Friday, 20 September 2013

Brown Shrike - Hook with Warsash, Hampshire

Today the news broke of a probable brown shrike Lanius cristatus just to the east of the Hook with Warsash, Hampshire County Council reserve. The bird was originally found at around 10:30 and reported at a red-backed shrike L. collurio, but by 12:30 it was being suggested as brown. I have seen one of these before in the UK and many on my travels around India, but this bird was 10 minutes from my front door and a first for Hampshire (that's if its accepted and not re-identified again!).

The bird was showing well most of the time, albeit quite distantly, which was not ideal for getting photos (although I did grab a couple of record shots). Given the birds distance, the debate of its identity initially, and the difficulty generally presented by shrikes, I thought I would spend my time watching it. On first impressions the bird looked good for brown shrike, with generally brown upperparts, which lacked any strong barring as red-backed, and faint barring on the underparts, the flanks were washed buff. The mask was very well defined and extended all the way to the bill, which appeared quite heavy, although with nothing for comparison that was a bit subjective. Structurally the bird also looked very good for brown with a long slim tail, the primary projection was short and the tertials were dark centred.

Brown Shrike - Hook with Warsash, Hampshire

The bird was performing very well and appeared quite chat like, continually cocking its tail. It spent most of its time feeding along a length of barbed wire fence, regularly dropping to the ground to grab something before returning to its perch. As more people arrived the consensus of opinion was that the bird was indeed a brown shrike, and based on what I had seen I was fully agreed.

Brown Shrike - Hook with Warsash

After watching the bird for a good hour and half it was time to head off, hopefully it will hang around as I would like to get the chance to get some better photos, apologies for those posted so far.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Titchfield Haven Bird Ringing - Mid September 2013 Update

It is now mid way through September and the ringing season is progressing well. We have tried to maintain our usual level of effort, but on occasion it has not been possible to open all the nets due to a lack of man power. Nonetheless the sample of birds caught has followed the trend set earlier in the season. Sedge warbler numbers are still very high, and almost equal to the number of birds caught in 2011, which was our record year for that species. Reed warblers also seem to have had a good year, with the total at 551, the third highest total ever and only 26 birds behind the second highest. Grasshopper warblers numbers continue to built; the total of 293 to date, seems low but it is still already the sixth highest total for this species.

Summary of Ringing Totals 2010 - 2013

Willow warbler numbers have improved after a slow start, which is perhaps an indication of a late breeding season. The number of birds ringed is on a par with those of 2011 and is up on last year which is good to see. Garden warbler numbers are also good this year and are up to the level of 2010, but not those of 2011. Whitethroat numbers have reached more than 100, which is only the fourth time since 1973.

Tabular Summary of Ringing Totals 2010 - 2013

Chiffchaff numbers remain quite low, but again this may be and indication of a late breeding season, similarly this may be the case with blackcap. Cetti's warbler numbers have been very good and indicate a good breeding season in the ringing area.

Wryneck Jynx torquilla (Barry Duffin)

As well as the more common species it has also been a good year for a few of the rarer ones. A wryneck trapped 7th September was only the 3rd ringed on the reserve, the others being in 21st September 2003 and 15th September 1974. Four spotted flycatchers have been ringed this year, this equals the most ringed in a season and six lesser whitethroats in a season is the highest since 2008.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis (Barry Duffin)

A single tree pipit was only the ninth trapped at the reserve. I have previously posted pictures on this blog of leucistic birds since they can often look quite stunning. The barn swallow below, was trapped on 21st August. This is the second leucistic swallow I have seen in recent years, it would be interesting to know what colour the plumage is as this bird moults to its adult plumage.

