Monday, 29 April 2013

If it's iffy, it's just a Chiffy!

You may have seen a report of a possible Iberian Chiffchaff on various websites which was trapped and ringed at Radipole yesterday. Well, that would be my fault. I had the nets up for an hour late morning doing a ringing demonstration for some very keen visitors and came across a bird in the net, as you do... The bird suggested Willow Warbler (in appearance, not actually suggested through words) to me initially before I looked at it properly whilst extracting it. It was indeed a Chiffchaff but I remember extracting Iberian Chiffs in Gibraltar and they tended to give more of a Willow Warbler impression when approaching one in a net.
It was ringed and I  quickly took a wing formula from it which came out as wing point = P4, 2nd primary = 6/7, emargination on P6. The interesting bit is the 2 = 6/7, which means that the second primary on a closed wing fell between the 6th and 7th primary feather. Common Chiffchaff would normally come out as 2 = 8 or 8/9, 9 and sometime 9/10.
Plumage looked interesting as I’ve already hinted. Overall quite green with bits of yellow. Bare parts were rather colourful, bill was quite orange and legs were fairly pale. Rump appeared slightly brighter than the rest of the body. Also a nice feature was the slight continuation of the supercillium over the bill. All interesting stuff but I couldn't back it up properly with good photo’s! All I had on me was a bloody phone so had to use that for photo’s and the very dull light wasn’t helping. Also, let the bird go fairly quickly as it wasn’t in the best of conditions which if fair enough considering it probably migrated a fair distance overnight and needed to feed up. These were the best I could manage!
Head shot showing the bright supercillium, especially in front of the eye. The quite orange bill and interestingly little bits of yellow and a whitish throat. Also note the slightly long billed appearance which is sometimes a suggested feature though one or two papers say otherwise.

Leg complete with bright soles.

Back showing the slight brighter rump

The whole bird which I must admit doesn’t look quite as striking as it did in the hand but I guess there’s only so much a phone can do.

So on release I was hoping for a nice interesting call but instead it bounded off into the reeds never to be seen again which kind of ended the idea of Iberian Chiffchaff. I hope you agree the pics look interesting but they could have been better! Ideally I could have run off to get my proper camera but obviously the birds welfare came first. Nevermind...

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ice and fire? A nice combination...

Since getting back from Gibraltar migration has really got going. A few mornings with the net up in the garden produced a few Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Goldcrest and one of these.

A nice male Firecrest. It’s the first for a while since the wintering birds all disappeared from the Garden.
Radipoles still hosting several Garganey and today and 3rd calendar year Iceland Gull popped in on a few occasions. Typical gull shot at Radipole... on the car park!

I still have some holiday pics to go up so here’s the last of them....
Firstly some gulls chasing raptors. A common sight a Gib! Osprey first then a 2nd cal year Short-toed Eagle.

A gorgeous male Lesser Kestrel at Castellar de le Frontera. A great place to visit If your ever in the Cadiz area.

The three commoner Harrier species seen on the trip. Ropey pics of a Hen, Marsh and Montagu’s Harrier (all males).

A Thekla Lark taken whilst we should have been watching Bonelli’s Eagle...

 And finally, the commonest sight of the trip. Me and Steve drinking tea and beer...

Thursday, 11 April 2013

More photo's from Gibraltar

Got stacks of photo’s from my Gibraltar holiday. Here are a few of the birds that were trapped and ringed over our week at the rock.

Female Subalpine Warbler

Female Sardinian Warbler

Western Bonelli’s Warbler


Western Orphean Warbler

Woodchat Shrike –

possibly my favourite of the week except when it was doing this to my hand...

One of the big mysteries of the week were the Sparrowhawks. Last year we were surprised by the amount of them that you see migrating across from Africa. This surprise is shared by most birders who go there for their first time. Even the guys at Gib don’t know where they are going. Everyone’s got their own ideas mine being that its a displaced population as a result of northern birds moving for the winter? The only reason I sort of think this is because apart from particularly cold parts of Scandinavia, there are Sparrowhawks through Europe during the winter. Luckily we trapped and ringed one so if we are incredibly lucky (and I must emphasise the word incredibly!) we might get it recovered on its breeding grounds...

Must post another pic of the Scops Owl as well!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Some news and holiday pics!

I’ve just got back from a weeks birding and ringing in sunny Gibraltar. It’s taken me a couple of days to acclimatise to this ongoing cold weather but I’m finally in a state of mind to get something up on my blog. Firstly I’ve come back to two bits of news. Firstly my application for an ‘A’ permit was accepted by the ringing committee and the BTO. So a huge thanks to them but more importantly a huge thanks to my trainer Steve Hales who’s passed on so much knowledge and skill over the past three years or so. Secondly the wintering Lesser Whitethroat I’ve mentioned in previous post was confirmed as being a Blyth’s or Siberian Lesser Whitethroat and incredibly is the first genetically confirmed record of this race in the UK! It’s DNA sequence match’s exactly that of birds found in Kazakhstan and Russia. It’s a fantastic record and fills another gap in the complex puzzle that is races of Lesser Whitethroat. Cheers to Ian who trapped the bird along with myself and Brett who’d got some excellent photo’s of the bird and correctly identified the race which is no easy thing to do. Also massive thanks to Bob and Tricia for lending us their garden to catch the bird and for keeping it well fed for the winter! Lamb fat wasn’t it?
OK, onto some holiday stuff. The trip to Gibraltar is always a ringing and birding trip at the bird observatory. The place in the right conditions can see thousands of raptors migrating over from nearby Morocco and again in the right conditions can have big falls of passerines also migrating across. This year was a bit like last year in that the raptor passage was superb but the ringing a little quiet however we caught some stunning species. I’ll post more pics another time but can’t resist posting this one of a Scops Owl!

Like I said the raptors were amazing and the week will almost certainly go down in the Gib history books for the amount of species encountered. The first major highlight was this stunning male Pallid Harrier, only the fifth record for the territory.

This was followed the next day by this female Pallid Harrier which was not only the sixth record but the first ever female recorded in Gib! Was quite funny because I’d shouted Hen Harrier when it wasn’t particularly close and as it went passed I snapped away with the camera. Once it had gone by I glanced over to Steve Norman who’s the resident raptor and ringing guru and we both had our suspicions. A quick glance through the pics revealed this incredible record!

After our amazing run of rarities we joked about other possibilities, most emphasised was Lesser Spotted Eagle... Well, you might be able to guess what this next bird is??

Yip! A Lesser Spotted Eagle! This was on our very last day in the last few hours, what were the chances? I think this only the fourth or fifth record for Gibraltar.
I’ve waffled on a bit so will leave you with a pic of one of the commonest raptors seen during the week, a light phase Booted Eagle.