24 Apr 2017

Another Siskin control

I've just received another Siskin control from the large number  I ringed in the winter 2015-2016. This one was controlled in N Wales recently.

 That's four controls from around 160 birds ringed during that winter. Two have been returning birds that have been caught in gardens on the Wirral and now N Wales.

17 Apr 2017

Back to the UK

We've just spent a fantastic two weeks in Australia visiting our daughter, son in law and granddaughter and helping them move into a fabulous new house where, every morning, I spent an hour or so on the rear deck overlooking the hills behind the house and watching Nankeen Kestrels catch grasshoppers with Crimson Rosella's, Eastern Rosella's, Kookaburra's and Wedge-tailed Eagles among the supporting cast. One downside of long haul trips is the jet lag and two nights later I'm still waking at stupid o'clock. This morning, despite staying up until 10 pm I woke at 2 in the morning and eventually gave up at 5! A blessing in disguise as I'd never have seen the pair of Tufted Ducks that hd dropped into the pond / flash opposite the house. A garden and new patch tick no less. They didn't stay long and were chased off by the resident Coots but they, or another pair, turned up with reinforcements in the form of a 2nd pair, a few minutes later. They to were chased off but the Coots don't seem to bother about the Teal.

The heavy rain earlier this morning dropped a few migrants in with Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler both in the garden and at mixed flock of at least 100 Sand Martins and Swallows hawking over the pond.

Since we've been away 2 pairs of Robins have hatched young in the garden and one nest box has a Blue Tits nest with eggs. Other boxes are being inspected. A Carrion Crow has built a nest at the top of our Scots Pine whilst a hare has made regular appearances in the field.

31 Mar 2017

Unexpected item in the bagging area!

Hilbre's 4th record of Pheasant was seen by Steve on Wednesday wandering between Middle Eye & Hilbre. Its assumed these birds come across from Red Rocks - the last record coincided with some extensive 'management' work and it looks like the same has happened again this year. Either that or its a genuine returning migrant - a bit like my Siskin mentioned in my previous blog post. Its an interesting record as the bird would have had to travel across at least a mile of open mud and sand or indeed water if the tide was in.

Anyway, I found myself on Hilbre yesterday to meet up with a local guy who's making a short video presentation for his journalism course and wanted to film an interview about bird ringing and hopefully a bird being ringed. Things certainly didn't look hopeful with the wind being in the wrong direction and heavy rain! A quick walk round the heligoland traps revealed this:

The bird was picked up and released in the open where it ran off at full speed without uttering a sound. We did eventually catch a couple of birds with a new Robin and a female Chaffinch being ringed so Danny got his video footage.

30 Mar 2017

Nice Siskin control

I've recently had a nice Siskin control of a bird I ringed in January last year (2016) controlled in a Hilbre members garden by a Hilbre ringer in February this year!

It makes you wonder where it had been in the intervening year.

27 Mar 2017

Little Grebes.

A beautiful sunny spring weekend in my part of Cheshire with Chiffchaff singing in the garden, a Robins nest with two eggs and Great 7 Blue Tits nesting in the boxes I've put up! The Little Owls have been basking out in the early evening sunshine just before it sets and we can see them from the windows.A Great Spotted Woodpecker spent the weekend drumming in a nearby oak and we had another visit from a singing Treecreeper. The whole weekend was spent in the garden replacing rotten fence posts to stop the sheep getting in and generally tidying up.

The pond opposite the house, once again, provided the star bird(s) though - a new house and patch tick. A quick glance early morning Sunday to see if any waders had dropped in over night was rewarded by the presence of a pair of Little Grebes!

Other pond visitors over the weekend included a single male Shoveller, Teal, Coot (now nest building) , Canada Geese, Greylags and a pair of Lapwings. Sunday was a real bird filled day with 40 species being recorded either in or from the garden. The total now for the new patch stands at 70 species for 2017.

20 Mar 2017

A brief visit to Hilbre

Its months since I've had the chance to go across to Hilbre - work & house renovations have got in the way! Luckily I got a chance last week and joined the rest of the regulars to spend the tide over on the island.

