31 Aug 2017

Long shadows

Long shadows and darker evenings - autumn is certainly on its way. Gossamer in the morning dew, brilliant sunsets and ripening apples on our trees. More sure signs the autumn equinox is on its way. The red berries of Cuckoo Pint make a brilliant splash of colour beneath in the dark areas beneath the hedges in the garden. Amphibians are already hibernating and an early morning collection of an unused pallet of paving slabs revealed a bewildered Toad. I moved him to the shed where he crawled underneath to find a new resting place. The Little Owl is already moving around and proclaiming his territory and wasn't best pleased to see me standing in the garden at 6.15 this morning with a mug of tea.

On the birding front my UK BOU list has increased by one as last years mad dash to Minsmere to see
what was (and now is) potentially the first UK record of Western Swamphen was worthwhile as its now been accepted on to the British list.
See here for report of that trip

26 Aug 2017


The weather gods combined nicely recently to enable an afternoons ringing in the garden before we left for our summer holiday in Ibiza. It was a pretty good session with 50 birds ringed of 9 species with good numbers of Greenfinches. Two new species were added to the garden timing list - a juvenile Coal Tit provided proof that the pair that started visiting the garden in the spring have successfully nested nearby. Star bird was this 2nd calendar year male Sparrowhawk. A really tatty individual that has started moulting its primaries. As can be seen from the photo the outer primaries are extremely worn. I've seen him around quite a few times recently and there's also a larger female occasionally visiting the garden.

14 Aug 2017

Colour flagging Ringed Plover with SCAN

Saturday saw me having a fairly leisurely start to meet up with the rest of the SCAN team in N Wales in an attempt to catch Ringed Plover and mark them with individual colour flags. This enables birds to be individually recognised in the field without having to recapture them and provides important data as to the importance of the Lavan Sands site for either a wintering or migration stop-over site. Two distinct moult strategies are apparent in the birds using this area - those that have started their annual moult winter in the UK whereas those that winter in Africa don't moult until they reach their wintering grounds. The African wintering population generally breed further north than the UK wintering population.

Once we'd set the nets its a waiting game. Despite forecasts to the contrary the weather was wet and miserable. Luckily it improved as we headed towards high tide and we managed a respectable catch of 168 birds of which 92 were Ringed Plover and the rest were Dunlin with the exception of a single Sanderling. All birds were ringed, aged, sexed (where possible), moult recorded, wing length, bill and head measurements taken and weighed. A great effort by the team and some interesting moults recorded.

Above: Juvenile Dunlin

Above: Ringed Plover aged 5 in with suspended moult moult with primaries 2-4 being old and 10-6 being newly moulted.

Below: Ringed Plover with suspended moult having seemingly moulted two primaries in its breeding ground and the rest in its wintering quarters.

The salt marshes and shingle ridges around the area are also home to some stunning wild flowers. Both Sea Aster and Horned Poppy were present although the Sea Aster is rapidly going to seed - a fact that hadn't gone unnoticed by the large flock of Linnets present.

7 Aug 2017

August doldrums.

There hasn't been much activity on the birding front over the last week although I managed a confirmed 'tick' when the BBRC announced the Stow Blue Rock Thrush from earlier this year had been accepted as a genuine vagrant! I was a bit late to the party on that one as it turned up whilst  I was in Australia. I had a great day Saturday learning how to make and repair mist nets - I'll need a lot more practice though!

We've been looking after our son and daughter in laws 12 week old Labrador puppy over the weekend and as Jan was out Sunday it was my turn to entertain her so no ringing or birding. I did record 36 species of bird in or around the garden whilst stopping her disappearing with my tools and through gaps in the hedge! .

Insects were the main thing though and I managed to find what I think is a Field Grasshopper (its the first grasshopper I've seen in the garden) warming itself on the garage wall and a Forest (shield) Bug.

As well as planting an area of the garden with wildflower plug plants to, hopefully, attract more bees and butterflies next year I've also planted a Lavender bed which is now flowering. The bees love it and sitting on the bench alongside it you can hear their constant buzzing.

1 Aug 2017

A bit of ringing

The weekend got off to a good start when we spent a few hours ringing in Barry's garden with trainee Thomas. Work commitments and then a meeting with our builders meant I could only stay a few hours but the total for the day ended up being 109 birds of which only 8 were retraps and 8 species.
Great experience gained for Thomas.

With the weather fairish Sunday and being up early as Jan was getting picked up at 06.30 I decided to set the mist nets on our garden for a few hours and forget renovation works for awhile. Unfortunately the wind picked up a few hours later but I still ringed a respectable 51 birds of 9 species including 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers - 3 juveniles and an adult male! I also caught a Blue Tit that had been ringed as a pullus in one of our nest boxes in May.

Adult male Great Spotted Woodpecker head pattern above.

 Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker head pattern above.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers can be a pain to age as they actually start moulting in the nest before they fledge. At this time of year they're easy and eye colour can also be a good indication of age even when they've attained their adult head feathers. Juveniles, like many other species, have dull brown eyes whereas adults have red eyes.
 Adult Great Spotted Woodpecker eye colour above and juvenile below.

A few of the adult birds were in full moult including this unfortunate Blue Tit that was first ringed as a Euring 5 (2nd calendar year) earlier this year - it had almost completed its wing moult and was in full body moult.

 Another nice bird to see was a juvenile House Sparrow. We've got a few coming to the feeders now but they've resolutely refused to use the boxes I've put up especially for them.