Friday, 31 July 2009

Whooper work.

We've started catching and ringing a few Whooper swans this week. More info + photos to follow in a few days time....
Sverrir attempting to catch Whooper Swan!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Flatey Experiance!

Wow!!! What a fantastic 11 days I’ve had on Flatey Island!!! As you’ve probably already guessed there was no Internet cover on the island, so therefore I’m going to provide a full report on the birds we caught.

So after the 3 hour drive from Reykjavik to Stykkishólmur on 15th, checking Great Northern and Red Throated Diver nesting sites along the way – we arrived in Stykkishólmur at around 15:00hrs, just in time to catch the Baldur ferry to Flatey Island. Once on the island we settled in and ringing was ready to commence!

But before that could happen I had to learn one or two things before we started. The first, learning the different types of ring sizes to put on and learning the Icelandic way of the ring size codes, the Icelandic’s use a mixture of letters & numbers – so A being the biggest ring and 9A being the smallest.

A – Whooper Swan
0 – Cormorant
1 – Gyr Falcon / Shag
2 – Eider / Mallard
3 – Lesser Black Backed Gull
4 – Puffin
5 – Black Guillemot / Kittiwake
6 – Redshank / Golden Plover
7 – Arctic Tern / Snipe
8 – Ringed Plover / Dunlin
9 – Red Necked Phalarope / Snow Bunting / Meadow Pipit
9A – Redpoll / Wren.

Secondly – I had to learn how to apply bird rings using plumbing pliers! Back in the UK, the only rings I use plumber pliers on are M rings for Swans. But here in Iceland we used them to ring all species from Snow Bunting and Meadow Pipit to Shags and Fulmars.

Thirdly – How to use a Fleyg net to catch Arctic Tern, Puffin, Kittiwake, Fulmar and Red Necked Phalarope out of the air!!

Over the 11 days we caught 1261 birds of which 1223 were new and 38 were recaps. Below is a species by species account of what we caught -


Throughout the whole Fjord there are a total of 10.000 pairs of Kittiwake breeding in 57 colonies.

New birds ringed - 692

Recaps caught - 1
Arctic Tern

2000 pairs of Arctic Tern breed on Flatey Island itself, with many other colonies on nearby islands.

New birds - 331
Recaps - 2.

I had a little bet with Orri (Ævar's field assistant) that I could catch an adult Arctic Tern out of the air with my hands!!! It was hard but successful in the end!!

Black Guillemot

Ævar has been studying the Black Guillemots on Flatey Island for the last 35 years and over that time has ringed over 20.000 birds. There are 160 pairs on the island.

New birds - 82

Recaps - 0.

20 pairs of Fulmar nest on Flatey with many other pairs also nesting on nearby islands. We had the company of the Discovery Channel for two days, they came over from New York to film vomiting Fulmars and Ævar ringing them.
New birds - 23
Recaps - 2

A video of Ævar attempting to catch a Fulmar on the water. He catches many adults this way.

Puffin ticks on the feet of a Fulmar chick!


Throughout the whole Fjord there are 700 Puffin colonies. The largest of these colonies has 40'000 breeding pairs of Puffin!!

New birds - 22
Recaps - 27

Many of the Puffin chicks were too small to ring, however one or two of the bigger chicks were ringed.

Two years ago Ævar and Sverrir fitted 20 Geo Dataloggers to Puffins. They wanted to know where the breeding birds were spending winters. Last year (08) they managed to recatch 7 of the birds and again this year we dug deep into their burrows and pulled out two with Dataloggers.


30 new birds.


New - 1

Recap - 1

Red necked Phalarope

40 pairs breed on Flatey.

New - 3 birds

Ringed Plover

25 pairs breed on the island.

New birds - 16

Apparently Flatey has the densest breeding population of Snipe in the world, with 85 - 90 pairs breeding on the island.

New birds - 3

Recap - 4

Snow Bunting

New birds - 3


New bird - 1

Recap - 1

Meadow Pipit
New - 5


New birds - 7
Dead birds found with rings - 2


New birds - 4

I'm now in Akureyi in northen Iceland with Sverrir. We plan on checking and catching/ringing a few Whooper Swans over the coming week before my colleagues from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust arrive. When they are here, we will be catching at a large moulting site at Lake Sandvatn.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Gott kvöld from Iceland!!

