Sunday, 26 June 2011

Coldplay live from Glastonbury or an early start on Sunday?

Much as I love birdwatching and bird ringing, one problem at this time of the year is the need to get up early. Birds are naturally most active shortly after dawn; as the day hots up they become much less active.

So while many ringers in the group were out early this morning for Constant Effort Scheme visits, I have to admit that I had a lie in after watching a great performance by Coldplay at Glastonbury last night. A short visit to Harrold-Odell Country Park resulted in a catch of just two birds:

  • the control Reed Warbler, first caught on 12th June, was retrapped. From the state of the brood patch, this is obviously a female. Having been caught twice at the Country Park it can safely be taken to be breeding bird.

  • the other bird caught was an adult Dunnock, which was duly ringed.

Reed Buntings, Reed Warblers and Chiffchaffs were singing in the area. There were still many Common Spotted Orchids and a fresh Southern Marsh Orchid. Large numbers of damselflies were on the wing, with many mating.

Later Roger and Sue joined me to ring 4 broods of Swallows in Thurleigh - a total of 15 pulli today, bringing the total of Swallow pulli ringed this year to 69.

Other recent ringing includes 18 tits (mix of Blue and Great, some juveniles and some adults) at Bromham Mill yesterday, plus one Chaffinch.

Earlier in the week a visit to The Emplins in Gamlingay resulted in two adult Swifts retrapped (both had been ringed in July 2008 as adults) and three new adults ringed. 35 Common Tern chicks were ringed on an island in a lake near Bedford on Monday evening. Two Lapwing chicks were ringed last weekend.

[The photo is of a Blue Tit ringed at Bromham Mill on Saturday 25th June]

Monday, 20 June 2011

Weekend Ringing

Priory Country Park CES visit 5 - 18/06/11

48 birds of 13 species (retraps in brackets):

Whitethroat 3 (2)
Robin 3 (1)
Wren 3 (1)
Chaffinch 1 (1)
Dunnock 2 (2)
Blue Tit 3 (0)
Blackcap 3 (1)
Marsh Tit 1 (0)
Great Tit 5 (1)
Chiff Chaff 1 (0)
Bullfinch 0 (1)
Reed Warbler 2 (0)
Long Tailed Tit 9 (2)

Above: Marsh Tit (only the 4th of this species ringed at Priory CP).

Above: Thanks to Dave Kramer for this photograph of me (with the Marsh Tit in the hand) and David Howes, onlooking trainee. Oh yes, and the back of my car!

Thanks to John Anderson for scribing whilst we were processing a large 'tit flock', and to Dave Barnes and Dave Kramer and John again for helping David and myself release all the long tailed tits at the same time so that the family party remained together.

The good numbers on CES seem to be holding up - so long as a passing tit flock leaves behind a good few members of its party!

Sandy Smith Nature Reserve - 19/06/11

64 birds of 14 species: (retraps in brackets)

Great Tit 12 (6)
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 (1)
Blackbird 2 (0)
Dunnock 0 (3)
Wren 0 (1)
Chaffinch 1 (3)
Blue Tit 7 (2)
Sedge Warbler 0 (1)
Whitethroat 7 (6)
Chiff Chaff 4 (1)
Garden Warbler 1 (0)
Goldfinch 3 (0)
Grasshopper Warbler 0 (1)
Willow Warbler 1 (0)

Above: A juvenile Great Spotted Warbler. Mum was also caught. Dad has been a regular visitor recently though not retrapped this time.

It seems to me that the number of Great Tit juveniles is greater compared to Blue Tit juveniles. Maybe time will even this number out but I'll have to compare this against previous ringing records. More work needed!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Swallows - 27 and counting

A fun evening checking Swallow nests at various farms in Thurleigh, Cople, Old Warden and Northill. Only one brood ringed tonight, consisting of 4 chicks. The photo is the 27th Swallow pullus that I have ringed so far this year.

A few nests were checked and found to be empty - did I misjudge how old the chicks were when I checked them earlier in June, so possibly they have they fledged already? Or did something take the young? We will never know. One nest had dead young in; this is the first time I have ever come across this in Swallows.

Three nests checked tonight had small young and one still had eggs.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Harrold-Odell Country Park today - low in numbers, high in quality

I had planned to do the 2nd visit for the BTO's Breeding Bird Survey that I do each year at Thurleigh, but as it was cool and not at all summer-like, I decided to go ringing instead. The last-minute choice was Harrold-Odell Country Park, which we visited on Monday 30th May in the drizzle. Today started off better, but lo and behold the rain drops started and there was a light drizzle for most of the morning. Under the trees it was still suitable for ringing.

8 birds caught, the highlights being a control Reed Warbler and a Kingfisher.

