Friday, 30 October 2009

Weekend blues

Doesn't look that good for the next couple of days, the weather, that is. We made the best of a bad job and went out this morning instead. By God, was it slow, at least for the first three hours. Once the sun was obscured by cloud, things began to happen.

A fair bit of vis-mig noticeable today; 2 flocks of Wood Pigs totalling 400+, 4 sorties of Redwing making c.70 & 29 Fieldfare at very low altitude. Fewer Sky Larks today and just the one Mipit.

The Blackbird invaders were very noticeable today, too, but not that inclined to move at net height.

A mixed bunch processed, 22 (7) of 10 spp.: Wren 2, Robin (1), Blackbird 3 (2), Redwing 2, LTT 4 (1), Blue Tit 4, Gt. Tit 3 (2), Chaffinch 1, Goldfinch 1, Bullfinch 2 (1).

This young male Bullfinch is the heaviest I've seen at 25.4 gm. I think it must have been on passage ... or porridge!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Red Letter Day

Yesterday, young Kane sent us a string of e-mails in his c-r coordinator capacity. 13 new records of our Barnacles. They weren't that far from home, just 7 km WSW at their main winter grazing fields at Willington. Here they associate with other feral(?) Barnacles not just from our patch but probably from further afield.

It was very kind of a visiting birder from Essex to take the trouble to go through the flock and read 13 different combinations for us, something I've not been able to do. This action turned up one of the first birds we colour-ringed some 6 years and 3 months ago. A couple of the birds had a roving history but nothing like the two far ranging birds we highlighted in earlier blogs.

Are we going to get more records this winter from enthusiastic ring readers located elsewhere? We hope so!
PS. our rings are: - 32 mm RED, white (alpha,bar,alpha); please read from bottom up.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

After the Redwings

With no wind to speak of, it was a dawn start. A few more thrushes today, perhaps?
We put the full run up, which divides the site in two. We have missed out recently by not putting the northern pair of nets up from the start but we console ourselves by realising that the yellow-browed and blue-legged "thingys" would have gone over the top or round the net run anyway! Just like today's Chiff did.

Back to business; today's tally. Dunnock 2 (1), Blackbird 2, Redwing 3, Goldcrest 1, Lotti (2), Blue Tit 1 (5), Gt. Tit 9 (7), Chaffinch 1, Bullfinch 1. The tits were caught 'all over the shop' making their way to the feeders. Because it was so mild today (it started at 11C and reached 17C) they weren't that interested in 'our food'. We are still catching new individuals of "the Ringer's friend" in small numbers so there must be some 'redistribution' going on. Our furthest "Prune" has gone a mere 4 km.

We noticed a little bit of migration going on above our heads today as we were ringing.

26+ Sky Larks west from 9am for about an hour; largest group =5. Redwings in small groups coming low, largest 9, and about 50-60 in total. The 3 birds we caught were all "out of fat" and needing a "square meal". One group of 16 Fieldfare dove into the willows at the end of the Fingers Lake. Some 6 'continental type' Blackbirds around us during the morning, with many more scattered through the park. However, with just the two caught, one of which was a definite "continental", again needing a good breakfast. There were also two high-flying Song Thrushes.

Mipits were indifferent at just 4 birds noticed going south. Best movement was a strong, tight group of Wood Pigeons, 125 in all, heading due south at a steady pace against a clear sky. Also a couple of Siskin heard plus a group of 3 Redpoll. There was also the usual small groups of Goldfinch chanting from the tops of the trees. A late Chiffchaff passed through non-stop at lunch-time. Our inverts were not to its taste, it seems. The Great Spot 'flounced' from one side to the other of the patch and back again; "just wait for the frosts and we'll have you, my boy".

Visiting raptors as usual (male Sparr & Kes). A lone Gadwall was spooked off Fingers, probably by an angler; it shot off high and fast! The passing Herons 'swore' at us, as usual.

We are still catching new Gt. Tits; today it was 9 new and 7 retraps; 7 of the 16 were 'adult' birds, i.e. post-breeders. They obviously had a great season, both survival and production wise.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Feed the Birds

Oct 25th. We of the north journeyed to keep company with they of the south at Stockgrove Country Park. The weather brightened up after a showery start - and the people ventured out. The local RSPB, ourselves, the BTO rep and the Greensand Trust guys all joined together to encourage the visitors to think more about our birdlife. 'Twas a fairly busy day with a steady stream of grown-ups and children, many with their dogs, to our table "down in the woods".

We played our part well with over 50 birds to show the public. With three ringers, three nets and three helpers we managed to put on quite a display with lots of good humour. Lots of kids really enjoying the experience of see common birds close up. Plenty of laughter when the tits retaliated by pecking the ringers! These must be the most photographed birds of the weekend - apart from a Brown Shrike and that Eastern thingy.

