Sunday, 29 April 2012

Miserable day

Rain for much of the day confined me to home so I decided to tidy my study. I say study, yes it does have books and a pc but it also acts as a store for my ringing gear, a larder for the family and store for all manner of odds and ends.

I have a bird table trap outside the window that is kept baited with cakes of finely chopped peanut and dripping. The escape door can be closed by simply pulling a string and most birds are usually caught this way rather than setting the trap and birds entering via the funnels. This also allows me to be selective.

Starlings and Blackbirds were in and out of the trap constantly and most were already ringed but six new Starlings and two new Blackbirds were caught and ringed during the course of the day. All this activity attracted a Magpie which entered the relatively small trap and became an addition to the species ringed in the garden and for the year.

Magpie (Pica pica) and me
Other species that entered the trap and appeared to be collecting food for their young were Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch and Robin. Great Tits were frequent visitor too but unlike the others they didn't carry off any food. The fat cakes appear to be a real life line for quite a few species in the current cold wet weather. At least tomorrow should see an improvement according to the forecast.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

One Swallow doesn't make a summer.

A check of the garden moth trap this morning produced the first new species in weeks in the form of a Swallow Prominent. The only other moths caught were 2 Hebrew Characters. Catches have been very poor all month and this is likely to have a significant knock on effect as caterpillar numbers will be lower than usual when many birds are feeding their first broods.

Swallow Prominent (Pheosia tremula)
Didn't bother going out ringing because of the stiff breeze and also because there hasn't been any evidence of warblers arriving in the past week. So I pottered around at home doing a few chores whilst keeping an eye on the garden feeders.

The feeders have been increasingly busy as Starlings have been feeding young for up to a week now. The adults are mainly using the feeders to refuel themselves but clearly take the odd mouth full to feed their young. They love the mixture of very finely chopped peanuts and dripping.

Today was the first day I heard the young Starlings calling from the nest. At least the recent rain has softened the ground and will help the adults when probing for worms and leatherjackets.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
A few other species seem to love the chopped peanut and dripping mix when natural sources of food are scarce as appears to be the case with the cold weather this April. The niger is still attracting Goldfinches and Coal Tits continue to cache sunflower seed at every opportunity. I now know why so many sunflowers start growing in my hanging baskets. House Sparrows are also feeding young.
Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis)
Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Walked to my ringing site at Longshaw early evening and still no Whitethroats. There will be a spectacular arrival when the weather changes as so many birds are clearly being held up by the weather. With so many migrant warblers yet to arrive it is hard to believe that return migration will start in less than 12 weeks time.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Through the thousand barrier.

I took the day off work because the car was in for repair and it would save me trying to arrange lifts. The weather looked like being half decent too - the calm before the storm or at least a wet and windy Wednesday according to the forecast. As it was flat calm I tried a net in the garden first but only caught three new birds in the form of a Dunnock, a Coal Tit and a Long-tailed Tit.

The moth trap hasn't produced much for ages and today was no different with only two Hebrew Characters being caught. The weather is holding everything up. Some birds will have difficulty finding insects and caterpillars for their young if it doesn't warm up soon.

At lunchtime I set off with the dog and a couple of poles and what you might call my stalking gear. I hadn't gone far when I got a call from the garage telling me that the car needed a new turbo and it was going to cost around £1,000. Not what I wanted to hear.

I walked to the Longshaw site hoping some Whitethroats or a Grasshopper Warbler had arrived but no such luck. Only managed to catch a new and a retrap Willow Warbler there. I then went on to a mixed woodland about 1km away; more for the walk than anything. However, this turned out to be quite productive and produced 5 Willow Warblers, 5 Blackcaps, 6 Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff. All were new birds except for a Blackacap which I had ringed at Longshaw on 7th April this year.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
I had put in about 8 hours in the field by now so decided I had better go home but I still managed to to catch another new Blackcap at Longshaw on the way back. The number of birds caught during the day had taken the total for the year over the 1,000 bird mark.  The final totals for the day being:

