Saturday, 26 May 2012

Retrap Great Spotted Woodpecker in the Garden

I had a few minutes spare this morning before heading off to a family wedding so I opened the 12 metre net in the garden. There was a bit of a stiff breeze and so birds were seeing the net, except that is for one Great Spotted Woodpecker. In typical fashion, as soon as I approached the net it began screaming, and didn't stop until it was safely placed within the bird bag, and then started again when I took it out.....not sure  the neighbours would have been to pleased!

Adult Male Great Spotted Woodpecker

The bird was a retrap and therefore it gave me the opportunity to test my ageing skills with this species...and so here goes. Firstly it was possible to sex the bird by the presence of red feathers on the nape, this bird was a male. Moult wise, adults undergo a complete post breeding moult which begins in June - mid July and finishing in mid September to late October. Juveniles undergo a partial moult which includes body and primaries, and some (or sometimes all) upper wing coverts. Therefore it is usually possible to see contrast between old and brown unmoulted wing coverts and newer glossy ones in juveniles, whereas adult wing coverts are uniform, although they can retain the odd primary covert.

Adult Great Spotted Woodpecker Wing

A close examination of the wing feathers revealed no contrast in the greater or primary coverts, but the tips of the primaries were extremely abraded, which is a typical feature of young birds, since their feathers are not as hard wearing. Although that is not a feature mentioned in Baker (1993), for this species.

Adult Great Spotted Woodpecker Primary Coverts

Given the uniform age of the wing feathers it appeared that this bird was an adult, and so to the moment of truth. I looked back through my ringing book and couldn't find this ring number, so got the next oldest book out and there it was, originally ringed on 6th December 2008. This bird was ringed as a juvenile male three and a half years previously, and has not been recaptured since, until today.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Lapwing Chicks and Brown Long-eared Bats

It has been a while since my last post due to two reasons, firstly I have been away guiding an Ornitholidays bird watching trip to Turkey, and secondly, since I have been back I have been snowed under with work. But this weekend I finally got the chance to get out and do some of the things that I like to do.

My weekend began with a visit to a local site that supports a few pairs of breeding Lapwing. I have seen a few good sized Lapwing chicks during the course of my work recently, and so armed with my ringing kit, binoculars and a very enthusiastic trainee we set off. On arriving at the site it was obvious that things might be a bit harder than usual, since there were very few livestock grazing, and subsequently the vegetation was much higher than usual. Nonetheless, we persevered and soon found three pairs of Lapwing, widely spread out across the field. They say that patience is a virtue, and it was certainly required for this task, as we settled ourselves down to watch the field. The first chick we saw was right at the back of the field and as I walked towards it, it vanished over the hill from view.

The second chick though was much easier. As I walked towards it the parents uttered a short sharp alarm call and it sat tight, but I had a fix on its location. As I stealthily approached I could see it sat tight in the grass and just walked up and picked it up.

Juvenile Lapwing

This chick was a good size, weighing in at a healthy 145 grams.......

Juvenile Lapwing
                                                                         ........and looking at the length of its primary feathers, and the extent of feather protruding from the sheath, it won't be long before this bird is on the wing. There must have been at least 30 corvids feeding in the same field, so you have to give credit to the parents for managing to raise a young bird in a field with so many potential predators.

Juvenile Lapwing

After processing this bird we carried on searching for a while, but were on a bit of a tight deadline so unfortunately had to leave. Our next site was Hook Barn, to check up on the Brown Long-eared Bat colony. As many will be aware, this spring has been an odd one weather wise, so we were intrigued to see what the bats were doing. As we entered the barn and looked up, four bats were immediately visible, and after a few minutes looking around we had found 10 Brown Long-eared Bats.

Brown Long-eared Bat

But interestingly we also found four Common Pipistrelles, and a bat of the Myotis genus, which was tucked away right up in the apex. The pipistrelle bats have usually left the barn by now and returned to their maternity roosts, guess the weather must be affecting them. It was difficult to get a view of the Myotis bat, but one thing we could see was its large and hairy feet, suggesting that it was a Daubenton's Bat. We have not recorded this species previously in the barn, so we will have to try and either get a better view or leave a remote bat detector in the barn for a while and record its calls, lets hope it stays around.
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