Monday, 10 December 2012

Better late than never.

Cast your minds back to October 2011 where you may recall me mentioning a Lesser Redpoll I trapped at Clouds Hill which was already ringed? OK, it’s a while ago so perhaps not but a few days ago I finally found out it origins! I captured it on the 13th October 2011 and it was originally ringed 13 days previously in North Somerset which was a distance of 92km. Recoveries usually come back much sooner than this one so not sure of what the hold up was but I was very happy to get the details back as it was my first recovery at Clouds Hill.
Think this is the bird? Or at least it’s the photo I used in the blog post back last year...

Another recent recovery was of a Willow Warbler caught at Radipole Lake back in July 2010. It was found in Portugal, 1573km away but sadly dead. Still good stuff though!
Recent ringing has been a little quiet. Nets in my garden produced yet another Firecrest and a Great Spotted Woodpecker which was a little odd given that I haven’t seen one in the garden before. Just goes to show that with a net up you discover all sorts of things you didn’t know!
Here’s the Firecrest.

Yesterday I was with the Axe Estuary ringing group for another canon netting session which was successful. 60 birds caught, half of which were Shelduck. Mallard, Wigeon and 4 Moorhen made up the rest of the catch. Cheers Mike and the team for another good session!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Whooooo... your crest is on fire!

As the Kings of Leon sang...

Trapped and ringed two Firecrest in the garden this morning. There have been a few around for the past few weeks. A nice calm frosty morning prompted me to pop up a net at my feeders in the hope of them being busy. For some reason my garden feeders weren't at all busy so the Firecrests made up the bulk of the catch this morning however a male Bullfinch made it into the totals.
Here’s a proper picture of one of the little chaps.

As part of work I’ve been keeping an eye on some Peregrines in Dorchester which put on a brilliant show. Took this the other day.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A busy day

It all started at 5am when we (Steve, his trainee Teresa and myself) headed off to Seaton for the first canon net catch of the winter. A few visits to the catch site by Axe Estuary group volunteers a few days ago revealed a reasonable number of ducks using the site. Overnight frost must have brought in a few extras as the catch was a very respectable 105 birds. Just three species were caught but whose complaining when there’s plenty of Wigeon and Teal to go around!

After a mighty breakfast in Seaton we headed back to Weymouth and before we went our separate ways talked about the possibility of catching a few wagtails this evening. As you can gather from my last post, my last attempt didn’t got that well so I was very pleased to pull off decent catch with Teresa and Steve. 41 Pied Wagtails caught, 39 of which now have colour rings. Also got a re-trap Cetti’s Warbler and a new Robin.
I’ve finally sat down with a cup of tea though I’m pretty sure I’m going to get dragged away from the computer any second to watch the Strictly dancing rubbish.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

An interesting Wagtail catch

This evening I decided to give the Pied Wagtail roost at Radipole a try as they have recently been roosting a few hundred yards from my current net site on the reserve. The evening went really well except for the lack of wagtails in the net. In fact, I only caught one! They insisted on roosting in their favourite spot... a few hundred yards from the nets. However, I did catch in the 50 minute session 2 Cetti’s Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Robin, 2 Wren, 1 Reed Bunting and this rather handsome chappy.

There were plenty in the area so might try a few more evenings as Bearded Tits are something of mystery with their movements so the more with the rings on the better. They are still showing signs of dispersing which I think is quite late in the season for this to be happening still. A few more evenings targeting the wagtails is certainly on the cards as well, especially as there were over 300 there this evening. A good size catch will really help our colour ringing this autumn!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A last flurry of finches

Have been managing to get out on the fleet most mornings this week before work though visits haven’t been particularly productive. Ringing totals certainly suggest that we are pretty much at the tail end of the autumn migration though Finches have still been trickling overhead. Abbotsbury produced 4 Redpoll yesterday morning and Clouds Hill produced another one this morning. All Lesser Redpolls though but nothing wrong with that!

A couple of Redpoll tails, firstly one belonging to a 1st winter bird. Secondly, one of an adult. Note the rounded tips on the adult and the pointy tips on the 1st winter bird.

Bramblings still seem to be going over in numbers, this morning another 12 went over which was a fair percentage of the mornings finch migration. Haven’t managed to catch any though!
This morning saw a couple of scarcities at Clouds Hill. The morning started with a very early rising Lapland Bunting which appeared to have spent the night in the adjacent field (suppose they roost on the ground?) before heading off up the fleet. Then later a female Long-tailed Duck flew past the ringing station towards the Swannery but clearly didn’t make it that far as I flushed if from the edge of the fleet whilst taking down a net later in the morning. It unfortunately if went straight over the beach and out to sea so must apologise to duck for disturbing it.
No photo of the Duck but here’s a Chaffinch as compensation...

