Monday, 18 September 2017

Goldcrests on a high.

When I checked the weather forecast on Saturday night the weather for Sunday morning was due to be dry and if any showers developed they would only be from late morning onwards, but when I got up at 5am it was chucking it down. A check of the Met Office rainfall radar revealed a narrow band of showers tracking across the country from Newcastle area on the NE coast and running southwestwards towards Liverpool and north Wales; taking them over my home and the ringing site at Billinge in the process. There were gaps between the showers so I decided to head up to the ringing site as it looked like there may be a dry slot just after sunrise. Before smart phones and mobile Internet I would have gone back to bed but having the ability to check almost real time rainfall radar has changed things and makes it possible to take advantage of opportunities that would have been missed in years gone by.

I set 3 nets in the top willows and while I thought I would only get a dry hour or so, at most, the showers that were heading in my direction largely skirted the site and the session remained dry, apart from the odd very light sprinkle. Technology and an old fashioned eye on the sky really paid off and the session ended with a total of 57 new birds and 3 retraps. Goldcrests led the way with a total of 34 being the highest of the autumn so far. The species is what you might call a bread and butter bird at the site in autumn and while catches of 10 to 20 are not unusual in September and October catches of 30+ are much less common. Today's catch of 34 brings the total number of Goldcrests ringed this September to 148 and we are only just over half way through the month.

1cy male Goldcrest

1cy male Goldcrest
Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 17/09/17 were: Goldcrest 34; Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 2; Chiffchaff 8 (1); Blackcap 6;  Long-tailed Tit (1);Wren 1; Blackbird 1 (1); Robin 1; Chaffinch 1; Bullfinch 1;Reed Bunting 1.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

More Goldcrests on the move.

There was a brief lull in the unsettled weather this morning so I headed up to Billinge to make the most of the calmer conditions. I set 3 nets in the top willows but used a different net configuration to the one I have been using recently as the breeze was due to strengthen from mid morning. It would have been a fairly quiet session but there was a rush of birds about an hour after sunrise that boosted the totals and accounted for nearly half of the 50 birds that were caught over the course of the morning.

The catch was dominated by Goldcrests (19) and Chiffchaffs (14) as is often the case at this time of year and one of the Goldcrest, a 1cy female, was a control (a bird ringed elsewhere). I suspect this Goldcrest may have been ringed on Walney Island (68km NNW of Billinge) as the ring number was fairly close to one I have had from there before, although that is only an educated guess at this stage and I will only know its origin for certain when the recovery report comes through. The best of the rest were a Grey Wagtail, the first Willow Tit for a while and 2 Yellowhammers.


Control 1cy female Goldcrest HDB637

1cy Willow Tit
There were a few more Meadow Pipits moving overhead than there have been so far this autumn but it was still not much more than a trickle and petered out as the breeze picked up. A few Reed Buntings were also on the move early on and was the first obvious movement of that species this autumn and resulted in 3 being caught. However, it very much had the feel that the weather was holding up diurnal migrants and more would have been moving had the conditions been clearer and the breeze hadn't increased so much.

Ringing totals (retraps/controls in brackets) for 10/09/17 were: Goldcrest 17(2); Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 1; Willow Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 1; Chiffchaff 13(1); Willow Warbler 2; Blackcap 1; Wren 1; Grey Wagtail 1; Chaffinch 1; Greenfinch 2; Yellowhammer 2; Reed Bunting 3.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Billinge 7th September 2017

The 7th provided a brief interlude in the current run of unsettled weather so got up at daft o'clock to make the most of it. I set the usual 3 nets in the top willows at first light and the following few hours produced a decent catch of 60 new birds and 1 retrap. Ringing highlights were a Redstart which continued the exceptional run of records of that species, 3 Grey Wagtails was a good total as I didn't see more than 6 going south and 4 1cy Coal Tits hinted at the start of some movement in that species.

The Redstart was the 6th to be ringed this autumn and to put that into context only 4 were ringed during the previous three. Interestingly 5 of the 6 have been females.

1cy Coal Tit, noisy individuals and the occasional small group are usually seen or heard heading south on fine days through much of September and well into October.
There was very little movement overhead but there were a few interesting bits a pieces in the form of a group of 3 Song Thrush flying very high to the west, 2 Tree Pipits going south and a Crossbill also going south. There were surprisingly few Meadow Pipits going over and a trickle amounting to no more than about 30 were noted heading SSW. The only other sighting of note was another Redstart that was seen after I had packed up and was carrying my gear back to the car.

