24 Jul 2017

Swallow ringing

Its that time of year again when attention turns to ringing Swallows on local farms. Although a late start to the season it looks as if they've done fairly well with broods of 5 being common.

Using a 3 m mist net set up inside one of the outbuildings John & I managed to catch two adults - both, unbelievably, ringed! One was ringed as an adult at the same nest site last year but the star bird was ringed by me at the same site in 2013!

She's done an incredible amount of miles since then!

10 Jul 2017


A great name and the Shetland name for Arctic Terns. A very apt description of the noise they make. I was lucky enough to be able to got the Skerries, off Anglesey, again this year to ring Arctic Tern chicks as part of a long term study that has been running for 6 years now and generated a lot of interesting data. As well as the chick ringing a number of the adults are caught each year and fitted with orange leg flags.

We left Holyhead marina in beautiful sunshine and soon saw a couple of Harbour Porpoise as we headed towards the Skerries. As we got closer more and more seabirds were seen with the seas surrounding the island filled with fishing Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots and Terns.

 It was a great few hours and the noise is deafening. The adults take great delight in pecking the top of your head with needle sharp bills so as hat is essential. Whilst having lunch at the lighthouse  I took the opportunity to take a few photos before we left - including some of the colour flagged birds.

On the way back in to Holyhead we came across an exercise involving a military helicopter and the pilot boat.

4 Jul 2017

Drinker moth caterpillar

Jan found this huge caterpillar on one of our evening walks around the village recently. Modern technology meant we had an identification in seconds! I sent a photo to Barry who replied with the identification straight away.

28 Jun 2017

Owls about that then.

Looking out of our bedroom window the other evening after I disturbed the Little owl sat on the adjacent garage roof. It flew to the large black poplar at the back of the garden and balefully turned its back on me. Sneaking out I got the camera from the study and sneaked back in and very quietly opened the window. He (I know this as if you look very carefully you can see the rings on the left leg) turned round,glared at me and then carried on with his observations allowing a few photos.

Amazing pattern on back of head makes it look like its still looking at you. Wonder if this is an anti-predator device. I've found dead Little Owl predated by a Sparrowhawk locally so it may well be.

26 Jun 2017

Puffin Island - Cormorants and Guillemots

The SCAN and SEGUL groups headed to Puffin Island again yesterday with the aim of ringing Guillemot chicks and Cormorants as well as whatever other Razorbill and Shag chicks we could find. We even managed a few gulls as well!

As the weather forecast was initially poor we did the colonies in reverse order to the normal routine, starting with the Guillemots and finishing the day with the Cormorants.

There were good numbers of Guillemots and we managed to catch / retrap a few adults as well. Guillemots and Razorbills take a specially shaped 'auk' ring. Because of these species flat tarsi the ring has a flattened base and has to be closed using a special technique compared to conventional rings. Its hard, noisy and smelly work ringing in auk colonies on cliff faces!

 Guillemot chick - this one was to small to ring
Older chick showing a perfectly fitted clip auk ring expertly fitted by Ros.

We managed to ring a few gulls as well  - mainly Herring Gulls but also three bruisers on the form of Greater Black Backed Gulls

We don't catch many Puffins on Puffin Island although the numbers are slowly increasing. Catching two was a bonus and a new species for a couple of the trainee ringers present. I'm always amazed at how small these auks are compared to the Razorbills and Guillemots.

Suffering from a damaged tendon in my left thumb and being left handed meant I wasn't confident in climbing the chimney to another part of the Guillemot colony. Getting down wasn't an issue but getting up again might have been! Consequently I took a small team to a site with easier access to find a few more Razorbills (and Puffins!) before the whole team met up again for the highlight of the day.......the cormorants! Think Jurassic Park meets ringing team and you'll get the picture. Cormorant chicks look like Pterodactyls and bite like Velociraptors. With a sample of 250 to ring of which 50 were to be colour ringed, after an already gruelling day, wasn't going to be fun. The large stainless steel L rings used on Cormorants  have to be overlapped slightly and aren't easy to close - especially with tired hands so it was with some relief that Steve announced we'd finished the lot!

By now the sun had come out and we were all pretty sunburnt, sweaty and filthy dirty. With the boat arriving to collect us at 18.30 we'd spent the best part of 10 hours on the island and ringed approximately 900 birds.

I arrived home sore and stiff around 20.45, threw my dirty clothes in the garage, grabbed s welcome hot shower and then a well deserved cold beer.

23 Jun 2017

Nature in tooth and claw

Or in this case - beak!
Ravens and gulls are scavengers and will eat carrion. They don't kill livestock unless its severely disabled and probably dying anyway. We've had sheep in the fields behind and in front of the house and recently one animal seemed to want to commit bovid suicide by drowning itself in the pond. Three times in one day it got in and was rescued and eventually drowned overnight. The Ravens were soon on the scene with three birds feasting. Not a pretty sight. The farmer wasn't sure of the issue as he'd checked the animal for maggots. Gruesome, but a fact of life for sheep, where the rear end becomes dirty before they're sheared and can result in a maggot infestation. They enter the water for relief from the maggots.

It reminded me of a similar occasion where a sheep succumbed during the winter - this time it was a pair of Greater black-backed Gulls that made the first incision and the Ravens followed.

Below are Ravens feeding on the latest casualty.

19 Jun 2017

Little Owls - who can resist!

More Little Owl shots of the birds behind our house whose young have now fledged! The male bird has started singing again and last evening I spent about an hour watching the birds fly from tree to tree and occasionally drop on the ground for some tasty snack.

 Adult Little Owl.
Fledgling Little owl.

I bumped into an old friend yesterday I hadn't seen for 31 years. He lives in the village and told me he and his wife had a Barn owl hunting over the filed behind their house recently - I've been hoping for one in the field opposite the house so its nice to know they're around.