Saturday, 28 December 2013

Carry On Ringing!

Following a week or more of bright moonlit nights and an additional few nights of seasonal festivities I finally managed to get out again for a couple more lamping sessions. On a very wet and windy Boxing Day evening on the Ceri Ridgeway I had a very welcome double hat-trick with 2 Woodcock, 2 Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe along with 1 Fieldfare, 1 Skylark and a Golden Plover. This takes our annual total of Jack Snipe ringed to an impressive and nicely rounded 30. Then last night, Jane and I caught 12 more Woodcock (plus a re-trap) near Aberystwyth including  9 in one field!

13 Woodcock in the hand last night - worth a few in the bush!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

A nice pair of hooters...

After Tony found a pair of Tawny Owls roosting in a barn a couple of months ago, we finally got round to have a go at catching them today. Our luck was in as both of them flew straight into a well placed mist net.

As you can see from the photo below, one of them was extremely grey in colour. It'll be interesting to see what colour the chicks will be next year if they stay and breed.

(one very happy Silvia getting the up-close encounter with owls I'd promised her)


The weather finally turned wintery today, with snow falling at one of our Brambling sites. With the wind still blowing we opted for the woosh net instead of mist nets. This proved to be a good plan, as we managed to catch 35 (our highest daily total so far) new Brambling, taking our total catch in recent weeks to 91.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A great poker hand!!!

I doubt there have been many occasions where four Jacks have been trapped and ringed at the same time, but today was one of those days. After seeing several Jack Snipe while out lamping/dazzling on one of our ringing sites, myself and Silvia decided to have a go at mist netting them as they came in to roost yesterday morning. Despite seeing a couple of them, only one Common Snipe was caught. Time for plan C! So this afternoon we headed up there again, this time with Tony and his drag net. This proved to be a great plan C, as we caught three on the first attempt, and another on the second (narrowly missing a fifth too!!). A total of seven birds were seen, but I dare say there were more. We had also caught two more by lamping earlier in the week, so who knows how many birds are using this roost?

Of the four caught today, three were new birds and the other was a re-trap from last December. Despite catching 15-20 Jack Snipe each year, this was our first different year re-trap! And caught in the same field too. So maybe they are site faithful like the Woodcock that also winter in the UK?

The most reliable way of ageing Jack Snipe is on the under tail coverts. Large dark streaks on the adult (right) and much thinner streaks on the juvenile (left).

Distinctly Irish

I have just had four days over in Ireland with Wicklow ringers Damian Clarke and Ann Fitzpatrick. Having been introduced to Dipper ringing on his trips over to Wales, Damian is keen to start a RAS project for Dippers in Wicklow but at present only has a specific A permit for raptors and Raven. I said I'd pop over and provide a bit of training for roost catching Dippers and also for lamping Woodcock to give them a bit more to do in the long winter months! Unfortunately the timing of these activities clashed somewhat with another favourite Irish pass-time although we did manage a couple!

Ireland has four distinct subspecies and whilst I was over we managed to catch three out of the four. Dipper is one, with the Irish race showing less chestnut on the breast and resembling a half-way stage between our dipper and the Black-bellied Dipper found on the continent.

Irish sub-species of Dipper, with less chestnut on the chest and also slightly larger I thought. The largest one of the 55 we caught was 103 mm and the heaviest weighed 78 grams.

Irish Coal Tit shows much yellower cheeks than ours.

and not sure what the distinct difference is here as I've not handled enough British ones! Less famous perhaps!

The fourth (elusive) subspecies is Jay. Didn't see any of them.

Greylag Gosse. We have these in Wales too but it was a first for me so all good training. Unfortunately I doubt it was one of those that come down from Iceland for the winter though!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Back of the net!

I'm not sure what the world record for woodcock catching is, but last night I caught 25 out of 52 seen. It was an epic with 12 new birds ringed, 5 retraps of birds ringed earlier this winter, and 8 retraps of birds ringed over previous winters.

Meandering back to Wales.

After a long wait I now have a map made up from the data from one of the woodcock geo-locators that I recovered on my ringing site last winter.

The red track shows the spring migration and the yellow the autumn migration.

What is fascinating is the fact that this bird spent the summer in two locations in Russia. It is quite possible that the location where it stayed between early May and late June was it's breeding location and then it re-located further south for a post-nuptual moult from July to early October.

