Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Red Kite and Grey Heron!

During my ringing career I have been lucky enough to handle several raptors. Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Long-Eared Owl, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, but never did I think that I would get the chance to ring a Red Kite. Sunday 5th June was the day that it happened, as I joined Kelvin Jones and Tony Cross in South Wales. What a beautiful bird it was!

The land in which the Red Kite has decided to nest in, had a large family and so they all came down to watch the Kite get ringed. This picture is just a snap shot of the amount of people that came to watch. A total of 15 people, mainly young kids, observed my activities and asked loads of questions as to how long the ring would last on the bird's leg and other matters such as why do you ring birds.. Future ringers in a few years time?

Tony kindly took my camera up to the tree and took a picture of the Kite in the nest, complete with the remains of it's last meal and what looks to be a hare.

Before this all happened, we made a swift visit into the Egret colony where several more Little Egrets were colour ringed as well as 2 Grey Herons. Another new species for me and a bird that is somewhat calm in the hand.

Huge thanks to Tony Cross, Adrienne Stratford and Kelvin Jones for a great day!

Common Rosefinch

Anglesey has had it's fair share of rarities over the years and whilst I have been studying in Bangor I have managed to see quite a few of them and there have been some that I have missed. Common Rosefinch is a bird that I have missed more times than I can remember, especially at Spurn Point on the Humber Estuary.

So when this stunning male turned up on Anglesey, a quick twitch with Hamza and we were enjoying great views of this stunning bird as it sat on nearby conifers singing it's little heart out.

The site where the Common Rosefinch spent it's visit - someone's garden.

Little Egret Ringing!

My Pied flycatcher surveying was now in full swing for my 3rd year dissertation project and so it was time for a break and definetely time to get some ringing done. An early start that morning saw myself and Zac at Aber Falls at 5:30am and by 10am, all surveys were done.

Shortly after we met up with friends Adrienne Stratford and Tony Cross to help them ring some Little Egret pullus. Amazing birds and an awfully long reach with that bill. A total of 4 Little Egret pullus were colour ringed as part of the on going project.

Photographed by Zac Hinchcliffe

After finishing in the Egret colony, we headed up to check and ring some more Chough Pullus around North Wales.

Over the next few days I also managed to hand catch a Jay, Jackdaw, Rook and Carrion Crow but these were all fresh out of the nest and placed safely back in nearby fields instead of hopping along the road..

Huge thanks to Adrienne for a great ringing experience and to Tony for climbing the ridiculously tall conifers in order to reach the chicks in the nest.

Nest Recording - 2011

Throughout the summer I have been Nest recording as part of the Nest Record Scheme (NRS), run by the British Trust for Ornithology. Nest recording takes up a lot of time and effort but the rewards are hugely beneficial! The data collected is used to produce trends in the breeding performance, which helps us to identify any species which may be declining because of the problems at the nesting stage.

From the beginning of April I began nest recording right up until the end of August.

This year has been an awfully succesful year as I have managed to put in a lot of time and effort and have reaped the rewards. The above 2 pictures are of a Wood warbler nest which I found at Aber Falls this June, containing 6 Warm eggs and 1 of the 6 Wood Warbler chicks that was ringed from this nest.

The 2nd rare nest I found this June, was this Tree Pipit nest containing 3 large chicks, ready for fledging.

A closer view of the chicks, peeping out of the nest hole hidden perfectly under a sloping embankment in the hills above Abergwyngregyn.

Many other nests were found this year including several Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. I also managed to find my 1st Whitethroat and Blackcap nest.

Song Thrush Nest

Chaffinch Nest

Nest recording provides us with some very valuable data about our British breeding bird populations. Although nest recording takes up a lot of time and effort, why not begin nest recording next year? For more information on how to become a nest recorder - please visit the NRS on the BTO website.

Flycatchers at the Falls

After a tiring day ringing Chough Pullus around the Isle of Anglesey, I opted for some more relaxed ringing. Seeing as though Steve and Rachel had the day off, I met up with them at Aber Falls the next day to do some more work on my 3rd year dissertation project.

My question for my dissertation is as follows:- 'Does the Maturity and Experience of Adult Pied flycatchers affect the fledging rate of their offspring'? Basically, I want to find out whether age differences in these birds affects the fledging success of their offspring. So, do age 5 birds find it harder to raise their young to the fledging stage or do age 6 birds do better?

The mornings aims were to catch, ring and correctly age as many adult Pied flycatchers as we could. Throughout the morning a total of 20 adults were caught as well as 30 pulli ringed from just 4 broods - great stuff!

