Monday, 30 September 2013

Recent Recoveries

This time we have a number of reports, mainly of Barn Owls, which were ringed as chicks and controlled at nest boxes during June 2013:

From Costock in August 2008 to Hickling Pastures
From Caunton in June 2009 to Kirklington
From Plumtree in June 2009 to Costock
From Bingham in July 2010 to Plungar
From Screveton in July 2011 to Screveton
From Screveton in July 2011 to Shelton
From Shelford in May 2012 to Claypool, Lincolnshire
From Upper Broughton in July 2012 to Cotgrave
From Aslockton in September 2012 to Upper Broughton
From Collingham in June 2011 to Girton

In addition to the Barn Owls, we also have some other findings:

A Kestrel ringed as a chick at Shelton in June 2012 was found dead in a cattle trough at Scarrington in March 2012.

A House Sparrow ringed at Hucknall in December 2011 was discovered dead in a Hucknall nest box in May 2013.

A Tree Sparrow ringed at Bestwood in March 2012 was also found dead in a nest box at Bestwood in April 2013.

A young Blackcap ringed at Holme Pierrepont in August 2012 was controlled at Cambridge in June 2013.

A young Waxwing ringed at Manchester in February 2013 was captured again in April at Clifton.

A young Garden Warbler ringed at Wraysbury Gravel Pits, Windsor and Maidenhead in August 2011 was captured again at Attenborough in June 2013.

A Reed Warbler ringed at Pitsford Reservoir, Northampton in July 2012 was captured at Holme Pierrepont in June 2013.


Monday, 23 September 2013

Holme Pierrepont, Sunday 23 September

Kev, Gary, Duncan, Tom, Alex, Sue and I spent most of the final session of the season sun-bathing on an unusually warm and still September morning. The site didn't feel particularly busy with birds and it may be that many summer migrants have left. A few small flocks comprised mainly Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, with a sprinkling of Blue and Long-tailed Tits, but there were no enormous flocks.

The total number of birds trapped was 24 (18 new/6 retrap), comprising: Robin: 4/2, Blue Tit: 2/1, Blackbird: 1/1, Dunnock: 2/1, Wren: 0/1, Chiffchaff: 3/0, Blackcap: 4/0, Whitethroat: 1/0, Reed Warbler: 1/0. The oldest retrap was the Blackbird at 3 years.

Chiffchaff (Pete Leonard)

It's been an odd season and despite the lack of gales and floods that we've become accustomed to, many species don't appear to have had a particularly good year. But as always, it is difficult to gauge this sort of thing until a much broader data set is available.

Away from the nets, Meadow Pipit passage was regular throughout the morning and a handful of Swallows were the only hirundines. A couple of Buzzards soared over and Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers were all around. Snipe bombed over on a couple of occasions and wildfowl numbers are already building with good rafts of Tufted Duck and Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall and Wigeon all present in small numbers. Butterflies included Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Speckled Wood and what were probably a couple of Small Coppers whizzing by. Good numbers of hawker dragonflies were most likely Migrant Hawkers. And just as we were leaving we watched a Hobby circling near the A52.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Holme Pierrepont, Sunday 15 September

Alex, Duncan, Gary, Sue, Tom and I made a visit to the Grange side of Holme Pierrepont on Sunday. The weather forecast was not good but we started in sunny and calm conditions. Unfortunately this soon deteriorated with the wind picking up and rain showers starting, by mid morning we decided to call it a day. The site was very quiet and we only managed a catch of 12 including 2 retraps. They included just 5 warblers, 2 Blackcaps, and single Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler. Overhead there were many House Martins and a couple of Jay's dropped in near the nets - but not near enough.


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

It's all over now... or is it?

I thought of this headline before Pete did his. (Great minds think alike - ed.) Ruth, Emma and meself went back to several Barn Owl boxes over the weekend (where birds had been present, on eggs etc back in the summer) to see what they were up to. Until then, only a paltry 12 chicks had been ringed on my rings, but by Sunday we'd added another 18! Surprisingly, this included broods of 4 & 7 in boxes c1km apart on the Smite, and the females had swapped boxes since last year. Makes you wonder if there's an alpha male providing for both of them. It was the first time I'd seen a brood of 7 and there are only 3 records ever of broods of 8 fledging. Chicks we have ringed have mostly been in clusters at Barkestone, Halam, Flintham, Normanton & Shelton, for reasons I'm not sure why.

Though the factors affecting the Barn Owls probably include:
  • 2012 started off as a promising short-tailed vole year, but the wet and cold summer/autumn hit them hard and very few were found cached.
  • Barn owls bred well to start with in 2012, but the poor weather and food availability hit them hard with lots of chick stage failures. Some boxes had the same female fail twice and in others two different females failed, and chick weights were low.
  • The poor weather continued into the autumn & winter/spring which caused very poor first winter survival. To maybe show this, in 2012 I processed 19 first summer barn owls, this year it was 5. In 2011 & 2012, I ringed c80 pulli. Not hellishly scientific, but a crude measure showing a 75% drop in first winter survival between 2011-12 and 2012-13.
  • The winter extended well into spring this year. The BTO had 3-4 times the usual recovery rate of dead Barn Owls and these, unusually, were mainly experienced adults who, for lack of food, left their territories and got killed on the roadside. In a good year they would have been on eggs by April.
  • Birds that survived to breed in 2013, either tried early on and mostly failed or appear to have delayed and are having some success now.
These late breeders, and I potentially still have 2 broods to ring in October, will need a good autumn to fledge this weekend's young and for them to find their feet.

Sorry if this sounds pessimistic! A mild winter (please) and a good vole year will allow the Barn Owls to come back from this very poor year for them.


Sunday, 8 September 2013

A late goal in extra time

I had to cut down my boxes this year due to lack of time. I realised this would mean I ringed fewer owls, but that's just how it had to be. However, I didn't think my total would ever be this low. Today I ringed my first and probably only brood of Barn Owls of the season in Colston Bassett. A fairly healthy brood of four. I'm sure Jim will be reporting more soon, but it seems as if the small number of successful pairs have been very late breeders this year. Earlier in the season I ringed two broods of Little Owls but I didn't get any Tawnys this year - and that's out of 60 boxes checked! Let's hope for a kinder winter and a better crop in 2014.


Monday, 2 September 2013

Holme Pierrepont, Sunday 1 September

Alex, Duncan, Gary, Sue, Tom and I made another visit to the A52 side of Holme Pierrepont on Sunday. It was good that we were also joined by Nabegh and great to see he has made it out of Syria again. He flies back out to the Middle East later this week but thankfully to Jordan where he is hoping to stay for a while.

We had deliberately left no poles on site at the Grange end this year and only a few at the ‘safest’ net rides at the A52 end - but we still found that two had been taken when we went to erect the nets. There was a bit of a breeze to start with and the forecast was for it to increase, and so it did, stronger than we expected. We still managed a decent catch of 46 including 6 retraps - the oldest being a 3 year old Blackbird. As usual the catch was made up mostly of warblers. However, there were no Sedge Warblers and only two Reed Warblers. Overhead a few hirundines were passing through and a Hobby passed by quite low as we sat at the base.