Monday 31 May 2010

Last port of call

on my to do list before I go away tomorrow was to meet up with Chris Tomlinson, the Reserve Manager at WWT Martin Mere to ring some pulli Barn Owls.

7 chicks ringed this evening with 2 more that should be ready when I get back.

Out of the office & into the field....

This last week has been a real busy one with being out ringing almost everyday of the week, resulting in ringing 234 new birds, recapping 3 and controlling 1. Most of these birds have been pulli, but we did set the nets at one of our reed bed sites one morning and had quite a good session. Regular readers of this blog may notice that I don't catch many warblers - so this week has been a nice change in terms of catching & ringing a few Acros & Phylloscs

The week started with a handful of juvy Starlings caught in the garden potter traps, with a small number of adults also being trapped & colour ringed as part of my RAS project. By then end of the week 40 new birds caught & 1 recapped.

Then Chris Bridge came over to help me with some ringing, so we decided to start early on Thursday morning at one of our reed bed sites. Nets up the night before, furled and opened at 04:30am = 17 new birds & 1 control.

Sedge Warbler - 3
Reed Warbler - 9 + 1 control
Long Tailed Tit - 3
Blue Tit - 1
Reed Bunting - 1

Then after ringing two broods of Willow Warbler (6 + 6), brood of Song Thrush (4), brood of Blackbird (5), Blue Tit (6) and Great Tit (5) we donned our waders and headed into the reed bed to look for Reed Warbler nests. 2 hours & 25 Reed Warbler nests later we left the reed bed after ringing 16 pulli and recording the contents in the other nests (small young + eggs).

Friday morning Chris left for Seaforth to see a White Tailed Plover, whilst I headed to WWT Martin Mere. There I met Steve Birch and monitored a couple of Tree Sparrow boxes = 29 pulli ringed. After a quick cuppa & slice of birthday cake (not mine, someone else's!) I met back up with Chris at Burscough Bridge, then onto meet Craig in Atherton for a weekend of ringing!

Friday evening was spent catching Starlings in the garden, before we went to Hagfold and managed to catch a Grasshopper Warbler. We got onto discussing Long Eared Owls and that Craig had never had a good view of one in flight during daylight. Well he was in for a treat! Over the last 2 weeks I've been watching a pair of Long Eared Owls hunting at a private site and you could guarantee that at bang on 20:30 each evening one would appear! 20:30 came and I glanced at my phone - no sign of the owls, another quick glance 20:32 - ''It's there!!'' someone shouted!

Over the last 2 weeks - I've been trying to track down a nest at this site, even staying till 02:00am some mornings - just to hear the unique squeaky gate call of the young owls (I didn't hear any!) and by Friday I'd almost covered the whole site by looking for a nest in hedgerows, bushes & conifers. There was one bit of the site that I had not checked and so me, Craig & Chris decided that one final check wouldn't do any harm. As I walked into a small wooded area, I glanced up at an old magpie nest & instantly knew this was the one! I climbed up a neighbouring tree and confirmed what I suspected, as the female's beady orange eyes glared at me!! I climbed the tree to find four Long Eared Owl chicks and not wanting to keep the female off the nest too long we retreated back to the car & arranged to meet up with Steve & Wes to ring them on Saturday evening. A brood of 5 Whitethroat & 6 Great Tit also ringed at this site during the evening.

The adults gave exceptional views whilst we were ringing the brood!

Week totals
Reed Warbler - 25
Sedge Warbler - 3
Willow Warbler - 12
Whitethroat - 5
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 6
Starling - 40
Blackbird - 8
Song Thrush - 4
Great Tit - 27
Blue Tit - 65
Long Tailed Tit - 3
Tree Sparrow - 29
Wood Pigeon - 1
Lapwing - 2
Long Eared Owl - 3

With this weeks 234 new birds - this now brings my total up to 1034 new birds for the year.
Thanks to all the ringers who have helped me this week & thanks to Wes Halton for the above LEO photos.

This will be the last post from the UK for a few weeks, as I’m migrating north again. I’m flying out to Iceland tomorrow to work with Icelandic and Danish bird ringers, aiming to capture.......... no not Whooper Swans, no not seabirds or waders – you’ll have to wait until I get back for a full blog post. :-)

I’m now going to be out working in the field for the next 25 days and so there probably won’t be any blog updates or access to e-mails until I return back to Manchester (Volcano/flights permitting!)

Monday 24 May 2010

Box checking.