Dunnock 1
Coal Tit 1
Long-tailed Tit 1
Willow Warbler 6 (1)
Chiffchaff 1
Blackcap 5 (1)
Goldcrest 6
Total 21 new birds and (2) retraps.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Salvaged weekend; just

I was up before first light on Saturday only to find it raining hard and scuppering my plans to go out. When it did finally stop I walked to Longshaw and put up the usual dog leg. I couldn't go anywhere else as the car is out of action having blown its turbo. It soon became obvious that no new warblers had arrived and Whitethroats, in particular, were conspicuous by their absence. There was no sign of any passage either apart from the odd Meadow Pipit. Dead just about sums it up and the only bird caught was a retrap Willow Warbler. I should have gone back to bed rather than go out.

Almost the same script on Sunday, up before first light to find it raining again. This cold showery weather is starting to get boring and there is no let up in sight. Went back to bed this time and had another few hours sleep. When I dragged myself out of bed again it was still raining but it soon stopped and the breeze dropped right off. This tempted me to try a net in the garden. All the garden regulars seem to recognise the net poles and either stay clear or work their way around the net but this new adult male Blackbird was caught. This is the 16th Blackbird caught in the garden this year so hopefully a few of the earlier ones were winter visitors that are now back in Scandinavia.

Blackbird (Turdus merula)
This was followed by a Collared Dove but then a breeze picked up and the sun came out making any further captures unlikely. Unfortunately my garden just doesn't have enough cover or shelter for netting in anything other than flat calm and overcast conditions.

Collared Dove (Sterptopelia decaocto)
The sun produced just enough warmth to fool a Speckled Wood into flying. It flew sluggishly into the garden where it soon settled. It allowed me to coax it on to my finger for a photograph before I put back in the hedge to wait for conditions to improve. I think it will have a long wait looking at the forecast.
Speckled Wood (Parage aegeria)

Speckled Wood (Parage aegeria)
I was still keen to try and get a few more birds and the dog needed a walk so off we went with a couple of poles and my gear to an area of willow scrub close to home. This was my first visit to this site this spring, the willows providing enough shelter and shade to make netting in the afternoon worth a try. A 20ft net and and brief burst of song played from an mp3 player soon resulted in a Blackcap being caught and then a change of song produced a Chiffchaff. I then moved the net to a boggy part of the scrub where it was nice to see plenty of Dog Violets coming into flower. Here another Chiffchaff was soon tempted into the net.

Dog Violet (Viola riviniana)

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus trillobita)
This was repeated around the site and resulted in further two Blackcaps three Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler. The final tally for the day being: Blackbird 1
Collared Dove 1
Willow Warbler 1
Blackcap 3
Chiffchaff 5
Total 11

The dog loves coming with me and is really patient and will sit for ages. He didn't like part of this site and seems to have an allergy to nettles.

Hopefully the weather will improve eventually and let a few more birds in otherwise it is going to be a slow spring.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Before and after gets ten out of ten

The weather forecast was really good for mist netting this morning so I decided to squeeze in a quick ringing session before work. Being based in an office at a country park which is also one of my ringing sites also helped.

The office
Blackcaps were going to be the target and two males were singing at the side of the car park behind the stable block on my arrival. A 20ft net was quickly erected and a short burst of Blackcap song from the mp3 player produced a female (first female of the spring) and then a male.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
The net was then moved about 50 metres and the male of another pair was caught within a couple of minutes. The female came close but skirted round the net twice so I decided to move on. Before I did I noticed a Chiffchaff nest building close by and seemingly oblivious to my presence; one to find on another day.

