Sunday, 28 October 2012

Belgian Blackcap

A trip to Kilpaison by five of the group yesterday morning produced a catch of around 45 birds. The highlight was a control 1stW  blackcap wearing a Brussels ring. It proved very difficult to read, and various people had to make an attempt using a variety of optical aids before agreement on the ringing scheme could be made. This highlights the main problem associated with the gradually shifting age profile of licensed bird ringers; soon no one will be able to read the ring numbers!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Red and gold - the colours of Autumn

After a lengthy spell of being unable to go ringing it was great to be out with Paul at Ty Rhyg trying to catch some autumn migrants - and unlike in the summer sessions - we did actually catch some birds! At dawn  a few redwings dropped in but the main species was goldcrest with 24 being ringed out of a total catch of 65.

Much to Paul's delight a yellow-browed warbler had appeared in a mistnet in Steve's garden two days previously,  so we were very optimistic when checking the nets, but we caught nothing unusual though adult male goldfinch and redpoll always brighten up the session.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Cetti's recoveries

During Autumn 2010, John and Paul caught four Cetti’s Warblers at Kilpaison Marsh, a site that Cetti’s have formerly bred at, but weren’t thought to have done so in 2010. Remarkably, two were controls, and even more remarkably,  the others were recovered! Cetti’s are usually sedentary, though juveniles are capable of medium distance dispersal movements in the autumn. All were juvenile when originally ringed, but T147893 may have dispersed as an adult perhaps during the cold snap in January 2010 and the two that were ringed in Pembs have perhaps returned to their natal areas? Can’t say for sure but it’s a good reason to target ringing at more sites with Cetti’s Warblers in the winter, and perhaps too, our even more recent colonist; Dartford Warbler.

L296082                27-06-2010   Bainton Gravel Pits: 52°38'N 0°22'W (Cambridgeshire)
Caught by ringer      21-11-2010   Kilpaison Marsh, Rhoscrowther: 51°40'N 5°3'W
                                                 337km   WSW   0y 4m 25d

T147893               02-06-2007    near Marsworth, near Tring: 51°48'N 0°40'W  
Caught by ringer 16-10-2010    Kilpaison Marsh, Rhoscrowther: 51°40'N 5°3'W                                                      
                                                     302km   W   3y 4m 14d

L53495               30-10-2010   Kilpaison Marsh, Rhoscrowther: 51°40'N 5°3'W
Caught by ringer   11-06-2011   Attenborough Nature Reserve: c. 52°54'N 1°14'W
                                                     Nottinghamshire   294km   ENE   0y 7m 12d

L534559              28-Sep-2010   Kilpaison Marsh, Rhoscrowther, Pembrokeshire
Caught by ringer 10-Jun-2012   Brandon Marsh, Warwickshire 52 22’ N  1 27’ W
                                                621 days    Distance: 259km

Three of the above movements make it into the top five longest movements within UK.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Ty Rhyg CES

At the end of visit 6 it is quite a good time to compare the capture totals for adults of a few of the regularly caught species over the last three years.

 The early returning species such as willow warbler, chiffchaff and blackcap seem to have returned in similar numbers to 2011, but the species which normally arrive in May (whitethroat, garden warbler, sedge warbler) have been caught in smaller numbers (though sample size is small). Wren, goldcrest and long-tailed tit all show a steady recovery following the cold winter of 2009/10, while some species such as redpoll and grasshopper warbler may be abandoning the site as the vegetation matures, though there have been noticeably fewer grasshopper warblers generally in the Preselis this year.

Visit 7 has been the quietest ever July session with only 30 birds caught compared to an average catch of 78 at this time of year.  It is becoming increasingly obvious that 2012 not just a late season, but for many species, an extremely unproductive one. The Teifi blog is reporting an identical story.

All adult willow warblers caught in visits 6 and 7 were heavily in moult, so they will not be making any further breeding attempts, but it looks like blackcaps, chiffchaffs and whitethroats are still trying to rear broods.

