Monday, 14 April 2014

Beer Head

Wow - what a morning!

I was going to be writing a post today about the additions to my house list during the last week, but that will have to roll over to another day after this mornings excitement!

For us, common migrant wise it's been a very slow and poor start to the spring, with no species appearing in good numbers yet except Chiffchaffs.  Last weekend, and Friday, I couldn't do any ringing up Beer Head, and was convinced I was going to miss a good day. Amazingly I didn't (although Phil did have a Pied Fly up here on Sunday).  This morning was my first free morning for almost a week, so I was up at 5am, and headed up there with my nets and poles....

I really wasn't expecting much. The conditions were probably as bad as they could get for grounding migrants.  All night it was a cloud-less clear starry sky, with an almost full moon and next to no wind.  Clear skies are ok with a northerly wind, in fact this combination can produce superb falls, but when there's southerly or no winds, we need cloud.  There was a very light NW wind at dawn, which did pick up a little mid morning, this must have been what caused this mornings rush of birds!

Would never have guessed this weather could have produced what it did!

It was an odd fall, as even as I was setting up the nets just before sunrise all seemed quiet - just a couple of singing Willow Warblers.  The first net round was also was not that promising, a single Wren in the bottom shelf being the only bird.  About 15 minutes later though, as I was taking the first migrant of the day out of a net - a Willow Warbler - a Redstart flew over my head. And that's when it went a bit mental for a few hours!  

Willow Warblers were soon everywhere, with birds constantly singing and on the move around me.  I saw at least three male Redstarts (one often singing), and Ian P saw two more on the other side of Beer Head. Dad arrived with a group at 8am, and was greeted with another first for the year, a singing Whitethroat.  I was mist netting on Beer Head amidst a fall of birds! Dreamy!!

I only had two nets up, small ones too. This 30 footer...

And this 40 foot net...

I have to say, the nets were very visible in the sun light. I saw several birds flying towards them, but turning back or flicking over the top/around the side at the last moment. Despite this though, these two nets did me proud, with 35 birds trapped and ringed by the time I closed them at 11:30.  

Out of the 35 birds, 30 were phylloscs - 26 Willow Warblers and 4 Chiffchaffs.  Of the 26 Wills, 22 were males (1 female and 3 unsexed), showing varying amounts of fat. Some real fatties, but I also had a few (especially towards late morning) that had very little fat on them. They were clearly moving through quickly as I didn't retrap a single one!  With the numbers I caught, and what I saw/heard, I would estimate at least 70 Willow Warblers came through where I was ringing. Well over a hundred must have been present on the whole headland I'm sure, probably many more if you think how vast the underhooken is.

The five other birds ringed included single Chaffinch, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Wren and...


A bloody Redstart! This was the very same Redstart that flew over me early doors. After flying over me, it flitted along a hedgerow and dropped straight into my other mist net!

He's a young male, born last year, and had very little fat stored so could well be hanging around for a bit.  I've ringed autumn juv Redstarts before, but never seen a spring male in the hand. What a bird, so full of character.

My biggest gripe of the day is that as the conditions were so unexciting, I didn't bother asking any of the local trainees to join me. Really wish I did now - sorry chaps.

Just shows, when it comes to spring birding, however much we think we know, you just never know...

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