Monday, 22 August 2011

Recoveries Roundup.

We’ve recently received a batch of 89 recoveries from the BTO, the majority of these being Coot & Mute Swan colour ring sightings.

Thirty three Coot recoveries were included in this latest batch, many being useful local sightings & the majority involving birds ringed at  Southport Marine Lake. Birds ringed at Southport were found at Killingworth Lake, Newcastle – 180km NNE in 176 days. At Erewash Meadows in Nottingham – 130km ESE in 148 days. Also recovered at Rodley Nature Reserve in Leeds – 92km E in 200 days. And one found dead at Barrow in Furness – 52km NNE in 208 days. A bird ringed at Bowness on Windermere in Cumbria was sighted at RSPB Marshside, Southport – 77km S in 227 days.

Further repeat sightings of our darvic ringed Black Headed Gulls were included. These being 2A00 ringed at Bowness on Windermere, recovered in Oslo – 1027km. And 2A06 recovered in Utena in Lithuania – 1837km.

Passerines were represented by a Chaffinch ringed at Shakerley, Atherton – being controlled by ringers at Hightown, Merseyside – 38km W in 137 days. A Goldfinch ringed at Walkden in February this year was controlled by ringers in Newton, Lancs – 47km N in 60 days. A Swallow ringed as a chick in the nest at WWT Martin Mere in June this year was controlled by ringers at Betley Mere in Staffordshire, 46 days later, 75km SSE. And a Blue Tit ringed as a chick in Atherton in May this year was found dead soon after fledging after being found in a water butt.

A Wood Pigeon ringed in my Atherton garden in May this year was shot dead in Atherton Woods 73 days & 2km later and reported by the hunter. We also received some information on various birds that we’ve controlled over the last few months (I.e birds ringed elsewhere and caught at our sites). This included Sand Martin – L451555 – ringed as a juvenile at Roundhouse Quarry Farm in Wiltshire in July 2010. This was controlled at our Shakerley, Atherton colony in June this year. 336 days, 211km NNW.

This batch of recoveries certainly shows the various ways in which we receive recoveries.  Whether it be by other bird ringers, members of the public, hunters or the Police! Congratulations must go to the BTO staff who work hard in processing this information, the turn around time is great & the new online/e-mail recovery system is first class!!!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

We went to the Birdfair & We got ringed!


Chris, Gillian & me are just back from the British Bird Watching Fair at Rutland Water, were upon visiting the ringing demo we got ringed with the above bands! If you visited the stand and collected one of these you can find your amazing story online here.


For most of Friday & Saturday I was mainly on the WWT stand talking to people about WWT’s conservation breeding programmes. It was a great opportunity for us to meet some of our members in person and get to know what they think of WWT! Away from the stand though it was a great opportunity to catch up with so many friends & meet new people who follow this blog!


However back at home this morning, we got the ball rolling for this seasons Coot colour ringing! A successful visit to Redesmere to catch some juvenile Coot landed us eight birds in total. Six new birds & two metal ring controls!


Both of the metal ring controls where ringed at Plattsfield Park in Manchester City Centre. GC64147 as an adult in 2008. And GR24127 ringed just over a month ago as an unfledged bird by Steve Christmas! Both birds are now carrying colour rings which should aid easier identification in the field. Distance & direction from Plattsfield Park to Redesmere is 22km South.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Chasing the Angels from the North.

Hello from Russia! After landing back from Iceland on Sunday morning, I spent all of 7 hours at home before heading back to the airport for a flight to Heathrow & then onto St Petersberg. I’m here for several days at a conference & awards ceremony, more on this later…..

But first we should bring an update to the blog on the success of Whooper Swan catching during our last 2 weeks of the expedition. 


In total we managed to capture 138 swans of which 90 were new birds to ringing and 48 were already carrying rings. These recaptures being a mixture of Icelandic retraps, controls & one or two British ringed birds, carrying BTO rings.


Breeding success in one of our main study areas of Bardardalur was somewhat very poor and we only managed to ring seven cygnets in this area (compared to 42 in 2010!). And in total we only noted 13 cygnets in broods of 1 ,1 ,2, 2, 3 & 4. June, in Iceland was unusually very cold and it snowed most days in the valley thus having an effect on the swans breeding productivity, as well as other birds including Ptarmigan, Gyr Falcon, Golden Plover & Whimbrel.


All the cygnets captured in this area, were big enough to hold darvic rings. Which must be a first! As normally we have a small number of cygnets that receive metal rings only, as the darvic ring is too big for their growing tarsus.


So with the small numbers of cygnets around, when then started to target non breeding adults on several lakes in the area.


Landing some particularly useful catches of the non or failed breeding adults, as around 20 of the adults captured had lost their darvic ring – making identification in the field much harder – this allowed us to add the more readable darvic ring.



