Friday 12 April 2019

We'd just finished cutting the grass and this little fella turns up jumping from stone to stone.....couldn't resist putting out a spring trap and couldn't believe how lucky we were. First of the year for us and he was back within the hour in exactly the same spot.

Friday 6 July 2018

CES at Llandilo visits 1 to 6

The woodland Constant Effort Site at Llandilo uses five nets in four rides, and being in a woodland where most of the bird activity takes place in the higher canopy, the resultant catches are fairly small, with an average of around 25 captures per five hour session. There is no influx of birds in July such as typically happens in scrub and reed bed habitats, and by late July - mid August (visits 9 to 11) the number of birds at this site is at a seasonal low, as shown in the graph below:

The 12 annual CES sessions are spread evenly between early May and end of August

The first half of 2018 has seen a continued drop in the number of adults following a trend since the CES began in 2015, and perhaps the  arctic conditions in March affected some species, though both wren and long-tailed tit numbers seem typical, and both these species are usually sensitive to cold weather. It's too early to assess the overall number of juveniles, though the impression is that some species have done well, including long-tailed tit and robin, but others have not produced any young at all so far; blackcap and blackbird for example. The dry weather which will have reduced the number of available soil invertebrates is likely to make life difficult for any juvenile blackbirds, but its a puzzle why there are no juvenile blackcaps so far, as invertebrates seem abundant in the canopy and shrub layer. Blue tits fledged broods of up to 10, and certainly were finding it easy to find sufficient invertebrate prey.

2018 has been the best season so far for long-tailed tit, a species which is expected to fare badly after a cold winter

Friday 4 May 2018

Three years ago, we erected six tawny owl boxes, two on our farm woodland patch and the others on friends' neighbouring farms.
First year 2016 - Blanked!
Second year - a grey squirrel seemed pretty cosy in one of ours but no luck with the others.
Third in, Wednesday earlier this week - Ta-Da! Two lovely tawny owl chicks ringed from one of our boxes and a brood of three ringed from one of our neighbours.


Thursday 3 May 2018

Had a great Tuesday morning on our Dipper project....ringed 30 pulli and a further 13 still to do - will revisit on Sunday to do these when they've grown a bit!
Hopefully we will have time to monitor second broods although it's an 80 mile round trip to check our 24 nest sites.
The data gathered from our project will complement that gathered by Paddy, Paul W and Karen M from their site monitoring on the Eastern Cleddau and surrounding area.... updates to follow... 
Love Dippers 😊

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Woodcock results for 2017/18 winter

By the spring equinox, the vast majority of the wintering woodcock population in Pembs are usually well on their way back to their breeding grounds in northern and eastern Europe, and Russia. They're a bit late leaving this year due to the cold weather in March, and on 19th, counts of birds in six pasture fields were very similar to typical mid-winter counts (30 compared to counts of 34 and 26 in the same fields during December and February). They are often much more difficult to approach in Feb and March than they are earlier in the winter, and only five of the 30 birds were caught, three of  which had been ringed earlier in the winter suggesting that many individuals chose to sit out the bad weather. One bird, at 270g was 55g lighter than average, so had clearly struggled to feed, but three others weighed, 351g, 360g and 361g, and were ready for off.

The counts made during ringing sessions gave an average density of 0.53 birds per hectare, identical to the long-term average. Of the 122 individuals handled, the ratio of ad to 1stW was 41:81, a much higher proportion of 1stW than the long term average of (5:6).

Almost all woodcock caught have muddy bills right to the feathering, though it is very rare to see one feeding, and on nights when it isn't raining the mud dries off by a couple of hours after dark, suggesting that they only feed for a brief period at dusk.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Colour Ringed Knot - Update

During the flurry of Knot sightings in West Wales over the last few weeks, we have received data on the colour ringed Knot on the 7th March at the Gann. It was first ringed in Waddenzee August 2014, resighted by the same ringer at Porsangerfjord Norway during spring migration and recaptured by Pemb's Ringing Group 7th March 2018. A short but interesting life history for a bird that has an average weight of 137g. We still have a lot to learn about migrating Waders that choose to use the Gann as a stop over. The continued resighting of colour ringed Waders by the users of the Pemb's Bird blog is very much appreciated.

Thursday 8 March 2018

The Gann

Interesting evening at the Gann, 8 species of wader recorded mainly Bar-tailed Godwit, also in the mix were Oystercatcher, Redshank, Ruff, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Knot and a single Whimbrel. We have heard a Whimbrel calling on a few occasions since the middle of January and there is a possibility this is the same bird.

