Sunday, 20 April 2014

Ringing in my garden at Ffynnon Gro

It has been a fantastic year so far ringing in my garden. The total for the year at the moment is 355 birds and the breakdown by species being:-

Dunnock - 1, Robin - 1, Blackbird - 2, Songthrush - 1, Chiffchaff -2 ,
Marsh Tit - 2, Coal Tit - 1, Blue Tit - 61, Great Tit - 11, Nuthatch - 2,
House Sparrow - 8, Chaffinch - 16, Goldfinch - 77, Siskin - 156,
Lesser Redpoll - 9.

Yesterday I had another  session ringing without one Blue or Great Tit. I have feeders in various places in the garden which contain nijer seed, sunflower hearts and peanuts and attract most species in my area. When I have a ringing session planned I only have the nijer seed feeders hanging which will attract Siskin, Goldfinch and Lesser Redpoll. I completely remove the sunflower hearts and put them in the shed, I take down all the peanuts and put them in another part of the garden. The tits very quickly find the peanuts and carry on feeding which keep them away from where my nets and nijer seed feeders are.
It is more than a coincidence having tried this method for several weeks and every time the number of tits in the nets is minimal.

In the quieter parts of the morning I got my camera out and took some pictures of other birds around the area.

Male Siskin, plenty of these around the garden. New birds arrive every day without rings. From what I can gather flocks of siskin are very good this year for most ringers.

This Jackdaw has a nest in the chimney pot of my neighbours house across the road. I think the eggs must have hatched because they were bringing food in on a fairly regular basis.

Same Jackdaw just leaving the pot, returning about 20 minutes later.

The Goldfinch is very similar to the siskin in as much there are plenty around the garden. Again like Siskins they are very vocal when around the feeders.

I am lucky to see Red Kites nearly every day flying around the house. This Red Kite is being attacked by a Raven. This is not uncommon and if it is not Ravens then the Crows have a go. I also have Jays where I live but I have never seen any Rooks.

The sun was very bright and much of the underwing of this Red Kite was in partial shadow. Nevertheless the feather detail can be seen.

There seems to be some movement of Chaffinch at the moment since numbers have started to increase. The males in particular looking splendid unlike the female below.

Female Chaffinch

This is my second Chiffchaff since migration started, there is however still plenty calling in my area so I hope to catch a few more soon.

Lesser Redpoll number 9, a male. The numbers are not great but last year I did not have any at all. My ringing friends from the Teifi Marshes are having quite a lot. the Teifi Marshes is about 30 miles from me and I suspect that the Marsh is possibly more favourable to them than my garden.

As far as bird nests are concerned I have only found one Blackbird nest and a House Sparrow occupying an empty House Martin nest from last year. I am sure there must be more around but I am not trained on how to find them. I hope to have some training very soon which I will be looking forward to. As far as nest boxes are concerned I erected 47 (I think) about 6 weeks ago. From next week I will be monitoring these on a weekly basis. I do know that some of the boxes actually in my garden have gained interest from Tits. I am hoping to get some Pied Flycatchers in the boxes with 32mm holes and the boxes with 23mm holes are there hopefully to attract Marsh Tits. I await and see.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Oxwich Marsh

It was an early start yesterday morning. The sun was up just gone 6.00am as the nets were being erected. So  a bright cloudless day was on the cards which is not always favourable because the nets are more  visible to the birds in the bright sunlight. With the dry weather we have had recently it was really nice not having to walk around on swampy footpaths.
There were a few migrants about and Grasshopper warblers could be heard over the marsh but not seen. It sounded if there were plenty of finches about as well. The air was alive with bird song.

On the very first round this Kingfisher fell to the net. It was a female because of the red lower mandible and its bright red feet makes it an adult bird. Also the primaries and secondaries were that of an adult in a nice unworn condition.

The weirdest thing I find about Kingfishers is when held in the hand they will often turn their head in an almost 360degree circle and then back again. The first time this happened to me was as a trainee, I really thought I had in some way injured the bird.

Greenfinch showed well today, mostly males, both adult and juvenile birds. They had been feeding on the black sunflower seed.

It is believed that a lot of British Greenfinches tend to spend their whole lives near to their birthplace. There is some movement however and it is believed that some Greenfinches do arrive in the UK from the Scandinavian counties.

The first passage of the migrants probably from South West Europe or North Africa was this male Blackcap aged 5. Breeding populations of Blackcaps seem to be more abundant in the south of England and Wales, however they are still widespread throughout the UK..

It is interesting to note that more and more Blackcaps seem to be overwintering in the UK.

This female Blackcap was caught in the same net as the male Blackcap on the next net round.


My first Sedge Warbler this year was a nice surprise. The second migrant species arriving from its winter quarters, probably from North Africa and areas to the west of the Sahara. The reed beds of Oxwich Marsh being a perfect breeding ground.

