Saturday, 27 July 2013

CES 9 at WWT

Heather Coats and I joined forces for this morning's CES session at the WWT Llanelli's 'Millennium Wetlands' site. We were hoping that the 2013 session would provide more than the four birds we amassed the previous year.
Thankfully we surpassed the four birds within the first hour, the highlight of which was a pair of juvenile Treecreepers which are not common birds on the site, with only seven others being processed in the ten year history of the CES.
The final total for the morning was eighteen with 2 Blackbirds, 1 Blackcap, 2 Bullfinches, 3 Dunnocks, 2 Robins, 1 Song Thrush, 2 Treecreepers and 5 Wrens and with the exception of one Blackbird all being juvenile birds.

Juvenile Bullfinch

Oxwich Marsh 27 July

A steady session this morning.  Less than thirty birds were caught, but fifteen of these were reed warblers, and there were also three sedge warblers, a whitethroat and two blackcaps.  The remainder of the catch comprised wrens, blue tits and a robin.

Following a steady run of Cetti's warblers earlier in the season, none have now been trapped in the last three sessions (although males were heard singing at two locations within the reedbed).  Also notable by their absence in the nets were Phylloscopus warblers: a willow warbler was calling near the ringing station for much of the morning, and both willow warbler and chiffchaff have featured heavily in the overall totals in the past few weeks.

One of the more interesting captures this morning was a male blackcap (pictured below).  Juveniles undergo a partial moult which takes in the body feathers and some of the wing feathers (but not the primaries, secondaries or tail).  This bird had fresh primaries and secondaries, but was in the process of moulting its greater coverts and body, and had a unworn tail with narrow feathers, hence the conclusion that it was a juvenile.  However, most juveniles cannot be sexed until later in the autumn, as the black head of a male typically only shows through after the head feathers have started to wear.

The number of reed warblers in the catch allowed us to compare adult and juvenile plumage.  The juveniles were warm brown in colour and showed minimal wear to their wing and tail feathers.  The adults, by contrast, were a dull brown, their wing feathers were heavily worn, and some of their central tail feathers were very tatty.  This general scruffiness was accentuated by moult of body feathers, particularly those around the head and neck.

Interestingly (for us at least!) a number of the adults showed reasonable fat deposits in their tracheal pits, suggesting they were feeding up in preparation for migration.  The juveniles had less obvious deposits (and would be expected to migrate later).  In the two photographs below, the adult is on the left and the juvenile the right.

Thanks to Keith Vaughton and Cerian Thomas for the assistance this morning and for an enjoyable session.

Owain Gabb


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A Morning in the Park

              Heather, Charlie, Chris, Aaron and I returned to Margam Country Park armed with a few extra nets and a bundle of home-grown bamboos courtesy of the Park's Alison Lloyd. 
              Although we had to take down the nets on the railway line rather earlier than expected (for track maintenance) the other nets paid dividends and we totalled thirty-five birds.

In addition to the the pair of juvenile Treecreepers (above) we processed 4 Blackbirds, 3 Blackcaps, 4 Blue Tits, 2 Bullfinches, 3 Chiffchaff, 3 Dunnocks, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Great Tit, 1 Nuthatch, 6 Robin, 4 Willow Warblers and 1 Wren.
The ratio of juveniles to adults was 27:8

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Ringing at Oxwich Marsh

Recent sessions at Oxwich Marsh have proved relatively productive.  Yesterday, despite the wind picking up mid morning, and very bright conditions (resulting in nets being more visible), Keith Vaughton and I caught 35 birds of 11 species.  It was nice to catch both juvenile willow warblers and chiffchaffs, and despite the reedbed seemingly having relatively few reed and sedge warbler territories this year, juveniles of both species continue to be trapped.

The images below are of juvenile bullfinches, three of which were caught, and (bottom) a juvenile willow warbler (left) and a chiffchaff.  The latter photo allows a visual comparison of these similar species.  The chiffchaff, on the right, is a duller, browner bird with a less distinct supercilium (eye stripe).  The willow warbler is far brighter looking.  Although not entirely clear from the picture, the chiffchaff had very dark legs, and the willow warbler lighter coloured legs.

