Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Oystercatcher Colour-ringing Project - North Wales

In coordination with Bangor University and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), a colour-ringing project has been set up on Oystercatchers in the Lavan Sands area. The aim of the project is to observe longevity, site-faithfulness, juvenile feeding dispersal e.g. fields rather than sands etc as well as a mark and recapture technique of counting the how many birds are in an estimated flock size. Several counts like these will be sufficient to estimate the population size of the important wintering population of this impressive pied-wader.
The rings are as shown above: Green ring with a white engraving and an orange ring above.

If you are to come across any birds, whether it be a full ring code, partial ring code, or just a count of ringed birds in an estimated flock, please email: oystercatchers 'at'

Monday, 28 January 2013

German colour-ringed Curlew near Bangor!

 I hope Mike Watson won't mind me borrowing his image, and 'adding' colour-rings on Paint!
The bird is a German breeder and happens to winter on the Lavan Sands of N.Wales!

On 13th January, Matt and I walked to Llanfairfechan and back via the Spinnies/Aber Ogwen for my first trip out for the Foot It list. Whilst waiting for the birds to arrive at Spinnies at high tide, I scanned the Curlew flock that were roosting right in front of the hide, which was excellent for checking for rings! There were lots of metal ringed birds (on the tarsus) which were probably birds ringed in the area by SCAN, but I then noticed a red metal ring on a birds left tibia, as well as a metal ring on the right tibia. This was no doubt a foreign bird and really exciting. Sadly, it would appear to have dropped a couple of rings as there are no schemes with a single red ring.
A bit more searching and I spotted yellow and black! This bird showed a full combination or Right Leg: Green above Metal (tibia) and Left Leg: Black above Yellow (tibia).
This was a sufficient combination to send off and get the details of...

Ringed on 28.02.2009 by Sean R.G. at Abergwyngregyn, near Bangor (FH 14979)
Colour-ringed on 16.05.2010 at Syen-Venn, county Nordhorn, Germany on territory. (returned to territory until 2012)
Resighted on 13.01.2013 by me at Aber Ogwen NR, Gwynedd

I was astounded to find out that the bird was originally ringed only a couple of miles away!

A really interesting bird!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Walking to the edge - 26th January 2012

At the start of Footit, I think you it's natural to wonder how far you are prepared to walk from your house, and the initial estimate isn't very big at all. On the first day, Matt and I decided to push the boundaries that little further and walked all the way to Llanfairfechan and back, which as the crow flies, is 7 miles from my house, but is actually more like 8.5 after cutting out Porth Penrhyn.
As a result, we decided to draw a circle around Bangor with the same 7 mile radius as this could easily be done. Ideas started to flow when we saw what sort of habitats we could cover and today, I woke up at 4am and set out alone to Malltraeth Marsh, right at the edge of my circle. The walk saw me arrive at Malltraeth at 6.45 after a 9.2 mile walk in complete darkness.
As the sky started to get lighter, I started hearing the first birds and these were mainly Snipe and Redwing. I noticed a large heron flying over the reeds in silhouette, but I just couldn't be sure it was a Bittern, so this really frustrated me. It wasn't long before I got my first Footit Tick in the form of a Water Rail shortly followed by a flock of 6 Pink-footed Geese flying over the marsh. Shortly after this, I started walking to a body of water that held over 300 Coot as well as several Gadwall and Pochard which were both big surprises! I then caught the familiar song a Cetti's Warbler which again was real quality and a bird we could only get here.
As the sun came up, I knew that that Heron sp was probably my missed opportunity for Bittern, which was disappointing, but this soon went away as a male Marsh Harrier flew low over my head!
The next two birds that I ticked off were two birds that I was incredibly surprised I hadn't got by now and birds I should have gotten on my very first day! These were Reed Bunting and Pheasant! I jumped in the air when the Pheasant first called!
I was extremely tired at the point and I think I knew that I wasn't likely to get that much if I stayed any longer, so I decided to walk the 9.2 miles home to complete the 18.4 mile journey! After covering the majority of the journey home, I noticed some geese in a field which all turned out to be Canada Geese! Another bird that I probably should have got by now, but these are really hard to come by in the Bangor area and I only remember seeing them 2 times before today!

A really really tiring day that the blisters on my feet are reminding me about, but with 19 new species in 48 hours, you really can't complain!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Joining the Footit100 club! - 25th January 2013

