Thursday, 26 July 2012

Nanny Goatsucker

This year has undoubtedly been a very poor breeding season for many species. Over the past two months Paddy Jenks and I have been trying to monitor and assess the productivity of a local Nightjar population - not an easy task in a large area of thicket stage conifer plantation that you can barely fight your way through  and especially as the birds have evolved all sorts of tricks to avoid giving the game away! Until last night we had been unable to locate any active nests, 10 radio-tagged males were all behaving as if they didn't have young and observed female activity was almost nil!  Needless to say no juveniles had appeared on the forest tracks either. We were coming to the conclusion that 2012 was going to be a total wash-out.  Last night however, with an increase in temperatures, low winds, no rain and a sky full of moths things were definitely looking up. Success came early in the capture of our first female of the season and was followed several hours later, in the early hours of the morning, by pairs alarm-calling in two separate areas.

If this female has a nest we will be able to track her straight to it tonight and now we have heard alarm calling we know for definite there is at least something to find and roughly where it is! Tonight's drive to the site will be undertaken with a bit more excitement and optimism than of late!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Comme ci?

With a few hours to kill before setting up for another attempt at netting Sandwich Terns, Jane and I had a go at catching Common Sandpipers on the Afon Leri. Normally there are quite a few around but this year's floods have obviously played havoc with their nesting attempts and there are virtually no young around (Paul and I had a look at Caersws the night before last and on a stretch of river where there would usually be 10 - 20  we only saw one!)

Managed to catch 2 out of 5 on the Leri anyway, both were adults, including this re-trap originally ringed in exactly the same spot on 11th September 2010. Crazy to think that although it's recorded movement is 0m it had probably been to Africa and back twice!

Later in the evening we caught another 10 un-ringed Sandwich Terns - 9 adults and 1 juv.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

One good tern deserves another

Last night, Dave Reed, Jane Kelsall and I had a go at netting passage Sandwich Terns at Ynyslas. Numbers have built up a bit just recently and there were in excess of 100 around during the day. The tides are just coming right at the moment and with the calm weather it was the ideal opportunity (it's amazing how infrequently birds, high tides, darkness and favourable weather all coincide!).

As it turned out we could have done with it getting dark about an hour earlier as most of the birds flighting in on the rising tide could clearly see the nets and took evasive action! Evenso we did manage to catch five including a control and a very fresh-faced youngster.

Sandwich Terns continue to feed their young whilst on migration, managing to re-locate their own chick time and time again from their calls. This one is obviously not long fledged and indeed its primaries were still growing. Even so it may have already flown across the Irish Sea or, more likely, beach hopped down from one of the nearest breeding colonies on Anglesey.  In the past we have even caught chicks from the Farne Islands, which must have obviously crossed over mainland UK from east to west coast!

Just ignore him, he'll go away eventually!!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

One in few thousand!

July is a good month to tape-lure Storm Petrels and Shearwaters, and with the weather finally improving last night was our first opportunity to have a try. Not wanting to travel all the way to our usual netting site on Cilan Head near Abersoch, I thought I'd have a quick go just south of Aberystwyth. With several thousand shearwaters off Borth during the day at the moment it had to be a reasonable bet.

Several hours in the total number caught stood at 1 Manx Shearwater (above)!  Several others flew up to have a look at the net but there was no sign of any Storm Petrels - guess it is just a bit too far into the bay.

After ringing shearwaters are best left on the ground at the edge of the cliff to make their own decisions as to when to fly off.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Merlin Magic

In the brief respite before this afternoon's rain I headed over to Shropshire to ring a brood of Merlins with Dave Pearce. We had checked them just over a week ago when they were too small.  To be honest I wasn't that hopeful as there had been widely reported heavy rain and flooding in the area on Friday 13th so I was half expecting yet another empty nest. The 'magic' part was that all three were still alive and well!  I suspect sorcery!

Even though they are less than 3 weeks old it is possible, by looking at leg thickness, weight  and also by listening to the different pitch of their calls, to separate males from females. This brood was one female (middle) and two males.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Swift Response Unit

After the early morning success at the Dyfi Osprey Project I headed out with Jane and Andre Marsh to check a Kestrel nest that Red Liford had had 4 small chicks in about 10 days ago. Not surprisingly given the weather recently, the box was empty apart from a load of sodden pellets. Checked a Barn Owl nest yesterday that had 4 small young in late June and the same result although at another site in a nearby barn there were two healthy young already venturing forth.

