Friday, 11 December 2015

Penduline Tit - Titchfield Haven

Today was the first day for a while that I was at home and with some time to get out. I was keen to go birding somewhere, as it was too windy for ringing, and so decided to head down to the Haven, in the hope that one of the three Penduline Tits would still be around. I arrived at the West Hide to see birders gathered outside the door watching it perched in willows. Unfortunately as I approached it flew and so all I saw was its tail end heading away. I headed into the hide and began to scan the reedmace, initially there was no sign, but within five minutes it appeared and performed brilliantly for the half hour I stayed. 

There were three birds together when they were found, apparently a male and two females, but this male was the only one showing today. It was a cracking bird and the first I have seen in the County since 1991, when two birds were present at Farlington Marshes. 

Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit
Male Penduline Tit

Monday, 23 November 2015

Titchfield Haven - End of Season Update

The ringing season is now all but finished for us at the Haven, although there may be the odd session to target certain priority species. Overall it ended up being a pretty good season, which was not immediately apparent at the start of the season. A total of 3960 new birds were ringed of 38 species, a further 177 birds were retrapped or controlled, a handful of the resident species, several times.

The anticipated eastern mega turned out to be a Barred Warbler, which for many counties is a regular vagrant, but not for Hampshire, where it was the first ever ringed in the county. The total is a little misleading in that it shows two birds being caught, but that is due to it being retrapped two days after the original capture, fortunately for me. Other highlights include a Wryneck, our 3rd ever, Tree Pipit our 8th ever and our first ever Grey Wagtail for the site. It was surprising not to catch a Yellow-browed Warbler this year, given how many were recorded on the east coast, but the expected record total of Goldcrests did materialise. A total of 158 new birds were ringed, beating the previous best total by 49, a couple of controls were also trapped, so the actual total of birds not previously trapped at the Haven will be 160. Other new high totals included Lesser Redpoll, with 23 new birds ringed, and Blackcap with an amazing 973 new birds ringed, well above the 495 average.

I have previously posted about the selected species comparisons, so there is no need to cover that ground again in detail. So to summarise, the Grasshopper Warbler total remained low, with only 135 new birds ringed and well below the average of 264. The Sedge Warbler total also low at 799 new birds, again will below the average of 841. By contrast however, the Reed Warbler total was well above the 459 average; the Willow Warbler total was also above the 125 average. Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Cetti's Warbler and Robin totals were also all above average.

Our sixth year without an Aquatic Warbler is setting a very worrying trend.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Beardies, Buntings and Shorties

This morning I met Duncan at Farlington Marshes for a spot of ringing. The marsh was shrouded in fog, and it wasn't long before we were soaked, but at least that meant it wasn't windy. We set three nets in the eastern part of the reed bed, and almost immediately caught a Robin and a couple of Wrens. The next round produced a few Reed Buntings, followed by a few more and then a few more. Before we knew it we had ringed over 20 new Reed Buntings and retrapped one from a few years ago, and three Cetti's Warblers.

Reed Bunting (Male)

One of the reasons for going to the marsh was to try and catch some Bearded Tits. They have been very visible at the marsh in recent weeks, but have been showing at the top of the lake, and not where we were ringing. As it turned out we did not hear a single beardie, and were just about to give up when a pair suddenly appeared in the nets. Although we have been catching loads at the Haven, these are the first we have ringed at the marsh. There didn't seem to be any others around, but we well try again, when the weather conditions are right.

Bearded Tit (Male)

After ringing I headed home to dry out and warm up, before heading back to the marsh again. By now the fog had cleared  and the sun was occasionally breaking through. The main reason for going back was to try and catch up with some more Short-eared Owls. There have been reports of up to 4 birds and I was keen to get some photos. From the car park I worked my way through the bushes and towards the eastern track. I picked up a short-eared almost immediately flying over the main marsh, but decided to continue along the track to the sea wall. This turned out to be the right choice for me, as sitting in a meadow east of the track where 2 Short-eareds. They remained perched for about 10 minutes before starting to hunt and chase each other giving some cracking views.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

