Monday, 31 October 2011

Last one for the Larus Lovers

This is now the third post in a row and if I remember rightly the last time I was barking on about gulls on this blog it ended up with a post about a Caspian Gull. Well, guess what. Here’s another gull post (for a few week or two at least!) about a Caspo. Today started with a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls, then another Yellow-legged Gull and then another Yellow-legged Gull. If you haven’t seen enough on this blog already here are a few more Yellow-legged Gull pictures. I promise not say Yellow-legged Gull again!

Minutes after Dave Chown and myself finished looking at a gull with yellow legs (or at least it will in about three year’s time) this fantastic creature appeared out of nowhere!

Managed to miss this bird at the weekend and I missed another one when I was out on Lundy so I was pretty made up after seeing this fine example of a 1st winter Caspian Gull.

I promise I’ll find something else to blog about soon unless a gull that betters a Caspian Gull turns up!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Minutus - minutest of all gulls

I had the pleasure of watching this little beauty on the way home from work yesterday. I went via the buddleia loop at Radipole as another birder had mentioned the bird late in the afternoon. By the time I got there it was getting quite dark so pics weren’t ever going to amount to much but it was at one point feeding about 6 foot away from on insects the were on the surface of the water. It appeared to roost on the lake rather than head off with the other gulls so it may still be about this morning.

Also yesterday another Yellow-legged Gull spend a few hours at Radipole during the afternoon. This time though a 1st winter rather than one actually with yellow legs.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A gull with yellow legs

I’ve mentioned Yellow-legged Gulls quite a bit over the last few months, probably to the point that bores people to death. But this one has actually got yellow legs, well just about. This 3rd winter bird was hanging around Radipole Lake yesterday. Ages other than juvs and 1st winters are quite unusual at Radipole so this one was a nice surprise. Perhaps it was seeking refuge after listening to the Jeremy Vine show yesterday where people were phoning up suggesting that we shoot every gull in the UK and stamp on any nest you come across. Surely it’s these people who were whinging about gulls are partly to blame for the increase of urban gulls. Landfill and rubbish on the streets all contribute to the problem plus other issues such as over fishing has caused gull numbers to decrease on the coast which has resulted in gulls having to look elsewhere for food! Rant over... enjoy the lovely gull pictures.

Some more pics from Lundy

I thought I’d stick a few more picture from Lundy as I am bored and its pouring with rain which has ruined my day off.
First up is a Firecrest. Saw surprisingly few of these one the trip and this was the only one we came across in the nets.

This ‘cold’ looking Chiffchaff caught a few peoples eye. We saw a possibly ‘tristis’ type earlier in the day so not sure if this was the same one or another easterny type Chiffchaff thing.

Redwings didn’t feature as much as we’d hoped though we obviously got some as I wouldn’t have any pictures if we didn’t! Everyone we caught had swabs taken. We took samples from the feet and flank looking for Sudden Oak Death. This disease apparently comes into from Scandinavia and this study is to see if our winter thrushes bring it in with them.

Computer has now decided its had enough and doesn't want load anymore pictures so this lots will have to do.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Lundy Trip Report

You may have guessed that I didn’t get any internet signal out on Lundy (surprise surprise) but I did keep a daily  log of what we were up to. Appologies for such a long post but go get an cup of tea and biscuit which should help you get through all the text.
Day 1
After a very early start, Fred and I headed off to north Devon to catch the 7:30am ferry over to Lundy. We met up with Richard Taylor and Tony Taylor both Lundy regulars especially Tony who has done a lot of work with Lundy’s birds for several decades.  The day was full of prospect as an easterly wind had been blowing all night and intermittent cloud cover may have grounded a few migrants. On arrival passage had just started to tail off but by the end of the day a reasonable list of species developed.  We started ringing mid-morning though not a lot was happening. A nice variety of birds were caught  including a visitor from Siberia. Late afternoon a Yellow browed Warbler jumped into a net after avoiding them most of the day.

Raptors were well represented on the island today with a Short eared Owl in off from the east and an Osprey flew down the west side of the island. Peregrine, Kestrels, Sparrowhawks and at least one Merlin kept its eye on the finches. Another interesting bird today was a possible tristis Chiffchaff which refused to call so we’ll see if it ends up in a net tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be our first proper day ringing so hopefully a good thrush passage overnight will result in a busy morning.
Day 2
Unfortunately the change in wind direction overnight didn’t do much for Thrush migration. In fact it was minimal with just a few blackbirds and a single Song Thrush trapped and ringed. Thankfully overnight rain did bring a significant arrival of Blackcap. This was easily the most numerous bird ringed today. Chiffchaff and crest numbers were reasonable though no more than the previous day. Overhead passage wasn’t particularly impressive though probably half a dozen Redpoll hung around for a while and siskin numbers were slightly up on yesterday.
Scarcities trapped today were a Common Rosefinch and a Firecrest. Yesterday’s Yellow browed Warbler had presumably moved on. Little else of interest around the island except an Owl species which I saw at first light but couldn’t ID due to poor light. Later in the day non-birders reported flushing an owl from some trees which to me would indicate a Long-eared Owl but we’ll never know.

Weather is on the change tomorrow so not sure how much ringing we’ll do but rougher weather might mean going out with the lamp around the island in case of a woodcock or something similar.
Day 3
Yesterday’s prediction was correct and by mid-morning we were furling all the mist nets. Strong south westerly winds had slowly picked up followed by rain later in the afternoon.  I am currently writing this listening to rain smashing in the living room window!
Just a handful of birds ringed, mainly Blackcaps. These could have been lingering birds from yesterday or perhaps some did venture from the mainland overnight in spite of the weather conditions.
Birding was equally quiet with a single Snow Bunting proving to be the best. Two Black Redstart and a single Ring Ouzel were the only other notable species seen by others who braved the weather. Whilst looking for the Snow bunting we flushed a single Snipe and came across several Meadow Pipit and Skylark, all of which were grounded by almost gale force winds. Raptors were busy as ever patrolling the island with definitely two Merlin still about (possibly 3). It’s probably too windy to even go out with the lamp tonight so an evening in the pub is almost certainly in order.
Day 4
Very similar to yesterday weather wise, the wind was still strong though not as much rain today. One net was put up at first light but was taken down again a few hours later having had not birds go into it. As I write no birds have been caught today!
Back to yesterday briefly. I did end up going out with the lamp and I was joined by Richard. We got very very very wet and the wind was quite extraordinary. We pressed on and ended up with a Curlew to take back to ring. It was probably quite too pleased to come into the warm and dry albeit briefly before I took back up into the fields.
Due to the lack of ringing today, a few of us went for a nice long walk along the length of the island. Whilst on our travels we bumped into 4 Snow Buntings and not a lot else. A Merlin or two whizzed past as did a few Peregrine.

As no birds had been ringed by this time we headed down to the beach to try to catch a Rock Pipit or possibly a Black Redstart.

 We didn’t catch either though saw both including at least 2 of the latter. Whilst walking back to the cottage we bumped into another Snow Bunting just 100 yrds short of our accommodation.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better and we may end up going out lamping again tonight so we may end up ringing something after all.
Day 5
We did end up going lamping and thankfully I arrived back at the cottage with a Snipe. That was the only bird ringed yesterday. Thankfully though, today was a little better with a steady stream of birds though we did get quite a lot of re-traps. Not a bad thing though as it all adds to science.
Late in the afternoon we finally caught the Greater spotted Woodpecker which has been about for the week. It was a re-trap from last week but good to know it’s the same one knocking around. They are a very rare bird on Lundy which makes it (in Lundy terms) the rarest bird of the trip so far!