In the hand willow warbler tends to show a longer wing and a different wing formula, being a long distance migrant (chiffchaffs do not migrate across the Sahara).  Willow warbler shows emargination of the primaries up to P5 and chiffchaff to P6.  Despite appearing similar in size and structure in the photo, the willow warbler was also 2 grams heavier.

Owain Gabb 21/07/13

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Ringing on the line

The first train of the day

Heather, Chris, Alison and I ventured into Margam Country Park for some warm Saturday morning ringing. Three hours into the session we had to take down two of our nets from the rail track before the first train made its way down to transport the visitors into the park. 
The morning's total was twenty birds made up of eleven species with the highlight being a juvenile Spotted Flycatcher. 
Juvenile Spotted Flycatcher

Species were Blackbird, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Song Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, and Willow Warbler with juveniles outnumbering adults 15:5. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

CES 8 @ Kenfig N.N.R.

Heather Coats, Chris Newberry and I ventured into Kenfig Pool for CES 8 this morning. The high water levels and cool conditions of 2012 being substituted for thick, glutinous mud and unforgiving heat in 2013.
Today's total of 17 birds provided a ratio of 15:2 in favour of juveniles with the final breakdown showing: Wren 1:0, Dunnock 1:0, Reed Warbler 6:1, Blackcap 2:0, Cetti's Warbler 1:1, Sedge Warbler 1:0, Great Tit 1:0, Chiffchaff 1:0 and Willow Warbler 1:0.

Ffynnon Gro Whoosh Netting

Yesterday I mentioned that a couple of crows had shown interest in the feed I had put out but would not go into the trapping area of the net. Well at 07.30pm this evening two crows wandered in and I managed to trap both of them. One was a 5M and the other a 6F. Crow is a new bird for me so I was very pleased.

 In addition to the 2 Crows I also caught another 2 Blackbirds.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Ffynnon Gro - Whoooooooosh

I had a play around with my new Whoosh Net this morning as well as a 20ft mist nest. A successful result for the Whoosh Net after tweaking the poles and release pins, catching 4 x Blackbird and 1 x Song Thrush. A Jay and 2 Crows had a look but never entered the catching area. I have left the net in position and I am feeding it everyday to see if this will improve their confidence.

Total birds caught

Whoosh Net.
4 x Blackbird and 1 x Song Thrush

Mist Net.
1 x Siskin, 2 x Great Tit, 2 x Robin and 4 x House Sparrow. The Siskin was this years bird in juvenile moult

Monday, 15 July 2013

CES 8 - WWT Llanelli

Cedwyn and I went to do CES 8 today helped by Ben and Hugh.
CES 8 on the 20th July last year produced 8 birds of which 6 were juveniles. Today we caught 15 birds of which 13 were juveniles. It was nice to see more juveniles coming to the nets but the higher numbers compared with last year are still a cause for concern.

Total birds caught were:
Dunnock x 2, Blackcap x 1, Robin x 3, Wren x 4, Blue Tit x 1, Great Tit x 3, Bullfinch x 1.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Margam Country Park

Heather Coats and I were joined this morning by Alison Lloyd of Margam Country Park. This was the first time for us to mist net in this particular area of the Park known as 'Nursery Dywyll' on the OS Map.


We had a productive few hours with Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Goldcrest, Song Thrush,  Robin, Chaffinch and the highlight being a juvenile Grey Wagtail.
A big 'Thank you' to Alison for providing us with the opportunities to ring in such a wonderful environment.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Eilean Nan Ron

I have just returned from ringing with four friends after spending 3 nights camping on the uninhabited island of Eilean Nan Ron. The last people to live on the island were evacuated in December 1938 because life for the inhabitants of the Gaelic speaking community on the one mile long island had become just to difficult.  All that is left now are the stone built houses and cottages that have fallen into decay and ruin. Nan Ron is just to the east of the mouth of Tongue bay on the very north coast of Scotland.  We stayed the first night in a Tongue hotel before getting on the small boat to take us over to the island the next morning. Nan Ron is famous for its population of Storm Petrels which were of course our primary target. Great Skua pulli was another possibility as well.