We caught up with several of our ex transmitter birds, which allowed close examination on them. Even though no birds are carrying transmitters now, it’s always good to catch up with them, knowing that they’ve successfully managed to ditch their transmitters (and later recovered by WWT staff!). NA3 was captured (see previous blog), along with a transmitter bird from 2007 – Blidfinnur. And sadly we found BV5 dead at Kalfborgararvatn (his tagging location). Sad news but good to know that he made it back to his old stamping ground after ditching his transmitter on Coll & Tiree in 2010.


30 Golden Plover chicks gave us the run around prior to their ringing


Along with 10 Whimbrel chicks……….


And their flat flies were duly captured after escaping onto us!


and bottled for a study on parasites, Ptarmigans & Gyr Falcons.


Several Ptarmigan chicks were caught, but sadly too small for ringing! All broods along with adults were counted and the information together with our collected flat flies were handed to the Icelandic Institute for Natural History. 


So another successful expedition is brought to an end & I eagerly await their return to WWT Martin Mere in the next few weeks to see who has made it back for another year running!!

Massive thanks to Sverrir, Aevar, Thorey & Solla for having us along for another year!!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Gentle Giants.

We had a free day yesterday, so decided to do something I’ve always been meaning to do whilst coming here – to go on a whale watching trip!


We spent three hours out at sea and were rewarded with a group of three Humpbacks! At times we were no more than 1 metre away from them, watching as they surfaced and played around!

Over the last few days we’ve been out catching more Whooper Swans & monitoring Red Throated & Great Northern Divers for breeding productivity – more on this in the next day or two…

Monday, 1 August 2011

Catching Up With Old Friends!

We’ve now moved to Northern Iceland, where we’ll be based in the capital of the North in Akyreryi. To give you some idea of where this is, if Iceland was a clock Akyreryi would be positioned at 12! From Akyreryi we’ll be travelling out to various known Whooper Swan locations and starting in the valley of Skagafjordur - one of three WWT Whooper Swan study locations.


Skagafjordur is a beautiful valley which is situated near the middle of the North of the land, about 40km long and 30km wide. The valley holds around 90 pairs of Whooper Swans, although you’d surprised at this number as you very rarely see the birds! They are very well hidden in the boggy vegetation!


One of the main differences of catching swans in Skagafjordur from other study locations is that most of the birds are out on the marshes, so therefore we can’t use a boat & we don’t have access to a hovercraft! So the team has to be prepared to do a lot of running & to get very wet – often chest deep in freezing cold water!


and of course we need a big team to surround the birds and to help bring the catch quickly under control. We are fortunate to have the help of Dr Olafur Einarsson’s family, many of them have been doing this since they were small kids & are now very well trained in catching and holding swans!



and so the catching began & the first bird captured was very well known to us! NA3 (above) volunteered his services to us two years ago, when we placed a tracking device on him! This bird is very experienced and has brought back many cygnets to the UK over several years. He’s been seen at three WWT wetlands centres across the UK – Caerlaverock (Dumfriesshire) Martin Mere (Lancashire) and Welney (Norfolk) and so is a well travelled swan & certainly knows the good feeding & roosting spots in the UK!!


We caught NA3 along with his new partner F67 and a bumper brood of 7 cygnets! Quite unusual for a Whooper Swan family to contain so many young!

All birds go through at least one annual moult. Of most kinds, the big wing-feathers used for flight are shed and replaced by instalments, so that the bird is always able to get into the air and fly. But among the geese, swans & ducks this is not so. All the flight-feathers are shed simultaneously, with the result that for an average of about three weeks in the year the adult birds are quite unable to fly. They can, however, run fast, swim & dive! The stage of flightless moult of adults coincides exactly with the period when their own young are between one and five weeks hatched. For most of this period the young can run fast in their first few days out of the egg - much faster than their wings!


Waiting for cygnets to surface after diving to evade capture!


In one of the bigger ponds that we waded through, quite a number of ducks were also moulting. This allowed us to catch and ring Wigeon (14), Mallard (2) and Teal (2).


and sharp hearing by Chris allowed him to listen and follow the calls of two Snipe chicks!



A moulting flock of non or failed breeding Whooper Swans led us onto a rather chilly glacial river!






On closer inspection of one of the recaptured birds from this flock, it seemed that it’s darvic ring contained several small bullet holes from where it had been shot at.



A fantastic few days with around 50 Whooper Swans captured, a mixture of new, recapped & controlled birds.

These Icelandics know how to do it!! There’s no better way of ending a day of chasing ‘big white turkeys’ in cold water, than spending it in a geo thermal hot tub!!


Cheers to Oli & the team for a very enjoyable few days!! We’re now getting ready to start catching Whoopers in the Myvatn area………