Wednesday, 28 November 2012

No wingeing at Waxwinging

Today I managed a late trip to Machynlleth in order to check out the Waxwing flock near the library as Jane had obtained permission to ring there the day before. Unfortunately, Wednesday is market day and even the Waxwings weren't going to feed amid the Indian take-aways and burger vans positioned just outside the library. Fortunately the flock was easily relocated in the same small clump of ornamental sorbus trees they or their precedents frequented two winters ago just up the road! The location wasn't ideal for catching and as soon as Jane managed to join me we had to resort to a bit of full-public scrutiny flick-netting but hey, if needs must! Three birds were caught out of the 62 odd present but unfortunately it didn't include the ringed (not sure its a BTO ring either!) bird that Emyr Evans managed to photograph the day before. Thanks to a quick response from Raymond Duncan the Waxwing colour-ring co-ordinator and a quick dispatch of colour-rings by A. C. Hughes we were able to colour-ring these three birds thereby greatly increasing the chances of them being resighted elsewhere. Many thanks to Steffi Meier too who was already on the scene taking photos and kindly helped out and allowed some to be used here.

Blimey, TC tries to remember how to ring a bird!! The net is just visible behind the Give Way sign. Shame a few more of the Waxwings didn't!

Two of our first 3 colour-ringed Waxwings.  Hopefully we can soon report details of their onward travels

Last Sunday me, Dave Smith, Jane, Brendan Sheils and Brendan's friend Hannah (briefly joined by Paul and Marc Hughes on a mornings birding) managed to entertail the good folk of Mill Close, Newtown with our odd Waxwinging antics. Even managed to attract the attention of the Old Bill too. Good times were had by all and 11 Waxwings were BTO ringed. See Marc Hughes' post on the We Bird North Wales blog for more photos  One of them even got its picture taken - in watercolour! See Chris Wallbank"s blog for some stunning artwork and hopefully the Waxwings will feature soon!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Sat Nav on the A44

Thursday night Paul and I headed out to the hills between Ceri and Clun in the hope of fitting the first of two satellite tags we have for our Golden Plover research (tags funded by EcologyMatters and the Welsh Assembly Government's Ecosystem Resilience and Diversity Fund and supplied by Microwave Telemetry Inc.).  Despite there being quite a moon up at the moment the clouds were thick and rain was forecast so conditions seemed good. As a matter of good practise I had set myself the limit of not attaching the tag (which weighs just 5 grams) to any bird that weighed less than 220g. 5g might seem a lot on a bird that size but they frequently put on and lose weight dependent on how cold it is and where they are headed. We know that birds can vary between 190 up to over 250g so, relatively, it is little extra to carry. As luck would have it the only Golden Plover we caught weighed in at 250g. BINGO!

Fitted with colour-ring A44 and its new sat tag this bird is set to make history as I'm pretty sure it's the first Golden Plover in Britain to be satellite tagged.

Golden Plover "Ceri" with satellite tag fitted. They feed at night on worms and wet nights are particularly good as all the worms are on the surface so they are loaded and ready to fire, frequently, as can be seen !

Hoping to fit the next one sometime soon. I will post updates here and on the EcologyMatters website.

Six Woodcock, 5 Fieldfare and a Jack Snipe helped to make it a very memorable night.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Two more anyway!

1st year male Waxwing 

Popped over to Newtown first thing to try for a few more Waxwings. I went to where we caught them 2 winters ago and sure enough at least 40 birds were dropping onto several ornamental rowan trees in the council estate. Siting a mist-net was a bit tricky but many thanks to the young couple and the little old lady who let me string it over the fence between their front gardens! Managed to catch two (which they were all thrilled to see close-up) but a marauding Mistle Thrush was making life difficult so the flock moved off to Coleg Hafren. Still far too many feeding opportunities there for successful netting - hopefully try again soon when the berries have thinned out a bit!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Roadside encounter with Scandinavian beauty

Almost as exciting as it sounds! On Sunday Paul (recently back from Bolivia - well most of him anyway!) and I bumped into 25ish Waxwings at Llanelwedd on the way back from a site visit in South Wales. Failing light and no mist-net poles meant we weren't able to do full justice to the golden opportunity presented but we did manage to catch this little stunner before they went off to roost. Unfortunately they failed to show the following morning when we did have poles!! There's a lesson in there somewhere!

Lots more to follow I hope.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Colour-ringed Little Egret in Northern Ireland

Had a phone call from Adam McClure, the RSPB's Northern Ireland Red Kite Project Officer, on Monday to say he had just been talking to Cameron Moore, a local birder, who had seen and photographed a colour-ringed Little Egret at Larne Lough, Co. Antrim back on 3rd and 10th August. Sure enough turned out to be one of ours from Bangor, the second smallest of a brood of four ringed on 25th June 2012. Ironic really as Adam had been over ringing with me for a week in June and had tagged along with Adrienne Stratford and I when we went to ring them but had to shoot off and catch a ferry before we managed to find a nest with chicks the right age for ringing!

See more on Adam's blog

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A 'Busy' journey.

We are now getting some interesting date from the satellite tagged woodcock. Despite reports of good numbers of woodcock appearing at bird obs up and down the east coast, our tagged birds have only just started moving back west.
The first 'Busy', one of the 4 Cornish tagged birds, has made it back to blighty after an interesting journey down the English Channel. I have managed to get a wind map for 28th Oct and it's intersting to see that most of this journey, which took Busy across land twice without him stopping for a rest, was done with a steady headwind. Maybe this explains the sudden U turn mid Channel and the run with a quartering wind to the Isle of Wight.

There are clear issues with some woodcock going "off the map" once on their breeding grounds, this is probably due to poor light conditions preventing battery charging where there is heavy vegetation. It seems that this has been less of a problem for the Scandanavian birds than those in more southerly locations. Once the birds start migrating the batteries come back to life and we get data, this appears to show that woodcock are migrating through daylight hours, and not at night, which was previously thought. There is no doubt that our woodcock satellite tags and geolocators will reaveal a lot more about the migration of these secretive birds over the next few years.