Saturday, 30 November 2013

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gull at Linacre

Every winter Linacre Reservoirs are visited by between 80 and 100 Black-headed Gulls, which normally stay until April, and every year I scan through them in the hope of finding a ringed bird. Well today, all that patience paid off when I found an adult bird which was ringed with a metal ring on its left leg and a coloured darvic ring on its right leg (black lettering on a white background).

I don't carry my 'scope around usually, so I had to try and get close enough to the bird to read the ring with my binoculars. I eventually managed to get close enough to see that it was either LC30 or TC30. I sent the record into the BTO, and will hopefully get an answer back soon. I also checked another really good website, The Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study, which, as its name suggests, is a website about a group in Northern Ireland that colour rings Black-headed Gulls, and also has recorded several "foreign ringed" Black-headed Gulls on their patch. I don't think today's gull was from their scheme, as they tend to use red darvic rings, but they have had some white ringed gulls from Poland and Norway, so who knows?? An update will appear as soon as I hear anything.

As well as this gull there were also another 77 Black-headed Gulls present, along with my first Goosander of the winter (1 male), Mallard (110), Tufted Duck (61), Coot (8), Moorhen (7), Grey Heron (2 perched together in trees on the bottom reservoir) and Mandarin Duck (19). A small flock of 15 Crossbills were seen and heard around the middle reservoir, along with a small number of Redwings and Fieldfares and a singing Mistle Thrush.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Barn Owl Box Adoption

Back in 2005 Jayne adopted a nest box for me through the Adopt a Box scheme run by the Hawk and Owl Trust.

Yesterday I got my update for 2013, which showed that my box had been used by roosting Barn Owls, but that they hadn't managed to breed this year.

Here are the details for the previous years:

2005 - 3 Barn Owls fledged
2006 and 2007 - lost details - sorry!
2008 - 3 Barn Owls fledged
2009 - 6 Barn Owls fledged
2010 - 3 Barn Owls fledged
2011 - used by roosting Barn Owls
2012 - 2 Barn Owls fledged

According to the newsletter, which came with my update this year, 2013 was the worst year since 1958 for breeding Barn Owls, with a drop of 75% in the number of nests occupied and birds ringed.

So, if you're stuck for an Christmas present idea this year, why not think about adopting a box, and let's see if we have a better year in 2014?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Weekend Ringing

I managed to get out ringing twice this weekend with the guys from Sorby Breck; Saturday we were at Linacre and today we spent four hours at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands reserve.

Saturday's session at Linacre started off very well with a flock of approximately 25 Crossbills flying around the site. Unfortunately, we couldn't entice any of them into the nets, but we did manage to catch an impressive 50 birds of 8 species, including 22 Great Tits and several Goldfinch. Here are a couple of pictures showing a male and a female Goldfinch.

Male bird with red extending behind the eye and black nasal hairs above the beak

Female bird with less extensive red and paler nasal hairs
Have a look at this link to see lots more Goldfinch photos from a ringer in the North West, who has ringed over 300 different birds in his garden this winter!!
Other birds seen during the session included 45 Pink-footed Geese flying over, a couple of Cormorants and a female Sparrowhawk that we disturbed from its breakfast.
1 less Woodpigeon at Linacre!
This morning's session at The Avenue was also pretty productive, with 47 birds ringed.  The Trust have created a "Living Bird Table" at the reserve by planting an area with crops such as Sunflowers and Kale. The plants are left to go to seed and the seed is then left for the birds to eat. We set up some nets an the edge of the field and managed to catch about a dozen Reed Buntings and Goldfinches. Linnets and Yellowhammers have also been feeding here, so hopefully we'll be able to catch these too during the winter. Other notable catches this morning were 2 Willow Tits and a retrap Great-spotted Woodpecker, along with the usual Robins, Dunnocks, Chaffinches, Blue and  Great Tits.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Starling Murmaration

For several years now, Jayne and I have been talking about visiting a Starling roost/murmaration. There are several to be found around the country, but we've never managed to find one close by. This year, however, we heard about one containing around 20,000 birds at Middleton Moor, near Stoney Middleton, which is about half an hour's drive from our house.

