Sunday, 21 April 2013

More Birding on the Patch and Beyond...

With the weather set fair this weekend I was hoping to get in some spring ringing, but unfortunately that didn't happen. Instead I spent the time birding at various locations within my patch and on Sunday (April 21st) I ventured further afield to Hampshire County Councils Hook with Warsash Local Nature Reserve. Saturday began with another stroll around Botley Wood, every visit this week has yielded new species, but not today. Willow warblers, whitethroats, chiffchaffs and blackcaps, all seem settled on territories, and a fly over raven was a good record, but the best news was the return of my second nightingale of the year.

Male Nightingale - Botley Wood

I have been colour-ringing nightingales at this site since 1998 and so always spend a bit of time trying to track down a bird when I hear one. After a bit of of stalking I was able to track down a male in full song. Initially it didn't show its legs, but after a bit of maneuvering I got a good view. Unfortunately this bird was not colour-ringed, but its good to see new birds still returning to the site.

Male Nightingale - Unfortunately not a colour-ringed bird

My next stop was Manor Farm Country Park. I had been asked to do a dawn chorus walk on Sunday 21st and so thought I would go and have a look around to plan my route. But no visit to Manor farm would be complete without checking the resident house sparrows for colour-rings. After a couple of hours, and some very patient observing I had manged just two birds...not what you would call a raging success.

Male House Sparrow - Manor Farm Country Park

My patience was rewarded in a way though, as whilst watching a couple of sparrows I noted a couple of robins carrying food. Pretending not to watch, I was soon able to track down the nest to a metal jug hanging in a garden shed.

This Robin is clearly not an arachnophobic since it had a pretty big
Tegenaria sp. spider in its beak

The brood was snuggled down in the bottom of the jug, out of sight of predators and in the dry and warm.

Happy family Snuggled in their Nest

Fortunately, I had brought my ringing kit with me and quickly put a ring on each of the brood of four before moving on. 

Robins certainly do look better with Feathers

Ringing birds in the nest (pulli) is a valuable resource since it provides the precise age of a bird and its place of origin, and therefore in the case of longevity and dispersal studies it can be extremely useful. I will be watching this brood over the next week to see how they get on.

A handful of Robins

After a couple of hours at Manor Farm my next stop was Curbridge. I had timed my arrival with the falling tide, and by the time I got there it was pretty low. Several wader species were present, including two common sandpipers, 10 common redshank, two oystercatchers and nine greenshanks. Greenshank numbers tend to be at their highest in the spring at this site, with two or three birds usually spending the whole winter.

Three Greenshanks and and Oystercatcher

Whilst scanning the waders I noticed another medium sized wader on the mud and was pleased to see my first whimbrel of the year. The number of whimbrels present at Curbridge in the spring has previously reached over 100, but in recent years those numbers have dropped off, and now they rarely number more than 20 or 30 individuals, at any one time. 

Sunrise over the River Hamble

Sunday began with, what can only be described as, a ridiculously early start. I was up at 03:45 and at Manor Farm by 04:30, but I was not alone. The enthusiastic attendees for my dawn chorus walk arrived not long after me, and before long skylarks began to sing, along with little and tawny owls. Before long blackbirds, song thrushes and robins had joined in and the dawn chorus was in full song. We took a route around the park, and more by luck than judgement, were perfectly placed to watch the sun come up over the River Hamble. Great, blue and coal tits soon joined in the chorus, as did nuthatches, green and great spotted woodpeckers. A lone whimbrel fed on the inter-tidal and three oystercatchers flew overhead, kleeping as they went. Every year this dawn chorus walk seems to coincide with great weather and this year was just amazing, however hard it is to get up in the morning...on a day like this it is always worth it just to watch the sun come up.

Sunrise over the River Hamble

After a well deserved afternoon nap, a nipped out for a bit of of patch birding. There have been a couple of little gulls at Hook with Warsash over the last couple of days, so that seemed like a good place to start. I arrived in time to see both birds feeding over the lake along with an Arctic tern, which was an unexpected surprise. Both of the little gulls were 1st winter birds, one had a complete tail band and one just two dark tips on the outer tail feathers, so the two birds were easily separable. They fed over the lake for about 30 minutes before heading off north and up The Solent.

First Winter Little Gull

Other species present included lapwings, gadwalls, swallows, little egrets, redshanks, black-headed, common and herring  gulls, three oystercatchers a curlew and a very obliging whitethroat.
Common Whitethroat

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