Thursday, 31 March 2011

Soldier's Point, Anglesey - 31st March 2011

I am not having the best of luck in 2011 when it comes to twitching birds. I have failed to see the Bonaparte's Gull twice and today I failed to relocate the Firecrest in Holyhead found this morning by Ken Croft. The strong winds currently barrakading its way through North Wales has clearly done something in terms of migration. Onsite I picked up 4 singing Blackcap, 10+ singing Chiffchaff and best of best of all were my first 3 Willow Warblers of the year. There were plenty of Goldfinch singing onsite and Ken Croft showed me a very confiding Water Rail which is the last remaining bird of the 4 that wintered.
Not seeing the target bird and the strong winds combined surprisingly didn't ruin the day, so I was able to spend an enjoyable lunchtime at an obvious migrant magnet.

I wonder what exciting bird will draw me back there in the spring?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tawny Owl - Bangor, Gwynedd - 28th March 2011

Over the past two weeks, Chris Bridge and myself (and Kane Brides too) have heard a juvenile Tawny Owl calling at night in Bangor. We have yet to find it in the day though for the magic of a day roosting owl in the open. Whilst walking back from the pub this evening, I heard it again and decided that I would attempt to photograph it. Arriving back at the site with my camera, I fired off a couple of manual setting/rubbish photos in the direction of the bird and the above photo is the best I could manage in the dark. I was more than surprised to find on the photo that it had caught a mouse (?) which means it is an active hunter, so is presumably a healthy bird. Incredibly, this is my first ever juvenile Tawny Owl, so it's nice to get a photo of one.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Kick-starting the Summer - 27th March 2011

Staying at Kane Brides' last night after the Gull catch, we awoke mid-morning to go a check a Woodpigeon nest to see if they were ready to ring as Pulli. Kane climbed the tree and came to the conclusion that they were ready and I was soon handed two 'interesting' looking Woodpigeon chicks. They aren't the prettiest birds at this age, but this was my first pulli so was excited all the same. During the morning we also saw a day roosting Tawny Owl which, if I had my camera, would have made potentially the best photo I have ever taken... Sods law! Whilst enjoying a lovely cup of tea in Kane's conservatory, we spotted a flock of Starling-like birds fly past and land in a tree at the base of his garden. There was something about them that made me put bins on them and sure enough there were 13 lovely Waxwings feeding at the top of the tree. Closer inspection saw one of the birds being colour-ringed which is the same bird Kane saw in Horwich earlier in the year!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Simply a Great Day! - 26th March 2011

2 1stw Herring Gull Chris Bridge and I joined the Severn Estuary Gull Group to cannon net gulls on a local tip. Arriving on site early AM, the smell of landfill and the sponginess of the ground was both surreal and off putting to say the least. After the initial 'shock' wore off, we set the nets just before 9am and fired mid-morning catching a superb 138 birds.
We caught 3 1st winter Great-black backed gulls, which were a great treat for the 3 ringers (myself included) whom had never ringed this species before. Great Black-backs are massive birds, but you really cannot appreciate just how big until you have one in your hand having a go at your wrists!
1stw Great Black-backed Gull
As part of the gull ringing group, we darviced all of the Lesser Black-backs and 40 of the Herring Gulls (sub-adult pictured above) which are now sporting blue darvics with yellow writing. Hopefully, this I shall be 'scoping' one of these up north in the near future!
adult Lesser Black-backed Gull...stunning birds but a nasty bite!
During the day we caught 3 Great Black-backed Gull, 95 Herring Gull and 40 Lesser Black-backed Gull. Although we had to put up with a constant smell of cheese and burnt plastic, it was one of the most enjoyable and memorable ringing experiences I have ever has the good fortune of witnessing. I hope to return to future catches, if the group will ofcourse have me!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Sanderling SCAN catch - Kinmel Bay, Rhyl - 20th March 2011

