Monday 28 January 2013

Recent recoveries

A batch of recoveries has just arrived with the pick of the bunch being a Reed Warbler (yellow line), Swallow (blue line) and Goldfinch (red line).
X924093 Reed Warbler was ringed as an adult at Scotmans Flash, Wigan on 22/08/11 and controlled at Portland Bill, Dorset 12/05/12.
X926229 Goldfinch was ringed as a first year male at Longshaw near Orrell on 20/10/11 and taken by a cat in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire 01/12/12.
Y462733 Swallow was ringed as a juvenile at Weather Hills Pond, North Yorkshire on 26/07/12 and controlled at a roost at Scotman's Flash, Wigan on 30/08/12.

View Recent recoveries received Jan 2013 in a larger map

Sunday 27 January 2013

Gardenfare to start with ......

This could have been three posts rather than one but this is my attempt at stringing them together. A real dump of snow closed the M6 overnight and brought overall snow levels to around a foot deep. A Fieldfare which took up residence in the garden on Tuesday continued to eat and guard all the apples I have been putting out on a daily basis. It drives all the Blackbirds out of the garden as soon as they appear and won't tolerate them anywhere near the apples. There had been up to 8 Blackbirds feeding in the garden on a daily basis prior to the Fieldfare moving in but they don't get much of a look in now.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
I started taking photos of the Fieldfare from an upstairs window at first but it allowed me to go into the garden and approach it to within 4 metres; a stunning bird. The garden was quite busy with other birds coming to the feeders and I also  managed to get a good photo of Siskin and Pied Wagtail in the process but my focus was really on the Fieldfare.

Siskin, (Carduelis spinus)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)

Satisfied I had some good shots of the Fieldfare I walked over to Orrell Water Park. The German ringed Black-headed Gull was still present on the lower lake and was the only ringed bird out of about 110 Black-headed Gulls present. A group of 9 Moorhens were stood on the ice and looked rather forlorn. There were 12 Coot present and I watched one dive down and lift a cluster of muscles on to the ice (presumably zebra muscles) and eat each muscle whole.

Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus)

Coot (Fulica atra)
Coot (Fulica atra)
After lunch I went up to my baited site at Haigh to top up the feeders. I put up one 60ft net while I was there and caught 44 birds over the next couple of hours or so. All of the birds caught were in good condition and some were carrying good fat deposits. Only 8 birds were ringed with the other 36 being retraps. A new Redwing was the first for they year as were a retrap Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Redwing (Turdus ilicacus)

Nuthatch (Sitta europea)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus major)
Ringing totals 26/01/12 with retraps in brackets.
Redwing 1
Blackbird 1
Brambling 2 (4)
Chaffinch 3 (2)
Robin 1 (1)
Blue Tit - (10)
Greenfinch - (6)
Great Tit - (3)
Coal Tit - (4)
Nuthatch - (1)
Long-tailed Tit - (3)
Great-spotted Woodpecker - (1)
Goldfinch - (1)
Totals 8 new and 36 retraps.

Monday 21 January 2013

And it snowed and snowed

More snow arrived overnight as it did for large parts of the country and it continued on and off for much of the day. I took the day off work rather than travel although I still ended up doing some work to stay on top of my emails. What did we do before emails? I think it was something called talking.

Anyway the garden provided plenty of distraction as 5 Siskins joined the Goldfinches and other garden regulars. A male Blackcap also put in a few appearances and is at least the fourth Blackcap seen in the garden so far this winter. I will let the pictures speak for themselves from here but all were taken in the garden today.
The scene that greeted me this morning.
male Siskin (Carduelis spinus). All 5 Siskins visiting the garden today were males.

male Siskin (Carduelis spinus).

male Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus)
adult female Blackbird (Turdus merula). There is quite a variation in the plumages of female Blackbirds with this being one of the more well marked birds.

adult female Blackbird (Turdus merula).

adult male Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Sunday 20 January 2013

Morning ends with a quick Dip...

