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.

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