Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Garden birds

Perhaps one of the more inaptly named birds is the garden warbler, as it has no association with the tamed vegetation normally found in a typical garden, instead preferring scrub and unkempt hedgerows. It is also a summer visitor, so when one was caught and ringed by Paul in his garden in the middle of Milford Haven yesterday it was quite a surprise! Paul also caught 2 blackcap during the same session, following on from 2 others in the previous week.

There are no (apparent) previous December records of garden warbler in Pembs but former winter records include 2 february birds one of which was ringed at Pembroke refinery in February 1992.

Friday, 28 November 2014

old crests

After reading that the mid-Wales ringing team were catching plenty of goldcrests, it was decided to make a late season visit to our upland conifer site at Ty Rhyg to see if the situation was the same in Pembrokeshire. Netting has been tried at this time of year in the past in 2009 and 2013 with very limited success, (catches of 0 and 1 respectively). Between 2:30 and 4:00pm 36 goldcrests were caught including an adult retrapped from 2013. The catch was almost entirely goldcrest but a reed bunting, a great spotted woodpecker and a snipe added to the variety.

1st Winter snipe - quite a few can be seen beside the tracks of the plantation

Thinking to try the same in my woodland 'garden', six acres of mainly oak and willow not far from Ty Rhyg where goldcrests can be heard daily, the result was less spectacular in terms of numbers; just 4 goldcrests were caught but it included retraps from 2011 and 2012. At 3 yrs and 4 months since being ringed as a juvenile the first of these is quite an old goldcrest, with the BTO longevity record being only 4 yrs, 2 months.

The tail of the three year old female goldcrest was surprisingly pointed
This 1st winter goldcrest has pointed tail feathers though one of the central
pair has been replaced with a blunter round-tipped feather more typical of those found on adults 

The following day, another netting attempt in the broad-leaf woodland failed to produce any goldcrests, but this was compensated for by a gorgeous 1st winter male firecrest, the only bird caught during the four-hour session and the first to be ringed at this site.

The firecrest

Monday, 17 November 2014

Busy morning

On Sunday the weather was good enough for a garden session and in just 4 hours just under 100 birds were handled.   This included 35 retraps and a control Greenfinch typically late in the morning (they never seem to be active early in the morning) and a good selection of species although too many Blue Tits!

The new birds included three with ticks - a Chaffinch and a Robin

and a cracking adult female Great Spotted Woodpecker

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Great White Snipe or Snowcock?

The first two evenings of woodcock ringing got off to a good start this autumn with a golden plover, a meadow pipit and nine woodcock ringed including this leucistic individual. At first while at quite a distance away, it stood out so much in the lamp that it looked as if it was either a barn owl or a polythene bag, but its bobbing head reduced the options to barn owl. Then when a little closer it began running through the pasture looking very woodcock-like apart from the colour. It soon settled and was duly caught, and what an amazing bird! It was assumed that it must be a first year bird as a species such as woodcock which has evolved to be so cryptically-plumaged must have very poor survival prospects when adorned with such bright colours, but the bird was almost certainly an adult based on the wear of its longest primaries, the shape of the inner primary tips and the shape of the axillaries. At 372g it was obviously very healthy and a single completely typical secondary feather appeared to be retained suggesting that the bird may have had typical plumage before moulting and developed leucism as an adult.

Paddy and Paul

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Garden stuff

A lovely calm morning which appeared very quiet but with just a few nets up we caught 36 new birds and 10 retraps this morning

The first six Goldcrests of the autumn and a nice selection of common birds in a variety of plumage states including a couple of Dunnocks near to completing their moult and a very scruffy female Greenfinch in the middle of its primary moult.

One bird we didn't ring is this Chaffinch with one of the biggest growths of
Papillomatosis we have seen.  Its been a commonly reported disease across the UK this autumn with a few places reporting very high incidences - its fairly uncommon here but we see a few each year.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

More swallows

On Wednesday 7th we managed another swallow roost catch at Winterton Marsh and caught 75 new birds this time including a few adults as well as lots of youngsters with just a few which had just fledged. A control came from skokholm where it had been ringed in the next just 19 days ago and was clearly getting ready to leave our shores.
Other species included a number of Reed and Sedge warblers, a single willow warbler and a few reed buntings, in total 15 birds which is a good number for a single net in an hour.  Clearly the marsh is a good place for the marshland acro warblers to fatten up a bit as they migrate through. In 1996  in a month of ringing here we caught several hundred sedge warblers who generally stayed just 2 days and gained around 1.5 gms in that time.  They can put on huge amounts of fat pre long distance migration and weigh around 20gm but we rarely see this here.

