Friday, 28 February 2014

Mothing is finally getting going!

Following my first mothing session of the year on the 20th February, I have put the trap out on several other occasions this week. The species list has been steadily growing, as have the numbers of individuals. On the 23rd February I caught 22 moths, 19 of which were Common Quakers, with single Clouded Drab, Chestnut and Satellite making up the supporting cast. On the evening of the 25th February the temperature dropped and resulted in just five Common Quakers, and single Chestnut and Satellite.

Acleris literana 

The trap at work has also gone out this week and overnight on the 26th Feb 16 moths were caught, 13 Common Quaker, an Oak Beauty, Grey Shoulder-knot and the micro moth Acleris literana. A. literana historically was found in one classic locality in the county of Hampshire, the New Forest, but in recent years it has turned up in small numbers in the south of the County after hibernation. It is single brooded with adults recorded from mid-July until May, hibernating through the winter as the individual above has no doubt done. The species is apparently very variable, but this individual is perfectly camouflaged for resting on lichen. A literana is not a species that I remember encountering before you have to admit it is a cracking moth that looks just like a miniature Merveille du jour.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A blizzard of gulls as the flood water recedes - February 2014

The water level on the River Meon has been steadily receding over the last couple of days and this has resulted in meadows being transformed into large areas of exposed mud. The wetland habitat left looks ideal for visiting waders and with reports of Green Sandpipers on other river valleys in the county, I have been checking the fields regularly in the hope of adding one to the patch list. 

Mixed flock of Black-headed, Common and Mediterranean Gulls

There has not been much of note most days, but today was different. As I approached the river I noticed a large flock of gulls feeding on the newly exposed mud, many more than the usual 30 or so. Quickly scanning through the flock it appeared that it consisted of mainly Black-headed and Common Gulls, but then I heard the distinctive mewing call of a Mediterranean Gull. Scanning through the flock again it was not long before I had picked up four Med Gulls in with an estimated 500+ Black-headed and around 100 Common Gulls.

Two Med Gulls with Common and Black-heads

The Meds gulls were starting to come into breeding plumage and so were exhibiting nearly full jet black hoods. By contrast most of the Black-heads were still in winter plumage, and where they were not, their dark brown hoods and smaller size made the meds stand out. The whole flock was quite jumpy and would occasionally take flight, the mewing call of the Meds stood out from the cacophony produced by the whole flock. The Meds stood out again in flight due to there all white wing tips, can you see the one in the picture below?

Can you see the Med Gull?

I did not have my scope with me and so was unable to work my way through the flock in detail but hopefully the birds will hang around for a few days. Before heading off I had a quick scan of the nearby pond and was pleased to see a pair of Shoveler. These birds were not present yesterday so it looks like birds are starting to move around.

The pair of Shoveler on the Pond 

So two new species for the patch year list and hopefully as spring approaches there will be more surprises to come.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Ringing and Mothing on a chilly spring like day

Another lull in the weather combined with a day off, and yep you've guessed it back to Manor Farm for a spot of bird ringing. But not only that, given the good conditions I decided to put the moth trap out for the first time this year.

One of nine new Redwings caught during the session

The day started early as I was keen to get the nets up long before first light in the hope of catching more Redwings. This time I suffered no equipment failure and before long nine new Redwing had been trapped. The total included three adults and six first years, which gave the two trainees, Rob and Megan, the chance to gain some invaluable experience in ageing the species.  I had purposely chosen not to put too many nets up and subsequently the number of birds caught was low but it meant we had time to study the birds in more detail.

Male Golcrest

Our total included an adult male Blackbird, a Goldcrest, single Great and Long-tailed Tits, three Goldfinch's and a Chaffinch. All the birds were new with the exception of the Chaffinch that had originally been ringed on 26th November 2011, two years and 87 days previously.

Oak Beauty

Returning home I checked out the moth trap and was pleased to see six moths of four species within it. There were singles of Oak Beauty, Dotted Border and Tortricodes alternella and three Common Quakers, so not a bad start for the year.

Dotted Border

Sunday, 16 February 2014

What a difference a day makes....February 2014

Yesterday the south of England was being battered by hurricane force winds and heavy rain showers, but today was like a perfect spring day. Overnight the storm force winds had subsided, the sky had cleared and a light frost had carpeted the ground. During yesterdays poor weather the first Eurasian Siskins of the year turned up on the feeders in the garden, so in todays calm conditions I set a net in the hope of catching some. 

Pair of Siskins, the first in the garden this year

I opened the net just after dawn and before long had my first three birds, a Great Tit, a Blue Tit and a Eurasian Nuthatch. All three were retraps, the most notable being the Great Tit which was originally ringed on 25th June 2011, 2 years 236 days previously. The session was steady but mainly consisted of Blue Tits, with other occasional species namely Dunnock, Goldfinch, Long-tailed Tit and a new male House Sparrow. The House Sparrow had dark lores but still showed some yellow at the base of the lower mandible, suggesting that it was not in full breeding condition yet.

Male House Sparrow

In total I caught 33 birds, of seven species, 15 of which were retraps. The majority of retraps were of recently ringed birds, but three of the Blue Tits were originally ringed over three years previously, one on 5th December 2010 (3 years and 73 days previously), one on 30th October 2010 (3 years 109 days previously) and one on 10th August 2009 (4 years 190 days previously).