(Photo: Chris Bridge)
Spring is on its way so anything ornithological based is all systems go! Ringing is certainly one of these affected as everything is on the move so migrants are being picked up and wintering birds are providing their last opportunities to be caught. I thought SCAN had finished for the winter, but an email from Steve Dodd alerted me that there was one last catch that would be attempted on the 12th March. Arriving on site, Steve realised that the tide would be too low and we would have a good chance of catching nothing so it was postponed to the following weekend.
Arriving on site at 07.30 with Chris, Kane and Hamza, we were eager to set up the nets due to a fabulous count the previous day of 160 Sanderling and 40+ Turnstone. Sanderling in North Wales certainly aren't common!
We fired one of the nets at 10.30 after Chris and Robin Sandham managed to twinkle Sanderling down the beach into the catching area and I managed to lift the Turnstone roosting on the River Clwyd to the catching area.
(Photo: Chris Bridge)
Superbly we caught an impressive 114 birds with totals being 61 Sanderling (3 juv), 17 Dunlin (all juv) and 36 Turnstone (4 recap).
Once all birds had been extracted, it was time to ring and process all the birds. Robin and I ringed all the Sanderling and Dunling, plus 20 of the Turnstone, with Steve scribing age and ring. The processing team consisted of Rachel measuring wing (plus tarsus and foot of Sanderling), Kane doing head and bill, and Chris weighing. All of which was expertly scribed by Kelvin Jones.
I wasn't expecting to catch any Dunlin as we were only targeting Sanderling and Turnstone. It was nice to be able to hold one of my favourite birds again and also compare them to Sanderling side by side (apologies for no pictures of this!)

(Photo: Chris Bridge)
There real reason for this catch was to target an individual Turnstone which had been seen in the previous weeks carrying a Norwegian ring, but the whole code wasn't read in the field. One of the last birds we extracted had a ring on it's tarsus (unusual for Turnstone (we do them above the knee)) and low and behold, we had caught the target bird...RESULT! I will post details on this bird in due course when data is received.

I decided that it may be a large catch the night before (somewhat optimistically I'll admit!) so I thought I would leave my cameras back in Bangor and concentrate on the ringing of the birds. This was for several reasons, but mainly because when I'm concentrating on photographing birds, I don't actually look at them which is bad! This allowed me to sit in with the processing team and measure the head and bill of Turnstone which was a new experience and something I really enjoyed once I got into a rhythm.

Overall I have nothing but positives about today's catch as everything went to plan and I got to handle some wonderful species and again got the hang of different ring sizes. Thanks to everyone who attended for a truly amazing day, and specific thanks to Hamza for the lift, and Steve for the invite!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

My Coot Initiation - 17th March 2011

A morning was spent at Redesmere near Macclesfield with Kane Brides helping him on probably his last Coot catching session of the 2010/2011 winter. Within about 2 minutes arriving onsite, Kane had handcaught a bird which was handed to me to colour-ring. This was my first ever colour ring and my first ever Coot. Both of which left an impression on me, particularly the Coot as I am still harbouring the effects of an 'angry' Coot!
'My' bird now has the ring combination of Black, Red, Red (Right leg - Black over BTO, Left leg - Red over Red). This was the only bird we colour-ringed due to lack of available colour combinations left with the rings Kane had with him.

I had a go at hand-catching both Coot and Tufted Duck, the latter being underwater when you 'grab' them, which I surprisingly found easier. I however failed with both species, so I am, sadly, yet to pass my Coot-initiation.
Kane was however able to catch a stunning male Tufted Duck and a further 5 Coot including 2 recaptures which we checked biometrics of the birds after a hard winter.
I didn't expect them to be such a handful, but I love them for it!
The Coot Master - Obi Wan Kaneobi!
This stunning male Mandarin came incredibly close to the hands of Kane Brides, but sadly, this is as close a view I could get. I'm not complaining though as the picture speaks for itself...stunning!
I really enjoyed my first Coot-catching session, even if I am yet to catch one for myself. It was nice to get to grips with some larger species and be able to use larger rings (F - Tufted Duck. G - Coot). I will certainly be eager to have another go next winter and get a handful of Fulica atra! In the meantime, thank you to Kane for letting me do the ringing and also putting up with me for two days!
For those of you not aware of Kane Brides' Colour Ringed Coot Project, please visit - for more details and information about where to report any you find.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Window List and a letter from Finland - 15th March 2011

I received a letter through the post this morning from Finland, with regards to one of the 3 foreign-ringed Black-headed Gulls Chris Bridge and I saw in Bangor in February.
Ringing Data
Ring number: ST239892
Species: Black-headed Gull ((Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Age: Full-grown, hatched before 2005
Ringing date: 15.04.2006
Ringing place: Turku, Turku - Pori, Finland
Coordinates: 60°29'N 22°21;E
Status: Healthy, wild bird
Catching Method: Caught with trap
Ringer: Jyrki Oja

Recovery Data
Recovery date: 08.02.2011
Recovery place: Bangor Harbour, Gwynedd, United Kingdom
Coordinates: 53°14'N 4° 7'W
Status: Alive

