Monday, 19 May 2014

Twite Update - 19th May 2014

 Orange, Dark Blue, Lime - Caught and ringed at Braich Ty Du farm on 18th April 2014, ringed by me.

As I've been quite quiet so far this spring, I thought I'd give a quick update on what I've been getting up to! I've been spending the vast majority of my time in the Nant Ffrancon valley doing my Twite fieldwork for my Research Masters. This year is slightly different to last being that I am not wandering aimlessly around the whole of Snowdonia like last year. My project is in relation to the land management of the Nant Ffrancon valley that supposedly benefits the Twite, so I am surveying the valley floor and the managed fields/compartmental areas as much as I can to monitor what the Twite are getting up to.

I have seen a decent number so far. With a flock of 90 birds wintering together at Connah's Quay, we thought there might be a bumper year in 2014, but just before dispersal, the flock split into two and one flock, that had a decent number caught and ringed have had several birds observed in the valley this spring so far. I have seen at least 20 birds in the valley so far, but with a variety of unringed birds, it's hard to tell exactly how many I've seen so far.
It's not just the Twite that have been holding my interest in the Nant Ffrancon. Breeding Ring Ouzel, Wood Warbler, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Garden Warbler and Cuckoo are all on show. Today, this wonderful Cuckoo gave me one of my favourite bird encounters of all time. What a fantastic species!

I will keep you updated if anything awesome happens and will explain more once I've submitted my thesis (You never know who's reading this! =P)

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Dingy Skipper...on my list!

In terms of butterflies, May has almost been somewhat of a blip in my life as I am almost always too busy to get out and look for the early specialists. This means that despite being a Lancashire boy, I have never seen Duke of Burgundy. I have also never seen Dingy Skipper, so knowing they're a slightly southern species, I was eager to see if there were any around North Wales. 
Information on lepidoptera around North Wales is very much thin on the ground on the internet. I did however happen to see a note saying someone had seen one at Newborough. Knowing this, I looked at a map of Newborough and looked at an area that I thought was quite a likely spot and took a gamble.
After about 2 hours, I scanned a field and saw a couple of small brown lepidoptera that looked to be flying like Skippers, so I got mildly excited and ran over to the area. In the process, I flushed a further three, but they just wouldn't settle. Eventually one did land and revealed itself as the species that had up until now eluded me. Dingy Skipper! Brilliant!
Had a couple of other yearticks too such as Small Copper, Common Blue, Large White and Small White.

A lovely afternoon in lovely weather.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

NGB Does Spurn - 2nd-4th May 2014

What do you get when you cross 20 like-minded birders between 16-24 and plonk them at one of the best migration locations in the UK? You get the Next Generation Birders first official birding meet up ever!

I set off from Bangor to Spurn with Conor John on Thursday lunch with the intention on stopping off in Preston to do the Whimbrel roost at Brockholes. That went really well with 187 Whimbrel into roost as well my first Hobby and Swift of the year.

Arriving at Westmere Farm on Friday afternoon, we set up our tent (or should that be, 'Conor set up the tent whilst I wasn't helpful and slowed things down when I tried') and when Daryl Watson, Jonnie Fisk, Scott Reid and Harry Martin arrived, I picked up a Short-eared Owl over by Church Field, which flew right past the tents. Superb start!
Lesser Whitethroats were singing down Beacon Lane which was a lovely treat.
One real surprise was a flock of 7 Barnacle Geese that dropped into Humber on Sunday which feed up in amongst the Brents before their move north.
It wasn't just Barnies in amongst the Dark-bellied Brents. There was also a couple of Pale-bellied/Proper Brents as well as a couple of hybrids noted by Martin Garner on Sunday. Great to see and hear up close.
Despite the constant breeze over the weekend, the mist nets at the Warren were remarkably still and I observed a Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Swallow and a Tree Pipit being caught. The Tree Pipit was the first one I've seen in the UK in the hand, so that was a nice surprise.
Wader migration was evident and you couldn't look into a field with a puddle in it without seeing a small flock of waders, whether that be Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrel or even the occasional Golden Plover.
This is a poor record shot/videograb of Golden Plover, but taken in strong wind and poor light at about 300m, I'm pretty pleased.
Aerial migration was evident throughout the weekend included a large passage of Swallow, Woodpigeon and Yellow Wagtail
Spending a lot of time over the weekend looking for insects with Jonnie Fisk. Loads of Oak Eggar caterpillars around the point including some giant examples measuring at least 4 inches.
One of the highlights of my weekend was this brilliant find by Jonnie Fisk. A Chinese Character that was sat in the middle of a Hazel Tree. A beautiful moth and an amazing spot!
You can't really go to Spurn without noticing Brown-tailed Moth caterpillars. They're everywhere on Sea Buckthorn (plus a few other shrubs). Pretty larvae when you actually avoid them and avoid getting a rash from them!
In amongst the many Brown-tailed Moth cats, we found two Yellow-tailed Moth caterpillars which are gorgeous things!
Delving even further into the realms of entemology, I did a spot of Hoverflying and managed three species including Rhinga campesteris.
And finally Eupeodes sp (probably Eupeodes luniger)

I would like to thank Oliver Simms for aranging the weekend as well as Nathan and Spurn Bird Obs for being so hospitable and adding to the enjoyment. Finally, thanks to Westmere Farm for putting some of us up for the weekend. I'll certainly be going to the next meet up!

Gropper and Whitethroat on Bangor Mountain

I've recently been enjoying some lovely migrants on patch in the form of Garden Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Tree Pipit, Common Sandpiper and even a Cuckoo on Bangor Mountain!

All bar the Common Whitethroat were patch ticks, which is superb.

I thought I'd chance it with some ringing and managed to catch a male Grasshopper Warbler and a Common Whitethroat over the course of 3 hours. Both of which were 'ringing ticks' for my C permit and both species I love to see up close.

University Birdwatching Challenge is going very well indeed and Bangor's current species total is 100 species since late December. If I were tracking back further, I'd be able to include Firecrest, Whooper Swan, Lapland Bunting, Arctic Tern, Common Tern, Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Knot, Swift, Ring Ouzel, Gannet, Osprey and Red's hoping there's time for some more to be added.