We always consider that woodcock return to their wintering grounds in October or November however EX42351 took it's time to come back to Wales only arriving back in Llanilar on January 20th. This fits an emerging picture that most of the woodcock I see early in the winter are juveniles and that more adults appear in December and January. Counts conducted by the bird observatories on our east coast often show a significant arrival of woodcock if the weather gets cold on the continent. 

It would make sense for an adult woodcock not to migrate further west than it needs to. Apart from avoiding the risky business of flying such a long way, there must be significant advantages of being back on the breeding grounds in Russia in a fitter state than birds that have had to travel further to get back

Could it be that many adults use their experience to decide when to migrate further west, whereas juveniles only have their innate instinct and so head west when the autumn triggers for migration such as temperature and daylight length occur?

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Scandinavian invasion!

Today at a private garden near Newtown I managed to catch 5 out of about 150 Bramblings present. I had hoped it would be more but the birds were feeding on natural food at numerous spots over a wide area. This year there is a very good Beech mast crop, something that spells good times for lots of our seed eating birds (this was evidenced by the hordes of Blue Tits and Coal Tits I also caught!). I've now started baiting a good netting site so hopefully the next trip will be slightly more successful in terms of the number of Bramblings ringed - I hope so,  sunflower hearts aren't cheap!.  Tomorrow morning I'm off to try and catch a few at a site further west were there is currently a flock of well over 1,200!! 

It has been a good while since I managed to ring any number of these stunning finches but I've got a feeling this winter is going to be exceptional. Here is an adult male, note the lack of any contrast in the greater coverts, the black primary coverts and the rounded tail feathers.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Record year for Jack Snipe

If we look at the UK and Ireland ringing totals for Jack Snipe over the past 12 years since 2001 we can see that it is an infrequently caught bird where the numbers ringed fluctuates greatly in relation to the weather conditions. Since the start of our extensive Woodcock and Golden Plover ringing projects in 2009 we have started to catch good numbers and currently ring a significant proportion of all Jack Snipe ringed each year (over 20% in 2011).

This year early indications were of a good influx of birds into Britain as detailed on the BTO's Birdtrack

Our own ringing has supported this and last night I scored another "hat-trick" and at the same time ringed the 23rd Jack Snipe of the year. So far we have ringed 94 Jack Snipe since 1981 but have yet to have our first bird recovered. Up to the end of 2012 just  4,554 Jack Snipe had ever been ringed in UK and Ireland and although recovery rates are low these have provided a good insight into where our winter birds originate from and travel on to.

Hopefully one or two of these recent birds may one day also grace the updated page on the BTO website.

One Show Woodcock

With plenty of woodcock around I have been out a lot over recent nights. On Thursday 28th Nov I made a retrap of a woodcock I ringed on my site near Llanilar on 9th Nov 2010. This bird was fitted with a geo-locator by Dr Andrew Hoodless ( GWCT) and Miranda Krestovnikoff whilst being filmed for a wildlife piece that went out on the BBC One Show later that year.

This bird was in great condition weighing 345gms, and once removed there was little sign that it had been carrying a geo-locator for the past three years.

The geo-locator will now be sent to Andrew Hoodless so that he can recover the data and establish its migration tracks. The batteries only last for 18 months so we won't get this birds full history since being tagged. However as this bird was tagged in novemeber, unlike all the other tagged birds that were fitted with geo-locators in the spring, we will be able to see where this bird went for the rest of its first winter carrying its tag. As the weather in winter 2010 turned very cold soon after tagging we might get some information on the cold weather relocation of this bird.

This tag was one of four that were fitted in 2010 as a part of my training for my unconventional marks endorsement, so far we have recovered two of these. In the winter of 2011/12 ten more geo-locators were fitted and in 2012/13 a further twenty. These were partly purchased by funds raised by the Woodcock Network.

I am very optimistic that we will make further recoveries of geo-locators on this site over the coming few winters. I will post details of this bird journeys and those of the other recovered geo-locators from this site shortly.

You can see more information on all things woodcock on our The Woodcock Network facebook page.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

1 in 10,000

Last night Sarah, Brendan, Hannah and I had a go at catching Starlings at a roost I recently found near Bwlch-y-Sarnau. Starlings are known for their spectacular nocturnal gatherings and last night's was no exception. 

