Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Curlew nest monitoring and protection is in full swing at the moment with several nests fenced and 50 eggs safely installed in incubators - fingers crossed for a good hatch.
Here is a link to our current Curlew Cam nest in a silage field in South Shropshire, enjoy it while you can!
Monday, 21 May 2018
The Woodcock that winter in Wales are mostly winter visitors from the continent and we have had many recoveries from our targeted ringing of this species over the past few years to show where exactly they come from. This May though has seen an exceptional rash of Russian recoveries, eight in total, including what is probably the furthest reported movement ever for a BTO-ringed Woodcock at 6,267kms. This massive movement was made by a bird ringed on the University Farm at Trawscoed near Aberystwyth on 4th January 2017 and recovered on 13th May 2018 50km north of Krasnoyarsk, Russian Federation. As can be seen from the map below that is north of Mongolia and about halfway through China!!
These recoveries are received with mixed emotions, on one hand they yield important data on Woodcock movements and hunting pressures but on the other they are all shot birds so will not be making any return journeys! Should you be a shooter reading this, next time you raise your barrel at a flushed Woodcock just take a couple of seconds to wonder (in both senses of the word) how far it has flown to be in your sights, hopefully a couple of seconds should be just long enough!!
The final Russian resting spots of eight Welsh-ringed Woodcock
All foreign recoveries of BTO ringed Woodcock up to the end of 2016
Robinson, R.A., Leech, D.I. & Clark, J.A.(2017) The Online Demography Report: Bird ringing and nest recording in Britain & Ireland in 2016. BTO, Thetford (http://www.bto.org/ringing-report, created on 5-September-2017)
Wednesday, 21 March 2018
This time last year we were caught-up in a veritable Waxwing fest. A flock of up to 100 birds graced the local town of Newbridge-on-Wye for nearly 4 months. During their stay they were tempted down to strategically placed apples and all bar a few were caught and fitted with unique colour-ring combinations courtesy of Raymond Duncan of Grampian Ringing Group. During the process several colour-ringed birds were identified that had been ringed elsewhere including four from Scotland and one from Norway. Unfortunately, because the local apple supply was so good, few of the birds left us to wander further south where they might have been snapped by eager photographers as happened a few years back when they last invaded Mid Wales. Most stayed local until mid April and then presumably just headed straight back without being re-sighted or photographed on the way.
This winter sadly has been Waxwing-less - in Wales anyway. Despite this there has been some Waxwing action though as I have been batting poor quality photographs backwards and forwards with birdwatchers in Northern Norway and Northern Sweden in an attempt to identify colour-ringed individuals intent on hiding their identity. It seems not even the Beast from the East could tempt these birds to leave their usual Northern haunts this winter as we received not one but two reports of ex Mid Wales birds over 2,000km north of where they had spent last March in temperatures as low as -22 degrees C! Colour-ring sightings from this far north are almost unheard of, especially in mid-winter!
First to be reported was an adult female ringed by me at Newtown College on 4th February 2017 that was photographed on 30th January 2018 in Hammerfest, Finnmark, Norway by Bodil Brox some 2,431 kms NE
Adult female originally ringed at Newtown College and then re-sighted in Northern Norway
Then, amazingly, another adult female originally ringed in Ballater on 18th December 2016 by Grampian Ringing Group (but next photographed by me in Newbridge on 8th January 2017 - 539kms S) was reported on 25th February 2018 at Pitea, northern Sweden (2,025 km NE) by Sture Sandberg.
Adult female, ringed in Scotland, re-sighted in Wales
and then re-sighted again in Northern Sweden
These sighting, so far north and in mid-winter, are exceptional and well worth all the effort spent catching and colour-marking these beauties last winter.
Friday, 9 February 2018
Well the field season is really kicking off now!! Amy and I went down to Devon at the end of last month with Claire Mucklow (RSPB) and Peter Burgess (Devon Wildlife Trust) to help install some Chough nest boxes on National Trust property in the hope of encouraging them to spread from Cornwall or South Wales.
I then went straight to North Wales for a brilliant week with my Welsh Chough Project colleague Adrienne Stratford and old mate Tony Fox (Aahaus University) and his Danish colleague Henning Heldbjerg (Dansk Ornitologisk Forening) to GPS tag some inland-breeding Choughs. Using the 20 odd tags they have kindly lent us we are hoping, over the next few months, to trial a project to identify important feeding sites and investigate their foraging behaviour to try and determine why the inland Welsh population is in steep decline. Catching adult Choughs in snowy weather proved a challenge but we managed to catch seven and fitted tags to 6 known breeding adults.
Four of the birds were previously ringed by us as chicks and ranged from 8 to 18 years old this summer! Was great to meet up with some old friends both feathered and unfeathered!!
Saturday, 30 December 2017
Lamping has been a bit slow for me over the past few months and work has interfered generally with ringing hence the lack of posts. I have managed to get out a few times though and add to the number of Golden Plovers colour-ringed and have also had a good few Woodcock but there have been a few other more notable highlights.
Having not seen one all autumn I caught two Short-eared Owls in successive visits to the fields around the Leri Boatyard whilst in search of Lapwings.
Aged and sexed this as an adult female based on central tail feather pattern and overall buff background colour but happy to be corrected by anyone with more experience.
The yellow eyes of this 'Shorty' are distinctively different from the
orange eyes of the Long-eared shown below
Star bird without doubt though was the first Lapwing I managed to catch since we got approval to fit colour-rings from the IWSG. I noticed it had a ring on just as I dropped the net on it but was delighted to find it said Vogel Trekstation, Arnhem, Holland on it !
