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!

Thursday 10 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.