Monday 29 April 2013

Big Dipper Days

Friday and Saturday were spent going around a whole load of Dipper nests in our RAS area in Shropshire and Mid Wales. This time of the year we would expect to be ringing most of the broods but things got off to a very slow start this year with many pairs almost a month later than normal! In all 73 regular sites were checked, 59 of which showed some signs of occupancy (a nest or part-built nest). 31 pairs were still laying or incubating eggs and 23 full clutch sizes were obtained (1 x 6, 16 x 5 & 6 x 4). 

Only 18 nests contained chicks (and two of the broods were dead in the nest). 11 broods, totalling 43 chicks in all, were ringed. In addition, 4 adults were colour-ringed at the nest and another 14 adults were identified from existing colour-rings. 

We don't colour-ring all our pulli Dippers because, unfortunately,  the vast majority of them will never be seen or heard of again once they fledge. Young birds ringed in the nest are colour-ringed if they are caught again in the autumn during roost monitoring.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Class of 2013

After a few technical glitches the website is now giving details of this winters tagged woodcock and their miration routes.

Departure was delayed by the cold weather and constant easterlies. On previous winters most of the woodcock on my ringing site would be well on their way in the last week of March, but this spring I ringed my last woodcock on April 13th.

It has been interesting to compare routes taken by the birds. Most head off in an easterly direction but Moc seems to have had other ideas and headed north first before making a major correction in strengthening winds over the sea off Liverpool.

A wind map on the day Moc changed course off Liverpool.

 It is slightly worrying that we have not had good data from Moc since he arrived on the coast of Norfolk. Two of the Cornish birds took a south eaterly route towards France before diverting towards Russia, and one of the Irish birds took the same route stopping off in Cornwall. 

The Class of 2013

Olwen, the other Welsh tagged bird is now very near to St Petersburg. For more information visit or visit the Woodcock Network facebook page where there are regular updates.

Olwen's location on 23/4/13, 20 days after departure.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Whimbrel ringing - its a gas!

Caught the first Whimbrel of the season this morning with Jane and Brendan Sheils. There are a few going through now but catching conditions are not great with a large moon and windy weather.

Hopefully we should get a fair few more in the next fortnight or so and are hoping to get a few resightings of birds colour-ringed in previous years. Other birds caught were two Oystercatchers, a Ringed Plover, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Whitethroat!

Saturday 20 April 2013

Fellowship of the Ring - Ouzel

Yesterday started with an early morning spot of garden mist-netting in North Wales. This was no ordinary garden netting though as the target was, once again, Hawfinch. I was emailed an amazing statistic this morning from the current BTO volunteering magazine that in Britain between 1970 and 2010 there has been a 76% contraction in the breeding range of the Hawfinch. This is one of the main reasons we are concentrating our efforts on this nationally important population and collaborating with RSPB research scientists from the Lodge. 

Over the past few months the owners of this particular garden have had over 40 different colour-ringed Hawfinches on their feeders!  In a couple of hours Dave, Jane, Sarah Cookson and I caught over 50 birds, mostly Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Redpoll and Siskin but also 5 Hawfinches, remarkably, all of which were new. Many thanks to the the owners for their co-operation and hospitality (names and location withheld for obvious reasons). Afterwards we headed to our usual Hawfinch RAS feeding site where we managed to catch another 8 birds of which 5 were also new, making a total of 43 new birds so far this year.

Cracking adult male with a fine set of "crinkles" (see below)

Can't get over these amazing 3 dimensional inner primaries.

At 5pm, in an act of blatant over-optimism, we headed off to try and catch Ring Ouzels. As you can see from the photos below, amazingly, we succeeded, catching and colour-ringing a fine adult male.

Despite having been up since 4 am doing Black Grouse counts Dave just about manages the appropriate facial expression!

Thursday 18 April 2013

A very interesting Dunlin!

 I have just received the following information from Peter Olsson on the Swedish ringed Dunlin Jane and I caught on 16th April at Llanrhystud.

"Hi Tony Cross,
many many thanks for this very interesting report. Yes, the bird was ringed by our ringing group as a newly hatched chick on the 24th of May 2011 at Eskillstorps ängar in south westernmost Sweden. The bird was observed as a chick 2 days after the ringing. Since then the bird has not been reported, until you caught the bird. The breeding Baltic Dunlins are highly threatened, only some 20 pairs are left in the area and less than 400 pairs in the whole of the Baltic Sea area.
I would very much appreciate any further information you may have on the bird.
Kind regards,
Peter Olsson"

Dunlins North and South

In a recent batch of recoveries from BTO headquarters we were notified of a Dunlin ringed at Ynyslas on 16th September last year which had been controlled by Dutch ringers at Ebeik Aiznay, Mauritania on 13th December 2012 - 3,776 kms distant 88 days later. This is the first African recovery of nearly 2,000 Dunlins we have ringed in Wales over the past 25 years so quite exciting.

 Interestingly I then go and catch a colour-ringed bird at Llanrhystud that was wearing a Swedish ring and is probably from a long-running study of the rare race of Dunlin found in the Baltic. I will obviously post details when they come through.

Sunday 14 April 2013

A fare catch for mid April.

