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19 Aug 2015

Ringed Plover and Dunlin - 1st autumn SCAN trip of 2015!

SCAN had a recent canon netting session in N Wales targeting Ringed Plover. The recce work showed there was a roosting flock of around 80 birds including some we'd colour flagged / ringed in previous seasons.

As usual in these circumstances I can't sleep when I know I have to get up early. At 3.30  I was wide awake and making a brew before leaving the house at 5.30 even though the meeting time wasn't until 07.20! My intention was to arrive at the meeting place early and do a bit of birding.

The weather, for once, was perfect with plenty of sunshine but a nice stiff breeze to keep it cool. The hedges were alive with roving tit flocks and the occasional Chiffchaff whilst a family of Mistle Thrushes searched for invertebrates in among the sheep. The tit flocks were joined by a number of chaffinches and the odd goldfinch whilst a couple of buzzards made low level passes across the fields.

Eventually meeting up with Steve & Rachel and the team we loaded the canon netting gear and set off to our designated beach to set the nets. Birds started arriving early although a peregrine spooked them. They soon returned  though I was given the job of firing the nets on Steve and Rachel's command.......


The wait seemed interminable as the birds hunkered down and slowly moved up the beach into the catching zone as the tide rose. At last the signal came to arm the box and fire on a count down of three, two, one....................

BOOM!

We made a successful catch and eventually caught 102 Ringed Plover, a few Dunlin and a single Turnstone. With the birds all extracted we set about the ringing and processing with biometrics being recorded for wing length, moult, total head and bill and weight. Each Ringed Plover was ringed wit ha metal BTO ring on the right leg and a red colour ring and orange flag with two letters / numbers on the left leg to enable field identification.

 Adult male Ringed Plover ringed and colour makred ready for release.
 Juvenile Ringed Plover showing scaly upperparts and dull head pattern compared to adult.
 Juvenile Ringed Plover
2nd calendar year Ringed Plover showing moult contrast in coverts.

The Ringed Plovers we caught are from two different populations with the birds overwintering in the UK already in full wing moult. A second population (tundrae) travels Africa to winter and delay their moult until they arrive in warmer climes. We caught a couple of birds with arrested moult which was interesting to see.

The Dunlin were interesting - they were all of the race schinzii that breed in Iceland & W Europe and winter in Africa. There were a number of juveniles caught which suggests they've had a fairly good breeding season.

 Juvenile Dunlin (above) showing buff tipped wing coverts and adult below with worn and faded coverts.

A great day out and a very pleasing catch.


Red Squirrels

Red Squirrels are one of my favourite British mammals. Ever since I saw my first one in Cumbria in the 70's I've loved their cuteness! Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria is a stronghold for them. So, when Jan announced she was booking up a long weekend there with our daughter, son in law and granddaughter after our sons wedding I was looking forward to the break but mainly the opportunity to see the squirrels!





They were coming to a feeding station near the rangers hut and it was nice to see a selection of woodland birds there as well. These included lots of Bullfinches, a Yellowhammer, Coal Tits & Nuthatch as well as plenty of commoner stuff. 

Little Lizzie was fascinated by the squirrels - its a mammal they don't get in Australia!

11 Aug 2015

Forest Shieldbug

Found on my car as we prepared it for wedding use!


We've still got a few Swifts knocking around and with a large hatch of flying ants over the weekend we had numerous other hirundines over the house along with gulls feasting on the flying insects. These in turn attracted a Hobby hunting the hirundines.

8 Aug 2015

More Swallows

After a late start to the breeding season my local Swallows seem to be doing well although breeding success seems to vary from farm to farm. One farm has a livery stables and here the Swallows are already sitting on 3rd clutches. On another the 2nd broods have only just hatched and the brood sizes are generally smaller. Yet this is a dairy farm with old out buildings that would have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of flies!

In between weddings & trips out with our daughters, son in law & grandaughter I've managed to get out in the evenings and ring a few more broods. The 3 sites have currently yielded nearly 60 youngsters with one site ( the livery stables) accounting for 25 from 4 pairs of that total with more to come! The dairy farm, however has struggled with 3 pairs fledging 10 young.



We've also gad a Wrens nest in the garden. It's in the unusual position of being in the top a beech hedge no more than 3 m from the kitchen window. I knew nothing about it until we heard the young and watched from the window as four youngsters fledged and left the nest for the first time.

1 Aug 2015

A close encounter with a Peregrine.

I had an amazing close encounter with a juvenile Peregrine last Thursday. Whilst driving back from Denbigh to Mold I spotted a juvenile Petegrine sat in the road. Stopping ant turning around as soon as I could I managed, with the help of local photographer Andy Davis & another motorist who'd stooped, to catch it. It could fly short distances but was very thin & weak with no obvious injuries. It was ringed with a BTO metal ring and also flour ringed. Phoning Rachel Taylor of the BTO & SCAN ringing group for advice she arranged to meet me at Conwy RSPB and take it back to her place where it would be collected by the N Wales Raptor rehabilitation & hopefully released.

Apparantely it's quite common for juvenile Peregrines to become disorientated and weakened in their early months after fledging. What is unusual was that this particular bird had been ringed about 40 km away. This is a long way for a juvenile bird to travel from its natal site. Young birds generally stay fairly close to where they were raised so either this bird is very adventurous or something untoward has happened. 


Photo above courtesy of Andy Davis.

Hopefully this youngster will make a full recovery and will live to grace our skies. 

28 Jul 2015

Garden Tigers.

Whilst over at Hilbre recently Gavin had the moth trap running and was inspecting the contents. Among the many small brown jobs were a number of stunning Garden Tigers. Their caterpillars have been every where this year so its not surprising there are so many adults around.



More good news from the island has been the confirmed breeding of Rock Pipits for the first time in living memory. Breeding was suspected last year when an adult bird was seen carrying food and this spring we had a displaying and singing male. More recently a pair of birds was seen carrying food (the male was ringed in the winter) and this week there have been sightings of recently fledged young.

I've been pretty busy recently with my sons wedding and with my daughter, granddaughter & son in law over from Australia so birding has taken a back seat - apart from the garden stuff! The recently fledged Blackbirds are back after going missing for a couple of weeks and are still begging off their parents. There is also an unringed juvenile and a different female so it looks as if two neighboring pairs are currently looking for worms on our nicely wet lawn!

22 Jul 2015

Fledglings everywhere.

It looks as if , despite a slow start, the garden birds are having a successful breeding season. There are lots of juveniles around whilst most of the adults are in post breeding moult and keeping fairly well hidden. Our garden Blackbirds look as if they're embarking on a 3rd brood and the Robins have just fledged their 2nd brood with 3 spotty juveniles being ringed.


Interestingly I've recently caught two juvenile Great Tits with consecutive ring numbers ringed as pullus in boxes installed on a nearby farm. Although only a few hundred metres away it shows these young birds are dispersing into gardens for a readily available food source even though they were born and fledged in prime 'natural habitat'.

Although some of the most recently fledged birds are still in full juvenile plumage there are signs that others are undergoing their post juvenile moult and beginning to attain their adult feathering. This Blue Tit has already moulted most of its lesser coverts and has replaced them with blue adult ones and its also dropped most of its juvenile greater coverts and the new ones are still growing.