Thursday, 19 September 2013

Mission Impossible?

Our daunting task was too catch nine cygnets, all could have possibly have been together and with a dwindling team of ringers the task was going to be almost impossible! However, a crack team of determined swan ringers pulled out all the stops and pulled out all nine cygnets from the waters of Radipole Lake (before obviously putting the back once ringed!!).

Here are a few of them all wrapped up in their special swan carrier bag things. They all seemed rather relaxed about the whole process. One we even had to wake up so that it was looking at the camera for a photo!

This years breeding success at the lake was pretty good, probably got about 15 cygnets in all which have made it to full size. Our nine were the friendlier ones, the other six will be much harder to catch and ring. Saying that, this fella was a lively one. I took a liking to the family this one belonged to, I even fed them special chick crumb as hatchlings to help them along. Unfortunately my generosity wasn’t reflected in the way the bird treated me. It pretty much managed to bite every bit of me... ungrateful little *?!!*&!%...

Next time your down at the lake check out their new shiny colour rings! Looking forward to see where the little dudes end up!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Just thought I’d better go back another couple of weeks and mention a couple of good birds from down at the Swannery. Firstly, amongst many hundred of other Wagtails one evening a Citrine Wagtail popped up. Stood out rather well especially as it was perched between and Pied Wag and a Yellow Wag. Very nice indeed though not totally unexpected as at the time there were several others showing up around the country. Don’t usually have the camera with me when out ringing (don’t need the distraction of photography!) and this session was no different so no photo’s but needless to say I’ve had the camera out at every other roost ringing session since. I did get distracted one evening and got these shots of Yellow Wagtails.

I mentioned on yesterdays post we’d been ringing lots of Yellow Wagtails. This was a Blue-headed type from a few weeks ago, though we've had plenty since.

Another good bird that dropped into the Swannery for a couple of days (on and off...) was this juv Semipalmated Sandpiper. It was rather obliging indeed!

Great Snipe!

Is what the title of this blog would have said if I’d been at Spurn a couple of days later... Last week the other half and meself went off for a jolly to her homeland of North Yorkshire. Beautiful part of the world and best of all it still has plenty of these!!

Tree Sparrows. This one was at RSPB Bempton Cliffs and this next one was at the girlfriends folks place. Great to see so many as they have pretty much disappeared from Dorset and my home county of Gwent. Both counties have tiny populations just clinging on but it doesn’t look hopeful...

Also at Bempton Cliff, Gannets were still in abundance. Light wasn’t good so pics are a little gloomy I’m afraid!

Back to Spurn. We spend a lovely morning at the point where thousands of Meadow Pipit dominated the notebook. This one came to say hello briefly.

Rarities were few and far between but a Red-backed Shrike popped up though at distance so won’t bother you with a blurry picture. I was saying whilst we were in Yorkshire that I bet something good will turn up as soon as we get back to Dorset and sure enough it bloody did. Didn’t fancy the 8 hour drive back so will just appreciate the Great Snipe on the internet. After all, it’s just a fat snipe...

Will finish with a shot or two of my favourite gull. We stopped off at Hornsea Mere and on arriving I thought I’d seen a tern or something similar out on the water. Went down to the waters edge and was confronted by a mob of Little Gulls. Probably 30 in all! Stunning little critters!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Was the wait worth it??

Crikey! It’s been a while. Appears as so I’ve had the whole summer off blogging so guess I should be all refreshed and raring to go? Possibly... though hope nobodies been checking daily for updates.... by the way, how are you Frank!

There’s probably too much to update so it’s probably sensible to start off with some recent stuff. I’ve done a little bit of birding which is more than I’ve done all summer to be honest, though the bit of birding I’ve done has been between checking mist nets down at the Swannery. Long standing readers will know that we’ve got a bit of an obsession for Yellow Wagtails down at the Swannery. This is a good thing as this single site last year produced nearly half of the UK total of Yellow Wagtails ringed. Impressive stuff.
Given that we have the privilege of handling so many wags we took the decision last year to start a colour ringing project with the species. Recoveries of Yellow Wagtails are pretty rare so we thought that a little colour ring should yield at least a bit more information about this rapidly declining species. We’ve been putting a small white darvic ring above the metal ring on the left leg. There is an inscription of two white letters which uniquely marks the bird but a sighting of just a white ring on the left leg will still give us some information, so please send in your sightings! My personal email is broken for some reason so any sightings please send to luke.phillips’at’, obviously insert @ instead of ‘at’. Did that to stop these bloody robot things sending me emails... We’ve had several sightings already so keep them coming. The more we know about this species the better!

Another aspect to colour ringing might reveal something that really interests me. Yellow Wagtail races. We’ve so far ringed 560 odd which is only a fraction of the birds actually roosting at the Swannery. Some nights there been up to a thousand roosting and seems to average several hundred. This is a complete guess but I wouldn’t be surprised if up to 10,000 have roosted there so far this autumn. Our re-trap rate in minimal which suggests birds move on very quickly with hardly any spending two consecutive nights in the reed bed. Given the size of the British population (estimated at about 15,000 territories by the BTO), they surely can’t all be British. We certainly catch quite a few Blue-headed types and even the odd Grey-headed type but unfortunately there is so much variation within the races you can never be sure what your looking at. I’d be very happy if next spring we get a photo sent of us of a colour ringed male Yellow Wagtail sitting on a hay bale somewhere in Sweden! This possible Grey-headed type was caught last night and I got a quick picture before he got on his way at sunrise this morning with about 50 companions.

Will get round to sticking a few other bits up soon and might even attempt to recap on a few bits from over the summer but don’t hold your breath... It’s been 5 months since the last post!