A VERY small percentage of the total number of birds coming in to roost

The roost itself is in a relatively small plantation of ca. 40ft conifers. Because of the numbers involved I didn't want to set nets anywhere where we might catch too many to handle so went for just two nets on the outside of the plantation on the 'approaches'. As it turns out I should maybe have been a bit more adventurous as we only caught 12 birds, about 1 for every 10,000 coming into the roost!!  

As you can imagine such gatherings attract the attention of all kinds of predators and at least two Peregrines, 1 Goshawk, 2 Sparrowhawks and a couple of Buzzards were milling around choosing lunch. Unfortunately, one of them (probably a Goshawk by the description) briefly spent time sitting in one of the mist-nets but managed to get out before I could run around from the other side of the plantation!

A lamping session afterwards produced 9 new Woodcock out of about 40 odd seen - a much more satisfying catch rate to end the night on.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Incoming Redshank

Yesterday morning Brenda Cook and I had a go at mist-netting waders on the coast south of Aberystwyth. At high tide, just on dawn, we managed to catch nine birds including 3 Curlew, 4 Turnstone and 2 Redshank. Amazingly both Redshank and one of the Turnstones were controls and judging by the wear on the rings of the Redshank they have both been kicking around for a few years. One of the Redshank was also colour-ringed so Cardiff Bay seems a likely origin. I will post details when they are available.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Turning over the same old stones!

Have just had a text from Arfon Williams. The Turnstone Sarah and I caught wearing a BTO ring was ringed by him on 18th December 2009 close to where it was re-trapped.  Although not as interesting as it might have been, it still demonstrates how many of our winter visiting waders are extremely faithful to their particular "patches" - knowing an area intimately can make the difference between life and death in bad weather.

A quick trip out last night produced 6 more colour-ringed Golden Plovers (plus 1 ring read on a bird not caught), 1 Woodcock, 1 Skylark and a Jack Snipe. The total of Jack Snipe is now 19, just one short of our best year ever for this species. It has clearly been a very good breeding season for Jack Snipe and Snipe, we must have flushed well over 60 Snipe last night but didn't catch a single one!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Last night Sarah and I headed down the coast in the hope of mist-netting a few Curlews at a site we'd seen a good number (and lamped a couple) the previous night with Andre whilst out drag-netting Skylarks. The forecast, for high winds over the next week or two, meant this  might be the only opportunity for a good while. As we arrived there were lots of birds already present - always a good sign.  The first bird was caught whilst still setting the nets, a Turnstone! I wasn't expecting to catch Turnstones so that was a pleasant surprise.

Adult, winter plumage, Turnstone. Not a patch on its summer plumage but still pretty smart!

The first round of the nets yielded 2 Oystercatchers, 1 Curlew, 1 Redshank, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit and 13 more Turnstones!! This is more Turnstones than we usually catch in a year and one of them was already wearing a BTO ring so it will be very interesting to see where that came from. Interestingly, Turnstones are one of only three species that BTO ringers are required to ring on the tibia (above the knee), Ringed Plover and Purple Sandpiper being the other two. This is not to do with anything special anatomically its just that the constant battering the ring gets from being scraped against rocks and barnacles means they can lose their inscriptions during the life of the bird. It does mean the rings are very hard to see up amongst the feathers so if you are (lucky?) enough to find a dead one please check carefully for the presence of a concealed ring!  Helps keep the photographers happy tho!

First winter Bar-tailed Godwit. We hardly ever catch these here in 
West Wales so a nice unexpected bonus.

The final round of the nets produced, yep you've guessed it, more Turnstones (3). Can't wait for a period of calm weather now to go and see if this was a one-off or if it might prove to be a regular thing.

Have felt like this a few times myself in the past!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

100,000 page views!!

Many thanks to all our regular readers. We've just hit over 100,000 page views since June 2011!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Close encounters of the undesired kind!