Very little else to be seen, a flock of 30 Fieldfares early morning and a single Snow bunting flew over the east side of the island.
We finished today with a Fieldfare caught in St Johns valley which is a nice way to end the day. We are now off to the pub so better stop writing!
Day 6
Another steady day with Goldcrest being most numerous species caught. The weather appears to have settled down for a few days though getting a weather forecast on Lundy isn’t easy. Thankfully the pub pins up a printed off forecast though it was out of date the last time I looked. The settled weather presumably gave migrants chance to move with the first decent numbers of Fieldfare seen plus more Redwings than the previous days. Several Redwing were caught throughout the day but I’ve just come in from lamping and I’ve heard Redwings overhead which could mean the morning could be productive.  Bramblings also appeared for the first time today with at least 2 or 3 around the seed outside our cottage along with growing numbers of Chaffinch.
Rarities today proved frustrating. First ‘miss’ of the day was a probable Red-throated Pipit that flew over St John’s valley calling at about 9:30. Only heard it briefly and never saw the bird but Fred and myself both agree that it was most likely one on call but neither of us has ever heard one before in the field (only on CD’s!) Next up was a small ‘Phyllosc’ that Richard saw. He didn’t get much of a view at first but noticed it was fairly white underneath and had a pretty strong supercilluim. After a bit of searching I managed a picture and it was a Willow Warbler so panic over. Next up was a ‘Lundy rarity’, a Blue tit. This species is about annual on Lundy so we were pretty pleased to get a ring on it.

Later in the day we caught the willow warbler though the one in the photograph was a second bird caught that day.

I mentioned earlier that I have just got back from Lamping. I managed to catch another Snipe tonight though conditions were far from perfect as the wind had dropped making my every foot step audible but presumably not to the snipe that I caught.  Tomorrow is our last full day ringing on the island so really hoping it’s a good one!
Day 7
Unfortunately today wasn’t a good day for ringing. Just a few Redwing to start the day and then a trickle of Chaffinch through the afternoon. Not all bad though as we got to have a good look at difference aged female Chaffinch which occasionally prove tricky to age. Due to the quiet morning Fred mentioned that he wanted to go looking for Ring Ouzel. I joined him on his quest but it proved unfruitful. However we did see some other nice birds including some superb views of a Yellow-browed Warbler feeding in some grass and some bracken. The stroll also produced a Woodcock and a Firecrest. We also counted about 45 Goldcrest which obviously shows that they were still moving through.
Not a lot else to say about today except that I’ve managed to catch a cold that Fred was nursing on arrival last Saturday. We may get a little bit of ringing done in the morning though If the weather stays as rough as it is now we may be leaving a little earlier than expected on the Helicopter rather than using the boat. Either way it will be pretty exciting!

Day 8
Our last morning was another quiet one though there was a clear arrival of Chaffinch. We started catching a few but then time came for us to leave. Just before we left one last good bird founds its way into a net. A juv female Sparrowhawk which we had been seeing regularly around the area along with at least one other.
On the way to catch our boat (not the helicopter unfortunately!) we had chance to stop and see the final nice bird of the trip, a Pied Flycatcher. By the time we were half way to Ilfracoombe it had found its way into a net which I bet the ringers that replaced Fred and myself were pleased as it was probably one of the first birds of theirs weeks ringing.

Must finish by saying how great the company was, I had a fantastic time even though the weather was a bit frustrating time. Huge thanks to Tony for arranging the week.  Lundy is an amazing place for birding but it’s so under watched! I only bumped into one other birder during the whole week. Who knows what was lurking out there just waiting to be found. We left Richard and Tony on the island as they are there for another week so I look forward to hearing how they get one but here’s Richard obviously upset to see Fred and myself leaving. (or was it something to do with his fiancĂ© also leaving? Or maybe even his cold? We’ll never know.)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

How not to photograph a Yellow browed Warbler...

Went down to the Swannery this afternoon to have a look for this mornings Yellow browed Warbler. It took a bit of finding but it eventually called giving its location away. Got some decent views but getting some decent pictures wasn’t so easy.
Here’s quite a nice picture of its bill.