I then went round to the area I use as a baited site as I also wanted to collect all the feeders so I could give them a clean before putting them into storage for the summer. I quickly put up the 20ft net again, as I still had time, and a Willow Warbler and then another male Blackcap were both caught in less time than it had taken to put up the net. It was far too nice a day to go to work but unfortunately the bills don't pay themselves so I had to pack up and head to the office.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
My work took me to Pennington Flash Country Park later in the day and as the weather was still ideal for netting another short ringing session beckoned before going home. Same technique, 20 ft net and two locations 12 metres apart producing another three male Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff and by catch in the form of a Willow Tit.

Willow Tit (Poecile montanus)
Ringing totals for the day: Blackcap 7
Willow Warbler 1
Chiffchaff 1
Willow Tit 1
Total 10

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A chill in the air...

Managed to get up before 6am and had two nets up in the usual dog leg at Longshaw by 6:45 hoping for a repeat of yesterday. A ground frost, along with a north easterly breeze, made it feel distinctly cold. No new warblers had arrived but at least a dozen Willow Warblers were singing for all they were worth. Only 3 Willow Warblers were caught, 2 new birds and a retrap from last year so I packed up at 10:00. Other than that it was really quiet except for a Swallow overhead. My first of the year at this site.

Male Swallow (Hirundo rustica) with stonking tail streamers
As it was quite sunny I decided to have a walk with the camera but that didn't produce much either as there were too many people out with their dogs. Couldn't blame them as it was a lovely day for a walk.
Looking back, a bit of a disappointing day on the bird front to be honest.

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Quality not quantity

I managed to get up at 05:30 this morning and was putting up two nets at Longshaw just before sunrise which is early for me. The area was lifting with Willow Warblers compared to a week ago when only one was present. More than a dozen were singing in the surrounding scrub with five singing quite close to the two nets. Three Willow Warblers were caught; one new bird and two retraps. Both retraps had been ringed at the same site on 24th April 2010.
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Virtually nothing seemed to be passing overhead despite the clear blue sky and calm conditions but I still played Redpoll lure on the off chance that one or two would be on the move. I hadn't heard any Redpolls drop in but four Lessers Redpolls were soon sat by one of the nets of which two were caught. To my surprise and delight another five were in the nets a little while later. One of these birds was a retrap which had been ringed on 25th October last year on its way south.

Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis caberet)
The breeze started to pick up and no birds were caught for a while but then two male Blackcaps were caught together in one net. These were probably still on passage and will move on to breed elsewhere. One of them had conspicuous amounts of pollen around its bill from feeding in flowers as can be seen in the photograph. 
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
The breeze continued to pick up, which isn't a good mix with strong sunshine, so I was home for 11:30. I was more than happy with the mornings ringing despite only twelve birds of three species being caught. I just may give it a go again tomorrow.
On getting home I checked the moth trap and at last a new species for the spring in the form of an Early Thorn. This was a pleasant change from the small numbers of Clouded Drabs, Hebrew Characters, Common Quakers, Small Quakers, Twin-spotted Quakers and Early Greys that have been the typical fare for some time now.

Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria)

Recent recoveries

We have recently received details of two Goldfinches that were controlled in January, one was caught at Longshaw and the other at Haigh Hall. Interestingly both were ringed on the Calf of Man. These are only our 2nd and 3rd from the Isle of Man and have quickly followed the 1st which was ringed at Poiny of Ayre, IOM on 12/10/11 and was controlled at Longshaw, near Orrell on 28/10/11, a movement of 146km in 16 days.

View X211840 Goldfinch in a larger map

View Y362303 Goldfinch in a larger map

Monday, 9 April 2012

7th April part two

I returned home to drop off the ringing gear and went straight back out with the 'big' camera to make the most of the better light as it wasn't due to last. My main aim was to photograph the Song Thrush nesting in the net ride but happy to take any other opportunities along the way.

Whilst walking through Orrell Water Park a Great Crested Grebe gave me the first chance of a shot if rather distant. The resulting photograph was taken at 450mm and as been heavily cropped but the almost perfect reflection is quite pleasing.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)

When I got back to the net ride the Song Thrush was still sitting tight. Hopefully they will be successful and give me the opportunity to photograph the nesting attempt through to fledging.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
In a nearby area of mature woodland the first Bluebells were well in flower, the earliest I have ever seen. Similarly adjacent fields of oil seed rape are already turning yellow and will be in full flower before the end of the month.

Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Oilseed Rape 7th April
Whilst photographing the bluebells I noticed a large crane fly spp crawling over the vegetation. On closer inspection there were three. Two males were fighting over a much larger female. I don't think I have seen this species before and I may be able to identify them as they seem well marked. These photographs were taken with a compact camera which I find more convenient for macro photography. After the fight both males tried to pair with the female.

female crane fly spp.

mating crane fly spp.

On my way home back through the water park I noticed a Moorhen that was clearly brooding some chicks. The other adult was searching for small items of food which were passed to the brooding bird and then the brooding bird passed them on to the chicks or they were passed direct to the chick if it ran out.

Brooding Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus)
When the brooding bird went off to find food I could see there were six chicks that soon followed their parents into the reeds.

Not a bad day.

7th April part one

I got up on the wrong side of 6am this morning. I say wrong side because I hate getting up early and my ringing effort tends to drop off over the summer months as a result. It was raining when I got up so I started the day with a leisurely cup of coffee or three. When the rain stopped I took the short walk to put up a couple of nets near home at Longshaw. I didn't expect to catch much but the dog needed a walk and it would give me an idea if any new birds had moved in.

Bryn in typical cross pawed pose watches on.
 A Song Thrush, which has decided to nest in a willow by one of the net rides, was now sitting so I wasn't able to use that ride. I noticed the part built nest on my previous visit as it is not the most well concealed for a Song Thrush but hopefully they will be successful. I decided I would walk back later to try and get a picture of the sitting bird with the 'big' camera if the weather brightened up a bit.

I thought I had heard both Willow Warbler and Blackcap whilst putting the first net up. A little while later both species had been caught and ringed. The first of the year for each.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Blackcap (Sylivia atricapilla)
I hoped a few Lesser Redpolls may be passing over so I played a their song as a lure but there didn't seem to be anything on the move other than the odd Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Goldfinch. However, three birds did eventually drop in for a look with one being caught and ringed.

Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis cabaret)
Chiffchaffs were singing in earnest and a new male was added to the ringing tally but although some of the males have been on territory for over two weeks now there is still no sign of any females having arrived as yet.

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
Although I only ringed 4 new birds and a retrapped a Blackbird it was still a useful short session. As I was packing up the complete cloud cover began to break up just enough to consider going for a walk with the big camera. The results of which form part two of the day's blog.

Friday, 6 April 2012

A quiet day

I travelled up to Haigh Country Park to ring at the baited site as there still seemed to be a few finches about. I was also hoping a few more warblers had arrived despite the recent cold spell. I set the usual dog leg up by the feeders but it was obvious there were no new warblers within earshot. The only warblers singing were two Chiffchaffs that have been around for more than a week and both have been ringed.

Plenty of birds came to the feeders but many were already ringed and were clearly wise to the nets with only a few being retrapped. Slow but steady was the order of the morning with a trickle of new birds. A new Nuthatch and Coal Tit were a nice surprise as I have only been getting retraps for a few weeks now.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

Coal Tit (Parus ater)

Goldfinches were still coming to the feeders in reasonable numbers in contrast to Greenfinches which were unexpectedly thin on the ground. The only Greenfinch caught being an adult female with a brood patch so she must already have a nest with eggs somewhere nearby.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

A Great Spotted Woodpecker turned up and was soon in a net. I expected it to be the male I have caught a few times now but when I got to the net it was an unringed male. Always nice to catch these birds.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus major)
The final tally was 17 new birds and 5 retraps.
Goldfinch 5 (3)
Chaffinch 4 (1)
Bullfinch 1 (1)
Blue Tit 2
Coal Tit 1
Great Tit 1
Nuthatch 1
Greenfinch 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1