Saturday, 29 October 2011

Lapwings join the 'party'....

I caught my first two Lapwings of the winter at my Woodcock site near Llanerfyl this evening. They didn't hang around for very long on the hills last winter (presumably due to the weather), so it would be nice to have a few more goes at them before they disappear again!

A Snipe was also caught.

The past week has seen a steady increase in migrant woodcock arriving in West Wales. Apart from the single bird reported previously on this blog and one that I ringed on my site near Aberystwyth on Oct 19th it has remained quiet until the night of the 26th when I saw 10 and ringed 6.

Of the 21 ringed by our Woodcock Network members so far this autumn the vast majority have been juvenile, this repeats a trend noticed over previous autumns.

It has often been stated that woodcock migrate on a full moon, the 31 that arrived on North Ronaldsay on the night of Oct 25th say not!

A rich seam indeed!!

We are having continued success dazzling Golden Plovers on the hills around Ceri Forest. Last night myself and Shropshire ringer,  Paul Ashworth, ringed 10 more along with a Lapwing and a Fieldfare. On a couple of nights earlier in the week Paul Leafe and I caught a total of 26 Golden Plover, 14 Fieldfares, 2 Snipe, 1 Woodcock and a Stock Dove! That's over 50 Golden Plovers in October alone - madness!! Seriously contemplating a colour-ringing scheme now!

Adult Golden Plover wing, note old (paler) secondaries mixed with new

Adult GP tertials with "horse-shoe" of gold edged

Juvenile Golden Plover - all secondaries even age and just two pale spots on tips of tertials

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ton-up and a juicy bonus!!!

Last night visiting Shropshire ringer, Alan Heath, Jane and myself headed down to Ynyslas to do a spot more drag-netting for Skylarks. Alan was keen to see the technique in action as the Shropshire Ringing Group are contemplating getting a net themselves and hitting the multitude of stubbles in the north of the county.

Drag-net in operation (hard to show in the dark mind!)

Numbers present are dropping a bit now, I guess birds are still pushing south, but we did manage to catch another 17 including 3 re-traps (two had gained weight and one had lost a bit).

A couple of the Skylarks caught appeared to have orange patches around their eyes and on closer inspection this appeared to be some sort of mite infestation? Not seen this before.

Not satisfied with our efforts at Ynyslas we headed over to Llanon. After a quick look along the foreshore north of the church, where we ringed a Golden Plover and a Black-headed Gull, we headed to the fields south of the town where we caught another 10 Skylarks (including 1 re-trap). This took the number caught in Ceredigion so far this autumn to over 100. We also had a very special early Christmas bonus from Lapland!!

This, as far as I know, is a ringing first for Ceredigion. Not many Lapland Buntings are caught in Britain, although 2010 was a very good year with 85 ringed throughout Britain and Ireland. To show just how unusual a year it was, only 20 were ringed in the previous 10 years! Certainly bought a smile to three people's faces and even elicited a bit of spontaneous "Lap" dancing (no hyphen!).

Recoveries round-up

A selection of the more interesting recoveries from the latest batch supplied by BTO.

Some of these are viewable as maps on the BTO online reports webpages

RF54434  DIPPER Pullus 4/4   26th April 2010 Craswall, Herefordshire. (S. J. Tyler)

R  5F 21st April 2011 Knighton, Powys.  38 km, 360 days.

DB33825  SANDWICH TERN Pullus  23rd June 1999 Lady’s Island Lake, Wexford (O. Mearne)

R  4  4th August 2011 Ynyslas, Borth, Dyfed.  161 km,  4,425 days

POL D38540  DUNLIN  4  5th April 2008  Salinas do Samouco, Setubal, PORTUGAL

R 17th July 2010 Ynyslas, Borth, Dyfed.  1,579 kms, 833days

L321020  SEDGE WARBLER  3J  15th August 2010 Dyfi-Aber Leri NNR, Borth

R 28th August 2010  Sandouville, Seine-Maritime, FRANCE  452 km, 13 days

Y104547  SAND MARTIN  3J  12th July 2011  River Wye, Glasbury, Powys

R 9th August 2011 Le Massereau, Frossay, Loire-Atlantique, FRANCE  542 km, 28 days

Y104648  SAND MARTIN  3J  24th July 2011  River Wye, Glasbury, Powys

R 30th August 2011  Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset.  160 kms, 37 days

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Talk of the Devil!

I must be psychic! In the last post I referred to foreign-ringed Golden Plovers being few and far between. Amazingly I just nipped out for a quick lamp around the fields at Bwlch-y-Sarnau tonight and caught another, this time with a Belgian ring on!

