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Happy Sundays

03/02/2014 - Wentworth, Woodnook

Been a while hasn't it?  Well there you go.

It's been a quiet Winter for us, ringing wise, though to be fair it hasn't really felt like a Winter at all.   I was out a few weeks ago but it was a low key affair so I didn't get around to blogging it, oh the shame!  Anyhow we made it out this morning.

Here's a photo of some vagrant boy ringing assistant that accompanied me on my last last visit here in January, rather pleased to be handling this specimen.

TBL with a GRSWO

The weather was a dull affair today but the dogs and the fire in the beaters cabin were as welcoming as ever at Woodnook, oh and last but not least Neil of course!  Accompanied this morning on his rounds by a charming little addition to the pack, young Mildred the Labrador.  We admit it, we're suckers for puppies, and she's one cute bitch!

Neils feeders have not been hammered as much this year as they have in previous ones, we expect that this is due to the relative mildness.  There are lots of birds about in the fields, the cover crops and hedgerows are buzzing.  It was still busy enough for the two of us though yet allowing time for a few sit downs by the fire, where we discussed world politics (listened to Rother FM) and chewed the cud (ALDI chocolate).  I don't know what it is that I like about ALDI because in general I hate supermarkets, they repulse me, but ALDI doesn't irritate me in the way that all the others do.  Maybe it's the randomness, the value and the relaxed atmosphere.  Yes, I will take that slightly damaged Christmas themed ginger bread house, a thermal cycling shirt, the sewing kit in a bird art tin and the assorted drill bits please!

It was clear from the off that the finches we were wanting today weren't around in numbers, though typically we had reports of 'loads' of finches a few days before.  It was definitely going to be a Blue Tit kind of day, challenging but we soldiered on!  No surprises ensued but a single Treecreeper should be enough to put a smile on anybodys face.  A couple of new Nuthatches added to the variety and last but not least a couple of Siskins were caught, something that I very much enjoy.  I think that they are becoming a favourite of mine, they give me pleasure anyway.  I heart them!

Male Siskin, (Carduelis spinus)

The black cap is a prominent feature of male Siskins.

Totals fo't day: new/retrap
00/01  Dunnock
01/00  Robin
02/01  Long-tailed Tit - this little fellas has been caught just once each winter for the last three years.
23/03  Blue Tit
03/01  Great Tit
02/00  Nuthatch
01/00  Treeclereaper
04/00  Chaffinch
01/00  Greenfinch
05/01  Goldfinch
02/00  Siskin (yay!)
44/08  Total

Hey you! Yes you!  You may not have noticed but I have a fairly extensive list of links down the right hand column of my blog, linking to lots of other ringing blogs, oodles of UK ringing websites and a cool list of observatories running latitudinal!  Try them out, let me know if I'm missing anything etc.

Winter season starts...

21/11/2013  Wentworth, Woodnook

It felt like it had been a year since we began ringing the winter feeding station at Woodnook last season because, basically, it has been a year and bit.  The recent warm weather seems to have slowed down the take up of the feed by a couple of weeks but over the last week birds started to arrive in numbers, most noticeably a flock of about fifty Goldfinch.  Ringing commenced here in November 2012 last year and ran to the end of April 2013.  It's great to be back now and we are really looking forward to seeing what this season produces and finding out what differences, if any, are evident.*

We decided to take it easy and only put up a couple of pairs of nets at the key feeding locations.  The release pen feeders were reportedly quiet which did seem to be the case as we set about our task.  Job done we moved onto the Christmas tree area which was certainly busier with birds, including numerous chickens and Pheasants picking about on the floor.  Pheasants will usually walk away if they aren't startled so some gentle encouragement saw them retreat on foot into the wood behind.