Many waders have already left for their breeding grounds but Middle Eye held an impressive number of Curlews whilst the Brent Geese gave good views as they serenely swam down the east side. Only two Purple Sandpipers were seen but there were plenty of Common Scoter around and a male Eider put in a distant appearance.

It was a beautiful sunny day with plenty to see - not many spring migrants but typical early spring fare with overhead migration of alba wagtails and finches. The first Bumble Bees and butterflies were on the wing with both Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock being recorded.

14 Mar 2017

Last SCAN canon netting trip of the winter

A re-scheduled canon netting trip meant  I could make the last SCAN session of the winter and so Saturday morning saw me arriving at Kinmel Bay at 05.45 and gettign uestioned by the local police as to my intentions.......

After explaining to the officer what I was doing a few of the other members of the team turned up only for a 2nd police car to arrive. Apparently, according to local sources (Mark Payne) the area is a meeting point for the local transvestites.........

With two nets set the waiting game began. The target species was Sanderling and during the early morning recce a colour ringed bird had been spotted. Pulse rates quickened as news came in over the radios as to the whereabouts of the birds and how many were in the catching area.

Suddenly the button was pressed and the nets were fired. The nets were moved up the beach away from the in coming tide and the birds covered in hessian to keep them calm until they were extracted and placed in holding cages to await ringing and processing.

A total of 555 birds were processed with over 200 Sanderling being caught - including the colour ringed bird that came from Iceland! It was originally ringed there in the autumn of 2016 before subsequently being seen at several sites on the north Lancashire coast, then Formby and finally Kinmel Bay!

 Juvenile Sanderling (Euring 5, 2nd calendar year) showing  buff tips (very worn) to tertials and inner media coverts.
Adult Sanderling (Euring 6, 3rd calendar year or older) without the buff tips shown by the juvenile

Good numbers of Dunlin were also processed including a bird with a colour ring thought to have originally been ringed in mid-Wales. In addition around 6 Ringed Plover and a single Turnstone were also processed.
Colour ringed Dunlin.

A great day - the weather was kind to us, a good catch (that'll help increase our knowledge of these birds movements and the importance of the local area for them as a wintering ground), good company and a cracking rugby result! Roll on the summer and the start of the seabird ringing season on Puffin Island.

It was great to see local birder John Roberts out and about - I haven't seen him for a long time!

7 Mar 2017

First ringing in new garden

For the first time since we bought our new place last September I've had an opportunity to spend an hour or so ringing. I haven't quite worked out the best places to put mist nets but decided to put 2 x 18ft nets in the back garden. Within 1 hr I'd ringed 14 birds including 6 Goldfinches, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Great Tits and 2 Blue Tits!

The Goldcrests are probably resident as they've been around since we bought the house last September and we have a good number of evergreens in the garden - both male and female were caught in the same mist net at the same time.

Interestingly all but one of the Goldfinches were 2nd calendar year birds and were easy to age because of their retained juvenile greater coverts. The bird below had only one retained greater covert whereas others had two or even three.

It was a pleasant change to be doing some ringing but it looks like I'm going to have to do a bit of planning about wheres best to site the nets.

1 Mar 2017

Med Gull on the house list!

Wit hBlack=-headed Gulls and Common Gulls congregating  on the fields around the house and visiting the pond to bathe I'd been checking them out hoping for something unusual. I still hope for an Iceland or Glaucous Gull but an adult Mediterranean Gull was still a nice find this morning.

I thought I'd seen one yesterday with the naked eye (the black hoods really do stick out like the proverbial sore thumb among Black-headed Gulls) but by the time I'd got the binoculars up it had gone.

Patience was rewarded though when I spotted one in with the Black-headed Gulls this morning only for the whole flock to spook and fly off over the house. They started drifting back but the Med Gull disappeared for 30 minutes before reappearing.

Annoyingly it appears to be colour ringed wit ha white colour ring on its left leg but even at 75 x mag on the scope and the phone camera on full zoom I cant make out the alpha - numeric code.

Still, it on the house and new patch list!