I went up to Haigh this morning and was joined by John G. There was more of a breeze than we would have liked as the baited site isn’t sheltered from the wind when there is any easterly component to it. However it was very overcast so we decided to give it a go and put up three nets.

The first net round only produced 8 birds which was less than expected given the snow cover and cold conditions of the past few days. In fact there was a surprising lack of birds in general, especially tits, with only 1 Great Tit and 1 Coal Tit caught or seen! Goldfinches were largely conspicuous by their absence with none coming to the feeders and only a couple being heard flying overhead.

The catching rate didn’t improve and the easterly breeze started to pick up so we packed up at 10am.

Given the time we decided to go to another site a short drive away to look for Dippers. We put a 30ft net across the river and then checked the area out, flushing 2 Woodcock in the process but seeing little else. A little while later a Dipper was in the net and quickly extracted. It was a new bird and not one of the pair I had ringed at this same location last spring. A nice end to an otherwise lacklustre morning.

Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)

Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)
Ringing totals for 20/01/13 with retraps in brackets.
Blackbird 1 (7)
Blue Tit 1 (7)
Brambling 2 (1)
Chaffinch 3
Coal tit - (1)
Dipper 1
Great Tit – (1)
Greenfinch 1 (1)
Robin 3 (3)
Total 33 (12 new and 21 retraps)

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Cold snap snaps

I came across this wonderful piece of natural art on an old greenhouse today. The frost pattern reminded me of some fan corals.

Framed natural art

 looks even better up close

Some of the Starlings in my garden are looking their best now. One of my favourite birds.

This male Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a cracker.

I checked out the Black-headed Gulls on Orrell Water Park for ringed birds. There were about 100 present but only one was ringed and that was the German ringed bird that has been present since late October.

The German ringed Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is a real regular at Orrell Water Park.
I photograph it each time I see it as an easy way to check and record the ring number.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Back to normal numbers

I went to the baited site at Haigh this morning but I didn't know what to expect after last week’s bumper catch. There were quite a few birds about although not nearly as many as last week. The catching rate started off ok but tailed off fairly quickly so I packed up at around 11am.

Of interest was a female Brambling that had shorter secondary feathers than normal and this resulted in an obvious step in the trailing edge of the wing. There were no signs of any feather replacement and both wings were identical. There were no fault bars to suggest poor nutrition during feather growth being a factor either.

Brambling with shorter secondaries resulting in a step in the trailing edge of the wing.
Brambling with normal length secondaries for comparison.
One of the Chaffinches caught had scaly leg and couldn’t be ringed because of the encrustations. These encrustations are caused by a mite and take a while to develop. This bird was an otherwise healthy adult as often seems to be the case. Last winter quite a few of the Chaffinches were infected with papillomavirus which also causes growths on the legs but I haven’t caught any with that infection so far this winter. More information on growths on birds’ legs can be found here.

adult Chaffinch with scaly leg
both legs and feet were equally encrusted.
The last bird caught was a control Greenfinch and judging by the ring number has probably been ringed by the Scouse Ringer or another member of SW Lancs Ringing Group. It may not have moved far but will still add to the picture of bird movements.

Control Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
The final tally of 40 birds was reasonable in the circumstance and it was good to catch another 4 new Bramblings.
Ringing totals for 13/01/13 with retraps in brackets:

Brambling 4 (2)
Blue Tit 3 (9)
Chaffinch 4 (1)
Coal Tit 1 (2)
Dunnock – (1)
Goldcrest 1
Goldfinch 1 (2)
Great Tit 1 (3)
Greenfinch 1 (1 + 1 control)
Long-tailed Tit – (1)
Robin 1
Total 17 (22 + 1 control)

Thursday 10 January 2013

2012 year end summary

I have finally got round to adding the annual totals for 2012 (right) which came in at a very respectable 4145. The top 5 were:

1st      Swallow 930 the result of a stable roost at Scotman’s Flash.
2nd     Greenfinch 461 the result of much sunflower and other seeds.
=3rd   Chaffinch 384 as above.
=3rd   Blue Tit 384 as above but with peanuts and dripping thrown in.
4th     Goldfinch 316 mainly the result of much sunflower hearts and nyger.

