Sunday, 30 September 2012

Linacre Weekend

No I haven't just spent a weekend at Linacre, but I have managed two visits over the last two days; one for ringing yesterday and one for general birding today.

Saturday's ringing session was very good with grey, overcast, still conditions first thing. Five members of the group were present and between us we managed to catch 52 birds, including several retraps, and a "ringing tick" for me in the shape of a lovely juvenile Song Thrush. Whether this bird was a "home grown" one or had moved in from elsewhere is unknown, but who knows, hopefully it will be retrapped later, either here or abroad.

Song Thrush

Seven species of bird were caught today ( Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Goldfinch and the Song Thrush). I personally got to "process" the following birds (new/retraps); Blue Tit 3/1, Great Tit 2, Coal Tit 1/1, Chaffinch 1, Bullfinch 1 and Song Thrush 1. Other birds/wildlife recorded on site during the ringing session were 4 Swallows (my last record of the year?),  2 Cormorants, several Jays, the first Siskins of the winter, 2 Common Buzzards and a Speckled Wood butterfly.

This morning the weather was again grey and overcast, but much windier than yesterday, so no good for ringing. Instead I had a couple of hours walking around the reservoirs where the highlight was a group of 5 Common Buzzards that we're flying/soaring together over the woods. This is my highest count ever, so perhaps they bred here successfully this year? Other good sightings were a Raven, which is only the second record this year, a Chiffchaff that was feeding with a mixed Tit flock (including Willow Tit), 35 Mandarin Ducks, 91 Mallards (my highest count this winter), 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls flying west and the 2 juvenile Great-crested Grebes.

Monday, 24 September 2012

New site and lots of birds.

This morning's ringing session with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group took place at a new site, a private garden in Wingerworth in Chesterfield. 3 nets were put up and in the vicinity of a very well stocked feeding station that is fed throughout the year. By the end of the morning we had ringed a total of 91 birds of 10 species, (Blackbird, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Robin, Great-spotted Woodpecker,  Blue, Great and Coal Tit). What an amazing start!

As there were so many birds today I was able to handle a good number of birds, retraps in brackets ( Nuthatch (1), Great Tit 10, Blue Tit 10, Goldfinch 2, Coal Tit 3, Dunnock 1, Chaffinch 2, and Blackbird 1). It also gave me a great opportunity to practise ageing and sexing techniques on the commoner species. The Great-spotted Woodpecker in particular was interesting, as it was only the third I've seen "in the hand". See here for my last encounter with this species. Here's a picture of one of the bird's feet, showing the two claws facing backwards and two facing forwards, so called zygodactyl feet! We also got a great chance to see the amazing tongue and the stiff tail feathers used when climbing trees. A super bird.

Great-spotted Woodpecker foot complete with shiny new ring

Other birds seen or heard this morning  were: Common Buzzard (3 overhead), Pink-footed Goose (c.100 overhead, my first of the winter), Jay, Woodpigeon, Tawny Owl, Sparrowhawk, one singing Chiffchaff and Willow Tit. Hopefully we'll be able to catch and ring these species next time.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Linacre 22nd September 2012

With no ringing this morning due to family commitments I decided to head down to Linacre for a few hours first thing.

The light this morning was superb and, without a breath of wind, the water on all 3 reservoirs was as still and flat as I think I've ever seen it. There was a slight chill in the air and a little mist was hanging over the bottom reservoir. With the temperature down to just 4 degrees, shaded areas of the sight had the first frost of the winter.

Bottom reservoir

I started my walk on the bottom reservoir where the first waterbirds of the day were Mallards. Throughout the walk I counted a total 69, which was a significant increase on last week's count of just 43. Also present here were the first of 22 Tufted Ducks ( 1 more than last week!) and 27 of the 35 Mandarin Ducks seen throughout the morning. Coots and Moorhens were also added to the list and, by the end of the two hours I'd recorded 8 and 6 respectively (similar numbers to last week). A single adult Little Grebe was also seen on the bottom reservoirs, but no sign of the juvenile bird today.

The middle reservoir was relatively quiet this morning, but I did still manage to find the 3 Great-crested Grebes (1 adult and 2 juveniles), 1 Grey Heron enjoying the early morning sun, 2 Grey Wagtails and 3 Cormorants.

Away from the water the usual woodland birds (Blue, Great, Long-tailed, Coal and Willow Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Jay, Woodpigeon, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Goldcrest, Nuthatch and Treecreeper) were all seen. Other bird seen today which aren't seen on every trip included a pair of Bullfinch, 2 Mistle Thrushes, which were defending a Rowan tree full of berries, and perhaps the best of all, a Chiffchaff, which was singing half heartedly. Chiffchaffs are heard every year into at least October, especially on sunny days, and we have at least one record of a warbler species seen on a fat ball in the woods in January, which was presumably a Chiffchaff.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Linacre WeBS Walk - 15th and 16th September 2012

As in previous months I couldn't get to Linacre on the Saturday for the monthly WeBS walk because of ringing activities. Therefore many thanks again to the members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group who turned up to carry out the walk. I did manage to get down today though, and the following details are a combination of both visits.

First up were the Mandarin Ducks of which 30 were seen. This month and October are the best time to catch up with the Mandarins at Linacre because all the young birds and adult males have moulted into their new feathers and therefore look really good. As well as this, these months see the highest counts of Mandarins and they are therefore easier to see. Where they go afterwards is not yet known, but numbers fall throughout the winter, until only a few breeding pairs remain in the spring and summer. They are present on all three reservoirs, but can most easily be seen on the bottom reservoir perched on the branches of the over-hanging trees.
Male Mandarin
Mallard numbers this month were average for the time of year at 43. Most juveniles are now more or less fully grown and difficult to tell from the moulting adults. It doesn't seem to have been a particularly good year for this species at Linacre with only a handful of broods seen.

