Monday, 26 March 2012

Not another Acronym...

Yesterday saw the start of a brand new study on a species very special species to Dorset, the Dartford Warbler. The BTO runs several surveys, one of which now has a brand new study species.

RAS (retrapping adults for survival) aims to monitor population trends with an easily targetable species. Dartford Warblers are not too difficult to catch (under license of course!) and are visible enough to monitor throughout the breeding season. We are aiming to colour ring as many adults as possible and then work too re-sight birds throughout the season. Over the coming years we’ll be able to see how the study population fluctuates with the winter weather and also see how site faithful Dartford Warblers are.  

Yesterday’s session was pretty successful with 7 males being trapped and ringed.  Most patches of gorse had a male Dartford on territory with 10 being found altogether yesterday. Another visit should produce something similar as there’s still lots of gorse to stare at on the Lulworth Army Ranges (LAR perhaps?) which is where the study will be taking place.

Most information can be found about the RAS study at the BTO website.

A Willow Warbler...

A visit to Clouds hill yesterday got a much needed first of the year. A rather lovely Willow Warbler. I have heard the odd one over at Arne before yesterday but this one was the first I’d actually seen. This is my first spring at Clouds hill so will be very interesting to see what comes through. Last autumn was pretty decent so things shouldn’t be too dissimilar this spring. During the session I also got 6 Chiffchaff which wasn’t bad considering the clear skies and moderate NE breeze which messes up a few of my net rides.

Here’s a shot of the lovely little yellow critter.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

You'll like this... I promise!

Whilst watching the Harriers yesterday evening this Teal was having real trouble with his bowels…

Oh god, not harriers again!

This time last year I raised the rather controversial issue of Marsh Harrier plumage which went all out of control and unnecessary (although now good mates with some involved). So why am I raising the subject again? Well, it’s interesting, it provokes healthy discussion about a brilliant species and best of all it gets people talking about that fact that you can see Marsh Harriers in the middle of bloody Weymouth!

Last year I said that I thought that the male at Radipole and Lodmoor was a ‘dark morph’ male Marsh Harrier. This isn’t technically true (dark morph isn’t the right term to use) but it does show tendencies suggested in a recently published paper which focussed on several birds in France. They claim that males have been retaining ‘female type’ plumage. The only other species noted to do this is the Ruff where female type males can sneak into the leek and mate with females completely unnoticed by the blinged up males. It’s not quite the same with Harriers but a female looking male wouldn’t get the aggressive response of a rival normal male if that male thought it might be a female (if that makes sense??!). This can allow it to go on with its life without attracting undue hassle from other ‘normal looking’ males. This link explains it in sciency type talk.

It’s also very interesting to read that their behaviour is also rather female like as I have observed this at Radipole on several occasions. Last spring when a new female arrived on site, all hell broke loose and the male was bizarrely aggressive towards her. See the post on this blog on Friday 1st April 2011 where I say ‘It looked pretty aggressive at times.’ This was said whilst I was describing the antics of the harriers that day.

Harrier action has been hotting up recently at Radipole with the male back on site looking very similar to how he looked last year which has prompted me to blog about this topic.

He’s been about off and on throughout the winter and I followed him through his moult last autumn so I’m 100% sure this is same male. The same female is back (now a 3rd calendar year bird) and there’s also a 2nd calendar year bird around so will the old female be back this year? Time will tell. This is the returning female.

Might I be so bold to suggest that we’ve had the same male at Radipole since 2009? After staring at photos from 2009 I’m starting to wonder! Comments welcome…

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A fiery weekend at Arne

If you ever find yourself with a weekend spare I can highly recommend that you spend it hanging around RSPB Arne car park. This is what I have been doing recently though I am not hanging around, I am supposed to be working. However this is sometimes quite tricky as there’s just too much to distract you. As a birder, having the sound of singing firecrest in your ear all day can be rather distracting when working. What’s more frustrating though is trying to point out the song to birders who’s ears simply don’t allow them to hear it! They are showy little critters at time as these pictures prove.

Another photo opportunity presented itself today in the form of a rather lovely Siskin.  Stunning little birds and are currently using the feeders around the visitor centre. I rarely have my camera with me when working at Arne but luckily today I did!

