27 Nov 2012

Desert for Dessert

An opurtunity presnted by a brief break from the torrential rain and a delayed meeting provided me with an excuse to have an early lunch and take the short trip to Rhyl to see one if its more famous recent residents - a female Desert Wheatear.

Despite the forecast break in the weather it was still windy and miserable but, thankfully, not raining. The star of the show performed well and it was a shame someone wasn't there to video the bird running towards the camera!!!

The N West has a decent record with Desert Wheatear and this is about the thrid for N Wales. In addition there was a very confiding male bird on Crosby beach around 2007 -see below and a spring male in Greater Manchester.

The bird suppressed in Cheshire is best not discussed.......

26 Nov 2012

Winter thrushes

With a clear night Friday came the unmistakable calls of Redwings & Fieldfares passing over the house. A quick check of the weather forecast showed early morning mist. Ideal for a small fall on Hilbre. Unfortunately the tide was against us so we had to leave it until late morning to get across. The effort was worthwhile though with  small number of migrant thrushes and finches ringed - including this Fieldfare. One of only a very small number ringed on Hilbre over the last few years.

The Fieldfare was aged as a 1st winter male on the pattern of the crown feathers and the retained juvenile greater coverts.

The Goldfinches were educational as they were a first winter female (left) and adult male (right)

In addition to the Fieldfare we also ringed a Song Thrush and a couple of Blackbirds.

Whilst we were on Hilbre news came through that a late Wheatear found Friday at Rhyl had indeed been re-identified as a female Desert Wheatear after local birders suggested it would be worth a second look due to the late date. Well done Rob! That's yet another Desert Wheatear for N Wales and yet another one that's missed us!

21 Nov 2012

More Waxwings.

Found 26 Waxwings yesterday near the office in Mold. Went back for the camera but unfortunately the weather was crap and they were feeding in a private garden and occasionally roosting up in a tall tree so pictures not brilliant. Still, theyr'e always brilliant birds to see and brightened up an otherwise dull trip to the post box.
There's quite a few Rowan berries adjacent to our house where I'm expecting Waxwings but these short November days mean I'm leaving for work in the dark and returning in the dark. Hopefully I'll get some this weekend.....................

20 Nov 2012

All about waders

A great day Saturday spent on Anglesey with the SCAN ringing group rocket netting waders. Three nets were set at different locations to try and catch Curlew & Ringed Plover. Although not hugely successful we caught a small catch of Ringed Plover and Dunlin in one net and Curlew in another. The weather turned out to be beautiful and it was just nice being outside in such a glorious location in good weather.

Sunday saw me solo on Hilbre over the tide as a group of students from Salford University Wildlife Photography  Society were visiting. Once again the weather was beautiful and I was able to show them a Song Thrush being ringed and a re-trap Blackbird. Stars of the day though were the Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers that fed at the north end just before and after high tide.


The two regular colour ringed Turnstones were seen including this bird from winter 2007/2008. Just imagine the miles its flown back and forwards to its breeding grounds!

Most of the Purple Sandpipers flew off to Middle Eye to roost but one individual showed exceptionally well for everyone at the north end of Hilbre.

Also of note was a single Blackcap that remained stubbornly in the bracken at the south  end - probably hiding from the marauding male Kestrel that made repeat appearances throughout the day.

13 Nov 2012

Waxwings & Geese

The weekend started exceptionally well with a flyover Waxwing, calling, over the house as I left for work Friday morning. Despite seeing it or another later in the afternoon and searching all the local haunts I didn't refind it. With good numbers now in Cheshire & N Wales I'm pretty sure it won't be long before they find the nearby Rowans.

With the tides being a bit early for a dawn trip to Hilbre Steve & I decided to make the most of a sunny Saturday afternoon and went over for a few hours at low tide. Brent Geese numbers are on the increase and the first wintering Purple Sandpipers have arrived with a maximum of 11 being seen so far.