Unusual or unexpected captures of 2012 were a Hobby, 2 Cetti’s Warbler, a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Waxwing.

A notable influx was Brambling with 175 ringed from November.

A significant decreases was Long-tailed Tit with 28 ringed in 2012 compared with 132 in 2011.

A significant increase was Goldcrest with 136 ringed in 2012 compared with 80 in 2011.

A mixed year but in general most species had a very poor and very unproductive breeding season. Any increases were largely due to factors such as a productive roost, influxes, feeding stations or ringing effort.

Reed Bunting  (Emberiza schoeniclus) already on the ringing totals for 2013 although not this particular bird, yet.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Retrap Manx Goldfinch highlights an unexpected bumper catch

I went up to Haigh again this morning and met up with John G. We put up 3 nets on what started out as a perfectly calm if slightly misty morning. The mist soon developed into fog which usually reduces catching rates as it makes nets much more visible but today, for some reason, the catches actually increased as the fog rolled in. This was also surprising given the very mild conditions of recent days.

By the end of the morning we had caught 110 birds which bucked the trend of recent visits and is around double the last catch. More than half were retraps which is to be expected at a regularly visited baited site come mid winter.

Retrapping birds is an important element of ringing and one of the retrap Goldfinches was also a control (ringed by others). We first encountered this bird at Haigh last January. It was originally ringed on the Calf of Man, a small island off the southern tip of the Isle of Man and a bird observatory for those of you who don’t know. It was aged as a 1J at the time of ringing which means it was a very recently fledged juvenile and hadn’t moved far from the nest. This makes it a Manx bred bird that has now been caught two winters running at Haigh. What we don’t know is where this bird spends the summer as a breeding adult. Does it stay to breed in the vicinity of Haigh or return to the Calf or elsewhere on the Isle of Man?
Manx ringed Goldfinch X211840 caught for the second winter running at Haigh.
A female and quite a dark individual for the species.

View Goldfinch X211840 in a larger map

Ringing totals for 06/01/13 with retraps in brackets.
Blackbird   1 (1)
Blue Tit   5 (15)
Brambling   1 (1)
Chaffinch   5 (2)
Coal Tit   – (5)
Dunnock   – (2)
Goldfinch   4 (3 + 1 control)
Great Tit   4 (12)
Greenfinch   21 (8)
Long-tailed Tit   - (6)
Reed Bunting   2
Robin   4 (4)
Wren   1 (1)
Total   48 (61 + 1 control)

Saturday 5 January 2013

Yesterday's post

I wrote this last night but couldn't upload any photos hence the delay. Still had problems uploading them today but finally managed to do it in HTML.

I went up to the baited site at Haigh yesterday for the first ringing session of the year; we are 5 days in now so it doesn’t feel that new anymore. It was overcast and very mild to say the least; almost spring like apart from the dullness. All but one of the feeders were empty and all the loose feed had been eaten so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As it turned out it was quieter than might be expected for January and the mild conditions probably contributed to that. Around 50 Goldfinches left the nearby roost with some finding their way to the feeders and making up the bulk of the new birds ringed. Only 10 Brambling were seen along with around 35 Greenfinches. A few Chaffinches came and went but only in dribs and drabs. Tits weren’t that plentiful and Nuthatches didn’t come near although several could be heard.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Four new Blackbirds were caught which isn’t particularly unusual but 3 were long winged birds and likely to be of continental origin. One was a very mottled first winter male and more dark brown than black.

