A round up of our bird ringing activities (all birds ringed under licence from the British Trust for Ornithology with schedule one authority where appropriate), birding trips and other wildlife sorties within the UK and whenever we get chance, elsewhere.
Back in the very wintery UK and back to erecting nets everytime we run a ringing session. With a little gentle encouragement MRB and Margaret agreed to meet up for a catch up and hopefully to ring a few birds. We arranged a meet time of 7am but were disappointed by how light it was by that stage, no chance of targetting Redwings leaving roost. It's surprising how much difference the latitude plus time difference makes as we were used to taking the first round at 8am while the light was still quite dim.
We had 5 nets up and captured mainly tits with a few Goldcrests. A Jay was the least often caught species.
Total: 11 (21)
Robin - 1 (1)
Blackbird - 0 (1)
Goldcrest - 3 (2)
Long-tailed Tit- 2 (8)
Blue Tit - 1 (6)
Great Tit - 3 (3)
Jay - 1
We continue with standard ringing until the last date of the season so just two more days to go until we can use tape lures during the morning. Numbers are dropping, but this morning we managed to catch a Fieldfare.
The stragglers are still coming through, with singles of Robin and Goldcrest ringed today. The leading species at present is Mealy Redpoll as we have been managing to tape small numbers after standard ringing is completed. The males are so smart with their 'raspberry ripple' good looks.
2k+ male Mealy Redpoll
Ringing Totals: 32 (7)
Rødhals / Robin – 1 (3) Sjagger / Fieldfare - 1 Solsort / Blackbird – 0 (1) Fuglekonge / Goldcrest– 1 (1) Blåmejse / Blue Tit - 2 Musvit / Great Tit – 0
Stor Gråsisken / Mealy Redpoll – 26
Lille Gråsisken / Lesser Redpoll – 1
Lille Dompap / Western Bullfinch – 0 (1)
In the afternoon we tried for Mute Swan again, catching one bird, in need of food and with a superficial wound on the neck. The bird was relocated to the harbour where it was more sheltered and could feed on grass.
Efforts in the evening focused on trying for owls ( we failed), also a short check at Birkamose beach for waders. Again, there were none (not surprising as beaches are regularly walked by dog walkers and people searching for Baltic amber, even after dark) and we resorted to for looking for amber and fossils along the tide line.
Beach combing finds from our stay here including belemnites, an echinoid
and amber (not found by us but a gift from Hans' own collection)
After a couple of quiet days it seems that migration is now back on. We recorded a few species that we've not seen for a few days, Greenfinch and Blackcap included, then found there were still some largish flocks of Redpoll around later in the day when we could play tapes. We caught over 200 Mealys, mostly in the afternoon with an Arctic amongst them.
Arctic Redpoll - faint streaking on flanks
Small eye, nasel hairs covering top portion of smaller, neater beak
Unmarked lower back and exhibited tendency to 'fluff up' when held
Undertail coverts barely marked with no strong marking on longest
covert as in Mealy Redpoll
A Kestrel turned out to be the guilty party when a retrapped Robin was killed in the net.
The last day of the ringing season and we end on a respectable 46 new. Again, leading species was Mealy Redpoll, 18 of which over half came to tapes in the afternoon. There was also a small party of tits comprising 13 new Blue tits, two Coal tits and another Swedish control Blue Tit.
1k male Coal Tit (Sortmejse)
Tomorrow we will be able to tape throughout the morning and plan to try for thrushes and Redpoll from first thing. We'll see how that goes.
In the meantime the quiet rounds have given me chance to appreciate the site as autumn rapidly advances towards winter.
Less leaves equals more lighthouse
The trees look like this, but still leaves end up in the nets
Alder, the Redpolls' favourite
RingingTotals: 46 (10)
Engpiber / Meadow Pipit - 3 Rødhals / Robin – 0 (1) Solsort / Blackbird – 2 (4)
Sortmejse / Coal Tit - 2 Blåmejse / Blue Tit - 13 (3 including a Swedish control) Grønsisken / Siskin - 2
Gråsisken / Common Redpoll - 1
Stor Gråsisken / Mealy Redpoll – 18
Lille Gråsisken / Lesser Redpoll – 2
Dompap / Eurasian Bullfinch - 2 (1)
Stor Dompap / Northern Bullfinch - 1 (1)
We were able to use tapes this morning as standard has now finished. It was very windy, with a clear bright sky. Needless to say catching was poor as birds prefer to get on with migrating in these conditions. Playing Fiedfare was a total of a failure, Redwing produced just one bird and Redpoll produced only 34 birds from the start and end of the day.