Monday, 13 November 2017
Above is a photo taken by Theuns Kruger of a flock of mixed terns and gulls in South Africa with Table Mountain pictured in the background.
Here is a photo he took at the same site on 8th November 2017 of one of our Sandwich Terns, Red KAL, ringed at Ynyslas as a juvenile on 25th August 2013. This individual has been identified on passage at Dawlish Warren by Lee Collins in four of the five years since it was ringed!
At a little over 9,900km I think this is the furthest flung recovery of a ringed bird I have ever had out of well over 150,000 birds ringed - many thanks indeed Theuns!
Thursday, 9 November 2017
On Tuesday afternoon I had a phone call from one of our Barn Owl landowner's near Aberystwyth to say that althought she new it was a bit unlikely she thought she might have young owls in the nest box again (I had already ringed a brood of 5 large chicks there in July). I knew that Chris Griffiths had ringed his final two broods of the year just a few weeks earlier so informed her that it was not that unlikely and that I would try and get over to check as soon as I could. Yesterday afternoon I checked the box and there was indeed a 2nd brood of 3 chicks which were duly ringed, weighed and measured and all appeared to be a good weight and in good health.
The smallest chick had primaries less than half emerged and it is quite likely that, barring bad weather, it might still be in the nest in December!
Whilst this might not be that unusual in the milder climate of southern England it is pretty unusual for the hill-farms of Mid Wales. I have only ever ringed a brood of Barn Owls in November once before and they were at a more advanced stage so this is the latest brood I have yet encountered. 2017 has been a quite remarkable breeding season for Barn Owl in Mid Wales though with Chris having ringed over 200 chicks himself and the group having ringing well over 300 between us.
Although my main target species when dazzling are Jack Snipe, Golden Plover and now Lapwing, I still try to catch whatever else I see while I'm out walking around my dazzling sites. Sometimes even the commoner species are a nice surprise, as was the case last night. While searching around one of my sites last night I noticed a very dark bird sat on the ground. I could see straight away that it was a Blackbird, but this one was from the 'continent'. I've only seen one or two of these larger Blackbirds (this one had a wing of 137mm) in the hand, so it was nice to get another good look at one.
Despite tucking him away 'safely' behind some vegetation, he preferred to be out in the open.
This Blackbird became the latest edition to my ever growing dazzling list from the hills in Mid Wales:
Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Great Snipe, Woodcock, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Ruff, Curlew, Purple Sandpiper, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared owl, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Buzzard, Kestrel, Grey Heron, Mallard, Teal, Stock Dove, Grey Partridge, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Wheatear, Starling, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush and Reed Bunting. A few that have unfortunately got away are: Snow Bunting, Wigeon and Pintail.
Just goes to show that there's plenty out there, it's just a matter of finding it!
Sunday, 22 October 2017
With strong winds and rain forecast over night, Silvia and I once again headed to a couple of our winter dazzling sites. As with Ophelia, Brian had seemingly 'forced' a lot of the birds to stay in more sheltered areas. Thankfully tho there were still a few birds to have a go at catching. The Golden Plovers were nicely spread out in the fields, and this made catching them 'easier'. I had just caught one of the Golden Plovers when I looked up and saw a different wader in the beam. I couldn't believe it, it was a Ruff (I know it's not the rarest of waders, but it's not something I've seen before while out wader dazzling in mid Wales). After giving me a little run around, I eventually managed to trap the bird. Although it appeared to be thin, it wasn't under weight so we ringed it and took some measurements before releasing it back into the sheep field.
It was a good night all round for catching with 30 other birds also trapped - 18(+3) Golden Plover, 5 Snipe, 1(+1) Jack Snipe, 1 Redwing and 1 Meadow Pipit.
Tuesday, 17 October 2017
Last night Silvia and I headed out on to the hills of mid Wales, to a couple of our regular 'winter wader dazzling' sites to see what Storm Ophelia would help us catch. As predicted, the winds were very strong. This had clearly effected the number of birds that were feeding out in the open in the fields. Thankfully there were still some birds to have a go at catching! One of our target birds for the night was Lapwing as the group had recently received permission to start colour ringing them, and the colour rings themselves had just turned up in the post! Despite seeing up to 7 Lapwings at the first site, I couldn't seem to get near enough to catch them so I was beginning to think that we would have to wait to kick start the groups new project. Thankfully at our second site there were a few more Lapwings to try and catch. I altered my approach to the birds, and bingo within the space of a few minutes I had trapped 2 Lapwings.
CA and CC became the first two Lapwing to have our colour rings put on.
All of the Lapwings we catch from now on will have a red plastic ring above the metal BTO ring on the right tarsus, and a white darvic on the right tibia with (for now) 2 letters in black writing. Since 2010 the group has ringed over 200 Lapwings without receiving a single recovery. With our coloring ringing projects on Golden Plover, Curlew, Whimbrel and Dunlin already giving us some fantastic recoveries, we're hoping that putting colour rings on Lapwings will increase our chances of recoveries, and hopefully help us identify where our birds are coming from, and why they are declining as a breeding species in this area!
Its been a very productive few days for dazzling, and in the last 8 nights Silvia and I have had some very good catches. Total birds trapped are - 54(+4) Golden Plover, 2 Lapwing, 1 Woodcock, 29(+2) Snipe, 22(+7) Jack Snipe, 1 Redwing and 10 Meadow Pipit.