Sunday, 23 January 2011

Manor Farm Country Park, Hampshire - January 2011

Well here we are heading towards the end of January 2011 and the freezing temperatures would lead you to believe that it was still the middle of winter. Well I guess strictly speaking it still is, although the lengthening days and hazel catkins always give me optimism that spring is just around the corner!

Hazel Catkins ©T. D. Codlin

Bird ringing this month at Manor Farm has been limited to just three sessions with a sum total of 53 new birds and 25 re-trapped birds captured. This total included 15 different species with the star bird being a cracking male bullfinch, although goldcrest, greenfinch, redwing and a single female sparrowhawk made up an excellent supporting cast. 

A flock of around 30 greenfinch's are currently wintering at the site; they are coming down to the ground to feed on discarded animal feed. A greenfinch that I captured in February 2003, was recaptured a year later at Edenbridge in Kent, 99 kilometres to the east, hopefully some of this years birds will provide some more interesting data, although only four birds were captured in January, so I guess this would be fairly unlikely.

Male Greenfinch ©T. D. Codlin

The target species during the winter months over the last few years has been the redwing. A group of us have been capturing and colour-ringing birds in order to study how they move around during the winter months and whether the same birds stay in the same flocks. Birds are ringed with a metal ring and a single coloured one on the right leg, and two coloured rings on the left leg; all on the tarsus. Success has been limited to date, with several birds observed at the three ringing locations, but one bird ringed at Southampton Common in the centre of Southampton, was sighted in Alton, Hampshire - so keep your eye peeled and let me know if you see one.

Head Shot Showing Delicate Patterning of Redwing at Manor Farm ©T. D. Codlin  

A species which has been highly conspicuous this winter is the robin. Last year only ten birds were captured at the site, whereas seven different birds were captured in January at Manor Farm, with less effort. A similar pattern emerged in my suburban garden in Fareham, where during December 2010, 13 different robins were captured.

First-year Robin Captured at Manor Farm ©T. D. Codlin

The longevity record for the robin based on bird ringing data is 8 years 4 months and 30 days, at Manor Form the record is 5 years 106 days, so a little way to go yet.

I always find it difficult to know when to close my nets and head home, usually its when the numbers of birds captured slows down and the lure of a hearty breakfast beckons, and January 22nd was no exception. However, no sooner had we packed up, two hawfinch's dropped into the ringing area.

Classic Silhouette of a Hawfinch at Manor Farm on 22nd January ©T. D. Codlin

This is the second time I have recorded this species wintering at the site in over 30 years, the last (and first) being the winter of 2008/9. It is always nice to see such great birds at the site where I began birding many years ago, hopefully if these birds hang around I will get some better pictures to share.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sparrows in the North-east of England - 14th January 2011

Tree sparrows are a difficult species to see in Hampshire these days and so when I catch up with them in other parts of the country they are a species to enjoy. And so it was, that when a work trip, to carry out a wintering bird survey in the north-east of England was required, to a site where I knew the species to be present, I had no hesitation in going.

And this visit did not disappoint....

Tree Sparrow ©T. D. Codlin

The gardens at the entrance to the site have several bird feeders up and it is possible to get some really close views of the species using them, tree sparrows included. These stocky little birds are smaller than their close cousin, the house sparrow, and can be separated by the presence of the distinctive brown crown and dark cheek spot.

Waiting in Anticipation for a Refill ©T. D. Codlin

Action Shot of Tree Sparrow leaving Feeder ©T. D. Codlin

Male and female birds have identical plumages and therefore cannot be separated in the field. Juvenile birds often have a duller plumage in the winter; I did not see any juveniles on this visit so I hope that it is not a sign of them declining at the site.

Tree Sparrow Relaxing ©T. D. Codlin

House sparrows are also present at the site, and share the same feeders. By comparison this species has a more scruffy appearance and the male birds have a brighter plumage than females. Male birds also show a dark throat and bib, but lack the dark cheek spot of the tree sparrows.