I spent a good 30 minutes watching the owls before they dropped down into the field and out of view. I continued around the sea wall heading back past the Deeps and was quickly onto two more owls. These were a bit more distant than the birds I had just been watching but were in view almost continuously, even when feeding on the ground. One bird (below) was much paler than the others and I am inclined to think that this bird is an adult, and probably a male. Apparently females have a distinctly deeper buff ground colour overall, and the dark markings are usually bolder in males.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

In the end I must of spent over an hour and a half with these owls, in light that was now just perfect. I continued around the seawall and stopped briefly to look over the lake. It was high tide now and there was a good variety of waders and ducks roosting. The most numerous wader species was Black-tailed Godwit, with Common Redshank and Grey Plover also present in good numbers. Other species included Avocet, Knot, Dunlin, Common Snipe and a lone Spotted Redshank. I could still see two Short-eareds hunting over the main marsh and another very distantly, that appeared to be hunting over the RSPB islands, could there really be five birds!

Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Common and Black-headed Gulls, Avocet, Shelduck and one Spotted Redshank
Black-tailed Godwits and Shelducks

Sunday, 25 October 2015

White-rumped Sandpiper - Farlington Marshes, Hampshire

It was a fairly typical late October ringing session at Titchfield Haven this morning with just under 40 birds ringed. The bulk of the birds were Goldcrests but we also caught a few Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and surprisingly several new Cetti's Warblers. I headed straight home after the session, but was soon back on the road and heading to Farlington Marshes as Pete Gammage had found a White-rumped Sandpiper. It was not a new bird for me, but I have not seen one for a while, and as it was just 15 minutes drive I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity of seeing another.

When I arrived the bird was settled in the grass along the stream and that is where it sat for about 10 minutes or so. It started to become a bit more active, stretched and then took flight heading high and south. We feared it was wasn't going to stop, but suddenly dropped down in the direction of The Deeps. We headed steadily around in the hope of getting some more views but our interest was temporarily diverted by a Short-eared Owl that was sat in full view in the middle marsh.

Short-eared Owl - Farlington Marshes

We eventually arrived at The Deeps, but the White-rumped was nowhere to be seen. The Deeps can be a difficult place to work as there are so many creeks and banks that are just not visible, so you can image how pleased we were when the bird suddenly dropped onto a spit in the middle of The Deeps. The bird was quite distant, and there was a fair bit of heat haze so the shots below are nothing more than record shots, but hopefully you get the idea.

White-rumped Sandpiper - The Deeps, Farlington Marshes
White-rumped Sandpiper - The Deeps, Farlington Marshes
White-rumped Sandpiper - The Deeps, Farlington Marshes

This was the 19th record of the species in Hampshire; birds were recorded almost annually during the 1980's but in recent years the average is every 5 - 6 years. This was the sixth record for the species at Farlington Marshes, which is not surprising given the importance of the site for wading birds.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Titchfield Haven - Late October update

Typically at this time of the year the frequency of suitable ringing days declines, as does the number of birds that we catch. This year hasn't quote worked like that, in that the weather has been generally set fair, and just as we thought the number of birds was declining, we suddenly have a good day. Since my last post we have ringed on seven occasions with the totals varying from 25 on 16th to 95 on 20th. 

In contrast to earlier in the year, Chiffchaff has become the commonest species, with Blackcap and Goldcrest making up the supporting cast. Blackcap numbers are now well and truly at a record level with 964 birds ringed, Chiffchaff numbers stand at 500. A catch of 27 Goldcrests on 20th October has taken the total to 76 for the year; a very respectable total for us but not unexpected given the numbers recorded on the east coast. 

Female Goldcrest

Again, not unexpectedly two Firecrests have also been trapped, a species that we never get bored with ringing.

Male Firecrest

We have not caught any more Sedge, Willow, Grasshopper or Garden Warblers, but have added the occasional Whitethroat and Reed Warbler. There is always a tinge of excitement when we find a Reed Warbler at this time of year, but as yet they have all been just reeds. A comparison of key species up to 26th October from 2010 - 2014 and up to 22nd October for 2015 is below.