I came out to Iceland in July 2008 and as soon as I touched down, I instantly fell in love with the country. I came out here to assist Icelandic ringer, Sverrir Thorstenen, in catching and marking Whooper swans for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

No sooner as I got there, my week was up and I was heading back home, awaiting our first arrival of Whooper Swans back in the UK.

I was hoping to get back out to Iceland again this year and when Sverrir invited me to help out with ringing on Flatey Island – I jumped to the opportunity. Each year Sverrir along with Aevar Petersen (the Head of the Icelandic ringing scheme) spend 2 – 3 weeks ringing seabirds and waders on Flatey Island.

So after a late night flight this evening from Manchester to Keflavik airport, I’m now staying over night in Keflavik before transferring to Reykjavik city centre tomorrow on the 14th for a day of meetings. On the 15th July together with Aevar and Sverrir we will sail to Flatey Island – spending 11 days there in total.

I’m now in Iceland for a month and depending on Internet access – I’m hoping to bring a daily update on the birds we catch and also so that my friends and family back in the UK will be able to see what I’m getting up to. If there are no posts for the next 11 days, there is no Internet cover on the island! If this is the case, I’ll provide a full update on my return to the mainland.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Bullfinch & Kingfisher

89 birds handled this week - all new birds.

Garden ringing

Blue tit - 1
Great tit - 3
Dunnock - 4
Blackbird - 1
Bullfinch - 2
Goldfinch - 8
Greenfinch - 18

Bullfinch pair feeding in the garden.


Willow Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 3
Sedge Warbler - 1
Dunnock - 2
Goldfinch - 2
Reed Bunting - 4
Robin - 2

WWT Martin Mere

Tree Sparrow - 28 pulli

Else where

Collard Dove - 1 ~ a juvy sat on a car roof in one of my local streets!
Kingfisher - 1 ~ ringed on Atherton Farm
Swallow - 9 ~ two broods of 4 and one of 1 ringed at Botany Bay Woods.

This will be the last post from the UK for a while. Tomorrow I'm travelling to Iceland, bird ringing for a month. So check back in a few days time :)

Monday, 6 July 2009

Flat Holm Island.

Back in May, my girlfriend Laura went over to Flat Holm Island in the Bristol channel to help out with gull census work. Laura was invited back in July to help out with ringing young gulls and somehow managed to get me on the ringing trip! So that's where we've been the weekend just gone.

After a two hour car journey from Slimbridge we arrived in Cardiff to meet the boat to sail across to Flat Holm.

Then after dumping our kit and having a cuppa, we donned our overalls and hard hats and went into the colony!

Each Lesser Black Backed gull that was ringed had both a metal ring (right leg) and an orange darvic ring (left leg) fitted. Any sightings of these gulls can be sent to

In total 115 birds were caught.

105 gulls

10 passerines

100 Lesser Black Backed gull

5 Herring gull

3 Dunnock

3 Blackbird

2 Wren

1 Robin

1 Song Thrush.

Thanks to Brian Bailey, Maurice Durham, Mervyn Greening and Laura for the invite!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Barn Owl

Checked more Tree Sparrow boxes at WWT Martin Mere today, but all contained 2nd clutches or hatching eggs. One nest box contained a brood of 6 Great Tit.

A quick ride on the John Deere mule soon had us at the other end of the reserve (I'd love to have a wardens job, getting to play on these all day!) to ring a brood of 3 Barn Owl chicks in one of the hide lofts.

The rest of the evening was spent in hospital due to an infection in my leg due to insect bites from Wednesday night!!! :(

Four more Common Tern pulli were colour ringed at Doffcocker Lodge this morning.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Ringing at the reedbed.

Met up with Steve, Virgini, Craig and Chris this evening down at our local reedbed in Worsley (Grt Manchester). Today has been very hot and at around 5pm ish a ''tropical'' storm passed over. By 5:30pm the rain had stopped allowing us to put 5 nets up in very humid and sticky conditions!

However we were rewarded with a nice little total of 33 birds caught.

Reed Warbler - 6 new + 1 recap
Sedge Warbler - 3
Chiffchaff - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
Robin - 1
Great Tit - 1
Black Bird - 1
House Sparrow - 1
Reed Bunting - 4
Dunnock - 2
Goldfinch - 2
Stonechat - 1
Swallow - 5
Sand Martin - 3