Sunday, 30 January 2011

Work Apparently?

I've had a rather nice in day in work today. Spent the morning doing a guided walk around Radipole for nearly 30 people. Bittern and a nice load of Otter spraint were the highlights. After that I promised a volunteer to take him to see the Waxwings I mentioned a few days ago. The flock has increased from 3 to 5 and have moved to the next street along where there are stacks of berries for them to munch their way through. We had to wait a while but got great views in the end. Got some pics but was a bit annoyed as they all turned out a little under exposed. I am currently not in the possession of a good photo shop but I've tried to recover some of them.

Whilst waiting for the Waxwings to show we noticed several flocks of Med Gull heading towards Radipole. A very large flock has descended on Radipole roughly about the time of high tide on the fleet for that last few days. Yesterdays count amounted to well over 230! A Radipole record I think. Todays flock was probably something similar but they kept flushing so didn't managed a proper count. Also been recording quite a few ring numbers recently including a bird from Hungary which was also seen at Radipole last winter. Mostly the birds are from either France or Belgium.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

I'd better blog about something.

I am fully aware that I haven't blogged for a few days, mainly due to my days being pretty routine and the ringing consisting of some more Coot, Tufted duck, Black headed Gulls, Herring Gull and my favourite, Woodcock.

I've just got back from another trip out with the lamp. Caught a few birds a couple of nights ago so thought I'd make the most of there being no moon during the earlier hours of the night. Only saw a maximum of three birds on the fields and caught one. The other two didn't allow me to get anywhere near them. Took this picture of the tail feathers. The underneath are superbly white, I guess these are display feathers or possibly used to distract predators?? I will endeavour to find out.

This is me with my well earned Woodcock. They really are incredible birds tho this one appears to have blinked when the photo was taken.

I am now starting to look forward to spring and the first migrants starting to come through. I was walking through the reed beds at Radipole earlier and thought of Reed Warblers singing, this usually happens to me this time of year. Same thing usually happens in August when I start looking forward to large flocks of ducks and waders.

Must finish by mentioning a mates blog which has a film of me catching a Herring Gull at Radipole the other morning. It also saves me writing about that mornings session! Cheers Steve.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Gull Grabbing at the seaside

After a few days of not ringing I was itching to get out try out my new gull site. A few weeks ago I was looking for a reported Glaucous Gull in Weymouth harbour and noticed a very tame Great black backed Gull which was feeding from someones hand. Since then I've got permission to ring around the edge of the harbour. This afternoon I dragged Terry out to see if we could get our hands on some gulls. On the way to the harbour I got a 2nd winter Herring Gull which was already ringed. Would be nice if its a control but theres' been quite a few Herring Gull ringed around Weymouth, mostly young birds which have been reared in captivity as a result of falling off roofs etc.

Down at the harbour the gulls didn't seem to keen but Terry caught a fine looking adult herring gull (which then caught him!) then I got a Black headed Gull. On the way back to the cars we stopped again at Radipole where I got hold of another two Black headed gulls.

Totals were:
Black headed Gull -  3 new
Herring Gull - 1 new, 1 retrap.

Must also mention that yesterday afternoon in work, we got a call from a member of the public who said they had Waxwings outside their house. Went along to check it out and after a 40 minute wait three Waxwings descended onto a small rowan tree at Canterbury Close on Cobham Drive. A few quick calls and a a few birders got onto them before dusk. They are back at the tree today so must get along soon for some nice picies. In the mean time I'll post a picture of a Waxwing I took in Wales a few winters ago.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Never to late to blog about Bustards

After Saturday mornings trip to Devon, Will (a RSPB volunteer and top Scilly birder) went down to Abbotsbury Swannery for a look around. Scaup numbers have been building steadily and peaked recently at 33! On route to the swannery we popped into Moonfleet Manor hotel. Well.... actually a field next door which was home to two Great Bustards. Both birds were from the re-introduction programme on the Salisbury plain which recently featured in the news as it secured a grant for a few million pounds to continue its work. It was a damn shame I didn't have the camera because as we were about to grab our scopes from the car they flew right over our heads! Amazing sight to see in the UK.

The swannery was busy as ever with loads of Pochard and Tufted duck (as well as the odd swan) and as was hoped for, loads of Scaup. They were difficult to count, the best we managed was 26+. Scaup wasn't the only quality species around, a redhead Smew and three drake Goldeneye were also on the lagoon.

Here's a very poor attempt at digiscoping (or should that read digiscauping??). I think I managed to count 8 Scaup in that picture.

