Saturday, 27 April 2013

In Search of the Barley Bird....

After a couple of days wandering around Botley Wood looking for common nightingales, the aim today was to try and catch some. The plan was to start at 6 AM, but after what can only be described as a slightly tardy start by Izzy, we eventually started at 6:45. It had been cold overnight and with the exception of blackcaps, chiffchaffs and willow warblers there was not much in song. 

We started at the first territory, and were soon listening to, and watching a male nightingale singing. That was expected, but the surprise was that this bird appeared to be paired, because a second bird was working its way to and fro along the hedgerow 'wheeting' and 'croaking'. Unfortunately neither bird ventured into the net.

Adult Male Nightingale

Our next stop was the territory where I had managed good views of a singing male last week. This bird was again silent, but we could hear more 'wheeting' and 'croaking', perhaps indicating that this bird was also paired. I knew that this bird was unringed and soon we had captured and ringed it. The bird was an adult male with a wing of 85mm and a weight of 21.8 grams. I have been studying the species since 1998 and as part of the study I colour ring birds so that I can observe individuals in the field. 

Adult Male Nightingale - looking very dapper with his new colour rings

We waited in the hope that we might catch a female but unfortunately we failed. We packed away our nets and headed off in search of the next territory past one of the on-site ponds. Great crested newts breed at this site so we stopped to check for any evidence and soon found loads of leaves folded over in the distinctive newt way. Unfolding, one of the leaves we were able to confirm that inside were the eggs of great crested newt. At this point I should point out that you need to be licenced by Natural England to disturb great crested newts, and both Izzy and I are, and so we were not committing any offences.

We pressed on and went to check out an area of land which is not part of the reserve, but we have permission to enter. As were approached the area we immediately heard a drumming woodpecker, which sounded more prolonged and rapid for great spotted. We hurried to the area and soon found a male lesser spotted woodpecker drumming on a dead tree.

Male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

This is a very difficult species to see these days, but one that I have seen at Botley Wood before, but only once. This bird was a great performer and gave us some prolonged views before flying off in a northerly direction.

Male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

We spent a while searching the area looking for suitable nesting trees and a female but unfortunately we had no joy. Nonetheless we were so pleased to have found this bird, in fact I was planning an early start to look for them at Manor Farm Country Park tomorrow...maybe I will have a lie in!

Male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Whilst waiting for the bird to return Izzy started looking beneath some wooden cladding on a small shed, and before long she had found some bat droppings and a roosting pipistrelle bat....what a day!

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