Friday, 16 March 2012

And they're off

Spring ringing got started this morning at Clouds hill out on the fleet. Been reading on the web that Portland bird observatory has started catching a few spring migrants so thought it was about time I had a go. On arrival all was quiet so got on with finishing my new net ride. Finished that after a hour or so and timed it well as a few Chiffchaffs arrived. Well... two in fact. Next net round produced both chiffs in the net.
Overhead passage was slow with just a few ‘alba’ Wagtails, about 70 Meadow Pipit which settled briefly in the field next my net site. They were quickly moved along by a female Merlin. Most notable sighting of the morning was a 3rd calendar year male Marsh Harrier (I think, only had brief views) which headed west up the fleet. Wouldn’t be surprised if it dropped into the swannery for a look around.

Monday, 12 March 2012

A few more photo's

To make up for the lack of blogging and to fulfil a promise here’s another photo of the rather nice Sparrowhawk from my Welsh trip

Also whilst I’m blogged in, here’s a rather average picture of a Dipper but Dorset life doesn’t really allow much dipper watching. They used to be in the River Wey but not now-a-days it seems.

And here’s a picture of a Reed Bunting. Not sure entirely why but I almost got stuck in a bog trying to take it.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Worth the wait?

Must apologies for the lack of blogging this week. Wales didn’t really produce the goods except for this gorgeously gorgeous bird caught in my uncles garden along with 25 other tits and things.

Hope the picture was worth waiting for!
Springs starting spring at Radipole, this mornings wander produced at least 7 Chiffchaff, 4 of which were singing away. Plenty of other stuff starting to sing but little sign of other species starting to move. Just a single ‘alba’ Wagtail was the only bird noted overhead.  Both the Glossy Ibis were at the hide briefly before one few of towards Radipole village and went down in the field just north of the bypass. Bitterns are still at Radipole and Lodmoor plus the original first winter Iceland Gull has started becoming a regular again near the visitor centre. Really hoping for my first Sand Martin of the year having missed three at Radipole so far. Surely it will be any day!
This picture was taken morning at Radipole which seems to still have a decent amount of Bearded tits. Fingers crossed for a good breeding season.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Typical welsh weather

Today’s my first free day to go birding or do some ringing. But instead I am on my laptop writing a post for my blog. The weathers taken a turn for the worst and it’s been sleeting all morning. So to keep this blog alive and kicking here’s a photo which was taken from the north hide at Radipole Lake last Friday just before I left for Wales. Not the greatest picture of a bittern but by Radipole standards I think it’s OK.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Happy Saint Davids day!

Forgot to mention that earlier, sorry about that!
Whilst I am blogged in I should mention that we now have two Ibis’s’s at Radipole. Just got back from searching the entire reserve to find out where they hang out and it appears their favourite pool is probably the furthest away from any public footpath or hide. Hopefully they settle somewhere a bit more convenient for Ibis watchers. Note that neither is ringed so its not the Wareham bird joining our regular one.

Whilst up there gauping at our lovely pair of Ibis, the sound of Bearded tits pinging was never out of earshot. Even managed a picture or two.

Blogging activity might be somewhat random over the coming days. A) because I don’t want to people to start expecting me to blog everyday (no offence intended, its just my finger get saw) and B) I am travelling up to Wales where I might not encounter lots of blog-able wildlife.

A few recoveries...

After blogging every day last week you might be wondering why this weeks so far been the exact opposite. I will tell for why. I’ve been in Milton Keynes since Monday and got back last night in which time I saw one Red kite on the way up, a couple of Siskins and a Redwing in the car park of my accommodation and best of all, a blue tit in a bush outside my room.
Instead of boring you with my sightings list from MK (oops, too late!) I thought I could mention some recoveries from the summer. A few Sedge Warbler from Radipole and Abbotsbury have showed up elsewhere in the UK. Most interesting being a Radipole bird which was trapped on the 24th August was retrapped 219km NNE of Weymouth in Northamptonshire on the 1st September. I guess eventually it realised it was going the wrong way!
We usually get a few of our birds controlled at Icklesham in East Sussex but one from last summer was caught there just a day after we caught it. That’s a total of 232km along the south coast in just a day. Other blogs would normally put a nice google map of the locations and a fancy line showing there the bird went but I don’t know how to do that so here’s picture of a swan instead which has presumably travelled all the way from Australia to get to Radipole. Hope that’s ok?