Thursday, 28 July 2011

Pre-festival Blog

Later today, I am off to another music festival so thought I would get a blog out as there won’t be an opportunity until next week. Last night we went back down to the Swannery where Wagtails were the target. The birds were pretty determined to roost about 100yrds away from the ringing ride, which meant only a few were caught. Nevertheless, some are better than none! I mentioned before about colour ringed Pied Wagtails, there are three projects running in the UK focussing on identification of White Wagtail, particularly in autumn when young birds move through the UK. My first autumn of ringing was pretty much made up of Wagtails as that season we colour ringed about 700! Last year was a bit of a disaster as the autumn weather messed up our busiest few weeks but this year we have decided to start early to make sure we end up on a good season total. White aren’t coming through yet but its interesting to see birds in juvenile plumage before their post juvenile moult. We usually see them in October when birds are easier (although not easy) to assign to a race. The birds we were catching were almost certainly all Pieds though by looking at plumage you would struggle be sure. Here’s a photo of the ring sequences we are using. Every wagtail has a different combination but you get the idea.
Right leg. Two different (or could be some colour on some birds) colour rings.

Left Leg. Metal ring below a colour ring.

Whilst waiting for the wags to roost we stuck up a small net in the withies where a couple more Willow Warbler were caught and this little beauty. I haven’t seen many of these in the hand so was quite a pleasure. It is of course a Garden Warbler.

This morning we were back in the reed beds at the Swannery for the third morning in a row. Another 80 birds caught, mainly Sedge Warbler. Next week we are planning to blitz the place as we’ve just got about 500 rings courtesy of a grant. I suspect they won’t last long as we’ve ringed well over 200 birds in three days and the sedge season isn’t even in full swing!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Reed Ringing

This morning Steve and I found ourselves back in the reed beds at Abbotsbury Swannery. Thankfully no wind this time which lead to a decent mornings ringing. Willow Warblers were still reasonable numbers in the withies but Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler made up most of an 80 bird catch. The second bird out of the net was a French ringed Sedge which was a great way to start the session and we finished with a little flurry of seven different species in one net! Highlight of the morning was a Gropper.

Vis mig wasn’t particularly obvious this morning compared to yesterday when several Yellow Wags went over plus a small party of Crossbill. A few small groups of Goldfinch passed over though these could easily be local birds. Hirundine passage was also very slow compared to yesterday.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Catch Up

Things have suddenly got quite busy down this part of the world. Last Saturday was the Abbotsbury Swan round up which was an amazing thing to see. 771 Mute Swan were caught and processed, though I don’t know how many of those birds were new. Quite a few of the un-ringed birds made it to our ringing station where several very keen trainee ringers worked their asses off and processed about 35 birds each with about half being un-ringed birds. Thankfully they did all the hard work which meant I only did about half a dozen Swans but the other guys had travelled much further than me plus I’ll get plenty of other opportunities to ring Swans over the next few months. After the round up I had the pleasure of ringing with some of Cardiff’s finest (bird ringers that it). Their exploits can be found at which claims to be ‘probably the best bird ringing blog in Cardiff...’ not sure about that myself but worth a look.
Anyway, here’s some photos of the days goings on.

Thankfully a few people in the catch pen remembered that there’s also value in ringing anything else that gets rounded up. We ended up with three Coot, two of which are shown here with Petra and Ollie.

As well as Swan catching, there’s been some twitching that needed doing. Sadly no pictures of either species. An attempt for a Paddyfield Warbler resulted in a dip (hence no pictures) and a Stilt Sandpiper at Lodmoor was just too distant to bother. The Stilt Sand was my second as I saw an adult at a similar time of year in Gloucestershire about five years ago.
This morning I finally got out and did some mist netting. Got to Abbotsbury to find that the wind was too strong to put the reed nets up. Therefore I concentrated my efforts on the withies where it became obvious very quickly that there’d been a fall of Willow Warblers overnight. We don’t catch many at the Swannery so a catching of about 25 this morning was quite something! The wind eased as the morning progressed allowing me to put a few nets up in the reeds which boosted my mornings total to exactly 50 birds. Interestingly this was the only adult bird caught all morning! 

And finally, here’s a shot of a Willow Warbler. I will be back out in the morning with Steve, fingers crossed its calmer than this morning!

Almost forgot to mention that yesterday evening the first Pied Wags of the autumn were colour ringed at Abbotsbury. I’ll mention this again shortly but anyone around Weymouth (and further afield) keep your eye’s peeled for colour ringed Wags. This year birds will have one colour about the metal ring on the left leg and two colour rings on the right. Could be anyone of the below colours.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Back to normality

I have just about recovered from six days at the Larmer tree festival up on the Dorset/Wiltshire border. Some great acts, some hilarious comedy and met some great people. I've come back to yet more Harrier news. Three fledglings at Radipole! But that all changed again today when suddenly four were seen all at one time. When this happened I was luckily very close to Lodmoor where I shot off to confirm that there were still two fledging there. I had thought that perhaps a Lodmoor chick may have already made it Radipole but thankfully two fledglings were sitting in their favourite trees. So in total we have six fledged Harriers which would have been completely absurd only three years ago! What an amazing nature reserve we have right in the middle of a town!

Here's some shots from yesterday of the bravest chick who made it all the way from the nest to the hide.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Harrier number two please

Was at a loose end this evening after a long day working at the Seafood festival in Weymouth. Plenty of incredible smells wafted around the harbour but as I was working alone none could be tasted. Was an interesting day as my stand was next to Leslie Waters who will be well known by any ready steady cook fan! It took me about three hours to realise who she was so obviously I can’t be watching enough ready steady cook. I must admit that I don’t even know if that programme is still going? I see Ainsley Harriott has moved on to do Premier Inn adds... or is that Lenny Henry? I am always confusing the two.
Anyway, I have completely diverted from the first sentence where I was going to say that I spent another couple of hours at Radipole’s North Hide this evening where I was hoping to see more than one juv Marsh Harrier flying around. To cut a long story short, I saw two! It looks pretty much like the first one hence the photo’s being pretty much exactly the same so here’s two photos of mum and dad. Dad’s been pretty tricky to catch up with recently but he showed well this evening.


I probably won’t be posting for a little while as there’s a music festival I have to go to for the RSPB (works rubbish ain’t it!) so will be ‘living it up’ all next week. Might bore you with some picture on my return.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

They did it!

After many hours watching and photographing the adult Marsh Harriers this summer, I now have a few extras to photograph! You’ve guessed it, the first Marsh Harrier chick fledged at Radipole this evening at about 18:20. Here’s the little beauty.

I wasn’t planning on going to the hide this evening but changed my mind when another birder text me to say how regularly food was being brought in through the afternoon. He had also heard the chicks calling and squabbling over food. This prompted me to go down and after about 30 minute of watching mum, the youngster came leaping out of the nest site, flew round for a few second and crashed straight back into the nest. 20 minutes later it tried again and was much more successful this time and made several loops around the north end of the reserve before just about making it back to the nest before its wings gave in.
I was over at Lodmoor earlier today hoping to see some fledglings but only saw the female going to nest with food but these must be on the brink of fledging as well.
I’ll finish off with a picture of a very proud first time mum.

Friday, 1 July 2011

A Weymouth Stone Curlew

This weird looking thing was over at Lodmoor this evening. Got a call saying there was a possible Stone Curlew but thinking that nobody could mistake a Stone Curlew for anything I headed straight over. I was greeted to decent scope views before it flew off further out onto the moor. A nice way to end a days work I think you would agree!

You might have to click the pictures to enlarge them slightly. The bird was pretty distant!