Male Reed Bunting are looking very good as they finally get into their breeding plumage. Ageing is not easy. Many first year birds moult all their Greater Coverts making moult limit difficult to see. The tail feather shape can be a help to establish the birds age, however, some first year birds do moult all their tail feathers which makes it even more difficult. If in doubt 4 it.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Skokholm, Dream Island week 2

Happy birthday today to Giselle one of the wardens on Skokholm.

The start of the second week was again wet and cold, but, I suppose it is early April and it is to be expected. Much of the work had to be done indoors until the weather improved a few days later with warm sunshine being very welcome. Even though the weather was mixed there was a trickle of migrants arriving every day. Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Wheatear, the first two Swallows and Blackcap.

Richard and Giselle the Skokholm wardens have a bird-log every night without fail. They were able to identify the Meadow Pipit from the few numbers you can see on the ring as D295030, a bird originally ringed in April 2013, which would make it an adult.

I always learn something of interest when I go to the Island. In this case it is the "Pollen Horn" often seen on some of the Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Richard informed me that the horn was created by pollen sticking to the feathers when the bird is probing for insects in flower heads. This would suggest that these migrants came from possibly a warmer climate like the Mediteranean (where many flowers will be in bloom) before arriving at Skokholm.

Yes, the birds are far away, the noise they made was very loud which turned my attention to them. They were Peregrine which were tumbling together in the sky. Not sure if this is a territorial thing or maybe some sort of bonding between a male and a female. If anyone knows I would like to hear from you.

Certainly my first Redwing of the year but not the first this year for Skokholm. I had one last year as well which had no tail. I was informed it was caught a few times and eventually left the island once its tail feathers grew back.

First Ringed Plover of the year which hung around North Pond for a few days. It's always nice to see some of the small waders drop in.

For the two weeks I was there migration had been slow, the weather was not good for most of the time but someone soon is going to get lucky as the birds start to arrive in bigger numbers. I was really hoping a Ring Ouzel would turn up, not having seen one for a couple of years. Looking around the country there are a few about, so fingers crossed they get lucky soon.

Thanks to the wardens for everything they do to promote the Island and with their past experiences and knowledge Skokholm will be on list of "must go to places". Personally thanks for all the ringing help and advice.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Skokholm, Dream Island week 1

It's that time of year again when I spend a couple of weeks as a Volunteer for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales on Skokholm Island.

The island came up for sale and was purchased by the Trust between 2007-2009. Once purchased the Island had to be closed as a result of a report carried out by surveyors which concluded there were health and safety risks due to wet and dry rot in all buildings. Repairs were estimated to be in the region of £1m, but, in times when money was tight this huge amount was not available. The Wildlife Trust had meetings with the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer and an ambitious plan was launched to carry out the work using the skill and will of volunteers with a budget of £100,000. In the last 4 years there has been an immense amount of renovation work carried out to get the island buildings suitable for habitation again. The first visitors were in 2011 and each year since there has been further improvements like electricity and running hot and cold water

In 1933 the time of Ronald Lockley the Island was accredited Bird Observatory Status. This Status was lost in 1976 when the Island owners at that time stopped all bird ringing and trapping of birds. As part of all the ongoing work in the last 4 years we have been paving the way to apply for Observatory Status again. Three new Heligolands were built and last year we had two new very experienced wardens. Their primary purpose was to conduct long term monitoring of bird populations and migration and encourage volunteers, particularly ringers, to aid in this study.

The 44th Bird Observatory Council Annual General Meeting took place on the weekend of 11th January this year at Portland Bird Observatory where accreditation was awarded again. Really good news.

The two weeks of my visit this year along with other volunteers was to prepare the Island to celebrate for the launch of the Bird Observatory Status, plenty of painting and general maintenance and also get it ready for the first paying guests of the year. In between all this some bird watching and ringing. I look forward to the 27th.

I digress a little but thought it may be of interest.

My boat trip to get me to Skokholm was delayed by 4 days due to high winds and a large swell and I eventually got there on the 26th March.

The migration was slow because of the wet and cold weather but the odd Chiffchaffs were turning up in the Heligolands. Sorry about the paint stained hands!

There had been a couple of Reed Buntings about the farm and this male was caught in the well Heligoland and processed as a re-trap having being caught a few days before.

This early morning I sat in the Well Hide and 5 Linnets turned up and in total for the day 12 birds were seen.

Oystercatcher and a Meadow Pipit. If gives you an idea how big Oystercatchers are.

The first Puffins arrived this week, but only stayed at sea. They are always a favourite of the many visitors that come to the islands. Every day now a Puffing count is done as part of the sea bird monitoring process.

Finally for week one, which was the highlight of the week for me, was this Chiffchaff. It had been ringed before, the ring looked new as if it had only been ringed in the last few days and when checked I was pleased to discover it was a Control bird. The ring number was Z43481 ringed and belonging to the Aranzadi, San Sebastian scheme which is part of the Basque area of Spain. The warden looked the area up on the Internet and emailed them with the details of the bird. However, no reply was received by the time I left the Island a week later. This was my first non UK Control.

Week 2 to follow.