Thursday, 15 May 2014

Back To Beer Head

Unlike Tuesday morning, on Wednesday I didn't snooze the alarm and slip back into bed - I was on Beer Head for 5:30.

The conditions really didn't seem good, but I've said that so many times I'm beginning to ask myself whether I know what 'good' is!?  There was the fainest NW wind, which practically wasn't there - but it must have been enough to drop some migrants out of the clear blue skies.  Walking from my car to the netting site I heard a couple of Willow Warblers singing, and saw a Spot Fly, so knew it wasn't going to be a complete waste of time.

Whether they were all new migrants, or some lingering from yesterday is another question.  A Garden Warbler spent the whole morning singing around the area I was in, and I first heard it from the same bush I saw the Garden Warbler in yesterday. They're a scarce spring migrant here so my money's on it being the same bird.  There were at least five Spot Flies around too, and I bet at least some were hangers on from yesterday. But there were clearly more Willow Warblers around and a Redstart that wasn't there on Tuesday.

I had two nets up for four hours, and caught 26 birds. Amazingly, considering the date, 18 were Willow Warblers. What's also amazing is that although the odd one could be seen in the bushes, no one would ever have said 18 were present!  I have now ringed 103 Willow Warblers on Beer Head this spring.

Out of the 26 birds caught, I only used four A-rings (the most used ring size when netting passerines). One went on a locally breeding male Robin, but the other three were pure migrant quality. 


This was the first Garden Warbler I've ever ringed, and its a species I've always wanted to handle. I'm 99% sure it was the singing male that was hanging around - if anyone sees it well have a look at its right leg.


Out of the five Spot Flies, only this one found its way into one of the mist nets. The sunlight made the nets look quite obvious which probably didn't help, but also Spot Flies spend a lot of time on top of the tallest trees and bushes, and often fly between them at height.  Another great bird to handle, they are really long-bodied and look strikingly long-bill.


This was the sixth Redstart I've ringed up here this year, the fourth female.  I really wasn't expecting to catch any more of these as I presumed they would all be in by now.  I saw it briefly in the field first, caught it a few minutes later, ringed and released it, then no further sign.

I would have used a fifth A-ring if the male Whitethroat hadn't extracted itself from the net. So annoyed by that. Grrrrrrrr.

Three Blackbirds were the only other local birds I caught, a first-year male and two fresh juveniles, my first '3J's' of the year (ringing speak for a bird in juvenile plumage).

So as you can see, some fantastic catches. But none were anywhere near as exciting as this Blackcap...


This '5' (born last year) male Blackcap, which had spent the hour or so before I caught it singing from nearby bushes, already had a ring on its leg - and it wasn't one of mine!! If any ringer reading this recognises Y737725 then please get in touch.

Other birds I saw during the morning included three single Yellow Wags, a Whimbrel and a decent passage of Swallows over west/north west.

Another thouroghly enjoyable morning bird ringing on Beer Head, and again in glorious weather. Nice to have James M with me for a few hours too.

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