The area we utilise is very boggy as there are loads of seepages along the valley just before the stream enters the bigger of two lakes. The trees here are also 60-80 feet high so we rely on birds coming to drink or to bait. Fortunately there are one or two small willows which we can align the nets against. Today it was mainly tits, a few different finches and a lone thrush. A Green Woodie graced us with its presence - but before the third net went up, admittedly.

Checklist = 48 (4) 7 spp. : Blackbird 1, Coal Tit 2, Blue Tit 21 (2), Gt. Tit 18 (2), Chaffinch, Siskin 4, Lesser Redpoll 1.

The Marsh Tits and Nuthatches stayed on the other side (away from the nets), lured by little heaps of seed placed on the fench posts at the junction of the paths. This practice has been going on for as long as I can remember and the birds are habituated to it. Even the Mallard and Moorhen enjoy the spoils. Apparently the Mandarin venture out only under cover of darkness. Our problem is that the other side of the fence is SSSI and we have to get specific permesso from the N.E. Peterboro' office to ring in there.

We shall probably ring here again in another three weeks, and so on throughout the winter.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Eyes front

Friday - lovely day. Sunny, light winds, few birds.
An all-day session with just a couple of nets; should have put up more. Tally 34. of which 8 were thrushes. This should have been at least 2 more but for known escapees.

Scoreboard 23 (11): Houdini 1 (Wrigglearse 4), Robin 1, Blabi 3 foreigners, Sonth 2 non-locals, Redwi 3 inc 2 adults, one with a 127 wing, Lotti (1), Bluti 4 (1), Greti 3 (4), Chaff 1, Grefi 2, Goldf 3, Bullf (1 - bad case of leg mange).

Quite a few Sky Lark on the move today, throughout the day. Also invaded by hoardes of Harlequins mid afternoon. Painted Lady & Red Admiral in finest apparel, taking the sun together; also a Comma. Several Southern & Migrant Hawker dragons whizzing about over the patch.

While supping a coffee, had an interesting 'warbler' clamber through the ivy just 12 feet in front of me. Pity it was so fleeting.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The riddle of the sands

Just had the above Common Tern back via the BTO.

It was ringed at Roxton on 3rd June 2003 as a pullus and found at Eemshavn, which is the port serving Groningen via the Eemskanal. The bird was found freshly dead on 7th September, how or why is not known, nor exactly where. It is a busy area with petro-chemical storage facilities.

Distance 500 km ENE (official) - 6years 3 months & 4 days.

[With apologies to Erskine Childers]

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Red sky at night

Friday: a cold front went through early leaving behind a chill east wind. A trip to the Priory feeders indicated a fair number of Redwings in and passing through. So later in the day I set a couple of nets in the more sheltered ride. A kingfisher sat on a bush in the other ride as I walked in and a Siskin flew over S.

Later, as it got darker, 100 Starlings W ( a rare sight here nowadays), a Kestrel & a Sparrowhawk hunting, & then 200 gulls W. At 17:40, all the resident Dunnocks started up, calling from their respective roost. 11 Redwing, a flock of LTT & a 20+ mix of Goldfinch/Chaffinch dropped into the 'long hedge' with the Blackbirds declining to roost with them, preferring a site facing the low grass of the 'new meadow'.

The following morning (today, Sat), Ed and I arrived in the dark to add to the previous days tally. Birds caught 32 (16) : Wren 1 (2), Robin (1) [ the 'grey' one], Blabi 3 (2) [ the new ones were 'continentals'], Redwing 4 [only one carried any fat, an adult ?female?], Lotti (4), Bluti 4 (3), Greti 4 (1), Treec (1), Goldf 12 [mainly lean with some fat retained], & Bullf 4 (2).

Above: A 'continental' blackbird.

Above: A retrapped Treecreeper (first caught earlier on this year).

Above: A young Goldfinch. The majority of these were caught yesterday (friday 16th).

Above & below: Over the last week or so this country has seen an invasion of these winter visitors (Redwing). Birders recording visible migration (vismig) in Bedfordshire have seen some remarkable movements (30,000 + in one day alone!).

Most of these birds will be moving on to other counties, carrying on their migration, but as they move through, we took our opportunity to sell them some jewellry (put a ring on them) whilst they stop at the restaurant (berries on the trees) and stop for a nap (at their roost site)!

Vis-mig: altogether we counted 650-700 Redwings N or NW in 7 main groups, 2 Linnets NW, 12 Sky Lark N, 1 Fieldfare W, 1 Twite S, 2 Lesser Redpoll S, 3 Meadow Pipits NE, 30 Wood Pigeon S (2 clusters), but we didn't count the blogging Chaffinches, Goldfinches (over 20) and the few Greenfinch that passed over our heads whilst dealing with the trapped birds.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Trying hard

13th and 14th: ringing at Priory late afternoon and the following morning. The afternoon was bright and sunny and pleasantly warm. The morning session took place after rain and under a high overcast.

