Saturday, 22 August 2015

Norwegian Hawfinch update

Dave reminds me that I hadn't posted the details of our 2nd Norwegian Hawfinch recovery! The bird, an adult male, was ringed at our main feeding site near Dolgellau on 22nd March 2014. It was controlled by a Norwegian ringer at Batteriveien nord, Lyngdal, Vest-Agder on 13th April 2015, 387 days after original ringing and 905 kms distant. It will be very interesting to see if we can get a "bounce" and retrap him back in Wales this winter.

The Red markers show the two recovery locations (most recent bird on the left) and the Green marker shows the original ringing location of the Norwegian-ringed control. The Blue marker is the main feeding site.

The map above clearly indicates that there are regular movements occurring between South Norway and Wales and therefore what we might once have regarded as a resident population is obviously augmented by continental visitors in the winter months.

Monday, 17 August 2015


Well, another Hawfinch season has come to an end, bruised and bitten fingers slowly healing!

2015 has been something of a revelation though, for a number of reasons. Firstly, our year's total of 184 new birds is a record for this project, even beating the first year's number by some margin. Secondly, I've had the real pleasure of enjoying my whoosh-netting permit for it's first season........186 self-caught Hawfinches later and I'm starting to deal with extracting ten biters from a whoosh-net in one go.......on my own. Thirdly, we had the company of research scientist Will Kirby during the breeding season, who was radio-tagging and tracking some of our birds as part of the wider study on the species currently being conducted by the RSPB. Largely as a result of Will's involvement, we extended the trapping season into the summer period, catching 46 fledged juveniles from late-June to the end of July, adding another dimension to this project and hopefully some interesting future data.

One of the sixteen female birds we tagged. The intention being to follow these birds back to their nests, monitoring breeding outcomes and gathering data on site selection.

   The long and short of it: Above - Will's tracking work revealed some fascinating site selection, such as this quite unexpected nest site low in a Hawthorn in 'ffridd' type habitat; Below - a more typical site, high in a large Oak, requiring a fully extended ladder and a Red Bull-fuelled A.V.Cross!

The two young in the nest located in the large Oak above. Unfortunately all three nest we managed to erect nest cameras on failed in three days of exceptionally wet, cold and windy weather in early-May. Later nests appeared to fare better though, with good numbers of juveniles noted generally later in the season.

As well as the record ringing totals for the year, it's been another exceptional year for re-sightings, with over 400 positive sightings of colour-ringed birds in the locality. The majority of these have been in Trevor and Chris Bashford's garden in Dolgellau which continues to draw an extraordinary number of birds to the small amount of sunflower seed provided each day, with over 160 different birds recorded in the first five months of the year alone! The only negative news from this Hawfinch hotspot being two very worrying cases of likely Trichomonosis noted in visiting birds, which we can only hope does not become a serious threat to this species.

Exciting news of a second movement of one of our ringed birds to Norway emerged in May, thankfully this individual still being alive and well, unlike the previous long distance traveller taken by a Tawny Owl! (more news on this movement to follow).

  J33, one of 46 fledged juveniles colour-ringed during June and July. Hopefully this sample will  help add insight to the survival, breeding and movements of locally bred birds.

The next challenge is to extend the trapping season into Autumn and early-Winter, with a likely site in mind and bait ready. We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Romania 2015 - part 2

Silvia and I have finally come to the end of our 8 weeks surveying and ringing birds in Romania on behalf of Operation Wallacea and Fundatia Adept. Although we are only in the third year of a five year pilot project, it's easy to see why we are out here gathering data on what birds (and other wildlife) are present in this beautiful part of the world before industrialisation and intensive farming come in and start to destroy very important habitats!

Subsidies are already being offered to farmers who either cut their grass by hand either before 1st July to benefit Lesser Grey Shrike and Red-footed Falcon, or to cut it after 31st July to benefit Corncrake (there are various others subsidies available too) which is great news. Unfortunately these subsidies have already been cut, and it's only the second year they've been available. Lets hope with our findings that this cut is cancelled, otherwise there will be no incentive to keep traditional farming methods in practice and before too long Romania will follow the rest of Europe and lose so much of it's incredible wildlife!!

On a happier note we were able to trap and ring some more amazing birds again this year. It's surprising what little birds are hiding away in the middle of the scrub surrounding the massive hay meadows. Pictured below are a few of the highlights from the last four weeks.


Ictrine Warbler
 Thrush Nightingale

With all these small birds around, birds of prey were never too far away. Although a Sparrowhawk was seen 'bouncing' out of one of the nets, catching this fine adult Hobby seems to more than make up for it. Unsurprisingly we also caught 99 Swallows this morning as well.

Silvia releasing the hobby.

So after 8 long and hot weeks all of the small catches made each day have combined to make a pretty impressive catch. Short term, most of these species should be pretty safe here, I hope the same can be said for the long term future as well!!

The totals.

As enjoyable as this all was, I (and Silvia I think) can't wait to get back to the UK to continue in the Mid Wales Ringers' long term study in to the use of welsh hill farms as feeding grounds for nocturnal feeding waders. Bring on the wet and windy weather!