Finally, here's the group picture from Saturday taken by Mike Tyler who was running the day. Thanks again for a great day and for the use of the picture.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

A very cold morning in Devon

I went back over the border to Devon this morning for another Canon netting session on the Axe. The weather was a lot colder than before which hopefully meant we were in for a larger catch. This was certainly the case with 57 birds caught and a nice variety of species. Whilst waiting for the net to be fired we overheard the word Shoveler on the radio which made a few people ears prick up. Not long after the net was fired and we ran (well some of us younger ringers did!) to start extracting and bagging up the birds ready for ringing. Did we catch any Shoveler? I think the photo’s answer that question.

Shoveler was a new species for me to ring as was this little chap.

Shelduck were the most numerous species caught this morning with about 30 or so birds. It was really good to have a look at the different ages and sexes. Luckily the catch contained a few stonking adult males, though the one in the photo below was subject to a few knob jokes.

I should probably explain the knob reference as I am fully aware that not all readers of this blog are birders. The knob is the area above the nostrils which is only present on males. This particular bird wasn’t gifted in that area hence the Michael being taken.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


The Radipole Ringing Group achieved their milestone of 300 Tufted Duck ringed at Radipole this morning. They’ve been teasing us for a few weeks, either the weathers been warmer and the birds not hungry, or birds have been strangely wary. We thought we weren’t going to catch anything at this morning’s session but I got my hands on a Coot followed by Derek getting a hold of a fine drake Tufted Duck. That was number 299. It really looked unlikely we’d get anymore but Derek suddenly dashed towards the water and almost fully submerged himself in the lake. It was worth while as he came back up with another super drake Tufted Duck. A few tense moments passed whilst I waited to hear whether it was a re-trap or a new birds, but it was fortunately the latter!

I was given the honour of ringing it as Derek’s hands had got pretty cold and the prospect of fiddling with pliers and callipers wasn’t an appealing one. Derek’s hands are responsible for catching a large proportion of the groups Tufted Ducks which is quite an achievement. Perhaps a suitable nickname could be 'super hands?'
Terry from the group very kindly sent the coot totals from Radipole a few evenings ago. Can't remember if I mentioned coot numbers in a recent blog post or a conversation with Terry. But anyway, I thought they were worth posting. 370 is where we are at but the rate we've been catching this winter the 400 mark can't be far away!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A typical day in the office

Working on a nature reserve does occasionally have its perks. Today's piece of excitement was a kestrel that was hunting probably just 20 feet away from a volunteer and myself. It stooped onto a vole and then proceeded to rip it apart and devour it right in front of us on the path! Whilst taking photo's I quickly noticed and ring on its left leg. I would imagine its a bird ringed locally as pulli have been ringed on the out skirts of Weymouth. Also we re-trapped a Kestrel whilst wagtail ringing last winter and that turned out to be one ringed only 2 miles away!

Another nice aspect of my job is leading guided walks. Yesterday evening I was leading a walk to look for herons. Saw a few Grey Herons and 3 Brown Herons (Bitterns if your wondering). As you can imagine the punters were pretty pleased!

After work this evening I decided to have a look in town for the Pied Wagtail roost. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, last winter a lot of Pied Wagtails were colour ringed in Weymouth at a roost site near the harbour. This year they aren't using the roost and we don't know where they are roosting. Despite now kipping down near the harbour they still gather on the pavilion car park at dusk before heading off to roost. This gave me a nice opportunity to do a bit of ring reading. Got 5 colour combinations which wasn't bad for 15 minutes watching.

Must also add that I finally got round to getting the Lodmoor Long-billed Dowitcher on my year list plus Water Pipit which was showing incredibly well in front of the viewing shelter.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Tufted Duck Info

Terry Coombs very kindly sent me the info on the nasal saddled Tufted Duck i reported yesterday.

Blue JN ringed 5/07/2007 Saint Suzanne, Pay de Loire, near to Mayenne, France.

It was first seen at Abbotsbury Swannery in September 2007 and has recorded every winter since though mine is the first sighting so far this winter. The bird returns to France in summer where it has been seen but it has yet to be proved breeding.

Hopefully going to be ringing a few coot and tufty in the morning at Radipole though the water levels looking pretty high so might just be coot.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Aythya Antics

Went over to Abbotsbury Swannery for a few hours this afternoon, not ringing but birding! I think this is the first time I have blogged about a birding trip instead of ringing. The aim was to see lots of Scaup which I certainly did. I was joined by fellow ringer Steve, who's been ringing at the Swannery for over 15 years running a CES (details of CES ringing is on the BTO's website Scaup were in good numbers out on the fleet, 23 had been counted yesturday and there were probably the same amount this afternoon. A few nice adult drakes made the views even nicer.
I must point out that the swannery doesn't open to the public until 19th March but the area can be viewed from Abbotsbury beach and the road above the swannery.

