Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Roosting Redwings...

Last night myself and Silvia headed to a place near home where we had seen a couple of thousand Redwings coming into roost a few weeks back. Unfortunately the numbers had dropped to only a couple of hundred, but with the lure playing we managed to attract a few birds in to the net. We managed to catch 9 in total, and saw several others 'bounce' out. It wasn't the massive catch we were hoping for, but it was nice to catch some. We did try to catch them in the morning as they left the roost, but unfortunately the wind had picked up over night and catching was very difficult! Only 2 more Redwings were added to the catch, but it was nice to get to see them in daylight!

the aptly named 'red wing'

While the light was fading yesterday evening and we were thinking of packing up, a few Tawny Owls started to call very near to where we had set the nets up! A quick change of call on the iPod and we soon had a male and female Tawny Owl in the net!! This definitely made the trip worth while!!

Monday, 29 December 2014


Day-time ringing opportunities at this time of the year in Mid-Wales are a bit limited but at the beginning of December I started feeding the garden again after the summer break. Almost immediately this attracted the attention of a sizeable flock (or 'charm') of Goldfinches. 

Not the best of photos but it does show just how busy it can be under the feeders. Not sure why they seem to prefer to throw it all out on the floor rather than eat at the feeders but the dog seems to enjoy helping himself to most of what they spill!!

At times there can be nearly 50 Goldfinches on, under or around the 6 nijer seed feeders and keeping them all topped up is costing me a small fortune. Well worth it though as this month alone I have caught nearly 100 different Goldfinches in the garden including 86 new birds and a control. 

This bird caused a bit of confusion. It is obviously an adult based on the even colour of the primaries and tertials and the shape of the tail feathers. With a wing of 82 mm, red well behind the eye and predominantly black lesser coverts I sexed it as a male but the photo clearly shows it has very white nasal bristles, a feature supposedly found on females?

 A more typical male showing black nasal bristles. Whatever colour the bristles they are a stunning little bird and it is great to see them here in such good numbers.

It won't be that long now until they are joined by the returning Siskins and Redpolls and then the wallet really will take a hammering!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Woodcock Breeding

Following Tony's recent post on Woodcock this winter, I have more information on the 2014 breeding season. I have been in touch with Francois Gossmann who is the French Woodcock expert and his view is that although juvenile numbers are down this winter this does not represent a significant breeding failure and is part of the yearly fluctuation that happens due to the variation in weather conditions in Russia over the breeding season. This summer conditions in much of the area in Russia where Woodcock breed was dry, this impacted on the avialability of worms that are so vital for feeding broods.
I have also been in touch with Vadim Vitovsky a Russian biologist who studies Woodcock in the St Petersburg area. Each autumn they catch and ring Woodcock and have found that body mass this year was about 10% lower than normal reflecting poor feeding conditions, however Vadim also said that this was not an unusual occurrence.

Looking at the data on adult/ juvenile ratios from a selection of our ringers working in areas where there are few breeding Woodcock we can get a reasonable picture of what is happening with migrant woodcock for the past 4 years.

2011/12    65% juvenile  (sample 249)
2012/13    73% juvenile  (sample 178)
2013/14    70% juvenile  (sample 195)
2014/15    62% juvenile  (sample 144)  up to 12/12/14

Now that the Woodcock Network has a way of monitoring yearly breeding success we can keep shooter informed and urge them to use restraint on years when there has been lower breeding success. I have written a piece on this which will be published in 'Shooting Times' this week.

This is all possible due to the dedication of our Woodcock ringers who venture out on cold wet and windy winter nights to ring and gather this valuable information. People often question the need for ringing, but ringing Woodcock demonstrates the value of gathering biometric data across the country which can be used to the benefit of the species.

Since the Woodcock Network started ringing in 2008 we have learned that Woodcock are much more abundant than previously thought with our ringers seeing high numbers on sites throughout the country. What has also emerged is that migrant Woodcock are highly loyal to their wintering haunts. Since starting to ring Woodcock on my site in West Wales I have seen my re-trap level of birds ringed over previous winters grow each year.