We decided to pop across this afternoon and we were very pleased that we did. We arrived at 3.30pm, and the first few birds began to arrive straight away. Over the next hour literally thousands and thousands flew in over out heads before dropping down into the reedbeds. We estimated tens, if not hundreds of thousands, but I can't be sure. Most birds flew straight in to the reeds, but several thousand did a bit of a murmaration before dropping in to roost. Amazing sight, and I even managed to get splattered, if you know what I mean- what an honour!

Here are a few photos. Please count the birds and let me know how many you get! Here's a link to a short video from tonight as well.

Starlings at Middleton Moor

Such high numbers of  Starlings always attract the attention of predators, and we saw 1 Sparrowhawk flying through the birds. A Peregrine Falcon was seen to take one bird on the other side of the roost by other observers, and a Buzzard also flew past.

Unusually, a Curlew was also heard and then seen flying around the site. Quite late in the season I would have thought?

Derbyshire Bird Report 2012

Hot on the heals of the BTO Atlas came another superb publication through the post this week: The Derbyshire Bird Report 2012.

As always, the DOS do a brilliant job in publishing the Bird Report in the following year i.e. 2013 for the 2012 report, and again, as always, its a great read. I particularly like looking through to see which reports I sent in and, of course, to see all the records relating to Linacre Reservoirs.

Reading the section on the Mandarin Duck, it's interesting to see that Linacre was the best site in Derbyshire in 2012 for this species, in that we had the highest count of the year (70 in October, in case you were wondering).

At the back of the book there's a short section on some of the key ringing recoveries for the year, including a Coal Tit that Alan from our group ringed at Ramsley Reservoir on 13th September, and that I re trapped at Linacre 16 days later, a movement of 6km.

If you want to get a copy for yourself, you can usually find them in local bookshops, including The Bakewell Bookshop or by following this link to the DOS website for details. Well worth the £8.65, or better still become a member and you'll get next year's free!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

BTO Atlas arrives!!

Over the last few days I read a lot of tweets from people around the country telling everyone that the new BTO Bird Atlas 2007 -2011 has arrived. Today I got home from work to find my copy waiting for me on the table.

Bird Atlas (and my legs)

As the name suggest, this amazing book of over 700 pages and weighing in at over 3kg (according to one tweet I read, I haven't weighed it, honestly), is the result of 4 years of fieldwork by over 40,000 volunteers (myself included, see posts here), throughout the UK and Ireland, and provides an overview of the breeding and wintering status of all British birds. There are some good news stories, but unfortunately, also several worrying statistics, charting severe declines for many species.

I've just had a quick flick through, but I'm very pleased to see that my patch, Linacre Reservoirs, gets a special mention on p.190, in the section about Mandarin Ducks.

To take a look for yourself and to order a copy, follow this link.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Garden Moths and Spider Update

I had the moth trap out in the garden for a few hours on Saturday night. I only caught 4 moths, but 2 of them were new to me. The first had the amazing name of Little Brown Apple  and the second one was a very worn individual and the people on Ispot couldn't identify it with 100% certainty, but they felt it was either a Brick or a Yellow-line Quaker. Here's some photos.

Little Brown Apple

Brick or Yellow-line Quaker
The other two moths were a Silver Y and a Twenty-plume Moth. The new additions take my Garden Moth List to an amazing 11 species (8 macro moths and 3 micro moths)!!
On Sunday I noticed a spider in my bath. I managed to get it out and took this photo.
Again, the people at Ispot identified it for me as Textrix denticulata, which is a common spider often found in houses. This one is a male. More details here.

UK and Eire Natural History Bloggers Website

Just a short post tonight to let any readers out there know about the UK and Eire Natural History Bloggers Website.

Its a website where bloggers from around the country can post links to their blogs. I've signed up to this and its well worth a look

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Hybrid Duck at Linacre

I set off to walk around Linacre this morning, but only got as far as the middle reservoir, when I spotted an odd looking duck swimming with a small group of Tufted Duck. My initial thought was Scaup (!!!), but then I remembered a similar looking bird that was seen in April 2010 and was identified as a hybrid between a Tufted Duck and a Pochard.

