unaffected. There was no sign of any hirundines around the lake and our efforts for a roost came to nothing, as is so often the case. What never helps is that this night take off from Heathrow were to the west of the southern runway, bringing planes right over the ringing site, frequently drowning out any calls playing for the roost. The track net did rather better, capturing, for us, some migrant warblers, one being Chiffchaff KDH063 a juvenile that had been ringed at Wraysbury a few days earlier on the 12th of the month.

Totals:  13 (1)

Sedge Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 9
Chiffchaff -  2 (1)
Willow Warbler - 1

17th September

The next morning was really rather breezy. We only got one Reed Warbler from the reed-bed nets, the track net was absolutely dire, only two birds from there and one of those was the Sedge Warbler from the night before and even the ground trap for Meadow Pipits only got one. It was, without doubt, our worst September day ever. We saw very few birds and at the very least birds were keeping extremely low, avoiding the raised bund that normally channels their movements or perhaps there has been a mass clearout ahead of the high winds, it's difficult to be certain but we can at least say this was our worst result ever for an autumn migration date, anywhere!

Once we'd packed up, we took the opportunity to lower the height of the buddleias along the track net so when the birds do return they won't be encouraged to cross the netted track at too great a height.

Total: 3 (1)

Meadow Pipit - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 0 (1)
Chiffchaff - 1

Broadwater GP - 16th September 2018

This morning MRB and Margaret were joined by two members of Maple Cross ringing group. We pitched in to add a few extra nets as it seemed the ideal opportunity to do some chores on site while others could keep the birds ticking over. Amongst other things there was a reorganisation of the feed bins, resiting of one of the nest boxes, removal of a low hanging branch and the addition of some fixed ties.

The first bird extracted was a very interesting Blackcap.

The bird had only the faintest hint of a brown cap

Pale greyish brown tones on the wings, tail and mantle

Very pale throat and belly

The eye was also lacking in the usual brown tones. It was definitely aged 3 and we thought it was a female.

Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler were conspiculous by their absence, although Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were about, we saw no large flocks moving through the treetops. There were a few small bands of tits that  found our nets and Blue Tit was the leading species for the session, including some retraps spanning upto three years. Broadwater, the surrounding mature trees and the River Colne that passes the lake are very much favoured by our resident birds. The chances of flying into a window or being hit by a vehicle are minimal and with good feeding opportunities some birds survive long into adulthood.

Adult Bluetit, Y823775 ringed as a juvenile on 16/06/2015

Totals: 52 (11)

Dunnock - 1
Robin - 3
Wren - 1
Blackcap - 13
Chiffchaff - 11
Goldcrest - 1
Blue Tit - 16 (8)
Great Tit - 6 (1)
Treecreeper - 0 (2)

Wraysbury GP - 15th September 2018

The group covered both sides of the site this morning. We stayed on C6, having what can best be decribed as a bit of a Chiffy day. We managed just under 70 birds and although House Martins were present in large numbers over head, failed to entice any into the nets since it was just too clear and bright. There were a few Meadow Pipits but not many and only four of those were caught.

Meadow Pipit aged 3

We started off fairly well, although we did need to round up three ponies and see them back to their field. The birds went very quiet at around 10am and there was over two hours of nil return rounds until the last two pipits that were captured as we went to take the final nets down. 

Linnet 3M

The other team captured around 100 new birds and 10 or so retraps with the most numerous species being Blackcap. This is probably a reflection on the poor state of the bramble crop on the open area and sparse, low level cover at Wraysbury.

Totals: 58 (10) 

Meadow Pipit - 4
Robin - 4 (2)
Dunnock - 3 (2)
Blackcap - 13(1)
Chiffchaff - 22 (3)
Willow Warbler - 2
Goldcrest - 2
Blue Tit - 0 (2)
Great Tit - 4
Goldfinch - 1
Linnet - 2

North Norfolk - 13th & 14th September 2018

We spent two days in Norfolk, but we had other reasons for visiting than specifically birding as I would not chose a period of pro-longed SW to make a visit to the east coast and we were not expecting anything as a result.

13th September

As it was sunny weather we took advantage of it to look for Willow Emerald Damselflies.

