Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Weekend continued

It is still only March, so we shouldn't hope for too much yet.
However, we (Ed and I) did get out to a new site (for us) at Randalls Farm Education Centre by the now defunct Stewartby brickworks. We got there late morning and set about erecting 4 nets around the southern part of the site. This area was a demonstration forestry plot for the Marston Vale and was planted in the 'seventies with a variety of trees to see which grew best and which failed on this heavy Oxford Clay.

The upshot was 13 birds, all of them new. Our current target species is Chiffchaff, as part of a project out of Sheffield University.

However, the object of the exercise was to have a few birds to show the 'Watch' group kids that meet here on the last Sunday of the month.

Chiffchaff 3 - a male & 2 females
Great Tit 2 - possibly a pair
Long-tailed Bushtit 3 - a pair & a helper male
Robin 3 - 2 males, 1 female
Bullfinch 2 - a pair

When pondering where to put one of the nets up, we spied a Buzzard hanging in a Hawthorn bush beside the railway and under a pole mounted transformer. We will never know the cause of death as it could have been (i) a train, (ii) electrocution, (iii) poisoning (unlikely) or (iv) completely natural.

It was long dead and home to a large, black (ground?) beetle and its larvae.

Home in time for tea; a satisfying jaunt in the sunshine.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Mr and Mrs

A leisurely morning at Priory. Me and Ed. 400 foot plus went up and still had a couple of nets and poles left in the car. (The rest are packed away for the move). One more go after this before pre-CES shutdown.

Not a bad morning, considering the weather - a patchwork of bright spells, cloud, and squally winds ahead of short showers. We caught 16 birds in all, with 11 newcomers to the patch.

Blue Tit 3 (2) - including a pairing of 5's, possibly 2.
Great Tit 1
Lotti (1) - a lonesome male
Chiff 2 - one of each. the male toured the nets at a height of 30-40 feet
Wren 1 - a surviving young lassie
Blackbird 1 - a local 5F
Song Thrush 2 - both males, in the net together, a 5 & a 6
Chaffinch 1 (2) - 2 known fellas irritating a lady

A little bit of id skills below - 5M Chaffinch with 1 ogc and imm tail.

Browner ogc just visible

Clinched on tail shape and wear

We had 2 Blackcaps in the area but they were very reluctant today to show themselves, as they had done yesterday on my walk round the site. One's definitely got a ring on.

A good number of Smarties around early on, perhaps 60+. During the 4-5 hours of our stay, we saw 12 Swallows moving west, which is not unusual for us in spring (in autumn they move east).

We are switching to the new BOU sequence - it'll be painful for a while.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Stockgrove CP 21/03/2010

Joined by Mike, Roy, Sue and Toni we had quite a good day. Plenty of people about and good for PR.

35 birds were caught of 8 species which included 18new and (17 retraps):

Wren 0-(1)
Blabi 1-(1)
Marti 0-(2)
Coati 0-(1)
Bluti 5-(3)
Greti 10-(7) 1 of which was 4yrs 143days
Nutha 1-(1)
Chaff 1-(0)

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Blackwing Passage!

Reports have started coming in of the years first spring/summer migrants to enter Britain such as alpine swifts (having gone too far!) and sand martins (one having been seen at Priory Country Park this week), but we haven't forgotten about our winter migrants that are on passage back to their summer breeding grounds much further north or on the continent.

Today we put up several nets in the sheep pen at Priory CP hoping for blackbirds and we weren't disappointed.

The tally was - 16 new (3 retraps):

Long Tailed Tit - 3 (0)
Blue Tit - 0 (1)
Great Tit - 1 (1)
Blackbird - 6 (1)
Redwing - 5 (0)

We think 4 of the blackbirds were probably continental types (usually bigger/heavier than the British version and harder to age & sex!).

Above: One of 7 blackbirds we caught today (a male born last year).

The surprise were 5 redwing. There was no sign that any were around, we were walking around checking the nets and must have made them change location because a net that was empty 2 minutes before suddenly had 3 redwing!

As Errol wasn't looking, I put them safely into bags and pretended they were Song Thrushes. "Funny looking Song Thrush" said Errol when he finally got to clap an eye on one!

Above: Ageing Redwing in the hand is partly done by the white/cream/buff markings on the tips of the tertial feathers and Greater Coverts. The above bird (an adult), has little or none of these markings whereas the bird below (a juvenile) has the classic markings for its age. Though not shown here, sometimes there are 'inbetweeners' sent to confuse and test us!

