Monday, 29 November 2010

Ringing Roadshow

The arrival of this recent cold weather would usually be enough to deter anyone from venturing outside, but I am not one for being put off by the weather.. Throughout most of last week, I was up in Manchester, helping Kane with some ringing at his feeding stations as I had a few days off from university. From Wednesday onwards, along with Ciaran, we netted two of his feeding stations which resulted in quite a few birds being caught..

Blue, Great and Coal tits were the most abundant species during both sessions, with Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Goldcrest and singles of Redwing and Willow tit making it all worth while. More so was a Goldcrest which was already wearing a ring. A control and the first for Atherton woods feeding station! This bird was later found to have been ringed by the Merseyside Ringing Group, an interesting movement.

Netting the other feeding station proved rather successfull as waiting for us in the net was a Redwing and a Willow tit. The latter, a new handling species for myself. So it was good to get to grips with the ageing criteria for this bird.

During last week, both myself and Ciaran gave Kane a help in hand with his coot project at Pennington Flash, where we met up with Pete Alker resulting in another 5 Coot colour-ringed. The weekend saw us catching Coot, Canada goose, Black-Headed gull and Mute swan up at Westport Lake in Stoke-On-Trent, including several other sites in the surrounding area. A total of 16 new Coot were colour-ringed bringing Kane's 2010 total to a staggering 300 birds.
Congratulations Kane and thankyou for letting me help out throughout the project. Check out:- for more info.

Pictured below: Kane fitting bright pink colour-rings to a Coot - lets hope we have a recovery from somewere far a field!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Iceland Gull and more Waxwings!!!

During Saturday afternoon at the Birdfair, myself and Ciaran headed off back to Preston in search of the Juvenile Iceland Gull that had been at Preston Docks for the past few days.. Kane very kindly dropped us off at Rufford Station and with an hour's wait there, we were soon on our way.... On arrival in Preston we stopped off to have another look at the 100+ strong flock of Waxwings on Euston Street.. Both the Waxwing pictures were digiscoped on Saturday 13th, when I visited the flock with Mr M Bridge..

Moving off, I met up with good friend John Tubb again and the 3 of us headed off towards the docks.. Ciaran soon spotted the Iceland Gull sat amongst some Juvenile Herring gulls on one of the rafts whilst I was chatting to John. Nice one Ciaran! The bird showed really well throughout our time there, flying around taking bread from the nearby car-park.

The bird sat down for most of the time, but soon stood up and we could admire it's true beauty!

We also managed to see the flock of 20 Waxwings at Preston dock, making our Waxwing total in the region of 120 individual birds! Mega! Iceland Gull was my 269th species for 2010 so thanks Ciaran.. A quick snack in Macdonald's and we headed back into Preston Town Centre.. A short train journey back to Ormskirk and a nice long evening relaxing on the couch watching TV! Nicely done!

North-West Birdwatching Festival at Martin Mere

For the past 2 years, I have been unable to attend the North-West Birdwatching Festival at WWT Martin Mere, due to other commitments, so this year I decided to go along and spend both days at the fair..

I had forgotten just how busy this birdfair can get and with over 5,000 visitors throughout the weekend, the reserve became somewhat too crowded for me! Mooching around the various stands on show was the main part of my weekend, as well as buying a DVD on 'Birding in Morrocco' ready for April 2011, chatting to folk who I hadn't seen for quite some time, watching guest speakers give some great talks including 'The Biggest Twitch' by Alan Davies and Ruth Miller.. See

It was soon time to leave the warmth of the visitor centre and head out to do some birding.. Meeting up with Dave and Estelle Walsh, we did a bit of Whooper Swan ring-reading in Swanlink and Raines Hide, but no sign of our Red Darvic'd cygnet that resides somewhere on the reserve and unfortunately I couldn't spot him/her throughout the whole weekend which was a shame! Maybe some time during the winter..

A ringed Coot caught my attention outside Swanlink - GC247-. The bird then jumped into the water just before I could read the last letter, however; this bird was ringed by the WWT at Martin Mere during one of their swan catches, so not one of Kane's Coot's unfortunately..

A colour-ringed Black-Tailed Godwit proved interesting, but after an hour of watching it, the bird never moved from it's position - standing on 1 leg for a whole hour must be tough?!

Managing to squeeze a space in Swanlink for the swan feed, was good fun as always and a bit more ring-reading was done but still no sign of the Icelandic Cygnet! Here is a video of the swan feed taking place.. If you have never been to Martin Mere, please do take time for a visit as it is a wonderful place for birds and especially at this time of year when the Whooper Swans and Pink-Footed Geese put are present in large numbers..

