Monday, 9 November 2015

Outrageous October

Well what a great October we have had at Stanford. A record number caught with 1387 ringed for the month pushing our yearly total to just over 7000 new for the site and 4000 of those being Warblers. The month started well and continued on from September with excellent numbers of both Blackcap and Chiffchaff so when you compare the totals with last year when we had record numbers for the year you can appreciate how good this year has been. Last year during October we caught 37 Blackcap and 48 Chiffchaff, this year we caught 186 and 225 respectively so you can see what a jump in numbers there has been this year. For those of you who are regular viewers of this site you will remember me banging on about how many Goldcrests we have caught over the previous 2 months, well this month went crazy with 129 birds ringed taking us to just over 200 for the year. Not many you may think but when you compare it with our previous highest total of 76 you can see where we are coming from. Mid month we hit a real purple patch for us and it all started on the 9th when on the second round of the morning I caught a Siberian Chiffchaff, one of the brown looking ones as opposed to the more familiar grey ones, this was the 2nd one caught at Stanford and on the next round I caught a first year female Firecrest, the 5th caught at Stanford. What was a great days ringing and quite unexpected, was followed on the 12th with a Yellow-browed Warbler and an Asian Lesser Whitethroat. (see accounts on articles page on the Web site). Then to round things off I caught another female Firecrest on the 20th, a day that I caught 19 new Goldcrests on site..... a record in itself. By the 16th we had started to catch winter Thrushes and by the end of the month we had good numbers for this time of year, 15 Song Thrush, 17 Blackbird , 2 Fieldfare and 181 Redwing. Last year the corresponding figures were 14, 7, 0 and 20 so you can see a significant increase over last year. Of the Tits, Lotti's were up by almost two thirds but Blue and Great Tits were down by about one third. Tree Sparrows have crept up again with 82 ringed this month, a big improvement on the last two months. Then we come to Finches and Buntings, they are continuing their topsy-turvy year with some species down in numbers whilst others go up. Chaffinch and Bullfinch are similar to last year albeit very low numbers. Greenfinch are down a third, Goldfinch by half and Yellowhammer are non existent compared to last years 35. Reed Bunting have continued a worrying trend of low numbers this year with a paltry 9 birds ringed. The one high point has been the welcome return of Lesser Redpoll with 134 ringed during the month and a single Siskin, our 3rd of the year and another record.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

More winter

A full team turned out to see near perfect ringing conditions this morning. 72 new birds and 31 retraps of 20 species was a fair result when there are still not many winter thrushes coming through but we still managed 2 Fieldfares (first of the year), 24 Redwings, 2 Song Thrushes and 7 Blackbirds. Eleven more Goldcrests pushed the annual total over 200 which is a fantastic achievement and a new female Siskin which is only the 8th to be ringed at Stanford. Siskins are fairly common migrants but we just can't seem to encourage them into our nets.
A retrapped Cetti's Warbler and Willow Tit were also nice additions to the days total.
Siskin by AG Homer

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Crests of a wave!

The wave of crests and other ''Sibes'' filling the skies of the British Isles will not have gone unnoticed this autumn with most if not all coastal observatories reporting higher than average numbers of Goldcrests, Firecrests, Yellow-browed Warblers and other delights from the east landing in their nets.
In 2014 we achieved an annual total of 76 Goldcrests which was a record for our site at Stanford Reservoir. In that year we had ringed only 9 before the beginning of October but there are signs that the local crests have had a productive breeding season in 2015. 34 juveniles were ringed before the beginning of October which boosted our total of this species so early in the season it was hard not to notice the sudden increase.
By the time we have equalled our previous years record it was only the first day of October and we knew that those arriving from the north would soon be here.
Although we never catch numbers in the hundreds like the observatories experience, we did receive a steady flow of crests with the biggest catch being 19 on the 20th October which was joined by the second Firecrest of the year after the first was ringed on the 9th.
As we approached a landmark total of 7000 new birds ringed for 2015 it was only fitting that this would turn out to be a Goldcrest in what could be the best autumn migration movement of this species seen for a long time and currently ringed 191 so far this year.
Of course we couldn't miss out on some other ''Eastern Delights'' of our own could we?
On the 12th October we ringed a Yellow-browed Warbler, the second for Stanford after a 5 year wait and the last bird of the same day also saw an 'Eastern Lesser Whitethroat' ringed.
We eagerly await the results of a DNA test and hope to provide some answers to the questions raised of this ones origin.
7000th bird for 2015
'Eastern' Lesser Whitethroat?
Yellow-browed Warbler

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Super September

After last years extraordinary September little did we think that this year would be as good. How wrong we were !!! Although we didn't have the spectacular catches of last year we had good numbers every time we went out and ended up with 2401 new birds compared with 2488 last year.
Of the birds caught this year 2015 of them were warblers with Blackcap being the top species again with 1183 ringed, just over 100 less than last year. Chiffchaff, the other classic September migrant increased in numbers this year to 592 from last years 507. I think you will agree it's a great result from both species reflecting what was probably another good breeding season. As for the other warblers they all returned similar numbers to last year other than Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler which both doubled in number. As for the rest of the species we caught they were broadly in line with last year,  there were however some notable exceptions. Meadow Pipits have just not turned up at all with a dismal 22 ringed, Tree Sparrow was also well down for the second month running to 36 from last years 66 and finally Reed Buntings are continuing their abysmal year with a paltry 13 caught. However, on the plus side Goldfinch have doubled to 50 and we have had a welcome return of Lesser Redpoll with our best ever September catch of 32. I have to mention that we have had an exceptional movement (for us) of Redstart, we have caught an amazing 9 birds this month!
To put it in perspective, in the previous 39 years we have ringed 19 birds so to do 9 this month with others seen and not caught represents a brilliant effort. Finally, a Whinchat, the first since 1981, rounded off what I do have to say was a staggering months effort.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Minding your P's and Q's

Our group was given another lie-in on Saturday morning courtesy of Mick who again arrived at the res early to erect nets and get the tape lures on before sunrise. Simon - a former trainee - visited us again this week to complete filming our activities. Happily, there was plenty to record because when the fog lifted, the captures rose sharply. Dave, Peter and I carried out the ringing while Mel and Mick did continuous net rounds keeping us with such a constant supply of birds that it was after 10:00 before we were able to grab a coffee and a bite to eat.

Simon was in need of some audio for his film - us giving the data to the scribe. As a group, we do enjoy a bit of banter between birds and when he began recording, minding our P's and Q's was rather a challenge! There was a collective sigh of relief when he had filmed enough and we could talk normally once more, lol.

Hats off to Adam and Dave for staying awake...Adam came out a little later after finishing night shift and Dave had pulled an all-nighter too, though in a much more pleasant way after a night's ringing with the Wash Waders. As well as Simon, local birder Ian popped in for a while. They couldn't have picked a better day to join us. We captured 186 new birds including 47 Chiffchaff, 10 Lesser Redpoll, 7 Meadow Pipit, one each of Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat followed by an assortment of more usual species. The top scorer of the day was 93 Blackcap including a Portuguese control, our first from this country. The day was concluded with the usual trip to the White Hart.

