Monday, 30 May 2011

Gropper Gold!

Many times I’ve picked up and read Richard Castell’s article on ‘how to find Grasshopper Warbler nests’ (Nest Record News 26) and always marvelled at finding my own nest one day! I came very close to finding one in 2008, when I found a bird nest building – however for some unknown reason the birds didn’t lay any eggs. It was 2009 when I got to see my first ‘Gropper’ nest, whilst out nest finding with Richard & Jim Hodson in Wakefield, Yorkshire. We put quite a bit of effort in to look for the nest and eventually were rewarded with a nest containing a clutch of 6 lilac coloured eggs!

After this mornings downpour I decided to head up to Shakerley for a walk around, to see whether I could muster up any pulli to ring. The first two nests I came across were both Whitethroats, one containing four, 1 day old chicks + a hatching egg (below). Whilst the other held a brood of 5 chicks that were just ripe for ringing.


Next up was a Lesser Whitethroats nest (a first for me), following the pair back to the nest as they went about, busily carrying nesting material, along with another two Common Whitethroat nests (5 chicks, 5 eggs).


As I was walking through a section of damp marshland, a warbler skulking in the undergrowth caught my eye. It became apparent, as I got my bins on the bird that it was a Grasshopper Warbler and it was carrying food! Would today be the day that I put to use all of Rich’s useful notes on how to find a Gropper nest!? As instructed I spent a good hour watching the bird going back and fourth in the general area, and I got rather excited as I saw one of the adult birds carrying away a faecal sac, so I knew I was onto something! After a good hours worth of observation, I headed down to try and locate the nest & before too long I stumbled upon these little beauties!!

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A fantastic day with 5 Common Whitethroat nests found, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Robin, 1 Reed Bunting and 1 Grasshopper Warbler nest!

Thanks to Richard (one of the UK’s top nest finders/recorders!) for all his advice on how to find, what must be one of the hardest nests to locate!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Reed Warbler Monitoring.

Several days ago I donned my waders and headed into one of our local reed beds to check on Reed Warbler nests. I always enjoy looking for the nests of one of my favourite warblers! The first nest I came to contained 5 big chicks (FM stage) which slightly worried me that I’d left my first visit too late! However out of the thirty nests I found, only one other nest contained young (FS stage), the others all containing eggs (102 eggs counted).


A visit to Atherton Woods to check on nest boxes and sign off most of the tit nest record cards was had. This allowed me to check on the two Treecreeper nests. One nest had fledged their young, whilst the other held 6 (FS) chicks. Very delicately I managed to slip my hand into the nest and get at the chicks for ringing.

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The wind has now died down, but has been replaced by rain! So I’m still yet to get out and do some mist netting. The garden trap has been doing all the catching over the last few days, much to the amusement of the kids when they’ve been visiting!



With several Wood Pigeon captured and one Bullfinch (female), the above male is still a little nervous of entering the trap!



Thursday, 26 May 2011

LEO Nest!


All week I’ve been watching a Long Eared Owl hunting at one of my ringing sites, and like last year I was keen to find the nest. So most nights this week I’ve been out checking old Magpie/Crow nests, even getting up at 1am (I couldn’t sleep!) to go and listen for the ‘squeaky gate’ call. However it seems I’m a little early for that unique sound as the nest I found tonight contained two eggs! Really looking forward to following the progress of this nest………

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Nest Box Checking.

Saturday just gone, Chris & I checked 97 nest boxes at WWT Martin Mere, with around 150 nest boxes onsite – we find it very hard to cover all these in a day! However of the 97 boxes, 74 were occupied with the majority being used by Tree Sparrows (62 nest), along with 9 Blue Tit and 3 Great Tit.


It seemed that we missed a large percentage of the first broods, as lots of nests contained 2nd clutches with a handful containing big chicks. Just wish we could find the time to check these boxes earlier in the season, but everything seems to come at once when we’re at our busiest.

88 pulli were ringed – 39 Blue Tit, 19 Great Tit and 30 Tree Sparrow. All the Tree Sparrow pulli were colour ringed as part of a project that WWT wardens are carrying out.


Visitors to Martin Mere can help by sending in sightings of colour ringed Tree Sparrows. Sightings can be handed to the front desk and asked to be sent to the Research Office, or jotted down on the sightings boards in any of the hides. 


Meanwhile back at home – Whilst I was away last week my Granddad kindly built me a new trap, so we’ve been putting it to use during this windy weather and have caught the first juveniles of the year (Robin, Blackbird, & Song Thrush).


and a brood of Blackcap also ringed…


Still no mist netting due to this strong wind – will it ever give in!?

Friday, 20 May 2011

A Hop Over the Water…

I’m just back from spending a class few days on the Isle of Man with Sean & Kev of the IOM ringing group. It being my first visit to the Island, my arrival day was planned by Sean to tour around & do some sight seeing. However ever the enthusiast, within 15 mins of my plane touching down, Sean had caught the first bird – followed by the 2nd, in the form of 2 Oystercatchers!!


We then travelled north, via the Calf of Man (which I really wanted to see!) where we managed to trap an adult Chough. My visit to the Isle of Man was to join Sean & Kev whilst they did the rounds ringing Chough pulli, I was not however, expecting to ring an adult Chough!! What a bird….


Above all my wows & ooooos of the birds was a serious side to the work. IOM ringers have been involved in a colour ringing programme of Chough since 1989…. More on this later.

