Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Recce and ringing demo at Dyfi Osprey Centre

Yesterday I was kindly invited by Emyr Evans at the Dyfi Osprey Centre to undertake a bit of a recce to see if there was anywhere suitable to conduct some general mist-netting on the Cors Dyfi reserve to help assess the number and variety of birds present and with the eventual aim of perhaps training-up a few of the staff to undertake these activities themselves. A quick look confirmed that the site has huge potential and with the help of Alwyn, Janine and Maria six nets were quickly set along the boardwalks adjacent to areas of phragmites reedbed and willow carr. 

First net-round at Cors Dyfi - looks brilliant but 24 Blue Tits and 13 Chaffinches made up nearly half the total catch.

86 birds were caught in a couple of hours and despite the lateness of the season this included a few warblers -  8 Reed, 3 Sedge, 8 Willow,  9 Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps. Most of the rest were Blue Tits, Great Tits or Chaffinches but there was a single Grey Wagtail, a species only recorded on site once or twice previously.

A bit ruffled but the greater coverts clearly show a moult limit identifying this Grey Wagtail as a bird hatched this year

The second half of the catch, those birds caught after the 10 am opening, were processed in front of some of the many visitors to the reserve and judging by the reactions and questions was much appreciated by all.

Demonstrating ringing a bird to the centre visitors and explaining the difference in wing formula between Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff

My apologies to the little boy who asked what bird was in the next bag and was a bit disappointed when it wasn't the Osprey I said it was!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Picnic at Ynyslas

Well not quite a full picnic, but I'll settle for a couple of sarnies. With the tides dropping quickly, myself, Tony and Jane (with some much appreciated help from Dave and Sue Reed) headed down to Ynylas to try and mist net Terns and Waders on the rising tide. Despite weather conditions being perfect, the tide never really got high enough. But with the 5 nets set up, and the combination of a bit of dazzling we managed to catch a respectable 2 Sandwich Terns, 1 Common Tern, 3 (+1) Ringed Plover and 33 Dunlin.

Another bird ringed this evening, was a juvenile Mediterranean Gull. It was trapped the night before, but on closer inspection it had a small laceration on the lower right side of its chest. After some precise stitching from 'vet Cross', and some overnight observation from Jane, we decided it was well enough to be released back in to the wild.

A welcome addition to the Mid Wales Ringers Group.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

5 kms short of a very long way for a Dipper!

Just had the most recent batch of recoveries from BTO HQ. Not a lot of great interest but unusually it is two Dipper recoveries that stand out. Firstly one ringed in April 2011 on the Onny in Shropshire, between Craven Arms and Bishop's Castle, was retrapped by D. J. Cooksey on 19th June 2013 at Pontllanfraith, Caerphilly, South Wales. British Dippers are usually fairly sedentary and at 95 kms this is getting on for twice my previous longest movement (58 kms from Newcastle-on-Clun to Talybont) out of just over 4,000 ringed so far. In fact there have only ever been two movements in excess of 100 kms recorded by British-ringed Dippers. A bird from Strathclyde to Tayside  (116 kms) in 1989 and one from Norfolk to Suffolk (105 kms) in 1991. The latter bird was known to be a continental "black-bellied" Dipper so doesn't really count!  There's lovely.

Ringing location in Green and recovery location in Red

The second bird was ringed on the same river, near Wentnor, in April 2006 and was controlled a more normal distance of 12 kms away in June 2013 by Gareth Richardson. At 7 years and 2 months old though this bird is my oldest Dipper so far and is approaching the British longevity record of 8 years 4 months and 11 days for a Dipper ringed in Cornwall in 1970 and re-trapped 40 kms away in Devon in 1978. Hopefully Gareth will go back and catch it again for us next autumn!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Three Kings

On Thursday night I headed down to Glasbury in the hope of mist-netting the odd  Green Sandpiper or Greenshank on the river and to see if there were any Sand Martins or Yellow Wagtails present to have a try at. The weather deteriorated once I got there however and the wind picked up too strong to do very much. I decided to have a go for the waders anyway and did manage to catch one Green Sandpiper out of the four present but, as Sod's Law dictates, it was the same one I've caught twice already this autumn. After an uncomfortable few hours sleep in the car I opened the nets again in the morning hoping for better luck in the slightly improved weather. Only caught 4 birds all morning, a retrap Common Sandpiper and 3 Kingfishers!  It might have been a bit boring but I managed to keep myself entertained digging the car out of the ox-bow!!

Adult male (left) and juvenile male Kingfisher

Kingfisher ageing is all about the feet - bright orange in adults and darker in young birds. A warning though, they aren't all this obvious!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Is nothing sacred?

It appears e-criminals have even started to target ringing groups as a source of potential revenue.  I have just received the following from HQ

A series of apparent ‘ringing groups’ set up on Twitter with a link to easygiving (a fundraising site) have been drawn to our attention.  These groups also appear on Facebook.  They appear to have been set up to raise money.  The straplines of these groups are either:

We monitor the population and movement of birds for scientific study, in order to conserve species.
More recently:
A virtual Group supporting ringing in your historic County. Conserving species and their habitat through scientific study.

They use vice county or county names.  None of them are BTO ringing groups.

Please note that there are some BTO ringing groups on Twitter with a link to easygiving, but the wording used for them is different.  There are also BTO ringing groups on Facebook.  If you are in doubt about any group, please contact me.

