Saturday, 23 November 2013

They've all come at once!

Mature Yellow-legged Gulls are getting a bit like buses. In four years of gull gauping at Radipole I’ve only ever seen a couple of ‘mature’ birds, as in ones which are older than juv/1st winter. This week, Radipole has had a 3rd winter, 2 sub adults and an adult! Seen three of these birds and Joe Stockwell from up at Portland Obs ventured down and found the adult bird. My last post was going on about the 3rd winter bird so here’s some shots of two sub adult. Talking to Brett Spencer yesterday it could be that this first bird is an advanced 3rd winter judging by the amount of black in the primary coverts. If that’s right then today’s bird is likely to be the same age. These things confuse me easily!

First a bird from Thursday.

Slightly different light. 

Interesting shot comparing mantle colour of Yellow-legged Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

And a wing shot.

And this evenings bird. thought initially it was the same one as the above but quite clearly a different bird!

In case your sick of Gulls here’s a shot of a 1st winter male Marsh Harrier carrying a Snipe away which it had caught in the channel opposite the Radipole visitor centre! Brilliant thing to see happen right in front of you. Way better than a Sparrowhawk catching the friendly garden Robin!

This is a nice sharp shot of my house with a very blurry Marsh Harrier in front of it. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Gulls again...

After a brief interlude of passerine ringing, it’s back to gulls. And judging by the success (or lack of it) of my last Clouds Hill session, this blog might resort back to pictures of Med Gulls and ring reading for the foreseeable future. Not trying to put you off or anything....
Springs tides have allowed the water level at Radipole to drop nice and low which always attracts good number of gulls. Constant scanning throughout the day only produced one slight oddity and that was this gorgeous 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull.

Think back to my deep state of confusion regarding a 3rd winter something or other a few weeks ago which I wrongly settled on Yellow-legged Gull. I said back then that if it was actually a  Yellow legger it would have been a lot more obvious. This bird took about 3 seconds to ID and no problems with this fella. It was bloody massive! Only other option would be a Herring x Great black backed Gull... joke...
However the clinging feature of a Yellow-legged Gull is the width of a full extended gape. This bird obliged and opened it’s gob and it measured an impressive 153mm which is well outside the range of Herring Gull.

Had a very pleasant evening watching 350+ Med Gulls fall out of the sky onto Radipole Lake. This happens most evening between 4 and 4:30 and it’s well worth seeing! I’ve had over 500 in the past do this. Much more impressive than watching them fly up and down the fleet though I wouldn't mind seeing the 1000+ currently wintering down there.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Poxy Pipits...

Yesterday morning I was on hide opening duty at Radipole which is always a pretty pleasant job. It’s nice to be the first person to look out of the hide as plenty of goodies have been found like that in past. Nothing exceptional yesterday. Kingfisher, a few Beardies and the regular ducks. Plenty of pipits were flying around and my ears were tuned into Water Pipit as there’s usually a few birds that winter at Radipole. Didn’t hear any of them but did hear something I didn’t immediately recognise. First impression was that it was similar to Redwing in structure (though wasn’t a Redwing!), a slightly down slurred call though not as drawn out as Redwing. Heard it again and it was clearer this time. It sounded a little raspy. At that point I immediately recalled Red-throated Pipit. Heard it twice more and almost convinced myself. The bird was calling from the North end of the reserve so the next hour saw me wading around the fields armed with the camera on video mode to record to call. However, my efforts drew a blank. If it was one it’s a really late record but not impossible I guess.

It was a nice walk around the reserve though, a Bittern flushed from 5 foot in front of me and I had a slightly heart stopping moment whilst scanning some Reed Mace. A small orange bird with a short tail (as in not a Bearded Tit!) flitted between two seed heads. I instantly assumed Penduline Tit! This wasn’t the case though the bird did have a black mask. It was a bloody Stonechat... A frustrating day! Did get two Water Pipits on my walk though.
So this morning I thought I’d get back out to Clouds Hill. Got up first thing and it was drizzling quite heavily so went back to bed. An hour or so later it had stopped so ventured out. It was a very quiet morning with little in the way of new arrivals. A few Blackbirds were knocking around which were probably migrants. Only caught one though.

I waited around for the Long-tailed Tit flock to come through as there’s often a warbler or two hanging around with them. They came and went and nothing else came through with them. These two had clearly fallen out about something...

Last net round produced this little fella. Not caught many of these this autumn.

Overhead passage was pretty rubbish. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits dribbled through, as did a few Goldfinch, one Redpoll and one Brambling. However this bird livened things up briefly. Can you tell what it is??

A Richard’s Pipit obviously. Picked it up on call first and at the time had the wrong lens on the camera and had a Blue Tit in my hand. The tit went back in the bag and I nearly dropped my camera trying to change lenses. Managed the above shot as it carried on towards the Swannery, calling every 4 or 5 seconds. One day I’ll actually be prepared for something rare to fly past!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Clouds Hill - A Redpoll no fly zone...