''Which complete knob 'ed invented twitching?''

Catching that Adult Male Sparrowhawk last Sunday, really did make me think about a few things and one particular matter that sprung to mind was that of twitching! I was curious as to what was going to be my next twitch. All too soon, it happened...

Mr Hinchcliffe had tempted me into going over to Morpeth in Northumberland for an Adult Squacco heron and then on for a Desert Wheatear at Seahouses near Berwick-Upon-Tweed.. These would have been British ticks and very welcome yearticks for the both of us, but what was to happen in the following hours truely was a shock and didn't take time to hit home!

Leaving Bangor early on Wednesday 17th November, it wasn't long until we had our first text to tell us the status on the heron. To our dismay, the Adult Squacco Heron had unfortunately died overnight due to a heavy frost; at this point, we were sat at Newcastle station! You can imagine the atmosphere when we recieved this message and then to top it all off, the Desert Wheatear wasn't seen all day! Things got drastic after recieving those 2 messages, so we decided to order 1 each of these to calm the nerves...

I have to refer back to the title now and ask who the hell did invent twitching?! Why the hell do I travel all those miles to find out the bird has died?! God knows??? I mean my bins or scope didn't even see daylight that day - just stuck in the rucksack!

Twitching is what it is at the end of day, you have your good days and then you have your bad days, that's how it goes I'm afraid... Arriving back into Bangor late that evening, we could reflect on our days journey and had time to think of our career change! Metal-detecting maybe?? I have to say though, it's the thrill of the chase, if it was easy it would be boring!

The picture of myself and the picture of Zac, show just how thrilled we were to recieve those 2 messages... Anyone who walked in our way or annoyed us that day got what was coming to them..

Monday, 15 November 2010

Chaffinch Challenge!

Managed to get out with Steve on Sunday morning to our new ringing site near Caernarfon. A mixed farm with a variety of habitats and species, with a hell of a lot potential!

Species caught included:-
2 Redwing
1 Sparrowhawk
10 Chaffinch
6 Blue Tit
5 Great Tit
1 Blackcap
1 Goldcrest
2 Blackbird
1 Song thrush
1 Dunnock
{Euring Age code 6}
Redwing, a new species to be ringed whilst training under Steve, we managed to catch 2 birds. A Juvenile and an Adult bird.

A line of 5 60ft nets was sufficient enough for the catch of about 40 birds during the morning. The original plan was to try and catch a feeding flock of around 150 Chaffinch, but we only managed to catch 10 birds which was pretty good, considering the flock wasn't playing ball.. Trying to twinkle a Chaffinch flock is bluddy hard work!


Despite university and many a lecture, I still find time to do some ringing here and there.. I don't half get about I can tell you that much! Having given the Waxwings a rest now and a chance to feed, Tuesday was full of lectures and rather windy field trip to South Stack in those strong gales, 80mph on the stacks, proved rather funny! I've certainly had my fair share of strong winds lately.. Took another train to Newt0n-Le-Willows on the Tuesday night to do a bit of ringing with Kane Brides the following morning.. Kane hadn't netted his feeding station for about 2 weeks so we were up at dawn and with the net set, waited for the birds to arrive.. The morning started quite slow, but later on in the morning, things went rather quiet! We did however manage to catch about 60 birds throughout the morning which was pretty damn good!! I decided to leave Kane and headed off to Hollingworth Lake near Rochdale in search of the Pied-Billed Grebe. The bird had been present on the lake for at least 6 days and identified as a Little grebe throughout this period, but once a local birder found it on the lake and asked how long it had been there, the news was put out and the twitch was on!

A short change at Manchester Victoria and a train to Smithy Bridge, a short walk and there infront of me was my first Pied-Billed Grebe. A UK tick, lifetick and a more than welcome yeartick.. Concerning my yearlist, this was my 268th of 2010. Just 12 to reach 280!

The best bird caught at Kane's feeding station during the morning included this lovely Male Lesser Redpoll!

Mist-Netting Waxwings in Bangor!!!!

There is just no rest for us young'uns!! More or less half an hour after finishing the weekend's cannon-netting with Scan. Mr Hinchcliffe rang me up to say that he had just had 40 Waxwings past his window on Ffriddoed site!! ??? This guy has some serious luck on his side I can tell you that!

