Monday 28 May 2012

Return to Southport 27/05/12

I went back to Southport with Jack and Bryn this morning. We set off earlier to avoid the crowds but that was still only around 9:00am. It was hot with a strong easterly breeze and the light was very harsh but we still managed to get a few decent photographs between us.

The first bird to greet us was a Meadow Pipit carrying food and judging by the food load this bird is feeding large young. You can generally gauge the age of a brood by the quantity and size of the food items the adults are carrying.

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

A very confident Carrion Crow put on a bit of a performance and seemed to be mainly feeding on insects and other invertebrates.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone corone)

A few Sedge Warblers were singing and showed better than yesterday. One of my favourite birds.

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
 The tide was well out and even though we walked around 2 miles to the tide line I only managed to get photos of a couple of waders today.

Jack and Bryn, the only waders photograped.
One of the pools in the dunes held 3 freshly emerged Four-spotted Chasers. They were hyperactive with the heat and the wind but settled occasionally.
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
There was little or no passage today with most of the hirundines and Swifts seen likely to be local breeding birds.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Control Sanderling G2WYRR

The colour ringed Sanderling I photographed at Southport yesterday had been ringed in south west Iceland on 30th May last year. A distance of some 998 miles but this is probably only a fraction of the distance it covers from its wintering grounds somewhere on the west African coast and the breeding grounds in Greenland. Thanks to Jeroen Reneerkens for the prompt reply with the ringing details.

View Sanderling G2WYRR in a larger map

Saturday 26 May 2012

Down by the seaside

The glorious weather tempted me and Jack to have a ride across to Southport with Bryn and our camera gear. The traffic was dreadful with what seemed to be a large proportion of the population of north west England was heading there too. Despite the masses heading for the beach it was still possible to get away from the crowds.

When we eventually found a parking space it was only a short walk before we found loads of Natterjack tadpoles in a water filled wheel rut in the edge of the salt marsh. Unfortunately most of these are likely to perish as the water dries up.
Jack looking at the masses of Natterjack tadpoles.

Doomed Natterjack tadpoles (Epidalea calamita)

Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita)
 We walked out to the incoming tide to try and get a few shots of waders. Sanderling were the most numerous with a flock of about 140 birds but there a few Oystercatchers, Dunlin, Turnstone and a single Bar-tailed Godwit. One of the Sanderlings had colour rings and a green leg flag which I have since reported to find out its sightings history and ringing details. I will post the details when I receive them.

Sanderling (Calidris alba)

Sanderling (Calidris alba)

Sanderling (Calidris alba)

Sanderling (Calidris alba)

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)

A trickle of Swifts, House Martins and Swallows were going north and at least two Hobbies seemed to come in off the sea. It was a really interesting afternoon and we plan to go back in the morning to do some more photography.

Bryn having a ball

Friday 25 May 2012

Quick post 25.05.12

Five days of warm settled weather and there has been very little improvement in moth catches for me. I didn't expect it to get back to normal that quickly but I didn't expect it to stay this bad either. Breeding birds are clearly suffering because of their absence especially at the caterpillar stage which goes to show their essential role in the food chain.
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria)

Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla)
On the ringing front it has mainly been juvenile Starlings in the garden so far this week.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Perk of the job 21/05/12

Perks are very few and far between these days as I am far more desk bound than I used to be. This morning I was out and about for a short while taking water samples in Pennington Flash near Leigh. I took a few snaps with a pocket camera whilst out in the boat and the fine warm weather was a long overdue bonus.
Leigh and Lowton Sailing Club, Pennington Flash, Leigh.

North shore view, Peennington Flash, Leigh

The bouys, Pennington Flash, Leigh

Mark 5, Pennington Flash, Leigh

I didn't get chance to do any birding as such other than seeing a few Common Terns over the lake and a couple of Buzzards high in the sky but a small day flying moth near the car park really caught my eye. There has been little or nothing in the moth trap at home recently and it always amazes me how quickly insects can respond to a change in the weather. Discussion with Chris Darbyshire this evening identified it as Esperia sulpherella, the caterpillars of this species feed on dead wood.