Fed up with checking empty nest boxes we then tried, unsuccessfully, to net swifts exiting their nest sites in the roof of a garage in Pontrhydfendigaid - did cause a bit of local amusement for a while though! Thankfully a visit to Cors Caron was a bit more successful and 16 of about 70 odd swifts were "flick-netted" as they fed low over the bog.

It is commonly believed that swifts can't take off from the ground, even though they can it is best to release them by giving them a bit of a helping hand.

If you are of a nervous disposition look away now!

The downside to ringing swifts is that you are often left with a few unwanted quests! The Swift Louse Fly is pretty adept at running up your sleeve when you're not looking and lurking around in unwelcome places! Two of the birds caught yesterday had 5 Louse Flies each but I have taken as many as 16 off one bird!

Close encounter of the second kind

May 29th - Ceulan receiving his first ever bit of food. Sadly the first chick to hatch (left) died two days later

Just over a month ago, at the age of 11 days, Ceulan the sole surviving Dyfi Osprey had a close encounter with humans when Emyr Evans and Al Davies stepped-in to save him from going the same way as his two siblings. Wet weather, unprecedented in living memory, meant that his parents Monty and Nora, who managed to produce three cracking youngsters on their first breeding attempt, were unable to feed and shelter the chicks. A shivering bundle, too weak to raise his head to beg for food, the outcome, without assistance, seemed inevitable. Removed from the nest temporarily, warmed, dried and fed human intervention had given him a second chance. (Sorry about that, seem to have lapsed into a bit of tabloid journalism there!)

How things can change! Yesterday Roy Dennis, Emyr, Janine and myself paid a much bigger and stronger looking Ceulan another visit in order to fit rings and a satellite transmitter before his imminent fledging in about a weeks time!

Trophy shot? No, just a photo of me at work! Wouldn't be the same without the bird in it!!

Last year's three young were also fitted with satellite tags and their migration dairies can be seen on the Dyfi Osprey Project's excellent website . Two of them, Dulas and Einion are still alive and hopefully enjoying much better weather in Sub-Saharan Africa! It will be fascinating to be able to follow the progress of one very lucky young Osprey.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Then there were three!

Yesterday Paul and I got to go to North Wales at the request of Steve Watson, Darren Moore and colleagues at Friends of the Osprey to ring the single chick at a third Welsh Osprey nest. Obviously the location remains confidential but a healthy male chick was ringed from the artificial platform erected by Steve several years ago. It has apparently been in use for the past couple of seasons but has not previously produced young.  See for more details

Both adults are unringed so their origins can only be guessed, however we do know they are not (directly) from a re-introduction projects so natural colonists from Scotland presumably.

Had this year's summer been a summer then we may well have been looking at 8 or 9 young Welsh Ospreys fledged! Who would have thought that 10 years ago?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

100th tagged Shropshire Red Kite

Had a trip over to near Chirbury today with Leo Smith to tag the last of the known Shropshire broods of Red Kite. It was a pleasant surprise to find a healthy brood of three - a rare event this year. The first of the three was the 100th kite tagged in Shropshire since they re-colonised the county in 2006.
As well as the negative impact of the lousy weather we have been concentrating our tagging solely on kite nests at the edge of their range this year, in Shropshire, Herefordshire, North Wales and South Wales so numbers ringed/tagged are greatly reduced at only about 25% of those achieved in recent years.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Not So Hardy!

Last night myself and Andre Marsh went back to ring the Merlins featured in the last post but   unfortunately the weather had done its thing on them too! The four healthy looking youngsters featured had been reduced to just one large female chick. Still she was well fed and feisty so should hopefully still make it - despite today's predicted deluge!  This is the last of eight Mid-Wales Merlin nests identified earlier in the season - the other seven all failed to produce chicks.

The day before I visited two Kestrel nests in Shropshire with Leo Smith and Michelle Frater, one of them, in an open crow nest on the Long Mynd, also had just a single chick (the other, in a hollow tree, had four) so the birds without roofs over their heads are clearly finding it pretty tough  this year!