With the key species now tailing off, others have started to increase. We have been regularly catching new Robins and our total now stands at 78, 17 Bearded Tits, 18 Lesser Redpolls, a record for the site, 14 Reed Buntings and seven Song Thrush. Ten Kingfishers is a very good total for the site.

To date the total number of new birds ringed since July stands at 3778 of 37 species.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Titchfield Haven Ringing Update - Early October 2015

Whilst I was galavanting around Fair Isle and Shetland, Barry and Duncan continued with the ringing sessions at the Haven, no doubt hoping to grip me off with a goody! They ringed on seven dates and had three days when they caught over 100 new birds, 116 on 17th September, 187 on 19th and 143 on 26th, otherwise the totals were below average. New species for the year included Lesser Redpoll, Firecrest and Spotted Flycatcher.  

My first session since, returning was 3rd October and we started with a haul of 202 birds, the next saw a total of 104, so still plenty of birds moving. As expected the Blackcap total continued to build and as of today it stands at a massive 885 new birds, beating the previous annual total by 79 birds, and well on the way to the 1000 target. On the flip side of that the Grasshopper Warbler total never recovered and now stands at a paltry 135 birds ringed. This is the lowest total for this species since 2003.

At one point we thought we were heading towards a record Reed Warbler total, but towards the end of September the numbers petered out and currently stands at 716. This is the highest total for the last six years and is only 62 birds short of the record; clearly a good year for this species. The Sedge Warbler total also remained low at 799, as did Garden Warbler at 44. The Willow Warbler total was good, although not as good as last year, and Whitethroat numbers have peaked at 112. Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler numbers remain quite high and assuming the weather holds we still have plenty of time to catch more.

The session of 2nd October as well as being very busy was also one of our public events. The visitors were very patient as we worked our way through the 106 Blackcaps and 64 Chiffs, and were rewarded with the capture of two Bearded Tits. Although Bearded Tits breed on the site, we rarely catch them in our ringing area since we outside of the main reed bed, these two birds were therefore greatly appreciated by all.

A Pair of Bearded Tits - Titchfield Haven
Visitors enjoying a Bearded Tit photoshoot (Photo Simon Ingram)

The last two sessions have also seen 25 new Goldcrests ringed bringing the total for the year so far to 36 and two new Robins bringing that total to 59. Having seen record numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers on Fair Isle it hopefully won't be too long before we catch another one down on the south coast.

Friday, 2 October 2015

My diary from Shetland and Fair Isle - September 2015

I was intending to update my blog on a daily basis whilst up on Shetland and Fair Isle, but a combination of slow internet access and evening socialising meant it just did not happen. Instead, below is a summary of my trip, with some of my better images, and some record shots. 

My trip involved four nights of Shetland, one before and three after visiting Fair Isle and six nights on Fair Isle. The group included mainly a team from the BTO, Andy Clements, Paul Stancliffe, Nick Moran, John Marchant and Stephen McAvoy with Miranda Gomperts, Andy Mason, Rick Goater and me. For me, it was only my second visit to Shetland and Fair Isle and that was many years ago, so I had been eagerly anticipating the trip for a while.

17th September - Shetland
I flew into Sumburgh around mid afternoon and immediately headed up to the lighthouse where I met up with Hugh Harrop and Junt Hunt, both of who I knew from previous trips guiding across the Bay of Biscay for Company of Whales. The target bird here was Western Bonelli's Warbler, which was difficult to say the least, but ultimately gave some reasonable views. Other species included Common Swift (3), Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Whitethroat, Goldcrest, Willow Warbler and Robin. At Sumburgh Quarry there was little of note, with Blackcap and Wheatear the only birds.

I spent a productive couple of hours are Grutness, where I picked up a Pied Flycatcher, another Willow Warbler and my first Yellow-Browed Warbler of the trip in the gardens.  

Pied Flycatcher - Sumburgh, Shetland

On the freshwater pools by the Quay two very confiding Little Stints were present, one of which was much darker than the other. This bird had me thinking for a while, but despite being darker, all the features pointed to Little Stint.

