Saturday, 29 January 2011

A net full of goodies - Caernarfon, Gwynedd - 29th January 2011

male Bullfinch
female Great Spotted Woodpecker
female Nuthatch
Long Tailed Tit
Male Bullfinch (cheeky in hand shot)
male Blackbird
Great Tit
I enjoyed a wonderful mornings ringing on a farm in Caernarfon today. Steve Dodd invited me to join him and his trainees (Chris Bridge included) to do some ringing of a garden feeding station and scrub using 4 nets.
With the birds mostly being garden birds, there was a mind boggling number of Blue and Great Tit which were the main point of reference for my first ringing 'lesson'. I will post the totals another time, but we certainly must have rung over 100 birds which was pretty fast pace to say the least.
Some birds that fell in the nets, and gave me a rush of adrenaline were Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit and my personal highlight of the day were 2 groups of Bullfinch, which were mainly dominated by the stunning males. One of the surprises of the day was just how small the Long-tailed Tits were in hand, as their tail throws you off their true size.
It is going to take some practise getting used to ringing the birds (especially the taking out of the bags as I seemed to really struggle here), but ofcourse practise makes perfect!
Species caught as follows:- Great-spotted Woodpecker, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Bullfinch.
During the erection of the nets, we managed to flush a Woodcock and there was at least 1 Green Woodpecker calling from near by.
A superb day, with thanks going to Steve Dodd and Rachel for inviting me and being patient with my incompetence haha. Also thanks go to Arthur for the hospitality and regular cups of tea, and ofcourse thanks to Mr Chris Bridge
(All photographs were taken with my phone, hence the average quality and strange colours to them)

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Mega! on my Bangor feeder list - 27th January 2011

Ok so maybe not a Mega (I'm not expecting a crowd of thousands to descend on the Ffriddoedd halls of residence) but for me, a Siskin is one of those birds that can make a day worthwhile. I don't think nature has produced a great deal of organisms that are prettier than a male Siskin.
Walking into the kitchen to make myself a brew, I noticed this little gem of a female Siskin sat on the sunflower hearts. To be perfectly honest, it was more of a shock to see a bird sat there as the Great and Blue Tits do not stick around for long!

Update - five minute after the orignal post, 5 Chaffinch (4 males) descended on the feeders which are another first.

Once again, I apologise for the mundane posting of late, but that is because i've not exactly been far afield so far in 2011. At least i'm getting chance to appreciate the more common birds and realise how nice some of them really are. (The Blue Tit above for example. If that was a 1st for Britain, 1000's of birders would want to see it. It's gorgeous!)

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Bangor - 26th January 2011

I was able to get down to the front at Bangor this lunchtime with my camera as the weather was much improved (the light however was not!)
Within about 5 minutes, I had found the Jackdaw I had seen the day prior and was able to fire off a couple of record shots. The birds were unusually flighty for Jackdaw as kept their distance so the photos were quite distant and not especially clear. There is a definite collar to this bird though, even if it isn't pure, I personally believe it has a Nordic parent. I remember there being somewhat of a fall of Nordic-type birds in the winter period of 2007/2008 that Bill Aspin documented well in the East Lancashire region. I suppose it isn't too farfetched to beileve that a few birds stayed in England to breed after this 'invasion' and interbred with our race. Could this bird seen today be evidence of this?
There was also a rather smart looking 1st winter Herring Gull that was standing there looking rather photogenic...I couldn't resist a couple of shots.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Bangor in Drizzle - 25th January 2011

For various reasons, I was not able to get across to Moore NR at the weekend. Chris Bridge went on friday and saw nothing of interest, so maybe it was a good thing that I saved the money on trainfare!
I put up some feeders on Friday night and have regularly had 3 Blue tit and up to 5 Great Tit entertaining me whilst I drink one of my many cups of tea in the kitchen!

A couple of tits and the occasional Raven overhead just didn't fulfil my birding quota, so I thought I'd make a trip to Bangor harbour. The weather was literally awful, as was the light so the few photos I managed to take with my phone and binoculars (phone-binning?) were almost embarassing!
On the walk down to the harbour, a 'takking' caught my attention, and a female Blackcap brightened up a very miserable day. Also in the same area were atleast 5 Goldcrest (I checked for Firecrest, but no joy)
The playing field by the front held a small flock of Oystercatcher and Redshank forced onto land by the high tide, aswell as a couple of Jackdaw*.
Little else was seen on my journey into the harbour itself except a single Turnstone, plus an adult shag and 4 Little Grebe (one in full summer plumage) feeding on the calm water.

*One of the 2 Jackdaw seen showed a definite pale collar at the base of the ear coverts, which definitly suggested there is some sign of 'Nordic' influence. The collar was obviously present, but wasn't especially striking like you would expect on a pure bird. I suppose this could suggest hybridisation with a Nordic and one of 'our' birds. It could also just be an abberant individual showing uncharacteristic variation. I will try and get some decent pictures of the bird when the weather improves, but for now, I remain unsure

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A couple of ringing recoveries to pass the time - 19th January 2011

I'm still not able to post a trip report per se, but I made a trip down to the Menai Bridge this evening to try and get some photos of it at night. This is something I have been wanting to do for a while. Tonight was the first night that I have been doing very little and the weather has been right, so off I went. I saw a surprising amount of birds considering it was dark: Grey Heron, 3 Oystercatcher, 5 Herring Gull, 4 Redwings (heard only) and a calling Tawny Owl on the walk back to the Ffriddoedd site halls.
Whilst I'm on blogger, I feel I should post a couple of ringing recoveries that I have observed in the last month or so.
Above - X874069 - A) Betley, Staffordshire. B) Preston, Lancashire

