Tuesday 13 September 2016

A little bit of magic!

On Sunday, Jaques was keen to have one last ringing session before he heads off to Prince Edward Island, Canada on a 2 month ringing trip. We started with a little bit of dazzling just south of Aberystwyth where we managed to catch a Bar-tailed Godwit, an Oystercatcher and a single Dunlin which, apart from a few Ringed Plovers, was pretty much all we saw.

This time of the year is a good time to tape-lure Meadow Pipits as they commence their autumn migrations. The weather was perfect too with light winds and a little bit of hill fog so at first light we headed into the hills and set up a couple of mist-nets in a 'V' shape and placed the sound lure in the centre. Almost instantly pipits began responding and during the course of the morning a modest but steady 44 were ringed. Most were 1st year birds aged on the moult limit in the greater coverts although there were a couple of adults included, both showing the last traces of moult on their inner secondaries.

1st year Meadow Pipit showing pale and 'toothed' median coverts

The activity of the pipits attracted the curiosity of a couple of Stonechats, one of which was also caught and ringed.

 1st year male Stonechat

After browsing the Ringers' Facebook page for a while on Jacques phone, and trying to decide if social media is really all that 'sociable', I glance up. "What's that in the net?" I ask whilst simultaneously bundling myself out the door as fast as I can manage.

This stunning adult male Merlin was obviously hunting pipits too (but luckily no pipits were hurt during the taking of this bird)! A classic example of how ringing is full of lovely little surprises!

Friday 9 September 2016

A very unusual ringing site!!

On Wednesday evening Jacques and I were heading down to Borth to try for a few more Swallows and then kick start the Group's new Dunlin colour-ringing scheme at Ynyslas later on. Anticipating a long night we thought we better fuel-up beforehand so stopped off at the Acorn Fish and Chip shop in Borth where the great excitement amid the queuing customers was the presence of a small bird fluttering in the dark recesses of the wooden A frames high above the deep-fat fryer, periodically sprinkling the chips with dust and droppings. "We'll sort that for you" I said "we're bird catchers!" A blank expression confirmed that the Oriental women behind the counter had absolutely no idea what I was on about. "No, really we are" adds Jacques - but still no recognition! "Want us to catch it for you?" I try again. "I would" says one of the other waiting diners, so, quick as a flash I run to the car and come back in with an extending hand-net. One deft swipe at full stretch and the bird (which bizarrely for a sea-side town with no trees whatsoever turns out to be a Treecreeper) is safely under the net on the floor of the chippy to rousing applause from the open-mouthed onlookers (well almost)! It was perhaps one of the most pressured and therefore one of most satisfying catches ever, a bit like a scene from Ghostbusters (the old version, obviously!). "Thank you very much" says the Oriental women smiling broadly, "no problem" I say, "Worth free chips that?" I try but unfortunately the blank expression had already returned! Still it prevented said Treecreeper from becoming just another Scottish delicacy!

I wonder if this is the first bird ever caught and ringed in a serving chip shop?!

A record shot of one lucky Treecreeper just prior to being liberated on Borth Bog

In something of an anticlimax the Swallow roost behind Borth produced just 20 new birds, although it is getting on and they will possibly be the last 20 of the year.

In the early hours at Ynyslas though we were soon back on a roll with a catch of 30 Dunlin, 7 Ringed Plover and a Knot. Very respectable given that the tides are low at present and I wasn't really expecting to catch anything other than maybe one or two  Dunlin to try the new colour-rings on. The 30 Dunlin ringed took the total number caught at Ynyslas in 2016 so far to over 1,000! Hopefully a lot more colour-rings will be applied soon so please keep your eyes peeled for Dunlin with a Yellow engraved ring on the right tibia and a plain Orange one on the left. All birds will look identical unless the code is read so also keep a telescope or camera and long-lens handy!!

 The first Dunlin (juvenile) colour-ringed by the group in what is hoped
 will become a major new project over the next few years.