Friday, 11 December 2015

Penduline Tit - Titchfield Haven

Today was the first day for a while that I was at home and with some time to get out. I was keen to go birding somewhere, as it was too windy for ringing, and so decided to head down to the Haven, in the hope that one of the three Penduline Tits would still be around. I arrived at the West Hide to see birders gathered outside the door watching it perched in willows. Unfortunately as I approached it flew and so all I saw was its tail end heading away. I headed into the hide and began to scan the reedmace, initially there was no sign, but within five minutes it appeared and performed brilliantly for the half hour I stayed. 

There were three birds together when they were found, apparently a male and two females, but this male was the only one showing today. It was a cracking bird and the first I have seen in the County since 1991, when two birds were present at Farlington Marshes. 

Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit

Monday, 23 November 2015

Titchfield Haven - End of Season Update

The ringing season is now all but finished for us at the Haven, although there may be the odd session to target certain priority species. Overall it ended up being a pretty good season, which was not immediately apparent at the start of the season. A total of 3960 new birds were ringed of 38 species, a further 177 birds were retrapped or controlled, a handful of the resident species, several times.


The anticipated eastern mega turned out to be a Barred Warbler, which for many counties is a regular vagrant, but not for Hampshire, where it was the first ever ringed in the county. The total is a little misleading in that it shows two birds being caught, but that is due to it being retrapped two days after the original capture, fortunately for me. Other highlights include a Wryneck, our 3rd ever, Tree Pipit our 8th ever and our first ever Grey Wagtail for the site. It was surprising not to catch a Yellow-browed Warbler this year, given how many were recorded on the east coast, but the expected record total of Goldcrests did materialise. A total of 158 new birds were ringed, beating the previous best total by 49, a couple of controls were also trapped, so the actual total of birds not previously trapped at the Haven will be 160. Other new high totals included Lesser Redpoll, with 23 new birds ringed, and Blackcap with an amazing 973 new birds ringed, well above the 495 average.


I have previously posted about the selected species comparisons, so there is no need to cover that ground again in detail. So to summarise, the Grasshopper Warbler total remained low, with only 135 new birds ringed and well below the average of 264. The Sedge Warbler total also low at 799 new birds, again will below the average of 841. By contrast however, the Reed Warbler total was well above the 459 average; the Willow Warbler total was also above the 125 average. Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Cetti's Warbler and Robin totals were also all above average.


Our sixth year without an Aquatic Warbler is setting a very worrying trend.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Beardies, Buntings and Shorties

This morning I met Duncan at Farlington Marshes for a spot of ringing. The marsh was shrouded in fog, and it wasn't long before we were soaked, but at least that meant it wasn't windy. We set three nets in the eastern part of the reed bed, and almost immediately caught a Robin and a couple of Wrens. The next round produced a few Reed Buntings, followed by a few more and then a few more. Before we knew it we had ringed over 20 new Reed Buntings and retrapped one from a few years ago, and three Cetti's Warblers.

Reed Bunting (Male)

One of the reasons for going to the marsh was to try and catch some Bearded Tits. They have been very visible at the marsh in recent weeks, but have been showing at the top of the lake, and not where we were ringing. As it turned out we did not hear a single beardie, and were just about to give up when a pair suddenly appeared in the nets. Although we have been catching loads at the Haven, these are the first we have ringed at the marsh. There didn't seem to be any others around, but we well try again, when the weather conditions are right.


Bearded Tit (Male)

After ringing I headed home to dry out and warm up, before heading back to the marsh again. By now the fog had cleared  and the sun was occasionally breaking through. The main reason for going back was to try and catch up with some more Short-eared Owls. There have been reports of up to 4 birds and I was keen to get some photos. From the car park I worked my way through the bushes and towards the eastern track. I picked up a short-eared almost immediately flying over the main marsh, but decided to continue along the track to the sea wall. This turned out to be the right choice for me, as sitting in a meadow east of the track where 2 Short-eareds. They remained perched for about 10 minutes before starting to hunt and chase each other giving some cracking views.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

I spent a good 30 minutes watching the owls before they dropped down into the field and out of view. I continued around the sea wall heading back past the Deeps and was quickly onto two more owls. These were a bit more distant than the birds I had just been watching but were in view almost continuously, even when feeding on the ground. One bird (below) was much paler than the others and I am inclined to think that this bird is an adult, and probably a male. Apparently females have a distinctly deeper buff ground colour overall, and the dark markings are usually bolder in males.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

In the end I must of spent over an hour and a half with these owls, in light that was now just perfect. I continued around the seawall and stopped briefly to look over the lake. It was high tide now and there was a good variety of waders and ducks roosting. The most numerous wader species was Black-tailed Godwit, with Common Redshank and Grey Plover also present in good numbers. Other species included Avocet, Knot, Dunlin, Common Snipe and a lone Spotted Redshank. I could still see two Short-eareds hunting over the main marsh and another very distantly, that appeared to be hunting over the RSPB islands, could there really be five birds!

Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Common and Black-headed Gulls, Avocet, Shelduck and one Spotted Redshank
Black-tailed Godwits and Shelducks

Sunday, 25 October 2015

White-rumped Sandpiper - Farlington Marshes, Hampshire

It was a fairly typical late October ringing session at Titchfield Haven this morning with just under 40 birds ringed. The bulk of the birds were Goldcrests but we also caught a few Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and surprisingly several new Cetti's Warblers. I headed straight home after the session, but was soon back on the road and heading to Farlington Marshes as Pete Gammage had found a White-rumped Sandpiper. It was not a new bird for me, but I have not seen one for a while, and as it was just 15 minutes drive I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity of seeing another.

When I arrived the bird was settled in the grass along the stream and that is where it sat for about 10 minutes or so. It started to become a bit more active, stretched and then took flight heading high and south. We feared it was wasn't going to stop, but suddenly dropped down in the direction of The Deeps. We headed steadily around in the hope of getting some more views but our interest was temporarily diverted by a Short-eared Owl that was sat in full view in the middle marsh.

Short-eared Owl - Farlington Marshes

We eventually arrived at The Deeps, but the White-rumped was nowhere to be seen. The Deeps can be a difficult place to work as there are so many creeks and banks that are just not visible, so you can image how pleased we were when the bird suddenly dropped onto a spit in the middle of The Deeps. The bird was quite distant, and there was a fair bit of heat haze so the shots below are nothing more than record shots, but hopefully you get the idea.

White-rumped Sandpiper - The Deeps, Farlington Marshes
White-rumped Sandpiper - The Deeps, Farlington Marshes
White-rumped Sandpiper - The Deeps, Farlington Marshes

This was the 19th record of the species in Hampshire; birds were recorded almost annually during the 1980's but in recent years the average is every 5 - 6 years. This was the sixth record for the species at Farlington Marshes, which is not surprising given the importance of the site for wading birds.
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