Sunday, 5 July 2015

Dyfi Osprey ringing 2015

I was going to put a short post up about the Dyfi Osprey ringing this year but why bother when Emyr has already done such a brilliant job? Here's the link - I'm sure you will enjoy the video (and the soundtrack)

Friday, 26 June 2015

Not something you see every day!

Whilst driving back from Nightjar surveying in South Wales this morning I spotted a Curlew in very atypical habitat! There is only one reason I can think of why a Curlew might stand on a gate.

Yeah, that was it!!. Great to see that they are managing to rear a few young then. Productivity in my Shropshire borders study area (conducted on behalf of the Stiperstones and Corndon Hill Landscape Partnership Scheme) has been very low this year (I'll post a summary update at some point in the near future).

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Disco Tony shows some moves!

On Friday 12th June Jane and I joined the BTO's Cuckoo man Chris Hewson in an attempt to catch and satellite tag another Welsh Cuckoo in the Tregaron area. This was a fortunate opportunity bought about by a "spare" tag following an earlier trip to Lancashire where they had failed to catch a suitable bird to deploy the tag on (the Cuckoos that are tagged have to be male, above a certain weight and obviously in good health). The 12th June is actually quite a late date to catch adult Cuckoos as they are starting to go off the boil and move off so hopes were high but reserved!

A call to Andy Polkey, warden of Cors Caron NNR soon secured permission to try catching here where we successfully tagged Indy a couple of years ago. David of course, tagged nearby in May 2012, has proved a very valuable addition to the research project as he returned again in 2015 making him the second longest tracked BTO Cuckoo after Chris.

With nets erected in a suitable site and a stuffed female Cuckoo (in an alluring pose) safely secured to a post in front of the net, a tape call of an ensuing Cuckoo "orgy" was turned on and soon the local male Cuckoo was too! In what proved to be too good to be true the male flew fast and low across the bog, paused briefly on the handrail of a footbridge, then proceeded at speed straight into the bottom half of the net!! Less than 5 minutes after turning the tape on for the first time our target bird was in the net. Less than 8 minutes after turning on the tape, whilst Chris ran as fast as boggy ground would allow, our target bird was out of the net again!!       Bo***cks!!

A couple of frustrating hours followed as we tried a few other local sites and other Cuckoos showed less enthusiasm or greater powers of net detection. 

As we prepared to break-off for lunch a last minute decision to try a secluded valley at the top end of the bog proved a life saver. Within a few minutes of erecting the net we had two Cuckoos in bags and one still trying to court the lure whilst deftly avoiding capture. One of these Cuckoos was a female, so not tag-able. 

Chris Hewson with Female Cuckoo 

Success therefore depended on the weight of the second bird. It surely felt plump enough in the hand and thankfully the Pesola balance confirmed he was well over the lower weight limit. 

The subsequent migrations of Disco Tony (as he is unofficially but affectionately known) can be followed, along with those of the other BTO Cuckoo's on their excellent and frequently updated website.

At the time of writing he has left the soggy and cold shores of Britain and is more than half-way down France on his long journey to the Central African rain-forests.

Disco Tony showing a single retained juvenile secondary
confirming that he was hatched in 2014

PS  Should anyone be suffering Ruffled Feathers cold turkey in the recent dry spell please visit my old mate Steve Parr's "Notes from Wild Places" blog  where you can read about why there hasn't been a lot of free time to update posts recently!

Monday, 11 May 2015

The wonder of Whimbrels in common have we

Over the past week or two Mid Wales Ringers and the Pembrokeshire Ringing Group have once again been targeting some of the many Whimbrel that pass through West Wales at this time every year on spring migration from their wintering areas in West Africa to more northerly breeding grounds. 

A few years ago I registered a colour-ringing scheme and we have since individually marked nearly 250 Whimbrel, including 40 this year so far. These birds are mainly birds caught by lamping at high tide. The Pembrokeshire Ringing Group have piggy-backed off this scheme, colour-ringing another 50 ish of the birds they have caught down there but this time mainly  by setting mist-netting at night. 

Sightings have been few and far between but have included birds in Brittany and Scotland, We also had the first North African recovery of a British-ringed Whimbrel found dead on a beach in Morocco. 

Last week I had and email from a birdwatcher in Portugal who had seen one of these colour-ringed birds sunning itself on a beach in the Algarve but unfortunately he never managed to get close enough to read the inscription so we can't say exactly which bird it was.

It is a bit disappointing that we have not had any sightings on the breeding grounds in Iceland and elsewhere yet but good things come to those that wait, I'm sure we will eventually. 

Hopefully the BTO will then be "making good use of the things that we find" in the next Migration Atlas. 

Thanks to Brendan for the Whimbrel flight shots.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Our furthest flung recovery ever!

 11 Feb
JHB, South Africa: On the hottest day recorded in JHB since Barn Swallow with tag on1973 a little fellow presumably overtaken by the heat of the day (it was 5:30pm and I was watering the garden) swooped down and proceeded to sit under the sprinkler. He looked very small and I decided to take a closer look. He didn't fly away and I was able to pick him up. I thought I'd better help dry him off a bit so that he could at least fly away to roost. While drying him off I noticed he had a tag on with the following inscription:Museum,London, SW7 Z115431
I'm going to keep him a little longer because he seems a bit weak, he was alone and I didn't see any other swallows around. I did enter the tags details onto a website called
Its just that the bird is so small.
Many thanks Charlene Tucker 

Thank heavens Charlene did enter the details on that website because Charlene's 'little fellow' was actually a Swallow ringed by Mid Wales Ringers at Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust's Cors Dyfi Reserve on 20th July 2014 just 9,335 kms from where it was found taking a shower! I really hope it survived and was released because I'd like to think we might retrap it there this summer. Now that would be amazing!!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A quick update

No blog posts for a while as the nesting season is now in full swing and I'm very rarely in at the moment. Two quick updates though. Firstly, the Curlew project I'm employed on is going very well and I've confirmed over 25 territorial pairs so far. No eggs laid as yet but the really good news is that I've actually managed to locate and read two of the colour-ringed birds caught at Dolydd Hafren at nest sites in South Shropshire.