2008/9     5.4%       of all adults caught
2009/10  11.3%       "         "            "
2010/11  29.4%       "         "            "
2011/12  30.5%       "         "            "
2012/13  47.0 %      "         "            "
2013/14  43.0%       "         "            "
2014/15  75.0%       "         "            "  up to 12/12/14

We are keen to get more ringers working on Woodcock so that we can improve our understanding of this secretive species. If you need advice on catching techniques please give me a call on 01974 272654.

Monday, 15 December 2014

What a load of old Scolopax!

After a slow start it looks as if the Woodcock have finally arrived in Wales en masse. I caught my first one of the winter on the 28th October, a pretty usual date for seeing the first few returning birds, but although there have been reasonable numbers present since there hasn't been anything spectacular. The last two nights though have been very different! In the early hours of Sunday morning, after catching a few Snipe and Jack Snipe at Ynyslas with Matt Potter, I ventured out to one of our regular sites just inland of Aberystwyth and had a catch of 16 new Woodcock. Then last night I made the first visit of the winter to a regular site in Carmarthenshire and caught an amazing 27 Woodcock (25 new birds, 1 retrap from Feb 2011 and another from Jan 2012). That's 41 new Woodcock ringed in less than 24 hours!

Francios Gossman from the French equivalent of the Game Conservancy had recently contacted Owen to request information of the ratio of adult to young birds we were getting as there is some early suggestion that it may have been a poor breeding season for Woodcock in Russia this year as it has been so dry. The 43 birds I've just caught comprised 18 adults and 25 juveniles or 42% adults which is actually higher than the mean of around 30% observed over the past few years so perhaps there is something in it. Hopefully Owen will be able to post a more comprehensive assessment later when he has gathered comparable counts from other Woodcock ringers.

In the spotlight - if, through adult:juvenile ratios at trapping, Woodcock can be shown to have had a poor breeding season then the shooting community can be asked to exercise restraint so that numbers are allowed to recover.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

4 significant milestones!

With the moon high in the sky and bright until 4 am the only chance to get a bit of dazzling in at the moment is to get up early - very early! Yesterday I met Sarah in Aberystwyth at 2:45 having set off an hour earlier. The sky was cloudless and the moon still very bright so we killed a bit of time catching a few Dippers at one of the local roost bridges. Four birds were present and we managed to catch 3 of them (2 new and 1 2013 retrap). Afterwards we headed down to a regular dazzling site on the coast. Despite the perfectly still conditions and heavy frost we eventually managed to catch 2 Golden Plover, 2 Lapwing, 2 Woodcock and a Skylark but it was hard going as the birds were clearly using other locations for feeding now that the small puddles had frozen. In particular we didn't see a single Jack Snipe despite the fact that Brendan and I caught 3 (and flushed almost double figures) in the same fields just 24 hours earlier.

At 8am Sarah headed off to work and I met up with Brendan and we went looking for daytime ringing opportunities on the coast. Mid Wales can be pretty lifeless for small birds in the winter but we eventually found a turnip field absolutely heaving with Meadow and, bizarrely, Rock Pipits. There must have been well over 50 of each species present along with a similar number of Skylarks. Tracking down the farmer took a while but he was more than happy for us to try catching a few so we set two nets in a V shape and left a mixed pipit tape running. The pipits could clearly see the net (the Rock Pipits more so than the Meadow Pipits unfortunately) but we did eventually catch 22 Meadow Pipits and 3 Rock Pipits. As the frost melted so the birds moved out of the turnip field and headed out to the pasture fields nearby. A quick look at the thrush roost in the late afternoon showed that the large number of birds present just a few weeks ago had already moved off or found somewhere better.

Despite the relatively small number of birds caught, during the course of the day we ringed our 500th Dipper, 400th Meadow Pipit, 300th Woodcock and 200th Golden Plover of the year. Scientifically I suppose these figures are barely separable from 499, 399, 299 and 199 respectively but hey, that's just one of the small joys of being human!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Everything must go!

This morning Andre and I headed down to Aberystwyth to try netting at a new site we had received permission for just the night before - in fact there was a big welcome waiting for us when we turned up!

A quick reccy revealed a couple of interesting net locations and the potential to catch the odd bird.

We quickly erected a net in the best looking spot but despite trying a bit of tactical 'driving' it was a while before we managed to catch our first bird, nearly 2 hours in fact, but it was worth it in the end - a nice immature male Sparrowhawk.

