Monday, 31 August 2015

Foiled by the Weather

We had been hoping to get three ringing sessions in over the course of this extended weekend but unfortunately we were once again foiled by the weather. The excellent session on Friday was not repeated on Saturday (29th); only about 130 birds were ringed, most notably was the capture of 10 more Grasshopper Warblers, so thats 38 in three sessions. We were also treated to a fly-by and back again from one of the passage Ospreys that had been loitering intermittently at the Haven. It initially drifted up the valley and I picked it up just as it headed towards the area known as the Frying Pan. It then turned and headed back down the river so I grabbed my camera and headed to the jetty in our ringing area. I was hoping for a close fly-by but three Carrion Crows began hassling it and it changed direction and headed back up the valley, but I was able to get a couple of shots before it headed off.

Osprey being harassed by Carrion Crow

Heavy rain on Monday (31st) gave me the opportunity to catch up on some sleep, but clearly not every one was doing the same, as a Wryneck was reported from Hook-with-Warsash LNR around mid-morning. I didn't have time to go in the morning but once I had completed my 'duties' I headed down for a look. By this time the rain had stopped so I worked my way along the beach to the scrub where the bird had been seen. There was a good selection of migrant birds present including three Northern Wheatears, two Whinchats, two Dartford Warblers and over 50 Yellow Wagtails, with the cattle. A Little Egret was feeding on the Meander Pool and two Ringed Plovers flew west.

I spotted a lone birder watching an area of gorse and enquired if this was the area where the Wryneck had been seen; it was but not for over an hour. I didn't have much time but started to scan the top of the gorse just in case it appeared, and within a few minutes picked it up. It was perched up back where it had last been seen, so I quickly moved closer to the bird to get some shots. Initially, it was obscured by the branch it was sat on, and appeared to be hiding from me, but eventually it gave some better views. The bird was in exactly the same location as one I saw here last year, this time though the views were much better.

Hiding Wryneck - Hook with Warsash
Wryneck - Hook with Warsash 
Wryneck - Hook with Warsash 
Wryneck - Hook with Warsash 
Wryneck - Hook with Warsash 

Friday, 28 August 2015

Titchfield Haven Bird Ringing - 28th August 2015

With a four day weekend ahead of me, it seemed like to perfect way to kick it off was a ringing session at The Haven. The end of August is now fast approaching and I will do a summary of where we are totals wise then, but as todays session was a pretty good one, I thought it warranted a short blog post. Barry had only been able to do one session so far this week because of the appalling weather, but yesterdays session had resulted in 10 new Grasshopper Warblers, so it was worth the effort.

The conditions looked ideal for another session this morning with a clear night, and a bright and wind less morning, and it was clear it was going to be good as our nets were dripping with birds first thing. As it happened things didn't end up as good numbers wise as we thought with under 180 birds were trapped, but we were treated to our first Common Redstart and Lesser Whitethroat of the year.

Juvenile Common Redstart

The Common Redstart was a juvenile and there was no evidence of a dark throat or grey feathers in the crown, so was probably a female. Whilst I had the Lesser Whitethroat in the hand I thought I would check the wing formula to make sure it was just of the European sub-species.....well you never know!

Lesser Whitethroat
The wing formula was spot on for European Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca curruca with the second primary being shorter than the fifth but just longer than the sixth.

Wing of Lesser Whitethroat 

The bulk of our catch was made up of Reed and Sedge Warblers again but Blackcaps were't that far behind. We also caught another 18 Grasshopper Warblers, so 28 in two sessions, which is more like it. Good numbers of Whitethroats were also ringed, two of which were adults and one of those a control.

Adult Whitethroat

The bright orange iris and extent of pure white in the tail feathers were dead give aways for the age, as were the retained adult secondaries in both birds.

Tail of adult Common Whitethroat

The remainder of the catch was made up of Willow Warblers, notably four of which were adults, Chiffchaffs, Cetti's Warblers, Goldcrests, Garden Warblers, Long-tailed Tits, Dunnocks and a retrap Song Thrush.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Titchfield Haven Bird Ringing - Late August update

It has been a very mixed bag this season at the Haven which has not been helped by the very changeable weather. Fortunately Barry is retired which means that he can do some sessions during the week in order to keep our effort constant, but Duncan and I are getting limited opportunities to ring at weekends. If we are lucky we may be able to get one session a week, which is great for catching up with sleep, or doing general birding, so we can't complain, but we would rather be ringing.

