27 Mar 2013

Bleedin Bramblings.....

A jet lagged approach to the weekends birding saw me spending most of the time snoozing in the conservatory whilst keeping a close eye on proceedings at the feeders. We now have three Bramblings - two males and a female. How do I know this for sure? Cos one of the males is ringed with a BTO metal ring. Unfortunately I can only get the first letter and the last digit which narrows it down to 498 birds a according to the BTO's Mark Grantham thats the number of ringed male Brambling with that letter & digit combination.

The next step was to put a mist net up once the snow had eased off and try to catch it. As usual the Blue Tits flock to the net and whislt I'm busy extracting them the finches look on in bemusement from the top of the trees.

Three Blackcaps were also present - one male, one unringed female and a ringed female.

Although moost of the finches stayed well away from the mist net the Siskins proved to be more amenable with five being ringed. This year is the first time I've caught Siskins in the garden. Another ringing first for the garden was Song Thrush!

Meanwhile, despite the snow, Wood Pigeosn are buildign a nest in a bare birch tree and Great Tits are exploring the nest box below.

22 Mar 2013

Australia March 2013

Although a business trip I did manage to spend a weekend with Amy, Lachlan & baby Lizzie in the New South Wales Coastal resort of Merumbula. Amy met me Albury railway station and we drove the 6 hours across the great Dividing Range to the coast. Highlights on the way were several Wedge-tailed Eagles and my first wild Emu.

Merembula is a beautiful town surrounded by sea, estuaries and coastal brush. The variety of wildlife is stunning and a feeding station at a local wildlife sanctuary provided some superb photo oppurtunities.

 Bell Miner
Common Bronzewing
 Crimson Rosella's
 King Parrot

 Merry, merry king of the bush
 Rainbow Lorikeets

 Pied Currawong
 juv Satin Bowerbird - the adults were extremely shy
 Spotted Turtle Dove
Tawny Frogmouth

Another highlight was my 1st wild Echidna found wandering out f the coastal scrub belt behind the apartment Locky was using for the three weeks he was working in Merumbula. A fascinating little momotrene - an egg laying mammal that incubates its egg in a 'pouch' made up of rolls of fat - a bit like its own muffin top.

Invertebrates are also a major part of the Australian experience and aren't always for the faint hearted. This aptly named spider hunting Huntsman gave Amy a fright.

Just to prove your never to young to start apppreicating wildlife here's a photo of Lizzie with her mum stroking a Koala.

13 Mar 2013

Finch movements

Lots of ringers throughout the UK are reporting good number of Siskin moving through gardens. My garden has been no exception. I'm currently sat in front of the computer, jet lagged, across the other side of the World in Australia at 2.30 in the morning but just before I came out I spent sometime in our conservatory photographing the comings and goings through the window. A male and female Brambling are still regular visitors and there is at least one male Blackcap and a new unringed female .

I even managed a short ringing session where I caught two male Siskin and in keeping with the reports from other ringers it appears the majority of the birds currently on the move north to their breeding grounds are males.
This one is a young 2nd calender year male showing a good contrst between the inner adult type greater coverts and the plaer fringed outer greater coverts.

I also had a good wader canon netting session with the SCAN group in N Wales and we ended up with a catch of Dunin, Redshank and Turnstone after an extremely early start with the net being fired at dawn! We were done and dusted by 09.30 am and  I was in the office for 11.00 with a total of 107 birds being processed. Some of the re-trapped Turnstone were thought to be at least 10 years old.

3 Mar 2013

Lesser Scaup - nailed it!

After Stan Skelton found a drake Lesser Scaup on the Cop Hole Pool, just outside the Cheshire boundary in Flintshire, a few weeks a go hopes were high that it would relocate to one of the Cheshire Meres and become a proper County rarity. As the weeks passed it did appear that the bird had done one and buggered off somewhere else.

Low and behold, I'm driving back from York after a weekend away celebrating my parents-in-laws 57th wedding anniversary when Mark rings me to say its been re-located at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB.  An hour later  I was standing in the freezing cold watching a 4th for Cheshire doing what rare ducks always seem to do. Namely naff all.

Mindful of the spectre of hybrids as duck's normally shag anything and there are lots of horrible little aythea hybrids knocking around (check the Collin's Guide - they have a double page devoted to these bastard birds), I wanted to check the nail on the tip of the bill and the wingbar to see the important white inner secondary bar and the browner primary bar. So, as birders came and went, I waited and waited.

Eventually a Mallard spooked the Lesser Scaup from its slumbers and it lifted its head before settling back down again.

After awhile the bird decided to rest up on a nearby island so  I waited again until it decided to enter the water on the opposite side. At this point it seemed to perk up a bit and took exception to a Moorhen minding its on business and having a bit of a bath.

At this point I realised it was staying in close proximity to a female Tufted Duck and the aggression was aimed at the Moorhen for coming to close. That'll mean more little hybrids come the spring to confuse us no doubt.

Finally, after what seemed to be an interminable wait but in reality was only an hour, I got the shot I wanted of the open wing. Nailed.