Below: I can't think of a valid reason why I added this photo except that it was an excuse to show you a frontal picture of a Redwing rather than its back!

PS. If you look up into the sky occasionally, you may see flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares pass overhead on their way home (or sand martins coming here to breed)!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Bully for us!

At 6.30am Errol, Mike, Jo and myself met at Priory Country Park to find out what birds were around. We weren't exactly rushed of our feet but a few nice birds came our way. The wind was quite still when we arrived but picked up and started to blow the nets by the time they were up! We used the CES line and 2 extras.

Tally for the day was 6 new & 10 retraps:

Wren (1) - male from last summer
Dunnock 1 (3) - one was an 06 juv [1335 days]
Robin (1) - 08 juv
Song Thrush (1) - male from 17 July 08 (5M)
Blue Tit (1) - a 5F
Gt. Tit 2 (3) - all last years birds
Bullfinch 2 - poss a pr of 5's
Greenfinch 1 - a smart 6M

Most of the females were exhibiting signs of losing feathers on their bellies in preparation for the nesting season. One or two of the males were showing signs that they knew the breeding season is coming!

Above: We caught a female Bullfinch first & the male was seen calling nearby at the time of capture. It wasn't until later we caught this male.

Above: Errol couldn't let it go without a stern lecture!

Above: Many birders have observed the dramatic decline in numbers of Greenfinch - even since last year. There is much discussion as to the cause of the decline. It is sad to think that these birds are becoming a rare site in Bedfordshire!

Above: Errol & I both noticed some recent large mammal activity (a new hole in the ground & large amounts of soil) nearby and unusually for Errol, he was first to comment....! Apparently there aren't many records of this type of mammal visiting the park.

Above: This same mammal had left other signs of activity - scratches on logs/branches and the destruction of some of the logs left for insects/grubs. In the photo, the holes in the tops of the logs have been clawed at in search of food. That's a 300mm rule on the log - for comparison.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Thorn Bothering

As all ringers know, annual management of scrub (aka scrub bothering/bashing) at their ring site(s) is a necessary job to continue to catch good numbers of birds. So to The Thorns it was. Over the many years that this site has been ringed under the constant effort scheme, traditionally a good proportion of birds have been ringed per session for the length of net & we would like to keep it this way.

The weather stayed good all day but the wind picked up as the day went on.

Altogether, 8 of us turned up with tools in hand (but alas no chainsaw!), food (tatties for the bonfire) and lots of enthusiasm.

Above: The main area largely cleared of those thorny growths! The gap you can see was created as a 'flight path' for birds.

Above: Alongside one of the net rides. Note that we leave some scrub as it is, some is coppiced (down to the ground) and some is pollarded (well above ground level). This creates a variety of different ages and height of habitat, helping to improve biodiversity.

Above: Sometimes, scrub bothering can be such a drag! Sorry Guy!

Above: Head down, hard at it, this young(ish) man - Mike - did as much as any of us!

Above: Here we are battling our way through the 'thorn wars'

The potatoes came out of the bonfire well, I boiled the storm kettles so the troops could have their tea/coffee and everybody got stuck in.

Thank you to those who turned up. Same next year?

Not much doing

Long Hedge Coppice plots - 2008/09 (furthest) & 2009/10

Sat: Wandered into the 'Sheep Pen', part of the 'Long-hedge' coppice plantation.

Contemplated some ringing. Why not? So I did.

Feisty Female Chaffinch - 6F

My meagre efforts resulted in just 8 birds.
A new 2CY male Song Thrush, 2 retrap male Blue Tits, 2 new 2CY Great Tits and 3 female Chaffinches.

Maple rack - looking NW; 10yr old coppice RH, 5yr old coppice LH.

10 yr coppice - next winter's cut, 2010/11

8yr old coppice - due to be cut 2011/12

Blackthorn rack - 4 yr old coppice

I'll take some more 'record shots' later in the spring - when it's all leafed up.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Chalton STW 07/03/2010

Was joined by Roy, Toni and Sue and had a total of 31 birds (10 new & 21 retraps ) as follows:
Lotti 2 (5), Bluti 1 (6), Dunno 0 (1), Robin 0 (6),
Greti 2 (2), Blabi 2 (1), Chiff 2 , Wren 1.

Also had 2 Green Sandpiper fly-overs - unfortunatly, they kept going.
Still no news on the pending work to be done under the power line but was informed that they hope to complete before the end of March/early April. Here's hoping!!!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

No stamina, some folk!