Oddly it was on its own in a field where I often catch the odd woodcock but don't usually see any goldies, very nearly missed it too!  There have only been 3 previous records of Belgian-ringed Golden Plovers in Britain and Ireland and only 168 foreign-ringed GP's reported ever so as I said before, pretty rewarding.  Will post a map of the movement when I get the ringing details back. Also caught a woodcock and two fieldfares.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Ceri gold rush!

Conditions are absolutely ideal for dazzling at the moment so I popped up to the hills around Ceri Forest again last night. There was a scattering of Golden Plovers throughout the permanent pastures amounting to a total of about 40 - 50 birds. Managed to catch seven to add to the seven I caught the previous night so getting through them slowly! Only 120 adult/juv Golden Plovers were ringed in Britain and Ireland in 2011! Also caught a Fieldfare and four more Dippers on the way home.

Didn't have my camera on me so here's a photo of a Dutch-ringed bird myself and Paul caught at Llaith-du in a previous winter. Golden Plover ringing recoveries and controls are few and far between but that makes them all the more rewarding when they happen!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What a drag!

For anyone who doesn't already know drag-netting is a technique used for catching birds that roost on the ground. Typically it's used for catching Skylarks or pipits but can be used for birds like Jack Snipe, Partridge, Quail and, as we discovered last year, Lapland Buntings!

One of the 7 Lapland Buntings we drag-netted in North Wales last winter.

Last night, as there are a fair few Skylarks around at the moment, I went down to Ynyslas with Jane. Conditions were perfect - dark and a bit wet & windy.   We spent about an hour dragging the net around a stubble field that was full of roosting Skylarks and caught 30, not a bad return for effort!  No Lapland Buntings seen  or heard though, now that would have been a bonus!

Very under-rated I reckon, and surprisingly big too!  Some had longer wing-lengths than some Redwings (120 mm)! Not good for recoveries though, I ringed literally hundreds of them in the late 1980s near Shrewsbury and never got a single one back! We did however have a movement last year of a bird ringed at Ynyslas and re-trapped at Llanon.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Just 5 more paces..!!!!!

After last nights success I decided to take another trip up to the 'hill'. Sadly there were no way near as many birds up there so I was fairly pleased with catching 1Golden Plover, 1 Snipe and 1 Wheatear.

Until a Short-eared Owl sat down infront of me and allowed me to get within 5 paces of it before taking off and disappearing, only to come back again hover by me (just out of the reach of my net)!! This continued to happen on and off for around half an hour, then the batteries decided to give up on me!!! I will be going back.

So close..........

Monday, 17 October 2011

Going for Gold....

With the moon now rising later on in the evening, it was time to start looking for some Golden Plovers on the hills. Sure enough up on the top of one of 'my' hills near Llanerfyl there were a handful of them scattered around a field which I had been catching them in last year. Out of the 5 seen, 3 of them were trapped and ringed.

A few other birds werwe also caught, including 3 Meadow Pipits and a Redwing.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Back already!

Had a quick hour and a half lamping session at Bwlch-y-Sarnau last night before the moon came up hoping for a few Snipe, Jack Snipe or Fieldfares. Not much about but caught a Fieldfare, Meadow Pipit and another Jack Snipe and, much to my surprise, the first Woodcock of the season! The first caught last year wasn't until 2nd November. Narrowly missed a couple of Common Snipe too which deprived me of the rarely achieved hat-trick!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Nought and Crossbills

Yesterday the day started counting Hawfinches exiting the main roost near our feeding site in North Wales with Dave Smith (Hawfinch guru) and two RSPB conservation scientists from the Lodge currently working on Hawfinch, Will Kirby and Liz Charman. We counted an amazing 104 coming out of the roost, just one short of the record count for that area. No doubt many were wearing colour-rings but they just weren't hanging around to show them off!

Hawfinch in flight taken earlier in the year, if only it were in focus!!!

Soon after, we visited the feeding site hoping that there were going to be some to have a go at catching but, as expected, there were none present -  just too much natural food around at the moment I guess.

In the evening and again this morning had a quick couple of goes at netting the drinking pool at Caerhyddwen Plantation hoping for a few more Crossbills. About a dozen were hanging around, including some really smart males, but just the female below obliged. Some very welcome extras though included 15 Goldcrests, 10 Coal Tits, 10 Siskins, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Treecreepers and few other bits and bobs!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Messing about on the river... and canal, and lake, and fish-farm!!