Despite the inconsistent weather conditions the overall ringing total for the year is holding up reasonably well, but unless there is going to be a very late surge in the numbers of migrants it is looking like this year the totals will be at best average. That said there are some notable exceptions; on the down side, the Grasshopper Warbler total remains exceptionally low with only 36 birds ringed to date. For the period 2010 to 2014 inclusive, by 23rd August the average is 143 birds, so this year's total is significantly lower that we would have expected. It won't be the lowest total since 1998 as we have already passed that, but could be within the bottom five.

Juvenile Grasshopper Warbler

On the flip side of that, the Reed Warbler total currently stands at 450, which is the highest total for the period 2010 to 2014 by 23rd August, and well above the average for that period which is 293. The overall total for all species for the period up to 23rd August stands at 1310 birds of 20 species. 

A summary of selected species from 2010 - 2015 up to 23rd August
A summary of selected species from 2010 - 2015 up to 23rd August

The only unusual record is a Common Nightingale that is only the sixth ever ringed at the site. There has been very little evidence of visible migration over the last few weeks, with the odd Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail and on 2nd August a Marsh Harrier

Common Nightingale - Note the pale tips to the tertials confirming this bird to be a juvenile, also the first primary can be seen extending 
beyond the longest primary covert, thereby confirming it as a Common not Thrush Nightingale (B. S. Duffin)

On the morning of 22nd August we held one of our public ringing events, which was well attended as usual. The session was steady, with 78 birds ringed, Reed and Sedge Warblers were as ever the most numerous species, but five Grasshopper Warblers were very welcome. Once again there was very little evidence of visible migration, the most notable species being Yellow Wagtail, with two birds and a single Common Swift. Just as we closed the nets a couple of sparring Sparrowhawks put in a great aerial display before drifting off to the east.

Sparring Sparrowhawks

After the session I stopped for a quick look off the sailing club at Hill Head with Simon Ingram, who had joined us for the mornings ringing session. There was a flock of around 100 terns roosting on the shingle but unfortunately, as is a common theme these days, the level of disturbance was very high with kayakers, fishermen and dog walkers continuously flushing the birds to the point where there was nowhere for them to settle. Simon was intent of finding a Black Tern and after a quick scan through the flock, looked out to sea, I concentrated of the roosting terns as there was a constant turnover of birds. It wasn't long before I picked out a cracking adult Roseate Tern, I quickly got Simon onto it and then we put the news out. The speed at which we did that enabled Graham Barrett, who was on the other side of the harbour, to get onto the bird, before once again, the flock was flushed, this time they did not return.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

A Short-eared Owl at Farlington Marshes in August!

After back to back early starts for ringing at the Haven, this morning I opted for a bit of a lie in and headed off to Farlington Marshes at 6:30am for a spot of birding. High tide was at 07:28 and so I started at the lake before walking along the stream and then around the seawall past the Deeps and back to the lake. It was a fantastic morning, absolutely still and glorious sunshine; Langstone Harbour was like a millpond. 

The water level on the lake was high and as such the high tide roost was not as I had hoped. There were 150 or so Common Redshank, around 50 Black-tailed Godwits a handful of Dunlin and a single Knot. The stream was not that much better with another 50+ Black-tailed Godwits, a dozen or so Lapwing and single Green and Common Sandpipers. 

Black-tailed Godwit on the Stream Farlington Marshes

I worked my way around towards the Deeps scanning for an Osprey or something on the sea but my attention was drawn to a couple of pipits on the sea wall that took flight calling just as I got on to them - Tree Pipits, the first of the migrants I had been hoping for. When I got to the Deeps single Whinchat and Northern Wheatear were feeding on the parched ground that normally forms part of the pool. 

As I continued around the sea wall towards the point field a bird took of from a fence post and flew along the ditch away from me. I was a bit confused by its identity initially as it flew away from me, but soon the penny dropped, a Short-eared Owl!! I have to admit that I have seen Short-eared Owls many times at Farlington and regularly at the point field, but in August, never. The bird continued to fly away from me circling around the point then heading back along the sea wall north, right past another birder. It landed briefly on the bank then flew back across the point field towards me, but always at a distance, and landed in a bush and out of sight. Despite waiting for a while for it to re-appear it did not.