Having missed getting tickets for Radio 1's big weekend gig in Bangor - Chris decided that a weekend of nest box checking was the next best option. So on Friday evening I collected him from the train station for a weekend of ringing - after all he did want some experience of ringing pulli of nest box species for his pullus endorsement.

Saturday morning saw us in Atherton woods checking the boxes, the wood along with Lilford wood houses some 250 boxes (mainly tit boxes + owl/stock dove) but getting round to all 250 boxes in a day is very hard. However we did check around 80 boxes, with most of them containing nesting Blue Tits, Great Tits and one box having a family of Nuthatch (below).

Blue Tit - 115 + 1 recap
Great Tit - 22
Nuthatch - 6

After checking the boxes it was time for a quick beer (to cool down!) and then we decided to try our luck for Swifts at the local reedbed - but none where around - so we had to make do with Swallow instead

Sunday evening I met up with Steve at Botany Bay Woods to check his boxes, which resulted in a few Blue Tit & Great Tit being ringed. After box checking we had a drive around the fields and caught 4 Lapwing chicks (below).

Also ringed this weekend - 5 Song Thrush pulli + 1 adult.

As I sit here I can hear fledged Starling chicks, it's that time of the year again - I'll have to get the traps ready!!

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Ringing with the little people....

Today I've monitored around 140 nest boxes at WWT Martin Mere of which 96 were occupied by Tree Sparrows. Almost all the boxes contained eggs, with a small number of boxes containing young - 11 ringed.
We also checked the Barn Owl box that housed the Kestrels last year - but it seems as though they've been ousted by a new pair of Barn Owls - making it two pairs breeding on site this year.

Back at home this evening my nephew & niece -Kye & Layla were round for tea. They sat in the garden watching the Blue Tits going in & out of the box, and so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to give them their first bird ringing experience!

Ringer in training - not quite old enough yet!

Sunday 16 May 2010


Quick post tonight.......
Steve & me at the local reedbed tonight caught - Grasshopper Warbler, Swift, Swallow, Reed Warbler and Great Tit.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Recent recoveries.

Some recent recoveries from our group.

Mute Swan -
(6) 30/12/2008 Southport
x 01/04/2010 Denbigh - 57km

Black H Gull -
(5) 25/02/1983 - St Jame's Park, London
vv 02/03/2010 - St Jame's Park - 27 years.

(6) 28/03/2001 - Bowness on Windermere
vv 10/03/2010 - Whitecross Bay, Windermere - 5km

Canada Goose -
(6F) 09/01/2010 - Wigan
+ 23/03/2010 - Soyland Town, Ripponden - W Yorks - 50km

Coot -
(3) 08/11/2009 - Doffcocker Lodge, Bolton, Grt Manchester
vv 23/03/2010 - Lowerhouse, Burnley - 26km

(4) 11/01/2010 - Southport Marine Lake
x (car) 07/03/2010 - Singleton - 21km

Sparrowhawk -
(4M) 30/08/2009 - Swinton, Grt Manchester
x 07/04/2010 - Barton - 3km

x - Found dead
vv - alive / rings read in field.
+ - shot or intentionally killed by man

Thursday 13 May 2010

Nest finding & ringing in Germany.

I'm just back from spending a few days in Germany, after a request to the BTO from Andreas Michalik (a PHd student at Oldenberg) needing help to find Robin nests as part of his project.

Andreas, along with his colleague Bianca Alert, want to study orientation and learning mechanisms of Robins. It is known that the birds learn the rotational fix point of the star (normally the north star) as north. However it's not known how long the birds have to see the sky for this and it's unclear how they can detect the rotation. Andreas tells me there are two possibilities: they can either see the rotation or the other possibility would be a time-delayed pattern comparison. So to test each hypothesis against each other, Andreas & Bianca will hand raise young Robins that have not yet experienced the star pattern and will present a rotating artificial sky to them, as well as a sky that will ''jump'' the pattern every hour.

So over the last few days we've been searching for nests around Oldenberg and I'm pleased to say we managed to locate a number of Robin nests - with many of them at the right stage to be collected from the nest later this week. However I must say that I found finding the nests quite a challenge, as they were not as easy to find as they are in the UK!

Yesterday we took the afternoon off, so that Andreas could demonstrate to me how he catches gulls and wildfowl using nooses. We set up in the harbour at Wilhelmshaven, where we were greeted by a number of hungry Herring Gulls, Lesser Blacked Back Gulls & Black Headed Gulls. After a wait and a much persuading (with bread!) Andreas quickly caught a Herring Gull. By this time, the other gulls had seen what had happened and disappeared sharply! We also caught Mallards in the city parks around Wilhelmshaven, using the same method with the nooses.