As we headed towards Titchwell, we took a short detour off the A1065 to Hempton Common, finding an area of pools in a small area of the common next to the garden centre and The Bell, a nice looking Free House I had never found during previous visits to Fakenham. Willow Emeralds were hard to find initially but subsequently at least 5 were seen, with two pairs in tandem. A few other Dragonflies were present with Southern Hawker and Ruddy Darter, along with Speckled Wood, Comma and Small White.

Southern Hawker

Ruddy Darter

Willow Emerald Damselflies in tandem

Speckled Wood


Moving on to Titchwell, Willow Emerald Damselflies had also been reported previously in the car park, but we found several present around the main pond, including a pair in tandem and as we left found a single in the car park.

Birdwise it was quiet, with a few expected waders present, Avocet, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, a few Golden Plovers and Dunlin, a single Spotted Redshank, with the usual waders on the beach except there were no Sanderling seen. There was little evidence of migration, it was low tide so the sea was empty except a lone Arctic Skua heading north and a single Rock Pipit on the beach.

Willow Emerald Damselflies

Common Darter


Red-crested Pochard


14th September 

We initially dropped into Holkham Meals - Wells Wood which was not expected to reveal any hidden gems, but was rather more surprising in that even more of the paths used by birders looking for migrants in the woods had become overgrown in an area that was often good for finding interesting species, showing signs of a quiet autumn so far, and hopefully not a lack in coverage of the site.

Long-tailed Tit in one of the mixed species flocks seen,
mainly made up of Tits.

Cley was also quiet with the only waders present the usual species which were similar to those present at Titchwell the previous day, with only two Spotted Redshanks being anything out of the norm. A single Wheater was present and a raptor went through and low over the east bank, which initially on size we were expecting to be a Harrier, turned out to be a very large heavy, barrel bodied Goshawk.

Spotted Redshank

Black-tailed Godwits


Little Egrets

Afterwards an early pm visit to Stiffkey Fen was a pleasant brief diversion. Two Spoonbills were still present from the 33 seen am, 13 Greenshanks were present along with a Common Sandpiper and nine Pintail.


Thursday 13 September 2018

Wraysbury GP - 12th September 2018

Rain first thing meant a lie in and a late start. Under a cloudy sky there were no House Martins, but there were definitelty Meadow Pipits around and quite a lot of Chiffchaffs, feeding in the Hawthorns by the gate and making forays into the tall, dark red stems of some weeds plants that hasn't faired well against the weedkiller sprayed to kill the vetch.

We put up a couple of nets to try for Pipits (that could double for hirundines if the chance arose), two nets along the access track and three other singles. We stayed until about 2pm as the pipit catching was very slow going and most other nets were no longer catching well.

Meadow Pipit aged 3

Lesser Whitethroat aged 3

Total : 58 (7)

Meadow Pipit - 11
Robin - 3
Dunnock - 0 (1)
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap - 14 (1)
Chiffchaff - 23 (5)
Willow Warbler - 3
Goldcrest - 2
Blue Tit - 1

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Stanwell Moor GP - 10th September 2018

Made a leisurely start at Stanwell this morning. The main purpose of the visit was to make some alterations to the set up in the reed bed. As usual, the area seemed devoid of life so no nets erected there today, just a 'V' for Meadow Pipits (that failed to catch but there doesn't really seem to be much in the way of passage at present) and our usual two on the elevated track.

The wind was blowing straight along our normally excellent nets on the track, making them very visible. For every bird caught three of four were seen skipping over the top. We finished on 29.

Last bird of the day

Totals: 28 (1)

Robin - 2
Reed Warbler - 1
Blackcap -  16 (1)
Chiffchaff - 7
Willow Warbler - 1
Blue Tit - 1

Saturday 8 September 2018

Wraysbury GP - 6th & 8th September 2018

6th September

Now that the CES has been completed we ringed on the more sheltered area of Wraysbury. We wondered whether capture numbers might be better than our usual area as the blackberries are more extensive and in better condition than those growing on the area where weed killer has been used to try to kill off the vetch.

The numbers were about on a par with what we might have expected to catch on our usual area, but there was nothing especially unusual. As a bonus, we did catch a control Chiffchaff and Blackcap that was ringed earlier this summer at Stanwell Moor.