Having seen nothing else flying around whilst we were there we decided to call it a day and pack up. One bird seen, one bird caught, 100% success!!

Don't look back in anger!

P.S. This Sparrowhawk had chased a small bird in through the loading bay doors the previous afternoon and despite leaving the doors open it wouldn't drop low enough to fly out again. Unable to set the alarms because the bird was triggering them, would-be robbers missed an excellent opportunity to stock up on early Christmas presents when the store was left all night with all the alarms off (it was locked though and the alarms are back on again now!!). The store is pretty big and a single 40ft net looked completely lost but by carefully driving the bird towards the net with long poles we did manage to catch it eventually (although it managed to get out of the net three times!!) and safely release it outside. 

The curse has lifted...

Usually when I offer to take Marc Hughs out dazzling we end up seeing and catching very little (or get stuck in a field). This evening had the same feel about it, because as we drove up the last hill the mist set in! A trip around the first field resulted in just 1 Woodcock being caught, and very little else seen! The second field looked as if it would follow suit, as the first 2 Woodcock we saw were spooked by a Jack Snipe and a Fieldfare managed to escape as I was dropping the net! Then strangely, the mist started to clear. I said to Marc there's a (slim) chance we might see an owl now. Only minutes later a Short-eared Owl dropped out of the sky, and took an interest in the Woodcock I was trying to creep up on. It soon lost interest and sat on a post. Having had a bit of practice catching owls of posts with barbed wire recently, I was fairly confident that I could catch it if I could get close enough, BINGO! No sooner had I caught the owl, another one turned up about 20 meters away! This one unfortunately took off when I was within about 4 meters of it, but you can't have everything I suppose. Needless to say, myself and Marc were extremely pleased with the catch.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The long wait is over...

Around 3 and a half years ago (3 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 5 days to be exact but who's counting) I saw and very nearly caught my first ever Long-eared Owl. It was sat on a fence post, and I managed to get the net over the bird only for it to get snagged on some barbed wire. Needless to say, the owl got away and never came close again!! I was faced with the same challenge this evening and the same story nearly happened. Thankfully tho I was aware that the net would get snagged, so as soon as I had dropped the net on the owl I quickly grabbed it! I had local trainee ringer Elinor Parry with me at the time who couldn't quite believe what had just happened (neither could I!). Seeing a species for the first time is always a nice moment, but getting to ring it and have a real good look at it is even better.

Elinor getting to grips with the Long-eared Owl

Aged as a juvenile, so hopefully a 'local' bred bird

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Gold dust - well hardly!

This autumn  has  been an  exceptional  one for Goldcrest  ringing  in  our  area. I know that perhaps we haven't tried as hard or as regularly in the past but even so there do seem to be a hell of a lot around at the moment

First net round yesterday produced 25 in this net alone but they are 
pretty small so hard to see!

So far this autumn we have ringed over 400 and yesterday, at a new site south of Aberystwyth, Andre and I managed a catch of 60 Goldcrest in 3 nets along with 18 Long-tailed Tit, 7 Bullfinch, 5 Coal Tit, 4 Blue Tit, 2 Willow Tit,  1 Great Tit, 1 Wren and a Woodcock! 

One of the 60 Goldcrests caught yesterday. As is usually the case the vast majority were birds of the year. Not the best photo as the defining feature isn't visible!! 

One of the two Willow Tits we also caught.  These smart little birds have declined massively nationally but there still seem to be reasonable numbers in our local conifer plantations where there are lots of rotten tree stumps to nest in.

Although we obviously catch a lot of Woodcock each winter it is a long time since I saw one in a mist-net. As Andre has just qualified for his 'C' specific for winter wader dazzling he got to start his ringing notebook off with this as his first bird!

Andre kicks-off his 'dazzling' C permit in broad daylight!

This bird was aged as a juvenile based on the broad brown tips to the primary coverts and the rounded, rather than flattened, ends of the inner primaries.

And it posed briefly for a photo on release too!

As dusk was falling we noticed several hundred Redwing and Fieldfare heading into a dense bit of re-growth and quickly put up a couple of 40ft nets and played Redwing song on the tape-lures. Wasn't a massive hit but did catch 7 Redwing, a Fieldfare and a Blackbird to add to the day's catch. Six more Woodcock were seen flighting out of the cover too so seems good numbers have arrived back now.