Snipe (c) Brendan Sheils

Last night, just to be different, I went lamping, this time with Brendan Sheils and Hannah. The weather had come good again - wet and windy and catching wasn't too bad. 6 Golden Plover, 3 Jack Snipe, 2 Snipe, 3 Fieldfare and a Skylark. It could have been even better though.  Walking through the last field I was suddenly aware that I was being watched and swinging the lamp round came face to face with a very pale and immaculate looking Shorty about 100m off listening intently to the interesting sounds emanating from my iPhone! Making my way slowly towards him he let me get to within about 4 paces, just close enough to think he was in the bag. As my heart raced for the second time in three days, he first glanced over his shoulder then briefly back at me and then was off. Disappointment isn't the word.

Thinking that was probably the last we'd see of him I had one more quick spin round the field and then back to the car. As we got over the fence I spotted the owl sat in the field on the other side of the road. 2nd time maybe? Quickly switching on some interesting loops on the iPhone I quietly negotiated the fence and crept silently towards him. Having got most of the way there I noticed approaching headlights. b****ks!  I decided rather than rush it I would keep the bird in the beam and wait for the car to pass. Annoyingly as the car approached it slowed down and pulled up just behind me, lights glaring, radio blaring and a voice shouts "what you doing?" - twice! At this point exit one owl. With steam rising from under my tightened collar I try, calmly, to explain how I was hoping to ring that owl that "you've just scared off"  - think there may have been one or two other words in there too!! Disappointment still isn't the word!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A Marsh 'Hat Trick'

Still buzzing from the success of the previous evening I returned to our Golden Plover ringing site near Clun with Andre and Michelle Frater to capitalise on the good catching conditions. There were still a lot of Golden Plover present but with high winds and no rain the birds were flushing at a good distance and catching wasn't good. We did manage to catch 2 more Golden Plovers and another Jack Snipe and also managed to read the colour-rings on two other Golden Plovers.

Moving on to another set of fields nearby I passed the net and lamp over to Andre (relinquishing the net is not something that comes naturally!). Andre equipped himself admirably though, managing to catch a 'hat-trick' (Woodcock, Snipe and Jack Snipe in the same visit) in the next three birds! Maybe I should have handed it over sooner. Well done mate, welcome to the club!

Our first Woodcock of the season. This is probably the bird missed the previous night as it was in exactly the same location.

closely followed by the above Snipe and a re-trap Jack Snipe .

Friday, 25 October 2013

Improvement on Gold standard

Last night, with the moon down and the skies blackened, myself and Sarah headed up to the Ceri Ridgeway in search of more Golden Plovers as part of an ongoing colour ringing program funded by the EcologyMatters Trust. Things didn't start too well as when we got there there was already someone else going around the fields with a lamp!  This turned out to be a local farmer on fox control and thankfully he soon headed off to pastures new. 

First run round the fields produced  a single Snipe and two Golden Plovers then the lamp packed in!! Walking back to the car to search for a solution the lamp suddenly burst back into life just in time to pick out a plover not far in front of me. Stalking up on it I was about 25ft off when I started to think the supercillium looked a bit bright? - a juv Dotterel! The heart started racing a bit for the last few paces, and I know we aren't supposed to but just couldn't help myself with a quick air punch and a bit of inappropriate language once it was safely in a bird-bag!

An over-sharpened iPhone shot of a late (in the year, it isn't deceased!) juvenile Dotterel. A completely unexpected but welcome encounter of a species not previously recorded at this site

Now running on high octane we manage to ring a total of 11 Golden Plover, 4 Jack Snipe, 2 Common Snipe, 5 Fieldfare and of course a Dotterel. Congratulations to Sarah who managed her first few self-caught waders, including a Jack Snipe and 2 Golden Plovers..  

2 of the 4 Jack Snipe caught last night. A total of at least 7 different birds were flushed!

Never satisfied of course the night was marred just slightly by missing out on a 'hat-trick" when I missed the first Woodcock seen this winter. Ah well next time!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

It's a lark!

Look at the hind claws on that!

Despite it being full moon the wet and windy weather forecast for last night gave the opportunity for a bit of nocturnal ringing. After concentrating on Dippers for the past few weeks, our attentions now turned to lamping Golden Plovers and other inland waders. A trip into the hills above Llanbadarn Fynydd failed to find any of the target Goldies but did produced a catch of 3 Snipe, 2 Skylarks and a Redwing - Sarah's first self-lamped bird. 

