Adrian and I fared much better with the breeding Tawny Owls in east Lincs than I had with them in mid-Notts. In 80 boxes there we found 26 occupied with only two desertions. This looks to be a pretty good breeding season for them over there and we're looking to return there on 5 May to hopefully ring a good few chicks. Highlight for me was handling 13 adult females that were on chicks, and trying to get to grips with their moult and hence ageing them. Most of the Tawnies had at least three generations of flight feathers and were, therefore, at least three years old as they won't moult this year til they've done breeding. Interestingly, out of these and the Notts birds we've only seen one first summer (age 5) and two second summer (age 7) female adults so far. Here three pics of age 8 female Tawny Owls.
Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the first summer bird but the following is a second summer female (7F) with two generations of feathers.
And finally a couple of pics of the mother and chicks from a new box at Averham. No pics though of the immensely proud landowner.
Duncan, Jim, Ruth, Tina and myself made the fifteenth and final visit to Granby this weekend, following a week of mixed weather showers and the occasional gust of wind kept us on our toes but we managed to keep the nets open for a steady enough catch.
34 birds were processed, highlights included the second ever Chiffchaff ringed and a retrap Chaffinch from 2005. Tina also managed to perfect her woodpecker-handling skills with a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
We also wondered if the lack of female Chaffinches during the session suggested that maybe they were sitting on nests.
So as we close the site down for the season it'll be interesting to see just how much progress the badgers will have made by the time we next visit for winter 2012/13!
Full catch numbers were 13/21 (new/retrap): Great Spotted Woodpecker 1/1, Wren 1/0, Willow Warbler 1/0, Chiffchaff 1/0, Blackcap 2/0, Great Tit 0/10, Tree Sparrow 0/2, Chaffinch 3/3, Yelllowhammer 4/4, Reed Bunting 0/1.
Not much to say about last Sunday at HPP, the weather was poor and the birds were not playing. Nick, Gary and I put up 12 nets but always had an eye on the looming black clouds, there was a fair breeze blowing as well and we had to close and take down the nets about 1100. There were quite a few warblers singing including a number of Sedge Warblers but the Whitethroat present last week had either moved on or remained silent and most of the warblers that were singing did not find their way into any nets! The total catch was only 16 including 6 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Dunnock 2/0, Blackcap 4/0, Chiffchaff 0/4, Great Tit 1/1, Bullfinch 2/0, Reed Bunting 1/1. Overhead passed a couple of Oyster Catcher and a Buzzard.
Steve, Duncan, Gary and I arrived at Holme Pierrepont to find frost on the ground and warblers singing. The sun soon melted the frost and although very pleasant when coupled with the breeze it did nothing to help our catch.
Only one week since we opened up the site but already one guy and one pole had been removed from their locations, the guy dumped further down the net ride and the pole thrown into the lake. Both were retrieved but the days of being able to leave kit safely at the site have passed. To help with this I made some 'rustic' poles from the Silver Birch trees we 'trimmed' a few weeks ago.
A Whitethroat was singing, though evaded the nets but we did get the first Sedge and Reed Warblers of the season. The catch was slow and certainly effected by the weather the total being 25 including 6 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Wren 1/0, Dunnock 1/1, Robin 1/1, Blackbird 2/0, Sedge Warbler 1/0, Reed warbler 1/0, Blackcap 2/1, Chiffchaff 1/1, Willow Warbler 3/0, Long-tailed Tit 2/1, Great Tit 1/1, Reed Bunting 3/0.
Overhead passed Curlew, plenty of Sand Martin and Swallow and the first Swift of the year.
One day I'll learn to drive my little Peugeot like a little Peugeot and not like a Landrover. Thankfully a passing cyclist was able to give me a shove off the ridge I'd become grounded on and I hadn't lost too much time. Whilst Jim was further north I was in the far south of the county doing the same and have managed to do about 15 boxes so far. Tawnys were in four of them and two Kestrel eggs were in another. So unlike Jim I'm a couple up on last year.
One box had a retrap female Tawny ringed as an 8 in same box back in 2009, but absent the last two years. She was on 4 chicks too small to ring (see pic). Two others were sat on 2 eggs and a final bird was on tiny chicks just hatching so I left them all well alone.
The Kestrels were in a pole-top Barn Owl box that they have been in before, with a Tawny on two eggs in a box 8 feet below. This is the second time they've performed this double act.