Monday, 5 November 2012

Brambling along...

All a little bit quiet on the ringing front this morning which was somewhat of a surprise given the light NE wind and a large bank of cloud through the English Channel which would have stopped anything thinking about heading over it. Caught 4 new Robins and a Song Thrush on the first net round not long after first light and then all went quiet except for a few of the resident Wrens and a Dunnock later on. Overhead passage was largely made up of finches and it was quite busy. Between 6am and 8am an impressive 35 Brambling in total went over plus several which roosted overnight in Clouds Hill. About 250 Chaffinch also went over, plus at least 80 Goldfinch and about a dozen Redpolls. Meadow Pipits were also on the move. Highlight of the morning was a Firecrest which avoided the nets. They are quite scarce at Clouds Hill compared to nearby Abbotsbury Swannery though the habitats are quite different so perhaps that’s not such a surprise.
Hopefully more to report over the next few days.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Can't beat a bit of bully

Despite a pretty dodgy weather forecast I ventured out onto the fleet a little bit before first light in the hope of doing a bit of ringing. Some net rides were fairly sheltered so I decided to give it a try though distant thunder and lightning had me a little concerned but thankfully it passed me by but managed to hit Portland where I’m sure there were several eager ringers waiting for the weather to pass.
The morning proved worthwhile as just under 30 birds were trapped, not all new birds as the resident Long-tailed Tit flock arrived with several carrying rings from last Autumn. Nice to know they are still about. A Bullfinch (which I forgot to take a photo of) was a nice capture, my first there this autumn (not that I’ve been at clouds hill much this autumn) but little else in the way of new arrivals. A few Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were also caught but all the Robins from Tuesdays visit were long gone. As had the Ring Ouzels and other thrushes. Strong westerlies look set in for a next week so probably no big arrivals of finches or thrushes are on the cards.
A shot of one of the Chiffchaffs this morning. Would have been a picture of the Bullfinch which would have been much more fitting given my choice of blog title but as I said early, I forgot to get the camera out! Chiffchaffs are nice though...

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

It's been a while!

As you may have noticed, It’s been quite a while since my last post. Since then and now some pretty crap things have happened, crappest of all was my friend, house mate and colleague past away back at the start of September. Nick Quintrell was an amazing bloke confirmed last night at a memorial evening held at Radipole last night where nearly one hundred people turn up to pay their respects. There’s a cracking blog post on the RSPB blog which contains  memories and tributes to Nick, its well worth a read.

Birding was almost non-existent through September and ringing was pretty much limited to a goldcrest and a blue tit one morning in my garden but life is starting to get back on track and  I got back Saturday from having a week on Lundy. I went for the first time last autumn and had a great week though we saw nothing amazingly crippling. This visit was quite different, full of hope after seeing a forecast for stiff easterly winds for much of the week. In reality this ended up preventing us from ringing and birding was quite tricky at times with near gale force winds doing their best to unsteady my binoculars. However a few goodies did show up. A Little Bunting was skulking around in a field behind the church,  Lapland Bunting and Snow Bunting added a bit of interest however the biggy of the week unfortunately was one that got away. I flushed a very grey looking thrush from some juncus one afternoon. Instantly I thought Black-throated Thrush. It quickly went back down into cover but out of sight. A few minutes later it flushed again but this time with some redwings which resulted in it flying off with them. Views were limited to flight views as it went away from me except for a moment when I saw some rather white flanks. But frustratingly no other features were seen so this one will have to fade away into a distant memory.

Ringing was a little quiet but was great to catch a reasonable number of Redwing which I rather stupidly managed to not take any pictures of! Did take a picture of this Redstart though.

This eastern type Chiffchaff was nice to see. Showed quite a few tristis features but it decided to keep its beak shut on release and every other time I saw it in the field.

Possibly the highlight for me was my first Brambling in the hand! About time…

Whilst away I’ve managed to miss a Portland purple patch with the likes of a Durian Shrike, Subapline Warbler, Barred Warbler, Siberian Stonechat  showing up and a mystery warbler which remained a mystery to many birders during its short stay in a garden in Southwell.
Yesterday morning I went out to clouds hill for an early morning ringing session which got me just under 30 birds. Mainly Robins, Goldcrests and Blackbirds. Three Ring Ouzels were about but not near any of the nets! 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Back to Clouds hill for another autumn

It’s been quite a busy day and it’s not even 4 o’clock yet! This morning I have my first proper session at Clouds Hill where the ringing gods (whoever they are) eased me in gently. 32 birds caught, most of which were migrants though several Dunnocks made it onto the list which is probably a sign of things to come.  A Lesser Whitethroat was first out of the net.