Friday, 25 July 2014

swallow success

Last night we made our first autumn visit to a local swallow roost and caught 98 birds, all of which were juveniles, including a few which were still growing their wing feathers and had just fledged. A good indication of quite a good breeding season for swallows although a few people have been reporting slightly lower numbers at their farms and on Skokholm only two successful breeding pairs which is half of the numbers in 2013.
Along with the swallows a small number of sedge warblers and a couple of reed warblers were caught in he single net so the marsh must be full of them at the moment.

Sunday, 6 July 2014


One of the three retraps last week had been ringed at south haven, skokholm in August 2013. It's interesting that this bird is still wandering around the local area and maybe is breeding or going to breed on one of the islands.
Skokholm will start to catch stormiest next week and do so through the rest of the autumn and last year caught birds which had previously been ringed elsewhere, several from Cornwall.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A few stormies

We managed to get out last night in perfect conditions for our first catch of storm petrels in 2014.  With two 40' nets set one above the other and two lots of loudspeakers within 15 minutes of setting up the first bird was caught and by the time we decided to finish at 0130hrs the grand total was 77 new birds and 3 retraps.
We spent a bit of time trying to match the birds with some ageing criteria published about 12 years ago but found it very difficult to be sure of what we were looking at - they are devilishly difficult so all ended up being called "not born this year".
We also recorded the state of the "brood patch" scoring every bird with 1 - fully feathered patch, to 4- totally clear patch but not vasculated.  We have no idea why immature stormies develop these patches when they are not breeding or even if females develop better ones than males but perhaps one day the data will be useful to some researcher!
To add just a little excitement we also caught a male natterers bat which was quite mad with us and chattered away in the hands of our qualified bat handler, it flew away strongly after a few minutes of being examined. Quite why a basically woodland species was flying around the coastline is a bit of a mystery.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Kilpaison today

A lovely calm and slightly overcast morning enabled us to open up all the nets here and we caught around 70 birds including 4 Cetti's Warblers (2 retraps_ and 18 Blackcaps perhaps signifying a significant fall overnight. 
A steady trickle of Chiffchaffs included a control from the French scheme and there were retraps of both Chiffchaff and Blackcap from last year. As usual a number of Bullfinch were ringed and five Goldfinch.
There were at least 3 singing Cetti's (perhaps 4) and four or five Lesser Whitethroat singing in the scrubby patches although none were caught. This site is excellent for Lesser Whitethroat and Bullfinch.

Monday, 13 January 2014

At last some decent weather

Last Saturday (11th January) was almost calm by recent standards and with just two nets open 51 new birds and 32 retraps were caught at Mullock.
A good mixture included the usual mandatory blue tits but good numbers of new house sparrows and chaffinch (nearly all females) and a few blackbirds, robins, dunnocks and great tits but only a single greenfinch.  Sadly the lack of greenfinch is typical as their numbers have declined due to the trichomonosis  disease.
Of the retraps an blue tit first ringed as a juvenile in 2009 was a long lived record and as usual in the winter at feeding sites there were a number of retraps of birds from two or three years ago still together as a foraging group.
While we were ringing there was the noise of a pheasant shoot in the valley half a mile away and sadly a jay, ringed at Mullock in December 2009, was also shot.  Credit to the organiser for saving the ring and passing it on.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Skokholm - Accreditation as a Bird Observatory

The 44th BOC Annual General Meeting took place at Portland BO this weekend.

Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle the wardens, with Wendy James and myself representing the committee attended the meeting and the accreditation was awarded.
An enormous THANK YOU to all involved. Skokholm last held Bird Observatory status in 1976.

Richard Dobbins
On behalf of Skokholm Bird Observatory.