With fine weather again Sunday we took the opportunity to take a long walk exploring some of the local footpaths. Winter thrushes were prevalent along with a good sized flock of Chaffinch's but no Brambling's.

8 Nov 2012

Don't tell them your name Pike.

A classic Dad's Army sketch with Ian Lavender as the hapless Pike being berated by Captain Mainwaring played by Arthur Lowe. This was a Pike of  different nature. Jack.

Wit hone of our regular days ringing scheduled yesterday in Barry's garden in Burton I was expecting to handle a good number of birds but never anything fishy!

That changed when Barry appeared with a Pike, caught locally, that he wanted to photograph as part of his long term project to photograph every species of British fish! Problem was how to transfer a mean, lean piscine biting machine from a dustbin full of water to an aquarium for its modelling assignment?

Only one answer. Roll the sleeves up, risk getting a finger bitten off and grab it behind the gills keeping well away from the pointy bits in its mouth.

Photo courtesy of Barry Barnacal.

Being the youngest (!) with the fastest reflexes(!) the job fell to me. Actually it was quite docile and after its photo shoot it was quickly returned to a local pond. The finished photo looks pretty good!
Photo courtesy of Barry Barnacal.
As well as the piscine excitement there were plenty of birds to keep us busy as part of our study into survival rates of Blue Tits. Eleven species of bird were caught including two re-trap and two new Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two re-trap Nuthatches and a party of Long-tailed Tits.
Female Great Spot actually ringed in my garden recently.
The Long-tailed Tits were very interesting as three of them were re-traps from December 2011 when we caught a party of 9. The ring numbers were almost consecutive and between ringing they've dispersed, presumably bred and now flocked together again for the winter.
It was noticeable that the numbers of birds were generally down on previous years - especially Blue & Great Tit numbers. Its to early to say yet if this is due to a poor breeding season but hopefully our next two planned sessions over the winter will shed some light on this.
With a local twitch for a Black Redstart just a mile down the road a flyover Crossbill and several hundred yelping Pinkfeet overhead it was a memorable day. Thanks to Barry for the hospitality and the photos!
1st year female Goldfinch courtesy of Barry Barnacal

5 Nov 2012

Coal Tit invasion.

There seems  to have been an invasion of Coal Tits into the UK recently. Looking at the blogs linked to the BTO's ringing demographic site many ringers are reporting unusual numbers of Coal Tits at their regular ringing stations. We even saw a few on the Scillys' a couple of weekends ago - an Islands 'mega'  - including several of the presumed hibernicus or Irish race.

Coal Tits are a regular but scarce winter visitor in my garden and despite ringing there for over 18 months I'd never caught one. Until this weekend................................

Suddenly I caught three in one session including this primrose looking one that I assume is hibernicus. With a yellow wash to the cheeks and a lemon rather than apricot / buff tinge to the underparts it certainly looked the part.

With bright sunshine instead of rain I took the opportunity to walk one of my regular haunts and explore the stubble fields in the hope of finding a rare pipit. Donning wellies I walked the flooded fields (they do look good for a Richard's or something rarer) and was disappointed with a haul of 5 Meadow Pipits and 2 Skylarks although the local Buzzard performed well.
An adjacent field must have just been sprayed with slurry judging by the  number of Common & Black-headed Gulls it attracted but despite diligent searching I couldn't find either a Med Gull or a rare Yank.
We were commenting on Hilbre that we haven't had a passage of winter thrushes on the Island yet with only a single Song Thrush being ringed recently. I'd noted that there hadn't been the usual numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares flying over the house yet this winter and all the hedges are still laden with hawthorn berries. Just as I was returning from my perambulations a large mixed flock of Redwings and Fieldfares flew over from the east and disappeared towards Wales. The first big flock I've seen.

Hilbre was very quiet on Sunday with no new birds being ringed. The weather was fantastic but bitterly cold. As well as the lack of seasonal thrushes we've also noticed a distinct lack of sea ducks.