Combined totals: Sparr 1 [a 3F], Wren 1 (2), Dunno 1 (4), Robin 1, Blabi 1, Lotti 1 (4), Bluti 4 (5), Greti 9 (10), Treec (1), Grefi 7, Goldf 4, Bullf 1 (1).

Vis mig - not much going on prior to dusk, just the 'local' (used advisedly) Blackbirds, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Greenfinch coming in high to roost. I did manage to nab a few of the latter two. In the morning, the first sightings were of 7 Fieldfare W and 7 Siskin from roost. Later 5 Redwing S, 4 Mipits SE & 2 W, 8 high-flying Blackbirds, 6 Sky Lark SW, & 15 Goldfinch in from the N.

The newly captured Greenfinch were all carrying a reasonable amount of fat (F15/20) and one could see that it had been utilised recently. The Goldfinch were carrying less fat (as they always seem to do), generally around F10 but with a good muscle score (2). The female Blackbird looked a bit suspicious with some faint grey edgings to the body feathers.

The Gt. Tit stats were interesting, even if just for their "equality"; 4M-3, 4F-3, 3M-7, 3F-6. I would expect even sexing and about 1:2 adults:1CY birds over a decent run in early/mid-winter. We know that in winter the ratio of Gt. Tits to Blue Tits has increased here over the last three/four years (from our counts/trapping figures). A decade ago, we would have caught twice as many Blue Tits as Great.

However, we did retrap Bluti A761442 again; he has had his ring on for 7 years 107 days now. We also recaptured a regular 2005 male Dunnock today.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Swans up!

Click here

Friday, 9 October 2009

Two degrees

Friday: That was the temperature when I arrived to set the nets. Not a bad day considering I had to pack up at noon, long before any signs of rain (a few spots at 3pm). 27 birds caught, 8 of which were r/ts, using just the main dog-leg of 4.

A brightly marked immature Wren (5 ogc)

Wren 2 (1), Dunno 1, Robin 1 (1), Blabi (1), Chiff 1 [adult female abientinus type on call and wing], Lotti 1 (1), Bluti 3 (2), Greti 5 (2), Chaff 4, Grefi 1.

A first year Robin (5 ogc) with grey feathers on its nape & back.

A pleasant day, if cold. There was a definite increase in finches overnight, especially Chaffinch. I also had 4 Redwing over, 5 Song Thrushes all "high-fliers", 2 Blackcap, a Gt. Spot atop the lone Alder in the 'rough', 4 Mipits SE, 4 Sky Larks S, 3 Golden Plover SE, a Kestrel hunting, a Buzzard over W then returned E, just one Siskin, and a slow flying flock of 40-50 Wood Pigeons going S. DK also had a Fieldfare. He had also noticed some "migratory restlessness" among the Dunnocks, so they're obviously "shuffling" their territories around for the winter.

Our warbler catches this year are, in most cases, up on 2008 (in brackets). We've put in slightly more effort this year. New birds only.
Cetti's 0 (3), Sedge 26 (23), Reed 75 (76), Lesser 23 (13), W/throat 112 (35), Garden 27 (24), Blackcap 170 (111), Chiff 143 (88), Willow 30 (23). Garden Warbler is still suffering and Willow is not making much of a so-called 'improvement' in the south of England.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


Bedford, Tuesday 6th, 07:45 to 08:00, 1mm.
First measurable rainfall since 2nd September.
More to come later today?

Saturday, 3 October 2009


Took a walk along the Embankment and across Mill Meadows looking for c-r swans. I also found at least 11 cygnets looking for a bit of bread ... and a colour ring perhaps?

I came across 7 birds that I could identify from their orange colour rings. There were a few others with just the BTO ring; whether a c-r had ever been fitted or was simply lost was impossible to tell.

502, a resident male often recorded, was first ringed in September 2002 as f.g..

549, another younger male, was ringed as a 5 in March 2004.

578, an 8 male & 579 a 7 male were both ringed this summer.

590 (a male) was first ringed back in August 1993. It has not been re-caught since then, until a c-r was added in July this year.

454 was ringed as a 5 in January 2002 and subsequently identified as a male.

426 is a female. She was colour ringed as an adult in October 2001 but her metal ring was from October 1992, making her the second oldest bird "on the books". She is obviously quite a bit older than the 17 years since first handled and steadfastly remains on the Embankment.

Meanwhile, at Priory, female 500 again has 3 cygnets that need "catching up". Mum was first ringed in July 2003 as a 5 (2CY). She has had several 'boy friends' but now seems to be settled with this one (unringed).