Friday, 30 November 2012

Ringing Totals Update

November has been a month dominated by finches. Although Greenfinch topped the totals Brambling came second with Chaffinch a close third. The Waxwing ringed was the only new species added for the year.
November Ringing Totals
Collared Dove 2
Great-spotted Woodpecker 1
Waxwing 1
Wren 2
Dunnock 3
Robin 4
Blackbird 9
Goldcrest 21
Coal Tit 5
Blue Tit 31
Great Tit 18
Starling 1
Chaffinch 92
Brambling 108
Greenfinch 134
Goldfinch 24
Lesser Redpoll 5
Bullfinch 1
Reed Bunting 1
Total 463

The group totals for the year to date (right) have also been updated with the top 5 being:
1st – Swallow 930 and unlikely to be moved from top spot
2nd – Greenfinch 410 and with a good chance of staying in that position
3rd – Blue Tit 365 but could be overtaken as the winter progresses
4th – Chaffinch 318 but with a chance of moving up
5th – Goldfinch 316 could also move up and overtake Chaffinch

Whilst Goldcrest is not in the top 5 it came in at an impressive 8th with our highest ever total of 135 ringed to date.

Brambling bonanza

I am working this Sunday so I took today off instead and also because the weather was looking quite good for ringing. John G is also working this weekend and was off work today so we headed out to Longshaw. We had 3 nets up before first light even with a bit of a disaster when one of the shelf strings snapped in one of the two 30ft nets.

The first net round was quite poor despite the near perfect conditions but subsequent rounds were very productive despite some fog rolling in. We were kept quite busy all morning with a total of 98 birds caught including 28 new and 6 retrap Bramblings. This took the number of Bramblings ringed in November and for the year to 108; an exceptional total for recent years. We also caught 22 new Chaffinches and many of these were continental birds judging by their wing lengths.

Ringing totals with retraps in brackets
Blackbird 1
Blue Tit 1 (8)
Brambling 28 (6)
Chaffinch 22 (6)
Dunnock 1 (1)
Goldcrest 2 (1)
Greenfinch 14 (2)
Great Tit 0 (4)
Robin 0 (5)
Totals 69 (+29 retraps)

The dog got a bit bored as we were so busy and took out his frustration on a willow. Perhaps he should have chewed the twig he was tied to.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sunday snapper

A few pics from a brief walk around Orrell Water Park before duty called me to a ruby wedding anniversary do. The photos were taken in a bit of a weather window but the lighting was difficult and the subjects were distant or at least that is my excuse.

Pinkies (Anser brachyrhynchus)

Blackbird heading south (Turdus merula), one of a few that seemed to be on the move.

Jay (Garrulus glandarius) having a bad feather day.

Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) hummingbird style

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

obligatory Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)

obligatory Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)

gratuitous Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Super Saturday

I have been putting plenty of seed down at the feeding stations at Longshaw and Haigh during the week and made some additional feeders to ensure there is a continuous supply of seed. The large capacity and design of the feeders should mean they will only need refilling a couple of times a week although that could change if the number of birds continues to increase. When I went to put food out on Thursday there were good numbers of finches present including 30+ Bramblings at both sites so I was keen to try and fit in a ringing session at each over the weekend, weather permitting.

This morning looked like being the only decent opportunity for ringing with a forecast of heavy rain and increasing winds from late Saturday afternoon through to Sunday morning. I decided to go to Longshaw as there was also the chance of luring a Waxwing in again although expecting a repeat of last week was a real long shot. I met up with John G and we had 3 nets up before first light, one 60ft and two 30ft nets. I also set up a couple of MP3 lures players playing Waxwing on the off chance. 

Bramblings and Chaffinches started dropping in shortly after first light but no Greenfinches. For some reason Greenfinches only start to arrive about an hour or so later and peak numbers are only present from around mid morning onwards. I am not sure why there should be such a difference in arrival times between these species but it is very noticeable. The distance from their respective roost sites could be a factor but can’t really explain such a big difference in arrival times and the even later build up in numbers of Greenfinches. They may simply leave their roost sites at different times but that would seem strange for similar species with the same diet. Anyway there is always something to learn and that is what keeps my interest. 

The morning progressed in a steady fashion but with fewer retraps than might be expected given the number of birds ringed last Sunday. At around 9:30 a single Waxwing turned up but history didn’t repeat itself and it wasn’t caught. On the next round of the nets 2 Coal Tits were amongst the catch of finches which is not that unusual but one of these birds was a control (ringed elsewhere); ring number starting Y99. There has been an eruption of this species in the UK this autumn so it will be interesting to find out where this bird has come from. Hopefully it will be more than a local movement.

We packed up at around 11:30 having caught 62 new birds and 16 recaptures. Finches dominated the totals with 22 Brambling (including 3 retraps), 20 Chaffinch and 19 Greenfinch. 

The sky had greyed during the morning and the wind was still very light so I persuaded John to give Haigh a try in the afternoon before the rain arrived. After a quick bite to eat we drove up to Haigh and put up a couple of nets. The breeze was picking up but this was offset to some extent by it being very dull and overcast. 

