Sunday, 25 September 2011

Answers on a postcard please!

Or just leave a comment...
Geographical ranges of wagtail races certainly wouldn’t be my first choice if I was ever to have to choose a specialist topic for mastermind. Hence why this wagtail has got me asking a few questions.

This autumn has been amazing for Yellow Wagtails. Steve and myself have ringed over 260 though we could have ringed more if the weather had been on side. None of those have given us any reason to think they weren’t flavissima (the British ones) except this one. Blue headed Wagtails (the nominate race ‘flava’) must pass through the UK in autumn but identification is very tricky indeed. In fact it’s probably not possible in the field unless its an adult. I’ve also not read anything on this subject regarding ID of autumn birds in the hand which suggests that it’s also very difficult in the hand. This bird on closer inspection appears to have a blueish grey colour coming through on its forehead. The bird also stood out as having a very bold supercillium unlike all the other Yellow Wagtails from last nights catch.  This is shown on the photo below.

If anyone could offer any thoughts I’d be keen to hear them even if you think I am talking rubbish!  There are still wagtails roosting at Abbotsbury so we’ll keep trying to catch this week and see what else we get.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Its Definitely Autumn!

The last few days have produced far too much evidence to suggest that autumn is defiantly here. I am currently seriously thinking about digging out some trousers and ditching the shorts. This is always a sad point in the year as I pretty much live in shorts from April until about October but the temperature in the mornings is plummeting rapidly. Clouds Hill is still producing the goods with 60+ birds being caught on every visit. Yesterday’s catch of just over 60 birds was made up largely of Chiffchaff and Blackcap which hopefully suggests that October is going to be good at the site when these two species flood through on mass. The first Goldcrest of the autumn was caught as well as a slightly unusual species to occur in some scrub, a Kingfisher!

Hopefully you can tell which is which!
Earlier in the week a few Linnets found their way into a net.

Overhead passage is building up nicely. Yesterdays list went something like this. Redpoll 1 west, Siskin c.60, Linnet c.250 east, Yellowhammer 1 east, Reed Bunting 3, Tree Pipit 6, Meadow pipit c.600, Skylark c.40, ‘alba’ wagtail c.40, Grey Wagtail 2 west, Yellow Wagtail 8 west. Grounded migrants included 1 Redstart plus a few Whitethroat but neither made it into any nets.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Brown things and Bees

The last two days I’ve made the most of the calm weather as it’s forecasted to change again and as I type the wind has already got up. Yesterday proved to very good at Clouds Hill on the fleet with a slightly unexpected sudden mass passage of Meadow Pipit. Plenty of other species were also moving through with the best of the bunch being a Nightingale that for whatever reason gave a very short blast of song then went quiet and disappeared. Unfortunately it never founds its way into a mist net but about 90 other birds did. Chiffchaff being fairly numerous plus about 20 Meadow Pipits also caught. A single Tree Pipit also founds in way into a net which was a new bird for the site. Also new for the site this autumn was a wandering Treecreeper that’s probably come from some of the wooded areas along the Fleet.
Some pics of some brown birds. First up a Meadow Pipit

And a Tree Pipit.

Yesterday evening we headed to Abbotsbury in the hope of a few more Yellow Wagtails before they disappear. We only caught a few plus some Pied Wagtails and a single White Wagtail.
This morning I was back at Clouds hill hoping the overnight easterlies had brought something in. About 70 birds caught but the day turn unexpectedly dangerous by lunch time. About 11:00 I noticed a loud buzzing sound coming from the scrub. I went to look and discovered literally thousands of honey bees swarming around the site. It was very impressive but they were right amongst my mist nets! Every time I approached they would start landing on me which is not a nice feeling, especially when you’re wearing shorts! As time went on this became a real issue as the nets were still open and needed checking. I found a spot from a distance where I could see the nets and there was one bird caught. Obviously I couldn’t leave it there so I had to be (or should that be Bee?) brave and go and get it. Several stings later (on me) the bird was removed safely and I got the net partly down so that other birds should notice it and not fly in. After an hour of cowering under some bushes they finally moved on which meant I could take down the nets without having to remove too many stingers out of me. I though ringing was a nice safe hobby but obviously not!
Apart from bees, migration was still very autumnal with plenty of Meadow Pipit going over plus a single Reed Bunting overhead and a Sanderling flew down the fleet. Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail numbered around 30 each and a single female Redstart was near my car after me near death experience with the bees. Ok, I may be exaggerating a little but I was pretty scary!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Cheers Katia!

