Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 ends on a little crecca!

Sorry, one of Jane's!!

Unable to resist one last go before New Year I headed down to Ynyslas last night with Jane and Roy. It's amazing just how few birds there are around in this mild weather compared to this time last year, at least it means they are finding things a bit easier going this winter. We struggled to find anything to start with but eventually managed to catch 1 Woodcock, 2 Lapwings, 5 Snipe, 1 Skylark and this stunning (and very co-operative) male Teal. 

Could you just step on the scales for me a minute please?

2011 proved a cracking year in many respects,  just hope 2012 can follow in it's footsteps! Have a good one!

Things looking up for Montgomeryshire Barn Owls?

via Chris Giffiths 

Had a maintenance run around some of our owl boxes this month just to check they were all in good condition and to evict the squirrels. Things are looking up after last year's poor occupancy, several traditional sites, that have been empty for the past couple of years, were once again occupied. It also gave me chance to catch and ring 5 more adults. At another site, as I came down the ladder, I said to my mate Reading "blimey this one has a very brown front, just like the ones we ringed near Llanidloes" Soon after I realised it was ringed, my first capture of a ringed Barn Owl since getting my permit, and blow me it was one of the Llani ones from 8 miles up the road!! (Not the one shown though!)

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Exactly a year ago, bored with television and having eaten all the Christmas Quality Street I decided to take a night time walk to the top of our farm here in West Wales with a teenage relative to introduce him to woodcock ringing. Sadly earlier last year this young lad had lost his mother after a sudden illness and this was his first Christmas without her.

He was completely captivated when I managed to catch the only woodcock we saw that night and was thrilled to be able to ring it with me.

A short while after this he decided that he wanted to write an article for the junior section of the RSPB magazine about this experience, it was accepted and will be published in their January issue. He comes from a literary background and we all hope that he will be inspired by this early success to follow in his mother's footsteps and like her become a journalist.

How nice it was to be able to complete this story by calling him on Christmas day this year to tell him that I had received an email from Tony Cross informing me that this ring had been recovered from near to Saint Petersburg in Russia.

Double "hat-trick" on first visit

In an attempt to forget last night's horrors I thought I'd have a go at somewhere new!!! I obtained permission yesterday for some hill-land above Llanbadarn Fynydd (that's "thlan-bad-arn-vun-ith" - roughly!!). After parking the car (on some tarmac!!),  the first bird of the night caught was a Woodcock, followed quickly by a Jack Snipe and then a Snipe (bingo - a hat-trick!). Next was another Jack then another Snipe then another three Woodcock (a double hat-trick - not sure I've ever managed that before!) Conditions weren't ideal -  very windy, so will be very interesting to see what else turns up in future visits.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

In deep sh.... mud!!

Just to demonstrate that not everything always goes to plan!! Last night Paul, Marc Hughes and myself had a trip up to Tregwynt to see what was about and to try lamping Goosanders on a lake Paul had just obtained permission for. The night started badly when a female Goosander, proving just too strong for Paul's landing-net, snapped the pole in two and made a successful bid for clear-water along with about 15 others!! Things improved briefly then, when we caught this cracking male Barn Owl.

A bit of very rash and show-off, off-roading, in a toy 4x4 followed, which resulted in my car being buried right up to it's axels in the middle of a very wet grass field (well bog, actually) in the middle of absolutely nowhere!! No end of pushing and shoving was going to move it (some of us did try!) so an emergency call to Terence Lambert at 10.30pm saw Paul and Marc off home to their beds.  I got to spend another 10 hours trying to keep warm before being dragged out backwards by Tom Jones (no, not that one!) in his brand new (but no-longer clean and shiny) tractor!

Many thanks indeed to both Terence and the Jones's for their immediate and good-natured assistance! Never has a hot cup of tea been so welcome!

Photos to follow no doubt!!!

Just received, Marc in mud!  Not sure that was his original footwear though!!!

May be more yet?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A last crack at Crychan before Christmas

The forces were out last night on a last pre-Christmas attempt to ring a few more Woodcock. I headed down to Doldowlod in near horizontal sleet only to draw a blank, no Woodcock seen let alone caught! Afterwards I met up with Jane, on her way south for Christmas, and we went down to Crychan. The sleet was slightly less horizontal there, and there were loads more birds. Saw at least 23 Woodcock and caught 13. Despite catching 18 out of 19 here a few weeks ago, 10 of them were un-ringed, two were re-traps from earlier this winter and one was a last-year's retrap - clear demonstration that there is a constant to-and-fro of birds on these sites throughout the winter. Might make 500 yet!

Not your normal view of a woodcock, and amazing just how reflective the tail spots are!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

For the record, the ones we couldn't ring!

