Sunday, 11 September 2011

Titchfield Haven Bird Ringing - Early September Update

Well, after a record breaking month for some species during August, we were anticipating the continuation of large numbers of birds during September....and then.......the rain and wind arrived!!! Despite the onset of strong winds and heavy rain, to date we have still managed five morning sessions and one evening session, and amassed a total of 495 birds of 17 species. As expected, Blackcap numbers increased with a healthy 100 new birds captured, 40 on 1st was the peak day, which coincidentally was the peak day for Grasshopper Warblers also, with 40 new birds also. Subsequently, however the numbers of birds moving has dropped off considerably, Blackcaps have struggled to a peak of 22 on 4th, whilst Sedge and Reed Warblers only managed peaks of 23 and 24, respectively, with the monthly totals equaling 61 and 55, respectively.

Juvenile Blackcap Head

I mentioned in the end of August update, that we had caught our first Lesser Whitethroat of the year in the beginning of September, well we only had to wait until 4th September to catch our second. Whitethroat numbers have also continued to build, with 22 new birds captured during September to date,  142 in total for the year,  an excellent, and record, annual total for the site. Garden Warbler numbers began to tail off, with only seven new birds captured during September to date, but a record 82 for the year, and Willow Warbler numbers also tailed off as expected, with only five new birds captured during September so far, and a total for the year of 122.

Juvenile Lesser Whitethroat

The Grasshopper Warbler has proven to be the second most numerous species captured during September and the year to date, with 96 new birds captured during September, and an amazing total of 867 for the year. Greedily, we were hoping to reach the magic 1000 new birds for the year, but given the appalling weather during the early part of September, that is now looking unlikely!!!!

Juvenile Barn Swallow

Our evening ringing session was carried out on 2nd September, it was a glorious evening, no wind, clear skies and an amazing sunset, and so at short notice, we opted to have a go at capturing the hirundines roosting within the reedbed, and it was worth the effort!!! In total we captured 98 new birds, 84 Barn Swallows, 12 Sand Martins, a Yellow Wagtail and the first of the aforementioned Lesser Whitethroats. 

Daubenton's Bat

During our ringing activities, we regularly catch bats in our mist nets, with a majority of those captured being bats of the pipistrelle species Pipistrellus sp. Being the experienced, and licenced bat worker it is usually my responsibility to extract them, so on 3rd September, when we caught a Daubenton's bat, it was left to me to extract it. This species has been known to carry rabies so I took particular care whilst extracting it to ensure I was not bitten!!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Bunny Meadows, Warsash - In Search of Wading Birds

After the heavy midday rain had passed, the clouds cleared and the mid-afternoon sun warmed the air, I grabbed my scope and camera and headed down to Bunny Meadows in search of waders. The tide was rising and I was hoping to find some colour-ringed birds as they were pushed up onto the islands to roost. Black-headed gulls were already settling down to roost on the highest points of the salt marsh, all of them wearing their winter plumage.

Adult Winter Black-headed Gull

Northern Lapwings and Redshank were also settled amongst the tussocky vegetation, with a handful of Oystercatchers. Suddenly a flock of around twenty Dunlin appeared and flew directly towards me, and landed on the shingle shore only five meters away. Scanning through the flock my attention was immediately drawn to six slightly larger birds, with slightly down curved bills - Curlew Sandpipers.

Mixed Flock of Dunlins and Curlew Sandpipers

Despite the large number of people walking along the track, the flock settled on the beach, some roosting whilst others fed.

Dunlins and Curlew Sandpipers

The Curlew Sands provided some excellent views, with the occasional individual flapping its wings to show off an obvious white rump.

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper

Curlew Sandpipers are slightly larger than Dunlin, and have a longer down curved bill, which is finely tipped. Juvenile birds have uniform scaly patterned feathers on the back, and have white under-parts, with a peach wash on the breast.

Juvenile Curlew Sandpipers

A bold white supercilium is present, and the bill and legs are black. Unfortunately, it was not long before an over eager dog ran along the foreshore and flushed the flock, and the Curlew Sands headed south whilst the Dunlin flew north.

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper

Large numbers of waders were present further along the track including 5 Greenshank, 9 Grey Plover, 16 Redshank and 6 Black-tailed Godwit. The Godwits were all adult birds in winter plumage, with their plain brown-grey breast and upper-parts.

Black-tailed Godwits and Black-headed Gulls

Single Eurasian Curlew and Whimbrel were soon added to the species tally, and another lone Curlw Sand was located feeding with a flock of 15 Dunlin before disappearing into the vegetation......

Roosting Black-headed Gulls and Solitary Whimbrel (centre)
 .......and as the tide continued to rise 14 Little Egrets dropped onto the salt marsh to roost.

Little Egrets and Grey Herons

All in all it was a great couple of hours birding, which ended with 11 species of wader and two species of heron, unfortunately none of them were wearing colour-rings.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Titchfield Haven Bird Ringing - End of August Update

By the end of August we had managed 13 ringing sessions and captured a total of 2113 new birds of 17 species. Combined with the July total, that brings our total for the year to a respectable 2996 birds, to date. The August total was dominated by two species, Sedge Warbler with 967 new birds and of course Grasshopper Warbler with 504 new birds, bringing the respective autumn totals for both to 1306 and 771. With the whole of September and October to go the question has to be, can we catch 1000 Grasshopper Warblers in a single year? Well, I will keep you posted!!

Other species that appear to have had a good breeding season are Common Whitethroat, with 95 new birds captured in August, and Garden Warbler, with 64 new birds captured. The combined totals of these two species, as of the end of August, stands at 120 and 75, respectively, both new record totals for the site. Blackcap numbers started to increase towards the end of the month as expected, with 31 new birds captured on 29th August, and a total for the month of 92, 129 in total to date.

First Year Male Blackcap, Titchfield Haven

But whilst some species appear to have been doing very well, others appear to be struggling. The number of Cetti's Warblers captured this year remained extremely low, with only 4 new birds captured in August, 11 in total to date this year. Two consecutive cold winters has undoubtedly had an effect on this species. But Eurasian Reed Warbler numbers have also remained very low, 229 new birds were captured during August, 338 new birds this year.

Reed Warbler, Titchfield Haven

Being a species that migrates south for the winter, and away from our recent harsh winters, the reason for such low numbers is unclear, but maybe it is simply a result of a lack of food during the breeding season. At Titchfield Haven, there has been a distinct lack of aphids in the reedbeds which must have had an effect on juvenile survival rates.

Willow Warbler numbers were steady during August with the month ending on 80 new birds, bringing the total for the year to date 117, the peak day was 17 on 2nd August, whereas Eurasian Chiffchaff numbers were low, with only 20 new birds captured, but then Chiffchaff numbers don't normally peak until September.

Juvenile Lesser Whitethroat

September began with a flurry, and produced our first Lesser Whitethroat of the year, but I will save the remaining figures for a future post.
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