Male House Sparrow ©T. D. Codlin

 I have been studying a population of house sparrows at a site in Hampshire since 2000, by way of a Retrapping Adults for Survival project. During that time I have captured and ringed 586 birds   and retrapped 411, the oldest being 4 years 267 days after its original capture date.

Male House Sparrow ©T. D. Codlin

There are many different theories about the decline of the house sparrow, but at my study site I think that the increase in the local sparrowhawk population is having a major effect. Sparrows are not the most agile of species and use the shelter of dense hedgerow for protection; the loss of these hedgerows makes them easy pickings for sparrowhawks.

I hope that house sparrows don't go the same way as tree sparrows have in Hampshire...

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Hurst Spit and Cut Bridge, Hampshire - 8th Jan 2011

With sunny skies and a moderate south westerly breeze it seemed like the ideal time to venture down to Hurst Spit and the adjacent stubble fields at Cut Bridge. There have been records of lapland buntings and a snow bunting in the area and so with no other plans for the day, I though I would make the journey from east to west Hampshire. As I arrived I was greeted by a chorus of turnstones chattering away on their high tide roosts; the light was excellent for photography so I couldn't resist taking a shot.

Five Ruddy Turnstones on Rock at Base of Hurst Spit ©T. D. Codlin 

The walk along the spit, to posts 12 to 15, which was where the snow bunting had been reported, was fairly uneventful, although three red breasted mergansers and a handful of dark-bellied brent geese loitered in the sheltered waters east of the spit. A mixed flock of linnets and skylarks, were feeding on the sheltered eastern slope, and as they took flight the lone snow bunting joined them...instant success! Unfortunately, due to a combination of the birds feeding on the shaded eastern slope of the spit and the snow buntings flighty nature, I was unable to get any photos... so I settled down to watch it.

Lapland Bunting, Cut Bridge ©T. D. Codlin 

I arrived back at the car and decided to have a quick coffee before commencing my search for the Lappy's! But as I opened my car door I became aware of movement amongst the stubble....and would you believe the first bird I saw was a Lapland Bunting. There have been records of over 14 birds in the area but I was happy with just one....and then another appeared!! In fact the more I looked at the field the more there appeared to be...six was my final score.

Lapland Bunting, Cut Bridge ©T. D. Codlin

The remains of the crop and supplementary food thrown out by birders has proved to be a welcome gift for these wintering birds. The Lapland Buntings were joined by a host of other species including chaffinch's, and meadow and rock pipits. The lapland buntings and meadow pipits seemed fairly relaxed about the crowd of birders who had now gathered.

Meadow Pipit, Cut Bridge ©T. D. Codlin

Whereas other bird species were lying low, and sheltering amongst the dead vegetation, occasional sitting up the view their surroundings, and giving me the chance to grab a shot, as with this rock pipit.

Rock Pipit, Cut Bridge ©T. D. Codlin

This Reed Bunting was ringed on its right leg, I could read that it was a British Trust for Ornithology's ring, but I just could not see the full number....never mind!

Reed Bunting, Cut Bridge ©T. D. Codlin

Saturday, 8 January 2011

My First Post!

Well here we are, the start of a New Year and my first post on my new blog!! Over the last few years I have followed various bloggers and enjoyed much of what some have had to say, so I decided to have a go myself!!

Welcome to The Barley Bird-er. 

Since my early years I have been interested in wildlife with my main interest being birds; although I am fascinated by the whole of the natural world. The common nightingale has been the focus of my attention since the early 1980's, when I got a job at a farm in the south of Hampshire; common nightingales were abundant in the boundary hedgerows surrounding the fields. Since those early encounters I have been fortunate to have been able to study the common nightingale at close range through bird ringing studies; it is this fascination with the species which led me to chose the name of this blog. There are several definitions of the term Barley Bird, some suggest wryneck or a small bird such as siskin or nightingale, I like to think that it is the latter......

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