Tuesday 29 May 2012

Chough ringing's pants?

Only very rarely!!

Last Thursday, Adrienne and I arrived at this Chough nest site a bit too late after the low tide. A quick risk assessment was conducted and it showed that their was indeed a risk that we might miss them if we had to come back another day, hence the unconventional (but perfectly safe) measures adopted!!

Thankfully the Chough season is drawing to an end now and so far this year we have colour-ringed over 200 chicks between us. Many thanks to all those who have provided essential assistance including Claire Mucklow, Kelvin Jones, Frankie Hobro, Chris Bridge, Gillian Dinsmore, Hamza, Zac Hinchcliffe, Gareth Richardson, Wendy James, Ivan Jones, Denise Shaw, Jane and anyone else I have forgotten to mention.

Ceredigion Choughs and Cormorants

Last Tuesday Gareth Richardson, Jane and I carried on the quest for Choughs on the Ceredigion coast and another four broods (totalling 10 chicks) were ringed. We also managed to catch two adults including a 14 year old male whose original BTO ring and surviving colour-rings were wearing a bit thin so he was duly equipped with new ones to last him the next 14 years!

We also managed to ring a few broods of Cormorants in passing. I don't ring many Cormorants as the colonies here are on vertical cliffs and great care needs to be taken that larger young don't scramble out of the nest with an associated risk of falling. When I first came to Aberystwyth in 1982 the Cormorant colony at Penderi, south of Aberystwyth, was something in the order of 250 pairs, today a count of 50 pairs would be good. A similar rate of decline has been seen at Bird Rock near Tywyn down from ca. 150 pairs to about 40. These declines are probably related to declining fish stocks but previous ringing recoveries have shown that some young birds travel down to South-East England and France during their first winter where they (frequently?) get shot!

PC Richardson cuffing a Cormorant

Monday 21 May 2012

A Cuckoo on boxing day!

Spent most of the day yesterday checking nest-boxes in two schemes near Tregaron with Caroline and the girls. Both sets of boxes have been in operation for over twenty years and it is interesting to see how things change slightly over time. This year seems to be a bit on the late side generally, although 1 nest of Nuthatches had already flown. Out of 146 boxes checked 111 were occupied as follows; 46 Pied Flycatcher, 39 Blue Tit, 13 Great Tit, 6 Redstart, 4 Nuthatch and 3 Robin. During the day we ringed just 10 Nuthatch, 14 Great Tit, 5 Robin and 5 Blue Tit pull but also caught 14 female Pied Flycatchers.

6 Redstart clutches was an above average occupancy for this species

Out of 14 female Pied Flycatchers caught only 2 were previous year's re-traps. A worryingly low re-trap rate compared to earlier years.

The journey home added a couple of unusual suspects!!

A female cuckoo, and 

a now famous Grouse!
(famous with me anyway as it is the first I've ringed!)

Monday 14 May 2012

Sorted for E's and Whimbs

There's a pretty hefty passage of Whimbrel at the moment so on Saturday night I headed down the coast to try and get a few more colour-ringed. Good job its Chough ringing time of year as well otherwise I might have been caught out with insufficient ring stock!! Amazingly I managed to catch 30, that surely has to be some sort of record Whimbrel catch!! Had enough E's on me but ran out of colour-rings with one bird left to do - sod's law is that'll be the one! Certainly a night to remember and a counteraction to all those doom and gloom stories about how good things used to be! Still can't quite believe it!

The following day saw Paddy Jenks and his daughter Deryn, Wendy James and I tackling some of the more difficult to access Chough nests in south Ceredigion. Four nests checked and 3 broods colour-ringed (2 x 4, 1 x 2). The other was still sitting on 4 eggs so need to go back in a months's time. Slept well last night!

Saturday 12 May 2012

Record year for Chough-upping in Cornwall!

Yesterday I had my annual trip down to the RSPB's Chough team in Cornwall to colour-ring the current year's crop of Chough chicks. So far we have managed to ring every single youngster known to have fledged in Cornwall since a pair returned to breed on the Lizard Peninsula over 10 years ago. The RSPB's annual monitoring of this population of known individuals is a fascinating study of the processes involved in a natural re-colonisation of a species following local extinction.

This year a record 16 chicks were colour-ringed at 4 nests. These comprised 6 males, 6 females and 4 that were too small to sex.

The original Lizard pair are still going but their's was the latest nest of the four ringed. At 11 days old the chicks were just big enough to colour-ring safely but were not big enough to determine their sex.

A new and challenging fifth site has yet to be accessed, as the female is still incubating, but this may prove to be the one that spoils our unbroken record!