This one showing its wing.

And finally one where you can see its eye.

Not bad for about 2 hours efforts! Though did put up a net in the withy bed though with it being mid afternoon I wasn’t expecting much. Three Goldcrest, 4 Chiffchaff and a re-trap Robin.
Also, I completely forgot to mention that I had at least 4 Brambling fly over Clouds hill this morning which were the first of the autumn for me. Hopefully bump into some more of these on Lundy!

Redpoll Ringing

I have been ringing at clouds hill for well over a month without the joy of catching a control. All that changed today when I turned my attention to Redpoll. A few started moving overhead first thing followed by steady numbers through the morning. Managed to catch 11 of them one being a control! All the birds were Lesser Redpoll (as you’d expect) with birds moving from the west heading east. Overhead passage generally was steady though I didn’t do any counting today. A single yellowhammer that stopped briefly on a nearby bush as nice and a Corn bunting over was probably the highlight.

Grounded migrants were limited with just a few Goldcrest and Chiffchaff caught, though at nearby Abbotsbury Swannery a Yellow browed Warbler was found. That gives me a nice opportunity to introduce yet another local blog, . Steve Groves works and lives very close to Abbotsbury Swannery and birds it most days.
Finally before I shoot off to the Swannery to have a look for the warbler I should mention a superb looking Pied Wagtail Steve Hales and myself caught last night at Weymouth port. Its probably the piedest Pied Wagtail I’ve seen! 
(anyone recognise the background? thought it would make a nice backdrop!)

This could potentially be my last post for a week or so as Saturday morning I am off to Lundy for a weeks ringing. Will take a Laptop and see if I get any internet signal but I am not too hopeful!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Paranoid about Waders!

Why hasn’t Weymouth had an American wader? I know that we had a Stilt Sand back in the summer but during this rather large influx of near-arctic waders we’ve had nought. Three (or possibly 4) Buff breasted Sands just outside of Weymouth was the nearest they came.
Water levels have been low at Radipole lake over the last few days and every wader that has dropped in has got me scrutinising every detail on it. Monday morning a small calidrid dropped in though was rather distant. It looked small but details I could see were limited. I then tried to get another birder onto it but it disappeared whilst I was doing so. This left me very frustrated and annoyed as this could be the wader we were waiting for! Thankfully, yesterday a small wader appeared outside the visitor centre. Just a little stint unfortunately and not then rare American wader I’d hoped. It did however put my mind to rest, as this was more than likely the bird from Monday.

Later yesterday, I found myself quizzing birders who came back from North hide who had been watching two Dunlin. Not convinced by experienced birders I went looking in the evening but just one Dunlin was present! So what was the other one. Surely something will turn up but times rapidly running out. So if the ornithological gods are reading this, PLEASE SEND SOMETHING OUR WAY!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

I am still alive!

Just thought I’d better put something on here to show that I am still alive and out birding and ringing. Been at Clouds Hill several times over the last week but the weather conditions haven’t been exactly good to grounding migrants. The overhead passage has been quite spectacular with one day producing over 1500 Meadow Pipits plus a few Tree Pipit still mixed in. The highlight of that morning however was a Richards Pipit that flew over at about 9:00 before disappearing over the ridge heading east.
A species that’s featured quite a lot this week has been Dunnock. Most people don’t think of these as being migratory but I’ve caught a lot of new birds this week and have re-trapped very few. I really hope I get a recovery from one of these to reveal where they are going. Another perhaps more known migrant has started moving through. Song Thrush has started to appear which hopefully means the first Redwing is just around the corner. I know autumns really here when I hear Redwings calling overhead at night.
Today’s session was probably the quietest I’ve had at Clouds Hill. Very few migrants grounded except a few Chiffchaff and Blackcap. A female Sparrowhawk was a good catch though and I’ll post some pictures soon.