Unfortunately our permission in Morocco, which took almost 12 months to sort out, was specific to Ring Ouzel so all additional species were identified, admired and released unringed! - here are a few "admiration shots".  We will hopefully be altering the permission for next year to include all species (except Mouflon perhaps!)



 Sardinian Warbler

Tristram's Warbler

Rock Bunting


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Ouzels and a few other familiar faces, well kind of!

Just returned from a week attempting to catch Ring Ouzels in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco with Mick Green and Paddy Jenks as part of a long-running study of the relationship between Ouzels and Juniper being conducted by Ecology Matters. We saw loads of birds but catching proved pretty tricky with birds not doing the same things from one day to the next and there being seemingly no end of suitable habitat, all at fairly high altitude, and pretty much uniform! Did find one brilliant site for catching, but frustratingly it was a water hole 100 yards inside a fenced Mouflon Reserve with no access (proves that no matter where you are the grass IS always greener on the other side!!). Total catch of Ouzels for 6 days netting was 9 birds! Hopefully learnt a few tricks that can be employed by Team B who are going out again in January.

Right then, where shall we set the nets!?

It was very interesting seeing how some of the resident birds we are familiar with here varied slight over there.

The Blue Tits were a lot brighter with a much darker cap

The Coal Tits were much darker on the breast and "plus grand".

The Hawfinches were slightly darker overall and the Chaffinches were, well, just much nicer than ours!

In all 52 species were recorded and 19 species were caught including Tristram's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Firecrest and Rock Bunting.

If anyone sees a Ring Ouzel this coming year please check it for colour-rings. The odds aren't great but those 9 have got to go somewhere!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Egrets North and South

Two recent sightings of colour-ringed Little Egrets from the colony at Bangor have come from either end of Wales. The bird shown below was photographed by Tony Pope on 3rd December at The Spinnies, not very far from where it was ringed on 5th June 2011.

White L, Yellow V, ringed on the same day however, was seen on 19th November 2011 by Dave Astins at Hook, Pembrokeshire 173 kms SSW.

Off to Morocco with Mick Green and Paddy Jenks for a week catching and colour-ringing Ring Ouzels (hopefully!) tomorrow. With any luck there will be some photos to post when we return!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Shortie completes the set!

Taking a Leafe out of Paul's book, I thought I'd have an early morning crack at Ceri myself this morning. Getting up at 4.00 am wasn't so bad, getting there was a bit more challenging. The higher roads were covered in black ice and a fresh sprinkling of hail - absolutely lethal!

Catching wasn't as good as I thought it might be given the conditions but I did manage another 4 un-ringed Golden Plovers and yet another Stock Dove (does it mention ground-roosting Stock Doves in BWP?). One last look in a favourite wet flush for Jack Snipe produced a Woodcock hunkered down in the rushes. As it spooked at the last minute an un-seen Short-eared Owl rose from about 6 foot away!! A quick imitation of a vole (sound rather than appearance!) drew the bird back in and after 3 heart-stopping failed attempts I finally managed to creep up and net it on the fourth.

A quick look in the Non-passerine Guide confirmed it as a young male

Not sure what you call a five thing hat-trick but have finally managed to ring all five regular breeding owls in one year.

Monday, 5 December 2011

400 Woodcock and counting!!

Whilst updating the ringing totals for 2011 so far I realise that we have just passed the milestone of 400 Woodcock ringed in a year, yep 400, that's nothing short of amazing!! And still the best month of the year left!!

My London-based sisters-in-law, Jane and Ange enjoying a close encounter with some unfamiliar nightlife.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The good run continues in to November.....

With a fantastic number of birds dazzled in October, I wondered if I had peaked too soon! Fortunately it would appear that the good run of birds is going to continue thoughout the winter with another (very) respectable number of birds dazzled in November. As you can see from the table below, the catches in both months were very simular. The two totals that have stood out for me so far are:

1) 5 Jack Snipe - it may not seem that many, but my guess it that it will probably be somewhere between 5%-10% of the total caught in Britain & Ireland in 2011.

2) 8 Woodcock - I would have expected to be well in to double figures by now. It's not even because I'm missing them, there just aren't many around here at the moment! Where are they all?

I can't wait to see what December brings - BRING IT ON!!

Worth waking up for!

With the moon now making the evenings/nights too bright to go dazzling, the only option now is to get up a few hour before sunrise and try then. Easier said than done! However this morning I was woken up around 06:00 by the rain hammering on my window, so I quickly got dressed and headed up to my ringing site near to home. Despite only having half an hour or so before it was too light to catch anything I still managed to catch 2 Golden Plovers and a Lapwing.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The elusive hat-trick.....

The conditions were near perfect for dazzling (heavy drizzle and windy) last night so I set off to the hills with high hopes of a good catch - I wasn't to be disappointed.