Little Stint - Grutness, Shetland
Little Stint - Grutness, Shetland
Little Stints - Grutness, Shetland

18th September - Fair Isle
I met the rest of the team in Lerwick Harbour, as they had got the overnight boat from Aberdeen, then Paul and I headed to Tingwall for our flight. Given the size of our group we could not all get on at once and so the remainder of the team were planning to get the afternoon flight.

On arriving we walked to the Bird Observatory, birding on the way. After a quick cup or tea and welcome we set off again. The species of note included Hen Harrier, Reed Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Barred Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wigeon, Snow Bunting, Ruff, Wheatear, Whinchat and Red-breasted Merganser. A lingering juvenile Pallid Harrier was obviously one of our target birds, and despite other birders saying how easy it was to see, we did not connect with it until about 4pm, so after six hours birding.

Pallid Harrier (Juvenile) - Fair Isle
Pallid Harrier (Juvenile) - Fair Isle

Species such as Rock Dove, Black Guillemot, Hooded Crow, Twite and Bonxie were clearly good birds for someone based on the south coast of England, but since they are common up here I have not mentioned them. After dinner we headed down to the Havens, just by the Obs as one of the wardens had found a Red-breasted Flycatcher their. Initially it was a bit flighty but eventually settled down to give some good views.

Red-brested Flycatcher - Fair Isle

19th September - Fair Isle
Today was mainly about cetaceans, with a pod of Orcas found by Nick before breakfast and then Risso's Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises recorded throughout the day in good numbers. Bird wise the notable species were Yellow-browed Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Ruff, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Rosefinch, Whinchat, Robin, Sparrowhawk, Snow Bunting and Purple Sandpiper.

Spotted Flycatcher - Fair Isle
Common Rosefinch - Fair Isle
Snow Bunting - Fair Isle

20th September - Fair Isle
I did the pre-breakfast trap round in the morning and was rewarded with a Pied Flycatcher, Blackcap, Song Thrush and a couple of Goldcrests. As we had birded the south of the Island for the last few days we decided to head north today, but were soon heading back south when news of a Blyth's Reed Warbler broke. This was a new species for me and one I have often imagined catching at Titchfield Haven so it was really good to catch up with one and also get to see it close up in the hand.

Blyth's Reed Warbler - Fair Isle
Blyth's Reed Warbler - Fair Isle
Blyth's Reed Warbler - Fair Isle

Other highlights included Merlin, Common Rosefinch, Pallid and Hen Harrier, Barred Warbler, Willow Warbler, Golden Plover, and Whinchat.

21st September - Fair Isle
Today was the day of our bird race. We split into three teams, Andy C, Rick and Miranda; Nick, John and Stephen and Paul, Andy M and me. It was just a bit of fun really, but we were all desperate to win, and at times it was like watching a scene from Dad's Army as Nick blew his whistle to get his team back into line. In the end Andy C's team won with 61 species, my team came second with 61 also, but one of ours was a fly over Redpoll, which didn't count as we couldn't ID it to species (we weren't bitter at all) and Nick's team got 60 species. 

As we were working our way around the island it became apparent that we were experiencing a massive fall of Yellow-browed Warbler's; they were just everywhere. The official total was 53 which was a Fair Isle record in one day, but we all felt it could have been many more than that. Subsequently that total has been surpassed with a day total of over 70 birds.

Yellow-browed Warbler - Fair Isle
Yellow-browed Warbler - Fair Isle

Species highlights included Common Rosefinch, Fieldfare, Greenshank, Pallid and Hen Harrier, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Jack Snipe, Merlin, Kittiwake, Goldcrest and Whinchat.

22nd September - Fair Isle
The pre-breakfast trap round produced Barred Warbler, Yellow-browed and Robin with others caught throughout the day. Yellow-broweds were still abundant today, and the most notable species. Others included Jack Snipe, Ruff, Hen Harrier, Meadow Pipit, Willow Warbler and Blackcap.

