Monday, 25 March 2013

Now it's spring!

Literally minutes after posting this morning about the lack of ‘spring’ I got a call telling me about a flock of one of my favourite spring migrants. I jumped in the car and things were feeling even more spring like as my Levellers CD kicked in and started shouting ‘What a beautiful day’ at me. Must have been a sign...
I parked next to my least favourite supermarket, Aldi’s, and walked across the road to be met by this stunning sight!

Unlike most other UK duck species, Garganey are just summer visitors. They aren’t that common so I always jump at the chance to have a look and a flock of five on Radipole were just irresistible!

Well done those of you who managed to count just four in the photo... Good job!

Where's spring?

It’s probably now safe to blog after that historic and amazing defeat that Wales pulled off against England last weekend. I mentioned on my last post that I was heading back to my old stomping grounds of Symonds Yat to get the Peregrine watch season up and running for another summer. Whilst there you can’t help but bird all the time (as well as working obviously!) and it resulted in the expected good views of Goshawk and of course Peregrine. Hawfinch in the car park was also nice as well as singing Marsh Tit which set the scene beautifully. Didn’t take my camera with me so these pics will have to do of some Siskins I caught whilst borrowing my uncles garden for a brief spot of ringing before heading back south.

Back in Dorset things really haven’t got going yet. It's bloody freezing still! However, migrants have started breaking their way through the crap weather but the winds have snuffed any hope of getting out to clouds hill with the nets but I’ll keep hoping! Yesterday at Radipole we had dozens of Sand Martin, at least four Swallow, probably well over a hundred Chiffchaff and even an Osprey (which I didn’t see...) so birds obviously think it’s spring... wish I could agree.

Friday, 15 March 2013


Earlier this week I headed up to Somerset to have a noise at the Common Cranes which are part of the Great Crane Project which is releasing these stunning birds back into the Somerset Levels. Seconds after arriving about 50 Cranes flew in the landed in a very distant field and after a bit of driving around we found them. Not the best pics but they were still a bit distant.

Just as spring is starting to arrive I’m setting off to Gloucestershire to work for a few days but hopefully the weather will have warmed up and migrants will have really got going by the time I get back. Here’s a shot of a Chiffy from this week showing a rather dirty face; a feature which really suggests its a migrant rather than a wintering bird however the numbers this week certainly haven’t involved wintering birds! By the way the ‘dirt’ isn’t dirt, its pollen which gets stuck to its face when it’s feeding on insects which are hiding in flowers. Not many flowers here at the moment so it’s certainly been somewhere a lot warmer that here in the last few weeks!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Some news from France

Had some details back today of a French ringed Willow Warbler I caught last spring. It took a while but I’ve come to expect that from the French...
This is Pierre (we named it when we caught it...) the Willow Warbler.

It was ringed at Reserve Naturelle du Marais d'Yves, Yves, Charente-Maritime, France which is 526km away from Clouds Hill which was were I caught it. The interesting thing about this bird is the amount of time between sightings. The bird was originally ringed on the 27th August 2007 and I retrapped the bird on the 12th April 2012 making it 1692 days between sightings! Not bad for a little bird which would have weighed less than 10grammes! It also means that the bird has made five trips to and from Africa! This stuff never ceases to amaze me.
I’m sure it won’t be long before the first Willow Warbler will be reaching our shores though I’d imagine it will be after this bout of winter weather!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Radipole's famous Harrier

Noticed my viewing figures were higher than usual the other day and presumably its due to a mention in the most recent edition of British Birds. They have published a paper based around Marsh Harrier plumage and its variability. I haven’t read the paper yet (thanks Ken for a copy!) but I’m reliably informed that it’s basically saying that its a bit tricky to age a Marsh Harrier on its plumage. It also covers the ‘transvestite’ male Harriers which is where this blog got a mention. Seems our male is the only known cross dressing male in the UK! They highlighted a particular post but I’ve notice (thanks to the power of blogger) that most visitors have been typing in the normal blog address which will take you to the most recent post. So to make viewers lives easier here are a few links to old posts relating to this fascinating topic.
And finally one from last spring including some half decent pics of our male harrier.
By the way, the dark male is still about at Radipole and can be seen pretty much every day from the North Hide.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Playing catch up...

Yet another lengthily pause in blogging activity has lead to quite a lot to catch up on. Had a few pics to put on here but my Laptop got nicked along with my pair of binoculars on the weekend from my bloody house! So if you see anyone flogging a slightly knackered pair of Zeiss bins they might be mine!
Anyway, had a very exciting capture in the garden last week. This fella!

Not a species that often bumps into  mist nets!
Also bumped into these telly people whilst canon netting with the Axe Estuary ringing group.

The programme will be aired on the 17th March (it’s Countryfile for anyone who don’t recognise the presenters). Was a fun morning with plenty of Shelduck caught as part of the colour ringing project that’s been ongoing for the last few winters on the estuary. Will make my excuses before the programme goes out as I seem remember talking a load of rubbish to Julia whilst being filmed. Being put on the spot at 7 in the morning and a slightly sleep deprived and cold state really isn’t a good thing. She asked why I go to the canon netting sessions. Instead of saying something like I do it to do my bit for conservation because I’m committed to helping and trying to protect wildlife, I actually said something like it’s fun because its something different to do and there’s a big bang! Not really why I go ringing at all but never mind. Perhaps they’ll do some cleaver editing or just cut me out completely?!
Spring seems to have kicked off in Weymouth with the first Chiffchaffs starting to sing properly and not the feeble sub-song you sometimes hear from our wintering Chiffs on a nice morning. Sand Martins appeared at Radipole yesterday and just a second ago had a small flock of Meadow Pipits go north over the garden. Obviously a few winter things are hanging on as one of the Firecrests I ringed at the end of last year re-appeared in the garden a few days ago. Unfortunately it’s very good at avoiding the mist net so not sure which on it is but I’ll keep trying! This photo’s from last year of potentially the same bird.

Just need the weather to get a bit kinder and allow the first decent migrant arrivals through. Then I’ll be off to Clouds Hill!