Saturday 28 April 2012

Hen's teeth

Had a day flogging around a very cold and windswept Mid-Wales doing bird surveys on and around a proposed wind-farm site. Find of the day (actually, could well be find of the month!) was a field with three pairs of Lapwings and a pair of Curlews. I honestly can't remember the last time I found a Lapwing nest in Mid-Wales. Will be going back in a couple of weeks time when hopefully they will have transformed into a more ringer-friendly format (hatched!).  This nest was only about 30 yards from a Raven nest overflowing with large young so not counting my chickens but the sight of 6 Lapwings and 2 Curlews kicking the crap out of any passing Raven was enough to raise the hopes a bit.

Friday 27 April 2012

New arrivals

Saw my first young Choughs of the year today at the only remaining inland site in Mid-Wales. I am particularly glad to see them hatch this year as the site made an unwelcome appearance, by name, on a local bird blog recently and I feared the worst. I ringed my first Choughs at this site back in 1987 and have ringed broods here nearly every year since as part of the Cross & Stratford Welsh Chough Project.  Makes you more than a bit protective! Hopefully I'll be able to post an update in about three weeks time when this year's young get their own individual colour combinations.

Not the best of photos but 2 seconds after I took this I fell off the wall!!

Thursday 26 April 2012

Welsh woodcock arrives in Russia

The latest on the 12 satellite tagged Woodcock is that three are now in Russia, including Rebecca tagged by myself and Tony Cross at the Crychan.

Having spent several weeks in east Poland she is now about 150 km west of Moscow near a town called Rzhev. As Woodcock are largely nocturnal and spend their days resting in dark areas of cover, the batteries on the tags are not getting a good charge from the solar array.

Although we are getting poor location signals when birds are resting up, when they migrate we get good fixes. Its interesting to note that the two birds in Norway are giving a better signal, probably due to birch and alder not coming into leaf yet that far north. Andrew Hoodless has only been posting the best location data on the website map,  but further analysis of the poorer grade data might still reveal more relavent information on migration.

Aderyn, the other Welsh tagged woodock is still in Poland, but may well move on soon. Our contacts in St Petersburg tell us that the snow has yet to clear there and that their first roding Woodcock was only seen just over a week ago.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Whimbrel colour-ringing

Last night Jane and I had a trip to the coast south of Aberystwyth in search of Whimbrel. It is still a bit early in the season yet, with birds only recently recorded moving through, but we did manage to catch 4 out of 4 so no complaints!

We have colour-ringed over 80 Whimbrel now since spring 2010 but apart from one seen by Marc Hughes a few kilometres inland of where it was ringed there have been a very disappointing number of re-sightings so far. Any Icelandic or Gambian birders reading this, come on - pull your fingers out!!

Our house - Raven Madness

Potential nest sites for Ravens in upland Mid-Wales can be in short supply. This pair have been inventive and used the chimney breast of a disused farm-house for many years. Three perfect age chicks ringed yesterday.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Deja vu

Back out on the rivers again today with a total of 5 broods of Dippers ringed (20 pulli) and 4 new adults colour-ringed. Also identified another 4 colour-ringed breeding birds. We are getting pretty much to the end of the proper first brood nests now but there are several replacement clutches on the go and at least one second brood started already.

Whilst over on The Rea in South-East Shropshire with local nest-recorder Jonathan Lingard we put up a net to catch the adult Dippers at one of his monitored nests and not only caught the male Dipper but two Grey Wagtails, a Kingfisher, and another cracking drake Mandarin. Had to wait 35 years to catch my first and the second one comes along within a few days!!

Scenic Dipper nest

Adult male Kingfisher, the female was on a nest a few hundred metres downstream.

What are the chances of that! A second by-catch male Mandarin in less than a week!!

Saturday 21 April 2012

Redpolls for lunch!

Whilst out and about monitoring the Red Kites in my "patch" near Rhayader today I came across a flock of some 200+ Redpolls feeding in a small area of confer woodland. As it was lunch time,  I had a quick break and erected a net for an hour or so!  The outcome, a very satisfying and low-calorie lunch of 60 Lesser Redpoll (including 1 control),  a Willow Warbler and a Robin!

A sight to bring joy to any bird-ringer, a full net!

Cracking adult male Lesser Redpoll (I think!)

A fine pair....

Yesterday myself, dad and Tony set of to do a spot of local ringing (well local to them anyway). Pullus was first on the agenda, which didn't go very well! Both the Ravens and Greenfinches had deserted their nests, the blackbirds had flown and both dipper nest were empty (most likely predated)!! We then headed off to a piece of common land which is great for Chats and Wheatears. Only minutes after setting up the spring traps, this 'fine pair' decided to get caught.

After catching them we turned our attention to the Stonechats, where after only a few minutes of paitent waiting, eagle-eyed Tony found a nest with 5 ringable chicks.

Monday 16 April 2012

B76, B78 and the Oriental duck surprise!