Sarah displaying what I think is an allowable amount of pleasure at her first ever
 self-lamped bird which, at the same time, in no way detracts from its scientific value!

2 Jack Snipe and at least 20 other Snipe were also seen at close range but frustratingly they deftly avoided capture.

Afterwards we continued on to the Clun Hills where the weather had turned rather more windy and rather less wet and consequently an annoyingly large number of Golden Plovers just wouldn't play ball (a single Redwing was all that added to the night's catch). Roll-on the new moon!

Friday, 11 October 2013

The start of a new Golden era?

Last Friday, after a night of Dippering on the Upper Clun, Sarah, Vince and I had a quick run up to the hills along the Ceri Ridgeway to see if any Golden Plovers had arrived back yet. It was a bit misty but sure enough, shortly after walking into the fields, a few Goldies started lifting in front of us. There weren't great numbers yet but five birds were caught and colour-ringed. 

Hopefully the first of many!

Last year Paul and I managed to ring nearly 300 between us and this winter's colour-ringing has once again been grant-aided by the Ecology Matters Trust so we are hoping to get a good number done again.

Two recoveries of birds ringed in previous winters have just been received from BTO HQ.
Firstly a bird ringed on 23rd January 2012 was killed by a predatory bird at Hunterson Power Station in West Kilbride, North Ayreshire on 25th September 2013 (379 kms NNW) and a  bird ringed on 21st November 2012 was shot just 10 days later in Camelford,  Cornwall (230 kms SSW).

Green marker is the ringing location for both birds, red markers are the recovery locations

This last recovery highlights the insanity of allowing Golden Plovers to remain a legal quarry species when at the same time they are Amber listed under' Birds of Conservation Concern' !

Frustratingly, one of our colour-ringed birds was also seen on breeding grounds in Finland this summer but the observer failed to get the engraved code so we'll never know exactly which one it was!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A cracking pair of waders

Last night Andre and I ventured down to Ynyslas in search of passage waders, Although it is getting on a bit now, with many wading birds having already moved through on their way south, it is still well within the migration period and with the tides high at the moment and the moon down catching ought to have been good. As has been the case all autumn, the number of birds present during night-time high tides has been disappointingly low. Last night we saw maybe 20 Ringed Plover, a dozen or so Dunlin, 3 Grey Plover, 1 Knot and the odd Oystercatcher. We managed to ring just 3 Ringed Plover, the Knot and 1 Grey Plover, the first one of the year.

Juvenile Grey Plover with tell-tale black armpits 

The previous night Sarah and I had fared slightly better with a dozen birds caught, comprising 6 Ringed Plover, 5 Dunlin and a surprise showing of a late Curlew Sandpiper. I had thought this year's passage through Ynyslas of this stunning little wader had finished so was very pleased indeed when this one obliged!

The number of Curlew Sandpipers ringed in Britain and Ireland each year varies widely depending on weather conditions and how productive the breeding season has been but this single bird equals the total number ringed during 2012!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A pile of poo!

Dipper poo that is!  Over the past few weeks I (and Paul before he headed back to Romania), ably assisted by Andre, Jane, Lloyd, Sarah, Vince, Paul Ashworth, Martin Georg, Brendan Sheils and Adrienne Stratford, have been hitting the Dipper roosts of Mid-Wales in a big way. On a short-term employment to the BTO my usual Dipper roost monitoring has been expanded in area and objectives. The BTO are looking at DNA in Dippers using a small feather clipping and in addition Cardiff University are looking to see if Cryptosporidium occurs in Dipper poo. Now it does't usually take long for me to scare the crap out of any roosting Dipper but somehow when you want them to they just don't want to go!  Despite the majority of rather retentive individuals we have sourced over 50 poo samples and nearly 300 feather clippings from rivers as widely separated as the Dyfi in the North, the Tywi in the south and the entire width of Wales from the Ystwyth to the Teme.

These samples will shortly be wending their way to the respective researchers and hopefully I can report findings here at some point in the near future.