After this mornings deluge, the weather cleared up nicely leaving almost clear blue skies. This obviously gave local birders an opportunity to get out and look for anything that had been thrown in by the lovely Hurricane Katia. Somebody obviously struck gold and found 2 juv Buff breasted Sandpipers in a field somewhere near White Nothe just outside of Weymouth. It’s quite a find as the field was pretty big and even though I knew they were in there somewhere, it still took a bit of time to find them. Once I got onto them I set up the scope just in time to see a crow flush both birds and sent them skyward! Didn’t have the camera handy which was a shame as they flew past fairly close which could have resulted in a half decent flight shot but this was all I managed!

After about 15 minutes searching two small waders flew into view. Chances are they were the buff breasts and indeed they were. This time they were close enough for a half decent photograph.

Hopefully these are the first of several ‘yanks’ to turn up in Dorset this year. Pec Sand at Radipole this week I reckon or maybe even a Red necked Stint at Ferrybridge. Anything could happen!

Grey Phalaropes and Grey Skies

I’ve been a bit rubbish recently and I haven’t bothered doing any seawatching. This weather has blown a few bits in but nothing that has made me wish that I had got up at first light and stood in a 50 or 60mph wind and stare through a telescope. This morning however I got a text about 10 Grey Phalaropes down at Chesil cove. This got me off my backside and by the time I had got there at least 5 were still present though fairly distant. I regretfully have to resort to using a picture I took back in 2008 at Kenfig pool as this mornings birds were just too far away.

Whilst watching the Phalarope huge black clouds descended and got me packing up my kit very quickly and running towards the car. The shower only lasted 5 minutes or so but it was bloody heavy and resulted in me heading home for some lunch! The weather looks like it’s gonna calm down for a few days so fingers crossed I can get back to some ringing. Red Eyed Vireo on Scilly today so who knows!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Its not just for boy racers

In the evenings its usually idiots in their supped up Corsa’s that frequent the Swannery car park in Weymouth but this autumn theirs a new kid on the block. The Yellow Wagtail.

These little vandals have been needlessly adding colour to an already fine looking car park. In winter Pied Wagtails use the car park as a pre-roost and that’s fine as they are black, white and grey which blends in beautifully with the tarmac. Thankfully, Yellow Wags will be a distant memory soon as they will all be well on route at Africa where they will fit in much better.

Hopefully you realise I am joking and its actually quite amazing to see these birds using a car park in the middle of town to bath before roosting! Thought I’d say that just in case...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

It's a bit breezy!

Today’s forecast was for strong winds and we certainly got them! Gusts of over 50mph have been occurring throughout the day which was bound to bring something good in. It came in the form of a Sabine’s Gull over at Abbotsbury Swannery and even better news was that it was settled on a pool in one of the meadows. Quick as we could, Steve and myself got over there to be greeted by the site of a pool but no Sabs Gull! We must have missed it by minutes. There were a few Arctic Terns about though which is a species I haven’t seen at the swannery before. Got back home and had some lunch when I a text about another Sabine’s Gull but this time down at Ferrybridge. So off I went again and this time got lucky!

After about 5 minutes the bird moved off presumably back into the bay where 2 more were seen later in the afternoon.
I must apologies as I said yesterday that I would not post about Gulls again but hopefully you’ll forgive as this is a gull species you don’t see very often especially sitting just metres away from a car park!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Sorry! Another gull picture...