It was time for the first net round before I knew it, back into the release pen.  Whilst Jilly set up shop in the beaters cabin I went and found several tits in the net.  On return I was pleased to see that Neil had put "coil in't oyl" and set the stove up to draw through a roaring fire.  After processing the first catch we extracted a mixture of finch and tits from the Christmas tree catching area, a pattern that became the order of the day with tit species preferring the wooded release pen and the finches preferring the more open feeding area.

A control (not one of our ring series) Greenfinch was a half time highlight before a small but heavy shower meant that the nets had to be temporarily furled up.  We later found out that the Greenfinch had been ringed this Autumn in the Agden area, not too far away, as part of a bigger catch up there that seems to be becoming an annual occurrence for Steve, my ringing trainer.

The rain didn't last long, stopping just as quick as it started, which allowed us to open the nets again and finish as we had started, adding more finches, tits, and a couple of new Nuthatch to the mornings log.  The final bird of the day was an unexpected Brambling, which I always find a pleasure to come across.

Brambling (Fingilla montifringilla), female.
The Brambling was a great surprise to see.  I've been beating on the estate for the previous three days seeing many, many, birds flushing from the surrounding cover crops as we (the beating team!) walked through the crop to drive the game birds out, and I never once heard the distinctive call that Brambling make. For me it's a very nasal sound, I've linked a good example from the fantastic xeno canto site below.

In other news, a local ringer operating in the beautiful surrounds of the huge sewage works near Meadowhall has just retrapped a Blue Tit from this location, that we caught and ringed in March this year. It's not very far, about 3 miles as the Blue Tit flies, but a nice recovery none the less.

Catch totals for the day as follows:
01/00  Dunnock
01/00  Robin
01/00  Goldcrest
08/00  Coil Tit
25/01  Blue Tit
13/01  Great Tit
02/00  Nuthatch
04/00  Chaffinch
01/00  Brambling
09/01  Greenfinch
18/03  Goldfinch
83/06  Total

*It's early days but what seems to be immediately apparent is the increase in tit numbers, particularly young, first year, birds.  Last year was not a good breeding season for the tits, things appear to be much more normal this year so far.  I'll keep you posted!

A nice Goldcrest record

Back at the end of March, before all the glorious summer sun, we caught a Goldcrest with a ring on it from another UK ringing group.  I received the details the other day was mightily pleased to see that it had been originally captured and ringed on the Norfolk coast in November 2012.

I was even more pleased to be able to find the blog post by the East Norfolk Ringing Group recording the day that 'she' was ringed.

November 2012 - See here for her first capture - http://eastnorfolkringinggroup.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/winterton-farewell.html

March 2013 - See here for her subsequent capture - http://davehallam.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/just-when-you-thought-it-was-safe-to-go.html

In't t'Internet just flippin' great eh? :)

A blog is for life...

July - Wentworth, Mausoleum

We're still hoping for an increase/surge in juvenile birds up at the Mausoleum to bolster our numbers, it's happening VERY slowly.

Our first two sessions in the month resulted in small catches of mainly brown birds!  To be fair, it's never going to be exceptional in a woodland habitat.  There are birds all around but many can be seen to travel through the upper canopy much of the time, avoiding the nets which are dwarfed in such a tall habitat.  Not to worry though, this is a trial year after all, if it doesn't work out as a worthwhile study then we will try other sites in future years.  It does seem to have been a quiet year for others too though, from what I'm reading on other blogs etc.

This Chiffchaff was a good catch, one of 'our' birds ringed as a juvenile last August in the cover crop on the adjacent field.  Presumably a local bird that has returned to breed here.

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

Our last session in July was a little more productive, including a handful of birds from one of the parties of tits that are buzzing about.  Juveniles of Blue, Great and Coal tit were caught at the same time in our most successful net so far (number 6), a juvenile Treecreeper also.  In fact,  it was a juvenile themed day really, as you would expect at this time of the season including the 21st young Robin of the year so far.