After quickly calling into Sean’s home at Port Lewaigue for a cuppa, meeting his lovely wife Niki and seeing his ringing set up in the garden, we set off for the Point of Ayre. Here we caught – Lesser Black Backed Gull (cr-ringed), Common Gull and another Oystercatcher.


‘Common Gull with Point of Ayre Lighthouse in the background’

Later we trapped three Ringed Plover, adding to the day’s totals before calling for a chippy tea and heading back to Gray’s Bird Observatory for more ringing!!

All the left overs from tea were placed on the ground in front of the whoosh net and with in minutes we had the first birds down & Sean fired on 5 Herring Gulls, which later turned into 9 as we ended the day (all birds colour ringed).


'Luxury ringing – sitting with a cuppa on the couch whilst pulling the cord to whoosh gulls!’

So a fantastic day with no ringing planned, turned into a day of quality rather than quantity! Spending the day with a great mate, with some class species trapped & ringed!!

Thursday I finally got to meet Kev Scott, which was really nice to meet him after reading his blog & being in contact with him over e-mail. Good to put a name to a face and meet the other have of the Manx Ringing Duo!!


The day was spent checking Chough nests to ring the chicks & update the nest record cards. A cracking day had, working with Kev and Sean with such a charismatic species!

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The day ended on 14 pulli being ringed, a further 15 ringed this morning before I flew back to Manchester and I’ve since heard that Kev & Sean carried on and ringed another 12 chicks!!

The Isle of Man ringing group are heavily involved in a number of colour marking projects on a number of species. Sightings of these birds are greatly welcomed and can be sent to the contact details on this link were also you’ll be able to find more information on their fantastic colour ringing work.


Colour ringed - Lesser Black Backed Gull

A huge thanks to Sean, Niki & Kev for having me along, giving up their time, showing me their beautiful island and allowing me to ring all the birds! You treated me too well…….I’ll be back!! ;-)

Cheers lads!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Back to the Woods….

We decided to finish off the remaining boxes this morning in Atherton Woods, ringing any pulli that were big enough to ring. Nearly all the Great Tit are now ringed & should be fledging at the end of the week. Blue Tit are a little all over the place with birds still incubating eggs to a pair that should have their young off later this week! So we’ve got a few more visits to complete before everything is ringed….


36 Blue Tit, 17 Great Tit and an adult Stock Dove that we managed to lift off the nest. She was quickly ringed and placed back onto her nest, were she sat tight as we quietly retreated away from the nest.


Then a little observation work paid off as we found two Treecreeper nests. One containing 3 chicks and another with 6 eggs.


And finally a walk around Shakerley to check on Whitethroat nests revealed that the first eggs have been laid. Also found my first ever Linnet nest, so I’m rather hoping this nest pulls through and I can ring the pulli…….

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Garden Netting.

It’s been far too windy to attempt any large scale mist netting over the weekend & the weather hasn’t really been suitable. However in between rain showers we managed to get the net up in the garden, which was sheltered from the wind. 

I haven’t attempted any mist netting in the garden for quite some time, so I was eager to get the net up soon.


Two female House Sparrows (above) managed to place themselves in the net, even before I left the garden after erecting the net! Followed closely by Goldfinch, Starling, Dunnock, Song Thrush & a Coal Tit.

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One of the Goldfinches had a deformed bill, but seemed to be in good condition & at a good weight.

Knowing that a brood of Tawny Owl were ready for ringing in Atherton Woods, Chris, Zac and me headed down there to get them ringed, before they jump ship.



With the rain keeping off, we decided to check some of the tit boxes & ring any broods that were big enough, resulting in the ringing of 30 Great Tit, 15 Blue Tit and a brood of 6 Nuthatch



Lastly, congratulations to Chris for putting in for his restricted C permit to ring pulli, using traps & for catching adult birds with his hands!


Hopefully the weather will be kind over the next week or so to allow a netting session at Shakerley!!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Great Tit Chicks!

I carried out my third nest box check of the season in Atherton Woods this morning & ringed my first brood of Great Tits of the year, which are by far the earliest I’ve done! These chicks were at the FS (feathers short) stage.


Today I checked 33 boxes, of these 19 contained Blue Tit nests, 13 Great Tit and 1 Nuthatch nest. All the Great Tit nests contained young, with all but one of the Blue Tit nests containing eggs – the remaining nest had very young chicks in (below). The Nuthatch box held six 3-4 day old chicks.


I managed to lift 15 female Blue Tits off their eggs resulting in ringing 9 new birds & recapping 6. I was expecting to have recapped more adults, due to netting the Atherton Woods feeding station last winter. I also managed to lift the Nuthatch off her young & she was already ringed TP82742 – ringed in the same box last year as a pullus and recaptured several times at the feeding station during the winter.


Many of the female Blue Tits that I lifted off nests seemed to be in poor condition…


Ahead of everything else though, the Great Tits are getting on with it!


One thing is for certain things seem to be happening much earlier this year!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

First Tawny Chick of the Year!

Tonight we ringed our first Tawny Owl chick of the year, in a nest box in Worsley. Apparently three chicks had been seen out of the box in recent days, however when I climbed the tree tonight – one chick had fledged, another was dead, leaving the below bird.


I’m hoping the the Atherton Wood brood have survived, and I’m looking forward to checking on their progress this week…

Meanwhile it’s been far too windy to attempt any mist netting during recent days, so I’ve been out nest finding or checking on pulli that were ready for ringing – sadly lots have been predated, so only a brood of Wood Pigeon have been ringed during the last few days!