Last night myself and Tony headed out for a spot a dazzling to see if there were any Golden Plovers about. After drawing a blank at our first site we then headed to our most productive site on the Ceri Ridgeway. Despite only seeing single figures of Goldies, we still managed to catch 3 of them. Annoyingly 2 were seen with colour rings on, but I couldn't get close enough to read them!!


We also managed to catch 5 Fieldfares and a Skylark.

Ringing and reading dippers.

After a very slow start, I've finally managed to get out a ring some pulli Dippers.

As well as ringing the chicks, it's also a good time to check the colour rings of the adults.

Saturday 13 April 2013

This year's woodcock migration has been very slow.

Last year I saw the last bird on my ringing site near Aberystwyth on March 21st, on Thursday night (April 11th) I went to have a look and there were still 20 woodcock there! I caught 6, 5 were juveniles and 1 an adult. Three had weights which were below average, and the other three were pretty fat.

 There can be little doubt that the cold weather and endless easterlies are the reason for this late departure, but now that conditions have improved we should be seeing them move off.

There is plenty of evidence from the continent that woodcock are on the move. Here is a chart showing sightings on the excellent website, it shows a large peak in woodcock seen on April 9th.
What is really interesting is that the pale blue part of the bar are woodcock flying over. Normally this is only a few compared with birds encountered on the ground, but on that day they were very much on the move. This also proves that woodcock don't always migrate during the hours of darkness, our satellite data is showing the same thing with birds departing in the early morning.

Friday 12 April 2013

Raven mad

Just had a really enjoyable few days in Ireland with my eldest, Amy, visiting  Damian Clarke who's a ranger with the Wicklow Mountains National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Great to see NPWS flying the Welsh Kite Trust flag! Damian and I worked together on the Irish Red Kite re-introduction project so it was great to see so many Red Kites gracing the Wicklow skies whilst we were out there.

Damian and his colleague Ann Fitzpatrick have been colour-ringing Ravens for the past few years (amongst other things) and, as I used to do a few myself,  I thought it would be great to pop over and lend a hand for a while. 

Damian scaling a large Scots Pine

A four week old Raven chick

Brood of 5 with accompanying 'whitewash' - I'd forgotten just how prolific they are!

Although it was still a bit early in the season some broods were well advanced and we managed to colour-ring 24 chicks in two days as well as check a few Peregrines nests and collect clutch sizes into the bargain. 

On the way back to the ferry we dropped by a few birding spots and managed to read a few darvic rings - firstly on a Great Black-backed Gull in Wicklow town

and then on 4 Brent Geese on a Gaelic Football pitch in Dublin!

Many thanks to Damian, Ann, Mark and others for their great hospitality, good food, good beer and good craic! Hope to get back again soon.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Chilly start to season

Despite the recent Arctic conditions 3 Dipper  young were ringed on the river Clun on Sunday morning
last. The first of the season. Interesting to see how many clutches and  broods are achieved this year, with the weather, as always, a significant factor in their survival.

Saturday 6 April 2013

These beaks were made for biting!

and that's just what they'll do.....

I know I keep going on about it, but seriously....

Had another session at the Hawfinch RAS again today with Dave Smith. Nine hours sped by surprisingly fast and, finally, we got into some worthwhile number of birds too. 19 Hawfinch were caught in total including 11 new birds, 3 from 2011,  2 from 2012 and 3 from earlier this year. 

Full adult male, one of the early birds originally caught in March 2011

Close up of the inner primaries. Adults have much deeper indentations and more gloss on the wings than 1st summer birds. These oddly shaped feathers are used in their bowing courtship display which was much in evidence in the bright sunshine today.

Other birds caught included a handful of Siskins, Chaffinches and Great Tits and this cracking male Treecreeper

Friday 5 April 2013

Getting otter?

Was out and about lamping again over the last two nights. Not much joy with the birds, caught a few more Golden Plovers, a Woodcock and a Jack Snipe but (and I know it isn't ringing!) came across these two cavorting in the edge of the Leri. These are just a couple of short clips of a much longer one taken on my iPhone from about 6ft away!!. (apologies for the picture quality had to compress them a lot to get them on here). The otters were completely oblivious to both me and the lamp.  I have seen otters in the lamp several times before but never this close and for so long. Didn't mind not catching much that night!

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Ring(ed) Ouzel

After a very frustraing near miss yesterday, when a Ring Ouzel set off one of the spring traps and managed to wriggle free, Tony and I headed back this morning for a second attempt. After a long wait this fine adult female Rouzel decided it was time to be caught.

We also managed to catch a total of 16 Wheatears too.


A very nice start to April!!

Monday 1 April 2013

A late run

Headed down to Ynyslas with Jane last night to try for a few more Golden Plovers now that the moon is down for the early part of the night. It was surprising to see just how dry and burnt-off the fields are by this relentless easterly wind. Even so I was a amazed at the number of Woodcock present and managed to catch 5 out of the 10 or so seen (have never ringed one in April before - it was after midnight!). Also caught and colour-ringed 10 Golden Plovers, 2 of which were in near complete summer plumage. Icing on the cake was this lovely pair of Jacks (and it might have been 4 Jacks if it wasn't for the noise of the icing on the puddles!)