Elapsed time 4 years, 9 months and 23 days
Distance 1788km, direction WSW from ringing place

In other news, the weather in Bangor in the past couple of days has been superb so I have indulged in a great deal of 'Vis Mig' from my flat and bedroom window with highlights being 2 Chough flew >SSW at 15.35 on 15.03.2011 which is a 'window tick' and a very good record away from South Stack and Great Orme. Also I have had 2 Nuthatch coming to the feeders but this morning is the first time I've been able to get a photo of them as they visit once or twice a day and stay for c5 seconds. I happened to have my camera when they were present this morning. It is a real shame about the light and weather however as the photos I took were just terrible!
I have had feeders up in my garden in Preston for over 10 years now and have NEVER seen Nuthatch, yet I have had the two feeders in Bangor up for just over a month now and have got two birds! Weird!

I will be staying with Kane Brides for the next couple of days attempting to learn from the Coot catching master! As a result, I shall hopefully be blogging from Atherton!

Friday, 11 March 2011

3rd time's the charm! - Bangor Harbour, Gwynedd - 11th March 2011

Bangor harbour at 18.30 aka dark...

The weather today has been hideous, so I wasn't expecting to be able to get out for the gull roost tonight, however mid-afternoon saw the rain stop and the wind drop slightly.
I arrived at the base of the pier at 17.05 and starting scanning the gulls in the mouth of the harbour. As the tide started to drop, more and more gulls came in, but islands started to form on the mudflats in the middle of the straits which meant that a great proportion of the gulls were landing on here...disaster!?

Staying later that the 10th, I got to observe a greater number of birds which increased to over 3000 by 18.20. I was beginning to lose hope as a lot of birds (probably close to 1000 birds were on the mudflats at a distance of 1km, so I really wasn't hopeful)
Suddenly, as the light was almost gone, the birds all rose from the mudflats and starting bathing in the mouth of the harbour much much closer.

Scanning frantically, I was getting more and more desperate, losing hope as the precious rays of light were dimming more and more. I was suddenly blinded by a bird in the mouth of the harbour with a bright white appearence. There was just enough light to make out the two-toned bill and brilliant 'white' plumage. GLAUCOUS GULL. Superb!

The light (as you can see in the photo posted) had almost well and truly gone so any chance of handheld-digiscoping had gone. To get an idea of what I was looking at (finally!), please check out Alex Jones' Blog -

Don't you just love when a hunch pays off!?!

A new addition to the Tubenose Challenge!

Photographed by Peter Harrison

With all the excitement of The Tubenose Challenge (TTC), it is great to hear that a new species of Storm-petrel has been discovered off the coast of Chile.

Discovered by Peter Harrison, with 12 birds being caught off the coast of Puerto Montt, Chile on 18, 19 and 21 February 2011. Peter Harrison first observed 2 museum specimens that were considered to be the first record of Elliot's Storm Petrel Oceanites gracilis galapagoensis, but Harrison believed these to be previously unobserved taxons.

A voyage off the coast of Chile saw the 12 birds to be captured with net guns (established for the rediscovery of New-Zealand Storm-petrel) with measurement and photographs taken proving these individuals to be the same as the museum specimens.
The Puerto Montt Storm-petrel was born...

To read more, visit:

A huge thankyou to Dave McGrath for the 'heads up' of this new discovery and hopefully in the future, I won't have to 'robb' someone elses photograph of the Puerto Montt Storm-petrel. Hopefully I will get to use my own!

Tubenose Challenge - 138 species...and counting!

(Quick TTC update - 2011's tour (Chapter 1.0) is almost booked - Isles of Scilly Pelagic, with target species being: Great Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Wilson's Storm-petrel, aswell as the previously seen Procellariiformes (for photographs) and Cory's Shearwater of the race borealis, in case of the future split of the Atlantic and Mediterannean populaions)

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A tale of hail and a self-proclaimed Larophile - Bangor, Gwynedd - 10th March 2011

There has been a Glaucous Gull in the area of the Menai Straits in the last week or so and I for one have been eager to find it (I say find as it isn't exactly the easiest bird to keep track of)
A suspiscion of mine (and several other birders for that matter) is that it could/should roost in Bangor harbour with the other large gulls that roost there.
I checked the harbour with Chris Bridge on the 9th to no avail, mainly because we only had binoculars between us and the gulls were at some distance in the strong winds.