A late Blackcap was, well late!
Ringing totals: 38 (3)
Rødhals / Robin – 1 (1)
Solsort / Blackbird - 1
Vindrossel / Redwing - 1
Munk / Blackcap - 1 Blåmejse / Blue Tit - 0 (1)
Musvit / Great Tit - 0 (1)
Stor Gråsisken / Mealy Redpoll – 30
Lille Gråsisken / Lesser Redpoll – 4
The afternoon was spent birding around the lakes at Lolland.
Smew, Goldeneye and Red-crested Pochard
were all seenat this location.
Great White Egret record shot
Marsh Tit regularly visit the table to be fed.
We have processed over 1200 Goldcrest in the past six weeks,
but apparently there are still some left in Denmark
Our last full ringing day at Gedser and birds continued to make their way south. There were quite a few Redpolls around today with 71 Mealys captured and a Belgian ringed 2k+ male.
We also identified our third Arctic Redpoll of our spell here.
Here the two birds show differences between bill and eye structure
Hans had a group at the tip for the morning and they came to see these two birds in addition to a Redwing, Greenfinch and Meadow Pipit.
Our final chance to ring although we have a ferry to catch and need to leave by noon. There is also the small matter of packing and leaving the house tidy. Limiting ourselves to 6 nets we tried Meadow Pipit ( and Lapland Bunting, you need a bit of imagination sometimes) on one group with Redpoll on the other. We took an initial catch and were processing those birds when we noticed another flock of 60 or so birds. We couldn't take the chance of having too many to process in a short time so turned off the tape, closed the two empty nets and extracted what was already there. Within another 15 minutes or so the flock had increased to closer to 200. It was cloudy and birds were chosing to stay rather than push on across the Baltic. It would have been a good catching opportunity if we'd had the whole day.
Engpiber / Meadow Pipit - 2
Rødhals / Robin – 1
Bogfinke / Chaffinch - 1
Stor Gråsisken / Mealy Redpoll – 59
Lille Gråsisken / Lesser Redpoll – 9
So comes to an end our autumn at Gedser. It was quite different to 2015, no huge number of Goldcrest, although it was a Blue Tit year the 282 on one day wasn't so bad and the small parties of 15 to 20 birds that wandered through ever so often were what helped keep the figures at a reasonable level on quite a few days. It was nice to finish with the Redpolls - three Arctics were very good in a total of less that 1000 birds over October and November. I definitely know what to look for to identify these birds, and find the cline of Mealy through to Lesser equally interesting.
If we were to go again we might try August/September but not for more than a couple of weeks as there is a lot of disturbance with so many beds in the loft and very early starts - perhaps we're beginning to get a bit old for communal living.
To summarise, Gedser is known for large numbers of certain species in the autumn. Robin and Goldcrest in September/October and Redpolls later with ocassional years when Blue Tits move through in high numbers. The rarities are more common in spring, although we captured a Red-flanked Bluetail there in 2015 (and it arrived on a high volume day for Robins).
We were very aware that we could get a busy day, later than usual, as numbers were down earlier in the year. As it turned out there were not extremely high numbers of Goldcrest although they did move through until later in November than usual. Robins were definitely down in numbers while Redpoll numbers were well below that of the bumper numbers in 2017.
Robin Oct 595, Nov 48
Goldcrest Oct 762, Nov 521
Blue Tit Oct 780, Nov 80 (maximum 282 in a day)
Mealy Redpoll Oct 1, Nov 776
Lesser Redpoll Oct 7, Nov 98
Arctic Redpoll Oct 0, Nov 3
Other species that pass through in decent numbers in October and November were Wren 138/27, Dunnock 87/6 (with 206 already processed in September).