Juvenile Blackcap with aberant plumage showing particularly 
well in feathers of the rump and greater coverts.

Totals: 71 (3)

Robin - 1
Wren - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 5
Whitethroat - 1
Garden Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 51 (1)
Chiffchaff - 6 (1 control)
Willow Warbler - 2 (1)
Blue Tit - 1

8th September

We returned to our usual area of Wraysbury, deciding that we'd have a slightly later start than normal. On arrival there were hundreds of hirundines overhead, on some of the bushes and on the fence. Our plans to put six nets up in the usual places were immediately revised and a double and single were placed in the open with Swallow and House Martins playing. We then put up the three closest nets of our original plan.

The double began to catch and we then saw that all the birds coming in were House Martins. There was only the first capture and after that the birds moved higher and stopped coming to the nets. Half the catch came from the hirundine nets with the other half from the other three nets. It's always nice to break into triple figures.

This was a rare opportunity and two members of the other team from our group came over to get some experience of House Martin, in the hand.

House Martin aged 3

Lesser Whitethroat

Totals: 93 (8)

House Martin - 50
Robin - 1
Blackbird - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap - 20 (1)
Chiffchaff - 5 (4)
Willow Warbler - 4
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 6
Blue Tit - 1 (2)
Great Tit - 0 (1)

Friday 7 September 2018

Broadwater GP - 5th September 2018

The wind was a little strong and forecast to increase as the week progresses so we took the opportunity to work Broadwater with MRB and Margaret. The session wasn't anything special but 43 new birds and four retraps was a reasonable result. The most interesting bird was probably a retrap Chiffchaff for which we now have three primary moult scores, between 27th July and 5th September. Knowing how fast some birds complete the process, this one seems to be taking its time. There were also a couple of Reed Warblers, a Sedge Warbler and three Willow Warblers.

Reed Warbler aged 3

3F Goldcrest

Despite this being the best time of year at Broadwater, we still
struggle to get off the first sheet.

Totals:  43 (4)

Song Thrush - 1
Dunnock - 1
Wren - 1
Robin - 1
Reed Warbler - 2 
Sedge Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 17
Chiffchaff - 8 (1)
Willow Warbler - 3
Goldcrest - 2
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 5 (2) 
Great Tit - 0 (1)

Tuesday 4 September 2018

London Wetland Centre - 4th September 2018

A early pm visit in the hope of tracking down Willow Emerald Damselfly, which did not seem that promising as it was duller than expected, and after an hour and half without any luck, finally one on a leaf, to find the camera pick this minute to tell me the battery is now empty and I did not bring a spare, so a few phone camera shoots had to do, the only one seen. Quite a few Migrant Hawkers around, a few Common Darters and even less Common Blue Damselflies. Bird wise it was uninspiring with just a Garganey of note. There were a lot children around, some engaging in the sites activities, but many seemingly using it as a nice outdoor play area, with many nannies with them, making it rather loud in some areas, but the hides and more wild areas were oddly virtually 'child' free, even people free!

Willow Emerald Damselfly 

Common Darter 

Migrant Hawker

 Speckled Wood

Unidentified Spider

Monday 3 September 2018

Stanwell Moor GP - 3rd September 2018

Given the very low return from nets sited in the reedbed, we decided not to put them up today, opting instead for a  'V' formation for Meadow Pipits, a single 18m in an area where finches often feed, a new single 12m on the bank and our usual two nets on the ramp track.

We saw a few Meadow Pipits overhead but none came to the audiolure. We also tried for Swallow but the net caught nothing all morning.

The 18m single only caught one bird, no finches at all, just one Whitethroat and the 12m single did poorly too, catching two Chiffchaffs and two Blackcaps.

Just as well our trusty ramp nets failed to disappoint, catching all the other birds. The list has a nice spread of species, due to a number of singles recorded in the record sheet and as usual Blackcap numbers were well ahead of all other species.

3M Blackcap

Age 3 Reed Warbler

Age 3 Sedge Warbler

The closest we came to a capture in the mipit net - of course, it flew the wrong way.

 Total: 71                                                                                                                                               ]                                                                                                                                                                 
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 1
Reed Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap -  49
Garden Warbler - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 3
Blue Tit - 4
Great Tit - 2
Goldfinch - 2
Linnet - 2