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