Many thanks as usual to Claire Mucklow and Cat Leemar of RSPB South West and all the Cornish Chough volunteers for their assistance.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

First day of the 2012 Chough campaign!

Spent yesterday with Adrienne Stratford checking on Chough nests in Meirionydd and Ceredigion. 2012 looks to have got off to a bit of an early start with some broods at least a week ahead of normal. 

Getting to the nests proves quite interesting at times but as can be seen we aren't completely cavalier about H&S and do wear hats on occasions!!

Two broods were colour-ringed during the day (probably the earliest we've ever ringed them) and another three broods weren't quite ready yet.

A cuppa break in a blackthorn-lined layby in Meirionydd yielded a couple of "extras" in terms of this cracking male Lesser Whitethroat,  3 Whitethroats and 2 Dunnocks!

Later in the evening a spot of lamping at Ynyslas with Jane produced 22 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plovers and a Whimbrel and Gareth Richardson, a regular visiting ringer, down for a few days holiday had an additional 17 Dunlin. There was a heavy passage going on with hundreds of Dunlin and at least half a dozen Whimbrel present. Tonight's weather forecast is looking foul so dare say we'll be out again!!

Oh you little monkey!

'Monkey' the Cornish sat tagged woodcock continues to amaze with another 800 km notched up over recent days. He is now 5800 km from where he was tagged on Feb 18th.
This is amazing when compared to the other 10 tagged woodcock. As he is an adult, one assumes he knows exactly where he's going and that this is not just an aboration. One thought is that his normal wintering ground may have been somewhere further east than Cornwall, but was pushed that far west this winter due to the widespread cold weather throughout most of Europe in late January. At that time there were a lot of reports of huge numbers of woodcock arriving from the continent.

'Aderyn' and 'Rebecca' the two woodcock tagged by the Woodcock Network in Wales, have not moved for several weeks and it seems increasingly likely that they are now on their respective breeding grounds. 'Aderyn' is in Latvia and 'Rebecca' just west of Moscow.

See more at www.woodcockwatch.com

Sunday 6 May 2012

Bitey Haws and Woowas

Yesterday, in what might prove to be the last trip of the season, myself, Jane and Dave Smith spent most of the day at the Hawfinch feeding station. 16 Hawfinches were caught in total including 3 new birds and several 2011 retraps not previously recorded this year. Also managed to read a 2011 bird that we didn't catch. There have been several recent sightings of 3 different colour-ringed birds on a feeder in a Dolgellau garden too so colour-rings are proving useful.

Amazingly, we also managed to fluke two cracking male Wood Warblers in the finch nets. This has to be my warbler of choice, subtley beautiful!

Interesting to see how they perfectly match the newly emerging beech leaves. 

Also caught the first Great Spot of the year but no sign of last year's Lesser Spotted Woodpecker that annoyingly avoided capture on multiple occasions!
All in all, the old fingers took a bit of a hammering yesterday!

Wednesday 2 May 2012


One of the 12 woodcock satellite tagged in the UK this winter has now flown nearly 5000km to Omsk in Russia.

Rebecca and Aderyn the two Welsh wintering woodcock that were tagged by the Woodcock Network have not been so energetic. Rebecca has moved south of her last location in Russia but is still west of Moscow. Aderyn is still in Latvia and although not giving high quality data is still giving some indicating that he is alive and well. The batteries on his tag may be low due to dense undergrowth preventing daytime recharging through the solar array.

The best data has been coming from the two Norwegian birds that were tagged in Scotland, this may be down to the vegetation in Norway being more sparse thus allowing better recharging conditions.
Looking deep into Russia at Monkey's location on Google Earth has me slightly worried that he might have landed somewhere that we are not supposed to be looking at and there may soon be a knock on my door from three burly men that don't share my fascination about woodcock migration!

See more about woodcock on www.woodcockwatch.com

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Rockit Science!

Spent the day monitoring Chough nests in Ceredigion with Jane. The good news was that two former sites had been re-occupied by new pairs. All four adults were colour-ringed and the female at one of the sites had travelled over 60 kms from her natal site on the Lleyn Peninsular.

Bonus of the day was a brood of Rock Pipits. Luckily I happened to have a big ladder on me so we were able (just!) to reach the nest and ring the young. The beauty of the British Ringing scheme is that such chance encounters, and odd broods ringed here and there, all add to the National Database helping scientists at the Nunnery to investigate the movements, survival rates and population dynamics of a wide range of species that may not be possible through individual studies.

 Perfect sized Rock Pipit pulli

Back in the well-hidden nest