Chaffinch - X874069 - Ringed 15/11/2009 Betley, Staffordshire
Recovered 16/12/2010 Fulwood, Preston (PR2 9RF), Lancashire (395 days, 60 Miles from ringing location)

Herring Gull - GA40230 ?
(info on this bird still hasn't come, but was recovered as an Adult in winter plumage on 19/12/2010 at Preston Docks, Lancashire)

Black-headed Gull EX5415- - Ringed 10/12/2010 Preston Docks
Last digit wasn't read because snow was covering it! What are the chances of that happening in Britain often?) Recovered 19/12/2010 Preston Docks

Mute Swan - Blue Darvic BX4 - Ringed 24/09/2006 CEGB Pools, Fleetwood
Recovered 03/01/2011 Fleetwood Marine Lakes

Whooper Swan - CY4841 - Ringed 29/12/2010 Fleetwood Marine Lakes
Recovered 03/01/2011 (I was hoping for something a little more long distance tbh!)

Coot - GR25056 (Right - Dark blue, BTO. Left - light blue, light blue) - 31/11/10 Southport Marine Lakes
Recovered 05/01/2011 Preston Docks (distance 14 miles)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The question no one is asking!

Sadly no Birding at the minute due to this week being my exam week at uni. I hope to break this dry spell at the weekend with a trip to Moore NR however. For now, I will leave you with this!:

With the recent events that have occured at Rainham Marshes in London, regarding the presence of a Large Larid sp, World War 3 has broken out on everyone's favourite battleground, Birdforum.
For those of you not in the know, Thursday became a day of panic when Dominic Mitchell reported and blogged about a potential candidate for Slaty-backed Gull at the refuge tip next to Rainham Marshes. This bird looked like a superb candidate for this species so, friday saw the 'big names' of birdwatching descending on the the tip in search of the bird in question. It was seen again and the all important flight views and other characteristics were seen and photographed. Saturday saw the bird vanish, but according to Lee Evans, at least 25 birders are adement the bird was still present if not for part of the day.
A thread on Birdforum ( > >thread here< < ) about the ID of the bird started as a semi-civilised debate about all the features and how classic the bird looked. After the bird had left and people were claiming the bird from the Saturday, carnage broke out and abuse was thrown across the forum. If it was in person, it would definitly have been like a saloon bar fight.

'Lewis20216' wrote:
'"Whistling Swans" with too much yellow than typical
A first year "Slender-billed Curlew" in an undescribed plumage
A grey Varied Thrush
A "Slaty-backed" Gull at the "pale end of the spectrum"
various inconclusive "Elegant Terns" (saw some real ones at the weekend, "ours" are not typical of the median appearance...)

Perhaps birds with plumage & structural abnormality are more prone to vagrancy? Makes you wonder...I hope.

Good luck.


Above - 'grey' Varied Thrush, Nanquindo, Cornwall. November 1982(John Miller)

This comment was posted during the middle of the fighting and I noted it, thinking is was an excellent point.
There have been several bird that have turned up that have appeared almost perfect candidates for vagrant birds, but have shown characteristics not regularly seen on classic individuals of that species.
The Varied Thrush that turned up in Cornwall is a great example of this. The pale morph bird that turned up showed a very very rare plumage in this species, yet the only British record (the only European record) was of this morphological variant.
You have to ask the question could this variance could well have something to do with their reason for vagrancy?
I don't exactly have the answer, but I suppose one of the reasons I can think of is that these individuals are outcast from their population so are almost forced to relocate, this could cause their migratory range to increase dramatically which could therefore force them to venture across seas and oceans in search of new habitat.

I am studying Zoology with Animal Behavior at university currently, so I suppose I could look further into this matter as my course progresses.
For now, I hope someone reading this has a simple answer, or has somebody got the guts to tell me that staying in my room revising has got the better of me and I'm talking utter nonsense!

*Also brought to my attention by John Miller is the 'long-billed' Siberian Thrush, the first British record on the Isle of May, Fife in 1954'. At the time, this was a first for Britain and is it just a coinsidence that it happened to be an 'unusual' individual?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Revision can't stop birding! - Preston, Lancashire - 5th January 2011

This Blackcap is the first winter record of a male I think I have ever seen in my garden. We have seen a female about 3 times a winter in the last few years, but never a male. To my knowledge this is the 2nd (male) garden record.

With my imminent departure back to university, I am 'cramming' before my exams at the end of January. Recent sightings of Waxwings and Blackcap in my own garden are sufficient birding fixes to keep me from going insane!

Happy Birding!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Fleetwood Marine Lakes - 3rd January 2011

My first post of 2011! I picked up the binoculars for the first time today and had a trip out to Fleetwood to try and get some close up photos of some of the tamer species. I was certainly surprised to see an adult Whooper Swan swimming close in with the resident Mute Swan. I noted a colour ringed Mute Swan reading - (Blue) BX4 - so will send this off and report back when I can. This was the only ringed individual I could see, so it could have come from somewhere a little further away than onsite!
Sadly, with trips to Preston Docks and Fleetwood Marine Lakes in the past week or so, It is pretty obvious that gulls have not coped especially well in the recent cold spell. I'm intrigued to why this is however as it isn't as though as the locations stated are food heaven for gulls as there is almost a constant supply of food. Perhaps the cold weather has caused the birds to gorge on white bread and salty chips and that has killed them? It's never nice to see a dead bird, but this 3rd winter Herring Gull was interesting to watch as it clearly died only a few days ago meaning it was pristine.

Update - BX4 has been present for over a year according to Jonathon Scragg. I have also discovered that the Whooper Swan was also photographer with a metal ring by Mike Watson. Maybe this will produce some interesting data.