Fewer birds around today although the Goldcrests needed a lot of attention to avoid becoming chilled in the nets and rounds every 30 minutes was increased to each 20 minutes. They, and some Redpoll gave us something to do in the morning although a mist that developed after mid-day put a stop to catching through the afternoon.
Highlight of the day, a Northern Long-tailed Tit bearing ring VP65608 (MOSKVA).
1K+ Nordlig Halemejse with ring VP65608 MOSKVA
Double checking the details
Ringing Totals: 90 (22)
Gærdesmutte / Wren – 2 (1) Rødhals / Robin – 1 (2) Solsort / Blackbird – 0 (1) Fuglekonge / Goldcrest– 28 (15) Halemejse / Long-tailed Tit - 5 (1 control Moscow) Blåmejse / Blue Tit - 1 Musvit / Great Tit – 0 (1)
Træløber / Treecreeper – 1 Grønirisk / Greenfinch - 1 Grønsisken / Siskin - 2
Stor Gråsisken / Mealy Redpoll – 39
Lille Gråsisken / Lesser Redpoll – 6
Stor Dompap / Northern Bullfinch – 3 (1)
Lille Dompap / Western Bullfinch – 1
A misty start that left everything very, very damp. Condensation on the nets that transferred readily to any early birds that we did catch.
Hawthorn branches laced with dew drops
November Blackberry blooms
Late autumn, Fuglehus
So, a fairly quiet morning that was saved by a boost of Redpolls tape lured in the afternoon. Goldcrests are reducing now and quite a lot of Bullfinches are passing through.
Here's one we ringed earlier.
Meadow Pipits caught in the field nets and
walk-in traps help to inflate the total ringed.
Barnacle Goose flocks still frequent the freshly harvested beet fields.
In the evening we went to Birkemose to see if we could find waders before the light failed.
There were 7 Sanderling on the beach, but they left just before the light failed completely and we suspect they roost on the sandbar just off shore, explaining why we haven't had success with lamping on the beaches.
A dull, cold morning that didn't improve when the mist closed in at around midday. Tapes were allowed too late, letting the flocks of Redpoll, Fieldfare and Waxwing avoid the draw to the lures.
Numbers were low and would have been lower still were it not for the Meadow Pipits and a couple of Tree Sparrows captured as they exited their nest box. One bonus, a Twite was caught with the Meadow Pipits. The last Twite here were three that we captured on the field edge at the tip, in 2015.
1st year male Twite
Ringing Totals: 50 (11)
Engpiber / Meadow Pipit - 23
Jernspurv / Dunnock - 2 (1) Rødhals / Robin – 3 (4) Solsort / Blackbird – 4 (2) Fuglekonge / Goldcrest– 1 (1) Blåmejse / Blue Tit - 8 (1) Musvit / Great Tit – 1 Nordlig Træløber / Northern Treecreeper – 1 Skovspurv / Tree Sparrow - 1 (1) Grønirisk / Greenfinch - 1
Bjergirisk / Twite - 1
Stor Gråsisken / Mealy Redpoll – 1
Lille Gråsisken / Lesser Redpoll - 2
Stor Dompap / Northern Bullfinch – 1
Lille Dompap / Western Bullfinch - 0 (1)
Windier, cloudy and birds flying overhead in the morning. Nothing about by the time we could use tapes, see totals, enough said.
So, we decided to go for a drive in the afternoon and came across a group of Mute Swan at the harbour. Chris gave hand catching a go and caught up two of the birds while I tried to record the number of a ringed bird.
AH3752 from Poland, - pale legged a truely Polish bird.
The Danish rings have a different fastening method to those in the UK simply folding one
metal end over the other. J6952 & J6953 marked and released 14:15hrs.
It was raining when the alarm went off at 6am and continued to do so for a couple of hours. Being that standard could begin within two hours of the set start time and we did not drop until 9:15am with the sky threatening more rain, we selected a few favoured nets and played Redpoll, Meadow Pipit and Long-tailed Tit (as there were Blue and Great Tits in the garden).
The tape lures weren't a great success, nothing coming to LTT or Redpoll until a large flock arrived around lunch time as it clouded up again. We got just two Meadow Pipits and 24 Mealy Redpoll. A party of Northern Long-tailed Tit passed through, completely ignoring the playback but finding another net all the same. Meanwhile, we caught a single new Robin and retrapped the last three Goldcrest seen over the last couple of days. There was another Swedish control Blue Tit to add to our others.