Short-eared Owl - Farlington Marshes 9th August 2015
Short-eared Owl - Farlington Marshes 9th August 2015
Short-eared Owl - Farlington Marshes 9th August 2015

I don't know when the last record of Short-eared Owl was in Hampshire in August, but suspect that there aren't that many. Regardless of that it was a cracking bird and and is definitely to first record for me in Hampshire in August.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Bird Ringing at Titchfield Haven - Early August 2015 update

Despite my lack of posts on the subject the autumn bird ringing has been progressing steadily at Titchfield Haven, and when I say steadily I mean just that. Throughout July the numbers of birds ringed were low compared with last year, and the most noteworthy thing was that in that period we only caught one Grasshopper Warbler, by the end of July last year we had ringed 30. Last weekend things picked up a bit with 120 birds ringed on Saturday and 98 on Sunday, but today things really got going, with 181 birds ringed.

It was a busy session with just Barry and I ringing and Colin who was our scribe for the morning. Clear and still overnight conditions are the best for our site and it was evident by the first round that it would be a bit busy. As expected for this time of year Reed and Sedge Warblers made up a bulk of the catch with over 130 birds between them. Willow Warbler was the next most numerous with over 20 new birds ringed. 

Juvenile Willow Warbler

The numbers of Sylvia warblers is slowly starting to build and today we were surprised to catch 10 new Garden Warblers, including two adult birds, which are always nice for comparison. Common Whitethroats and Blackcaps, were also ringed but in much smaller numbers.

Juvenile Garden Warbler 

The other species included our second Grasshopper Warbler of the year, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Blackbird, Robin, Cetti's Warbler and a juvenile Reed Bunting. This year Bullfinch numbers have been at an all time high, but that is because they have bred in our ringing area for the first time this year.

Juvenile Reed Bunting

One of our net rides is set over a purpose built boardwalk that leads down the the river Meon. At this time of year it is one of our busiest rides since it cuts down through an area of Phragmites reed bed. The end of the ride is a great place to stand and get a view of the river, especially when mud is exposed. 

The jetty net ride

This morning it was evident that we had had an overnight visitor as there were two very fresh Otter spraints and the end of the jetty was still wet where it had hauled out of the river. Despite being on the site at very unsociable hours of a regular basis, I have not yet seen an otter here, hopefully I won't have to wait much longer.

Fresh Otter Spraint

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

It's getting late for ringing swifts

On Monday (3rd August) I popped down to a site at Lee-on-the-Solent to ring some Common Swift Apus apus chicks. You may recall the story from last year, but if not that post is here. You may notice that it is nearly six weeks later than the broods I ringed last year, and that is the result of some quite bizarre events. 

I had received the text from Mark, the house owner, back in June telling me that he again had a brood and that they had laid two eggs, and were happily incubating. But on 20 days things went a bit pear-shaped, when what was presumed to be a bird from a different pair entered the box. A scuffle ensued, during which the eggs were displaced from the cup, both birds then left the box. Mark quickly grabbed his ladder and put the eggs back in the cup and before long a bird returned and began incubating. He thought that things were back on track, but then the incubating bird got a bit agitated and kicked the eggs out from under it, breaking one of the shells....all was lost he thought.

Common Swift nestling

Amazingly, the pair or another then relaid, incubated the full term and now have chicks that are three weeks old, so we decided to go ahead a ring them. Two healthy chicks were ringed, one weighing 45 grams and the other 50. Typically swifts fledge after a 22 day incubation period and a 47 day nestling period, which suggests that these chicks will not fledge the nest for another three weeks yet, the latter part of August, by which time they would normally have left the country. It will be interesting to see how these birds fair, and fortunately with the camera in the nest box at Mark's house we will be able to keep an eye on them.

Common Swift nestling

On the way home a made a quick detour to the Haven and bumped into Dan Houghton. There were a few bits a bobs around, the most notable being the 3cy Yellow-legged Gull that has been hanging around for a while, 2 Common Scoter and 48 Mediterranean Gulls of various ages. 

Industrial view of Fawley Oil Refinery from Hill Head
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