Wonderfully dark-headed Common Gull that momentarily gave me a fright!
Setting off before first light this morning, Matt and I decided to walk to Llanfairfechan and back as part of our Footit challenge. Matt went a couple of days ago and picked up lots of birds that I need and we couldn't allow that!
We arrived at the Spinnies/Aber Ogwen NR just outside Bangor for dawn and almost the first bird I picked up on the sea was a Smew! This is a redhead that was present over the Christmas period that Matt managed to get when he came back to Bangor after the New Year but hadn't been seen since so I was really worried I wouldn't get it on the list. I was very very happy to get this!
Golden Plover was a bird I really didn't think I would get on my Footit list as they are certainly not common on the NW.Wales Coast
The walk between The Spinnies and Abergwyngregyn, I picked up three footit ticks in the form of 10 Golden Plover, 2 Grey Plover and a candidate for the best bird of the day which I noticed calling behind us as we were scanning the Curlew flocks. It was obviously a crest, but it just didn't sound right for Goldcrest as it got 'more excited' as the call progressed. It was in fact a Firecrest! Fantastic! A great bonus for patch and Footit. Matt almost managed to 'grip back' Skylark off me as we were watching and listening for the crest.
1 of 4 Stonechat seen at Morfa Madryn NR. Another bird I didn't think I'd get, so a real bonus!
Walking from Morfa to Llanfairfechan, I picked up Stonechat for my Footit which I also believe to be a patch tick as I can't remember ever seeing one along this coast.
Seawatching off Llanfairfechan, we picked up lots of Red-throated Divers, Razorbill, Fulmar which were all ticks as well as 4 Slavonian Grebe.
After seawatching at Llanfairfechan, we walked back via the sewage works near Morfa Madryn. It's a place I've never birded before, but what a little gem! There were just 100's of birds around such as Redwing, Meadow Pipit, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Dunnock, Wren and Goldcrest all feeding on presumably invertebrates on the sewage plant. In the surrounding bushes, there was a hive of activity with lots of crest flocks. All of a sudden, I caught sight of a very angry little face and was amazed that I was looking at my 2nd Firecrest of the day! We saw the bird on and off throughout the 30 minute stay, but we were pretty sure there was a second, but with the speed that crests can move, we couldn't be sure. Possibly the highlight of the day came in the form of a warbler and this was a Chiffchaff! I spotted a fantastically green bird in the bushes that I was confident to be a 'collybita', but 5 minutes later, I spotted basically a white blob in the bushes at the back of the plant. Frantically getting my scope on it, I was very shocked that it was a Chiffchaff and a bloody cold one at that! It has an obvious supercillium, very cold breast and belly with slightly darker wings and when it flapped it's wings, I noted a lemony wash to the underside of the carpal and front auxiliaries. I was pretty confident this was a Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff, so I fired off a few shots to at least get a record. The photos are horrible, but they at least show the coldness of the bird.

A fantastic day for the two of us and we are both now on 103 for our patch/footit list.
My 'Footit ticks': Smew, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Firecrest, Stonechat, Razorbill, Red-throated Diver, Fulmar, Chiffchaff
Matt's 'Footit ticks': Firecrest, Skylark, Razorbill, Fulmar, Chiffchaff.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Another of Chris's Siskins! - 20th January 2013

During revision, I have been writing up practise questions at Matt's house and checking the 30ft mist-net I erect in his garden. It's a nice relaxed for of ringing as the birds are quite sporadic.

The above and below male is actually a control. Not an incredible control of many kilometers, but a bird that was ringed in Matt's garden last year (different to the one he lives in now). This was ringed by Chris Bridge and is the 2nd control of his that I've caught so far. Really nice to see the same birds returning!

It was reasonably windy throughout the morning, so I fear the birds may have seen the net, as we only caught 10 birds, but it was nice and relaxed and what better way to spend your Sunday morning, revising!?

We caught 4 female Blackbird (+1 recapture male), 4 Siskin (inc. 'control') and a single male Chaffinch.

Once the colour-rings arrive, I will do a full blog post about the Bangor Blackbird Project which we are in the process of setting up.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Bangor garden - 15th January 2013

adult male Siskin
Today I did my first 'C' ringing session in Bangor in Matt's garden. We were set by dawn and despite the garden being rather quiet, I was really happy with the catch of 5 Siskin, 4 Blackbird and a Dunnock.
The Siskin was new to the permit, but the most exciting bird was an adult female which was already ringed! It turns out that it was one from Matt's old garden about 700m away from his new garden where Chris Bridge went ringing last year.
2cy male Blackbird
Speaking to Kelvin Jones in the BTO office, we are going to set up a long-term Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) project on breeding Blackbirds within the University grounds. My two ringing sites (including a spot on top of Bangor Mountain) are just outside the study area, so we won't be colour-ringing any. Instead, we are catching this generally in the Winter months, so the vast majority are probably migrants, so we are going to be taking full biometrics on these birds to see if there is any obvious biometric difference between the Winter and Summer population of Blackbirds
More on the actual ringing project when we start it properly...

Friday, 11 January 2013

New Years Resolution - Give Blood! - Jan 2013

 My first ever Jay! It left quite an impression!
I have only just been able to get out in 2013 to do some ringing, so I started at my feeding station in the woods. It's been really slow, but I have been able to catch an adult Jay! This is my first ever and a species I have wanted to catch since the start for the simple fact that they are both beautiful and what initially got me into birds in the beginning!
I have also caught quite a good number of tits and Blackbirds as well as 2 new species for my permit in the form of 5 Chaffinch and an adult male Greenfinch
Back to Bangor tomorrow, so will hopefully get some decent ringing done in and around Bangor. Happy New Year to you all!