Thursday 30 June 2011

An Enjoyable Failure

Not two words that normally go together I know - but despite failing to find what I wanted this morning, I felt the 5am wake up was still worthwhile.

Quail was my target bird on this fine summer's morning, they seem to be having a bumper year this year. I spent two hours listening from gateways in all corners of the patch - and beyond out towards Honiton Golf Course - but had no luck. With all the suitable habitat we have here, it surely has to be worth another attempt!?

A Buzzard that allowed me to stop the car underneath it for a change!

I then headed to the private woodland near Colyton I survey monthly. All was as it should be, with the usual woodland critters chirping away, but then all of a sudden the air came alive with Crossbill calls! I soon clocked a flock of 18 of these 'chunky chuppers' flying west over a woodland clearing, and about half an hour later I heard them again (or some more?) in another part of the wood. This is the second biggest flock I've ever seen on patch - result!

These fired me up to stay out a little longer, so I then had a sweep of the river. Four Lapwing were on Colyford Scrape, but there was no sign of yesterday's four Blackwits. On the Estuary, my first juvenile Med Gull of 2011 was with a dozen or so Black-headed Gulls just up from the tram sheds...

Photo taken with full optical and digital zoom on the Lumix, it looks ok at this size but I wouldn't bother enlarging it!

A quick scan of the sea showed nothing, but a still rather high tide tempted me to look at Black Hole Marsh. On the marsh were the usual summer selection of adult and young waterfowl, plus my first Common Sandpiper of the autumn...

I really don't know why I've posted this photo - it's pants!

There was a very nice surprise in amongst the juv Pied Wagtails feeding in the north west corner of the marsh - a Redstart!! It was actually feeding on the mud, picking at the same insects the Wagtails were feasting on, and using the wooden draw bridge to perch up on. It was a bit bizarre really, but very much appreciated - my earliest ever 'autumn' Redstart.

It was really nice to be out birding again, it feels like ages since I was last out and about on patch! The last week of my life has been hectic, first I was ill, then my phone broke and finally I was out of action for a couple of days due to a trip to Birmingham... I am very much looking forward to a few days of normality!

Friday 24 June 2011


Cuckoo's have been in the news recently, with five birds trapped in East Anglia and fitted with 5g satellite tags. For more details see here:

To briefly sum up the surprise happenings - three of these birds (all young males) are already heading south. Clement is on the Mediterranean coast of France, Kasper is in northern Italy and Chris is in Holland. Only two of the birds, Martin (the only adult male tagged) and Lyster remain the UK - they are both in the area where they were original trapped.

Interesting stuff, but there's one Cuckoo I was was even more interested in.... the one sat on a road side fence post near Colyton on Tuesday just gone.

I haven't seen or heard a Cuckoo on patch for at least seven years - and have only heard/seen three ever. So as I was driving between Southleigh and Colyton, I came to a sudden halt when I saw a Cuckoo perched right besides the road! Unfortunately, the stopping of my car made it take to the air. A couple of Swallows chased it as it flew towards a near by wood, but it U-turned and flew back low over the road - heading for a large Oak tree. What a great surprise, it's always good to get a nice dollop of jam :-)

Apart from this, I've had a busy week with little time for anything - and yesterday was laid up in bed with the most horendous sick bug, it wasn't pleasant!

Monday 20 June 2011

Post Weekend Update

Well actually there is very little to update people on!

I have been out birding a couple of times though over the last couple of days, which makes a nice change - but I haven't seen anything worthy of mention.

I had a net up in the front garden this morning again, and have now ringed a total of 19 Bullfinches. I caught a twentyith bird too, but had to release it without ringing as it had a nasty case of 'Bumblefoot'. It's the first time I've seen this virus on a bird other than a Chaffinch.

Bullfinches are very easy to age (unlike some of their Green cousins!). We all know what a juvenile looks like...

Big obvious pointer being no black cap!

And this is the wing of a second calander year female (aged 5 - born last year)...

Left arrow is pointing at a browny-buff edged primary covert (much whiter in older birds) and the right arrow is pointing at the step in the secondaries, with the four to the left of the arrow tip being first generation feathers (it would have grown these in the nest last year) and second generation feathers to the right (these would have been moulted in last autumn).

