Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Mid-September Ringing Update

I wasn't intending to do another mid-September update as the weather last weekend didn't look that great and so I thought any ringing was unlikely. However, as it turned out the conditions on Sunday 13th were perfect. It was evident first thing that it was going to be a good day as the nets were 'dripping' with birds on the first round. We were so busy that Barry and I alternated extracting and ringing whilst Maggie patiently scribed. By the end of the session we had ringed 267 new birds and had two controls, one Chiffchaff and one Blackcap and our second Common Redstart of the year, which was a cracking male.

Of course having caught so many birds, it dramatically altered the totals for the year to year comparisons, so I thought I should update the blog to reflect this, and bring it in line with the September 14th date used in previous years. The story with Sedge Warbler is still down, and well down at that, with this years total 40% below our average for the time of year. By contrast, the Reed Warbler is having a fantastic year, and the total is 58% up on the average, and heading towards our highest ever annual total. 

Summary of Key Species Ringing Total up to 14th September
Summary of Key Species Ringing Total up to 14th September

Grasshopper Warbler numbers are still trickling along, but with the total now standing at 118 numbers are over 260% below average. Other species totals below average are Willow Warbler, at 7% down, Garden Warbler at 34% down and Whitethroat at 2% down. 

The winners, as well as Reed Warbler, are Chiffchaff at 38% above average and the real winners Blackcap with a total of 448 birds ringed so far. This total is 116% above the average for the time of year, and if the pattern continues could see Blackcap elevated to the most numerous species ringed this year. In total we have ringed 2472 birds of 29 species, to date.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A hand-held Wryneck and mid-September bird ringing update

It has now been a few weeks since my last ringing update from the Haven, other than the Barred Warbler posts of course, so I thought it was time to do so. 

Our ringing totals have been steadily building and as is typical during September we have started to to see a shift from Acro's (Reed and Sedge Warblers) to Sylvia warblers, with the Blackcap being the commonest. Our daily ringing totals have been below average, with the highest total being 168 new birds on 7th August and 5th September. Grasshopper Warbler numbers have been more typical, but we have not recovered from the poor start, and the current total is 111 for the year. Our best days have been 18 on 28th August and 15 on 1st September.

A comparison of ringing totals from 2010 (up to 14th Sept 2010 - 2014, up to 11th Sept 2015) paints a very mixed picture with Reed Warbler numbers at their highest over the six year period, and already getting close to last years total of 693. That total was the second highest ever, the highest was 778 in 2002, but that was when we were ringing in two locations, and therefore cannot really be included in the comparison. 

Blackcap numbers are also very high and at this point in time are ahead of last years total, which ended up being our best year ever with 806 birds. Cetti's Warbler numbers are also above average for the time of year. Willow warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Garden Warbler numbers are all slightly below average, but the biggest loser is the Sedge Warbler. To date its total is over 30% down and represents the second lowest total in the six year period, the lowest being the wet summer of 2012.

Summary of Ringing Totals for Key Species 2010 - 2015
Summary of Ringing Totals for Key Species 2010 - 2015

We have of course had quite a few highlights this autumn, and as well as the obvious, we also caught our fourth ever Wryneck on 1st September. With so many being reported along the south coast, we had hoped it was only a matter of time before one turned up in our ringing area. Unfortunately, it turned up on a week day so Duncan and I were at work and Barry got to enjoy the stunning bird.

Wryneck - Titchfield Haven 1st September ( B. S. Duffin)

September 5th delivered our ninth ever Tree Pipit, a species which always provides a challenge for our trainees, to ID and to age. Based on a combination of pale fringed wing coverts and pointed tail helped us age this bird as a juvenile.

Tree Pipit - Titchfield Haven
Tree Pipit - Note the pale fringing to the medium and greater coverts identifying the bird as a juvenile
Tree Pipit - the pointed tail feathers are a typical feature of a juvenile

We have also caught three Lesser Whitethroats this year, which doesn't sound many, but for us it represents a good year. I have checked the wing formula of each one, but they have all proven to be European Lesser Whitethroats Sylvia curruca curruca. One bird was an adult so we were able to compare the tails of the two birds which was good value.