I didn't want to give up so I thought I would try again on the 10th, so i stood at the base of the pier scanning through the gulls at the entrance of the harbour, on the straits and on the rocks that were appearing in the falling tide. There must have been 700 large gulls which I was over the moon about because if there was ever a magnet for a Glaucous Gull to roost at, this would probably be it.

There were mainly Herring Gulls out there with some stunning breeding plumage birds and a lot of immature birds showing lovely grey mantles and scapulars as they are now moulting from 1st winter to 1st summer birds. There was also the occasional brute of a Great Black-backed Gull aswell as c10 immature Lesser Black-backs (have the majority of these birds already migrated to their breeding sites?) and c100 Black-headed Gulls on the straits itself.

I don't know what it was, but I had that gut feeling in the back of my mind that the Glauc was present in the birds already present so I was really gutted at 17.00 when the first pitter patter of rain fell on my hood in the strong southernly winds. This started getting louder and more frequent until I was getting washed away in a torrential hail storm. The storm lastest for about 20 minutes on and off which was sufficient time for my scope to get wet and then mist up which essentially was my scopes way of telling me to give up and go home...

Sadly, I did not manage to locate the bird, but there is still time. Hopefully it will be reported during the day somewhere locally so I can check the roost that evening, but for now, I need to remain positive until that fateful day, when I find my own rarity at Bangor harbour. Only time will tell...

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Melanitta saves the day! - N.Wales coast - 8th March 2011

I'm guessing there will be a few readers out there that are not in the slightest bit interested in the ringing trainging that I am currently taking part in, and are maybe a little disappointed in the lack of 'birding' posting I have done of late. This post is for you!

It is a rare occurance that there are two lifers less that 30 miles away from me and especially 2 american vagrants. Bonaparte's Gull is a bogey bird of mine, of which I have never been able to find a bird that I could easily 'twitch', so when I found out that there was a returning adult wintering bird on the north coast of Anglesey, I was really up for it! I hadn't realised that it was pretty hard to get to for a student without a car. I finally gave in and decided to get the bus from Bangor Train Station and was at the lovely seaside village of Moelfre mid-morning. It was about a mile and half's walk to the beach at Lligy bay where I began scanning on the incomming tide.
There was no sign of the bird all morning and by 1pm, I decided to call it quits and start the treck back to Moelfre. It wasn't a complete waste of time however as I got several yearticks in the form of: Razorbill, Kittiwake, Red-throated Diver, Fulmar and best of all 4 summer plumaged Black Guillemot. I was rather depressed when I got back to Bangor and had planned to call it a day and go back for a warm shower, but I didn't want my first 'Twitch' for a while to be a fail, so within a couple of minutes, I had bought a train ticket to Colwyn Bay where I arrived at 3.30, ready to start scanning for Sea ducks. Within the first 10 seconds of scanning, I found a large raft of Common Scoter stretching about 1 mile across which was hard to estimate in the rising and falling sea, but I would suggest there were c4000 Common Scoter present. Every so often, a group of 25+ individuals would lift off the water and relocate. This is how I eventually managed to catch sight of 4 inidividuals with white wing panels - Velvet Scoter...superb!
The wind started picking up, and my body was telling me to give up scanning and head back home for a brew...'2 more scans' I remember telling myself and on that first scan, I suddenly caught sight of 2 white blobs on a bird. SURF SCOTER! and then a 2nd bird. This was a lifer and the 3rd day these two have been present for the 2nd year in a row. Result! This is another species that is somewhat of a bogey bird for me, mainly because whenever one is seen off the Fylde coast, I am nowhere to be seen, and I am basically just in the wrong place at the right time!
With views of over 600 meters distance, I think I prefer the views you get of birds in the hand currently, but the twitcher inside me will always be hungry for more!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Tesco: Every Little Helps - Bangor, Gwynedd - 6th March 2011

When you think of Tesco, the first thing you think of is probably not that it is a great location to ring birds. Anyway, that is the location of this post as Steve, Rachel, Chris and I headed to Tesco Extra in Bangor to try and net the Pied Wagtail roost.
Erecting a 40ft net right infront of the bush they roosted in, we soon started catching birds in the ever decreasing light and ended up catching 31 birds, which I would say was about 75-80% of the total roost.

adult male Pied Wagtail

above - [5] 2cy bird showing retained juvenile outer greater coverts, contrasting to the bold black and white adult feathers of the inner greater coverts.
below - [6] adult male showing uniform black and white greater coverts (and black mantle showing it to be a male bird)

myself and 31 Pied Wagtails in hand...superb! (I personally ringed 9 birds)

Chris Bridge, 31 Pied Wagtails and Tesco Extra...surreal!