The youngsters generally look a bit drab and scruffy in comparison to the adults.  Overall their plumage is weaker, in both appearance and durability.  Many are undergoing a post-juvenile moult at the moment, replacing the feathers that bear the most of the weather from the weather or that come into contact with the habitat that they feed in.

Juvenile Great Tit
Juvenile Great Tit

Juvenile Coal Tit
Juvenile Coal Tit

One Swallow a summer does not make...

Something I have been meaning to do for a while was to try for a Swallow roost down by the lakes.

I ventured out the other night to try a single net and see if was feasible/practical/worthwhileickle.  The header gives it away really, a single young Swallow caught and ringed!  It is worth a couple more tries though, I wouldn't be surprised if on the right night they went for it and came to the speaker in abandon as they sometimes do.  There were plenty of hirundines about, inducing a spectacular double, head height, flyby attack from a Hobby.

Swallow, taken in 1970's style colours, because I can.

Like I said, its worth another attempt.  In the words of Arnie "I'm a cybernetic organism, living tissue over metal endoskeleton." or whatever it is he says in that film...

Roy in the Rhododendrons

16/06/2013 and 30/06/2013 - Wentworth, Mausoleum

All of our efforts are being concentrated on one site at the moment, to test it's suitability for a long term project.  It's been a nice relaxing break for us in way, catching a regular amount of birds in stunning, familiar, surrounds.

The breeding season is well under way, in fact this weekends catch indicates we're right in the middle of it.  Juveniles of several species are evident, in the trees if not in the nets!  A few adult birds that were caught appeared to be feeding unfledged young and a lack of other adults gave the impression that they are sitting tight nearby on eggs.

We've been lucky with the weather so far this year, it seems to have been fairly steady on our ringing sessions.  The woodland surround helps us a lot, providing great cover on days where the wind would normally be a pest.

Our target for this study is 2-300 birds over 12 visits and so far we're well on target even including the fact that two visits early on were missed before we got properly underway.  We have captured 92 birds of 14 species, many being retraps from the few visits we made here last season or from other local sites.

Long-tailed Tits are proving the most interesting to me at the moment.  We have managed to re-trap nine adults so far that were ringed here last year and three more from this winter.  Juveniles, however, are rather thin on the ground so far with just three being caught.  With the adult LOTTIs now being in full moult I'm not expecting it to be a particularly productive year for them sadly, we shall have to wait and see what the next six visits produce. 

We all like to a splash of colour to liven up a morning of catching Blackbirds, Wrens and Dunnocks don't we?  Turning the corner on one bouncing 'dog-legged' net produced this welcome beauty.

Jay - Garrulus glandarius

Jay Garrulus glandarius

Speaking of colour flashes, they're not everyones' cup of teat I know but the bees are certainly appreciating them at the minute.

Roy in the Rhododendrons

I know I've mentioned this before but I couldn't finish without a photo of the game cover crop that is currently bursting into life at the Mausoleum.  It's going to be fantastic once again this year, providing masses of cover and insects for our summer breeding population and in the coming winter months heaps of seed for the finches.  Such a joy to see!

Game cover crop
Game cover crop

Swift copulation

02/06/2013 - Wentworth, Mausoleum

It was a very nice day yesterday wasn't it, very nice, stunning even, yes, stunning!

The dew on the grass gave us wet legs at dawn, soon to be dried off as we basked in our chairs, overlooked by the monument.

Mausoleum monument
Our last visit here was a couple of weeks ago,  the wood seemed more full of song this time.  There are still reports from the observatories of many of our breeding birds migrating into the country, it's another funny year.  Stock Doves were calling all morning along with Treecreeper, Golcrest, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Song Thrush and Blackbird also singing throughout.  A brief alarm type yikker from a Green Woodpecker was followed with the usual bellowing yaffle and a couple of flights over the open ride that gives a spectacular view to the Big House. 

