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!