That brings me up to 66 species on the new house list since we moved in on 9th December.
I'm hopeful of a few passage waders and theres obviously all the summer visitors to come yet. Surprisingly I haven't seen a Blackcap whereas they were regular winter visitors to our old garden.

28 Feb 2017

More from the window.

I really haven't had time to get out and do much birding recently but the views from the house make up for it. The pond in the filed opposite continues to attract god numbers of wildfowl and the odd Lapwing and after 'Doris' its now flooded and will hopefully attract a few passage waders once the water recedes and leaves a muddy margin.

There have been up to 6 Wigeon and 4 Shoveller (see above) utilising it and last night there were 4 Coots. Where did they come from?

Last nights sunset was spectacular and this morning Moel Famau could be seen wreathed in cloud and covered in a smattering of snow.

Come to think of it  - I don't need to go anywhere else.............

20 Feb 2017

Mute Swans.

Before my recent travels to New Zealand (business unfortunately) the pond that keeps on giving threw up another surprise when I gazed out of our front bedroom window and saw tow Mute Swans among the throng of Teal, Wigeon and Shoveller that have taken up temporary residence.

They only stayed for an hour then flew off west. A single Lapwing also stayed for a couple of hours and the Wigeon flock reached a peak of 6 birds!

Arriving back home in the dark Sunday morning I was surprised to flush two Woodcock from the middle of our lane. Not something I'd expected to see. With the weather being quite mild it was no surprise to see Blue Tits investigating the nest boxes  I put up just before I went away.

6 Feb 2017

Patch challenge 2017 - new patch and green birding

Now we've moved house I've had to start all over again building up a new garden bird list! For the last few years I've also taken part in the patch challenge where people are encouraged to work a local patch - in my case it's always been 'green' with my house being at the centre of my patch and everywhere accessible by foot. This obviously restricts the available habitat and number of species that can be seen. One of the advantages of our new house is its location opposite a field with a fairly large pond which I'd hoped would attract passing waders and wildfowl. Getting up early and training the scope on this pond at first light to see whats dropped in is becoming addictive! The pond is several hundred metres away but from my vantage point in one of the bedrooms can easily be seen.

Sunset from the house - the pond can be seen just to the left of the telegraph pole

This weekend was no exception and the first new birds for the 'patch' and garden lists were 8 Lapwings that dropped in briefly on to the muddy margin. Unfortunately they didn't stay long but the Canada Geese did and the mll flock contained  single Greylag Goose. Checking out the rest of the pond I was surprised to find a pair of Wigeon!

The distance means no decent photos can be obtained through the DSLR so I'm having to resort to phonescoping!

The next surprise was the sudden appearance of three Shoveller and a flock of Teal. One of the Shovelers was a sub-adult male along with two females. There are Teal on a nearby pond which is surrounded by trees at the back of a private garden so I think these must have been displaced from there.

The next morning was even better. An adult male Shoveller turned up and 18 Greylags dropped in whilst the Teal flock built up to 47!

I'd heard Wigeon before from the house at night but it was nice to get a sighting. I'd heard Coot as well but again, it was nice to get a sighting!

Every couple of hours I'd take a break from working in the garden, grab a brew and check out what else had turned up on the pond! Another nice bird was this leucistic Mistle Thrush that I first saw last year before we'd bought the house.

Whilst watching I also spotted this Brown Hare, an increasingly rare sighting around here, that meandered around for  few moments before setting off through the hedge and into a neighbouring field.

Wit hall the building work and decorating I haven't had a chance to do any ringing in the garden but the feeders I've installed are attracting good numbers of birds with Goldfinches, Lesser Redpoll, Chaffinch and Greenfinch now being regular visitors. I've heard Tawny Owl in the area so took the opportunity, whilst the weather was dry, of hanging a box given to me by Alan H on our large back garden oak along with two open fronted boxes and four tit boxes. I've got two House Sparrow boxes that I'll hang once we've painted the outside of the house.