Pied flycatchers undergo 1 complete wing-moult in a year, much like the Willow Warbler, so ageing this species can be rather tricky. Age 5 birds are aged on feather wear on tail and primary tips. However, pointed primary coverts are also a handy clue to the birds age, if none of the other apply.

Age 6 birds are aged by having broad, square shaped tail feathers, rounded primary tips and primary coverts. So at times, a few birds had to go down as (Age 4), simply because there just wasn't enough evidence to positively give them a correct age.

From 28th May until 16th June I spent every day at Aber Falls sat watching my specified 10 or so nestboxes, recording the amount of times the adult male and female visited the nest with food. Some days weather conditions were atrocious, whereas some days it was glorious. Adding the constant buzz annoyance of the midges, a 16 mile round trip each day for 20 days - June was somewhat shattering!

Chough Ringing on Anglesey

Just under a week later after doing the Tree Sparrow nestboxes at Martin Mere, I was back out ringing and this time I joined up with Adrienne Stratford and Tony Cross on the 27th May to do some pullus Chough ringing.

A total of 6 sites were visited over the Isle Of Anglesey with 18 chicks being ringed as part of their on going project monitoring the movements of our welsh Chough.

The day was spent abseiling down in to deep sea caves and with the tide crashing in below us, I began to wonder whether this was such a good idea.. If you take a look at the photo below, this was just a taster of the depths we went to get to these nests. Getting down there for a start was interesting, but getting the ladder into the correct position was enough more interesting. Saving the best til last was the noise of pullus Chough chicks calling to us as the adults flew around nearby checking what we were upto..

Martin Mere Nest Boxes

Photographed by Kane Brides

No sooner had I returned back to Bangor, had a few days of lectures back at university and seen my 1st Broad-Billed Sandpiper in the UK; I was back down in the North-West to give Kane a hand to do a complete nest box check of the breeding population of Tree Sparrows at Martin Mere. This being 4 days later..

Photographed by Kane Brides

An early start was neccessary so we could get through a large proportion of the nestboxes here and so at the end of the day we had managed to check 97 nestboxes out of the 150 at Martin Mere. A total of 74 nestboxes were occupied with Tree Sparrows, whilst 9 by Blue Tit and 3 by Great Tit. This is a very tough day's work and it is rather tricky to get them all checked in one day.

A grand total of 88 Tree Sparrow were ringed and all were colour ringed as part of the WWT wardens project. 39 Blue Tit and 19 Great Tit were also ringed during the visit.

If you are ever visiting Martin Mere and you happen to come across a colour ringed Tree Sparrow - sightings should be handed to the front desk at reception and asked to be forwarded onto the Research Office. Also, sightings can be noted down in any of the hides on the reserve..

Broad - Billed Sandpiper

Completing all the ringing that was needed with Kane, I decided to have a quick visit to Hoylake on the Wirral on my way home. There had been a Broad-Billed Sandpiper associating with a large flock of Dunlin on the shore line on the incoming tide.

On arrival, I was greeted with a flock of at least 6,000 Dunlin and having come straight from Atherton, I only had my bins with me.

The bird was soon located and great views were had of this beautiful little wader whee it showed to within 30ft from the gathering crowd. This is a bird I had wanted to see for a while as in 2010 I twitched the same species up in Saltholme and was unlucky in that respect.

The crowd and the incoming tide at Hoylake/Meols on the Wirral. A great end to an amazing few days ringing. Nearby there was a Buff-Breasted Sandpiper at Frodsham Marshes and a Male Citrine Wagtail at RSPB Conwy in North wales - neither were seen..

Mixed Ringing - 13th-16th May

During Friday 13th and Monday 16th May, I travelled over to Atherton to give Kane a hand with some pullus ringing and some general mist netting. Zac also joined us..

A general mist-netting session in his garden resulted in Coal Tit, House Sparrow, Song Thrush, Dunnock and a few Goldfinch being caught. A few Starlings then entered the garden and so were colour-ringed as part of Kane's on going RAS Project. (Retrapping Adults for Survival).

Over the next few days, between showers, we ventured into Atherton Woods where a total of 47 Great Tit, 51 Blue Tit and 6 Nuthatch were ringed in the nestboxes.

We were also lucky enough to locate 2 Treecreeper nests; one containing 3 chicks and the other with 6 eggs.

Photographed by Kane Brides

An Adult Stock Dove was also caught in one of the nestboxes. This was a new species for me, so it was great to see this farmland dove up close and personal. The bird was quickly ringed and processed and placed back in the nestbox where she sat tight, giving us enough time to retreat back to the cars.

Photographed by Kane Brides

Kane had also been monitoring several Tawny Owl boxes and on checking a certain box, 2 Tawny Owl pulli were ringed. Yet again, another new species as I had processed a retrap adult female back in April from another nestbox.