Hopefully I will have a wing of an adult female Bullfinch to post soon - just to complete the comparison. I have actually got one, but my finger is right over the primary coverts, so it would be pretty pointless posting it!

Despite the rain and force 100 SW wind on Friday night, I put the moth trap out to continue my recording for the Garden Moth Scheme. I wasn't expecting anything, so 36 moths of 7 species came as a bit of a surprise, although there weren't any surprises in amongst them...

4 Heart and Club
25 Heart and Dart
1 Flame
1 Uncertain
1 Ingrailed Clay
3 Dark Arches
1 Burnished Brass

Looks like we are in for a week of lovely weather.....!?!?

Friday 17 June 2011

Two Weeks Down And One Ton Up

So it's the end of my second week of ringing in the garden, this week though I have had less opportunities to put a net up. I have still managed to catch a total of 102 birds so far - so exciting!

No big surprises - although
Bullfinches continue to flood in! In the last post I mentioned how I had caught five adult Bullfinches in my first week, with three unringed birds still coming to the feeders... Well I have now caught an incredible 15! I just don't know where they are all coming from!???

So what we thought were no more than four birds, are actually (with at least two unringed adults and three unringed juveniles still in the garden) 20! 14 of the Bullies I've caught were adults; nine males and five females - I'm surprised I have only caught one juvenile as young birds always seem to be less net aware. All the females I have caught have shown nice brood patches, like this one...

Looks gross doesn't it!?

It was nice to catch a couple of juvenile Goldfinches, and Greenfinches seem to have had an excellent breeding season with juvs flying into the net left right and centre!

Since my last post, I've only had one moth trapping night - last Friday. It was a bit wet, quite windy, so not very productive. I only caught
34 moths of 5 species...

1 White Ermine

1 Heart and Club
28 Heart and Dart
3 Ingrailed Clay
1 Beautiful Golden Y

This was only the second Beautiful Golden Y I've ever caught in the garden - so trapping was worthwhile

I have done very little birding on patch this past week - with a Hobby low west over Colyford the best of what I've seen. I saw it whilst searching for the bird that has gripped us all!!!!!

Now time to go totally off topic!

Last weekend, due to a friend's birthday, I enjoyed a trip to the Zoo. And here are a few pics from our day out to complete this blog post....

Thursday 9 June 2011

A Week Of Ringing

First of all, I'm going to get the negative part of this post out of the way...

Actually, I can't bring myself to write about it on here, so you will have to read about it here - would have been a patch tick!

I also dipped the Grey Plover today, looks like it departed the previous night. There was a Lesser Whitethroat though singing south of the track to Black Hole Marsh.

Ok, negativity over...

I have been an active C ringer for exactly a week now - though have restricted myself to my front garden just to see how it goes.

My front garden isn't that big, so I have only had one 20 foot net set...

The sun showing the net up nicely here - notice the 'cat scarer' on the lawn behind!

Out of the seven days, I've had a couple of full mornings with the net up, one half morning, and a couple of afternoon efforts. During this time I have trapped and ringed 57 birds - and this has included and shown some real surprises...

We've not seen a Marsh Tit in the garden for about a year, at least. So I was very surprised to be extracting one from the net at 10:10 this morning! The bird was a scuffy adult female, it had started its primary moult and had a brood patch which was just beginning to feather over. Be nice to think it had bred locally - and successfully...

What a treat!

Coal Tits have been rather scarce in the garden of late too, but I caught two within ten minutes of each other on the 6th! Both of these had also started their main moult - but these three Tits were the only adult birds I caught that had begun their post breeding moult.

For the past few months, most times I've looked out the front window there have been between one and three Bullfinches feeding on or under the feeders. So I was expecting to catch some - but I wasn't expecting to catch FIVE and still see at least THREE unringed birds still visiting the garden today! So what we thought were three birds, have actually been at least eight!!!

An adult male Bullfinch - stunning!

Goldfinch is another bird that we think there are only one or two of visiting our garden. I have only caught four, but there are still unringed birds coming in to our niger seed. I caught a pair together this morning, which offered a nice comparison of the two sexes...