Hoping to go back for a more dedicated effort at the thrush roost soon as there were a lot of birds present and they were definitely in a catchable site given a bit more time to set nets.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Taking stock...

While out dazzling waders at night time, you occasionally stumble across other species roosting in the fields. Species such as Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Fieldfare etc are regularly seen and trapped and expected to be encountered, but Stock Doves on the other hand are always a bit of a shock to see roosting in a field at night time especially when there are so many trees around! Maybe this is 'normal' behavior and we're only just realising? Needless to say I trapped another Stock Dove last night, along with 2 Fieldfares and 3 more Woodcock.

'3rd Stock Dove to be dazzled this winter'

'Fieldfares have finally started to arrive, but only in small numbers'

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Owls that........

After Tony's success we decided to head out to some of our 'dazzling' sites in north Radnorshire to see what new birds had arrived on the recent full moon. After the first 3 sites we had managed to catch 3 Snipe, 4 Woodcock, 3 Golden Plovers and 2 Fieldfares which was what we would normally expect to catch, give or take a few birds. Despite it being very late we still had some battery power left, so I suggested we tried one more site! It was definitely worth the effort as this site seemed to be alive with Owls! On the section I was checking, I soon noticed an 'eared owl' in the distance perched on the ground. It was in the middle of a boggy area so I wasn't expecting to get anywhere near it. But with some very delicate foot work I managed to get close enough to catch the bird, it was indeed a Shortie!! Not long after I notice another 'eared owl' hunting in the distance, this one wasn't having any of it and kept its distance, I think it was a Long-eared. On the way back to the car a female Barn Owl dropped to the ground about 3 meters in front of me only to be put up by a Snipe!! Tony also saw a different Long-eared Owl on his patch, but this one also kept his distance. While driving back Tony spotted a different Barn Owl sat on a fence post, so we stopped and I had a go at catching one on a post, bingo!! As if this wasn't enough, we then saw Tony's Long-eared Owl again, and then nearer to home we managed to catch a Tawny Owl that was perched on the roadside!!

'juvenile female Short-eared Owl'

'juvenile male Barn Owl'

'adult female Tawny Owl'

In all of the 'owl excitement' we managed to catch another 3 new (+ 2 re-trap) Woodcock and 1 more Fieldfare! A night that's going to be very hard to beat!!

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Long and the Short of it!

With the weatherman giving warnings of high winds and heavy rain it was time to set off ringing again! These are just the conditions in which you can get a very good catch. Last night produced a couple of unexpected surprises though.

Firstly this Short-billed Woodcock. We have shown pictures of "shorties" on this blog before but this is the first one I've encountered and had a bill just over half the normal length. Like Paddy's recent "Snowcock   "http://pembsringinggroup.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/great-white-snipe-or-snowcock.html this bird was also an adult so has managed to cope with its impediment for some time.

Secondly, whilst walking one rushy field I noticed what I initially thought was another "Shortie" hunting in the beam of the torch. I tried "squeaking" it in but it took no notice and eventually flew off. Later, on my way back, it was hunting the same patch of ground but this time it eventually perched on a fence post and I was able to walk up quietly and net it off the top! With the weather so mild on the continent at the moment it is likely this bird is probably one of our small local breeding population but there is also the chance that it has come in from Scandinavia to winter in our milder winter climate.

Long-eared Owl - absolutely stunning! A juv I think but the diagrams in Baker are a bit confusing to say the least!!

As our Barn and Little Owl man, Chris Griffiths, lives just a few miles down the road I gave him a call to see if he wanted to broaden his ringing experience, don't think he could have made it any faster if he had flown! 