The first juvenile of the year, a Long-tailed Tit was a nice capture.  There are lots of Long-tailed Tits here, several caught were retraps from our visits here last season.  Eight adults so far this year have been re-captured from last year.  We're hoping to ring this site through the breeding season this year, we had already stopped by this time last year so we're into new territory now.

Juvenile Long-tailed Tit
Juvenile Long-tailed Tit (A. caudatus)
The tail on this juvenile wasn't completely grown, hopefully it's the first fledgling of many to venture out of the nest and there are many more to follow because it was the only one we caught, the area can clearly support lots of them.

A retrap male Blackcap was originally from the same site last year, he made it back safe and sound.  He seemed to have found a mate, caught as he was with a female a few feet away in the same net showing a well developed brood patch.  Blackcap are the most common warbler singing in this wood, followed by Chiffchaff, fingers crossed we have some settled weather this season to enable them to successfully breed.  We've had a few glorious days again this week but so far this year the summer hasn't settled in and been consistently good.

29 birds over 11 species made for a good mornings ringing.  Half a dozen of the retraps haven't been caught around here since this time last year, despite the plentiful and extremely busy feeding station that the gamekeeper provides less the a kilometer away.  It was also the first time I've witnessed Swifts mating on the wing, awesome!

00/01  Wren
01/00  Dunnock
02/00  Robin
01/01  Blackbird
02/02  Blackcap
02/00  Chiffchaff
01/00  Goldcrest
08/05  Long-tailed Tit
00/01  Coal Tit
01/00  Treecreeper
00/01  Chaffinch
18/11  29

Blackcaps are back at the Maus

19/05/2013 - Wentworth, Mausoleum

It's been a year and a day, to be precise, since we last ringed up at the Mausoleum.  Our winter feeding sites have now come to an end and we can relax for a short while as the breeding season starts, oh so slowly.

We were on-site for 6am, it was slightly cool and very still.  We had an amble around, erected a couple of 'regular' nets and searched for a couple of new runs.  Rabbits were a prominent feature, seemingly much more so than last year.

The first Blackcap of the year was a welcome start to the day.  Male Blackcaps have black 'caps', females and young birds are gingery brown.  There were several males singing throughout the morning.  Their song is a classic warble though to be honest it's not very distinctive when heard in the background.  The alarm call however is much easier to point out to people, sounding like two pebbles being hit together, or as someone said to me yesterday, the noise of one of those kinetic steel balls that you see on desks.

Male Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
Male Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

A likely pair of Treecreepers, both caught in the same net together, were a nice find.  The male was a retrap from last year which we were able to age at the time as having hatched in 2011.  We were unable to 'sex' him at the time of first capture so today's recapture enabled us to add data on him.  The female was a first year bird, hatched in 2012, with a brood patch indicating that she is currently brooding eggs.  I've said it before on this blog but hey ho, we use the spots or teardrop pattern on the primary feather converts as an aid for ageing Treecreepers.

Adult male Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)
Adult male Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)

Adult and second calendar year Treecreeper wing
Adult Treecreeper, male, (LEFT), 2nd calendar year Treecreeper, female (RIGHT).
The East coast was riddled with vagrant birds today but no surprises for us in our land locked area. The briefest of hope was allowed to rise up for just a second but alas, it was Goldcrest awaiting extraction and not a Firecrest.  Don't get me wrong, we were more than happy with our day, in surroundings such as this what is there to complain about?

Mobile phone panoramic, click for a larger view if tha' wants.
Nothing to write home about on the whole today but excellent weather in glorious surroundings made for a great time.  On the same visit last year we were catching young Long-tailed Tits, a family flock of 24 were caught all together.  We actually retrapped several adults from that very flock today but no juveniles as yet, just females with brood patches.

01/00  Wren
01/00  Robin
02/00  Blackbird
02/00  Blackcap
01/00  Goldcrest
05/05  Long-tailed Tit
01/00  Great Tit
01/01  Treecreeper
14/06  20

Ginger Nut