Lesser Whitethroat - Titchfield Haven
Lesser Whitethroat - adult tail
Lesser Whitethroat - juvenile Tail

To date we have ringed 2212 birds of 29 species, which is below average but on a par with last year. I will be heading up to Shetland and Fair Isle for 10 days with a team from the BTO on Thursday 17th and so am hoping that nothing too exciting turns up in the nets whilst I am away.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Barred Warbler again

I woke early this morning and as I knew Barry was ringing again decided to nip down the the Haven before work. I don't know why, but just had a feeling that I ought to. The conditions were perfect for ringing, but the clear overnight conditions didn't bode well for the Barred Warbler still being there, but I did it all the same. There was an early flurry of activity with the a handful of Grasshopper Warblers, loads of Blackcaps and a scattering of other species in the first round. The same theme continued for the second round until we got to the jetty net, and there it was, the Barred Warbler. It was pretty much in the area where it had been released, which unfortunately is not really viewable from anywhere, not even our ringing area, so will be tough to pin down in the field.

The bird had lost weight from when it was originally caught two days ago, and had no fat and a muscle score of 1. In this condition I suspect it will need to feed up before moving on. Based on the colour of my hands after handling it, it has been gorging itself on blackberries, so may fatten up quite quickly.

It was a first winter bird with a grey iris as opposed to the yellow one of an adult. The large bill, with pale pink basel part of the lower mandible was extremely prominent. The wing coverts and tertials were pale fringed but not a prominently as some that I have seen, but overall it was a cracking bird. I think you can imagine how pleased I was to catch up with it.

Barred Warbler - Titchfield Haven
Barred Warbler - Titchfield Haven
Barred Warbler - Titchfield Haven
Barred Warbler tail - note the shorter, greyer and pale tipped adult feather
contrasting with the other juvenile feathers
Barred Warbler - undertail coverts showing darker centres with pale fringing

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Barred Warbler - Titchfield Haven 8th September 2015

I has a strange feeling today that something good was going to be caught at the Haven, I don't know why, but just had a sixth sense. Barry was ringing and Duncan and I were both at work, but I kept my phone close just is case. 

Unbeknown to me Barry was feeling quietly optimistic, with south easterly winds and clear overnight skies, conditions were perfect for an arrival of autumn migrants. We have been  hoping for something big, after the Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler of last year and the influx of Western Bonelli's Warblers and Barred Warblers throughout the country this year and we (well Barry) were not disappointed. 

Barry quotes "As first light came at 5.30am the low scrub and reeds in our ringing area was alive with the calls of newly arrived warblers, mainly Blackcaps, Sedge Warblers and Reed Warblers, with lesser numbers of Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats and the trickling liquid calls of Grasshopper Warblers. Then whilst carrying out a net round at 8.45am, shortly before ending the morning's session, we came across a large warbler among a number of Blackcaps high up in one of the nets.  Identification was not immediate as the sun was in our eyes but on lowering the net for extracting the birds we were pleased to find the Haven's first Barred Warbler."

Barred Warbler - Titchfield Haven (Photo: B Duffin)

Unfortunately, at this point I was away from my phone and missed the text; being only 10 minutes away I could have easily have made it.

Not only is this the first recorded at the Haven, but also it is the first ever ringed in Hampshire, and a species that would have been new for me in the County........as you can imagine I was gutted to have missed it.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Tawny Pipit - Gunner Point, Hayling Island

After a busy ringing session this morning, which I will write about later, I received a text from Pete Gammage, saying that he had just found a Tawny Pipit at Gunner Point, on Hayling Island. It was not a new bird for me in Hampshire, but it was a species that I had not seen for many years in the county, so I headed down to see it. After a bit of confusion with the actual location I arrived at the site and headed out to look for the bird. Unfortunately, I was greeted by that dreaded scene of a handful of birders looking at where the bird had last been seen, but the bird having flown off towards the golf course.

The assembled birders spent a while scanning before gradually drifting off, and before long there was only a few of us left. We were just about to head off, when Mark Edgeller picked up the bird flying over and away from us. After much circling it settled on the beach briefly, but before we located it, it took flight again and flew back to the area where it had been found, giving excellent views to everyones relief.

Tawny Pipit - Gunner Point, Hayling Island
Tawny Pipit - Gunner Point, Hayling Island
Tawny Pipit - Gunner Point, Hayling Island
Tawny Pipit - Gunner Point, Hayling Island
Tawny Pipit - Gunner Point, Hayling Island
Tawny Pipit - Gunner Point, Hayling Island
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