4 more Woodcock, 2 Golden Plover and a Fieldfare made it well worth going out for and the weather wasn't half as bad as it was forecast anyway!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

One by One

Building up a picture of where our birds come from, or go to, and how long they live through ordinary ringing studies is all a numbers game. Recovery rates for many species are pretty low so unless you can afford to use some of the expensive new technologies you usually need to ring a lot of birds to get a small amount of information back. Glass half-empty people take this as a reason not to ring at all whilst the more enthusiastic and optimist of us see it as a reason to do as much as possible. Whatever the species, whatever the study, data can only be accumulated by increasing the sample size but you do have to start somewhere! Every project, even those that have been running for years and years started with the first bird. Although I have now ringed well-over 3,000, I can still remember vividly being lowered down a mine-shaft in 1986 to ring my first ever Chough and I even remember catching my first ever Dipper back in 1980! (I have now ringed over 5,000). The point of this? No, not trumpet blowing, just pointing out that every single bird ringed has the potential to add something to the sum of all human knowledge be it a common bird or a less common one. A couple of recent recoveries highlight this fact.

I have just been informed by HQ of a retrap of the only Cetti's Warbler we have ever ringed on Borth Bog (well actually the only one we have ever ringed outside of the Teifi Marshes). This bird, ringed as a 3J back in August 2012, was controlled 105km away at Shotton Steel Works, Flintshire in April and May 2014 by Merseyside Ringing Group. It may have been the only one ringed (and it may not have been part of a specific project) but it is now a line in the 2nd Edition of the Migration Atlas! 

Juvenile Cetti's Warbler on Borth Bog

Similarly bird-watchers in Aberystwyth have reported the return of a ringed male Black Redstart to the Old College. It can't be absolutely confirmed yet (until someone gets a nice clear close-up photo of the ring) but my money is on it being the male Paul ringed back in December 2010 returning for his fourth consecutive winter.  If so this adds just a bit more to our knowledge on site fidelity and life expectancy for this uncommon species in Wales and it is interesting to see how many local birders are now eager to know if it is the same bird rather than bemoaning the fact it has a ring on!

Male Black Redstart on the Old College in Aberystwyth  (Photo by Janet Baxter)

I look forward to posting the recovery details of the Great Snipe in due course because that would add a whole new page to the Migration Atlas 2nd Edition!!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Look who's back!

iPhone record shot of the first Woodcock of the winter. 

This is the first Woodcock caught on our "dazzling" sites this winter. The first seen, just half an hour earlier, eluded capture and went off unmarked! 

So far this season we have ringed over 120 Golden Plover, 30 Jack Snipe, 60 Snipe and 1 Great Snipe which all bodes well for the main event which is going to be happening over the next four months!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

An almost appropriate Dipper!

Last night, Lloyd and I checked a load of Dipper roost sites along the whole length of the Red Lake (a river!) in Shropshire. This annual roost monitoring is currently taking place at more than 250 traditional roost sites, throughout multiple river catchments, in Shropshire and Mid-Wales and is giving us great information on adult and nestling survival rates, juvenile dispersal distances and weight data. This work compliments our summer pulli ringing and RAS project (which is completed mostly through resightings of these winter-caught colour-ringed birds). 

The roost visits are limited to once or twice a winter depending on whether birds are missed on the first visit. Currently nearly 100 of the 250 roosts have been counted and 92 birds have been handled from the 115 present. Early indications are that juvenile survival has been good and numbers present overall are a bit higher this year than for several years. As usual, many roosts were empty and most had either 1 or 2 birds but one held an exceptional 11 birds! We will obviously know more when we have completed the survey and will keep you posted.

One of the 30 Dippers handled last night and almost appropriate!

A couple of nights ago, on the way home from catching Golden Plovers, I came across a new species for the group standing in the middle of the road - after a moments hesitation I decided against ringing it!

The owners of this cracking bird were very pleased (and surprised) to get her back the following day and she is now safely re-instated with the rest of her gaggle. Although pinioned (as required by law apparently) she still managed to fly so they were keen to know how on earth I had managed to catch her!  "A trade secret I'm afraid"!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Cross-Border Snipers

Most ringers hate wet or windy conditions. It usually signals an end to any plans to go out netting or nest-finding. The great thing about dazzling is that all that wet and windy weather we get in Wales in winter is absolutely perfect!!

Last night was a classic example. With the forecast predicting rain and high winds, and with no moon to speak of, both Paul and I headed out into the foul weather. Paul did two of our regular sites near Llanbadarn Ffynydd whilst I headed just over the border into Shropshire to do one of our main sites on the Ceri Ridgeway.