In addition to the usual box checking equipment (ladder, blocker, flea powder) I'm finding my phone an increasingly valuable tool. By slipping it under the blocker and taking a picture, you can inspect a box without poking your nose in and risking a eye out as they adjust to the gloom. The results a rarely frame worthy prints, but then that's not the object of the exercise and you almost always get a clear idea of what's in the box. Here are a few pics I've ended up with and in many cases, not had to disturb the box any further.
With great help from Nick, Duncan, Tina and Ian, we've checked 38 Tawny (still another two to do) and six Barn Owl nest boxes for Tawnies over the last three days. Disappointingly, only five held breeding Tawny Owls and another had an addled egg. The total was more than double that last year. However, we did ring three new females and re-captured another originally ringed in 2006 (see below). Only two of the Tawnies had prey cached and the other two were on the light side. All in all not looking a great breeding season for them. Also ringed were two broods of Stock Doves.
This female was originally ringed as an 6F in 2006, near Eakring, and has been caught in the same box five times now with her chicks. You can see several generations of feathers in the secondaries in particular and she was aged as an 8 this time i.e. at least three years old. The box was down in 2010 and had squirrels in 2011. I suspect she used an adjacent Barn Owl box in 2010. (JL)
Now off to do the same in east Lincs. It'll be interesting to see how they compare to here in south Notts.
Nick, Duncan, Ian, Mick & myself either were guests or wore our North Notts RG hats on Saturday at the Besthorpe Heronry. This was the second visit to ring chicks that were too small to ring previously and to monitor nest with eggs. In the event, another 25 chicks were ringed (c300 were ringed in Britain & Ireland in 2011).
The BTO has identified Grey Herons as a priority for colour ringing and most of these had white & blue alphanumeric darvic colour rings fitted above the left knee, which should improve the numbers of sightings we get and help improve our understanding of their movements. I'd be pleased to hear about any re-sightings and they can be sent to me at: email@example.com
Jim, Kev, Mick & I spent a nice evening ringing herons at the recently established heronry at Attenborough Nature Reserve yesterday. It was a bit of a learning curve for all of us! The herons have never been ringed at the reserve since the heronry was established in 2007, therefore we were not too sure how easy it would be to access the nests or even the islands.
Besides completing the heronries census back in March (with a count of 41 nests) we had no idea what to expect other than the nest locations. However, thanks to the tree-climbing skill of Mick, we still managed to ring seven chicks from three nests - and formulate a plan for a second visit to ring chicks that were too small.
It was a new experience for me as I have not had the opportunity to ring herons before, and it was a new experience for my wife - who had never cleaned so much faeces off my clothes before (even with a newborn at home).
All being well, the Attenborough heronry may make an interesting study site for years to come - especially in light of the collapse of a great number of historic heronries within Nottinghamshire.
A good team of Nabegh, Nick, Ian, Duncan, Gary and I opened up Holme Pierrepont for the spring. It looked for most of the morning that we would need to take down the nets at any time as dark clouds were never far away but other than a few spots of drizzle we managed a full session. We could hear Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler singing and all three species ended up in the nets. The catch was steady as you would expect when most migrants have still not arrived on site. The total catch was 29 including 9 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Wren 1/1, Dunnock 1/1, Blackcap 2/0, Chiffchaff 4/1, Willow Warbler 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 0/1, Blue Tit 1/0, Great Tit 4/1, Chaffinch 1/1, Bullfinch 1/1, Reed Bunting 4/2.
Overhead passed Buzzard, Sand Martin and Swallow, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were also around most of the morning.
Spring was certainly in the air, but Granby being Granby, I still had me thermals on and was glad for it. Jim, Ian & I had a very pleasant morning with a steady trickle of birds, although only 8 of the 40 caught were new and all the Yellowhammers were retraps, despite there having been 19 new birds ringed only 4 days ago!
Red Dead-nettle, Cowslip & Dog Rose (PML)
One of the first birds caught was an odd young Yellowhammer. It was fairly yellow, yet with a wing of 81 was a female on size. It seemed to have replaced its outer tail feathers and the old juvenile ones showed a fault bar. It had replaced a single tertial on each wing that also had growth defects and it had also replaced the 9th primary on the right wing. Like many young Yellowhammers it showed a moult limit between the smallest and middle alula feathers.