Last night I nipped out with Amy, to a couple of local Dipper roosts as she was as keen as mustard to go "dippering".  A couple of duff bridges to start off with dampened her enthusiasm a bit but perseverance and an old railway tunnel eventually paid off in more ways than one. Four dippers were present, 3 were caught, one of which was a control of a chick I had ringed earlier in the year in South Shropshire, 32 kms away!!  For anyone who rings migrants that's equivalent to the South of Spain or Morocco!!

That's bird bags down the front of my waders, not just too much dinner!!

A future help in changing the age and gender bias in ringing?  Maybe, but I'm not pushing it!

After a few hours sleep I was up again at 2 am and off to meet Adrienne Stratford for a pre-dawn attempt to catch an un-ringed Chough at an isolated inland site in North Wales. Checked a few more bridges and caught another 5 Dippers on the way!

We met Mike Jones, a local contact, at 5.30 am and headed off into the old slate quarry. After successfully scrambling down into the cavern, in the murk and darkness, and stealthily erecting a net we discovered to our great disappointment that the Choughs had decided to sleep elsewhere that night!!

An early start for swan ringing in Shropshire then. During the day Adrienne and I ringed 20 more swans on the rivers, canals and lakes around Shrewsbury and Telford, including probably my best catch ever - no point trying to explain, you just had to be there to appreciate it!!  No unplanned swimming though and the only change of trousers required resulted from a very over-productive cygnet - what the hell had it been eating?!!

XU7 was ringed as an adult in 1993 so she is at least 20 years old and still on her original Darvic ring.

Calmly watching Adrienne with her only cygnet - but she has seen it all before, lots of times!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Jack High Flush

Had a quick trip up around the hills on the Shropshire/Powys border last night to see if any of the Golden Plovers that have turned up recently were willing to be ringed. No takers unfortunately, although one did sit in the beam long enough for me to imagine it in the bag. Weather wasn't right, despite low cloud it was still far too bright and very windy. Nothing ventured nothing gained though - hunkering in a small wet flush, right on the top of the Ceri Ridgeway, was this little beauty! The amazing thing about trying to lamp Jack Snipe is that they generally don't sit very well and won't land again if you keep the light on them! Totally opposite to what you would expect in the daytime. Oh yes, they are also almost impossible to spot before you flush them, that bit's the same!
Not a bad first bird to start this winter's inland wader ringing with though!

Caught five new and several re-trap Dippers on the way home too.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Woodcock in Amsterdam!

In winter 2007/08 I agreed to train Owen Williams and another member of the then Welsh Woodcock Club to ring Woodcock as part of an investigation into their movements and to gather information on the effects of shooting. The best way to catch them is by dazzling them at night and during the training we all discovered that it is amazingly addictive! Since then Owen, Paul, Terence and myself have ringed over 1,060 Woodcock between us!! Just one in 2007, 173 in 2008, 302 in 2009, 323 in 2010 and 232 already this year with the best two months still to come! To put this into context only about 12, 000 Woodcock have ever been ringed since the start of the ringing scheme in 1909.  Bring on the first full-moon in November, let's see if we can make it to 400 this year!

Amongst a batch of recoveries that arrived last week we had our 13th foreign Woodcock recovery. The bird, ringed by Owen on 2nd March 2011 near Llanilar, killed itself flying into a window in Amsterdam on 21st March 2001, 605 kms east in just 19 days.

The other recoveries have been from Russia (9), Germany (1), Spain (1) and Ireland (1). Details of these and others can be viewed at the Woodcock Network website

Monday, 3 October 2011

Alarming decline in Montgomeryshire Barn Owls

The Montgomeryshire Barn Owl Group (MBOG) recently held their AGM and this year's breeding results have shown yet another alarming decline. The last two severe winters have contributed to the depletion of Barn Owls in the county from a record of 73 pairs in 2005 to just 23 known breeding pairs this year.


The table shows the trend since 2005 when 73 pairs produced 249 young. Obviously yearly figures fluctuate up and down with factors such as prey availability and birds not reaching breeding weight but the group fear that another hard winter could be devastating for Barn Owls in Montgomeryshire.

With Bob Formaggia wishing to take a back seat after 21 years at the helm of the group, Chris Griffiths has stepped in as group leader, and Karina Pugh as secretary. Chris (below left), a licensed Barn Owl ringer, has been active in the conservation of Barn Owls for 10 years.

Chris during training with TC

MBOG monitors around 350 sites throughout Montgomeryshire with a dozen or so dedicated volunteers scattered around the county. In the interest of monitoring and conserving Barn Owls in the county, MBOG is urging the public to report any breeding sites and all sightings of birds, dead or alive, to the group.

Anyone wanting more information can call Chris on 01686 626603 or email

MBOG would also like to thank The Environment Agency, Forestry Commission
(Wales) and all the local landowners for their continued support.