Afternoon ringing sessions are usually much less productive as birds have had all morning to feed up and there is usually more wind making nets easier to see. There were a lot of finches present on arrival with over 60 in the vicinity of the feeders, mainly Bramblings and Greenfinch. Two Blue Tits were caught in the first net while the second was being put up getting us off to a very quick start. 

Bramblings dominated the subsequent catches and made up a third of the afternoon’s total of 75 birds. One of these Bramblings was a control (ringed elsewhere); ring number starting D170. This was aged as a first year bird and will have been ringed relatively recently because of that; possibly as a newly arrived migrant on the east coast. The first spot of rain arrived shortly after 15:30 curtailing a very productive 3 hour afternoon ringing session.
Adult male Brambling left and first winter male Brambling right. Note the more extensive orange across the breast of the adult and the narrower and less extensive pale fringes to the head feathers.

The total for the day was 153 birds, comprised of 107 new birds and 46 recaptures. Bramblings made up nearly one third of this total with 43 new birds, 3 retraps and 1 control. This brings the number of Brambling ringed this autumn to 80 which is an exceptional total for us this early in the season. Anyone who has read my last few posts will know that Bramblings have featured in one way or another and that looks set to continue on today’s performance. Most of my ringing effort will be at these two baited sites until next spring so I am likely to become a real Brambling bore judging by recent performance. Such events don’t come around very often and I will happily bore you with many more Brambling related posts given half a chance. 

Today’s ringing totals, retraps in brackets:
Brambling 43 (+4 including a control)
Greenfinch 31 (+2)
Chaffinch 23
Bullfinch 0 (+2)
Blue Tit 6 (+17)
Great Tit 1 (+5)
Coal Tit 1 (+3 including a control)
Long-tailed Tit 0 (+5)
Blackbird 2 (+1)
Robin 0 (+5)
Dunnock 0 (+1)
Nuthatch 0 (+1)
Totals 107 new birds (+46 recaptures)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Bramble finch fest and a Waxwing too

I went to the baited site at Longshaw yesterday morning to top up the feed and was really encouraged by the number of finches present. At least 75 Chaffinch, Brambling and Greenfinch were present with roughly equal numbers of each making up the flock. Small groups were coming and going all the time making overall numbers difficult to gauge. With the forecast looking really good for this morning a productive ringing session was on the cards.

I met up with John G just before 7:00am and we had a 60ft and 30 ft net up just after first light. I put out an MP3 lure playing Redpoll and another playing Waxwing. There are no berries at this ringing site but I had brought a few berry laden sprigs of cotoneaster, hawthorn and rose hips and secured them in a willow bush by the 60ft net. This was more in hope than anything but you never know with so many Waxwings in the country, many of which are still on the move.
male Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
male Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)

female Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
Chaffinches and Bramblings started to arrive soon after first light and the first round of the nets produced 24 birds including 12 Chaffinches and 10 Bramblings; an excellent start. About half way through the morning I thought I heard a Waxwing call back to the MP3 lure while we were on a round of the nets. We couldn’t see any and we didn’t hear any more calls other than from the MP3 player so I put it down to wishful thinking. A little while later a party of 9 Waxwings appeared from the direction of the 60ft net. A quick check of the net found one Waxwing had been caught and what a stunner (as they all are). It was an adult but the sexing characteristics were within the overlap between male and female or were borderline.

Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)
Catching rates generally decreased as the morning progressed although there was a flurry of Greenfinches at the end of the morning including a control adult male Greenfinch. The ring number started TR6 - a sequence we have not come across before. The last net round also produced 2 more Bramblings bringing the morning’s total for the species to 20 new birds and 2 retraps (both ringed the previous weekend); a fitting end to a memorable morning.
Waxwing 1
Brambling 20 (+2)
Chaffinch 20
Greenfinch 16 (+2 includes 1 control)
Blue Tit 2 (+8)
Great Tit 0 (+3)
Dunnock 1 (+1)
Robin 0 (+1)
Total 60 new birds, 16 retraps and 1 control

At home the moth trap contained a Red-green Carpet despite it being a cold night and the lateness of the season for this species.

Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Making the most of the weather

A forecast for calm conditions tempted me to take the morning off work and fit in a ringing session at Haigh. The first few rounds of the nets were much less productive than expected given the near perfect conditions. A flock of about 25 Bramblings flew around shortly after sunrise but none dropped in. The finches didn’t start coming in to feed in any number until after 9:00am. Up to 50 Greenfinches eventually gathered along with a dozen or so Chaffinches and Bramblings.

one of my drain pipe feeders
The majority of the tits caught were adults including 9 of the 10 new Blue Tits or 12 out of 14 if retraps are included. The 2 new Goldcrests caught brought the total ringed at Haigh this autumn to 82. Given that most of the birds didn't come in until later in the morning I may try an afternoon ringing session on my next visit.

adult Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Ringing Totals
Greenfinch 28 (+3)
Brambling 5
Goldfinch 4 (+1)
Chaffinch 2 (+2)
Great Tit 1 (+2)
Blue Tit 10 (+4)
Coal Tit 1 (+1)
Goldcrest 2
Wren 1
Blackbird 1
Robin 0 (+1)
Total 55 (+14 retraps)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Weekend roundup

I went ringing at the baited sites at Haigh and Longshaw over the weekend. Haigh produced 41 new birds and 24 retraps. Chaffinch numbers had increased on last week with 11 ringed; 9 of these were aged as adults which is an unusually high proportion. Some of the male Chaffinches were of continental origin judging by their colour but none had particularly long wing lengths. Again a few Bramblings were present and 3 males were caught.