5F Yellowhammer (PML)
Next oddity was a Blue Tit with a grey wash on its face and belly. If anyone has any idea what causes this, let us know!
A young male Great Spotted Woodpecker was the first since 2007 and the first non-passerine of the winter. It also did an excellent job of helping Ian rid himself of several mls of blood.
Great Spotted Woodpecker (top 3 PML, bottom JL)
Two Greenfinches were the first in Spring for three years and the best retraps of the day were a Yellowhammer from 2001 and a Chaffinch from 2005.
Full catch numbers were 8/32 (new/retrap): Great Spotted Woodpecker 1/0, Blue Tit 1/2, Great Tit 1/10, Chaffinch 3/9, Greenfinch 2/0, Yellowhammer 0/11.
Away from the nets, one Swallow, one Willow Warbler and a couple of Chiffchaffs were the only incoming migrants noted. About 45 Redwing and half a dozen Fieldfare came over, along with a steady trickle of Meadow Pipits. A couple of Lapwings were knocking about and at least three different Buzzards were seen.
Badget sett & skull (PML)
As can be seen from the above, the badgers continue their empire-building (at some cost).
A real mixed bag of recoveries this week from the BTO, interestingly February 2011 appeared to be a month during which many birds expired; a Shelton Barn Owl chick from September 2011 found at Bottesford, a Bestwood juvenile Robin from June 2011 found at Hucknall, an Attenborough adult Blue Tit from June 2009 found close by and a Holme Pierrepont Reed Bunting from October 2011 found at West Bridgeford. Another dead bird was a Jackdaw, ringed as a chick in Fiskerton in 2009 which was shot in Flintham at the start of 2011.
Other birds were recorded very much alive and kicking; a Kestrel ringed as a chick in Scarrington in May 2010 was discovered at a nest box at Hoveringham in June 2011 and a Girton Barn Owl from September 2010 also present at a nest box at Sutton-on-Trent in June 2011. Other birds included a young Goldfinch from Rushcliffe Country Park in November 2011 which found its way to Cropwell Bishop in December 2011 and a Whitethroat ringed as a juvenile at Bestwood in August 2010 which turned up in Surrey in April 2011 (where it was caught by an old ringing mate of Pete's).
Birds which we controlled from elsewhere were; a juvenile Meadow Pipit ringed on the Scottish Borders in August 2011 which was controlled at Hucknall later in November of that year and a Tree Sparrow which was ringed as a chick in Derbyshire in May 2011 which made its way to Attenborough in December of that year.
Gary, Nick, Nabegh and I made the last visit of the season to RCP yesterday and had a better catch than last week but still disappointing. We finished on only 29 birds, 14 of which were retraps. The best of the retraps was a Chaffinch from 2008. The full capture list was (new/retrap): Chaffinch 5/4, Blue Tit 1/0, Yellowhammer 4/6, Great Tit 1/1, Reed Bunting 1/1, Dunnock 1/1, Goldfinch 2/1.
After the past week of sunshine and high temperatures, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Spring had sprung good and proper. But when Jim, Jenny, Duncan and myself arrived on site, it appeared that the Granby fridge had a long way to go before fully defrosting; with numb fingers and tingling noses we set up swiftly and headed back to base for a cup of joe.
Best retraps of the morning included Great Tits from 2008 and 2009 as well as Yellowhammers, again from 2008 and 2009. Two-thirds of the new birds were Yellowhammers overall, and with a good steady catch throughout the morning it was nice to be able to take the time to examine them in detail and sharpen our bunting skills.
The highlight of the day was a Chiffchaff, a first for the site which made its way into the nets at the slightly warmer, sun-blessed end of the track. There was some discussion over the presence of this bird and whether it had anything to do with the Willow SRC (Short Rotation Coppice) in the adjacent field.
By the time the sun broke through, the sound of Skylark, Meadow Pipits and Golden Plover filled the air. A lone Greylag and a drifting Buzzard were also present.
Full catch numbers were 26/37 (new/retrap): Chiffchaff 1/0, Tree Sparrow 3/0, Dunnock 0/3, Robin 0/1, Blue Tit 0/1, Great Tit 0/9, Chaffinch 1/2, Yellowhammer 19/20, Reed Bunting 2/1.