Only 2 Willow Warblers were caught and this one hadn't finished its pj moult but it had a weight of 9.4g and enough fat to migrate a good distance.
Ringing totals for 07/09/17 were: Goldcrest 9; Blue Tit 8; Great Tit 2; Coal Tit 4; Chiffchaff 14 (1); Willow Warbler 2; Blackcap 2; Whitethroat 1; Robin 2; Redstart 1; Grey Wagtail 3; Chaffinch 6; Goldfinch 6.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

2nd is better than 1st

The ringing session at Billinge on the 1st was good but the 2nd's proved to be even better. It was similar in many respects but had the added bonus of some infrequently caught species in the form of 2 Redstarts and a Spotted Flycatcher. Both are scarce passage migrants in the area these days and I consider myself lucky if I catch one or two of each over the autumn. The 2 Redstarts brought this autumn's total to 5 which is exceptional as I have never caught more than 2 in previous years and the Spotted Flycatcher was the second of the autumn. Interestingly, the Spotted Flycatcher was caught in the same part of the same net as the previous one and while no more than a coincidence such 'deja vu' type occurrences always stand out and stick in one's mind.

Both Redstarts were 1cy females.

1cy Spotted Flycatcher. Only the 6th to be ringed at the site in the last 4 years.
Once again Goldcrests dominated proceedings with most of the 23 new birds and single retrap being caught in the first couple of hours. The retrap wasn't from the previous day as some might expect and was originally ringed on 13th August when part way through its post-juvenile moult. At this time of year there are frequent movement of Goldcrests through the site and it is rare for any to hang about for more than a day once they start moving.

Chiffchaff was the second most numerous species with 14 new birds and 1 retrap being caught and while numbers were down on those of the 1st it is still a good total for that species. Once again the retrap hadn't been ringed recently and had been ringed as a scruffy juvenile on 9th July this year which gives an indication of how long it takes them to complete their protracted post-juvenile moult.

There were more Robins about than there have been recently and the 5 ringed is a sign they were on the move. The first half of September usually sees quite a few Robins pass through site, more so following a good breeding season, and is largely made up of displaced birds that are looking for somewhere to carve out a winter territory but may also include some genuine migrants.

The weather is looking pretty ropey for the next week so opportunities to get out ringing could be very limited to say the least. Is this going to be a year we don't get an Indian summer ? 

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 02/09/17 were: Goldcrest 23(1); Blue Tit 2(1); Great Tit 6; Chiffchaff 14(1); Willow Warbler 4; Blackcap 4; Spotted Flycatcher 1; Robin 5; Redstart 2; Tree Pipit 1; Chaffinch 4; Goldfinch 4; Reed Bunting 1. A total of 71 new birds and 3 retraps.

Friday, 1 September 2017

A good start to September.

I arrived at Billinge a little later than planned but early enough to get the nets up just before sunrise. A Goldcrest was calling as I lugged my gear up to the net rides in the top willows and a dozen or so Swallows were exiting their roost as I approached the first net ride. It had been a cool, clear night and could have resulted in a clear out of birds but I heard another Goldcrest and a couple of Chiffchaffs calling as I was putting up the second of the three nets so I was reasonably optimistic about the prospects for the morning. As I was putting up the last net a Chiffchaff flew into it before it was fully open which was another promising sign.

As soon as the last net was set I went straight back to the first and found 5 Goldcrest, 3 Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler had been caught. On completing the first round of the nets 12 Goldcrests, 8 Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler had been extracted which was a cracking start to the morning and the new month. Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs were clearly on the move and more filtered through the bushes over the next couple of hours and kept me quite busy.  The catching rate slowed to a more steady pace from about 09:30 and I packed up just over an hour later when a check of the rainfall radar confirmed a hefty looking shower was heading my way.

1cy Chiffchaff
The final total of 70 new birds and 3 retraps included 21 Goldcrests and 24 Chiffchaffs with the later being a new day record for the site. Goldcrests continue to look like they have had a very good breeding season with today's 21 following record totals in July (19) and August (42) so, weather permitting, it could prove to be a record September too.

1cy male Goldcrest
Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 01/09/17 were: Goldcrest 21; Blue Tit 4 (2); Great Tit 1 (1); Chiffchaff 24; Willow Warbler 4; Blackcap 5; Tree Pipit 1; Chaffinch 6; Goldfinch 3; Reed Bunting 1.