Esperia sulphurella, Pennington Flash, Leigh.
The weather forecast for the week looks good for the moth trap and birds from the east. We will have to wait and see.

Saturday 19 May 2012

What to do

A bright and early start was foiled by cloud and rain so back to bed it was. When I did get up it was still very overcast with a bit of a breeze that left me wondering what to do. Spent some time trying to sort out my laptop as web pages have been increasingly slow to load recently and then often hang. Laptop sort of sorted I decided to do a few chores to stay in the good books.

The wind dropped in the afternoon so I put a net up in the garden and started using the bird table trap. I didn’t expect to catch more than the odd Starling so I also decided to modify a single panel net that had been badly tethered. I haven’t done any net repairs or net building for some time and I soon worked out why. It is not easy.

Ringing was slow as expected but there was a steady trickle of birds as the afternoon progressed. Net modification was much slower due to the lack of practice. I cut up an unusable 42ft net and eventually made a very usable re-tethered 30ft and 6ft net. Ringing a few birds along the way provided a pleasant interruption to the net building and star bird was a stonking Wood Pigeon. I always get a buzz from catching them.

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) and I look quite slim in this shot.

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)
Totals were:
Starling   11 (1)
House Sparrow   2
Great Tit   1
Goldfinch   1
Chaffinch   1
Coal Tit   1
Blue Tit   (1)
Wood Pigeon 1
Totals   18 (+2 retraps)

Not a bad afternoon after all and hope to put the 6ft single to good use tomorrow.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Blackcap Weekend

Went to Haigh Hall yesterday and today for a few hours and managed to catch a few birds. Yesterday was mainly spent cutting back along some net rides after carefully checking that there were no nests but I did have a couple of nets up for a while.

A bit more effort was put into ringing today with Blackcaps being the main target. One of  the male Blackcaps caught had a largely brown cap that was just flecked with black. I haven't caught a spring male with such a brown cap before.

male Blackcap (Sylivia atricapilla)
male Blackcap (Sylivia atricapilla)
 Also ringed a few birds in the garden over the weekend including the first juveniles of House Sparrow and Starling.

Weekend Ringing totals:

Haigh Hall
Blackcap  10
Willow Warbler  1 (1)
Chiffchaff  2
Long-tailed Tit  2 (1)
Goldcrest  1
Blue Tit  1
Bullfinch  1
Blackbird  2
Robin  1
Total  21 (+2 retraps)

Starling  3
House Sparrow  1
Robin 1
Total 5

Friday 11 May 2012

All Smiles

It has been a busy week at work and the weather has been poor so I haven't been up to much recently. However, I have been keeping an eye on the Great Tits nesting in the garden and decided it was time to ring the nestlings this evening. The following photographs show their development over the last week or so. Only five nestlings were in the box which is a fairly small brood and they have been reared with the help of artificial food supplies because of the cold conditions.

03/05/12 Great Tit nestlings

07/05/12 Great Tit nestlings

07/05/12 Great Tit nestling. A face only a mother can love.

11/05/12 Great Tit nestlings

11/05/12 Great Tit nestling. Looking more like the real deal.

11/05/12 Great Tit nestling just ringed.
The ring has been darkened with a felt tip marker to make it less noticeable to the parent birds. The young are at least a week off fledging so still have some way to go.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Idiot at dawn

I got up at daft o’clock this morning and walked to my ringing site at Longshaw to put up a couple of nets in the usual rides. I didn’t expect to catch much but knew that would give me time to bird the immediate area in between net rounds. Whitethroats have arrived in the last few days with 4 males singing. Most of the Chiffchaffs have gone quiet now that they are paired up but about half of Willow Warblers are still singing along with the 3 Blackcaps. There was no sign of any passage overhead other than 1 Swallow north in what would be best described as a near birdless sky.

The nets produced:
Willow Warbler- 2 (+2 retraps)
Blackcap- 1
Robin – 1
Total-4 (+2 retraps)

Returned home by 10:30 and decided to have a full coronary for breakfast (fry up). Whilst in the kitchen I noticed a Blue Tit collecting nesting material from a hanging basket on the garage. Luckily it stayed long enough for me to take a few snaps through the kitchen window. They haven’t turned out too bad considering they were taken through double glazing that doesn’t get cleaned that often. This bird has presumably failed once and is on a second nesting attempt.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) collecting nest material from a hanging basket. Still a Parus to me.