At my first site near Llanerfyl the birds were a bit jumpy, but I still managed to bag 1 Golden Plover, 1 Woodcock and another Jack Snipe (my 6th of the winter - where are they all coming from??)

Not satisfied with what I had caught I then headed up to the the Ceri ridge way where I knew of a reliable fields for Snipe. Within 5 mins or so I had caught one (JACKPOT - the elusive hat-trick achieved - Snipe, Jack Snipe and Woodcock), shortly followed by another 4 more! The night was rounded off with another 4 Golden Plovers.

A Good night all round!!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Nearly perfect!!

Last night was a dazzlers dream, very dark, a bit wet and a bit windy - the sort of night most sane people would stay in and watch the box!  That not applying, I headed off down to my site adjacent to Crychan Forest near Llandovery.  I've been catching Woodcock here for the last three winters and getting a good number of birds. Last night was a near perfect score, the only birds seen were 19 Woodcock of which I managed to catch 18 - I know the one I missed had a foreign ring on it, I just bloody know it did!!

The 18 birds caught included 1 last winter re-trap, 1 same night re-trap, 6 new adults and 10 new juveniles.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Beginners luck..........

Myself and Char (a first time dazzling for her) took a trip up to the Ridge-Way this evening to see what birds were about feeding in the fields. On arriving I wondered if we had made the wrong choice as the mist was very thick and the wind was very strong (at times Char was struggling to stand up!!). But in true fashion we soldiered on! It was a very steady start only catching 1 snipe and 1 lapwing in the first hour! But then we struck a bit of luck, with some of the birds finally deciding to sit! We managed to finished off with a total of 9 birds - 3 (+1) golden plovers, 3 lapwing, 1 snipe and the last bird to be caught (another!!) jack snipe!!

Not bad for a first catch!!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A pair of Jacks....

Last night myself and Tony met up on the Ceri Ridgeway to make the most of the dark evening. Another good catch was had with the highlight being 2 Jack Snipe! Other birds caught included 10 Golden Plovers, 1 Lapwing, 1 Snipe, 1 Fieldfare and another Stock Dove!!

Woodcock Control 2

Last night Terence Lambert took an hour to walk a local hillside neat Llanbrynmar to see if there were a few woodcock to ring. This is an unusual woodcock site being pretty steep faced rather than the normal hill top location. The first bird he caught was already ringed (EP94287) This woodcock was ringed by myself whilst being trained by Tony Cross on his Crychan site near Llanwrtyd Wells on 9/3/08. It was an adult bird when ringed making it at least 5 years old, our longest lived retrap so far!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Woodcock Control

Andrew Hoodless and I spent a few hours woodcock ringing near to Lledrod on 18th Nov. the second of the 5 birds we caught that night was already ringed. It was with great excitement that I discovered that was not one of my rings. On making a few phone calls the next morning I discovered that it had been ringed by Arfon Williams near to Llanrhystud three nights earlier and that he retrapped it the following night on the same field. It seem that this juv having arrived on the coast took fright at the Irish Sea and decided to have a think about it on dry land. The route from Llanrhystud to Lledrod takes in the Wyre Valley, perfect habitat for daytime roosting and night time feeding.

Last Thursday Dr Andrew Hoodless, the UK woodcock expert came to Llanilar to train members of the Woodcock Network on how to fit geolocators. Paddy Jenks, Wendy James, Richard Dobbins and Mike Sherman, came up for the night to see how it was done. It was amazing how we all use different nets, I was amazed that Richard and Wendy have managed so well using just a 2 mtr pole....respect!!!!
The night was a great success with 11 woodcock caught and everyone had a good chance to try fitting a radio tag, a substitute for the geolocator as we are waiting for the geolocators to come from the manufacturers. The design of these, a leg loop harness, are the same as for the geolocators so it was good practice for removing then too.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

More Woodcock and a Nightjar control!!

Having finally sorted computer problems and caught up a bit on overdue jobs I actually managed to get out and do a bit of ringing again this weekend (first time in over a fortnight, almost unheard of!!).  Four Woodcock caught at Crychan on Friday night and another seven tonight near Bwlch-y-Sarnau. As Owen posted earlier most of them were first-year birds so it looks like they had a good breeding season on the continent.

Latest batch of recoveries from BTO included a Bangor Little Egret ringed on 5th June and sighted on Hilbre Island on 17th September.

....and the first ever control by another ringer of one of our Nightjars. A juvenile ringed on 26th July 2010 near Resolven, Neath was controlled as an adult female by Alan Lowe on 29th June 2011 at Ynyshir, Rhondda Cynon Taff,  25 km from where it was reared.  Not bad but one from sub-Saharan Africa would have been OK too!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Quality not Quantity

Only 3 birds caught this evening, thankfully they came in the shape of 2 Woodcock and this very smart Jack Snipe!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Frustrating Moon!

