Monday, 28 February 2011

A Turdus Treat - Shakerley, Gtr Manchester - 28th February 2011

Day 3, and Kane took Chris and I to one of his feeding stations located in Shakerley. I was keen to catch Bullfinch, as Kane has had a good number here in the past.
On the first net round, I was amazed to find a Redwing in the net! This was a superb bird and one of my favourites that I have ringed. I think this is mainly because I rarely get to scrutinise this species at close quarters to really appreciate them. This bird was an adult.

20 Birds in total - 6 Long-tailed Tit (3 recap), 3 Goldfinch (1 recap) 2 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Great Tit, 2 Blue Tit, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Redwing

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Cracking Carduelinae - Worsley, Gtr Manchester - 27th February 2011

Day 2 of the 'majestic' ringing weekend and we spent a morning ringing garden birds in Michael and Mary's garden Worsley, Gtr Manchester. The main target was Redpoll as this garden is lucky enough to have a large flock of Lesser Redpolls feeding regularly on their niger feeders.
This stunning Mealy Redpoll was a retrap from the last visit Kane and Chris had in the garden and fell into the net on the first round. This was really obvious from the start on the feeders as being very pale and cold in colour aswell as the obvious larger size and more black on the face. A real treat to see in the hand.

Adding a lovely amount of colour to the morning was this beautiful male Siskin, which was a first for the garden so Michael and Mary were keen to scrutinise this little gem

Above - juvenile Lesser Redpoll (left) and juvenile Mealy Redpoll (right)

above - Mealy Redpoll (left) and Lesser Redpoll (right)

myself having just extracted this wonderful juvenile female Lesser Redpoll...the very bright plumage really stood out on the feeders, so we were surprised to find it was a juvenile female

Throughout the day we caught 21 birds -
New - 6 Lesser Redpoll, 4 Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Starling, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Siskin
Recap - 6 Lesser Repoll, Common (Mealy) Redpoll

Chris, Ciaran and Kane with Great Spot

Ciaran and Kane with a Lesser Redpoll and Siskin

A superb morning with great thanks to Michael and Mary for their hospitality and warm cups of tea. During the morning I rung 6 species, all of which being 'ticks' for me, which was excellent. A male sparrowhawk landed in the net at one point which would have been 'mine' if it had stayed in but sadly escaped looking a little confused.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

'It's Hammer Time' - Greater Manchester - 26th February 2011

This is hopefully the first of three posts this weekend. I'm currently staying at Kane Brides' with the majestic ringing team of Chris Bridge, Ciaran Hatsell, Kane and myself.

Day 1
We were up early heading to Astley Moss in Greater Manchester with Steve Christmas targeting Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow. When we arrived, it was raining with a light breeze which wasn't very inviting, but it soon stopped which meant we could continue with a lovely morning's ringing!

Adult male Yellowhammer
Tree Sparrow

adult male Yellowhammer undertail coverts
Male Reed Bunting
adult female Chaffinch
Throughout the day we had 23 birds including some stunning male Yellowhammer and several Tree Sparrow. Species caught included Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and best of all, Willow Tit.
Wonderful Willow Tit
This was the 2nd personal target species to have been caught in the last two weekends. It was a superb bird and if it's possible, I think I like them even more!

After the 3 nets we erected became quiet, we decided to check out a flock of c40 Waxwing in Westhoughton which were feeding on berries next to the doctor's surgery. It was reasonably windy and the tree was rather public, so we decided we couldn't attempt to catch them...which was a shame.
Kane and Ciaran taking a dip
Finally on Day 1, Kane had seen a couple of Coot on a flooded field at his feeding station site in Shakerley, so we thought we'd attempt to try and catch them. It rained on Friday night, so the water level had risen dramatically and the 'lake' had got to chest deep in some places...Ciaran found this out the hard way as we waded into the water to try to get them. Sadly, they were the 'Houdini' of the bird world and evaded capture which made the wading into ice cold water seem somewhat pointless! It was however entertaining to say the least!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