Hamza joined us before we extracted the birds from the net and witnessed the majesty of the black and white angels.
This is one of the more memorable ringing sessions I have done so far, mainly because Pied Wagtails (particularly adult males) are such enchanting birds and very charasmatic birds both in the field and in hand.
Huge thanks go to Steve and Rachel for arranging the catch with the Tesco store manager and also for Tesco for letting us catch their birds!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Ringing at another new location - Anglesey, N.Wales - 5th March 2011

We spent the morning on Anglesey ringing in Mike's garden where we caught 60 birds in the calm morning out of 5 nets.
The aim was to catch Yellowhammer as the garden has a good number of birds feeding in the garden but no real way of being able to predict the flight paths of the birds due to a small number of feeders dotted around. We only managed to catch 1 male which was in the first net round.

This 1st winter Jackdaw was the best bird of the day (hence the title)being ringed by Chris Bridge
11 species in the morning - Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Starling, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Siskin, Jackdaw and Yellowhammer

This was a first winter male siskin. When you initially look at it, it appears very bright, but if you compare it to the adult male bird we caught in Great Manchester on the 27th Feb, the difference is pretty obvious.
Although the catch wasn't massive, I really enjoyed ringing lots of the same species (Blackbird, Blue Tit, Robin mainly) as I was able to practise doing biometrics of each bird and get to grips with ageing birds, which I can admit I still have difficulty with...Practise makes perfect!
A big thanks for Mike for letting us net in his garden and making use cups of tea, as well as Steve and Rachel for the on-going training

Friday, 4 March 2011

Mute Swan Ringing Recovery

Reading back to my post from the 10th February, I visited Llandudno in search of Snow Buntings but the best I could get was Raven and several ringed Mute Swan. There was only one bird that only had a metal ring (the other ringed birds has darvics too). I felt this could be a 'foreign' bird, so I reported it to the BTO, whom have now got back to me.

Ringing Scheme: London Ring Number: W25368 Species of bird: Mute Swan

This bird was ringed by Wychavon RG as age 2nd year, sex Unknown on 24-Mar-2010 at River Severn, Worcester, Worcestershire
OS Map reference SO8454, co-ordinates 52deg 11min N 2deg 14min W.

It was found on 10-Feb-2011 at Llandudno, Conwy
OS Map reference SH7781, co-ordinates 53deg 19min N 3deg 51min W.

It was found 323 days after it was ringed, 167 km from the ringing site, direction NW.
This is certainly an interesting record, as you don't really expect Mute Swans to cover a great distance.

[I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kane Brides and his auntie Janine for their hospitality over the past week during the Ringing Marathon in the North West. It was one of the best weeks of my life and have enjoyed some experiences that I never thought I would like hand catching Mute Swans...
Day 5 of the ringing involved one last trip to Kane's feeding station at Shakerley where we added 2 male Bullfinch and a Robin to the species list of the weeks ringing.
Totals - 154 birds from 26 species...awesome week!]

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A New Beginning - Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria - 1st March 2011

Day 4 - Many of you may be aware of the 'Colour Ringed Coot Project' that is currently being undertaken by Kane Brides in the northwest of England. A new idea set up by Kane and Ciaran was to darvic ring Black-headed Gulls. With rings in hand, the ringing team and Chris Piner headed up to Bowness to try and hand catch some gulls. Ciaran set out feeding the birds with bread and within about 15 minutes, he grabbed a superb adult which soon received a lovely blue darvic with white writing. Ciaran (who's idea the project was, couldn't have been happier!)
2A00 - coming to a gull roost near you!
A very happy Mr. Hatsell.
We only caught 1 Black-head, but Ciaran had a treat for me with this stunning 1st winter Common Gull. This is by far one of my favourite species plumages with the stunning black and blue bill. A joy to ring, even if my arms are covered in 'battle scars'. (I personally hand caught a male Mallard too, in Ambleside, which was my first hand caught bird)
Towards the end of the day, we did a swan roundup which saw us catching 53 Mute Swans checking the rings for damage and birds from different sites. We also caught 1 Greylag and 4 Canada Geese. This was certainly an experience that I will remember for a very long time as it was incredible to witness the power of these larger birds at close quarters.

We couldn't have chosen a better day to head up to Windermere, and I couldn't have asked for a better day: ringing birds with a good group of mates