Male Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs). This bird is a typical colour for a bird of British origin. Comparison shots showing the variation in colour will be produced in a future blog.
I have only been putting seed down at Longshaw since Tuesday so I wasn’t sure if many birds would be present. Shortly after first light I was pleased to hear the calls of a good number of Chaffinches and Bramblings. By the end of the morning 34 new birds and 10 retraps had been caught including 12 new Chaffinches and 4 new Bramblings. The Chaffinches included a number of continental birds and one had a wing length of 95mm. The continental theme was supported by a single Waxwing flying north during the morning.

First winter male Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
Given the promising catch at Longshaw I made a couple of extra feeders from plastic drain pipe that, hopefully, will only need topping up once or twice a week. All I have to do now is work out how I am going to pay for all the seed that I am likely to use baiting both sites.
It may have been a disappointing autumn for many species but it looks like being an above average winter for a few and Bramblings are at the top of my list. In a good Brambling year I generally catch them in the second half of the winter so to have caught 12 so far this autumn is particularly encouraging. However it does indicate that natural food sources are in short supply which could impact on survival.
Totals for the weekend were:
Blackbird 3
Blue Tit 6 (+14)
Brambling 7
Chaffinch 23
Coal Tit 2 (+6)
Dunnock 0 (+1)
Goldcrest 3 (+2)
Goldfinch 3
Greenfinch 14 (+1)
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Great Tit 6 (+6)
Lesser Redpoll 2
Nuthatch 0 (+3)
Reed Bunting 1
Robin 3 (+1)
Wren 1
Total 75 (+ 35 retraps)

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Lifting the lid

There hasn’t been much to report from the moth trap for most of the season and, surprise surprise, there still isn’t. A quick look in the moth trap this morning revealed the first and possibly my only December Moth of the autumn. I never catch many and nearly all my records are of singles. A Feathered Thorn and a Blair’s Shoulder Knot were the only other moths caught.
December Moth (Poecilocampa populi)

Feathered Thorn (Colotois pennaria)
A queen Wasp is trying to hibernate in the trap and has been there since mid-October. It has hooked onto the fibres of the egg tray and has stayed put while the tray has been lifted in and out each day. I am not fond of these critters as they can be a real nuisance in some seasons but I am interested to see how this one gets on and if she survives.

hibernating Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris)

Monday, 5 November 2012

The one that got away

I ringed 3 Goldcrests in the garden yesterday but this bird, which should have been the fourth, was a real poser and net dodger. I suspect there may have been a small movement of Goldcrests over the weekend having ringed 10 at Haigh the day before. Hats off to him anyway, a cracking bird.

I wish this was sharp.

All photos are of the same bird.


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Bramblings headline

The forecast was fairly promising for mist netting this morning so I headed off to the baited site at Haigh. I was hoping for a Brambling in the catch as one had been present when I topped up the feeders earlier in the week. I was late getting up and it was already getting light when I arrived which was less than ideal. As I was setting up I could hear the distinctive nasal calls of several Bramblings amongst the calls of Greenfinches along with a good number of Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds leaving their roosts.

I put up the usual two nets and set up two mp3 lures, one playing Goldcrest and the other playing Redpoll. On the first round of the nets I was delighted to find 2 Bramblings in the catch; a good start to what became a very productive morning.

adult male Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
The feed had clearly attracted a good number of birds especially Greenfinches with a total of 30 being ringed. Chaffinches were surprisingly scarce with only 2 caught and outnumbered by the final total of 5 Brambling ringed. The Goldcrest lure produced the goods with 10 new birds and the Redpoll lure pulled in 3 Lessers.

first winter male Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
One interesting feature of the morning was the high proportion of adults in the catch - 3 of the 5 Bramblings, 6 of the 30 Greenfinches, 8 of the 10 Great Tits and all 3 Lesser Redpolls. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the rest of the winter.
Adult male Greenfinch showing the key ageing features - clean yellow outer webs of alula with pearly grey tips, pearly grey tips to all of the primary coverts and rounded tail shape, all primaries and tail feathers are fresh.
Ringing Totals:
Greenfinch  30
Brambling  5
Chaffinch  2
Lesser Redpoll  3
Bullfinch  1
Great Tit  10
Blue Tit  6 (+4)
Coal Tit  0 (+2)
Robin  1
Dunnock  1 (+1)
Blackbird  1 (+1)
Goldcrest  10

Total  70 (+8 retraps)