My day in paradise! - SCAN weekend - 19th February 2011

I have two birds that I would class as my favourite 'common'/resident birds in Britain. These are Willow Tit and Dunlin because both are seemingly quite overlooked but are actually gorgeous and are full of character. As a result, it has been a goal of mine, ever since I was deciding whether or not to start ringing training, to ring both species.
After getting to sleep at 02.30 on Friday night, we (Chris Bridge, Kane Brides, Hamza Yasim and myself) awoke on Saturday morning at 05.00 to head towards Llanfairfechan. Here we set up 3 cannon nets close to each other on the semi-tidal pools with the aim to catch Dunlin and Redshank. About an hour before high tide, birds started dropping in and before we knew it, we were sprinting towards the net to get any wet birds out of the water. The first catch, we caught 27 Redshank and a superb 68 Dunlin. We retreated out of view and it really wasnt long before a flock of Redshank reappeared near the nets and a 2nd net was fired catching a further 47 Redshank.
Processing the Redshank first, I had to wait for that wonderful goal to be complete. It was great to ring so many (74) Redshank however, with the majority of birds being juvenile birds. With such variation in moult within individuals, it was nice to be able to examine and hold so many educationally challenging aswell as extremely obvious birds.
All 74 Redshanks were ringed and then sent to the processing team doing biometrics, leaving us ringers with the wonderful task of taking Dunlin out of the keeping cages. I believe for the rest of the ringing session, the smile was not wiped off my face!
Ageing of Dunlin -Plain grey coverts = Adult
Ageing of Dunlin - Buffy worn tips to coverts = juvenile
I only got 2 and a half hours sleep, but I promise you I was so happy at this point!
Common Redshank - Another species that benefits from holding as you appreciate how pretty they are.

Steve Dodd - Project Leader of Operation Dunlin
Later on the Saturday, we did a mist net catch at the same site where we caught 28 Redshanks (I believe only 3 were adult, the rest were juvenile), 3 Dunlin (1 recap) and best of all in terms of rarity was a juvenile Greenshank which was very impressive in the hand compared to Redshank in terms of size and brute force when wriggling. An unexpected bonus!
juvenile Greenshank
They say that you should never meet your childhood heroes, but today (one of the most beautiful February days I have ever seen), to be able to be so intimate with 3 beautiful species of wading bird was possibly one of my most enjoyable birding days of all time. I absolutely loved it, even if we got back at 00.30, 19 and a half hours after I got up!
(All photos apart from the Greenshank were taken by Kane Brides, so thank you for letting me use them!)

Friday, 18 February 2011

The calm before the storm? - 12-18th February 2011

Male Siskin on my feeders.
Last weekend I turned 19, so being a student, you can imagine I spent more time in bed 'recovering' than I did in the field birding. I have however had an exciting time from my kitchen window in the form of a male Siskin. This was part of a group of 4 Siskins visiting my sunflower hearts on Tuesday morning.
I made the trip back to Preston on Tuesday as I was going to watch Doncaster Rovers vs Ipswich Town. Any football fans reading this, and anyone in the know that I am a Doncaster fan will agree that I could probably have chosen a much better game to go and watch losing 6-0 at home!
I had to be back in Bangor by Wednesday evening so I was desperate to get out in Preston on wednesday morning. I made a very brief stop at Preston Docks where the Iceland Gull was showing distantly.

The reason this post is called 'The calm before the storm?' is because I am out ringing this weekend with SCAN and with 3-4 rarities in the country at the moment (Rufous Turtle Dove, Slaty-backed Gull, Northern Harrier and 2 Penduline Tits), there could well be an increase in exciting posting before the end of next week... watch this space!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Phantom Bunting - Llandudno, Conwy - 10th February 2011

I'm all up for a challenge every now and then, but trying to photograph birds that are seemingly not there is certainly a challenge too far!
I was going to head down to Bangor harbour again to try and clinch the last four digits of the Dutch ringed bird, but decided mid-morning to attempt to photograph 3 Snow Buntings that had been present in Llandudno for a while now. This would add a certainly level of beauty to my blog, and also enable me to photograph a bird I have previously found quite tricky.
I arrived at West Shore at c1230 and left at 15.30 which gave me ample time to locate and photograph the birds, but not a sniff! Not even a distant call to give me hope...oh well, at least I gave it a go on a lovely day instead of being stuck in my bedroom.

