Tuesday 28 February 2012


On Sunday night Owen Williams, Manuel Hinge and myself headed down to my Woodcock site near the Crychan Forest to try and catch a suitable candidate to fit another satellite tag to. Andrew Hoodless at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, who are funding the tags, stipulated that it should be a larger juvenile of good weight. About twenty birds were seen in all but they were all pretty flighty. With me still nursing a bad arm the catching responsibility fell into the capable hands of Owen. First bird caught was an un-ringed adult - not suitable. Luckily the second bird was a re-trap juvenile (originally ringed on 23rd Dec 2011) with a wing of 210 and a weight of 338g - absolutely spot-on!

Very much looking forward to following this bird back to its summer haunts in the Boreal forests of Russia or Scandinavia. It should head off sometime in the next couple of weeks. Will be posting a link in the near future.

Friday 24 February 2012


On the night of Feb 21st on my ringing site near Llanilar I fitted a Woodcock with the first of 10 geolocators that the Network have bought to help in a project to study Woodcock migration. It was decided to fit these on retrapped birds because they are more likely to be site loyal thus increasing the chance of catching them again over coming winters and downloading the data. This will give us an indication on migration routes and stopover times. I also made sure that the birds selected were fit and healthy of a good weight, two juveniles were released due to weights below 305gms
The geolocators are fitted using a Rappole style leg loop harness with the device sat between the scapulars on the synsacrum of the bird. The leg loop harness has proved to be a good system as six geolocators have been recovered a year after a trial in Cornwall with no adverse effects.

On Feb 23rd I also fitted a satellite tag to a Woodcock near Llanilar, again a large and healthy individual was selected. This is one of two Woodcock being sat tagged in Wales as a part of a wider UK study by The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The tags are made by Microwave Telemetry Inc and will transmit data via the Argos Satellite on a cycle of 10hrs on 24hrs off.

Over the coming year we will learn a lot more about the dynamics of Woodcock migration as we follow these birds on their journey to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Russia and then back here next autumn.

Thursday 23 February 2012


I finally got round to catching my nemesis last night! I've honestly lost count how many times I've seen Short-eared Owls this winter while out dazzling on the hills, and how many times I've got one or two paces from actually catching them!! Well the wait is now over, this handsome little chap decided to give up the chase last night and let me catch him, and all within 5 mins of getting out of the car. I made a quick phone call to dad upon catching him, as he only lives minutes away and I knew he'd be interested in seeing the Shortie. Despite him being speachless, I got the impression he was just as amazed as I was.

Amazingly this is the second Shortie caught at this site in the space of a few weeks!

Not being sattisfied with catching a Shortie (who am I kidding, I was just being greedy), I popped to another site on the way home to see if there were any other birds that wanted to be ringed. Despite seeing only 6 birds at this site, I managed to catch 4 of them including 2 more stunning Jack Snipe (amazingly my 10th and 11th of the winter!)!!

The total catch for the evening was 1 Short-eared Owl, 2 Jack Snipe, 2 Woodcock, 2 Fieldfares and a Skylark! I'll struggle to have another night like it, but it won't stop me trying!

Monday 20 February 2012

Goose and a Goosander


Whilst waiting for an appointment with the physio to sort out my "Lamper's Arm",  I nipped down to Llandod Lake midday for a rare bit of daylight winter ringing and caught up with a few new birds for the year,  a Canada Goose and a smart male Goosander - although we've caught a fair few of these on the rivers this is the first I've ever caught on bread!


Saturday 18 February 2012

100 and still going strong

No not me, barely half that!

Just 45 days ago, on 4th January, Paul and I colour-ringed the first Golden Plover of our new project looking at their wintering ecology in the Mid-Wales and South Shropshire Hills (part funded by a grant from the Ecology Matters Trust).

Last night B19 became the 100th and the tally of 8 new birds took the total to an amazing 103 colour-ringed and 250 ringed since the start of the winter!

That's about this many!!

To put that in context, here are the ringing totals for Golden Plover for the last 70 odd years from the BTO's online reports (a great new source of data and incentive!). The best ever year was 1986 with a GB and Ireland total of 327 including 270 adults.


Golden Plover
Pluvialis apricaria
Grand Total (1909-2010)6,866

We've had one or two local sightings so far but it will be great when the more distant records come flooding in, so keep your eyes peeled!

Monday 13 February 2012

Where have all the Choughs gone?