A Dipper swimming (photo taken back in 2008)

As for the Dippers thenselves - in the past 30 days we have caught just over 300 different Dippers including 146 new birds, 130 + retraps and at least 19 controls (mostly of birds we ringed ourselves as pulli earlier this year).  A full breakdown will be posted once the season has finished completely.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Two massive milestones

Whilst out ringing Dippers recently, as a (very) temporary addition to BTO staff, I ringed our 500th Dipper of the year! This is something we have never achieved before and shows the increase in the scale of our Dipper project. Congratulations to Paul, Lloyd, Vince and Bryan who all played a part in this mighty achievement. This bird, or one very close to it, was also the 100,000 bird to be entered onto my IPMR database.

The database details birds ringed, retrapped or controlled on my permit since I became a 'C' ringer back in August 1980 (but is not yet complete as I still have to enter historical data for all birds ringed in 1981 - 1986!)

Notable new bird species totals (reflecting our specific projects) include:

(figures in brackets are % of British and Irish all-time total 1902-2012)

Little Egret 337  (38.6%)
Chough 2,955  (37.9%)
Red Kite 2,621  (32.9%)
Raven 2,821  (20.2%)
Woodcock 1,803  (12.5%)
Hawfinch 277 (11.5%)
Golden Plover 608 (8.0%)
Whimbrel 204  (7.1%)
Dipper 3,892  (5.1%)
Little Grebe 65  (3.9%)
Nightjar 223 (3.6%)
Pied Flycatcher 7,612 (1.2%)

Doesn't bear thinking what I might have achieved with all that time and money if I hadn't been introduced to bird-ringing at school!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Getting it large

On Monday, with Kelvin Jones, and on Wednesday, with Paul Ashworth and Martin Grant, I headed out to various regularly visited Mute Swan breeding sites in order to round-up and colour-ring this year’s crop of cygnets. Many people believe that all swans in Britain belong to the Queen and that this is why they are ringed. In reality, although all swans are legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, the Queen only officially owns those swans on the Thames between Sunbury and Abingdon Bridge that aren’t owned by either the Vintners or the Dyers, the last remaining companies with swan-upping rights on the Thames. Swans elsewhere in Britain may or may not be ringed as part of a nationally co-ordinated research programme run by the British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Much of this, as with us in Mid-Wales and Shropshire, is done by licensed amateurs who not only give of their own time and petrol but also pay for their own rings and equipment. To fit a Swan with a British Trust for Ornithology metal ring and a plastic “Darvic” costs just over £2.00. Currently we ring about 100 swans annually which represents a substantial investment.

Ringing not only allows detailed life histories to be collected on individual birds, it also allows for the subsequent monitoring of the large number of swans treated at Wildlife Hospitals and Rescue Centres. Getting records of swans living normal lives and breeding happily after intensive treatment for powerline injuries or oil pollution is not only incredibly rewarding for the rescuer but also shows that wildlife rescue is more than just about satisfying a human need to care for sick animals, it also shows that full rehabilitation back into the wild is possible, even after severe injury. Being able to recognise individuals also means that you can return them to where they belong and even reintroduce them to their long-term partners. As such I have been ringing rehabilitated swans at Cuan House Wildlife Rescue for many years and Megan Morris Jones has been helping with the cost of all our swan ringing for some time. Her support and assistance is very much appreciated. 

Over the two days, 48 cygnets and 1 adult were ringed and it was nice to meet up with some old friends. Blue TZ7 originally ringed as a cygnet in Telford in Sept 1993 is still nesting on the canal near Newtown and had two cygnets, “Captain Bligh” (Yellow BLY) originally ringed as a cygnet in Tamworth in August 1991 is still nesting at Ellerton Mill near Newport (four cygnets) having bred there every year since 1994 and the oldest of all is “Fred”, hatched at an unknown location in 1989, ringed at Ellesmere in August 1990 and currently on his fourth “Darvic”. He is still nesting at Weeping Cross, Shrewsbury and at  24 years old may not be able to run too fast anymore but can certainly still father a cygnet (or two as is the case this year!)

Having caught your cygnets you need to detain them until they can be ringed and weighed. This is where Kelvin's former occupation comes in handy!

The other alternative is to put them behind bars!

Mum squares up to Paul as he tries to release her offspring.

Dignity restored, heading down to the canal for a wash.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

From the very little to the very large...

At both ends of a busy day surveying, Tony and I found a bit of spare time to do a spot of mist netting. Our first stop was a tiny spruce plantation, which appeared to have several Goldcrests. Not all of them were interested in being caught, but after only a while we'd managed to catch a total of 4 Goldcrests, 2 Wrens, 1 Treecreeper, 3 Chaffinches and a Blackbird.