But look at the size of its bill!

This Yellow legged Gull caught my eye immediately this morning when I briefly popped into the visitor centre at Radipole. It was ginormous (I know its not a word!). I don’t know how many different Yellow legged gulls have  passed through Radipole this autumn but every bird I see if a different one. I’ll move onto something other than gulls soon but this weather looks a bit rough for a few days. A little bit of sea watching might be in order.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Way better than X factor!

Whilst a sizable chunk of the UK population would have been watching X factor last night, I was out catching yet more Yellow Wagtails with Steve down at the Swannery. The night turned out to an amazing one. Over 800 Yellow Wagtail roosted, though the number quite possibly could have gone into four figures! The catch was also quite spectacular with 107 birds caught. It’s the best Yellow Wagtail catch ever at the swannery and by far the biggest catch in Dorset for many years. Back in the 70’s, one autumn over 2500 were ringed at Radipole but that was in the days when thousands roost there every night. It really was quite a privilege to see so many birds that are now being considered pretty scare. They must have had an incredible breeding season.
Whilst I am blogging I need to correct a mistake from the last post. The recent Caspian Gull was actually the 6th record if accepted. There is a suspicion that the bird may possibly a hybrid so that’s one for the Dorset rarities panel to chew over.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Caspo the unfriendly Gull

Spent a few hours yesterday evening waiting for the Caspian Gull to show up again but it didn’t. It wasn’t seen at all through the day so I was really lucky to be at the visitor centre at the right time! It may show up again somewhere but in the meantime Ian Stanley who found the bird has very kindly allowed me to use his pictures.

Interestingly, Ian has found the last few Caspian Gulls at Radipole. They are very rare in Dorset with only 4 records I think, with this one being the 5th? Someone correct me if I am wrong!
Whilst waiting last night a single Yellow legged Gull showed up. This ones getting well into 1st winter plumage.

Especially when compared to another Yellow legged Gull taken earlier in the day which is in pretty much juvy plumage.

Went ringing this morning hoping for a birthday goodie but had to make do with about 50 of the normal migrants you’d expect at this time of year. Did however get some interesting overhead passage. 2 Grey Wags, 1 Reed Bunting, at least 15 Tree Pipit, 3 Meadow Pipit, c.180 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Sandwich Tern and best of all three Tree Sparrow heading west! My first in Dorset.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Pre Birthday Blog

Its me birthday tomorrow so I am hoping that the weather’s good for another ringing session out on the fleet, I rather fancy something like a wryneck as a birthday present. Hopefully the ornithological gods can oblige?
Tuesday morning saw the first proper effort at my new site on the fleet. The weather was good with overcast skies and light winds. Through the morning I got about 70 birds of 18 species which I thought was a good start. Nothing unusual except for a male sparrowhawk which was nicely pocketed which makes a change as they usual end up getting back out of the nets!

Also got a Yellow Wagtail which wasn’t a surprise as over 500 has passed overhead during the morning.

The catch was mainly migrant warblers including Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler. Also at the site but not in the nets were a single Redstart and a Spotted Flycatcher.

The evening was spend catching another 80 or so birds at Abbotsbury with Steve, Fred and Mike who came over to spend the day ringing with us. We were hoping for a large Yellow Wagtail catch but they didn’t play ball so we ended up with a good number of Swallows and Sand Martins and only 6 Yellow Wagtail.

Here’s mike looking rather surprised as he turned around and saw me with the camera!

Woke up early this morning and as expected the wind was blowing from the east. This meant a session in the reeds at Radipole as we are rapidly running out of the time to catch an Aquatic Warbler this year. Surprise surprise I didn’t catch one but between rounds I briefly went down to the visitor centre which got a much rarer bird in Dorset. A juv Caspian Gull! Didn’t have much time to stay and at the time its ID was being debated. About 9am it appeared on the pager as confirmed so I guess the finder looked back at his pictures and decided it was a Caspian Gull. Hopefully it will show up again today and I will get some pictures myself.