Willow warbler half way through moult - it could still fly - just about

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Brynberian Whinchat Survey

On 19th June, the second visit of a dedicated whinchat survey on Brynberian moor (for the National Park Authority) was made with the aim of finding nests to measure productivity. At first, it seemed that they had suffered the same fate as the wheatears nearby (see earlier post), with only one pair out of the first five feeding young, but happily the remaining 10 pairs had 8 nests full to the brim with nestlings. Altogether 33 were ringed with two broods not yet ready. Most of the nests were hidden in bracken.

Whinchat brood trying to look like a bit of bracken

At 15 pairs, this site is the stronghold of the Pembs breeding whinchat population which is only thought to be 25 pairs in total following a significant decline and range contraction. The aim of the survey is to record their habitat requirements in detail to help make sure a core population is maintained.

Paddy, Tansy

whinchat nestling only a few days off fledging

Ty Rhyg visit 5

Yesterday’s session saw the first influx of juvenile birds with 22 juvs of nine species, out of a total catch of 52 birds of 18 species. It was really nice to see the first young willow tit of the season, a species which is all too scarce in Pembs.  All the young birds were checked for fault bars in their tail feathers, which is evidence of a starvation period due to bad weather whilst in the nest, but amazingly all were perfect.

A few adult willow warblers have already started their autumn moult so presumably for them the breeding season is now over and they are preparing for their journey back to Africa. Seven bullfinches in one morning (six of which were males) is unusual for Ty Rhyg, and so too is a spotted flycatcher.

willow tit juvenile
spotted flycatcher

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

That's one big mipit!

While out watching kestrels yesterday on the Preselis there was a distraction in the form of a meadow pipit carrying a beak full of grubs, obviously intending to feed her brood. We watched her back to her nest which was very well hidden in heather and when we looked inside there was a very pleasant surprise - though the meadow pipit foster parents probably weren't so impressed.

We had to find 13 meadow pipit nests before finding one with a cuckoo.

Tansy, Paddy

Monday, 11 June 2012

Wheatear washout

Since 2008 an area in the Preselis has been visited annually to count wheatear pairs and find nests and ring any accessible chicks. Normally this takes place between the 18th and 30th May after which most broods have fledged. A visit on 26th May found them to be much later this year with several nests containing eggs and no sign of adults carrying food. The follow up visit on 9th June also showed no sign of adults with food though some were still visiting nest holes. The extreme weather the previous day was undoubtedly to blame, as this photo illustrates;

The above brood of five died during the gales and heavy rain on Friday. Presumably the female struggled to feed  herself leaving them longer than usual and they succumbed to hyperthermia. It was clear that many females still had active clutches of eggs, so another visit in a couple of weeks may bring more positive news, but at the moment, the 35 or so pairs that are in the study plot have yet to fledge a single youngster.

Paul and Paddy

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Some Ringing Recoveries from Skokholm - one of them is amazing.

A Willow Warbler retrapped on Skokholm on 16th April 2011 was ringed at Portland Bill on 23rd April 2010 - so it was on its second northern migration and typically heading north west and potentially heading to Ireland or Scotland.

Another Willow Warbler retrapped on Skokholm on 20th April 2010 was ringed at Aros Moss, Strathclyde on 2nd May 2010 and probably breeding there and on its way back there.

A Reed Warbler retrapped on 26th September 2011 was ringed as a young bird in Mecklenburg-Vorpommen, Germany on 25th August 1281 km from Skokholm. Its only the eight retrap/recovery from Germany (there have also been four from Poland) but it was almost in Denmark. Presumably it got its autumn migration completely wrong. Have alook at Google maps and see just where it came from.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

kestrel colour-ringing

A kestrel colour-ringing project was started last year to help understand survival and settling patterns of welsh fledged birds. Kestrels seem to be declining substantially and this information is vital to understanding the reasons why, before any effective conservation initiatives can be implemented. In Pembs most nests are either difficult or impossible to reach because they nest on cliffs, preferring a hole in a loose pile of shale as a nest site. about four pairs use nest boxes making life a little easier.

The first chicks of the season were ringed yesterday at St Justinian, from a nest that has been watched almost daily by local birders John and Marion Best. Although the abseil down is straightforward, the network of recesses within the nest hole makes it difficult to reach all the chicks, but three out of the brood of five were safely extracted, ringed and returned to the nest.