A rather mottled male Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Looks even more interesting up close.
Ringing totals for 04/01/13 with retraps in brackets
Blackbird 4
Blue Tit 4 (9)
Brambling 1
Bullfinch 2 (1)
Chaffinch 7
Coal Tit 1 (1)
Goldfinch 11 (1)
Great Tit 1 (4)
Greenfinch 5
Long-tailed Tit – (1)
Robin - (1)
Totals 36 (18)
The mild and damp conditions are clearly benefiting fungi and I noticed this brown job. Not a clue what it is and I don’t think I have seen it before but then I simply may not have noticed.

unidentified brown job
unidentified brown job

Wednesday 2 January 2013

And so a New Year begins.........

I decided to start the first day of the New Year looking for Waxwings. I didn’t want to follow up on confirmed sightings and elected to try and find some more of these stunning birds for myself. I knew the roads would be quiet, early on at least, which would allow for some very dodgy driving as I scanned gardens and roadside trees with even more effort than I have been doing in recent weeks. I suppose you could have called it a form of kerb crawling at times. At least I had binoculars and a camera on the front seat had I been stopped and it was around 9am after all.

I didn’t just drive round streets in an aimless fashion but headed for areas that had rowans and other berry baring bushes close by. I eventually headed to one group of rowans that had been holding a good crop of red berries the last time I checked them out. There were slightly fewer berries compared with my previous visit but still a very good crop given the date and the influx. I waited for a while but no Waxwings appeared; only a pair of Mistle Thrushes came to feed and then not for long so my year started with a failure.
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)
I called in at Pennington Flash next to check out the Black-headed Gulls for rings. A frustrating hour or so eventually resulted in the ring numbers of 2 Lithuanian and 1 British ringed bird being read and photographed. The British ringed bird had been recorded at Pennington Flash before in both 2005 and 2010 and was originally ringed as a chick in Gloucestershire in June 2005.

There were more people about than expected for the time of day, a few had unruly dogs and others unruly children and were the cause of some of the frustration given they could see what I was trying to do. However, most of the frustration was caused by the birds themselves as they repeatedly presented me with the same face of their ring or they were obscured by other birds when they turned to show another face of their ring.

Anyway with 3 controls in the bag or rather the camera I headed for home. I called in at Three Sisters on route to check out the gulls there but some muppet was throwing bread at the birds rather than to them. I knew there would be no chance of reading any rings with that behaviour so I quickly continued the journey home.

After a quick coffee I went to the feeding station at Longshaw to top up the feed. The food had been hammered since my last visit; Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Bramblings quickly returned as I walked away but I also think Woodpigeons have started to take advantage of an easy meal judging by the droppings that were present. I am spending between £20 and £30 a week on bird food at the moment or that is what I will admit to and I don’t really want Woodpigeons putting the bill up but it can’t be helped if they do.

A quick check of the gulls on Orrell Water Park and the German ringed bird put in yet another appearance for the camera. I would have checked through all of the birds but for some more inconsiderate dog walkers that +++nk** ###u== be @+## & ---- off.

The day was still not done so I headed up to Haigh to top up the feeders there. Again they had been hammered despite the mild conditions and I didn’t have enough food with me to fill all the feeders to the top. It was quite late in the afternoon by this time so there weren’t many birds feeding but at least 48 Goldfinches were gathered nearby.

One day down and only another 364 to go. The weather looks reasonably good for mist-netting later in the week and I hope to take full advantage of it.
And finally the first signs of spring were noted today with plenty of hazel catkins on show and some willow catkins budding.
Hazel catkins 01/01/2013

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Last and first.

I didn’t go in for the New Year celebration thing too much as I plan to get out and about early. I don’t need a New Year as a reason to over indulge anyway.

It may be a bit too windy to go ringing but I intend to make the most of what should be a fairly dry day. 2013 came in under a fairly clear sky in this neck of the woods and the photograph below was one of my last of 2012. I hope to get a few pictures worth posting later today and many more through the rest of 2013.