Sunday, 15 September 2013

Hirundines galore!

After seeing the weather forecast for Saturday, Mick and I decided that we would be better ringing on Sunday. I awoke at 07:30 on Saturday to a mizzley morning that soon cleared. It looked like we had missed an opportunity as Sundays forecast had changed to windy at 10:00 and rain at 13:00.
I arrived at 05:30 this morning to meet Mick, Dave and Dawn. We were greeted by an 8-10 mph SW breeze which was fine as the boundary hedge gave us some protection for most of the morning.
Early rounds produced the usual Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps but after a clear sky lastnight it looked like most migrants had passed through with very few warblers.
At 09:00 the wind picked up and those nets affected were taken down. At 10:00 it started the rain and so the remaining nets were taken down. However, Mick had noticed that whilst taking his nets down a large movement of 200+ Hirundines were being forced to feed close to the ground.
After the rain had quickly passed a few sheltered spots from the increasing wind were located on the NE side of a boundary hedge and three 30' nets were set up. After 2 hours we had accumulated 15 House Martins and 9 Swallows which gave us a total of 49 new birds for the day.
Whilst taking the last nets down Dawn stumbled across this Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar looking for somewhere to spend the winter.
Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Friday 13th Sept

Mick and I arrived at the reservoir at 05:00 yesterday morning to be met by low cloud and fine drizzle. The rain was forecast to clear throughout the morning so until then a cup of tea was in order until it passed.
After 30 minutes the cloud started to break up so we took to the task of erecting the nets.
A good movement of warblers was soon noted and Chaffinches are now starting to make their presence in good numbers with double figures regularly seen on the disused railtrack all day.
Most warblers ringed were Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps with the Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler making up a full cast of the resident breeding warblers.
Ageing Chiffchaffs in autumn is fairly straight forward. The freshness of tail feathers is one criteria used to determine their age. Adults replace their whole tail during a complete moult whilst juveniles usually retain theirs which by autumn become abraided and chipped at the tips. However, it is not uncommon to find juveniles with replaced central feathers which then show a contrast with dull old ones and darker new ones. The picture below shows a tail of a juvenile Chiffchaff with a fault bar across the tail. The central tail feathers have been replaced with much darker and greener edged adult type feathers along with the outer two on the right side of the tail, R5 & R6.
If only they were all this easy!

Juvenile tail with some replaced adult type feathers 


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Tuesday 4th Sept 2013

Ed and I returned from Gibraltar Point BO after a ringing opportunity weekend. We had a great time and a chance to meet new people and see some old faces. A special thanks to George Gregory, Mick Briggs, Mike Archer and Nigel Judson for all their efforts to make our time there an enjoyable one.
Unfortunately just before we arrived, the wind had changed from a north-easterly to a south-westerly which meant that we were denied the opportunity to see European mainland breeders such as Wryneck and Red-backed Shrike which were both trapped a week before.
However, we had the chance to see common migrants such as Yellow Wagtail, Common Redstart, Swallow and House Martins in the hand. The bird of the weekend for us was a juvenile Greenland Wheatear, I have trapped and ringed a few of these myself on a field opposite my house but a large supermarket has now put a stop to that.
Mick and Dawn had been out ringing on Saturday whilst we were away and managed to ring 64 birds including 19 Whitethroats, 11 Blackcaps, 4 Garden Warblers, 5 Sedge Warblers and the 2nd Spotted Flycatcher for the year.
Having an extra days holiday I took advantage of the good weather forecast for Tuesday and met Mick at the railtrack at 04:30. A low mist was hanging around on arrival and we quickly got our nets up. We experienced one of the best days for autumn migation ever at Stanford. The low mist had downed the birds overnight and there were hundreds. Once the mist had lifted the birds had started moving and during the first net round birds were going into the nets whilst I was extracting them from the nets.
It was a rare opportunity to see migration on our local patch on a scale like this!
By the end of the day we had processed 238 birds with good numbers of Whitethroat and Blackcap.

New / Retrap
Wren 3/1
Dunnock 2/3
Robin 5/2
Song Thrush 1/0
Sedge Warbler 2/1
Reed Warbler 10/3
Lesser Whitethroat 2/2
Whitethroat 57/14
Garden Warbler 1/3
Blackcap 35/16
Chiffchaff 15/3
Willow Warbler 3/0
Long-tailed Tit 1/6
Blue Tit 10/14
Great Tit 2/2
Treecreeper 1/0
Tree Sparrow 1/0
Chaffinch 3/2
Greenfinch 1/0
Goldfinch 3/0
Bullfinch 1/0
Reed Bunting 6/2

So birds are finally on the move as migrants start heading south through Stanford.
At the other end of the scale tits are in very low numbers and Tree Sparrows have virtually disappeared.
Treecreepers look like they are having a success this year with 24 ringed already.