Andreas releasing the Herring Gull, after fitting a nice shiny Helgoland metal ring to it!
Ageing Mallard.

Helgoland ring.

Last night it was a pleasure to be in the company of Susanne Homma & Olaf Geiter - for a number of years I have been in contact with Susanne with many Greylag, Canada & Egyptian Goose ring sightings, that birders in Germany had sent to WWT. It was great to put faces to names and to learn more about Susanne's & Olaf's goose ringing project, which they carryout throughout Germany.
Many thanks to Andreas & Bianca and Susanne & Olaf for their kind hospitality during my stay.

Sunday 9 May 2010

End of the week.

I'm not going to be around over the next few days, so I decided to go back to the Collard Dove nest today, to see whether the chicks were big enough to hold rings. Unfortunately they were still too small ! I had a scout around though and managed to find 2 x Blackbird, 1 Song Thursh, 1 Robin and 1 Blackcap nest - all on eggs.

Week totals (Atherton, Grt Manchester) -

Blackbird - 5
Blue Tit - 4 (4 recaps)
Goldfinch - 1
Great Tit - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Mistle Thrush - 2
Song Thrush - 3
Starling - 6
Stock Dove - 1
Tawny Owl - 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker caught in the garden today, it's broodpatch below. Think this bird maybe nesting on the bowling green, just a few minutes away from the garden.

6 Starlings colour ringed as part of the RAS project.

Saturday 8 May 2010

Starling RAS project gets underway.

With permission to colour ring Starlings sorted this week, along with the colour rings arriving this morning – I’ve just stuck a net up in the garden, and within minutes the first bird kindly volunteered herself to be participant number 1.

I’m not actually carrying out the RAS fieldwork until 2011, for a number of reasons. But I’m colour marking the birds this year to get as many marked individuals into the local breeding population.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Tawny Owl chicks.

Craig & I have just got back from spending an enjoyable few days birding with our mate Ciaran around Norfolk. Ciaran has got himself a nice little job with the RSPB, wardening at Strumpshaw Fen & Buckingham Marshes. He showed us around both reserves as well as RSPB Minsmere & Titchwell reserves and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing some quality birds as well as watching breeding Lapwing, Redshank & Snipe on his doorstep! But all good things must come to an end, and Me & Craig had to head back north for work, but also as lots of pulli were in need of rings!

Over the weekend, phone calls back to home alerted me that a Bullfinch was seen in the garden carrying nesting material, so I was pretty excited to get back home to have a scout around. We're doing quite well for nesting birds in the garden this year - with both boxes containing Blue & Great Tit, Blackbird in the front garden & Song Thrush sat on eggs to the rear of the house. Goldfinch are setting up home in a conifer which they have previously bred in and the Bullfinch... well I did find their nest which they are still building. Fingers crossed all succeed in hatching and raising their broods!

So back to those pulli that needed rings! Me and Craig were out working in Atherton Woods this evening, monitoring nest boxes and ringing anything we could catch.

First stop was a Tawny Owl box - 2 pulli & adult ringed.

Then checking other owl boxes, catching an adult Stock Dove

2 adult Blue Tits were also ringed + 1 recaptured (ringed in 2009)
3 pulli Song Thrush ringed
2 pulli Blackbird ringed.

We also managed to find two Blackbird nest (complete with 4 eggs each), Chaffinch (incubating female / 4 eggs) and a Collard Dove with 2 small young.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Whooper Z3G migrates!

Remember our Mute Swan / bread loving Whooper Swan that was ringed at Bowness-on-Windermere in May 2009? Well after spending the winter in Leicestershire he's decided it would be safer to migrate back to Bowness-on-Windermere rather than to Iceland.

Here's what we have on his movements to date -

25/05/2009 - 22/10/2009 - Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria.
30/10/2009 - 03/11/2009 - Kingsmill Reservoir, Nottingham.
11/11/2009 - 17/12/09 - Watermead Country Park, Leicester. 222km
24/01/2010 - 24/01/2010 - Near Cossington Mill, Rothley, Leicester.
10/03/2010 - 15/03/2010 - Near Cossington Mill, Rothley, Leicester.
27/04/2010 - 04/05/2010 - Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria.

Thanks to Sheila & Mac Cooper for reporting him at Windermere and Thanks to Julie for the above photo.