Another day on the rivers catching, ringing and reading Dippers. Today Lloyd, my two and me went onto the Redlake near Clun. We managed to catch or read all bar one of the adults at the five nests located and ringed the final brood of chicks there. At one bridge we erected a 20ft mist-net, backed off  and wham, in an act of total selflessness an absolutely stunning male Mandarin submitted itself to scientific research!

Ugly duckling? You ain't seen nothing!

A quick couple of visits to a  heronry near Aberystwyth, firstly with Mike Hayward and then a couple of days later with Jane, revealed a total of 10 nests in the one tri-stemmed spruce tree.

The heavy rains of  the 8th and 9th April had obviously caused a considerable reduction in the number of chicks present with many dead ones both in nests and on the floor below. All the same 14 young herons were ringed from 8 of the nests. Two nests had single chicks, 4 had two chicks and 2 had three chicks,  one had two dead chicks and the last one had 3 eggs. For the mathematicians amongst you 2 chicks were too small  to ring!!

Also ringed 8 with Paul near Llanidloes. Still a few to go back to there.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Dippering cont...

RAS target achieved! Read another 10 colour-ringed Dippers yesterday (including this one) taking us to 41 breeding adults identified (and lots more to get yet). Also managed to ring another 42 pulli

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Mr. Pluva luva!

Golden Plover Ranks pretty high on my list of favourite birds anyway but after catching another 7 earlier tonight, including a few in full summer plumage, they have gone up a few more notches!

With a belly like that it ain't from round these parts!!

Monday 9 April 2012

Easter weekend ringing

With Caroline and the kids off at Grandma's for the Easter weekend it was a chance for me to get a couple of days serious ringing in. The weekend started on Friday morning when I met Paul and assorted family at Caerhyddwen for a few hours of catching Redpolls at the drinking pool and feeders. Nearly 40 birds were caught in 4 hours including 21 new Lesser Redpoll and 7 Siskin - tried hard to turn a couple into Mealies but still nothing doing!

Whilst Paul shot off to ring 20 more Dipper pulli on a tributary of the River Wye, I headed over to Pontrhydfendigaid where I  met  up with Andre Marsh to ring a brood of Mistle Thrush at the back of his house and then to clean out 60-odd nest boxes in a wood near Tregaron ready for the imminent return of the Pied Flycatchers.

A quick spot of lamping at Ynyslas with Jane in the evening produced a single Ringed Plover out of about half a dozen present. A singing Sedge Warbler on Borth Bog was nice though and a reminder of things to come.

Bright and early Saturday I met fellow ringers Lee and Rachael Barber and Brenda Cook, all visiting Wales over the holidays, in Talybont to go and ring Hawfinches (via another brood of 4 Dippers). Catching was much better than of late, perhaps due to a shift in net location, and 21 Hawfinches were caught including 14 new birds, five 2012 retraps and one 2011 retrap. A late female Brambling, 15 new Chaffinch and 14 new Siskins were also ringed.

Rachael getting to grips with a Hawfinch - or is that the other way round?!

Early evening was spent investigating a report of a Barn Owl nest with large young. I was a bit sceptical as this would have been incredibly early. It actually turned out to be a female on 5 eggs but given the amount of droppings, fluff and feathers under the box I can quite see why the owner thought there were chicks in there! Both birds were caught and the female turned out to be a control. After making a careful note of her number she was gently returned to her clutch in the box. An unsuccessful attempt to catch Little Owls near Newtown followed before I finally headed home at around 1 am for some much needed sleep.

At 7.30 Sunday morning Jane arrived and we headed over to Shropshire to ring more Dippers. We met Jonathan and Dawn Pickett near Ludlow to do a couple of nests they have been monitoring. The first was a cracking natural site with five perfect-age chicks.

Afterwards we headed into the main RAS study area to check nests and try to read colour-rings. During the day 22 more Dippers were ringed including 19 pulli and three new adults. Three colour-ringed adults were also read and one holidaying couple were made virtually ecstatic when given a telescopic view of a  'grumpy, labelled, Dipper' sat on a rock!

Bank Holiday Monday spent working, still it was raining heavily so wouldn't have been able to do much anyway!

Friday 6 April 2012

Arctic Dipper ringing

Yesterday Jane, Brenda Cook and myself headed out for the first real day of intensive Dipper pull ringing of the year. After the sweltering days of the last two weeks the morning was a bit of a shock and the planned route round all the sites had to be altered when we hit the Siberian border! Not very good conditions for Jane's Micra!

Despite 8 inches of snow in places overnight the rivers were still manageable and we managed to check 41 sites in all with 39 either in use or already failed. 31 dipper pull were ringed, several broods were too small and over half the pairs were still incubating eggs. Also manage to colour-ring 3 adults and read the colour-rings on 13 others.


Not all good news though, several deserted clutches and a couple of dead broods including this otherwise healthy looking brood of 4. Due to the weather?