The timing plan for our visit coincided with no moon, so night time mist netting for Stormies would be at its darkest. Also at this time of year the nights are very short and there is only a short window of darkness to catch them. We had 3hrs and the sun was starting to rise again.

We had three nights ringing and by far the first night produced the most birds with a total of 337. Out of these I was lucky enough to process 169 of these 95 new birds and 74 retraps.

The total for nights two and three were about 200 birds so I was extracting from the nets whilst other people were ringing. All good experience.

During the day we looked for Bonxie pulli, there were none anywhere to be seen after walking miles around the island after them. All we did find was the one Bonxie nest which is a scrap or hollow in the ground lined with plant material. If the nest is in heather they will bring grass into the nest to line it from elsewhere.
I did find a Greater Black Backed Gull pulli whilst setting up for night two Stormies but Dave only took the A2 rings with us. I went back the next morning but could not find it again.

During the days we ringed 2 Shag adults, 2 Shag pulli and caught 2 Fulmar retraps. Finally the above Starling from one of the derelict building which was a 4M.

Total confirmed birds for our visit were:

New birds Rock Pipit 1, Shag 4, Starling 1, Stormie 323

Retraps Fulmar 2, Stormie 135

Controls Stormie 22

Monday, 8 July 2013

CES 7 - WWT Llanelli

On a rather warm morning Heather and I were joined by Hugh and Wendy for CES 7. 
The total for the day reached fourteen with the large majority being juveniles including SONTH, CHIFF, ROBIN, BLACA, BLUTI, DUNNO, WREN and LOTTI.

The usual sight - empty nets!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

CES 7 - Kenfig NNR

This morning Chris Newberry joined forces with Heather Coats to undertake CES 7 at Kenfig NNR.
The visit continued the run of poor bird numbers - as with every session this year the numbers are down on a poor year last year.
The total of 12 birds compared with an average of 54 for session 7 since the CES started in 1997.
For the record it was: 5 Reed Warblers, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Robins, 1 Cetti's Warbler and 1 Chiffchaff.
The highlight of such a poor show was a 1JJ Reed Warbler which must have been caught on its maiden flight as it wasn't tall enough to have walked into the nets. Almost all the primaries were in pin.

Reed Warbler

Friday, 5 July 2013

Garden Ringing

Our planned visit to Crymlyn Bog this morning was aborted when we discovered that the entrance gate had been removed and replaced by a barbed wire fence. Rather than return home we paid a visit to Heather's garden for some ringing.

In the two hour session we processed thirty-six birds; the majority of which were juveniles including the Siskin (above). Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Siskin and a single Blackbird made up the numbers.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Pied Flycatcher RAS

This morning Heather and Jo made the final visit to the RSPB Cwm Clydach Reserve to monitor the last few boxes.

The results indicate that 21 boxes proceeded to egg stage of which 18 boxes fledged 105 young at an average of 5.83 per box.
We trapped 25 adults including one control while seven new adults were ringed.
These results were the worst in the history of the RAS project.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Ffynnon Gro

I was awake quite early this morning so I decided to put up my 20ft net. The Sparrows have had a good breeding season this year and the net was directly in their flight path to the feeders. Watching them over the last few weeks there seems to be 50 birds around and many being young so I was hopeful.

After 2.5hrs I had processed 40 birds:- 29 House Sparrow, 1 Robin, 4 Dunnock, 4 Chaffinch and 2 Great Tit. The nice part about this was 33 birds were juveniles, 25 of them being House Sparrow.

After last years poor breeding season because of the awful weather we had, it is nice to see at least one species in my area doing reasonably well.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Cwm Felin Gat

Charlie and I made our final visit to monitor the nest boxes at Cwm Felin Gat this morning. All the Blue Tits and Great Tits had fledged along with the single Pied Flycatcher. We then returned to the farm to check on the Swallow nests and ringed eleven pulli.