Monday, 27 September 2010

Holme Pierrepont, Sun 26 Sept

Had I been going out alone, I think I would have just pulled the duvet back over my head this morning. It was threatening and blustery and even when we arrived I suspected we might just end up collecting all the poles and guys and going home. But we decided to give it a go and remarkably we managed to keep going until past 11am and catch exactly 50 birds.
Within a few minutes of getting the nets up, the first bird dived in and we got off to a good start with a young female Green Woodpecker. This species is easily sexed by the colour of the moustache: males have red bordered by black and the females just black. At least two other birds were present, but they didn't find their way into nets.
The remaining 49 birds were a good variety, though the only migrant warblers were 6 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Reed Warblers. However, winter migrants were also in evidence and 3 Goldcrests were the first for a while.
Goldcrests are sexed by the colour of the crest. However, you usually have to part the feathers to see any of the male's orange. It is just visible in the lower bird. The top bird is a female with just a yellow crest.
To add to the wintery flavour of the morning a flock of early Redwings came over and thrush numbers in general seemed to be up. Meadow Pipits continued to pass over, though only a single Skylark was seen. Wigeon had arrived in some numbers and Teal, Gadwall and Curlew were all present. Goldfinches were in large flocks and 2 Siskin flew over. A few other summer visitors were still around, a single Wheatear and a trickle of hirundines comprised mostly House Martins, but a few Swallows and Sand Martins.
An interesting find was a dead Snipe - found just lying on the ground among bushes near the water. We couldn't be sure why it had died, though it must have been attacked by something as both its legs were broken. However, it had only a small bit of flesh showing and that was uneaten. When Chris dropped by, he pointed out the first few dark adult coverts which contrasted with the juvenile feathers.
Archie and Oscar joined us for the first time in a while and when presented with a mystery bird...
...they quickly found the clue that identified it:
So that was the last visit to that side of the site, but we'll squeeze in at least one more on the other side before we admit that summer is over...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Monday, 20 September 2010

Hucknall, Sat 18 Sept

I went to the site in Hucknall on Saturday 18 September mainly to check if there are any birds roosting in the small reedbed there. I arrived about 15:30, set a couple of nets and finished about 20:30 having caught 9 birds. This included 2 new birds for the site, Whinchat and Grey Partridge.

The Grey Partridges were all juveniles in full moult, (all had a primary moult score of 28). Juveniles undergo a complete post juvenile moult except for the outermost 2 primary feathers (Ginn & Melville: Moult in Birds). They also have dark bills and the red on the head was just starting to appear.

The other birds, caught in the roost, were Pied Wagtail and Reed bunting. The photo of a juvenile Pied Wagtail below shows it is still retaining some of the yellowish feathers on the head and 6 juvenile greater coverts.
Mick P

Sunday 19 September

Unfortunately ringing at HPP was called off due to rain. So I put a net up in the garden and ringed 20 birds. Had a good run of Goldfinches but a Blue Tit on ring 73 put an end to that. All trainees should be able to work out the moult score of the Dunnock.

Stocking up for the winter...

Ever wondered what South Notts Ringing Group trainers do when they are not ringing or training others to ring?
Believe it or not they put in the time and effort to ensure that throughout the winter months the group have winter feeding sites to which birds, and ringers, are attracted. Here are some of them collecting seed, kindly donated to the group by a local farmer. This seed will be used at several sites throughout Notts and should enable more birds to survive the harsh winter months.
Mick P

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Holme Pierrepont, Sun 12 Sept

We've been pretty lucky with the weather recently, all things considered. And again, after several days of mixed conditions, we were greeted by blue sky this morning and the only thing that really affected us was the wind which got a bit much by late morning. We finished on 71 (including 9 retraps) which included a good range of species. Blackcap were dominant once again, but Robins were surprisingly numerous too and we wondered if this was a bit of early Autumn movement. We also caught Reed, Sedge, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Chiffchaff, but no Garden or Willow. We also caught a Goldfinch (something that whilst common in the area, seems not to find the nets too often) and a Willow Tit. Note the uniformly dark bill, matt black cap, bull-necked appearance, buffy cheek and pale wing panel - all of which help to separate it from Marsh Tit.
Other sightings included a flock of 5 Little Egrets, 8 Gadwall, a steady trickle of hirundines and Meadow Pipits overhead, a single Siskin and good numbers of Migrant Hawkers.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Holme Pierrepont, Sunday 5 Sept

Meisha, Duncan, David and I joined Gary at Holme Pierrepont this morning. We had a good morning finishing on 63 birds (49 new & 14 retrap). Of the migratory warblers we caught Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and Chiffchaff. Other birds included Blue & Great Tits, Wren, Dunnock, Reed Bunting and a good catch of Long-tailed Tits. A couple of Bullfinches, one of which was a retrap from last week, were aged as 3JPs. Unfortunately the Spotted Flycatcher seen avoided our nets.
Mick P

Hucknall, Sat 4 Sept

On 4-9-10, I went to the site in Hucknall and caught 6 new birds and 3 retraps. Not many birds I know but the highlight was a new bird for the site, a Lesser Whitethroat.
I also caught a Blue Tit that had moulted all its greater coverts and alula feathers on the right wing whilst on the left wing it had 2 unmoulted greater coverts and an unmoulted alula. Other birds caught were Whitethroat, Robin and Dunnock.
Mick P

Goldfinch moult

Gary and I have both caught 3J Goldfinches in primary moult in our gardens in the last couple of days. Mine had a primary moult score of 34, Garys of 27.
Mick P

More on Jim's Sarnies...

A postscript to the pics posted the other day.  These are two birds I colour-ringed on the Ythan on the 17 Aug, which were resighted c5km away 2 days later.

Holme Pierrepont, Sunday 29 Aug

The last weather forecast I saw on Saturday said dry (previously it had said light rain), cloudy and breezy. We arrived on site to find it dry, cloudy and breezy, so far so good. We put up the same 12 nets we had used on the last two visits to the Blotts end of the gravels but some were clearly going to be wind affected. On putting up the nets we found another pole had been stolen and a few guys, guess we may have to review our kit policy for the site! (An mp3 player was stolen the week before too...)

The first round produced close on 40 birds, mostly from one net, the catch then dropped, the rain that was not forecast started lightly and the wind got stronger. We decided we would head home early and started taking down about 10:30, a wise decision. Just as we were about packed up the heavens opened and we were soaked by a torrential downpour, luckily the nets were down and the last birds had been released.

The catch we did have of 47 including 10 retraps did give us a few nice birds. A juv Linnet, the first on that site for 7 years, a juv Goldcrest and a juv Treecreeper along with another 17 new warblers. We also had a Sparrowhawk in the net but as so often happens it did not stay in long enough for us to get it out!

Tina's abstract

Tina has kindly allowed us to reproduce the abstract from her dissertation here. I'm sure she'd happily forward the rest to anyone interested iun reading it.


In Britain, loss of habitat heterogeneity, at a range of scales, through agricultural intensification, has severely impacted on farmland biodiversity, particularly bird species. Yellowhammer population decline has been more recent and more accelerated than similar species, for reasons which are still debated. Yellowhammers specialise in breeding in hedgerows, but previous studies have failed to agree on what specific hedgerow attributes influence breeding territory selection. The aim of the study was to consider whether the Hedgerow Evaluation Grading System (HEGS) could be used as an indication of Yellowhammer habitat requirements during breeding season. Yellowhammer territory mapping, HEGS evaluations and vegetation surveys were
undertaken on the Brackenhurst Estate between June and August, 2009. The primary hypothesis, that there was a significant positive relationship between the HEGS values and breeding density of Yellowhammers, was supported. This finding implies that HEGS can give an indication as to the value of hedges for breeding Yellowhammers and is, therefore, an invaluable tool that could be utilised in both Yellowhammer and farmland
bird conservation. Secondary hypotheses were tested to consider whether any specific hedge attributes, or factors outside of the hedge boundary, significantly influenced breeding territory selection. Yellowhammers showed a strong preference for unimproved, semi-natural verges and a strong avoidance of permanent pasture in favour of cereal and mixed land use. All other preferences were weak, which was consistent with most previous studies, apart from a possible avoidance possible avoidance of grass-sown field margins which is contrary to previous studies and which way warrant further investigation.

Rory's abstract

Rory has kindly allowed us to reproduce his dissertation abstract here and I'm sure he'd be happy for me to forward the whole thing to anyone who is interested.

Lowland farmland birds both in the UK and in Europe have declined since the 1970s,
resulting from post World War II agricultural intensification. As a result of these changes
in practices the Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) population remains in decline. A
reduction in Over-winter survival derived from insufficient food resources is now thought
to be the most principle factor causing the demise of the Yellowhammer population in the
UK. In this study, data on winter foraging habits of the Yellowhammer in order to
establish the importance of supplementary feeding in a local population. Individuals were
recorded along line transects throughout December 2009 and January 2010 at
Brackenhurst estate, Southwell (England, UK). The results show that despite the presence
of semi natural habitats provided by the Environmental Stewardship Scheme (ESS) (e.g.
conservation headlands), the bird feeding station contained the highest frequency of
foraging yellowhammers than any other recorded habitat type. This study supports the
findings of Siriwardena et al. (2008) suggesting the ESS provides insufficient food
reserves through winter to reverse the decline of the Yellowhammer. Further research into
food availability throughout winter could provide information leading to the formulation
of new conservation measures which may not solely benefit the Yellowhammer but to
also other granivorous farmland birds currently in decline.