Some recent uninformed discussion on Bird Forum following Paul's amazing catch last  week needs laying to rest! Dazzling is not about attracting passing migrants down out of the sky! We aren't lighthouses!! Our regular targets - Snipe, Jack Snipe, Woodcock and Golden Plover aren't all being disturbed at roost either! They are all nocturnal feeders so are all wide awake and padding round these wet pastures looking for lunch when we are out catching. Even without our attentions the birds are being constantly moved around the fields by foxes, badgers and owls. The essence of dazzling is that the ringer simply hides behind a bright light so the birds can't see them. This (sometimes!) allows the ringer to get close enough to drop a landing net on top of them. Because of the constant risk of predation these birds are finely tuned to ANY sound so if your wellies squeak, your trousers rustle, or you tread on a bit of dry thistle stalk the birds will hear you approaching and fly off quite normally! We might make it sound easy but stealth, an ability to read the bird's body language, and good hand to eye co-ordination are also essential skills for successful dazzling and not everyone is good at it. 

Many birds appear not to mind the light at all and we have frequently watched them carry on feeding right up until the time you drop the net on them!. Rain is good because it not only makes the birds hunker down but it also masks the sound of the approaching ringer so capture rates are very much improved.

Too wet for photos last night so here's one from last winter

Last night our combined catch was 15 Snipe, 9 Jack Snipe (including 2 retraps - 1 from this winter one from last), 3 Golden Plover (including a retrap of a returning 2013 bird), 4 Meadow Pipit, 2 Skylark and 1 Teal. The more ringers we can encourage to try their hands at dazzling the better the chance of getting the odd control. I did catch our first ever British-ringed Golden Plover control a few nights ago but obviously don't know where it has come from yet. 

Despite getting absolutely drenched last night If it rains tonight I dare say I'll be out there again!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A response

As ringers we have been encouraged by the BTO to move towards more project based ringing and as a group we are wholeheartedly embracing this advice. This blog aims to inform readers on the results of our projects on species like Nightjar, Chough, Dipper, Woodcock, Golden Plover, Ring Ouzel and Hawfinch - many of which are species of conservation concern.

The Great Snipe was caught incidentally whilst attempting to catch Woodcock/Golden Plover for our long-running projects on these species. So far we have ringed nearly 2,000 Woodcock with recoveries in Russia (20+), Scandinavia (4), Spain (2), France, Netherlands, Germany and Ireland and have recorded nearly 500 retraps throwing light on winter site fidelity, survival rates and cold-weather weight responses. 


We have also colour-ringed over 600 Golden Plover with movements to or from Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway and Finland.

Much data from our work, such as that on Chough, Nightjar and Dipper, is used by conservation agencies to inform direct species conservation such as species action plans, site management and development mitigation.

For more information on bird ringing go to:


N. B. Dazzling is a legal term written into wildlife legislation and not one of our own making!

Thursday, 9 October 2014


With heavy showers forecast overnight I headed out to one of our local winter 'dazzling' sites. The weather once again wasn't as predicted, so catching was extremely difficult. Before too long I was ready to settle for the Skylark and Meadow Pipit that I had caught, when a large long-billed bird got up and landed again. Woodcock I thought, so I quickly went over to try and catch it. When I got to the place it landed, all I could see was an enormous Snipe staring at me. I soon realised it was a Great Snipe and carefully crept through the reeds until I was within 'striking' distance. I couldn't believe it when I took it out of the net, it was an absolute monster.

The monster!!

A fully barred belly.

The distinctive tail pattern.

With only 3 other Great Snipe ever being trapped and ringed in the UK, several measurement and photos were taken of the key features that distinguish it from Common Snipe:

Wing length - 155mm (Common Snipe 127-142)
Tarsus - 39.4mm (Common Snipe 29-36)
Weight - 205.5g (Common Snipe 100g average)

Over the past 5 years, collectively as a group, we've managed to trap a good number of wintering waders on the hills around mid Wales:

Woodcock - 1,698
Common Snipe - 195
Jack Snipe - 99
Lapwing- 100
Golden Plover - 624
and now a Great Snipe.  Who knows what else could be lurking around in these parts!!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Morning Wood....

