Friday 26 June 2015

Not something you see every day!

Whilst driving back from Nightjar surveying in South Wales this morning I spotted a Curlew in very atypical habitat! There is only one reason I can think of why a Curlew might stand on a gate.

Yeah, that was it!!. Great to see that they are managing to rear a few young then. Productivity in my Shropshire borders study area (conducted on behalf of the Stiperstones and Corndon Hill Landscape Partnership Scheme) has been very low this year (I'll post a summary update at some point in the near future).

Thursday 25 June 2015

Disco Tony shows some moves!

On Friday 12th June Jane and I joined the BTO's Cuckoo man Chris Hewson in an attempt to catch and satellite tag another Welsh Cuckoo in the Tregaron area. This was a fortunate opportunity bought about by a "spare" tag following an earlier trip to Lancashire where they had failed to catch a suitable bird to deploy the tag on (the Cuckoos that are tagged have to be male, above a certain weight and obviously in good health). The 12th June is actually quite a late date to catch adult Cuckoos as they are starting to go off the boil and move off so hopes were high but reserved!

A call to Andy Polkey, warden of Cors Caron NNR soon secured permission to try catching here where we successfully tagged Indy a couple of years ago. David of course, tagged nearby in May 2012, has proved a very valuable addition to the research project as he returned again in 2015 making him the second longest tracked BTO Cuckoo after Chris.

With nets erected in a suitable site and a stuffed female Cuckoo (in an alluring pose) safely secured to a post in front of the net, a tape call of an ensuing Cuckoo "orgy" was turned on and soon the local male Cuckoo was too! In what proved to be too good to be true the male flew fast and low across the bog, paused briefly on the handrail of a footbridge, then proceeded at speed straight into the bottom half of the net!! Less than 5 minutes after turning the tape on for the first time our target bird was in the net. Less than 8 minutes after turning on the tape, whilst Chris ran as fast as boggy ground would allow, our target bird was out of the net again!!       Bo***cks!!

A couple of frustrating hours followed as we tried a few other local sites and other Cuckoos showed less enthusiasm or greater powers of net detection. 

As we prepared to break-off for lunch a last minute decision to try a secluded valley at the top end of the bog proved a life saver. Within a few minutes of erecting the net we had two Cuckoos in bags and one still trying to court the lure whilst deftly avoiding capture. One of these Cuckoos was a female, so not tag-able. 

Chris Hewson with Female Cuckoo 

Success therefore depended on the weight of the second bird. It surely felt plump enough in the hand and thankfully the Pesola balance confirmed he was well over the lower weight limit. 

The subsequent migrations of Disco Tony (as he is unofficially but affectionately known) can be followed, along with those of the other BTO Cuckoo's on their excellent and frequently updated website.

At the time of writing he has left the soggy and cold shores of Britain and is more than half-way down France on his long journey to the Central African rain-forests.

Disco Tony showing a single retained juvenile secondary
confirming that he was hatched in 2014

PS  Should anyone be suffering Ruffled Feathers cold turkey in the recent dry spell please visit my old mate Steve Parr's "Notes from Wild Places" blog  where you can read about why there hasn't been a lot of free time to update posts recently!