Monday 25 June 2012

Attenborough CES - final visit, Sunday 24 June

Leading up to the weekend the weather forecast was poor but on Saturday it changed and said the expected rain would pass over by 0600ish. So when I looked out of the window early on Sunday I was happy to see the rain had stopped. Gary, Duncan, Nick and I met at the site and despite the dark sky we started to erect the nets. As we were on net 9 of 10 it started to spit with rain, we continued to erect the full quota of nets only to find the rain got heavier and forced us to close all of them. We then had a not so pleasant hour or so as we stood in the pouring rain getting soaked to the skin waiting for the Met Office 0600ish to arrive - eventually it did, at 0830. We opened all the nets but then the breeze got up and the sun came out. So we ended the final CES session with a paltry catch of 17 birds including 8 retraps. The most unusual bird being the first tit for a few weeks, a retrap Great Tit. Catch totals (new/retrap) Dunnock 1/0, Reed Warbler 4/1, Garden Warbler 0/1, Blackcap 2/0, Chiffchaff 0/1, Treecreeper 1/0, Great Tit 0/1, Bullfinch 1/4.


Thursday 21 June 2012

Post-juvenile Starlings

One thing I enjoy most about ringing independently in the garden is that I'm able to examine different birds at different time of the season.

The Starlings are flocking to my sultanas this week and have been bringing their youngsters along too, some of which are undertaking their post juvenile moult and I've noticed that they do some slightly different things which readers of the blog might find of interest.

Starlings are a species which undertake a complete post-juvenile moult, replacing body and flight feathers before the Autumn. In the image below you can see that the bird has started to moult its primaries along with the corresponding primary covert, contrasting with what we usually encounter with say, a Blue Tit, which undertakes a partial post-juvenile moult and retains the primary coverts and alula.

A good number of birds have started to moult their tail feather too, you can see this in the image below with new feathers appearing in the centre as the bird moults outwards.

Other individuals are showing more obvious signs of their moult, with new feathers appearing in patches upon the breast as in this image, something can we usually see in the field without having the bird in the hand.

The thing which strikes me is that there seems to be no hard and fast rules in terms of the moult sequence, of the birds I have ringed today, some are undergoing wing and tail moult with no body moult at all, whilst some are just starting with odd breast feathers and haven't started wing moult yet, yet others are kicking off by replacing body contour feathers on their back and central tail feathers!

It is known that Starlings on rare occasions show signs of eccentric primary moult as well as retaining alula and / or secondary feathers every now and again and I will certainly keeping an eye out for this in the future.


Monday 18 June 2012

Attenborough CES, visit 5 - Sunday 17 June

Gary, Duncan and I completed the fifth CES visit to Attenborough on Sunday. The weather was not particularly good, a brisk wind blowing for the duration and bright sun for most of the session. So it was no surprise that we had a limited catch of only 27 including 11 retraps made up of (new/others): Woodpigeon 1/0, Dunnock 1/4, Robin 2/0, Blackbird 1/1, Cetti's Warbler 1/0, Reed Warbler 0/1, Garden Warbler 3/1, Blackcap 6/2, Chiffchaff 1/2.

Another Cetti's Warbler was nice and a Woodpigeon added a bit of variety. Yet again not a single tit was caught. The session was filmed by FĂ©aron Cassidy and Peter Cutler who have been awarded a grant by the Nottingham University Enrichment Fund to make a short promotional video as well as possibly a documentary-style video on the Attenborough Nature Reserve. I think all 3 of the ringers that were out that day ended up on the film, unusual at Attenborough but probably had something to do with our usual film star, Tim, being on holiday.


More Wales pics

Thanks to Nick for a few more photos from what seemed to be a great trip - against all the odds!

 Wood Warbler
 Pied Flycatcher chicks
Redstart chicks

Sunday 17 June 2012

Reedbed forays

Over the past few weeks I stepped up my nest-finding mission and decided to dig out my waders for a few trips to the Holme Pierrepont reedbeds.

I managed to talk Chris into accompanying me for my first visit and as always he was kind enough to give me some great pointers. A later visit on my own proved successful with a fair number of nests located and this week Pete went back with me to ring the chicks.

Despite the weather conditions, they seemed to be doing really well (even if the nests were looking a little 'angular'). Let's hope some of them make it into our nets later in the season.

I also came across a few Coot nests whilst creeping around between the reeds, one in particular appeared to have young hatching on that day.



Thursday 14 June 2012

Wales, Sunday 10 June

A small but experienced team made the trip to Wales last Sunday to 'hopefully' ring the Pied Flycatchers. I say 'hopefully' because we went just after the torrential rain caused flooding in Aberystwyth which is not that far away - and thoughts were that the Pied Flycatchers would have fared badly. On arrival, without encountering any flooded roads, we split into four and started checking the boxes. We did find a number of failed boxes but overall the birds were doing pretty well and we ringed 170 in total made up of 138 pulli and 4 adult Pied Flycatchers, 24 pulli and 2 adult Redstarts and 2 adult Wood Warblers.