These apparent ‘ringing groups’ are currently being investigated.  In the mean time we suggest that you do not communicate with any of them, or sign up to donate.
Jacquie Clark

Just to make it absolutely clear, all our ringing is self-funded at great cost. There  is no such group as the Cardiganshire Ringing Group so don't correspond with them on twitter and don't give the low-lives  a penny of your hard-earned cash.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Couple of sarnies and a bad bout of wind!

On Thursday Paddy, Jane and I had the first crack of the season at mist-netting terns and waders at Ynyslas. Following last year's successes with Sandwich Terns I've arranged a supply of colour-rings for this species to hopefully help maximise the information gathered from all our hard efforts. Things started off quite promising, nets were positioned perfectly in relation to the tide and over 100 plus Sandwich Terns were flying around. Unfortunately, however, just as the tide reached the right stage for catching the wind picked up and it started to drizzle. This severely affected the catch and just two Sandwich Terns and three Dunlin were caught. We did as a result however, get to colour-ring our first two Sandwich Terns.

Taxi!! If you see this particular red KAB around and about be sure to let us know.

The following evening was the first night of a long weekend's Welsh ringing workshop organised by Kelvin Jones and hosted by the Teifi Ringing Group so there wasn't chance to return (see

The Saturday evening tide seemed just too good to miss so with 10 or so of the workshop attendees I headed back to Ynyslas for a re-match. Unfortunately a similar story unfolded as 4 perfectly set nets were rendered completely ineffective by the gradually strengthening SW wind. This time no terns or waders were mist-netted although 5 Dunlin were lamped right at the end of the trip which helped save face just a little bit! A brilliant demonstration of the safe way not to catch terns though!  Really hoping for calmer conditions in a fortnights time.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Monty got a Good Deal

Earlier in the year when Nora the female Osprey failed to show up for duty at the Montgomery Wildlife Trust's Cors Dyfi Reserve it looked as if things could go horribly wrong for Monty the male. A succession of females put in brief appearances but all moved on. Then, late in the proceedings, Blue 12, a Rutland reared female, turned up and took a shine to him just in the nick of time. She proved to be of good stock and this morning I got to ring the fruits of this late pairing, one of the latest first egg dates ever recorded for British Ospreys. At just over five weeks old the two chicks were strong and healthy with very good weights, a reflection of the excellent fishing conditions the male has been afforded by the run of good weather.

Before - hard to believe they have grown so fast

During - 1R gets her own back as she is returned to the nest

After - normal activity resumes very soon after we leave the nest with Monty returning with a large Brown Trout

These two females chicks join the two I ringed earlier in North Wales at a nest platform erected by the Friends of the Ospreys. 

Fed up of playing dead - 8R makes a stand!

At least 6 chicks have been reared in Wales this year at 3 successful nests so hopefully, over the next few years, we will get to see a further increase in the number of these amazing birds nesting in Wales.

More info on these two projects can be found at :


PS Dyfi Osprey project have released a short video of the chicks been ringed which you can view at the following link;

Monday, 5 August 2013

Hobbies, Honeys and a few Jars

On Tuesday I met Damian Clarke, a fellow raptor ringer from Ireland, off the ferry in  Pembroke Dock and we headed off to Brechfa Forest in search of more Nightjars. Nightjars are pretty scarce in Ireland and a couple of years ago Damian conducted a big survey for them in Co. Wicklow whilst on secondment to the Golden Eagle Trust. Unfortunately, despite there being loads of suitable habitat and given that you can see Wicklow from Wales on a good day, he failed to locate any. Things were considerably better in Brechfa though. Having met up with Paddy and Dai Rees and Gordon Baird from NRW we checked five of the seven nests we had pinned down. All were still going, despite the recent heavy rains, and three of them had hatched with one nest containing a single, ringable, chick and the other two both having two chicks that were not quite old enough yet.

Three nightjars all looking pretty stick like! This is a female covering two chicks just under a week old.

Nightjars on nests never fail to amaze, this one has a single ringable chick under her.

On Wednesday, after a few hours sleep, we headed off down to Monmouth to meet Steve Roberts. Steve's looking for me to act as a referee for his permit upgrade so we went down to help him ring a couple of broods of Hobby before heading off to try for yet more Nightjars in South Wales.

One of Steve's brood of Hobbies in Monmouthshire

Damian extracting a juvenile Nightjar from a mist-net set over the forest track.

Nothing better than a couple of jars on a warm summer evening.

Thursday morning was a bit special as, whilst we were in South Wales anyway, we got to help Steve ring a brood of Honey Buzzards.

Honey Buzzard nests can be amazingly difficult to locate but this one was unusually open and on the edge of a track.

Two is the usual brood size. Both these chicks were a good weight and crops rammed with wasp grubs, a reflection of the better weather we are having this summer.

Steve colour-rings all his "Honeys" so that he can identify them at nests when they breed using video cameras. This one is JR - lets's hope we never have to ask the question!

We then headed off to ring a couple more broods of Hobby, one in Radnorshire the other near Clun in Shropshire.

Friday morning, first thing, we tried for Green Sandpipers at Glasbury and caught  two -  the same bird Sarah and I caught there last week plus a new one. We also caught 5 Common Sandpipers (three retraps and two new). The rest of Friday was spent in an abortive attempt to locate more Hobby nests. In total we visited five site where they have bred in the last two years and didn't see a single Hobby all day!

Friday night/Saturday morning was spent doing more Nightjars with Jane -  a single female was re-trapped and two broods of chicks ringed (the two that were just too small on Tuesday night). A busy week to say the least but great fun and good company as usual, cheers mate.

Would you just step on to the scales a minute please?