Secondly, the Dipper monitoring we undertake for our RAS scheme is going really well. To date we have monitored at least 170 nesting attempts, confirmed 95 full clutch sizes, identified 126 colour-ringed adults and ringed 324 chicks from 79 broods and we are only just over half-way through the season! It lis already our best year for identified adults and it looks like it will be a record year for the number of Dipper pull ringed too.

A dipper nest at a rare natural nest site in a bit of overhanging turf. 
Four chicks ringed there earlier this evening.

The same site in close-up!

One of this year's pulli Dippers out and about already (photo Brendan Sheils)

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Isle of Man visitor

Early this morning, after ringing over 4,000 Choughs, I had our first ever control of one born and bred on the Isle of Man. We have had a couple of Welsh-ringed Choughs travel to the Isle of Man before and a couple of those even came back subsequently but we have never recorded an Isle of Man ringed Chough in Wales before.  The bird was instantly recognisable in the field as being a Manx Chough by its extremely short rectricies.

To be honest I'm pretty jealous of the Manx Chough ringers now as we are struggling to find colour combinations to continue our Welsh study and that extra leg would more than triple their availability!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A little surprise...

Despite our best efforts, Little Owls are hard to come by in this neck of the woods. So I was delighted to find a pair roosting in a small hole in an organic orchard where I was working today.

Over the past few years we've put up over 20 Little Owl boxes at sites where we know that they still exist. Although several of the boxes have had Little Owls roosting in them, none of the owls have used the boxes to rear a brood. Lets hope this year things will change so we can ring the chicks and hopefully monitor their dispersal and try to understand why their numbers are declining in this area so much!!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

No pain, no gain!

Had an interesting head's up from Lee Barber the other day of an impending recovery of one of our Dolgellau Hawfinches. The bird, a 1st-winter female, was ringed on 13th April 2013 at our main feeding site and was resighted on the 19th, 21st, 24th and 27th April 2013 (obviously paired to the same male on all occasions) by Trevor and Chris at the feeder in their garden.

Sadly the ring was found in a Tawny Owl pellet in a nest box this February. Initial confusion over the species and the metal ring number was resolved because the yellow ring (E40) was also present!  A sad end to a cracking bird.

Oh, forgot to say - the nest box was in a wood in Naresto, Arendal, Norway! Just over 1,000 kms from where she was originally caught and only the fourth overseas recovery of a British-ringed Hawfinch (there have previously been single records to Norway, Sweden and Germany)

This recovery raises a couple of interesting questions. We have previously caught a Norwegian ringed Hawfinch at this site so we have known for some time that a proportion of these birds are continental migrants.  The 27th April seems very late for a bird to be leaving though and, as it was so obviously paired whilst it was here, do they migrate as a pair? Guess it was asking too much for E41 to be present in the same nest box!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Somethings bubbling up!

This year I have been awarded a contract with the Stiperstones and Corndon Hill Landscape Partnership Scheme to monitor breeding Curlews in a small area of the Shropshire Powys Border. We are going to be doing some nest monitoring, chick survival analysis (using radio-tagged chicks) and landowner liaison to try to secure Curlew friendly habitat management. It is an exciting new project to be involved with and will hopefully help to stem the steady decline of Curlews in this part of the world. Running alongside this project we have initiated a colour-marking project to look at adult survival rates. We may try ringing a few birds on their breeding sites but a good way to get started is to mist-net birds at pre-breeding communal roost sites. One such site, close to the study area, is the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust's Reserve at Dolydd Hafren. Staff at MWT have very kindly agreed to allow a limited number of netting sessions to take place during the spring in an attempt to colour-ring some of the 150+ Curlews present. The birds roost on shingle islands in the middle of the River Severn and have several to choose from so netting was not as straightforward as I had hoped. Previously I have netted Curlews at roost on small muddy pools where their flight lines and behaviour has been far more predictable. On the first session we caught a single Redwing. On the second session things improved somewhat and we caught 2 Curlews, an Oystercatcher, a Goosander and a Fieldfare.

Curlew Yellow AA, the first bird marked under our new colour-marking project, being ably displayed by yours truly and the Fenix chin-torch - a must for all ringers!

All Curlews caught under this project will receive a Yellow, 2 letter Darvic on the left tibia
 and a plain Orange ring on the right tibia with a BTO on the right tarsus.

A nice added extra was this female Goosander, one of about 40 present

By the third visit, last night, I think I had finally sussed what to do and myself and Paul Roughley had a very reasonable catch of 9 Curlews, 2 Green Sandpipers and a Fieldfare. 

A record shot of one of the two Green Sandpipers ringed last night

I'm hoping there might be an opportunity to get one more catching attempt in before they all disperse to their breeding grounds but that seems to be happening already so we might have to wait until after the breeding season now.

Please keep your eyes open for colour-ringed Curlews - all records gratefully  received 

Many thanks to Liz Lewis-Reddy and the rest of the staff at Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust for granting permission and to Paul Roughley for invaluable assistance in setting nets. Thanks too to Chris Townsend, Fiona, Fiona's husband and everyone else who came along  to help.