Unfortunately there were no Buzzards nesting this year and very few Buzzards generally in the area! A Nuthatch had nested this year but had fledged before we got there. There are 20 boxes that had eggs or small chicks not yet big enough to ring, including 2 Redstarts, if they all survive over 100 more to ring. So if anyone with a pulli endorsement fancies making another trip around the 20th let me know and I will give you the rings and maps showing the relevant boxes.


Ruth's adventures across the pond...

Many of you will know that Ruth has been out to Delaware with the Wash Wader Ringing Group - see her blog for a full report:

Thursday 7 June 2012

Recent recoveries

A pretty impressive Barn Owl just in - a chick ringed in Costock last July was hit on a road in Eccles in April, 111km to the north-west. Also, a Lesser Redpoll ringed by Mick P in Bestwood last October was caught by another old ringing pal of mine, John Forss. It had moved down to Surrey, 200km to the south and was trapped in March this year.


Wednesday 6 June 2012

Attenborough CES visit 4, Monday 4 June

Gary, Duncan, Steve, Nick and I completed the fourth CES visit to Attenborough on Monday, after a rescheduling from Sunday due to the terrible weather. The weather on Monday was good with broken cloud and only a light breeze but the birds were not jumping into the nets in great numbers! The total catch was only 25 including 7 retraps made up of (new/others): Wren 1/1, Dunnock 0/1, Robin 6/0, Blackbird 1/0, Song Thrush 3/0, Reed Warbler 1/1, Blackcap 2/1, Chiffchaff 3/2, Bullfinch 1/1. Not sure if it is truly indicative of a poor breeding season locally for tits but we have not caught any fledgling tits of any species at Attenborough and on Monday did not even hear any. On one net round I looked down the line of nets and saw something large moving in the bottom shelf about 7 or 8 metres away, before I had chance to move the object opened large wings and flew out of the shelf, along and over the net - it was a buzzard and had apparently gone into the net after a Wren, not sure if this Buzzard was desperate or just on a diet but it did not do the Wren much good, or the net for that matter!


A raptorous way to beat jetlag…

In an attempt to avoid succumbing to jetlag, I joined Jim on Monday morning to visit the remaining unchecked owl and raptor boxes in the Newark and Vale of Belvoir areas. The first box we checked in Syerston contained three large, healthy Jackdaw chicks, a new species for me. Next, we headed to Screveton to check a Kestrel box. On route, Jim spied a Little Owl hurtling away from an oak tree. A quick hole inspection later and Jim emerged holding two tiny Little Owl chicks. Two new species for me! On to the Kestrel box and we found five downy chicks, only two of which were big enough to ring.

The next two owl boxes we visited in Caunton each contained two large Jackdaw chicks. A short hop to Norwell Woodhouse saw us visiting a Little Owl box, accompanied by the excited home owners whose land the box was on. Just as we reached the box the heavens opened and Jim and I found ourselves ringing three small Little Owl chicks with our backs to the rain. The owners were delighted to see the chicks and were even more ecstatic when Jim returned the chicks to the box only to pull out a fourth chick that must have been hiding when he had collected the first three. Despite the downpour, it was a great way to end the morning and maintained Jim’s 100% success rate – six boxes checked, six boxes occupied. The box also contained a long dead, ringed barn owl that, according to Jim’s records, had been one of the 2010 brood.

After a quick lunch at Jim’s (thank you Elaine) Matt joined us for the afternoon session and we headed off to Shelford to check four boxes on a farm there. As I held the blocker up to the hole of the pole mounted Barn Owl box, I could feel something trying its best to push its way out and was hopeful of an adult bird. I wasn’t disappointed as Jim came down the ladder with both adult birds. One bird was un-ringed and was judged to be a young bird whilst the other was a re-trap thought to be about five years old and recorded as an age 8. The wing feathers clearly showed at least three generations of flight feathers. The remaining boxes were less productive. The Kestrel box contained Kestrel pellets but no birds, the Little Owl box contained only one cold egg and the owl box in the barn contained pigeon eggs.

Onwards we went towards Cotham and to a Kestrel box. As we approached, the female flew out of the box and on inspection, five chipping eggs were found. We made a hasty retreat and moved on to ring a brood of eight Blue Tits in a box in woodland. Despite our best efforts, the second box we knew to be on a tree someone nearby, eluded us and as time was of the essence for Jim, we gave up searching and instead made our way to Barkestone-Le-Vale to check a Barn Owl box. To our surprise, the box contained three beautiful, large Barn Owl chicks that weren’t too far off fledging. Almost fully grown Barn Owls but without the attitude – what a privilege!

As the heavens opened once more, we checked out a couple of trees near Redmile rumoured to be home to a Kestrel and a Little Owl. As we approached, a Kestrel flushed from one tree and a clutch of warm eggs was found. Unfortunately, no Little Owl nest was located, but given the state of the tree, it is entirely possible that there was one hiding in one of the many nooks and crannies.

Overall, a very productive and successful day’s ringing in good company.


 Barn Owl wing - aged as an 8 due to there being 3 generations of feathers in the wing (RW)

 Large Barn Owl chicks (RW)

 Barn Owl - aged as a 5 as all feathers are of the same generation (RW)

 Jackdaw chick (RW)

 Jim replacing adult Barn Owl (RW)

 Kestrel chicks (RW)

 Little Owl chicks (RW)