Sunday, 9 September 2012

Titchfield Haven - Bird Ringing Update 9th September 2012

The weekend began with a fantastic sunrise over Titchfield Haven, a bright orange sky, no wind and mist hanging in the valley, what better way could there be to start a weekend. It was feeling very autumnal on Saturday, and it was not long before the nets were sagging due to the weight of water from the heavy dew. Ringing was slow to start, with only a handful of birds captured on the first round, and a paltry four Grasshopper Warblers was a disappointment. A ringing session carried out on Monday (3rd September 2012), had resulted in 46 Grasshopper Warblers being ringed, which is the second highest daily total ever for this species in September, the highest being 55 on 12th September 2010. Looks like this species might have peaked now.

Dawn 8th September 2012, Titchfield Haven

By contrast this week was the time for the Sylvia warbler to take centre stage, and Saturday 8th began with a dozen or so Blackcaps, and a couple of Common Whitethroats, but for the second time this year the star bird was a juvenile Lesser Whitethroat. We watched this bird in the field working its way along a line of sallows before flying straight into our net.

Juvenile Lesser Whitethroat

As the sun rose and insect activity increased so did the level of bird activity, and we had soon captured 23 Sedge Warblers, 19 Reed Warblers, 27 Blackcaps and a new Cetti's Warbler. Willow Warblers are still trickling through, we caught four new birds and one Chiffchaff, for comparison.

Willow Warbler (left) and Chiffchaff (right)

We ended the day having caught over 80 birds, which was a great result given the slow start. Sunday 9th September was a little more breezy, and therefore there was less mist. The nets were dry, a little more cloud, but still great ringing conditions. Today was one of scheduled event days, this time the local Wildlife Explorer group. It is always nice to see so many enthusiastic children getting up so early to see wildlife; no pressure but it was down to us to keep them occupied.

Wildlife Explorers at Titchfield Haven

Once again things were very quiet to start and our first round produced only a handful of birds, but it did include five more Grasshopper Warblers and a few Sedge and Reed Warblers. The children were great and despite the lack of birds were very attentive and enthusiastic with what we caught, even when it was a moulting adult Dunnock and a Great Tit. We persevered, and added a couple more Common Whitethroats and single Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Goldcrest, before decided to try and catch some hirundines.  

Mixed Flock of Barn Swallow, House Martin and sand Martin

There was a large, mixed flock of hirundines swarming around the sallows, occasionally coming low over the reeds, and it was not long before we had caught our first, then second, then third Barn Swallow. The Wildlife Explorers had never seen a Barn Swallow in the hand, and were really enjoying the birds, even more so when we pulled a House Martin out of a bag.

Juvenile House Martin

It has been a couple of year since I last ringed a House Martin, but I must admit I think they are cracking birds, that is when not covered with flat flies (their resident parasites).

Juvenile House Martin

This bird was a juvenile and had pale tips to the wing feathers and the tertials, and the upperparts were generally dull and not gloossy.

Juvenile House Martin

Interestingly, House Martins have feathered legs and feet, which I was once told was due to the fact that the species wintered at high altitude and therefore needed to insulate their legs against the cold, but I have never seen this in any published literature...but its a great story. 

Feathered Leg of the House Martin

Sunday finished with only 42 birds captured, of which one was a control Sedge Warbler and a very happy Wildlife Explorer group.

Overall the week had been mixed, with 3rd and 8th September being the busiest days, with over 80 birds being caught on each. A total of 65 Grasshopper Warblers, 62 Sedge Warblers, 55 Reed Warblers and 44 Blackcaps were ringed, along with a scattering of other species, including another Lesser Whitethroat and two Common Redstarts, one of which was a juvenile male. 

Juvenile Male Redstart 3rd September (B S Duffin)

To catch three Common Redstart in one year is exceptional for the haven, we usually only catch one a year.

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