27 Mar 2014

Chiffie in the garden

I woke up early this morning and managed to photograph this singing male Chiffchaff through the open bathroom window!

With an hour or so spare before having to drive to Leeds and with a few Redpoll hanging around the feeders I put a 3m mist net up. An hour later, after the usual Blue Tits and Great Tits and a couple of Chaffinches (but no Redpoll!) I caught this beauty. It was quite easy to age this bird as a 2nd calendar year as it had 4 retained juvenile greater coverts that contrasted with the greener edged adult type it had obtained after its post juvenile moult last autumn. They're not always this clear!

Whilst playing with Photoshop I also highlighted this 2nd calendar year male Chaffinches single retained juvenile greater covert.

24 Mar 2014

Owls about that then!

Good news over the weekend when Barry texted me to say his resident Little Owls were using the box I made for them last year. Both birds were in the box so hopefully they'll nest in it rather than in their old home that had been storm damaged. Many thanks to Barry for the following photograph.
Its good to know my carpentry efforts haven't been all in vain!

A beautiful morning Saturday saw me driving to Hilbre to spend the day over the tide carrying out maintenance to storm damaged gates & heligoland traps so there was little time for birding.

I did manage to ring a new Wren and whilst John was there he re-trapped a Rock Pipit in a potter trap  - its not very often you get to see these in the hand! This one was aged as as 2nd calendar year bird (Euring 5) and had started a pre-breeding moult with one of the median coverts beign replaced and some of the greater coverts missing. It had also seemingly undergone some body feather moult around the head.

Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worst and as Steve & John left for the mainland the wind speeds tarted increasing and the weather got very squally. At one point it was blowing Force 8 making work on the fences slightly more difficult!
As has been the norm recently a small party of Common Scoter spent the high tide loafing around on the sheltered east side and gave good views whilst  I worked on repairing the SK baffle in time for the spring rush of migrants.

Inlet baffle to SK heligoland with mesh repairs done and dreaded Blackthorn cut back to prevent it damaging the rest of the wire. Severe Blackthorn & wire rash resulted.

After a good days work I eventually got of around tea time and set off for home for a well deserved beer - thanks to Steve!

18 Mar 2014

Leasowe Lighthouse Twite

A couple of Twite have been hanging around the famous 'triangle' near Leasowe Lighthouse  for a few weeks now.  Found by LBO stalwart Al Conlin they've been associating with the Linnet flock and feeding either in the paddocks themselves or, as yesterday,  on a bunded area the other side of the hedge. I managed a quick trip up after work yesterday and initially picked them up on call. Twite are by no means annual in Cheshire these days and the last 'twitchable' ones were a flock of 6 in 2012 in the same area. Lovely little birds and one I'm very familiar with on Shetland.

I couldn't sex either of them as they haven't developed the pink rump associated with breeding males.

17 Mar 2014

Back at Barry's

We had another ringing session in Barry's garden last Friday and as he'd reported god numbers of Siskins expectations were high of a good catch. Setting the nets at 06.15 on a misty morning we could hear Siskins moving around us and it wasn't long before we caught the first one.  The shed has been re-roofed and more space made on the bench for ringing activities so its beginning to feel more like a bird observatory than a humble shed.
With 219 birds processed during the day it certainly kept us busy. As well as the Siskins we also caught four other finch species - Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch & 3 Bullfinches!

Some of the 2nd calender year Siskins showed a very obvious moult limit in the greater coverts whilst others had moulted all of them.

Adult male Siskin.

2nd calender year female Siskin showing 4 old outer greater coverts contrasting with yellower tipped darker new inner ones.
2nd calender year male Siskin showing same contrast in greater coverts as female above. Note the brighter rump in the male as well.

2nd calender year female Goldfinch. You can see a moult contrast in the tail on this bird.
Its a female as the red doesn't extend behind the eye and the rictal bristles at the base of the bill are greyish rather than black.