Leucistic Juvenile Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica (Barry Duffin)

So far this year a total of 2973 new birds have been ringed of 31 species, 178 birds have been retrapped including 24 controls. The controls come from three species sedge and reed warbler and blackcap, three have been foreign controls.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Castlehaven, Isle of Wight - Moth Trapping

This last weekend (5th - 8th September) was spent on the Isle of Wight hoping for a well-earned rest and some good birding and mothing. The main purpose of the visit was to go to The Bestival to soak up some of the atmosphere, enjoy a few beers and see a few bands…..but I won’t bore you with that. We arrived at our caravan at Castlehaven at around 20:30 on Thursday evening (5th September), so my first priority was to get my Robinson moth trap on. The weather during the day had been hot and sunny and the overnight temperatures were due to stay warm so I was hopeful of a good catch.

Jersey Tiger Euplagia quadripunctaria

I popped out to check on the trap before turning in, and it was buzzing. Moths were all over it, the side of the caravan and the nearby bushes. With so many moths around I daren’t open the trap and so spent my time looking around the outside. The first and most obvious species was Jersey tiger, a species I have not trapped in my garden before, but have seen at Titchfield Haven and previously on the European mainland. The other species recorded included green carpet, dingy footman, brimstone moth, oak hook tip and a single angle shades.

Male Four-spotted Footman Lithosia quadra

Female Four-spotted Footman

I woke early and ventured out to check the trap, armed with a handful of pots and a cup of tea. The trap was rammed and by the end I had recorded 343 moths of 66 species. The highlights were two Jersey tigers, 45 whitepoints, 37 setaceous hebrew characters, three four-spotted footman (2 males and 1 female), a cypress pug, six mullein waves, three dark swordgrass, one Webb’s wainscot, a very large dun-bar and a feathered gothic.

The temperature dropped during Friday, and subsequently the moth numbers dropped too. This time we set two traps, a 15w actinic and my 150w MV Robinson. Heavy overnight showers and a moderate south-westerly breeze were not welcome, but by mid morning the sun was out. The MV produced 66 moths of 25 species, with the highlights being crescent dart, a species I have not seen before and another Webb’s wainscot. Interestingly, the actinic trapped 53 moths of 25 species also, but the species mix was very different. It included a broad-bordered yellow underwing, one diamond back, two dark swordgrass, one rush veneer and a male four spotted footman.

Crescent Dart Agrotis trux lunigera

After the traps had been emptied we went for a stroll around St Catherines Point in search of birds. We were hoping for some migrants but a blackcap and whinchat was all that was on offer. At sea there wasn't much going on either, and despite prolonged scanning we only saw a few Balearic shearwaters, a dark phase arctic skua, a few fulmar and an adult Mediterranean gull.

The weather overnight on the 6th/7th was still cool and heavy overnight showers made mothing questionable, but undeterred we progressed. Both the MV and the actinic were again put on and we hoped for the best. The MV was again the most productive trap and produced 122 moths of 45 species. The highlights were cypress pug, pretty chalk carpet, single rush veneer and dark sworgrass, and an immaculate clifden nonpareil. This is a species that I have never seen before and found it difficult to contain my excitement at catching one.

Clifden nonpareil Catocala fraxini - This moth was immaculate and very fresh
it is hard to believe it could be in this condition after migrating from mainland Europe

Clifden nonpareil - The under wing on this moth is quite stunning.

Clifden nonpareil

Clifden nonpareil is an immigrant and transitory resident in the UK. It has one generation and is on the wing through mid-August to mid-October. The larvae feed mainly on aspen but in mainland Europe they have been recorded on other poplars.

By comparison the actinic produced 122 moths of 45 species. The highlights being one Jersey tiger, a gallium carpet, one rush veneer, 17 setaceous hebrew characters and 14 white-points.

Clifden nonpareil Underwing - in contrast to the previous moth, this individual
was very tatty suggesting that it was a different moth

We had a pre-dawn start on Monday morning in order to get back in time for work and therefore had to check the trap in the dark. We did not record the numbers of moths, just the number of species in the MV only. In total we recorded 22 species, the unquestionable highlight was another clifden nonpareil. This individual was not in the same condition as the previous nights moth, and therefore the presumption was that it was a different individual….amazing two in two nights!

Overall in the two traps, and despite the weather, we caught 674 moths of 80 species, including several migrants and a few species that I had not seen before.
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