Male on the left, female to the right

We haven't seen a Song Thrush in the garden since the winter. Yesterday afternoon out of the blue - I heard one, and at 07:05 this morning I caught one! She had a nice brood patch, so hopefully has some chicks in a nest somewhere near by.

So that's 13 of the birds that I've ringed, with the rest being a selection of the more usual garden critters. I just had to take a photo of this young female Greenfinch that I caught this morning....

With new ones growing!

This is a good example of how rather simple ageing techniques can become complicated! Tail shape is a good way of ageing most passerines, as young birds tend to have much more pointed tipped tail feathers than older birds. But when a young bird like this loses all its tail feathers, the feathers it grows in their place are blunt/rounded-tipped adult type feathers!

I am always impressed with the true picture that ringing shows. There arethe Bullfinches I've already mentioned, but it applies to the even commoner garden birds too.

How many people look out into their garden, see a Blackbird and think 'oh - there's the Blackbird collecting food for his/hers youngsters again'... I've caught two adult female Blackbirds in the front garden so far, and this afternoon there was an unringed female Blackbird picking around for food on the front lawn! Daily we grossly underestimate bird numbers - and ringing proves that so well.

Right I must go to sleep now, I have a Starling to look for in the morning....

Saturday 4 June 2011

The Contents Of This Morning's Moth Trap

Well there were no new species for the garden last night, but there were more moths with 153 of 29 species...

1 Flame Carpet

3 Common Marbled Carpet

3 Pug sp.

4 Willow Beauty

1 Mottled Beauty

2 Brimstone

3 Elephant Hawkmoth

1 White Ermine
1 Pale Tussock

86 Heart and Dart
7 Flame

2 Flame Shoulder

3 Setaceous Hebrew Character

2 Vine's Rustic
4 Large Yellow Underwing
2 Ingrailed Clay

3 Marbled Minor

3 Rufous Minor
5 Middle-barred Minor

3 Treble Lines

1 Lychnis
1 Knot Grass

1 Miller
1 Clouded-bordered Brindle

6 Dark Arches

1 Straw Dot

1 Spectacle
1 Silver Y
1 Small Fanfoot

The penultimate moth in that list was the first immigrant in my garden this year! That accolade meant a photo was required...

Silver Y with a Miller just in shot to the right!

Friday 3 June 2011

Some Exciting News And A Load Of Moths!

There's not been much on this blog lately; I've been busy filling out forms, ordering things, setting things up, downloading things...

My bird ringing box

And in this box - as you can see - are rings, and - as you can't see - mist nets... and these are mine! Oh yes - I am the proud owner of a BTO C Permit! :-)

I want to get used to ringing alone first off, so this morning put a net in the front garden. In two hours I caught 13 birds, including a stunning male Bullfinch and two Goldfinches - so a bit of a result really!

Most people said to me ringing alone for the first time will be nerve wracking - but I really enjoyed it! It was 'odd' though - I can only describe it as being like driving on your own for the first time after you've passsed your driving test!

OK, now to moths. I put the Robinson in the front garden last night, and was rewarded with an awesome haul of 129 moths of 34 species!

One of these was a first for the garden - and what a first it was....

Lime Hawkmoth!

The rest of the catch looked like this (new species for the year in blue):

4 Figure of Eighty
1 Buff-tip
1 Lobster Moth
1 Garden Carpet
1 Sandy Carpet
2 Common Marbled Carpet
2 Pug sp.
1 Clouded Silver
1 Small Waved Umber
5 Willow Beauty
2 Brimstone
1 Light Emerald
1 Pale Tussock
1 Peppered Moth
1 Privet Hawkmoth
1 Elephant Hawkmoth
2 Flame Shoulder
1 Shuttle-shaped Dart
68 Heart and Dart
6 Vine's Rustic
2 Marbler Minor
6 Treble Lines
2 Lychnis
2 Ingrailed Clay
1 Setaceous Hebrew Character
1 Bright-line Brown-eye
1 Dark Arches
2 Large Yellow Underwing
1 Small Angle Shades
2 Miller
1 Straw Dot
1 Burnished Brass
2 Spectacle

And here's a few more pics...

This morning's trio of Hawkmoths

Burnished Brass

Small Angle Shades


I've got the trap out again tonight, check back tomorrow to see how I get on...