2nd calender year female Greenfinch.
Adult male Chaffinch.

Another highlight was catching one of these beauties. They've become really scarce locally and I'm not sure why.
Saturday saw me carrying out good son-in-law gardening duties before an afternoon of watching the rugby and an evening spent making some nest boxes to go in an area Barry has permission to install them.

12 Mar 2014

Another SCAN ringing trip.

A bit late with this one but SCAN had their last canon netting trip of the winter a few weeks ago. The target was Sanderling and did they give us the run around! The roost site moved and resulted in the nets being lifted at the last minute and reset about 3 miles further down the coast where Chris Bridges managed to relocate them. I was dispatched along the coast to help with the spotting and twinkling and ended up walking about 5 miles in warm weather wearing chest waders. It was worth the effort with a good catch of Sanderling and a smaller number of Turnstone, Ringed Plover & Dunlin.
 Chris measuring Dunlin bill length.

We also had a night time mist netting session recently with 5 nets being set across a flooded pool just behind the beach at Wig. Unfortunately, as happens, the birds decided to roost somewhere else that night and we only had a small catch of Curlew and Oystercatchers. It was good experience setting nets over water in the dark though.

More survey work on the Gowy as well recently with this adult Yellow-legged Gull being the highlight. Meanwhile on the local pond a 2nd Moorhen has joined the single bird that has been there all winter. With the very low water levels last summer the local cats killed all the young birds and one of the adults so there has been a lone bird there since last August. Cats are a real menace to our wildlife we seem to be infested with them on our estate. The Mallards have also turned up again and will hopefully breed.

6 Mar 2014

Red-flanked Bluetail.

A red-flanked Bluetail away from the east coast or Shetland and inland miles from the sea raised a few eyebrows! Fantastic little birds and always a pleasure to catch up with. This one was on the Glocs / Worcestershire border and has been present for over a month. A business meeting in Bristol enabled to to schedule an hour with this Siberian waif.

2 Mar 2014

Yankee Doodle Larus Dandy

American Herring Gull. Depending if your a larophile or a larophobe its either an enigmatic species or a shit bird. They're also hard to identify outside of juvenile or first winter plumage and there's been several birds resembling this species seen in Cheshire over the years that have not been submitted because the full suite of identification features hasn't been photographed.

Roll on February 2014 when Dan Brown found a nailed on classic 1st winter 'Smithsonian' up near Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre - bloody miles away! photo's showed it to be a classic with pale head, Glauc type bill, chocolate brown underparts with the requisite heavily barred under tail coverts, upper tail coverts and an almost all dark tail. Plans were made and then changed and changed again but I eventually met up with Fred & Pod at Avian Ecology's Cheshire HQ at 11.30pm and we set off for the arduous drive.

Sharing the driving we arrived in Campbeltown  harbour around 6 am and dozed for an hour or so listening to the lapping waves and the buzz saw sound of Pod snoring!

As soon as it got light we looked around the harbour area and soon realised the bird wasn't around and as the light got better the birds started dispersing inland. We followed and knowing the gulls were feeding on flooded pastures we headed out in a loop checking the likely areas. Eventually Fred picked it up and we spent the next 3 hours chasing the gulls as they moved from pasture to flooded pasture.

After a few hours we decided to have another look at the rafts of Eider and Black Guillemots in the harbour before setting off for home.

We headed north to Rhunahaorine Point where a couple of Snow Geese had been seen with the Greenland Whitefronted Geese and soon found the two birds - a white phase and intermediate phase.

Looking at the maps before setting off on our trip we realised we could save some mileage by getting a couple of ferries. Time-wise it would take the same time but two ferry this sounded much more relaxing so we headed to Tarbert where we had some warming soup before getting the ferry across to Portavedie then driving through the hills to Gourock and getting the ferry across to Dunoon. Arriving just outside Port Glasgow at 17.00 we hit a bit of traffic before getting on the M74 and having a relatively smooth journey home.