Frustrated by a full moon, I decided to get out early to catch before moonrise at 20.15. Counted 30 but only caught 5 as they were very jumpy. A lot of the birds I saw were in odd places in small groups near to hedges and sheltering out of the wind. It left me wondering if these were migrant flocks unfamiliar with the area. 4 of the 5 were juveniles.

Friday, 11 November 2011

A steady start to the month!!

With the moon not being very helpful at the moment (other than bringing new birds in), catching has been very few and far between! 3 'visits' to my north monts site have produced only 4 catches - 2 Golden Plovers, 1 Fieldfare and 1 Skylark. Ironically the Skylark was a re-trapped bird that I ringed in the same place 5 weeks ago! What's it still doing there??

Roll on the new moon.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Fortune favours the brave!

After my last visit to my ringing site on Sunday when I saw only one woodcock I was sure of only one thing... that I would get wet. However my efforts were rewarded with 14 woodcock seen and 9 ringed..... 8 of these were juveniles.

With a moon and calmer weather forecast from the weekend onwards we should see a lot more woodcock arriving soon.

October! Who'd of thought?

Generally when you think of going dazzling on the hills, you think about starting mid to late November (usually when the majority of wintering Woodcock are in). But this year myself and Tony decided to give October a try, mainly targeting Golden Plover as not many of these get ringed in Britain!! It started off very slowly, just getting the odd Pipit or Skylark on each 'session', but by the time the full moon was here, birds were dropping in, even Woodcock!! With the moon disappearing for the last week and a half we put in a big effort to try and be out every night mainly concentrating on 2 known 'stop-off sites' for the Plovers as they will not hang around up there for long! Our efforts payed off!

Catches were as follows:

Hopefully now with a good number of Golden Plovers ringed, as they start to head to the coast for winter, the odd bird will get recovered and help us understand more about who goes where, and maybe why??

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Lapwings join the 'party'....

I caught my first two Lapwings of the winter at my Woodcock site near Llanerfyl this evening. They didn't hang around for very long on the hills last winter (presumably due to the weather), so it would be nice to have a few more goes at them before they disappear again!

A Snipe was also caught.

The past week has seen a steady increase in migrant woodcock arriving in West Wales. Apart from the single bird reported previously on this blog and one that I ringed on my site near Aberystwyth on Oct 19th it has remained quiet until the night of the 26th when I saw 10 and ringed 6.

Of the 21 ringed by our Woodcock Network members so far this autumn the vast majority have been juvenile, this repeats a trend noticed over previous autumns.

It has often been stated that woodcock migrate on a full moon, the 31 that arrived on North Ronaldsay on the night of Oct 25th say not!

A rich seam indeed!!

We are having continued success dazzling Golden Plovers on the hills around Ceri Forest. Last night myself and Shropshire ringer,  Paul Ashworth, ringed 10 more along with a Lapwing and a Fieldfare. On a couple of nights earlier in the week Paul Leafe and I caught a total of 26 Golden Plover, 14 Fieldfares, 2 Snipe, 1 Woodcock and a Stock Dove! That's over 50 Golden Plovers in October alone - madness!! Seriously contemplating a colour-ringing scheme now!

Adult Golden Plover wing, note old (paler) secondaries mixed with new

Adult GP tertials with "horse-shoe" of gold edged

Juvenile Golden Plover - all secondaries even age and just two pale spots on tips of tertials

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ton-up and a juicy bonus!!!

Last night visiting Shropshire ringer, Alan Heath, Jane and myself headed down to Ynyslas to do a spot more drag-netting for Skylarks. Alan was keen to see the technique in action as the Shropshire Ringing Group are contemplating getting a net themselves and hitting the multitude of stubbles in the north of the county.

Drag-net in operation (hard to show in the dark mind!)

Numbers present are dropping a bit now, I guess birds are still pushing south, but we did manage to catch another 17 including 3 re-traps (two had gained weight and one had lost a bit).

A couple of the Skylarks caught appeared to have orange patches around their eyes and on closer inspection this appeared to be some sort of mite infestation? Not seen this before.

Not satisfied with our efforts at Ynyslas we headed over to Llanon. After a quick look along the foreshore north of the church, where we ringed a Golden Plover and a Black-headed Gull, we headed to the fields south of the town where we caught another 10 Skylarks (including 1 re-trap). This took the number caught in Ceredigion so far this autumn to over 100. We also had a very special early Christmas bonus from Lapland!!

This, as far as I know, is a ringing first for Ceredigion. Not many Lapland Buntings are caught in Britain, although 2010 was a very good year with 85 ringed throughout Britain and Ireland. To show just how unusual a year it was, only 20 were ringed in the previous 10 years! Certainly bought a smile to three people's faces and even elicited a bit of spontaneous "Lap" dancing (no hyphen!).