Followed by several Whitethroats along with Blackcaps and Willow Warblers.

I then had to pop into work for a couple of hours but on returning home took a call about this amazing thing on Portland!

I’ve been wanting to see one of these for ages so glad it stuck around long enough for me to get there.
Lastly, I took the opportunity to get a few more picture of last nights weird Wagtail prior to release this morning. Interesting looking thing.

Almost certainly a Blue-headed Wagtail but my mind started exploring other more exotic wagtails, especially when compared with this other probably Blue-headed Wagtail also caught last night.

These birds are a bit of a mystery to me!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The future is Bright... the future is Yellow (not orange!)

I can’t put this off any longer, I’m going to have to post. So much has happened in the last week and nearly every evening has been taken up by ringing (not that I’m complaining!). This last week has seen a sudden increase in Yellow Wagtails at Abbotsbury and thankfully its coincided with good weather. This has allowed to get out that last four nights which has yielded well over 400 Wagtails caught and ringed! Fingers crossed the good weather continues and we keep catching! The catch has contained a few interesting birds, a few which appear to have blue coming through on the head. These birds are presumably ‘flava’? However I wouldn’t know where to start with this bird from this evening!

I can’t post this evening without mentioning a mega rarity which is currently (probably as I type) over at Lodmoor. It started life as a Long billed Dowitcher which didn’t get me scurrying across but a few days later a transformed into a Short billed Dowitcher which is a damn sight rarer! In fact only the second for Britain! Quite possibly the bird of the decade for the Weymouth reserves!
Unfortunately this picture doesn’t quite do it justice but its all I’ve got!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Lesser Emperor - Round two.

This afternoon I seem to have managed the impossible. I got a picture of the Lesser Emperor which was again frequenting Radipole today. Its appearances were rather sparse today as they were yesterday and opportunities to photograph it lasted roughly three seconds each time but this was result!

Well you can at least see what it is... just!

A few moths pics

As sort of promised yesterday, here are a few moth pictures.
Jersey Tiger is a regular in the trap at this time of year; in fact there were four in the trap this morning.

Willow Ermine from yesterday. First record at Radipole which usually just means that someone’s not managed to ID one before but this could be an immigrant rather than a local. Saying that, the ermines are a tricky group to ID so hope I’m right!

Caught this species last night though this photo was taken back in Wales about 5 years. It imitates birds poo which is a pretty good way of stopping birds from eating you! Its a Chinese Character by the way.

One final one, not caught locally but one for any mothers who have the time to read my garble to ponder over. Picture not especially sharp as it was taken indoors on a rainy day.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

It's been a month but I'm back!

This is the first post for a while but think of the last month like some sort of summer holiday or something. It’s been rather quiet on the bird front and works been rather eventful but today I immersed myself back into the life of a naturalist. No, I didn’t strip off and head for the beach (that a naturist!) instead I went ringing which was rather dire to say the least. Every year we monitor Radipole Lake for Aquatic Warbler which in the past has proved worthwhile. However the last few years have seen something of a lull in records so my hope was that I can end this Aquatic drought. A session this morning saw just seven birds caught (non of which were Aquatic Warbler obviously) which is a lot less than what you’d expect for the time of year. Hopefully things will pick up!
Got back from ringing and got stuck in the moth trap where the first Jersey Tiger of the season obliged. As well as that there were plenty of other things so see including Radipole’s first Willow Ermine. Will possibly add photo’s another day.
Then headed off to work down at the Radipole visitor centre where the day really went crazy. My first and Radipole’s first Lesser Emperor appeared in front of me whilst standing on the visitor centre bridge! Couldn’t quite believe it at first and after blurting out several swear words I managed to explain to the people next to me that I wasn’t mad, I had just found a rather rare Dragonfly!
A rather neat little twitched developed (three of us!) but it remained elusive for several hours much to the frustration of some! I didn’t have my camera and nobody else managed a photo which leaves me with a slight dilemma. Should I steal one of the internet?? Nah... I won’t bother.

Monday, 9 July 2012

An ecological disaster?