As well as Scaup there were loads of Pochard and Tufted Duck all hanging around the area the swans are fed. Thought we'd take advantage of the birds being close and look for nasal saddles. In the past I've seen a few pochard with these tags on but today was the turn of the Tufties. It was only this morning I was talking to Terry Coombs (radipole ringing group) about a Tuftie with JN on its bluish green nasal saddle. So guess who was at the Swannery! It's sometimes is seen at Radipole but not this winter so far. I think its a bird from France but I'll double check that. Sadly photos are going to be lacking a bit from this post. Heavy rain caused me to throw the camera back into the car but I did allow my compact camera to brave the weather.

Once I'd got back from the swannery I headed back to Radipole to pick up something but got distracted by our friendly Tufted Duck. I've even named here.... Its a great name for a Tufted Duck. Cathy. I should probably explain how that name came about. Another member of staff at Radipole was walking along the car park and I called over to him to point out the Tufty. He though I'd said Cathy instead of Tufty and it stuck. Anyway... If you remember back to when she was ringed, she only weighed 500gr. I weighed her again this afternoon to see how she's getting on but she still only weights 550gr. A small increase but she's got a way to go before she back to normal. Lots more food for Cathy!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Buzzed off

RSPB staff picked up a dead Buzzard from Weymouth way this afternoon which gave a great opportunity to practice aging them. Only a ringer would be excited by this dead buzzard but obviously its a shame to see such a superb animal not flying around Radipole lake anymore. It had been clipped by a car which broke its wing but that was the only damage (except for it being dead!) so the bird was good condition (again, except for it being dead).

The bird was quite easily aged as a 5 (a bird hatched last calendar year) due to the pale edges to the coverts and no moult limit in the secondaries and primaries. This bird would have started to moult its juvenile feathers in the spring but sadly it ain't going to get the chance. It also had a fairly pale iris which is another juvenile feature. Hopefully I am not talking rubbish as I've only ever ringed one buzzard. If there anyone out there that know better than me please get in touch! Anyway, here's a few photos.

Also worth mentioning whilst I'm blogging. I went out last night on another Woodcock ringing session but there weren't any to be found. In fact there were hardly any birds! The only to targetable birds were two snipe, both of which I caught.

This was a picture from the 3rd December in case anyone is trying to read the date on my notebook!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Just two to go!

Had a pretty successful morning at Radipole Lake this morning with the Radipole ringing group (well.. Terry and Derek). Before this morning we needed to ring 9 more Tufted Duck to get to the 300 mark. After this mornings ringing we now need just 2!! Derek concentrated on catching the tufties using the 'get your arms very wet' technique. Whilst I chipped in with a single Tufted duck, 3 Coot and a Black headed Gull. It was very interesting to see a lot of 'new' Tufted Duck around, obviously displaced from somewhere by something.

Coots were all colour ringed as normal using a white ring with a green two letter code.  Coots are feisty birds and this one was no exception!

And finally here's the Black headed Gull. Notice the blue sky, haven't seen that for a while!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Good end to a good day

After a very pleasant morning in Devon I ventured out this evening for another go at Woodcock. There weren't many around, only 3 possibly 4 but i couldn't get near to most. There could have been a few reasons as to why they were so spooky, it could have been the very small moon providing enough light for the lamp not to be as effective. Could have been the Barn Owl (which was a year tick) which was quartering the fields or most likely was that there could have a shoot somewhere nearby earlier today. I suppose most shoots happen on Saturdays so I am going to blame that instead of my lamping skills. Despite the birds not doing what they should I still managed to catch one.

Thought I'd take a picture of the birds back which forms most of its camouflage. Imagine that in some leaf litter and it would disappear!

This bird was very calm in the hand and even sat on my hand for a while before I placed it on the ground for release!

I've mentioned Woodcock a couple of times on the blog so far but haven't mention why I make quite a lot of effort to ring them. My trainer Steve and myself are members of the Woodcock network which is an organisation which is trying to find more about this species. Its one of the lease understood species to occur regularly in the UK so by ringing as many as possible we are finding out about where these birds come from. The networks website can explain it much better than I can so have a look at and if your a ringer interested in ringing Woodcock please get in touch!

