Thursday, 30 August 2012

More than a Hobby

Dashed home from work and went down to Scotman’s Flash, Wigan to try for roosting Swallows. I only got there at 19:15 which only gave me time to put up one 60ft net. There were still plenty of recently fledged juvenile Reed Warblers calling for food but otherwise seemed fairly quiet until a flock of Long-tailed Tits flew past with a few Chiffchaffs in tow.

When the first Swallow finally arrived it flew straight into the net and, to my surprise, was quickly followed by a Hobby. This Hobby could have been the bird that I ringed on the 19th but unfortunately it jumped out of the net so I will never know. I subsequently saw it fly low across the reed bed then rise up to take a Swallow in flight. Seconds later what must have been a second Hobby appeared over the reed bed as this bird appeared before the first would have had time to devour its prey. Hobbies are still fairly scarce in this area so seeing two is quite unusual but almost catching one again is exceptional.

Less than 20 Swallows gathered with most arriving just after sunset but I still managed to catch 11 including a juvenile (Y462733) that had been ringed elsewhere. The evening’s ringing total also included 3 Reed Warblers and a Sedge Warbler.

The weather is looking favourable again tomorrow so I will try and finish work early and get down to Scotman’s again.
Swallows caught in a mist net for ringing.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

acredula type Willow Warbler 26/08/12

The last bird caught of a rain curtailed ringing session at Longshaw on Sunday proved to be the most interesting. The predominantly white underparts and cold colour to the upper parts made this Willow Warbler really stand out even though I didn't catch a more typically coloured specimen on the same net round for direct comparison. It is not often I reach for my copy of Svensson (Identification Guide to European Passerines) or give the wing formula more than a cursory check but this bird made me do both. Incidently I had caught 2 typically coloured Willow Warblers and 6 Chiffchaffs in the previous net rounds.

The light was very poor because of the impending rain but I managed to get some reasonable photos. The lower breast, belly and under tail coverts were pure white but the area around the vent had a very slight buffish wash, the upper breast had a greyish buff wash forming a band as the throat and chin were a paler off white to pure white. The colour of the upper parts was greyish olive-brown or at least that is my best description.

acredula type Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus acredula)

acredula type Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus acredula)

There is a degree of overlap in plumage characteristics between the trochilus and acredula subspecies but this bird appears to be outside this overlap area and firmly in the acredula side. This is potentially the first reported acredula Willow Warbler for Greater Manchester.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Ringing 19/08/12

I went to Longshaw this morning and put up the usual two nets. There didn't seem to be a great deal about other than Willow Warblers which were present in good numbers and clearly moving through. The final tally was:

Willow Warbler 16
Chiffchaff 3
Robin 2
Great Tit 2
Blue Tit 2
Long-tailed Tit 3 (2)
Willow Tit 1
Total 31

Willow Tit (Poecile montanus)
In the evening I went down to Scotmans Flash to see if there was a Swallow roost. After getting myself very wet crossing a ditch in the wrong place I put up just one 60 foot net and played a Swallow lure. There didn't seem to be any Swallows around and I thought I was going to draw a blank. Just as I was thinking about packing up a few small parties started to arrive but these seemed to be reluctant to hang around and quickly moved on. I didn't think I was going to catch anything but then around 100 Swallows eventually gathered and it looked like I could get a reasonable catch after all.

On checking the net a reasonable number of Swallows had been caught and what, at first glance, I assumed to be a Sparrowhawk at the far end. I went to take this out first but was delighted to find it was a Hobby and not a Sparrowhawk. I had not seen this bird at all but it was obviously why the Swallows had been reluctant to hang around at first.

Hobby (Falco subbuteo)
The Swallow tally was 38 new birds and a control making it a very productive evening and more than made up for me getting wet to the waist and eaten by mosquitoes.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Back after a short break on Anglesey 7th - 11th August

It is over two months since my last post, this has been largely due to protracted problems with my broadband connection which was only finally resolved after I changed service provider. Pressure of work and the miserable weather also playing a part. Hopefully I will be able to post more regularly from now on.

Back to the subject of the post and a recent camping trip with my youngest son, Jack, and the dog on Anglesey. It wasn't a birding trip and was just a chance to get away and relax for a few days. My holidays coincided with a spell of fine weather so we packed the car and headed off to our favourite camp site near Malltraeth. We arrived in the late afternoon and were greeted by 3 Little Egrets on the pool by the entrance to the site. This pool held up to six Little Egrets and 3 Grey Herons over the next few days.

Once we had set up camp we went for an evening walk at Aberffraw. We hadn't gone far towards the beach when I noticed a Short-eared Owl flying over quite high. This was a bird I hadn't expected to see so I was really surprised when it was followed in quick succession by another two.

One of 3 Short-eared Owls at Aberffraw
I didn't take a moth trap but the lights are left on all night in the camp site toilets and usually attract a variety of critters. Pick of the bunch was a Small Blood-vein.

Small Blood-vein
We made our usual pilgrimage to St Cwyfan, the Church in the sea, on what turned out to be another glorious day. The Sand Martin colony in the earth cliff at the top of the beach was still quite active. I tried to get a few shots of the birds in flight but failed to get anything other than record shots. Two Grey Herons made easier subjects when they had an aerial battle over a feeding area.

St Cwyfan's, near Aberffraw

St Cwyfan's, near Aberffraw
Juvenile Sand Martin.

Adult Sand Martin preening on the wing.

Grey Herons

Grey Herons
The first longish walk of the trip was along the beach from Newborough Forest to Abermenai point on a scorcher of a day. Best of birds here was a Merlin attacking a small flock of Linnets at the point.

Bryn enjoys the beach off Newborough Warren

and the impressive dunes

View to Snowdonia from Abermenai point.
Field Grasshopper picked up in the dunes
We also made a couple of visits to Red Wharf Bay and explored the southern side below Pentraeth Forest. The habitat along this section of coast looks really good for holding migrants and is an area I will visit again.

Red Wharf Bay

Yours truly with Bryn

An obliging Common Darter

An obliging Common Darter
One constant of any visit to Anglesey are the Hawk trainers flying out of RAF Valley and there are great viewing areas near Rhosneigr.