So....before Craig and Kane headed for home for Blackpool and Manchester, I told them the news and seeing as though they both hadn't seen Waxwings for quite some time, we had a drive around lower Bangor and to my ultimate surprise, we picked them out feeding down by the swiming pool near Bangor harbour..

Immediately rang Kelvin Jones from Porthmadog and he was shortly on site with us, complete with mist nets, poles and guys.. Quickly setting up 2 mist-nets down by the swimming pool, we were rather lucky as we managed to catch just a single Waxwing!! Kelvin had 1st dibs as he had wanted to ring one of these species for quite sometime.. You little beauty!!

Photgraphed by Kane Brides

We only managed to catch the one bird on Sunday 7th November, despite much effort. Hopefully we would try again sometime during the week? Kane and Craig then departed for home after a hugely successfull weekend's ringing!

The opportunity arose the next day, as I had the whole day off so I went down to where the Waxwings were the day before, sure enough...they were still here feeding rapidly! Kelvin arrived around 11am, nets set in slightly different positions this time, resulting in 2 birds being caught and ringed. This time, I was able to ring one myself!! I have to say, they are the best birds I have ever been lucky enough to ring!! Amazingly, I was able to flick net the 2nd bird of the morning. Do excuse the expression on my face, but come on..

Throughout the week, the flock varied in numbers, ranging from 20 birds to a rather impressive flock of 83 birds!

I am really hoping that these birds stick around for a little longer so we can have another opportunity to catch some more!! I will keep you posted!

Almost forgot to mention a Polish-ringed Black-headed gull that myself, Kane and Craig managed to read after we had finished at Scan on the Saturday afternoon.. I will update later on during the week on details of where the birds was ringed.

*Scan weekend - {6th-7th} November*

Arriving back from the Cairngorms late on Tuesday night, the thought of having a rest the next morning was what I was really looking forward to, but as usual, the next morning I was straiight back on the train and back to Bangor to get my leaflet finished and completed before the weekend's activities begun!

Thursday 4th, Kane Brides arrived and on Friday 5th, Craig Brookes arrived in Bangor, whom both were joining me for their first time at SCAN Wader Ringing Group.

Throughout the weekend we made a couple of successfull catches, enabling both Craig and Kane to experience something different for a change as they don't get the opportunity to handle waders that often.

Species caught during the weekend included:- Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Knot, Dunlin, Curlew, Snipe and a lonely Starling.

Huge thanks to Steve Dodd for yet another successfull weekend's cannon-netting.. To the team for making everything work quickly and efficiently and to Craig Brookes and Kane Brides for their help during the weekend. I hope both of you had a great time and hopefully see you both again soon.

If anyone would like to take part in one of the weekend sessions with Scan Wader Ringing Group, pleae feel free to contact me through my blog and we would be happy to have you along. Sessions include cannon-netting and mist-netting at night, although the latter is weather dependent.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

*Highland Highlights*

I have just had a quick read through these last posts and it has dawned on me that I literally haven't stopped in general for at least the last month. Bring on the Chistmas break when I can a have a rest, although, I will be working the week running upto Christmas, so that's that out the bag...

After seeing the Waxwings in Bangor on {Oct 28th}, the following day was my day off so I travelled back to the glorious north, un-packed my bags and then straight after, re-packed them again, hopped on a train to Preston and had a restful evening at Zac's house with his parents, as the next few days; myself and Zac would be birding where I certainly like to bird best, the Scottish Highlands and the Cairngorms National Park near Aviemore.

We had originally planned to drive up ourselves, stay for a few nights and kip in the car. However, the table was soon turned around and we managed to spend 4 days of hardcore birding, {30th October - 2nd November} in which we saw more or less everything we wanted to see, except one particular species.

The only species we didn't manage to see was the Capercaillie, after a whole day's worth of searching, not a sniff..
Highlights of the trip are as follows:

26 Waxwings {Middle of Abernethy Forest - self found}

2 Ptarmigan {8am on Cairgorm summit in 90mph winds!!}

Can you spot them?

Eclipse Drake King Eider at Burghead/Moray

2 Parrot Crossbills at our b and b in Boat of Garten {Totally unexpected}
Photographed by Zac Hinchcliffe
Other birding highlights include:

15 Black Grouse, 2 Red Grouse, 10 Brambling, 3 Hooded Crow, 70+ Long-tailed Duck, 20+ Velvet scoter as well as other Scottish specialitiy species such as Crested Tit!