Close encounter with a Raven

There was a certain amount of consilation in the form of 2 Raven that were incredibly feeding on a dead fox that was for some reason on the beach! This is one of the few times I have ever seen Raven on the ground, and certainly the first time I have been able to get so close to such a beast of a bird. Sadly, I had put my camera away by the time a Carrion Crow joined in being completely dwarfed by the Raven (like a Carrion Crow and a Blackbird!)
I had a quick check of the gulls on the small lake at the north of West Shore to check for rings to no avail. I did however note several colour ringed Mute Swans reading ABSS, ABST and ABSV. These being so close together, I assume they were ringed on site. I did however see a metal ringed Mute Swan reading W25368, which I will send off as this may be a 'visitor'

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Sun, Sea and a bloody Shortie! - Bangor, Gwynedd - 8th February 2011

With beautiful blue skies and no wind, It was hard to believe the weather we witnessed over the weekend. It was a wonderful change so I decided to meet up with Chris down at Bangor Harbour. I suppose this was just to have a quick scan in the lovely weather, but in the back of my mind, I think I wanted to try and find some of the birds we rung at the weekend. We made our way to the north side of the Harbour to a shingle beach overlooking Porth Penrhyn.
The sea was an actual mill pond, so it wasn't long before we began skimming and throwing pebbles! It really wasn't long before I picked up a flock of Oystercatchers flying around very nervously with a pale brown bird of prey amongst them. It was flying very slowly so could only be a harrier sp or an owl. Bins went up to reveal a Short-eared Owl flying down the Menai Straits! It must have been a migrant bird as it eventually banked round and landed in the dunes 100 meters away round the corner. We sprinted round, not realising how close it had landed, flushing it allowing me to get a couple of reasonable record shots of this exciting migrant 'Bangor tick'! Also from this vantage point, we found a group of 7 Pale-bellied Brent Geese that landed on the sea.

Moving round to the harbour wall, we were able to view roosting waders where we saw at least 10 ringed Redshank, which we assumed had been ringed by SCAN (maybe the juvenile we ringed on Saturday was in there?) as well as a very approachable Rock Pipit. Whilst sitting along the harbour wall, we noticed 3 large 'disks' along the tide edge. Closer inspection revealed that they were infact Barrel Jellyfish. These were huge organisms with a bell diameter of at least 40cm. This is apparently the largest true jellyfish in British Waters, and is seemingly harmless.
We soon moved round to the playing fields to the west of Bangor Harbour where we sat on a concrete wall checking for ringed gulls. We quickly spotted two ringed Black-heads that were both ringed on their left leg. Close inspection revealed that they were ringed in Holland (3.61----) and Finland (I originally thought this was 0239892, but Kane Brides has informed me that Finnish Black-heads all start with ST, which could mean that there are multiple birds). I will try and get the full numbers tomorrow.
Whilst trying to read the rings, by feeding the gulls with potentially the nicest chips I have ever had, I spotted a stonking adult Mediterranean Gull which came in close, but didn't come to chips sadly. This is an overdue tick for Bangor for me.

Finnish ringed Black-headed Gull
Dutch ringed Black Headed Gull
We ended the day at the Tesco car park in Bangor, trying to find as the Pied Wagtail roost there. We eventually found c100 birds roosting in a bush, which was next to a very public place, but I personally think they are ringable, so there could well be a ringing session there in the coming weeks with any luck.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and one that just proves you don't need to spent £100 on a train to have a fantastic birding day!
[Ringed Black-headed Gulls update: 09/02/2011 saw another 'vigil' at Bangor Harbour watching the ringed Black-heads. I managed to confirm the Finnish bird as being 'ST 239.892' as well as another forgeign bird, '7T69449' which is a from Belgium. Sadly the Dutch bird wasn't seen today, but I will try again tomorrow with yet more chips!]