Yesterday whilst ringing with Steve, we decided we’d give this morning a bit of a blitz in the hope of catching a few Redpoll, which in theory would be on the move. I went off to Clouds Hill whilst Steve stuck with the Swannery. My morning started off rather busily with the tit flock which had roosted at the site overnight. This was the first time this autumn I’ve connected with the flock  so good to get rings on all those Long-tailed tits. Here they all are temporarily in their nice colourful bags ready for ringing.

The morning got rapidly quieter after that and there was a distinct lack of any Redpoll! Birds were moving up the fleet including several decent sized flocks of Starling. Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet were all on the move but no Redpolls! A few scarcities also went through, both actually showing reasonably well rather than being small dots making noises. A Lapland Bunting came over nice and low plus a Twite went through. Both on their own which made seeing them a lot easier to see!
Back in the nets a few Blackbirds added a little bit of interest. These two 1st winter males had completely different bill patterns!

Song Thrushes were also about in good numbers with a total of 13 counted leaving the scrub a little while after sunrise. Despite there being good numbers around only one went into a net.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the nets was this Reed Bunting.

I think this is the first I’ve caught at the site but certainly not the first I’ve seen!

Steve down at the Swannery had a slightly more productive morning. I popped in to see how he was getting on mid morning and he had caught and ringed over 40 birds at that point. The feeders certainly helped! For some weird reason, Redpolls were moving over the Swannery but not Clouds Hill. To add insult to injury, Steve caught several. He must have been catching them before they made it too my site! However, something Steve didn't have was large flocks of Pintail flying down the fleet. Had the wrong lens on but this kind of sets the scene... superb birds!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Sibe Chiffy

Spent the afternoon down at the Swannery with Steve for a late afternoon ringing session in the withy bed. He’s had quite a good ringing week down there with a little flurry of Redpoll, four Bearded Tits and a Siskin which is an odd capture for the site. This afternoon was exceptionally quiet with just a Common Chiffchaff ringed up until sunset but just as we were going to shut down the nets, a small tit flock appeared in the withy nets. With them was a very different Chiffchaff and before extracting it I could see it was an ‘interesting’ Chiff. A few seconds later once out of the net it was clearly a Siberian Chiffchaff type thing. Did all the necessaries and as the light was starting to go and temperatures dropping we let it go on its way pretty quickly  to go find somewhere to settle for the night. Got a few photo’s in the fading light.

As you can see, the green tones are restricted pretty much to the wings, also the rump and tail which you can’t see from that photo. The head lacks any yellow and green. The underparts are completely pale and buff with no yellow. Legs were very dark, as was the bill, though the lower mandible has some paleness but I don’t think that matters too much. Annoyingly the bird didn’t call at all, even on release but Steve Groves (of ) has heard a Siberian Chiffchaff at the Swannery over the last week or so. I’d guess this bird was the culprit!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Up, up, though not quite away...

Radipole Lake as most birders know, is and always has been a good place to look for Bearded Tits. Working on the site I see them most days though birders seem to, on a daily basis, have real trouble in finding this species. So just to grip people off, here are a few Bearded Tits from yesterday taken just a few yards from the visitor centre...

Ok, that was mean. Sorry. But here’s something interesting about the two birds. Take a lot at the eye colour of the two males. Ones got an orange tinge to it and the other is much greyer. Unlike lots of other passerines, Bearded Tits go through a full post juvenile moult so trying to age them in the autumn is impossible on plumage. But I think looking at these two images it may still be possible in the autumn. The greyer bird most likely being a bird hatched this year and the other being an adult. Only just noticed this and not sure it’s something that’s 100% right every time but interesting none the less.

There are plenty at Radipole at the moment, lots of which are still thinking about leaving the site.

This group of 8 left the site completely but over an hour later a flock of 8 fell out of the sky back into the reedbed. I can only assume that it was the same flock who’d been for a tour of Dorset before popping back to Radipole again. Not long after the 8 went for their trip a pair also left. Half hour after the 8 arrived back presumably the same pair also dropped back into the reeds. Fascinating behaviour!

Just a quick mention for the Med Gulls. They continue to pile in and lots of ringed birds are now showing up. Got 11 ring number yesterday including the Italian bird from a few days ago. Here’s a rubbish shot of the fella.

This thought came to me after chatting to Dave Chown this morning. The Italian bird showed up at the same time as the Serbian bird. I wonder if they travelled up together given that they both come from the same part of the world?? Thanks Dave for mentioning that earlier!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Some bloody good Med Gull recoveries!

A fairly quiet day at work resulted in more Med Gull ring reading today and what a day it turned into! First bird was something of an old friend. I had the first sighting of this bird after it was ringed back in autumn 2011. It was at Radipole in pretty much the same place as I saw it today. It wasn’t until I got the details back that I realised that this bird was one from Serbia! Radipole Lake’s an impressive 1708kms from Palic Lake in Northern Serbia which was where it was ringed as a chick. Here’s a Google map to illustrate...

Though the wobbly line is the suggested route by road (for a car...) rather than the exact route the gull took...

Next bird was more significant. I noticed a blue ring on a first year bird and I couldn’t remember ever seeing a blue ring on a Med Gull before. A few emails later revealed the bird was ringed at Venice Lagoon in Italy! Possibly the first Italian ringed Med Gull to be seen at Radipole?? After that the sightings involved more routine countries such as France and Belgium but still all good data!