Well, apparently not. Though this weather is really getting on my tits now! The scenes around Weymouth have been quite extraordinary during the last 24 hours. The biggest disaster of course is the flooding of the Olympic park and ride drop off point. Well it is if you read the local and national papers and have seen the news coverage. How the hell can a bloody car park flooding be bigger news than a whole ecosystem being wiped out? Marsh Harriers chicks... gone. Countless Reed and Sedge Warbler nests... gone. Bearded Tit nests... gone. Thousands of inverts... gone. Reptiles and tons of small mammals... you’ve guessed it, gone.
This shot is of the concrete bridge at Radipole!

OK, this type of thing does happen from time to time and we just have ride it through and obviously the wildlife will recover eventually but it really does annoy how oblivious most of Weymouth was to the devastation unfold before their eyes.
Whilst at Lodmoor yesterday and this morning I was amazed that even birders were oblivious to the carnage right in front of them. Whilst there yesterday assessing the tern island situation (which was very bad) a birder wanders in and asked where the White-winged Black Tern was. I said that I had been counting tern chicks that were having to swim around desperately trying to find somewhere to pitch up rather than looking for the other tern. Instead of him saying something like ‘Oh God, that a disaster’ he said something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I’ll got further down the path to look for the Black Tern’. Admittedly, most birder I’m sure noticed what was going on but that just got to me!
In protest I’m not going to post a picture of the White-winged Black Tern but instead here’s a shot of some of the surviving Common Tern chicks at Lodmoor which managed to make to a bit of dry land.

Monday, 2 July 2012

When all's quiet

Turn to moths. I’ve not run a trap much this year (or last for that matter) but it’s now back to being a permanent feature in the garden. Last night was a half decent night with a few nice species. Only migrants were a single Dark Sword Grass and a Silver Y but the moth of the night award went to a Dingy Shears which is a localised species in Dorset.

This time of year is normally very quiet for birds so I maybe resorting to moths to keep this blog alive and kicking over the next few weeks until the onslaught of migrant birds flood to Dorset on their return journey. Well… I hope, but considering the bad weather I doubt there’ll be that many fledglings making their first migration this year. Fingers crossed I’m proved wrong!

Friday, 29 June 2012

A wanderer from Wales?

Just back from Lodmoor having seen my second Dorset Gull-billed Tern.  This bird is presumably the one which has been present in South Wales the last few days so nice of it to wander down here. Forgot the camera but thankfully I’ve still got  a picture of one from 2010 which was present on the fleet at Abbotsbury and nearby Abbotsbury beach.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Back to the Breakwater

A year ago we had our first voyage to Portland harbour breakwater to ring gull pulli. This year’s visit was somewhat unsure earlier in the year, largely due to that sailing competition that’s happening in a few weeks’ time. Despite all that we were allowed back over this ‘summer’ which was sure to be an interesting visit due to the recent awful weather. There were plenty of nests about but chicks were few and far between. Herring Gulls seemed to have suffered quite badly with several cold eggs in nests but Great black backed Gulls seemed to fair better. However, last years visit was something of a learning curve in finding gull pulli. So the fact that more pulli were found this year compared to last could just a case of the team being better at finding them! They get into some rediculous cracks and caves in the rock armour.

This was one of the Great black backed Gull pulli.

And they bite!

Over 70 Great black backs were ringed in total with a lot fewer Herring Gull. In fact, I believe it could be less than 20 but I haven’t got all the data. A good number of both species were colour ringed but I rather stupidly didn’t take a photo of the rings we were using. The GBBG’s were white rings with Red codes. They start with the letter P followed by one of these, :, then two numbers and a letter.  The Herring Gulls are black rings with a three digit numerical white code which we also use on hand caught fully grown Herring Gulls in Weymouth.

Huge thanks for the Harbour Authority and Terry Coombs for arranging the visit. Finally here’s a shot of the team before we got covered in gull poo!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Ain't it sweet!

Just when you thought this blog had completely gone off the rails I go post a gem of a picture like this!

It’s a House Martin pullus (baby chick to most) which was one of seven ringed from artificial nest boxes on a house in Dorchester. If you don’t believe me (absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t though…) here’s a picture of me up a ladder!

Also I’ve recently been gauping at a few nice Orchids. I managed to locate an ‘atrofuscus’ Bee Orchid on Radipole which has been known at the site for the last four years but the one I found was at a completely new location to where they’ve occurred before. Two more have since popped up at two other locations on the reserve. I also found another variety on a roadside verge very close to Radipole. Its apparently called ‘belgarum’ which is basically more yellow than a normal Bee Orchid. Nice to see but give me birds any day!

Here’s the atrofuscus

And here’s the belgarum.

Off ringing some Gull pulli tomorrow so look forward to photos of me covered in gull crap!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Its too hard to think of a title

This isn’t going to be a particularly long blog given that I could fall asleep at any second following a weekend at my first music festival of the summer. T’was a rather quiet festival compared to some I’ve been to but still very enjoyable none the less.  A conversation with the current lead singer of Hawkwind was a memorable moment as was discovering the Irish legends that are the Saw Doctors. How the hell have I managed to miss these. Damn my age!

Anyway, just before I set off last week I met up with fellow ringer Andy Daw up at Kingston Maurward to follow up a visit we made a few weeks previous to check some Barn Owl boxes. A few boxes had eggs last time so we were hopeful of a few chicks. As you can see there were some!

Six were ringed in total from two nests plus we ringed a couple of Stock Dove which had moved into some of the boxes.

One box contained Kestrel eggs last time and this time it contained 5 rather small Kestrel chicks. They weren’t big enough to ring so we’ll have to pop back in a couple of weeks.

That’s I’m afraid.  I’m off for a nap!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Where do I start!

Well, there’s been long distance twitching,

There’s been doorstep twitching,

There’s been pulli ringing,

Though some a bit big to ring!

I’d better back track. The first shot is of ’the’ Cream coloured Courser which of course isn’t a type of car (that jokes been done to death). I say ‘the’ as by now any respectable birder and many readers of this blog would have heard about this bird which was present in Herefordshire for a few days a week or so ago. The twitch was a rather epic one and thanks to Brett for putting his ace driving skills to good use. We got there with just a glimmer of sun left but the long journey was worth it! My photo’s don’t do it justice so you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was a real stunner! This shot shows how close the bird was to Wales.

A rather atmospheric shot of Brett taking in the stunning Herefordshire countryside which was all around us.

The ‘doorstep’ twitch concerned a Great Reed Warbler which sang at Radipole for a few days and the rather loud croaky song was audible from my bedroom window! Not bad eh?

Recent ringing has been largely restricted to pulli (chicks). Plenty of tit pulli plus a few Pied Wagtail and Blackbirds which is the rather ugly looking chick in the above photo. The other is a Great Tit which has almost certainly fledged by now.

I promise not neglect my blog for so long ever again!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Post BBQ blogging

Completely exhausted after a day out ringing on the Lulworth army ranges but what better way to perk yourself up than a few pints of cider (good stuff not that canned rubbish with the bow and arrow on it) and a BBQ in the garden. So I’m now stuffed and slightly drunk but that won’t stop me blogging! Today’s visit to the ranges was mainly to catch up with more Dartford Warblers to continue our RAS study but we also bagged a new species for me!  A Stonechat!

Obviously not the first I’ve ever seen but the first I have ringed. It was a 3J (a recently fledged bird) and was one of several out and about exploring their new and exciting world, well I guess its all very exciting for them with it being new and all... Also, found a Pied Wagtail nest with 5 eggs, plus watched a few pairs of Woodlark collecting food which is a sure sign they have chicks and the first tit pulli got ringed. The first of many given the good uptake of the nest boxes this year.
A visit to the ranges last night got a few more Dartfords colour ringed and we also got our first Nightjar of the season. Fingers crossed for the some decent weather over the next couple of weeks to allow for a bit more Nightjaring.

Monday, 7 May 2012

You'll really like this one.

I’ve let a few days go by without blogging for which I am sincerely sorry.  To make up for this here’s the premier of a sequel to the farting teal video posted a month or two ago. If you have no or only a slight sense of humour it’s probably not worth watching…

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Purple Patch

Clouds hill continued to produce the goods yesterday morning when a Hoopoe appeared as I got to the site. It was still dark and if it hadn’t have flown I wouldn’t have been able to see what it was! Got a record shot but had to use the flash and manual focus.

Thankfully later I managed another shot which at least allows you to appreciate how great Hoopoes are!

Whilst ringing another rarity popped up, this time a Serin. To be honest I can’t say I saw it as such (well, a black dot) but heard it calling as I went over.  A Serin was also reported from Abbotsbury beach but not sure if that was before or after my encounter. The ringing wasn’t especially busy but Whitethroats and Blackcaps kept me busy for an hour or two at first light but it quickly quietened down.

This morning’s efforts were put on hold for a few hours because of the rain but it proved rather quiet with very few grounded migrants about. Hirundines were still on the move in decent number with most sticking around and feeding along the fleet.  A few Spotted Flycatchers provided a bit of quality as did a Cuckoo which was singing first thing. The highlight in the nets was this Garden Warbler which is my first (and well overdue!) of the spring.