Saturday, 23 February 2013

A bit or revenge ringing...

Yesterday lunchtime something terrible happened! A bloody Herring Gull stole a whole pasty from my hand leaving me without lunch… what is the world coming to. I know Herring Gulls are on the decline but why my pasty! This morning, despite having a horrible cold, I headed out to the Swannery Car Park armed with several loaves of bread seeking revenge for the pasty incident. I have done no gull ringing this winter so far, so was hoping to get a few birds ringed before warmer weather arrives and they all start heading off to their various breeding grounds. After an hour or so my cold had got the better of me but I wasn’t too disappointed with a catch of three Black-headed Gulls and two Herring Gulls. I managed to attract quite a crowd who were keen to find out about bird ringing and why I was catching gulls!!

This Black-headed Gull wasn’t too keen on having its photo taken!

Just look how red that is! And look at the shape of its tongue!

The camera survived and the gull flew off with an interesting story to tell its mates.
Better quickly go back to last weekend which started off with a visit to a Weymouth garden which has been home to a Lesser Whitethroat since the new year. Bob and Patricia very kindly brought a photo of the bird to me in work a little while ago and instantly I could see it was something interesting. Brett who lives very close by,  popped along with his camera and got some good photos and confirmed that it was certainly of eastern origin. Last Saturday we went along with the intention of catching and ringing the little critter to have a detailed look at it which will give a better idea of which sub-species of Lesser Whitethroat it belongs to. Whilst measuring and photographing the bird one or two small body feathers were shed which will prove very useful as they have now been sent off for DNA analysis. I will have more information on this in the coming few months. Here’s the little fella in the hand.

And here’s one of the tail which shows the characteristic white outer tail feather of an ‘eastern type’ Lesser Whitethroat.

And this is one of it taken just 15 minutes after release. It came straight back to the garden and carried feeding on its favourite feeder!

More detailed information can be found on Brett's blog courtesy of Ian Dodd.

Saturday afternoon I had planned a trip to Somerset so see the starlings. It was sheer luck that the evening before a Pied-billed Grebe was found on RSPB Ham Wall. It showed fairly well for us as did several million Starlings!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

We got Godwits!

The last week or so has been fairly quiet. Very little birding and even less ringing. The highlight being the reappearance of a Firecrest in the garden at the end of last week. Today however I had a day off and went over to join the guys on the Axe Estuary for one of their canon net catches. As usual everything went to plan and we ended up with nearly 50 birds. Largely made up of Shelduck but 6 Black-tailed Godwits were a real surprise. The group have caught Godwits before but their appearance in the catching area is very sporadic. Steve and myself have managed to miss the godwit catches before so we were both very pleased to get a good look at a new species (in the hand!) for both of us.

Sorry about the picture quality, it was taken on my phone and the light wasn't very good!!

I don’t get to study many waders in the hand so todays catch was a brilliant opportunity to get to grips with a new species. I must add that I gave up the chance to ring one, I left that to the guys who were training. I was more than happy just having the chance to add a little extra knowledge into my head.

Also, a slight plee. The Axe team have been ringing Shelduck for quite some time. I’ve mentioned it a few times on this blog before. However, considering the numbers wearing colour rings, they aren’t often sighted. Very few reports have been coming back and surprisingly few from the Axe Estuary.  The most important ringing data comes from recaptures or in this case, re-sightings. Even if a bird hasn’t left a site, it’s interesting to know that it didn’t. Things like site fidelity and longevity are great things to know about a species. At Radipole we have a lot of colour ringed coot but in over three years of working their I’ve only been asked about them less than 10 times. Its important, if possible, to always report and ringed bird.

So pretty please folks, keep an eye out for colour ringed birds, especially our Shelduck from the Axe. A few weeks ago we got our first Dorset sighting which was at Abbotsbury Swannery but there must be more out there! They’ve got a yellow ring with two letter inscribed by the way…

Friday, 1 February 2013

Snow Bunting

There’s been a Snow Bunting down at Ferrybridge for several months and a few days ago I finally got down there to have a look. Forgotten how great these little birds are, should have gone down much sooner.

I guess for any birders visiting over the last day or two, the buntings probably done a good job of cheering up their day as just over the beach, over a hundred auks have been washed in as a result of a mystery goo.  I guess it will be on the news this evening and but it all sounds pretty dreadful! There are a few photo’s on the Portland Bird Obs website: