Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Winding up the CES and Breaking (another) Record

On Tuesday 3rd September, Mick, Dawn and Peter N met up to complete the final CES session for the year. We have had such a storming season of late, that the day's total of 90 new birds plus 14 retraps seemed a bit humdrum, but it kept us busy and even allowed a tea break or two- a nice change.
As before warblers were very evident, it was notable that the emphasis had changed from Willow warblers to Chiffchaffs, and there were few Sedge warblers (in stark contrast to the previous week). Clearly we are entering into Autumn, soon it will be Redpolls and Redwing.
The standout bird was a single female Redstart. Not only a lovely bird in itself, but also the 16th this year, a new record for Stanford.

Photo Dawn Sheffield

Who knows what further records we will break this year? The annual total must be a possibility...
Finally, there is a nice video of the group courtesy of our friend Graham Barker on YouTube: Summer's End With The Stanford Ringers
Enjoy! Peter N

Friday, 30 August 2019

Tuesday 27th August

Another excellent day ringing at Stanford Reservoir

Mick, Peter N and I met on the rail track at 04:30. We put up the nets, added callers and by the time daylight was approaching, it was clear that there were lots of birds moving around. The first round was extremely fruitful and included a beautiful adult Tawny Owl - the first adult I have seen in the hand. I had the pleasure of ringing the bird and soon had some holes in my skin! This was the second adult caught in a mist net this year, but it has been approximately a decade since the last adult was caught in this manner.

Tawny Owl. Photo: Chris Hubbard

On the way back to the ringing station, we met local birder Chris Hubbard who took one look at our bounty and immediately offered to scribe for us. This left Mick free to continue extracting while Peter and I got on with ringing. The spread of species was excellent and as if the Tawny wasn’t enough excitement, we had more highlights to come. Numbers were fantastic: 134 Blackcap, 58 Sedge Warbler, 47 Reed Warbler, 35 Whitethroat, 32 Willow Warbler and 1 Grasshopper Warbler. The day was peppered with Redstarts and we ringed 9 in total. The last round yielded a Yellow Wagtail, which was a lovely way to end the day. The totals for the day were 358 new birds and 14 retraps. With so many birds clearly moving through, we are hoping for another good session on Saturday. 

Redstart. Photo: Chris Hubbard

Redstart. Photo: Chris Hubbard

Yellow Wagtail. Photo: Dawn Sheffield

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Record Breaking Day at the Res

We have had some good 100+ days recently, as migration has now started. On Saturday 24 August the team, consisting of Mick, Dave, Dawn Stuart and Peter N met up at 0430 at the rail track, and headed off as usual to put up nets from the Feeders to Bench, and all points in between. The night had been clear and still, making it ideal for migration, so we were hopeful we would have a busy day. After the nets were put up, we had time for a brief cup of tea which was just as well, as it would be the last one for a few hours. Time to start extracting.

The first round produced 150+ birds and we started ringing at some speed, whilst Mick went off to start the next round.  Chris Hubbard, one of the Res birders was drafted in to scribe (thanks, Chris). The birds just kept coming, with Mick and Dave extracting for most of the morning. Highlights included 163 Blackcap, 143 Whitethroat, 70 Reed warbler, 38 Sedge warbler, 6 Grasshopper warbler, 6 Redstart, 1 Spotted flycatcher, 3 Lesser Whitethroat and 62 Willow Warblers. We were all amazed by the sheer volume and variety. Even better, Dawn got to ring her first Wheatear, a juvenile. The bird was in the net along the track and is only the 3rd ever caught and ringed by the Group. 

*Photo courtesy of Chris Hubbard

By the end of the session we had broken three Stanford records; annual totals for Sedge and Willow warbler, and the total number for one day, with 526 new birds and 17 retraps. Even at 1200 there was a steady trickle, but we were all in need of fluids, so by 1300 we had packed up and staggered off to the White Hart. A superb morning.


Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Warbling in Early Summer

There are now lots of juvenile birds around, so we have to get out and ring them! The weather had been either windy or wet, or both, so we weren’t sure if there would be much about, however as it transpired we didn’t need to have worried.
Mick, Adam, Dave, Kate and I met up on Saturday 15th June at the railtrack at 0430, plus Sam, who is interested in learning how to ring. For the CES, we put up a minimum of 14 nets (plus sundry others at the feeders), so it is quite labour intensive. We got them up nice and quickly on a cool, still morning and Dave and Adam then went off to attend to the local nest boxes we have scattered through the woods surrounding the reservoir.
After a well deserved cup of tea, we started the first round. There was no shortage of birds! We had 50 birds on the first round and almost as many on the second. It was nice to see that there were plenty of juveniles around. Unavoidably, there were many juvenile tits, but also good numbers of migratory warblers. It looks like Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff are going to have a good year, as too are our resident Tree sparrows. However there were some notable absentees, including Grasshopper and Cetti’s warblers. We are a bit concerned that the former, although reeling early in the year, haven’t bred, although it is likely that the latter have - up at the Point.
Anyway, we worked quite hard with Mick scribing and Kate and I ringing in a stalwart fashion, while Sam handed us the bird bags and probably wondered what he had got himself into. At the end of the day we had 111 new birds ringed and 76 retraps processed. Just 13 short of the double ton! Standout birds were one juvenile Willow tit and a juvenile Kingfisher. This is our second Kingfisher this year, which is reassuring- they had a horrible year in 2018 due to the blizzards from the east last year, so we are delighted they are breeding again.
Dave and Adam carried out a nest box check and ringed two adult and two pulli Stock Doves, 8 Swallow pulli and 9 Tree Sparrow pulli, plus 3 Barn Owl nestlings, courtesy of Park Farm.
After all this work, we could barely manage to lift our glasses in the White Hart, but I’m glad to report we managed some fluid resuscitation before heading home.

Peter N

Monday, 10 June 2019

Cyprus 2019

 At the beginning of April myself Peter N and Stuart traveled to Cyprus for a weeks ringing.
We met up with Mark Jeffrey from the Sorby Brek Ringing Group.This was Stuart's first trip to Cyprus and he was very excited. However due to the large amount of rain the island had had over the winter period all the dams were full and the rivers had become raging torrents. As a result we had lost access to at least 2 of our best ringing sites.
The ringing for the week was going to be in the Polis area and the Akamas hills. The first morning we were ringing at Agios Minos. It was a quiet session, ringing mostly Blackcaps. However Stuart did ring a new species for him, a Sardinian Warbler.
The second morning was far more successful, ringing on a site called 'The Bend'.The high lights were Wryneck, Nightingale, Pied and Collered Flycatcher, Orphean Warbler, a lovely male Redstart and finished off with 2 Eastern Bonelli's Warblers.

Eastern Orphean Warbler

Female Collared Flycatcher

Male Redstart

Eastern Bonelli's Warblers
Pied Flycatcher

The third day was fairly quiet with more Nightingale, Collared Flycatcher and Orphean Warblers.
Because of the high water levels in the reed-beds in Polis we were limited to the Akamas.
So for the remainder of our trip we  found a site higher into the hills just below Lower Smigs ridge.
These days proved very productive resulting in several Wood Warblers, numerous Nightingales a pair of Creczhmars Bunting, Orotolan Bunting,another Bonelli's Warbler, Masked Shrike, Semi Collared Flycatcher, several Orphean Warblers, another Wryneck and the highlight was an adult Scoops Owl. 

View from Lower Smigs


Scops Owl

Cretzschmar's Bunting

Masked Shrike

Ortolan Bunting

For  a couple of afternoons we manged to find an area of reed-bed close to Polis, where we manged to catch another new species for Stuart.
Great Reed Warbler
A week is not long enough to really appreciate the number of birds and species that migrate through Cyprus. So another thoroughly enjoyable years ringing came to an end, with new species ringed by all involved.(12 by Stuart). 300 birds processed of 30 species .
I would like to thank Bird Life Cyprus for supplying the rings and permits and Mark Jeffrey for the use of his nets and equipment.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

