Sunday, 15 February 2015

Manor Farm Bird Ringing - February 2015

Saturday 14th February
This weekend has been fairly hectic for me. It started with a low tide wader count on a part of Portsmouth Harbour Saturday morning, which was fairly uninspiring. There were small numbers of Redshank, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and a few duck and geese species, the most numerous being Dark-bellied Brent Goose. It was nice to see a few Goldeneye and Red-brested Mergansers, as I don't often see them around Hill Head or on my patch. Three adult Mediterranean Gulls, two in winter plumage one in full summer, were the highlight for me though.

After the wader count I headed to Manor Farm Country Park to set nets for the planned mornings ringing session. I was joined by Rob and Megan and we put up six nets and then furled them in readiness for the morning session. We did catch four birds in the process, one new House Sparrow, two Dunnocks, one of which was a retrap and one Robin. Whilst putting up the nets a large flock of mainly Black-headed Gulls flew over, I picked out one adult winter Mediterranean Gull, but nothing else. We had hoped to catch some Fieldfares or Redwings as they went in to roost, but there were very few birds around. A flock of 40 Fieldfare was the most I had seen in a while, but there was less than 10 Redwing around.

As the sun began to set the resident Little Owls started to get active, and were putting on a very vocal display. We eventually tracked down two birds; they were sat together preening each other whilst making and variety of squeaks and squeals to acknowledge their appreciation. Other birds were flying around the main car park and we estimated at least four birds being present.

Sunday 15th February
Sunday morning began with a pre-dawn start for me Chris, Rob and Megan and as we arrived we were serenaded by the resident Tawny Owls. The Tawny activity seemed to inspire the Little Owls again as they started calling again, but only for a while. The ringing session was fairly mundane as there were very few birds but the total did include six new House Sparrows so some new additions to my RAS project. We also caught 11 retraps which included one bird that was ringed over five years ago and one that was ringed 4 years ago.

A total of 34 birds were caught which included one Wood Pigeon, six Dunnocks, three of which were retraps, four Robins, two Blackbirds, one retrap, a Song Thrush, Chaffinch and a few Blue Tits.

In the afternoon I opened a net at home and added another 21 birds. The highlights were another male Chaffinch and a Greenfinch, but the total included two Long-tailed Tits, a Dunnock and a selection of new and retrap Blue and Great Tits. Of the Blue Tits one was originally ringed 3 years 256 days previously and another 5 years 189 days previously. One of the retrap Great Tits had been ringed 3 years 115 days previously.

Over the course of the weekend we caught 63 birds of 12 species, with 38 new birds and 26 retraps. It was disappointing not to catch any Redwing or Fieldfares, but they should be around for a few weeks yet.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Patch Birding and Ringing - February 2015

I haven't had much spare time since my last post, but have managed to squeeze in one visit to Curbridge, on 9th Feb, and also one ringing session in my garden. My visit to Curbridge was another lunchtime dash and as usual I only had my Panasonic FZ200 bridge camera, just in case. The tide was rising fast and as such there was very little exposed mud left. A Greenshank was making the most of the last opportunity to feed in shallow creek water as I pulled up into the Horse and Jockey car park. I grabbed a couple of photos making use of the digital zoom, so not the best quality but a good record shot.

Greenshank - Curbridge

My regular visits to Curbridge of late have not produced any new species recently but there have been some good records. This week there was a peak count of six Greenshank, a good count for this time of year and the second time I have recorded six birds this winter, and a Common Snipe was only the second one this year. The usual fare included one Common Sandpiper, five Redshank, three Teal and a Little Egret.

Six Greenshanks - Curbridge
Common Snipe - Curbridge. A record shot on full digital zoom

There were only a handful of gulls around due to the state of the tide, which included 10 Black-headed and one adult Mediterranean Gull. It is interesting to see Mediterranean Gulls making regular appearances this year after so many years without recording them at Curbridge.

On Sunday 8th in the morning I opened a net in the garden. I only had a couple of hours before going out, but that was enough time to catch 21 birds. The majority were as expected, Blue Tits, with 10 birds trapped, the next most numerous species was Long-tailed Tit, with six birds ringed. The highlights were single Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Chaffinch and Coal Tit.

Male Chaffinch 
Tail of Male Chaffinch showing pointed tail feathers suggesting 2cy bird. 
This bird also had two retained greater coverts in the wing.
Coal Tit 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Holly Hill Country Park and the continued quest for Crests

This morning I headed out with Rob for a spot of bird ringing. We had been hoping to ring at Manor Farm to top up the Redwing totals for the year, which currently stands at one, but it was just far too windy. Instead we decided to head to Holly Hill Country Park and try for more Firecrests, as it was a woodland site and more sheltered. I had checked out this site last Sunday to see whether it had potential and whilst there I met a local birder who said that he regularly had Firecrests there, so I decided to give it a go.

The site is very public, and there were loads of dog walkers, with most dogs off the lead, but there were enough areas where I could tuck myself away. The site has a distinctly ornamental feel about it, with Rhododendron and Cherry Laurel dominating the understory, but large areas of Holly are also present. The woodland is predominantly broad-leaved with Oak, Ash, Alder and also London Plane present.

We selected a suitable location and set our nets but did not catch a single bird. The second capture site was better and we immediately caught a female Firecrest, followed by a couple of Goldcrests and then a male Firecrest. The male gave some excellent views and was regularly displaying before being caught.

Displaying Male Firecrest
Male Firecrest
Displaying male Firecrest
Male Firecrest

We ended the session having caught three new Firecrests, two females and one male, and also had a close encounter with a fourth bird; another male. We also caught four Goldcrests and a Great Tit, so a very successful morning.

Male Firecrest
Female Firecrest
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