Photographed by Kane Brides

Cettia Cetti!

Early morning on Saturday 7th May, I visited our CES site, along with Steve and Rachel. Having not had much spare time on my hands this year I have only been able to make 2 visits out of the actual 12, but amazingly that morning we caught a pair of Cetti's Warbler.

This is a species I have had in the hand before, however was intrigued to have a much closer look. Whilst in Spain a year or so ago with Stephen Menzie and Alex Jones, I partook in a couple of morning's ringing where Cetti's were caught regularly during my stay but they were just ringed and processed and released rather quickly as we were very busy that morning.

This pair (pictured above) were breeding on the site as the female had a brood patch (BP) and the male had Cloacal Protuberance (CP). I just hope they raised some young this year, although, we weren't successful in catching any - yet.

Also caught that morning was this Song Thrush.

BTO Pied Flycatcher Surveys

During my time at Bangor University I have been involved with a Pied Flycatcher project at Aber Falls in Abergwyngregyn. Aber Falls is a prime site for this species and with lots of ancient oak woodlands and steep slopes, a population of 30 Pied flycatchers now breed here..

In late April, through to May and June, myself and several other dedicated volunteers survey these boxes and monitor the breeding success, right through until the youngsters fledge.

The data collected from these surveys is sent to the Nest Record Scheme (NRS) at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) where the data is collated and used to produce trends in breeding performance of these birds and helps us to identify species that may be declining because of problems at the nesting stage.

Many different subjects are recorded during these surveys such as nest building stages, number of eggs laid, incubation period and the number of chicks that fledged.

On a personal note, the breeding population at Aber Falls this year totalled 30 pairs which successfully fledged 200+ young.

For more information about the NRS and how you can get involved, please visit the NRS

Moroccan Larks!

Thick Billed Lark

Desert Lark

Bar Tailed Desert Lark

Hoopoe Lark

Temminck's Horned Lark

Moroccan Wheatears!

White Crowned Black Wheatear

Black Eared Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

Red Rumped Wheatear

Seebohm's Wheatear

The Moroccan Team!

I had always heard that a trip to Morocco would leave you coming back speechless, not only the birds were of top quality, but the food, culture and landscape made this trip one of a kind. I had always wanted to travel to a different continent as I have already seen most of the UK, Ireland, Iceland, Lesvos, Austria and Majorca - North Africa was the next stop.

In the picture above, (pictured left to right) Eugene McCann, Myself and Ralph Jones. A thoroughly enjoyable trip was had by all with each of us gaining at least another 50 new birds to our life lists! A trip report will be available on the blog for all to read but this won't be until the end of this year..

Temperatures peaked at 35 degrees, but that was in the middle of the Sahara. Our clock in the car was albeit knackered, so ignore the figures from the date and time. Our 10 day trip to Morocco was the best birding trip I have ever been on and if anyone needs any advice or information if they are planning a trip, please do get in touch..

Throughout the trip I managed to see 47 new species which included:-

  • Barbary Partridge

  • Moussier's Redstart

  • Little Swift

  • African Blue Tit

  • Western Olivaceous Warbler

  • African Chaffinch

  • House Bunting

  • Common Bulbul

  • Laughing Dove

  • Blue - Cheeked - Bee - Eater

  • Atlas Shore Lark

  • Seebohm's Wheatear

  • Spectacled Warbler

  • White - Crowned - Black Wheatear

  • Crimson - Winged Finch

  • Lanner Falcon

  • Cream - Coloured Courser

  • Bar - Tailed Desert Lark

  • Thick - Billed Lark

  • Temminck's Horned Lark

  • Hoopoe Lark

  • Desert Wheatear

  • Red-Rumped Wheatear

  • Western Orphean Warbler

  • Melodious Warbler

  • Trumpeter Finch

  • Crowned Sandgrouse

  • Desert Lark

  • Rufous Tailed Scrub Robin

  • Scrub Warbler

  • Egyptian Nightjar

  • African Desert Warbler

  • Saharan Olivaceous Warbler

  • Fulvous Babbler

  • Brown Necked Raven

  • Desert Sparrow

  • Spotted Sandgrouse

  • Barbary Falcon

  • Pharoah Eagle Owl

  • Moroccan Pied Wagtail

  • African Rock Martin

  • Moroccan Tawny Owl

  • Moroccan Magpie

  • Bald Ibis

  • Black Crowned Tchagra

  • Brown Throated Sand Martin

  • Marbled Teal
Overall, a fantastic trip and it sure is a place I will travel back to, as we still missed some species.