(Fair Isle) Wren Troglodytes troglodytes fridariensis - Fair Isle

23rd September - Fair Isle
A pre-breakfast wander produced Ringed Plover, Dunlin, House Martin and a Collared Dove. After breakfast we headed south again; Yellow-broweds were still everywhere but there was a bit more variety and the notable species included Jack Snipe, Redwing, Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, Slavonian Grebe, Grey Plover, Redshank, Purple Sandpiper, Knot, Merlin, Hen Harrier and a very obliging Lesser Whitethroat.

Lesser Whitethroat - Fair Isle
Merlin - Fair Isle

The most notable thing about today was the discovery of a long dead bird in the Gilly Burn. It was a small passerine that was very decomposed but had orangey underwing coverts which lead us to believe it was a Redstart. Closer inspection revealed that the bird was wearing a ring which turned out to be Dutch (Arhiem NL, Holland - V626386). We left all the details, and the ring with the Obs and hope to receive the details at some point in the future.

24th September - Fair Isle and Shetland
It was departure day for us today, and once again we had to split up as we could not all get off on the same plane, Stephen chose the Good Shepherd as his preferred means of transport. Paul, Andy, John and I had the afternoon flight and spent our remaining tome in the south. We didn't add any new bird species but did pick up a Painted Lady butterfly, our first of the trip. Yellow-broweds were still the most numerous migrant. Other notable species included Common RosefinchChiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Collared Dove, Redwing, Robin and Lesser Whitethroat

Common Rosefinch - Fair Isle
Great Skuas (Bonxie) - Fair isle

After spending the rest of the day birding mainland Shetland we all met up in Lerwick and ordered some food. We had a bit of a tight schedule as Andy C and Nick had to give a talk at the Shetland Bird Club and needed to be there for 7pm, it was now 5:35pm. My phone rang just as we sat down to eat: it was Hugh Harrop telling me to get to Quendale Mill now at a Thick-billed Warbler had just been found. We could have been there in half an hour, but that would have not given enough time get back to Lerwick for the talk, so we chose to stick together and hope it it was still there in the morning.....alas it was not.

25th September - Shetland
We spent much of the morning at Quendale, working the area where the Thick-billed had been and with nothing to show for our efforts than more Yellow-browed's, a Merlin, a Reed Warbler and a couple of Blackcaps, we eventually headed off. We stopped at a few other places afterwards, but by mid afternoon we had to head back to the port at Lerwick so the team could catch the overnight boat to Aberdeen.

Greenland Wheatear 

I was staying on Shetland until Sunday and so spent the remaining hours of daylight birding Ness of Sound, and the area near to my B&B.

26th September - Shetland
It was a dreary start today but I decided to head to the northern part of mainland Shetland as I had not done this area yet. Yellow-browed's were present in virtually every bit of cover I stopped at, but otherwise there was little of note. I headed to the village of Melby but recorded little of note. Species included Blackbird, Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Ringed Plover, Common Gull and Raven.

Whooper Swan - Shetland
Whooper Swans - Shetland

I stopped briefly at Weisdale Voe and picked up an adult Little Gull in the gull flock and then got a text from Hugh, Lanceolated Warbler at Dale of Walls. I had just come past there and knew exactly where it was. As it turned out, the whole experience was grim, with this poor bird being flushed from pillar to post, and not being given a chance to settle. I did eventually get some ok views, but most of the time it was flight views as it flitted from one bit of cover to the next. My final stop of the day was The Wart, Sandwick to see an American Golden Plover in with the European Goldies. A small flock of Pink-footed Geese heading south were the final species of the day.

27th September - Shetland
My final day started with some birding around my B&B and some still very common Yellow-broweds and then I headed back south. I called into Sandwick on the way to see the American GP in better light, then to Quendale and finished up at Grutness, and within in easy reach of my flight. Yellow-browed's were numerous throughout the rest of the day and other final day highlights included Sedge Warbler, Merlin, White Wagtail, Yellow wagtail species, Sanderling, Willow Warbler and Goldcrest.

American Golden Plover (left) with European Golden Plover - Shetland

All in all a cracking trip, some great birds, great company and superb whiskey. The trip was only slightly soured by the actions of some at the Lancy.
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