We made a few seriously crazy decisions during the trip, including a dawn walk upto the Cairngorm Summit at 8am in 70-90mph winds!! This is no joke either, eyes dripping with liquid, coats rattling in the wind and at times it was a struggle just to walk the wind was that strong! The view down towards the car-park after seeing 2 Ptarmigan..

The large Scottish breakfasts were more than enough to fill me up for a full days birding, as well as the biggest bowl of porridge imaginable!

Myself and Zac in Abernethy Forest at Forest Lodge at 5am, in search of the elusive Capercaillie. Spending the whole day searching for this elusive creature, our efforts were not rewarded. I had in 2009, spent 2 weeks Residential volunteering here during the summer and was involved in Capercaillie surveying throughout the 2 weeks. Luckily, I managed to see a grand total of 68 Capercaillies, which includes, Females, Males and Fledged chicks. The purpose of this fieldwork was brood counting to see how much of a successfull year they had in raising and fledging chicks. I am proud to say that Capercaillie in 2009 had a pretty damn good year..

Heading home on the 2nd November, we found several fields of {new-in} Whooper swans, but despite thorough searching, I could reveal no red darvic'd birds from our trip to Iceland this year. A few yellow darvic'd birds were present but all were too far away to read..

All in all, a fantastic trip and worth every second. Huge thanks to Zac's mum and dad for inviting me along and for doing all the driving throughout the few days. I hope you enjoyed the Whisky and Wine!! Cheers for now

To see Zac's report of our trip, check out

Waxwings invade Bangor!!

Reports of Waxwings from all over the UK were reaching me all day on Thursday 28th October.. So when I recieved a text off Zac saying he had just had a flock of around 20 Waxwings from his window...and as he lives literally a minute walk from my flat at university.. I was off!! Having the day off anyway, I finished a section of my leaflet and headed out into Bangor in search of these scandinavian beatuies!!

Shortly after, we relocated them, 40 infact in the trees surrounding Ffriddoed site where I am based in Bangor.. Zac headed off to finish off some work and so I phoned Alex Jones as I knew he hadn't seen any yet this year and he shortly arrived 5 minutes later, unfortunately with no waxwings in sight. We jumped in his car and had a quick drive around Bangor and managed to find a flock of 5 Waxwings!! Mega!

Later on in the day, we had a flock of around 60 birds by the Maes Glas Sports Centre briefly, before they headed off to roost!

A superb end to the week and as always, a sheer pleasure to see Waxwings!

Check out:-

Alex's blog @
Zac's blog @ for their accounts of these little beauties!!!

Glossy Ibis - Anglesey - 23rd October

This particluar Glossy Ibis that myself and Zac finally managed to connect with, must have caused the most grief for us both, this year! After 2 failed attempts, the first we managed to walk further than we needed to, the 2nd attempt we walked in the right direction this time.. More importantly, the night of our 2nd failed attempt, Zac totted up the miles we had walked and it came to a ridiculous 26.2 miles!!! What were we thinking, it was only a yeartick??

However, our 3rd attempt was succesfull.. On the Saturday morning whilst I was off twinkling a flock of Redshank along the coast between Bangor and Aber Ogwen Nature Reserve, Zac thought it neccessary to text me to say that he was watching the ibis!! Come on man.. Once we had finished for the day, I sneaked off and caught a train to Rhosneigr, walked the 2 miles to the site, found the right field and amazingly, there...infront of me... some 30ft away... was the Glossy Ibis! This bird had cost me 30 miles walking, a severe drenching from a torrential downpour and to top it all off, the first 2 attempts it turns out we were in the wrong place! The bird was infact 200 yards away in a nearby field.. Unbelievable is all I can say..

The Glossy Ibis featured wears a colour-ring and was originally ringed in Spain, first turning up on the Otter Estuary in Devon and later on Anglesey - great movement!

*Scan weekend - {23rd/24th} October*

After yet another successfull twitch to Inner Marsh Farm for a Juvenile White-Winged Black Tern, I was able to have 4 days rest which did me the world of good! Early on Saturday 22nd October, I met up with Steve, Rachel and the team for another weekend of cannon-netting along the North Wales coast..
A single adult Greenshank was caught, ringed by Andrew Moss.
Several Juvenile Dunlin.
An unexpected colour-ringed Redshank. I will update once I have recieved the details on this bird.
The beach at Llanfairfechan where we managed a catch of 100+ Oystercatcher.

Overall, a great weekend was had by all, with a total of 200 or so birds being ringed. Many thanks to Steve Dodd and to the rest of the team for another successfull weekend's ringing.