Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Oxwich Marsh

This blog is a few day late due to heavy commitments.

Recent bad weather has restricted ringing to my garden which is slightly sheltered. Today was the first visit to Oxwich Marsh since the 19th January. It is a coastal site so the winds are always stronger than a few miles inland. Overnight there had been a heavy frost but temperatures stated to rise quickly as the sun tried to come out.
Out of the 37 birds caught we caught the normal Tits, Chaffinch, Dunnock and Robins, but the highlight of the day was the capture of 10 Reed Bunting, 4 of which were re-traps.

Reed Buntings can be a difficult bird to age. Many first year juveniles can moult all their Greater  Coverts and moult limit is difficult to see. Tail feather shape tends to be the main way to determine the birds age but some first year birds do moult all the tail feathers which makes it difficult to differentiate them from adult birds. The amount of wear of a juvenile bird that has retained its tail feathers compared to an adult can often be seen. However it is a Reed Bunting and they live in reed beds and the reed environment can be very abrasive on their feather so caution must be taken and if in doubt age it as a 4.

This male Reed Bunting clearly shows the breeding plumage is starting to develop.

We also caught 2 Greenfinch, both males.

Looking at the tail feathers you would be forgiven for thinking that the bird in the hand was an adult bird. This was my original thought until I started to look at the wing.

This wing gives you three clues that this bird in a juvenile.

1. The Alula is a dirty yellow colour which is indicative of a juvenile bird. The adult Alula would be a bright vibrant yellow.
2. The GC's look un-moulted with brownish/yellow fringing looking dull and lighter greyish colour tips.
3. It looks as if all the primaries are not moulted. Primaries 2- 5 which can be seen in the picture, are very pointed.

Friday, 14 February 2014

National Nest Box Week (NNBW)

Ringing is an absolute no no at the moment, but I hope the winds will drop sometime soon. Recent blogs are as a result of a couple of calm mornings allowing just 2 or 3 hours ringing but the forecast in the near future still looks pretty awful.

So I thought it a good opportunity to finish off my nest boxes ready for putting up in the woods where I live.

NNBW was organised in 1997 by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to promote conservation of our breeding birds and starts today February 14th. It is there to encourage all of us to put up a nest box in the hope birds will use them.

Over the winter months I have been busy in the garage making boxes, repairing boxes and I have purchased a few as well. In the picture the biggest majority on the back two rows have a 32mm hole suitable for Pied Flycatchers and also frequented by Blue and Great tits. On the front the small boxes have a 25mm hole and I am hoping that these will be favoured by Marsh tits. The two large boxes are Dipper boxes.

Where I live the diversity of birds on my doorstep is good. The river at the bottom of my garden has the Dippers and my neighbour has allowed me to use his woodland for the Pied Flycatchers as well as hopefully the Marsh tits. I ring Marsh Tits in my garden so I am looking at putting boxes up here as well.

The close up of the boxes above have 32mm and 25mm holes. Each box lid is secured to the base by twisting wire between the screw in the lid and the screw on the box. Red wire can be seen on the brown box.

This is the Dipper box. I have two of these and will be securing them to the underside of the bridges that span the small river at the bottom of my garden. The picture of the box is taken on its side. The entrance hole of course will face downwards when they have been fitted to the bridges.

This a start, 40 boxes in all. This time, next year I hope to add to this total.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

A day of Goldfinch, Redpoll and Siskin

The weather forecast for today was not good as usual, with high winds, low temperatures and rain. It couldn't have been more different. It was calm with the occasional sunshine popping through the clouds lifting the air temperature. This lasted to midday when the actual weather changed to that of the forecast. So I am glad to be writing this blog as it was totally unexpected.

In part of my garden I have a small lawn with feeders either side of it and the birds fly between the feeders and are intercepted by the 30ft net I use. There has been a considerable increase in the number of Goldfinch and Siskin and also the odd Redpoll feeding on the Niger seed. When I ring in the garden the Blue tits become a nuisance and are about 50% of the birds I catch. Today I tried something different. I only used the Niger seed feeders, completely removing the Sunflower Hearts and the Peanut feeder was placed about 20 metres further up the garden which the Blue tits found very quickly keeping them away from the net. The result was about 25% of the birds I caught today were tits which was considerable improvement than before.

The Goldfinch was aged as a 5 (juvenile) and is a male. The first criteria was the outer pairs of tail feathers were pointed and abraded.

One of the other criteria for ageing a first year bird is that frequently 1-5 outer greater coverts are unmoulted. They are shorter than moulted GC's and tipped a yellowish white which contrasts with the inner moulted yellow GC's If you look closely at the picture above you can clearly see there are 4 outer unmoulted coverts.

I have mentioned before that I am interested in trying to establish the population size of Marsh tits in my area to see if there is any merit in applying to the BTO to set up a RAS project, see details here

This year I have got plenty of nest boxes to put up in all the woodland that surround me and I look forward to seeing the results of this in early summer. In the mean time I think this Marsh tit above is bird number 12 to be ringed in my garden.

Coal tits are far more common than Marsh tits but nice to catch nevertheless.

Finally this fine looking male Siskin was one of 14 birds. I had a possible control Siskin with ring number D334377. This ring as far as I am aware is not a ring number of anyone in the Gower Ringing Group to which I am a member.