Friday, 9 August 2013

From Ironman to Ironbirds

I have been really busy at work since the trip to Anglesey and haven't had time to do much in the way of ringing or any blogging. I have put in a lot of hours at work and over last weekend in particular when Pennington Flash hosted the swim section and transition to bike for the UK Ironman triathlon. On Sunday my working day started at 03:10hrs and didn't end until after 22:00hrs. Ironman is an increasingly popular endurance event and I have nothing but admiration for those who take part. However, the endurance and distances of that event pale into insignificance when compared with those faced by our migrant birds.

The event starts with a 2.4 mile swim in Pennington Flash
The start of the 112 mile bike ride which is then followed by a 26.2 mile run.
Now that event is over I have managed to take a couple of days off work and it has given me the chance to get the ringing back on track. I went to Scotman's  Flash on Wednesday evening to see if there was a Swallow roost and caught 55 birds including 43 Swallows. I went back again last night and the roost was bigger with around a thousand Swallows present. The total for that late afternoon / evening ringing session was 92 birds and included another 74 Swallows.

Juvenile Swallow.
This young bird could travel well over 9,000km to winter in South Africa
It was quieter than might be expected on the warbler front with very few heard calling in the reeds or the scrub and only one Sedge Warbler was caught over the two sessions. It doesn't seem to have been a particularly productive breeding season at many of our sites despite the generally better weather of late. Reed Warblers seem to be doing much worse than last year and that wasn't a good year either.

The only Sedge Warbler caught.
Some Sedge Warblers may fly non stop from southern England to sub Saharan West Africa.
A distance of around 3,900km and a flight time of up to 3 to 4 days.
One of the juvenile Reed Warblers caught had quite severe fault barring in the wings and tail and some feathers on the rump had clearly broken off along fault lines. Fault bars are generally caused by a shortage of food when the young bird is growing its feathers in the nest and shortly after fledging. This leads to a band or bands of discolouration and weakness at intervals across the feathers and is usually most obvious in the tail.

Juvenile Reed Warbler with extensive fault barring.
Some feathers on the rump have broken off along a fault line.
One by-product of these ringing sessions was encountering quite a few Brown-veined Wainscot. This moth is a specialist of reedbeds and is most common in south-east England and only occurs locally north to Lancashire. A number of these moths were seen along the net rides and a few landed on the mist-nets. This species is generally regarded as nocturnal but one was seen and photographed feeding on Water Mint long before sunset. I may take an actinic trap back with me tonight to see what other reedbed specialists are on the wing especially as it is national moth night (8th to 10th).

Brown-veined Wainscot feeding on the nectar of Water Mint.
Combined ringing totals for 7th & 8th August
Swallow  117
Sand Martin   7
Reed Warbler  16 (+ 1 retrap and a control)
Sedge Warbler   1
Willow Warbler   2
Chiffchaff   1
Reed Bunting   2
Long-tailed Tit   1
Total   147 (+2)

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