Canon Netting on the Axe

Spent the morning with the Axe Estuary Ringing Group which as the name suggests, ring on the Axe estuary in east Devon. The aim was to catch wildfowl with a canon net on the edge of a pool which is baited daily with loads of wheat. After the briefing at 7:30 we headed out towards the catch site but was greeted of news that there wasn't many birds about. Their last catch a few weeks ago was nearly 200 birds so everyone's hopes were high but in the end we settled for just 8 birds. If i remember rightly it was 5 Wigeon, 2 Shelduck and a Moorhen. I managed to get my hands on 2 Wigeon and a Shelduck both of which were new species for me! Here's a few pics of the mornings proceedings.

This last photo show the wing of the Shelduck. This bird was an adult male and is now wearing a nice new colour ring. Keep and eye for it!!

Mike Tyler the Axe Estuary Ringing Group leader very kindly sent through this picture of everyone this morning. Really wondered whether to post it as after all I am trying to increase readership, not put people off! Only Joking!!! They were a great bunch of people and I am really looking forward to meeting up with them again.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Lamping I did go

Eventually decided that I would try to do a bit of ringing this evening even though conditions were not ideal for lamping. It was calm, dry and the sky was clearing which sounds a perfect night to most, but to a Woodcock ringer those conditions mean tricky catching. I was pretty keen none the less as I haven't been out with the lamp for several weeks.

Spotted a Woodcock early on but unfortunately he (or she) was a runner. Sometimes birds when caught in the beam start wandering instead of squatting down on the ground. These birds often fly off which is exactly what this one did. There was nothing else to see in that field so onto the next I went. There appeared to be nothing in it except of a few ducks on a large pool but then I came across a Lapwing. Duly caught it and fitted it with nice new shiny ring and stole a few biometrics (measurements in other words), this was quickly followed by another. This bird was quite a bit lighter than the previous which caused a little concern but it went away fine and flew strongly down the field.

My best Woodcock field was yet to come but on approaching it I noticed several hundred eyes lighting up in the beam. The damn sheep were in it! Thankfully I stopped looking at sheep (hard for a Welshman...) clapped eyes on this little beauty.

Its my first of the year and hopefully the first of many. This one even posed for a picture on release, very kind of it indeed except for the fact that it almost few into my head as it flew off!

Tame Tuftie

I have been ringing Wildfowl with the Radipole Ringing Group ( for about a year now but I've never encountered a Tufted Duck so easy to catch. This bird was initially picked up on the bridge near the RSPB visitor centre at Radipole. I thought it had got itself stranded on there and couldn't take off. I checked it over and popped a ring on it (cheers to Terry Coombs for coming over with a ring!) before letting it go back on the water. It swam off fine showing no sign of injury, great!

This afternoon the bird reappeared on the bridge and was following the mallard and coot everywhere they went. A bit of wheat and the bird was my best friend, I couldn't get rid of the damn thing! At one point it wandered into the visitor centre then followed me back out. In the end I picked it up and put it back on the water! It does make you wonder whether its an escapee but it was quite light when we weighed the bird during processing. If i remember rightly it was about 500 grammes which is a couple of hundred lower than normal. So perhaps that explains its tameness??

Currently thinking about going out lamping Woodcock tonight, will post some pics if i am successful.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Blogging whilst slightly drunk

Probably not a good idea but I'll have a go anyway. I apologies in advance for any speillinfg mistakes!

A few work colleuges (or is it colleagues??) and friends spend a Tuesday evening trying to answer tricky and mischievous questions set by the quiz master at the Rock Inn. If its of interest to anyone  on the interweb I'll endeavour to post out final position on the blog every week. This week i won't bother as we did shi..... oh, I'd better swear on me new blog. We didn't do very well, fingers crossed for next week.

I promise the next post will be about birds!

Over and out

That dreaded first post

Thought I'd start by giving you a run down of my life so far in sunny Dorset. As you may have guessed from the blog title, I am a taff birder living in Dorset. I work for the RSPB at their famous Radipole lake reserve which is right in the heart of Weymouth, though i am not sure Weymouth has a heart? But if it does its certainly Radipole Lake.

I've been living hear just over a year and loving the laid back attitude of the county. I've been able to fulfil a life times ambition to become a ringer. My first year in Weymouth got a point where I could apply for my 'C' permit which is basically half way to being a fully fledged (excuse the pun) ringer. It does however allow me to ring on my own!

So to start my new blog how about a picture of a bird i ringed on a recent trip back to land of my fathers (though I only have one!), a Marsh tit. A fairly common bird in Dorset and is sadly just one of those brown boring birds but this species i pretty rare bird back in old home town of Glyn Ebwy (Ebbw Vale in Wenglish). It was the first one I've ever ringed so you can imagine how chuffed I was to catch one back home!