24 Sept 2018

A longe overdue trip to Hilbre.

After the seawatching bonanza of the past week when storm Ali graced us with her presence a plan was hatched to spend a day on Hilbre and do a bit of seawatching over the high tide last Sunday. Although the prolonged gale force winds had receded the Met Office was still showing that the wind would gradually increase during the day so with Mark P meting me at my house and picking up Steve on the way through we set off to relieve the early shift of Alan & Colin.

It was great to be back on the island even though the seawatching was bit dismal with only a handful of terns, auks, Kittiwakes and Red-throated Divers to show for our endeavours. A couple of rounds of the heligoland traps resulted in another Robin being ringed as well as a late Chiffchaff.

Other summer migrants were represented by two Wheatears whilst autumn finch passage was represneted by three Goldfinches that spent the high tide feeding on seed heads around the paddocks.

Wader numbers are building up and as usual Oystercatchers are the commonest bird.

The long staying sub-adult male Eider put in an appearance and has been recently joined by a juvenile bird. We've been speculating where these birds originate from. Eider used to be a regular but scarce visitor to the N Wirral coast but recently they've been much commoner. This seems to coincide with a population increase on Puffin Island suggesting they've come from there rather than the colony at Walney. Perhaps the presence off Hilbre of a juvenile Shag as well on Sunday has some relevance as they also breed on Puffin Island and we've had a few ringing recoveries from there.

All in all a bit quiet bird wise but still a great day and it was just nice to be out and about for a change.

6 Sept 2018

A bit of garden ringing

We've had good numbers of Greenfinches and Goldfinches in the garden recently - flocks of 30+ for each! With the wind dropping at the weekend I put a mist net up in the garden to ring a few. Interestingly I've ringed quite a few Greenfinches and Goldfinches in our new garden with only a single re-trappped Goldfinches and no Greenfinches.

A lot of the Goldinches are still in full juvenile plumage suggesting the species has had a good breeding season with several broods. Others are more advanced and have almost completed their post juvenile moult.

Many of the Greenfinches have completed their post juvenile moults but some, like this juvenile female below, are still completing theirs - this bird is moulting all its greater coverts.

Great Tits seem to have fared better than Blue Tits locally and I'm catching more juveniles of the larger species. Most have almost completed their post juvenile moults with the majority having replaced their greater coverts already and actively moulting their tertials and tails.

Just as I was packing up a large 2nd calendar year female Sparrowhawk hit the net alongside my head causing an outburst of fairly choice language. It certainly made me jump! Luckily I soon recovered as it certainly wouldn't have stayed caught for long. My 2nd in this garden in the two years we've lived here. I wonder if this is the bird that predated one of our local Little Owls in the garden?

I had a new patch / garden tick at the weekend with a flyover Spotted Redshank heading towards the Dee estuary. The last new patch bird I had was a Sedge Warbler in the spring!

3 Sept 2018

Romany of the BBC

One of the biggest influences on my early life as a budding naturalist was the books my father had written by the Rev George Bramwell Evens who broadcast wildlife programmes on the radio as "Romany of the BBC".

See here for more information: here

The stories of his adventures with his spaniel Raq exploring the countryside in his horse drawn romany caravan or 'vardo' absorbed me for hours and I read and re-read these books many times. Sadly, although they are still in my fathers bookcase, they are now in very poor condition having been handled by children and grandchildren many times over the 70-80 years or so since they were published.

The "vardo" was located in his memorial garden in Wilmslow Cheshire for many years but then moved to a permanent home in a museum in Bradford - see here for details on the Romany Society's homepage.

The BBC Radio also did a 'Witness' programme on Romany as a pioneer of wildlife broadcasting and this can be heard here.

I was reminded of all this recently when I visited my parents and saw the books lined up in the bookcase.