Tuesday 20 January 2015

First Ringing of 2015

For various reasons, it wasn't until yesterday that I managed to set a mist net this year.  Although I have been busy, whenever I have freed up a bit of time the weather has been completely against me - we have had a very windy start to the year.

Yesterday's mist net was set in Mum and Dad's garden, and it gave me 18 birds. Although this doesn't sound like many, the total did include six Long-tailed Tits and a Wren, neither species being common in the garden.  Bullfinch on the other hand is a regular visitor, and I caught three 'new' females. One was an adult (age code 6) with the other two being bird born last year (age code 5). Which allowed me to do this...

Two female Bullfinch wings
The upper arrows are pointing to the carpal coverts. The younger bird has an umoulted juvenile carpal covert, which shows a diffuse dirty brown edging, whereas the adult bird's carpal covert has a neat and narrow white-grey tip.

The lower arrows are pointing to the outer greater coverts.  As I've mentioned many times before on this blog, some passerines (finches in particular) after their partial post juvenile moult retain some juvenile outer greater coverts.  So they start moulting them from the inside during their first autumn, but typically don't replace the outer 1-6. You will see the adult's greater coverts are all uniform in colour and pattern, very dark centred with neat white-grey tips, whereas the '5' clearly is retaining some juvenile feathers, which are overall duller feathers with diffuse dirty grey-brown edging. I haven't spread the greater coverts out very well in this photo, as this bird actually had four old greater coverts.

And that's today lesson over!  Hope to do some more ringing soon - if time allows...

Saturday 17 January 2015

Looking Up At Night

With all the twitter talk of Comet Lovejoy, I've spent a fair bit of time looking up after dark recently.  

First of all the comet.... well it's been good to see as we won't again for about 8000 years, but I have to be honest and say I found it a bit under whelming.  When I first found it I thought it was a speck on my bins that needed cleaning off!  There was no way I could get a photo of it, so courtesy of photoshop I have created an artist impression of exactly how it looked through my Kowa telescope...


The planets have been far more exciting to see - with Mercury, Venus and Mars visible from dusk, all to the south west. Venus has been particularly bright.

I haven't been out there at the right time to see Saturn (should be showing just prior to dawn), but Jupiter has been exceptional.  It's actually only two years away from being the furthest it ever is from earth (964 million kilometres!), but it seems to be very bright at the moment...

Jupiter and its four biggest moons; Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

This photo was taken with a much quicker shutter speed, so it didn't pick up the moons, but it does show the true colour of Jupiter and even the Equatorial Zone and both the South and North Equatorial belts (the pale central diagonal stripe flanked by narrower red-brown lines)

Normal bird-related blog posts will resume shortly...

Wednesday 14 January 2015

A Change Of Scenery

James Mc kidnapped me yesterday morning and took me to Dart's Farm.  After he pushed me out the car and dragged me down a muddy track to a half hide half shelter thing, we stood about for what seemed like hours watching bulrushes in the rain.  Not fun.  Even less fun was the fact that when James took me from Seaton the sun was out and it was actually quite mild, so I was wearing clothes from my summer collection. What was he doing with me!?

Thankfully we had some great company, with Bill and Dave stood beside us telling us the tales of Torbay - it was great to see them both and to hear how other patch birders are getting on this winter.  A Black Brant proved a nice distraction as well amongst 900 or so Brent Geese, and if you've not seen this Brant you must, it's a really fine example of one.  Eventually the rain stopped and the sun peaked out from behind the clouds, and when three little birds dropped out of the sky the penny dropped as to why James had brought me here - Penduline Tits!  They spent no more than five minutes feeding on the bulrushes in front of us, showing superbly well, before flicking up to the top of a willow tree and flying off high west.  It really did feel like they dropped in just for us, and I'm not sure if they've been seen since?  What stunning birds and in such beautiful plumage. Obviously I would absolutely love to see one or more on the Axe, but am really glad I saw these - I hope I get kidnapped again soon!

This morning I didn't have to be kidnapped, I voluntarily drove westwards to join fellow C-ringer Peter on the Otter Estuary.  We had a bit of walk about then bumped into Doug and Chris to discuss ringing potential in this small river valley.  Two hours later, once net rides had been decided, I was kindly shown the nearby Cirl Buntings that Chris had found last year. It was great to see ten birds today, one male and nine female/immatures.  Sadly the male didn't play ball, although the light was so dull that I probably wouldn't have got a decent photo even if he had landed on my nose...

To be honest though it did make me a bit ill watching Cirl Buntings with my patch viewable in the distance. I think I'm going to spend the next couple of days re-checking all the stubble fields I've been to this winter - and all our bulrushes as well of course...

Thursday 1 January 2015

Happy New Year

Like the Christmas post, it's going to be a short one I'm afraid, but Happy New Year one and all.  I do hope 2015 is a healthy one for everyone, and bird filled of course.  Here's a few pics of a frosty Axe, we've had some cracking crisp mornings during the last week...

Lower Bruckland Ponds

Seaton seafront looking towards Beer/Seaton Hole

The Estuary looking north from Coronation Corner

Looking towards Colyford Marsh from Axmouth

A thistle

Some grass!

Sadly the cold weather didn't bring us any birds.  And now the cold has gone, I reckon this winter is going to be a long and slow one....