At the end of the day we took a turn around the harbour (unable to follow our usual route due to a Politi cordon where there had been a murder, in one of the houses, over night). Kroghag (pronounced Crowhay) was very peaceful and here we managed to see some Bearded Tits although we failed to see a Snow Bunting that had been there the day before. I also found a small piece of Baltic amber washed up on the beach.
Fresh water lake, Kroghag
Gedser seems like a sleepy place where nothing much happens. We've been quite keen to keep the house secure, difficult when a lot of people are staying here, especially at night. Last week it was cars racing the road to the tip that ended with a car 300m into the field on Saturday night, having rolled several times. I think we're absolutely right to take our 'better safe than sorry' attitude and lock our doors.
The car didn't seem to have its lights on (Chris couldn't see it in the field just after it crashed), perhaps some bizarre game driving by the beam of the lighthouse?
The season really is drawing to a close now and birds in the garden are scarce. There have been some Bullfinches through and we've done a review of those already done, changing a few to Dompap rather than stating Stor (Northern) or Lille (Western). We suspect there are some that can't be identified either way without DNA.
Stor Dompap just after release
There were some Redpolls caught leaving the roost, a lot of retraps and the rain started before the end of standard. However, we continued to the end of the session, there being very few smaller birds around now.
At last, some decent weather for netting birds. The gales of
recent days has blocked small migrants from travelling to their wintering
grounds and the let up in the weather today allowed them to get moving again.
We knew we had a decent number of birds from calls heard while setting the
nets, Goldcrests featuring heavily.
A return to windy conditions and migration reduced as we expected. There were a few more crests and it looks as though this is the latest movement of Goldcrests for a few years. Sometimes there are no more than 10 or 20 in the whole of November and we are already above 200.
We saw a Long-eared Owl when we arrived back on site at about 8:30pm - set nets, played the tape but still no owl capture!
Another good day! Goldcrests are arriving late this year and there were another hundred or so today. We caught Siskins and Meadow Pipits in decent numbers, and our fourth Great Grey Shrike of the autumn.
Great Grey Shrike, juvenile still with faint barring on chest as
well as retained greater coverts, fourth GGS of the autumn.
Another Fieldfare - we saw a flock of approx 200 leave for
Germany on the evening of the 1st but there are still some around.
Today was a little windier and colder. The morning was a slow but as cloud built up, birds began coming through in the late morning. After standard ringing we were able to play audio lures and attracted in quite a lot of Redpoll including an interesting 1st year female and good candidate for Arctic. Having not seen that species in the hand, we've sent off images to someone 'in the know' who has confirmed that this is in fact Carduelis exilipes.
Other highlights of the day. more Northern Long-tailed Tits and some Northern Bullfinch. Also a Swedish ringed Blue Tit.
Northern Long-tailed Tit
The weather forecasts a few days of low wind and we'll see whether that encourages birds here or sends them straight overhead on to Germany.
This really is developing into a quite unusual autumn, most likely due to the good weather in the summer that extended throughout most of October. Goldcrests are moving later than usual and we processed in excess of 100 again today bringing the total for the year so far to 1256.
Surprise of the morning was a Black Redstart.These are caught here in small numbers each year, perhaps 10 to 15 birds, but there have been no November captures in the last few years.
The first two rounds revealed a fresh
crop of crests. There was a great deal of calling from Chaffinch and Brambling
but as usual we watched them disappear towards the tip. There was also success
with Redpolls as a tape lure was played in the afternoon, but the thrushes that
were on site yesterday were mostly long gone. Later in the day a Kestrel was
2K+ male Kestrel
We were pleased to catch Blue Tit DB43031 and Mealy Redpoll DB81947, both
carrying rings issued by the Riksmuseum, Stockholm scheme.
Mealy Redpoll male
We were treated to a glimpse of one of
the garden’s smaller mammalian residents. I think it is a vole but I am happy
to be corrected if that’s incorrect.
We have seen Roe Deer and Hare in the
garden, also a Polecat one night in the field by the lighthouse but this is our
first small rodent.