The most intriguing bird of the evening was a colour ringed Knot from a ringing scheme in the Netherlands (we are awaiting details).

We had some resightings from the Skomer Wardens today and one Oystercatcher ringed last night was resighted on a Skomer high tide roost this morning. This confirms further, that there is an interaction between the Gann and Skomer. Thanks Ed, Bee, et al.

The Purple Sandpiper ringed back in January may well not be a one-off occurrence, as we had a chat with Derek G in the car park and he showed us a photo he took back in November at the Gann of a Purple Sandpiper.

Saturday 27 January 2018

Ty Rhyg Redpolls

Within Pembrokeshire lesser redpoll is a fairly scarce breeding bird with a restricted distribution centred around Mynydd Preseli in the NE of the county. It breeds in gorse, birch, and willow scrub as well as in conifer plantations, especially in re-planted areas at 5 to 15 years following clear felling. The ringing site at Ty Rhyg ticks this last box, and just over 300 redpolls have been caught and ringed there during the breeding season, May to September, since 2008. By November, they are noticably scarce at the site, and they are usually then absent until April.

Surprisingly for a small species, redpoll has quite a high recapture rate, and there have been seven instances of birds caught by ringers elsewhere:

The only spring recovery is of Y741881 recorded at Bardsey on 23/4/2014. This same individual was also caught again in Cambridgeshire on 19/12/2017, and like the others, shows an easterly bias in period October to February.

Looking back at previous species accounts of redpoll in Pembrokeshire, the breeding status has remained broadly similar since the days of Matthew in 1894, i.e. a scarce breeding species predominantly in the Preseli area. In winter, the picture is less clear and it seems to have been scarce in most years with occasional invasions, such as one in 1990/91 (Donovan and Rees 1994). Some of the Ty rhyg birds were re-caught in gardens, so at least some are making use of garden feeders where they are attracted to nyger seed. The use of gardens by redpolls is a very recent trend, apparently since 2008, (BTO website).

Wednesday 20 December 2017


The passage of several hundred Redwing through Camrose in the last few weeks has provided a second year of good biometric data. 50/50 - Adults/Juveniles. Give the migrating distances involved, we noted several birds in the 70g bracket, several topping 75g and one at 82.2g, the average weight of a Redwing is 65g. The average wing as per BTO data is 119mm and the majority were just that or 1mm -/+, however, some birds were measuring well into the 120’s with one topping 129mm. A calm early morning seems the ideal time but to find one in November and December is an endeavour, to collect this very ‘time specific’ data.

Thursday 19 October 2017

Preseli RAS and CES

Can't believe that the summer has flown by so fast, with so little time for ringing. Nothing too exciting to report but here's a round up for the Preseli area.

The woodland CES at Llandilo was fairly quiet during the July and August visits when many of the breeding adults and newly fledged young leave the woods and (presumably) head for the hedgerows to feed on fruits and seeds. Any remaining adults are moulting and tend to skulk around without getting caught. In 2017 the number of individuals caught during all 12 visits was 269; this compares to 194 (2016 ) and is almost identical to the the 2015 result of 270. The number of adults this season was down on the previous two years, probably reflecting the two previous fairly poor breeding seasons, especially in 2016. The number of juveniles caught this year was much higher than in either 2015 or 2016, suggesting that this season has been a significantly more productive season (see graph below).

Most of the species caught are common woodland species with the top three being Blackcap (126), Blue Tit (88) and Robin (70) though the red-listed Marsh Tit just about makes it into the top ten with 20 (totals are 2015 - 2017).

The numbers of adult wheatears returning to breed at the Preseli study plot dropped substantially this year to 43, compared to 61 in 2016. Overwinter adult survival was the lowest recorded at 40% compared to an average of 59% since 2013, and nest success has been negatively affected by bad weather in four seasons of the past six seasons. This year, three broods of up to six nestlings were found dead due to starvation/chilling, so a population bounce-back next year is not predicted, unless breeders are recruited from more productive areas.

The photo below was taken in 2012 following a particularly cold, wet and windy June day. The male was seen entering the nest cavity with food, only to re-emerge with his beak full, looking a bit confused, and when the nest was inspected, all the nestlings were dead and the nest soaking wet. Some of the nest cavities can also act as drainage holes during intense rain, perhaps forcing the brooding female to leave. This season, the three broods found in a similar state were all at the same stage, though well feathered young and nests at the egg stage had fared better.

Unfeathered wheatear nestlings are very vulnerable during cold, wet weather

Reading the colour combinations is always a bit of a challenge and you can be sure a bird is colour-ringed by the way it hides its legs from view just as you take the photo...