Billinge 22nd - 30th August 2017

I have managed to get out nearly every morning since my last post although some of the sessions were affected by fog, delayed and/or curtailed by showers or a strengthening breeze. A total of 200 birds were ringed and another 13 were retrapped over the period which is reasonable number given the mixed weather conditions and the limited number of nets used. There were no major surprises although sylvia warblers were in short supply throughout. Chiffchaffs took over from Willow Warblers as the most numerous warbler species as is usual in late August and all the less frequently caught species were what could be termed the usual suspects.


Species
New
Retrap
Species
New
Retrap
Goldcrest
18
1
Blackbird
2
0
Blue Tit
11
1
Song Thrush
2
0
Great Tit
15
2
Robin
5
0
Coal Tit
2
0
Redstart
3
0
Long-tailed Tit
0
3
Dunnock
1
0
Chiffchaff
54
3
Tree Sparrow
1
0
Willow Warbler
20
1
Grey Wagtail
2
0
Blackcap
8
0
Tree Pipit
9
0
Garden Warbler
0
1
Chaffinch
21
0
Grasshopper Warbler
1
0
Bullfinch
6
0
Reed Warbler
1
0
Greenfinch
3
0
Nuthatch
1
0
Linnet
3
0
Treecreeper
2
0
Goldfinch
5
0
Wren
1
1
Yellowhammer
3
0
Total for the period: 200 new birds and 13 retraps

Ringing highlights and noteworthy sightings were as follows:

22/08/17 - At least 12 Tree Pipits were on the move despite early fog and generally poor visibility but only 1 was ringed.

23/08/17 - This session was also affected by fog, some light drizzle and stayed quite murky once the fog cleared. It went so dark at one point birds went very quiet and some seemed to go to roost. However, this visit produce the first Redstart of the autumn, a 1cy female, amongst a catch of only 15 birds. At least 7 Tree Pipits headed south despite the conditions and 2 of them were caught. As the light drizzle stopped there was an unexpected sighting of a flock of 11 Dunlin flying low over the site and heading NNE, they may have been disorientated in the very murky conditions or simply been forced down by the very low cloud.

25/08/17 - Chiffchaffs really took over from Willow Warblers with ringing totals of 14 and 1 respectively. Another 2 Tree Pipits were ringed from a total of 6 recorded.

27/08/17 - Grey Wagtail passage got going with at least 4 passing over the site and 1 was ringed. Interestingly, similar movements were reported from sites across the country. Another 2 Tree Pipits were ringed from a total of 9 recorded. A juvenile Tree Sparrow was an unusual capture although a few had been recorded flying high over the site on the previous 2 days.


The first Grey Wagtail ringed this autumn
28/08/17 - A 1cy Reed Warbler was well away from its usual habitat and was only the 2nd to be ringed this autumn. This species is a scarce but regular autumn passage migrant at the site and 9 of the previous 13 records have been in the narrow period 23rd to 31st July with the remainder being on widespread dates in August. This session was also noteworthy for being the first of the autumn without a Willow Warbler being ringed or recorded.

1cy Reed Warbler
29/08/17 - A short, rain delayed session produced a Blackbird with an interesting plumage and not much else.


This 1cy male Blackbird is similar to what is sometimes referred to as the 'Stockamsel' variety. Had this bird been seen later in the autumn or during the winter it may have been thought to be of continental origin but there is virtually no chance of that in late August.

Its post-juvenile moult was almost complete.

It had a wing length of 131 mm which is towards the longer end of the range for locally bred birds but is not exceptional by any means.

1cy male Blackbird. A locally bred 'Stockamsel' type.
30/08/17 - Highlights were a Grasshopper Warbler and 2 Redstarts. At least 9 Tree Pipits were recorded 2 of which were caught. A few Grey Wagtails were on the move but only 1 was caught. There was a little flurry of Willow Warblers with 8 being ringed and this was more noteworthy as it followed a total absence of the species on the previous two days and was the only day that they outnumbered Chiffchaffs during the period.


1cy female Redstart 30/08/17

1cy male Redstart 30/08/17
S881488 adult Tree Pipit. This adult had retained 2 old lesser coverts. Apparently it is not uncommon to see this in adult Tree Pipits. There is certainly no doubt about the age of such birds. 

S881488 adult Tree Pipit. The tail feathers were much more rounded than those of the adults shown in my last post.

S881489 1cy Tree Pipit

S881489 1cy Tree Pipit. The 2nd outermost tail feather was missing on the right side of the tail. The shape of the tail is similar to the adult above but the contrast between the light and dark areas on the tail feathers isn't quite as strong. This difference in contrast can be a useful feature when ageing, according to some guides, although it isn't an easy difference to get to grips with and reportedly takes plenty of practice.


S881489 1cy Tree Pipit