Tufted Duck were also present today with a  count of 21. No young were counted and, as far as I am aware, they have only ever bred once at Linacre in 2010.

Tufted Duck

Both Little and Great-crested Grebes have bred this year. Today there were 2 Little Grebes (1 adult and 1 juvenile) and 3 Great-crested Grebes (1 adult and 2 juveniles). Both these species are year-round residents and breed in most years. Little Grebes tend to be seen on the bottom reservoir, whereas the Great-crested Grebes seem to prefer the middle reservoir.

Little Grebe

Great-crested Grebe

Moorhen and Coot are another two of Linacre's resident water bird. Both species were recorded this month; Moorhen 4 (3 juveniles and 1 adult) and Coot (9, all adults). Both species seem to have suffered a poor breeding season this year and were present in smaller numbers than normal. Both these species can be seen on all three reservoirs.

Gulls were represented by 12 over-flying Lesser Black-backed Gulls. This was the first record of the year and represents a very good record. The only over gulls normally recorded at Linacre are Black-headed Gulls which are winter visitors and normally return in October or November. They are then recorded on every visit until the end of March. I'd love to see a colour ringed bird, so that I could find out where they come from!

Adult Black-headed Gull in winter plumage

Other water birds recorded this month were Grey Heron (1), Grey Wagtail (1), Cormorant (2; 1 adult and 1 juvenile) and Kingfisher (1). Grey Herons have become less frequent in the last few years and haven't bred since 2010. They are now recorded sporatically throughout the year. Grey Wagtails are present throughout the year and breed every year. Cormorant records have increased in the last few years. They are still primarily a winter visitor, but they appear to be returning ealier every summer with records in July this year. Kingfisher is usually recorded in the summer months and may breed on the river below the reservoirs, but this has not yet been proven. Next year perhaps?

Away from the water a single Chiffchaff was recorded on Saturday and both Swallows (10) and House Martins (c.30) were also seen. The woodlands contained all the usual tit species, Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks, Woodpigeon, Crows and Wrens, but no winter visitors were seen.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Meadow pipt extravaganza

Following on from my first ever Meadow Pipits at Linacre last week I spent 5 hours out ringing this morning with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group high up on the moors above Sheffield.

We arrived on site for a 5.30am start and after setting up several nets around a disused quarry we settled back for a morning of ringing. Despite a stiff breeze, the birds began arriving soon after the nets had been set and there was a steady stream throughout the morning, ending with a total of 69 birds (all Meadow Pipits).

Happy ringers

The identification of Meadow Pipits was relatively straight forward after the first few (thanks for all the pointers Michael!) but I must admit it took me quite a while to get my head around aging them. Hopefully I'll get some more practice before the end of the passage season!

There were only a few other birds around today; Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Red Grouse, but, amazingly, the Red Grouse was a Year Tick, so the Year List has increased by 1.

153 - Red Grouse

Saturday, 8 September 2012

New species for Linacre.

Four hours of ringing at Linacre this morning resulted in a total of 61 birds of 11 species. On any day this would have been more than satisfactory. However, with one of those species being Meadow Pipit ( a new species for Linacre and ringing tick for me), I was a very happy person indeed.

The morning started well when one of the first birds out of the net was a juvenile Chiffchaff. This was quickly followed by several Blue and Great Tits, a Robin, a Nuthatch and a Wren. Other birds including a Blackbird, a couple of juvenile Goldfinch, a Chaffinch and a Coal Tit soon followed. The highlight of the morning, however, was the arrival of not one ...not two.... but SIX Meadow Pipits. All the birds were identified as juveniles and, as mentioned before, were a new species for Linacre and a ringing tick for me! Unfortunately, no photos, as guess what, I'd left my camera at home! Thanks a lot to Dave, for putting the nets in the correct place.

Other birds noted during the morning were: Sparrowhawk x 1, Kestrel x 1 (very near the nest box, that they've never used), Common Buzzard x 2, House Martin x 2, Swallow x 2 and Great-spotted Woodpecker.

As the weather was really warm and sunny there were several insects about including a 7 spot Ladybird, 2 Red Admirals, 2 Small Tortoiseshells, 1 Small Copper, 1 Meadow Brown and a Comma, my first of the year.


All in all an excellent start to the weekend.


Friday, 7 September 2012

Lovely bird!

I spend a lot of time looking at bird blogs from around the world. I know, how boring am I?!

Anyway, the other day I cam across this great blog post about a leusistic Willow Warbler that had been caught during August on Hilbre Island in North West England. I was really impressed with the colouration of this bird and so I thought I'd share it with a few more people. Hope you like it.

Follow this link to the post of 18th August 2012.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

200th post!

Hello and welcome to my 200th post! I was out again yesterday morning with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group at our regular site in Sheffield. The morning started very well with a Swallow the first bird in the nets, followed by 61 other birds of 13 species.

I personally ringed 13 birds today: Goldfinch - 1 juvenile, Chiffchaff - 1 juvenile, Great Tit - 2, House Sparrow 1 juvenile, Blue Tit - 2 and 2 retraps, Swallow - 1 juvenile, Blackbird - 2 juveniles and Dunnock - 1 juvenile.

At this time of year a lot of the birds are moulting  which can make them look quite different, such as this juvenile Blackbird.


Other birds seen but not ringed today were a Sparrowhawk which was hunting around the site and a Kestrel which was spotted hunting nearby.