Portuguese ring

Monday, 21 September 2015

Micks Week

Well the Autumn migration continues and you have to admire Mick's commitment. He continues to arrive at Stanny in the early hours to erect the nets in the dark and to get the sound lures on. This week, due too the weather and other personal events, Mick only managed to get to the reservoir 5 of the 7 days. Ha ha.  We continue to catch good numbers of Blackcap and Chiffchaff. The totals for this week were; Tues (57), Thurs (112), Fri (132), Sat (206) and Sun (144).
Mick was on his own on Tuesday and Thursday. He had spent all last week texting me and light-heartedly winding me up about the Redstarts. Fortunately last Saturday we caught one and I was able to ring on it. So I thought at least there will be some rest from the text. Oh no! This week he's at it again and Thursday he surpassed himself. In the 30' net though the hedge on the railtrack he caught a young Whinchat. This is only the second Whinchat ever caught at Stanny, the first being in May 1981, 34 years ago. so a fantastic result .
On Friday Peter managed to get out and help Mick. On Saturday myself, Dawn, Peter and Mel arrived at 0615 and trundled down the track and met up with Mick, who again had arrived early and already put the nets up. As soon as I saw Mick  I accused  him of making up the story of the Whinchat but he assured me he had photos.  Indeed he had, but unfortunately I can't attach them at the minute because Mick is such a technophobe that he doesn't know how to email them across to me.( He has to get the services of a young girl to do it for him) As soon as I get them I'll attach them to this post.
Dawn was in fine form and relayed stories from her holiday in Majorca and in particular Albufera Nature Reserve.
With 4 of us ringing we managed to keep on top of the number of birds, the total for Saturday were:
Blackcap (122), Chifchaff (57), Reed Warbler (6) ,Sedge Warbler (2), Meadow Pipit (2) and singles of Lesser Whitethroat ,Whitethroat, and Garden Warbler.
The track where we base ourselves got a bit busy with hundreds of horses participating in a local charity horse ride, organised by the wife of one of our old ringers (Ed).
By 12.30 we had the nets down and en route to our HQ at the White Hart. It was definitely Micks week because not only had he caught the Whinchat, he won the draw in the pub and took home a BBQ pack of meat.
On Sunday just Mick and Adam went out and again got good numbers of Blackcap and Chiffchaff.
Late yesterday there was a sighting of a Wryneck, close to Stanny, so today Adam and Mick where out looking for it but were unsuccessful.
What a pretty bird.
Just to prove he did catch one.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

What a start to September?

Well this week the migration has been in full swing and so has Mick. Unbelievably he has been out before dawn to set all the nets on every day this week other than Saturday. And that was only because it was raining. Because of either work commitments or people swanning off on holiday (Dawn), Mick has been out to Stanny on his own Monday to Friday. What a week he has had, each day having a respectable number of new birds.  Monday (159), Tuesday (110), Wednesday (55), Thursday (79) and Friday (113).  In that 516 birds were 5 new Redstart. These birds are not common visitors to Stanford and we are very lucky if we catch 1 a year, so 5 in 1 week is incredible.  He also caught a migrating Grasshopper Warbler which is a new species for us for the year. Unfortunately numbers of this species have been reducing over the last few years.
Saturday was a wash out and it was decided not to attempt any ringing. So ringing was planned for Sunday. The weather forecast was perfect with a clear night and very little wind. Mick had noticed that on these type of nights the number of migrating birds were high.
With Dawn still sunning herself, Adam going out on the razz the night before and Jo with family commitments the team was Mick, Peter and myself. At least that was 2 more than had been there for the rest of the week. To make it even better Mick volunteered to get all the nets up before dawn and myself and Peter trundled up at 06.15. Fantastic a lie in.
Boy did we need it!!!!! We met up with Mick. No time for coffee, off we went on a net round.
Mick had put 13 nets up and by the time we had reached halfway we knew it was going to be a brilliant day. Myself and Peter returned to the vehicles and started processing the birds. Mick continued extracting birds from the remaining nets. On Micks return to the vehicles he presented me with a single bird bag stating 'this is for you'. With excitement I placed my hand in the bag and took hold of a young female Redstart. The 6th of the week !!!!! I was really pleased because I had never seen a Redstart in the hand before and certainly never ringed one. Mick knew this and all week he had been texting me stating that he had caught a new Redstart and on one day even caught 2! He'll have to think of another bird to try and wind me up with now.
The day continued in this manner. Mick was extracting and Peter and myself ringing. Very little time for coffee!!! By the end of the session we had ringed 237 new birds and had had 6 retraps one of which was the Grasshopper Warbler from earlier in the week. The birds to note were 50 Chiffchaff and 123 Blackcap., but we also had good numbers of other species
Sedge Warblers (3). Reed Warblers(9). Lesser Whitethroat (3). Whitethroat (6). Garden Warbler (3). Willow Warbler (6) Goldcrest (4) and of course 1 Redstart.
All in all a  --------------------------SUPER SUNDAY AT STANNY

For those that are interested the groups annual report for 2014 is now published, and can be seen on our website.