30 Jan 2017

Dunlin with SCAN

Last Saturday I managed a few hours off from travelling, or house renovations, to spend time canon netting waders with SCAN in Bangor harbour. It was great to see some faces I hadn't seen for quite awhile - including Ros, fresh back from New Zealand.

I detoured on the way to check out a few sites on behalf of Steve for Sundays session so arrived after all the hard work has been done as the team were getting briefed. Within a very short time the nets were fired and we began extracting and processing a good mixed catch of mainly Dunlin, a few Redshank and a few Oystercatchers.

With a large catch and a large team we were split into two processing teams with age, wing length, bill length, total head / bill length and weight being taken for the Dunlin and an extra biometric - tarsus length - for the Redshank. This enable  the birds to be assigned to race and helps our understanding of the origin of these waders using the N Wales coastline in winter. Highlight was a Swedish controlled Dunlin.

Rachel, Amelia & Dorian hard at work processing Dunlin.

23 Jan 2017

More crap bird photos from the window.

More jet lag! No sooner had I recovered from my Australian trip the I was off to Shanghai and eventually arrived home close to midnight Saturday night after 17 hours travelling. Sunday morning broke dull, cold and with sleet in the air. No matter. After being cooped up all week I was determined to work outside in the garden.

The first surprise of the day was a Pheasant that decided to visit the field opposite. I've seen it from the house before but a couple of fields further away. Running back inside I grabbed a quick record shot through the 'scope.

Returning to the garden I noticed a large white blob circling about a field away. Thinking it looked a lot like a Shelduck  Iran back inside, grabbed the binoculars and then spotted aforementioned blob sat on the pond opposite. It was a Shelduck. A new house and patch tick and another 'record shot'.

Whilst looking at the Shelduck a Raven wandered in to view. Another opportunity for a record shot. They're regular but normally to wary to allow me to photograph from outside. This one visited the pond for a bath and spent about 10 minutes washing and preening. By the time I looked back for the Shelduck it had gone!

Singing Song Thrush and Greenfinch were also nice and the Little Owl called briefly late afternoon.

16 Jan 2017

Wet, miserable and jet lagged - birding from the windows.

Wet and miserable - the weather not me! Jet lagged is me. With lots of work going on in the house coupled with bad weather there hasn't been much incentive to go out birding anywhere so I've concentrated on recording stuff in my new 'patch' - most of which I can see from the windows.

Highlights have been up to 60 Teal using a baited flight pond hidden amongst trees i na field opposite the house and the good numbers of gulls, thrushes and wagtails feeding on fields that have just had manure spread on them. Saturday there were at least 300 Redwings and Fieldfares with good numbers of Starlings, Rooks and Jackdaws thrown in

Sunday saw the turn of the gulls. Scoping from the upstairs windows I picked out my first Lesser Black-backed Gulls of the year amongst a throng of Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls and Herring Gulls. I even tried a bit of phonescoping but the light was dire.

From the front  of the house I phonescoped the Grey Wagtail that hangs around the muddy field entrance.

Not very inspiring photos but great fun moving from the front to the back of the house with the scope seeing what  I can pick out next.

9 Jan 2017

BRT followed by BLT

Returning from Australia I found my self once again jet lagged but going for a rare bird the day after I arrived home. This time a Blue Rock Thrush that turned up in Stowe on the Wold. No photo's as being a complete prat I'd left my SD cards at my daughters place in Australia! Doh. 

Theres been a lot of debate about the origins and age of this bird but as far as I'm concerned I saw no evidence of it ever being in captivity and from the moult contrast in the greater coverts I'd say it was definitely a 1st winter. As to the time of year.......Black-billed Cuckoo in February anyone? Who's to say this bird didn't arrive last autumn and has moved away from the coast to its current location. Innocent until proven guilty I say. I didn't see any abnormalities to the bill or feet and certainly didn't see anything around the legs.

After awhile I headed back home stopping briefly to refuel and buy a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich before having a short snooze on the couch and spending an hour or so patch birding. 

Here's a couple of Blue Rock Thrush that was hanging around the village of Timaru on the Costa Brava near a friends apartment where we were staying a few years ago - they were quite tame and not at all phased by being so close to human habitation.