One of the 2012 brood

One of the 2011 brood seen and photographed by Janet Baxter at Ynyslas in April 2012

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Great Start

The third CES visit saw a total of 39 ringed, which is very close to to the May average of 35 birds per session. Although numbers of the main species such as willow warbler, chiffchaff and blackcap are as predicted, this year virtually all are new individuals with only three retraps from previous seasons. Usually approx 40% of the catch in May is made up of returning site-faithful individuals. Why the changeover of birds has taken place this year is a puzzle.

The best bird was this male redstart.

After getting fed up with only ever finding blue tits or great tits in nearly all nest boxes we put up, we tried to design one that redstarts might find attractive, and members of the genus paridae don't. This might be the answer -

Out of five put up in early May, two have redstart nests in them. They are set within continuous cover mature sitka, a habitat which is widespread, so we will definitely try some more next year.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Not all chicks are cute

For many years Steve and Anna have organised an annual visit to St Margaret’s Island to census the seabirds and ring nestling cormorant and great black backed gulls. A few years ago it was possible to ring both species on the same trip but cormorants now nest much earlier, with the first young fledging by the end of May. On the other hand great black backed gulls are still mainly on eggs at this time.

Yesterday's trip produced a total of 130 cormorant chicks ringed. Timing was perfect with the largest ones not quite ready to fledge and the bulk at perfect age. There were still a few sitting on eggs and a few small chicks. Brood size was healthy with at least 2 to 3 in most nests and a few with four chicks.
The earliness and high productivity is surprising considering the cold, wet and windy April and early May.

A face that only a mother could love!

It's best to keep your nose well back whilst ringing cormies

Luckily, we can’t blog the smell!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Back in Action!

The group's constant effort site at Ty Rhyg received its second visit of the year yesterday. During perfect weather for netting a total of 33 birds were caught, following on from 44 during the early May visit. The catches are always fairly low during May with most of the males staying within their territories, and many females spending most of the time sat on nests. Despite the cool and wet Spring with late arrivals of Summer migrants, overall numbers of adults seems to compare favourably with last season, though its early days to draw any conclusions. Nothing unusual was caught, but the range of species at this site always makes an interesting morning's ringing.

Paddy, Mike, Den and Tansy

Adult male Bullfinch

Garden Warbler

Grasshopper Warbler

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A quiet time of year

March is usually a quiet time for catching and ringing birds but with the spring rapidly advancing we expect to be very busy soon. The group has been making and putting up nest boxes for dippers, redstarts and tawny owls, and we hope to have fifty tawny boxes in place by the autumn to begin an annual monitoring project. The boxes that have been put up so far have been found very quickly though perhaps they are being used for roost sites rather than nesting.

During April we will be catching migrants on Skokholm Island as well as reading colour-rings on puffins as part of the adult survival study started last year.

Today the net rides of our constant effort site at Ty Rhyg were 'managed' before the nesting season gets into full swing. A couple of nets were opened hoping that the great grey shrike might take an interest, but unfortunately he didn't put in an appearance. The 15 birds caught included the first few chiffchaffs of the year and two willow tits including a three year old female. An adult female goldcrest first caught in 2009 weighed 7.8 grams - much the heaviest recorded at the site, presumably about to lay a clutch.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

A welcome drop of rain

It's not often that residents of this part of the world are glad when it rains but if you want to catch woodcock it's a big help. This week, as part of a larger project in conjunction with the Woodcock Network and GWCT, Mike Sherman and myself were trying to fit ten geolocators to woodcock to find out more about the whereabouts of their breeding and migration routes. The geolocators were provided by GWCT and kindly funded by Sir Edward Dashward, and they record the daily positions of the birds as they travel to their summer quarters.

Two attempts earlier in the week weren't that productive with only single woodcock caught each night. The reason for this was calm clear conditions making close approach to the birds impossible, but last night's thick cloud and rain produced ideal conditions and we now have nine of the ten birds with geolocators and ready to go. Hopefully we catch them again next winter and find out what they have been up to all year.

All ready to go.