8-year old female Chough with unringed male at Llangrannog

Jane and I have spent the last two days walking the Ceredigion coastline again looking for Choughs (especially those wearing colour-rings). Started at Aberarth and covered most of the suitable bits down to just south of Mwnt. As has been the case all winter the number of birds encountered was far less than expected. The route took in at least 12 past nest-sites but only 4 pairs were recorded!! Admittedly, it is very easy to miss birds feeding quietly on the cliffs themselves but evenso this doesn't bode well for the coming season. One of the pairs encountered comprised two colour-ringed birds that were previously each paired to an un-ringed bird. The complete lack of any feeding flocks is also unusual and maybe points to the bad effects of the last two severe winters. Only other birds of interest were a few Red-throated Divers (some in summer plumage), a single imm female Peregrine and a load of prospecting Fulmars (Fulmar photos taken on January visit)

Sunday 12 February 2012

Old Timer

Last night I was out on my site near Llanilar with my 'woodcock mucker' Terence Lambert. It was still and birds were very jumpy. After failing to get anywhere near 25 woodcock I decided that we should head higher up the site where I hoped we would have a better breeze to conceal our squelchy approach.

We deliberately bypassed a single bird on a large field with the hope that on our return later in the night it would be a little more settled. A few hours and 7 woodcock later we returned to the field. After a bit of a chase I managed to catch this bird, which was EW58652, ringed on 14th Nov 2008. This was the second bird caught on my first outing after completing my training with Tony Cross.

She? (longish bill) was caught as a juv in 2008, so had probably made 7 migration flights and a rough total of 17,500 km, not far compared with some species, but not bad going for a woodcock.

She looked in top condition weighing in at a healthy 332.8gms. This is why I go woodcock ringing!

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Bienvenido a Gales 17096983

I received an email yesterday from the Estacion Biologica de Donana with the ringing details of the colour-ringed Glossy Ibis seen on Sunday.  It was ringed as a chick on 7th May 2007 in the Coto Donana, Andalusia, Southern Spain, 1,720 kms south of Borth. It was also seen there on 2nd April 2010. Why on earth has it suddenly decided to pay us a visit in the depths of winter?!

Monday 6 February 2012

Redpolls and Rails

Last winter myself and Tony acquired permission from the landowner and C.C.W, to trap and ring birds at The Flash in Welshpool, with the main target being Snipe (and Jack Snipe). In the 3 visits we managed before the weather turned against us (and the birds) we managed to catch 23 Common Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe (and a handful of common species)!

(Jack Snipe 06/11/10)

This winter there seems to be very few Snipe about (anywhere), so we turned our attentions to catching Redpolls and Rails as there seems to be a good number of both species. So far, in 2 visits we've managed to catch 15 Lesser Redpolls and 1 Water Rail.

(adult male Lesser Redpoll)

(adult female Water Rail)

Sunday 5 February 2012

A quick trip up to Bardsey (nearly) with a touch of gloss to finish

Yesterday Adrienne called to say she had had a report of an un-ringed pair of Choughs roosting in a location where they might be catchable. We had caught a bird in the same spot about 15 years ago so there was some hope!! Opportunities to catch adult Choughs don't come too frequently so I filled my gas-guzzler with £60.00 worth of unleaded and headed up with Jane to meet Adrienne at Porthmadog. The site was very near the end of the Lleyn near Bardsey. Thankfully, the female of the pair obliged us and we also caught this cracking female Kestrel roosting in the same spot.

We are pretty sure that this is the same adult female from one of the nests we ring young at a bit further along the coast. Now she is colour-ringed, we will find out for sure in a few weeks time.

Returned to Borth at 5am,  just in time to catch another couple of Dunlin before it got too light.

Finished up by dropping in to view the colour-ringed Glossy Ibis (white 8J9) that has just turned up in a scruffy horse field at the back of town - amazingly, despite the ice,  it seems far happier there than a lot of the other residents of Borth! Will post ringing location when I know.

Back home now, fuel tanks empty!  Good job the BTO help with ring subsidies, the 20p forthcoming for last night's adventures (8p per chough and 12p per kestrel) will help off-set the cost ;-) !

Saturday 4 February 2012

Knot what we expected

Jane and I had another quick trip down to the (low) high tide at the point in the early hours of this morning hoping for a  few more Golden Plovers. As is often the case with lamping, the birds behaved completely differently to how they had the morning before and were having absolutely none of it!  Consolation came in the shape of 9 Dunlin, 3 Redshank and a Knot though so who's complaining!

Thursday 2 February 2012

Owling on the bog.

This morning started early with a trip down to Ynyslas to catch waders.  I met Jane at 4.30 am and we tried lamping a few of the coastal fields - even here though, they were frozen solid and it was impossible to get close to anything!  A quick trip down the beach was a bit more rewarding with 3 Golden Plovers and a Dunlin caught.

Next I headed over to Cors Caron National Nature Reserve (more widely known as Tregaron Bog!) to meet the wardens, Andy and Iestyn,  to check the condition of the Barn Owl boxes and to erect a few new ones. Cors Caron and the immediate surrounds hold around twelve pairs of Barn Owls, although numbers this summer were much lower than normal, following last winter's extremely cold weather.  Whilst checking the boxes two new Barn Owls and a Tawny Owl were ringed.

On my way home I quickly nipped in to Strata Florida to renew a few of my older Pied Flycatcher nest boxes and to put up a couple of extra Tawny Owl boxes. As the catching isn't good at the moment, might as well get ready for the coming season!