The spring like conditions and warmth from the sun proved popular with bumblebees, several buff-tailed’s were flying around the garden and a brimstone butterfly. The latter was sunning itself on bushes next too my ringing station, it took a while to get settled but eventually found somewhere  suitable for it to soak up the sun’s rays.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Hampshire Birding and a Colour-ringed Mute Swan - February 2014

Today I headed out to the west of Hampshire for a spot of local birding. I started at Lepe with a view to catching up with the long staying Lesser Yellowlegs, and decided to head on from there as news of other birds broke. I arrived at Lepe just as news came through that the Lesser legs was still there, which was a good start. As I arrived at the usual pool there was no sign of the bird, but a couple of redshank, five dunlin, a black-tailed godwit and a Mediterranean Gull kept me entertained for a while. I continued to scan and eventually found the Lesser legs at the back of the scrape, in amongst some dense vegetation. Spurred on by my success I next headed across the road in search of Firecrests. I had seen a couple of birds here back in the autumn when the Lesser legs had first turned up, but I had no luck today.

My next stop was Beaulieu Road Station, a regular site for wintering Great Grey Shrike. One had been reported yesterday, 1st February, in the area so I walked out to the railway bridge, as it was the highest point on the heath, and therefore the best place to scan from. Unfortunately, I did not find the shrike, but did get some good views of three Dartford Warblers, my first of the year.

Next stop was Hampshire and Isle of Wight Trusts Blashford Lakes reserve where a ‘redhead’ Smew had recently been reported. After a brief stop at Ibsley water I headed to Ivy Lake, where the bird had been seen earlier in the morning.  But rather than heading for the North Hide, which I suspected would be crammed with birders hopeful of a view of a Bittern, I headed to the west of the lake and the viewing screens. The northern screen was no good as the afternoon sun made silhouettes of the birds so I headed for the southern screen. The light was much better here and within a couple of minutes I had picked up the Smew, but sadly the recently reported Red-crested Pochard eluded me.

Mute Swans at the Avon Causeway

I decided to head home after Blashford, but on the way had a quick stop at the Avon causeway. The whole area was flooded and the water was still flowing over the road making it virtually impassible. I stopped and started to scan the area; a couple of Stonechats were new for the year and then I picked up a colour-ringed Mute Swan. The bird had an orange coloured ring on its left tarsus, with the black lettering ‘S2L’. Having recorded several colour-ringed swans in recent years I suspect that this bird was ringed by Dave Stone in Christchurch Harbour during the annual Mute Swan round up, but the question is how long ago....?

Adult Mute Swan with Colour Ring
Orange Colour Ring on Mute Swan

......I will keep you posted!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Tide was High.....Curbridge February 2014

It was too windy for ringing this morning so after a very leisurely start I headed to Curbridge for a spot of patch listing. This was my first visit to this site this year so I was hoping to add a few wader species to the patch list. Heavy overnight rain meant the river was high and being within two hours of high tide meant there was not much mud remaining, but there was enough. A couple of Common Redshanks were feeding in the creek, with a couple of Mallard and I could hear Eurasian Curlews calling in the distance. I headed to the entrance of the creek and my usual watch point, but access was more tricky than usual due to a fallen tree. A Kingfisher was feeding at the creek entrance and a flock of 35 curlew were feeding on an adjacent field. I could hear some geese but couldn’t see them so I headed further down the estuary to get a more distant but better overall view of the area. A mixed flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls were roosting and bathing on the water.

Two Common Gulls and a Black-headed part of a flock of over 340 birds

A flock of 39 Canada Geese were feeding/roosting on the edge of the same field as the curlew along with a single Greylag Goose. Despite being more distant from my new vantage point I had a better view of the field and was able to study the feeding curlew. One of the birds seemed very small, almost Whimbrel size and appeared to show a central crown stripe and faint supercilium. I watched the bird for a while but was not really getting those clinching views. Despite being very small, and appearing to show the typical Whimbrel head striping, the bill on this bird was too long for Whimbrel. It then vanished over the brow of the hill and I could not find it again.

Part of the Flock of 35 Curlew

I scanned the flock for a while and whilst doing so had a couple of Common Sandpipers land on the creek edge, another new year tick for the patch. I then decided to head back in the hope of a closer view of the curlews. By now it was nearly high tide and a combination of spring tides, strong winds and the recent rain meant the water was very high now. The curlew were out of sight from my vantage point, but were at one point flushed, flying around briefly before settling back down out of sight. There was not much more to report bird wise, I had recorded 41 species with several new additions to the patch year list which now stands at 65. The small curlew was frustrating but hopefully it will hang around and give me some decent views over the next few weeks. 

High Tide at Curbridge Feb 2014

The tide was now very high and if it wasn't for the boardwalks getting back would have been difficult. The Jetty at Curbridge was totally submerged but did not deter a few winter kayakers from landing.

The Submerged Jetty and High Tide Line

As well as the birds there was evidence that spring was just around the corner, Hazel catkins were fully out, and Snowdrops were flowering on the edge of the tide line. New shoots of Lesser Celandine and Bluebell were also evident.

Snowdrops living on the Edge of the Tide Line

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...