On the way home, we stopped off to try and catch some Dippers on a stretch of river where Tony had caught several before. Sure enough there were still plenty of Dippers, and we manged to catch 3 of them, along with 1 Kingfisher, 2 Grey Wagtails and this Grey Heron!!

I can't imagine I'll extract many more of these from a mist net!!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Shore shank redemption!

Thanks Jane!

After nearly half a dozen abortive attempts over the past 12 months or so to catch more Greenshank this morning's efforts came good and, like London buses, two came along at the same time.

There has been much earnest discussion on the ringers' forum recently about the appropriate use of digital media. So as not to offend the sensitive all reference to my grinning face has been withheld!! 

Greenshank pass through the Dyfi every spring and autumn on their way to more northern breeding grounds and about 20 have been ringed by us over the years. No recoveries have yet resulted but, as with all ringing, its a numbers game and (without the use of expensive satellite telemetry) the more you can do the more likely you are to gather useful data.

A truly elegant and beautiful wader outclassed in my view only by a Marsh Sandpiper I once ringed in Kuwait

Also caught another one of these (a juvenile female this time - note the orange at the base of the lower mandible and the overall greeny-blue rather than bluey-green colour of the head and back). 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Swallowing hard

Last night was perfect - for midges. On an evening swallow roost netting at Borth, Jane, Andre, Sarah and I got absolutely eaten alive by the little biters! Still, loads of midges should mean loads of food for hirundines and so it was! In typical fashion the first birds started swooping in on the sound lure about an hour before dusk. Every now and then they would disappear for a while and come back with a few followers. By the time they were actually ready to enter the roost there must have been well over 500 swirling and chattering over the three 60 ft nets set in the reed bed. In a very short space of time the nests were full of swallows, nearly 200 of them!

Andre extracting some of the nearly 200 swallows caught last night

Swallow has always been a bit of a bogey bird for me with regard to recoveries. Since I started ringing I have caught nearly 10,000 of them and I cannot remember ever having one recovered abroad!! That's nearly £2,000 worth at today's prices and I joke (well you have to really) that I might just as well have thrown the money, 20p at a time, into the bottom of the reed bed!! The thing is, you just never know what amazing journey the next bird ringed might reveal and clearly many other ringers' swallows have been recovered as can be seen from the maps in the brilliant Migration Atlas produced by the BTO.  Ringing isn't just about foreign recoveries though. We did control one ringed bird last night and this will, in a small way, add to the data on movements within Britain. On a national scale too, age ratios of catches can be used to gather important information on productivity and identify good years from bad. Still I'm hoping that the £37 I invested in the national ringing scheme last night earns a bit more interest than that invested on swallows so far!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Recce and ringing demo at Dyfi Osprey Centre

Yesterday I was kindly invited by Emyr Evans at the Dyfi Osprey Centre to undertake a bit of a recce to see if there was anywhere suitable to conduct some general mist-netting on the Cors Dyfi reserve to help assess the number and variety of birds present and with the eventual aim of perhaps training-up a few of the staff to undertake these activities themselves. A quick look confirmed that the site has huge potential and with the help of Alwyn, Janine and Maria six nets were quickly set along the boardwalks adjacent to areas of phragmites reedbed and willow carr. 

First net-round at Cors Dyfi - looks brilliant but 24 Blue Tits and 13 Chaffinches made up nearly half the total catch.

86 birds were caught in a couple of hours and despite the lateness of the season this included a few warblers -  8 Reed, 3 Sedge, 8 Willow,  9 Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps. Most of the rest were Blue Tits, Great Tits or Chaffinches but there was a single Grey Wagtail, a species only recorded on site once or twice previously.

A bit ruffled but the greater coverts clearly show a moult limit identifying this Grey Wagtail as a bird hatched this year

The second half of the catch, those birds caught after the 10 am opening, were processed in front of some of the many visitors to the reserve and judging by the reactions and questions was much appreciated by all.

Demonstrating ringing a bird to the centre visitors and explaining the difference in wing formula between Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff

My apologies to the little boy who asked what bird was in the next bag and was a bit disappointed when it wasn't the Osprey I said it was!