Popped down early this morning to see if any more Ring Ouzels had shown up on the berries I'd put out. No joy unfortunately, and the Starlings have found them now so that's probably it for another year,. Whilst I was there though I notice 3 Green Woodpeckers feeding nearby. Green Woodpeckers are a scarce bird locally and seemingly getting scarcer. I quickly put a net up and played their yaffling calls on the speaker. Within a few minutes there was not only a Green but also a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the net! Unfortunately Lesser Spotted lives up to its name around here now so there wasn't much chance of the hat-trick!! This is the first Green Woodpecker we've caught for about 4 years but we are having a good year for Great Spotted Woodpeckers with 18 ringed so far.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Jacking off...

Despite the full moon and the cloudless nights, I've ventured out up on to the hills the last 3 nights to see what's about. Several Common and Jack Snipe seem to have arrived already, with a handful of Golden Plover and Lapwing also present.

Not expecting to catch anything, I'm extremely pleased to have trapped 2 Jack and 2 Common Snipe already! With Tony catching a few waders already as well, it could get busy over the new moon period!!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Two out of three ain't bad!

This morning I went to a regular local passage stop-off for Ring Ouzels where we have managed to catch a small number of birds in previous autumns. The local Rowans haven't been as productive at this site as they usually are so I've spent the last few morning augmenting the crop with berries collected elsewhere. This morning I discovered two things. Firstly, sheep love eating Rowan berries if you put them out on the ground! Secondly that you CAN get Ring Ouzels to come to where you want them to by putting food out!! I saw just three this morning but managed to catch two of them which ain't bad at all! A couple of winters ago Mick Green, Paddy Jenks and I spent a whole week in the Ring Ouzel's main wintering range in the Atlas Mountains and only managed to catch nine!

1st year Male Ring Ouzel caught near Rhayader

Ring Ouzels aren't that common in Mid-Wales anymore but they are a species we have been specifically targeting to try and discover why they are declining. All the adult birds caught in the past few years have been colour-ringed with a white Darvic engraved with two letters to make them individually recognisable in the field.  Also, in conjunction with the Ecology Matters Trust, we have also been attempting to fit four geolocators to breeding adults. This summer we caught two breeding males but unfortunately one was before we had received the geolocators so just the one bird got tagged!

Adult male Ring Ouzel caught earlier this year near Dolgellau showing fitted geolocator

The two birds this morning were both fitted with colour-rings but since the birds need to be retrapped in a subsequent summer in order to get the geolocators back, and we have no idea where these birds were reared/bred, the chances of doing so are too small to make it worth tagging these ones. Hopefully we will get chance to fit the three tags we still have to breeding birds next year. This is easily said though as they tend to nest in some fairly remote spots!

The only nest of pulli we managed to ring this year was at a nest that Dave Smith found smack in the middle of the cliff shown above. Luckily, having flogged in, the chicks were just big enough to ring although unfortunately they were just  too small to colour-ring.

This is the first Ring Ouzel brood I have ringed since I had a colour-ringing project running on the small and declining breeding population on the Long Mynd in Shropshire that was being monitored by Leo Smith over 10 years ago now!

Think, in the circumstances, a little bit of gurning is acceptable!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Great fire of London...

Despite living in south London, my sister still seems to attract lots of wildlife to her garden, includidng several species of bird. Whenever we visit I try to take my ringing gear, mainly beacuse my 3 little nephews love to see the birds close up but also because some of the common garden birds here aren't so common in mid Wales - Magpie, Greenfinch, Wood Pigeon etc.

This visit has certainly lived up to it's expectations, as well catching some of the 'common' species mentioned above, we also managed to catch a Firecrest. This is the first record of one in the garden, and made me wonder what else might have passed through un-noticed? Roll on the next visit!!

Another new species for the group!

1 of the 6 Goldcrests caught for comparison.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Life's a beach...

The last 3 nights a combination of myself, Silvia, Tony, Andre and Sarah have all been trying to catch waders once again at Ynyslas. Despite there seeming to be far fewer waders around during the night time high tides, catches were very good. Totals can be seen below, but the stand out highlights were 2 more Curlew Sandpipers, a Guillemot and amazingly TWO more Norwegian-ringed Dunlin.


It's been an incredible year for Dunlin, hopefully 500 can be reached before the year is out!

A very unusual (but welcome) find during a wader dazzling session!

 2010 Curlew Sandpiper total equalled, now to beat it!

Another good passage of Knot at Ynyslas this year.