Photos from the top are:
1) Ringing in the Bird Hide by the lake
2) With the Kingfisher
3) Kingfisher again...
4) Garden Warbler
5) The control Reed Warbler

The full list of birds caught was:

  • Kingfisher - 1 ringed

  • Reed Warbler - 2 ringed + 1 control

  • Garden Warbler - 2 ringed

  • Blackcap - 1 ringed

  • Bullfinch - 1 ringed
The carrot and coriander soup in the cafe after ringing was most welcome.

Thank you to Richard and Alan for their help (and to Richard for taking the photos).

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Swifts - amazing birds

Ivel Ringing Group has been ringing Swifts at The Emplins, Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire, since 1988.

Swifts are one of the most amazing birds in Britain. Adults never land on the ground, as if they did they couldn't take off again (their legs are very short and their wings are long). They typically nest in roof spaces of buildings - apart from the time when nesting, adult Swifts spend their entire life on the wing.

The Emplins is a 15th Century house, near the centre of Gamlingay. There is a large colony of Swifts in the roof of the house. Most of the birds ringed by the Ringing Group are the pulli (chicks). Occasionally adults are also ringed or retrapped. On Wednesday evening I used a mist net and retrapped one Swift. Ringing details to be confirmed and added here later.

On the left is a side-on view of a Swift, while above right you can see the characteristic curved wings - which gives a 'scimitar-like' appearance in flight.

Later in the summer we aim to return to ring the pulli.

The Emplins is a highly rated bed-and-breakfast establishment, so if you want to stay in a fascinating old house, in an area with beautiful countryside and with Swifts nesting in the loft - this is the place to visit. But remember that Swifts aren't around for long; they will be leaving in July or possibly early August.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Sandy Smith NR & CES visit 4, Priory CP

SSNR 30/05/11: 21 birds of 8 species (retraps in brackets)

Great Tit 9 (0) - including 6 juveniles
Whitethroat 4 (1) - the retrap being first ringed as an adult June 2010.
Grasshopper Warbler 1 (0) - the 5th this year for this site and the first female
Blackcap 1 (0) - only the third of this species for the site
Dunnock 0 (2)
Chiff Chaff 1 (0)
Sedge Warbler 1 (0)
Great Spotted Woodpecker 0 (1) - A regularly caught male.

SSNR yesterday 04/06/11: 55 birds of 11 species (retraps in brackets)

Blue Tit 4 (3) - all the new birds were juveniles
Great Tit 4 (0) - including 3 juveniles
Whitethroat 6 (3) - one of the retraps being from June 2010
Chaffinch 9 (1) - including 6 juveniles
Goldfinch 7 (2) - including 2 juveniles
Garden Warbler 3 (0) - 2 males and a female (NEW FOR SITE)
Grasshopper Warbler 0 (2) - a pair
Willow Warbler 1 (0) - the first adult caught on site
Blackcap 8 (0) - mostly adult males except 1 adult female and one juvenile
Dunnock 0 (1) - first ringed on 3rd March 2011
Sedge Warbler 0 (1) - a retrap from May 2011

Priory Country Park CES VISIT 4 today 05/06/11: 47 birds of 14 species (retraps in brackets)

Robin 4 (0) - all juveniles
Blackbird 0 (1) - fledged last year and a regular
Whitethroat 4 (0) - 3 juveniles and an adult
Chiff Chaff 5 (0) - 3 juveniles, 2 adults
Garden Warbler 1 (1) - adults of both sexes
Blackcap 5 (0) - 3 juveniles, 2 adult males
Great Tit 2 (0) - both juveniles
Blue Tit 13 (0) - 9 juveniles, 4 adults (including one in moult)
Chaffinch 2 (0) - 1 juvenile and one adult male
Dunnock 1 (2) - one juvenile and the retraps were adults
Wren 0 (1) - fledged last year
Long Tailed Tits 3 (0) - 3 juveniles
Coal Tit 1 (0) - a juvenile and only the second of this species ringed at Priory
Green Woodpecker 1 (0) - an adult male

All in all, this weekend I've ringed/processed 102 birds and given myself significant data input work! But it was worth it. For more info (including photographs) of these sessions, please click here.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Open Day at Harrold-Odell Country Park

Ivel Ringing Group gave a demonstration of bird ringing at the Harrold-Odell Country Park on Monday 30th May. The country park is one of the wildlife hot spots of the north of Bedfordshire and is a popular place for birdwatchers, dog walkers and other local residents. The cafe serves delicious meals, snacks and cakes.

Part of the Country Park is designated as a Nature Reserve. Despite the damp conditions, Ivel Ringing Group managed to ring 12 birds during the day and show some of these birds to visitors to the park.

The following birds were ringed:

  • Blackcap -1

  • Blackbird -1

  • Blue Tit - 2

  • Bullfinch – 2

  • Garden Warbler – 3

  • Reed Warbler – 2 (see photo of a Reed Warbler above)

  • Whitethroat – 1

A male Cuckoo was calling nearby for much of the day, while the lake was a hive of activity with Canada and Greylag Geese, various ducks, Common Terns, Herons, an Oystercatcher. Swifts, House Martins and Swallows were feeding low over the water.