Later in the afternoon a juvenile Blackbird posed on the bird table and in an adjacent birch tree. This bird and its two siblings have been around for almost two weeks now. It hung around just long enough for me to grab a few photos and again they haven’t turned out too bad given they were taken through a double glazed window.

Juvenile Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Friday 4 May 2012

Cold and quiet

I went for a mooch around the Wigan Flashes again today. It was overcast and felt quite cold even though there was little or no breeze. The Cetti's Warbler put in a few bursts of song in Hawkley reed bed but in general it was really quiet for the time of year with few birds singing. There were no Sedge Warblers singing in prime areas of habitat at Scotman's Flash and I only heard one Whitethroat.

Hawkley reed bed near Scotman's Flash
Scotman's Flash, Wigan
Wandered around Turner's and Pearson's Flash and only came across one Sedge Warbler on the entire walk and that one didn't sing for long. I still haven't heard a Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler or Lesser Whitethroat anywhere. I put a net up in a few locations as went round and managed to ring a few birds including five new Reed Warblers.

Ringing totals for the day were:
Reed Warbler 5
Blackcap 3
Willow Warbler 2
Chiffchaff 2
Long-tailed Tit 1
Blackbird 1
Total 14

Thusrsday 3rd May: Feels like spring but only just.

Unfortunately the Swift that I rescued didn't make it. I thought it was making some progress and took it to work with me yesterday so I could give it some regular feeds but it wasn't to be.

I went out for a meal last night and over indulged, particularly on the food front but had a few beers too. Not in work now until next Tuesday so hoping to get some birding in and ring a few birds in the next few days.

The moth trap still isn't producing much but a Red-green Carpet found resting on the garage window this morning was the first Geometrid recorded in a long time and the first sign of a slight improvement.

Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata)
Checked the nest box near the chicken run in the garden as the young Great Tits are getting noisy. There only appears to be 4 or 5 chicks at most and they are still too small too ring. Their eyes haven't opened yet. The young Chaffinches in the nest opposite the back door are only slightly bigger and still a bit too small to ring too.
Young Great Tits (Parus major)
This afternoon I went for a mooch at the Wigan Flashes and the area between Scotmans Flash and Bryn Marsh in particular. Mainly went to check out net rides and see what was about but put up a net here and there on my way round. A few Orange Tips were on the wing along with the odd Peacock and it was good to see plenty of St Mark's Flies, Alderflies and other insects which will provide a welcome food source for recently arrived migrants.

Many of the Alders were infested with Alder Leaf Beetles. These beetles have been quite prolific in the past few years and the way they were behaving you can see why.
Alder Leaf Beetles having fun (Agelastica alni)

Alder Leaf Beetles having fun (Agelastica alni)

Swamp dog
I was greeted by a singing Cetti's Warbler at Scotmans Flash but Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats are still thin on the ground. A few Reed Warblers are in but many more have yet to arrive. This spring has the potential for some big arrivals yet to come or migrants may continue to arrive in dribs and drabs depending on what the weather will allow.

Retrapped a Reed Warblers ringed as an adult in 2004. This bird is now in its ninth year at least. Not our oldest but still a good age for a small passerine.

R444191 Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Bird of the day for me was a Cuckoo, my first of the year. They are increasingly scarce and I have been following the fortunes of the satellite tagged birds on the BTO website. Seeing one makes you think of the amazing journey the tagged birds have revealed !!!!

Ringing totals for the day were:
Blackcap 5
Chiffchaff 3
Willow Warbler 2
Reed Warbler 1 (+1 retrap)
Total 12

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Victim of cold wet weather

This Swift was found on the ground at Pennington Flash today. Moribund and very light when weighed. The average weight for a Swift is 40g and this one weighed just under 30g. I am currently feeding it with dead maggots and it seems to be improving a bit. It probably had a rough migration and then found poor feeding conditions here with the cold wet weather.

Common Swift (Apus apus)

Common Swift (Apus apus)