Well. I woke up early. Got going early. Arrived early. Walked around a bit (minus 4C). Opened the gate. Shut the gate. Waited the best part of half an hour but no takers. Got in the car and went home. Pointless knackering oneself, lugging all that gear across a wet meadow just on the off-chance of some birds.

Put up a 40' in the garden and waited. Too much sun. Wind got up, as well. Temperature didn't (plus 4C). Never mind; bound to catch something. Need 16 birds, any sort will do, to fill the page in my ringing book.

Jo! Klokka hal' ├ątta. En stillitz - endog to!

Well, they came slowly, two at a time (could be a norsk pun there). Next half eight, then half ten, half eleven, half twelve, half two, and a late rush about four. Happily, I had other things I could do to fill the time. Alot of this ringing is a waiting game. Arnold Zwetsloot 'phoned for a chat and mentioned that they had shut the trap until next winter. They had also run out of 'F' rings on the last session and had to let 30 ducks go. Naturally, the rings turned up soon after!

Anyway, back to today. Ended up two short, but ten new birds - as follows:
Wren (1) - regular 2CY female
Dunnock (1) - one of several that feeds under the shrubbery
Blackbird 3 - a 6F, a 6M & a 5M
Goldfinch 5 (2) - a bit of return movement; 4 males, 2 females
Greenfinch 1 - yesterday there were half a dozen or so, today just two

Hoping to get another Norfolk morning in this week (two weeks on the trot), as I have to attend Jenny's mum's funeral.
Priorities, my boy!
See my other blog here

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

A better sort of gardening?

An early start, for me anyway, as I had to travel into the 'floodlands' of north Bedfordshire. We 'd not had much luck in DH's garden last year at this time, but today was completely different. A couple of nets, one each side of his large, but fairly open, garden produced an abundance of birds today.

This not so little beauty was our first highlight; a full adult male Green Woodpecker, caught during breakfast, as it tried to land on Davy's springy, short-cropped lawn.

Next up was a 2CY male Coal Tit. An hour later, a 2CY female, possibly its mate. Later in the afternoon, repeated song came from one of the conifers in the garden.

As the day progressed, we were wondering where all the Robins were coming from. By the end of the day, we had had eight, four of each sex, but only the one 2CY bird (a female). All the ladies were getting brood patches. Most of the birds had small spots on the outer webs of the greater coverts, something which is rather uncommon on our CES birds at the park.
The only AA ring we used today was on a 6F Wren; the Lottis made no effort whatsoever to appear today.

This Marsh Tit was a real turn-up for the books! It was caught late morning and was another ringing tick for my hospitable trainee, Davy. Turns out it was a garden tick, too.

At midday, we experience another high with this Yellowhammer. Although not a garden tick, we had no hint of its presence beforehand. The men had been working noisily in and around the barns at the top end of the garden, busy loading materials to improve a farm track.

We had to let a couple of fully adult male Chaffinchs go unringed because they were suffering from 'scaly leg', a viral-induced tumour (squamous cell papilloma).

Excluding these, the final tally for the day was 66 new and 5 retraps from last winter (Feb 2009).
Green Woodpecker 1
Wren 1
Dunnock 3
Robin 6 (2)
Blackbird 2 (1)
Marsh Tit 1
Coal Tit 2
Blue Tit 23 (1)
Great Tit 18
Chaffinch 4 (1) +2 males
Greenfinch 4
Yellowhammer 1

Monday, 1 March 2010

Xtreme gardening - site 303

On a damp day, last Tuesday, Mike, Davy and I, assisted by 2 rangers with a chainsaw and a hedge-cutter, trimmed the edges of the Priory CES rides and coppiced a few of the larger hawthorns. We tried to burn the arisings but no way were we able to get a fire going. Rain stopped play at lunchtime, leaving some of the outer areas untouched. Next year, we'll tackle the area between nets 3&4 and the public path around the old Fingers Lake.

Today I went back for a couple of hours. The weather was a complete contrast to last week's, with glorious sunshine and just a few fluffy, white clouds. I managed to rake the grass rides, removing most of those bits of 'thorn, rose and bramble that nets tend to pick up, especially when your back is turned! A couple of us still have to go back shortly and burn all those arisings - if we can.

For entertainment, I put up a 40' in the old feeder ride (or Bluefinch alley) and was rewarded with 3+(3) Great Tits, the newbies all 6's.

In order below: netride 2&1, netride 3&4, new bullfinch alley, extra net site at the bottom of the site, old bullfinch alley / extra net site. All post butchering - they'll look alot better by the time we start the CES monitoring (says he).

I'll take some more pics in the summer, when everything will have turned green.