The CES season begins

Mick and I sallied forth on Friday 3rd May to undertake the first CES of the year. We met at 0500 and proceeded to put up 14 nets on a dull and cool morning. These are often quiet, as a lot of the birds are either sitting up in trees singing, to defend their territories, or sitting on eggs.
The session produced 26 new birds and 42 retraps, a great start. Amongst the new birds, we ringed two new Grasshopper warblers. These were some distance apart and so we are confident these represent two distinct territories, in addition to a third near The Point. These remain quite a rarity which we don't get every year and so we were very pleased. Retraps are not quite so glamorous, but the warblers (with the exception of one Cetti's) are all migratory. This means that they have travelled to and from Africa or the Mediterranean since we last saw them and are starting to breed at good old Stanford. By the end of the morning we had ringed all 10 of our regular warbler species, a fantastic start to the season!
Peter N
Grasshopper Warbler - P Norrie

Saturday, 29 December 2018

The Calf of Man 2018

The Calf Of Man 2018

Back in April, Dave, Peter N and myself went on a trip to the Calf of Man for a week. The Calf is a small island to the south of the Isle of Man. It is a Nature Reserve and Bird Observatory run by the Manx National Heritage.Having got the ferry from Heysham, we arrived in Douglas and stayed overnight. On the morning of the 1st of May we set off to Port St. Mary hoping to catch our connecting boat to the Calf but unfortunately due to high winds and swell we were unable to go that day and were told we would have to attempt the crossing the following day. Dejected but still hoping to get a window to cross that same day, we set off to the Sound near Cregneash to do a spot of birding to pass the time.

As the day wore on it became apparent we were not going to cross that day and we ended up doing a roadtrip of the IOM stopping off at the Point Of Ayre for a bit more birding and also at Laxey where we had a look at the Laxey wheel which is reported to be the largest waterwheel in the world.                  

We managed to find a great little B&B at short notice called the Bed and Blueberry which was just off the front in Douglas where we stayed overnight. The following morning we were up around 07.30 and after a relaxed start to the day, we made our way once again to Port St Mary optimistic that the weather seemed fairly calm and bright. Unfortunately our mood was not to last when we received a call to say that the weather at sea was not looking favourable, however there may be a chance to get a window around lunch time.
It wasn't long before we received a call to say the crossing was a go and that we needed to be on the harbour quayside for 12.00pm.

We encountered a fairly high swell going over but I'm happy to report no sea sickness. We finally arrived around 14.00 pm and soon got straight into some ringing as we had already lost a day due to the weather.                            

We caught good numbers of Goldfinches throughout the week although the weather was not always in our favour. A couple of the days did start very foggy with drizzly rain so we had to try other means of catching as there was no chance of getting nets open.

Dave and myself took some spring traps down near to the landing slip to try our luck at Wheatear of which there were many. Although we only managed one each, we were both pleased as they were a new species for us with lots of wildlife to watch whilst there: Grey seals and large numbers of Eider duck being the most common.

We continued with our ringing activities throughout the week dodging the continuing morning sea mists and fog by doing whatever we could to get in some ringing. Dave had his first Great black-backed Gull whilst Peter managed to get a Whinchat and also a Wheatear from one of the mist nets.

 Aron the warden on the Calf, decided conditions would be favourable to try our luck at catching some Manxies after the evening de-brief.
Evening de-brief is where all volunteers and helpers come together and report the days' activities, including number counts of animals and birds seen on the island and for the various sea watches that take place each day. By doing this the warden can monitor the passage of birds throughout the year. When this was finished, we had a hot cuppa and set off for the south of the island. After a couple of hours we had managed to catch around 30 birds and headed back to get some sleep .

The following day Aron treated us to a bit of rock climbing to ring juvenile Shag. We seemed to climb most of the rocks on the south side of the island but it was well worth it as the three of us all managed to ring one! A job well done.      

As our week drew to a close it was touch and go whether we would actually be able to get off the Calf due to poor weather forecasts. This meant we also had to cut our trip short at the other end and get off a day early. We were very disappointed but were treated to a great boat trip around the island which the warden had arranged to do a seabird count of colonies on the Island. So we boarded a local boat owners rib which we then toured the island on before being taken back to Port St Mary and then the Ferry back to Liverpool.


On behalf of Dave, Peter and myself we would to thank Aron and his team of volunteers who made our stay on the Calf both rewarding and interesting and hopefully one day we will return .