I hadn't taken my 'scope with me, so I popped home to get it, hoping that I'd get some shots. Unfortunately, the weather was very grey and overcast and the bird kept a long way away, so no photos were possible. I did, however, manage to get a bit of video footage, which does seem to show that the bird in question was a hybrid. (link here)

If you stop the video at about 25 seconds you can see a large black nail on the end of the bill. Scaup have a much smaller nail. Also, the plumage isn't right for a Scaup. The Linacre bird's feathers on the back don't show the fine vermiculation present on a male Scaup. It also has a slight tuft on the head too, which Scaup doesn't have. The Collins Bird Guide has a few pages on hybrid waterfowl, and shows a very similar bird to the one I saw today on p.35.

No problem, still an interesting sighting!

Not much else was about this morning, but I did spot 2 Wigeon and about 25 Mandarin Ducks.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Woody and Creeper

Out ringing again this morning with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. This week we were at our garden site in Sheffield, where we managed a very respectable 39 birds, including a stunning female Great-spotted Woodpecker, a beautiful Treecreeper and a charm of 5 Goldfinch.

The Great-spotted Woodpecker was my first of the year, and also the first that I've extracted from the nets. Thankfully, she (it was a female bird born this year) was quite gentle with me and only drew blood on one finger! Thanks for the help David.

Great-spotted Woodpecker
Here's a picture of the Treecreeper, what a stunning bird. You never get to see the white feathers on the front when they're creeping up a tree, and look at that beak. Amazing!


My ringing totals for today were (new/retraps):
Great Tit 2/1, Blue Tit 2/4, Goldfinch 2/0, Great-spotted Woodpecker 1/0, Blackbird 0/1 and Wren 1/0.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Tit and Swallow Recoveries

One of the many joys of ringing is when I receive an email from fellow ringer, David, outlining details of recoveries of birds ringed by ourselves or other members of the BTO's Ringing Scheme. I receive two such emails this week and here are the details.

The first email was a record of two tits that we had ringed earlier this year as juvenile birds (pulli), in the nest boxes at Linacre Reservoirs. One was a Blue Tit, that was ringed on 4th June in box 5a and was one of a brood of 9 birds. This bird was retrapped last Saturday (see here), by us (Sorby Breck Ringing Group), at our feeding station at Linacre, an amazing movement of approximately 1/2km!!

The second bird was a Great Tit. This bird, too, was ringed by us at Linacre in box 14 on 12th June, one of a brood of 5, and was retrapped again at the feeding station as well. Great to see these two birds doing so well. Hopefully, they'll turn up breeding in the nestboxes in 2014.

The second email I received told me about two Swallows that we "controlled" at The Avenue Washlands back in August (see here). Controls are birds that we catch that have been ringed by other ringers. The first bird, a bird born this year, had been ringed at Middleton Moor, 21km away on 26th July and we caught it again on 30th July. The second bird, another of this year's birds, had travelled a little further (47km), from Wintersett Reservoir in West Yorkshire. It had been originally ringed on 14th August and we caught it again on 26th August (see here). Hopefully these two birds carried on south and are now enjoying the sun in South Africa!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Linacre WeBS - November 2013

This month's WeBS walk took place this morning in dry,sunny conditions with temperatures of just 3 degrees. Waterbirds were present in good numbers with some of the highest counts of the year and I also managed to add a new species of moth to the Linacre List!

First up the birds. Mallard numbers were excellent today with a record count of 116 over the three reservoirs. Tufted Ducks were also present in high numbers; 60 today, which is the highest count of the year so far. Mandarin Ducks came in at 39, which is pretty good and a count of 14 Coot was very good. 9 Moorhens were present (highest count of the year), and included a juvenile bird on the bottom reservoir. The Kingfisher was heard again on the middle reservoir along with 1 adult Great-crested Grebe and 2 Little Grebes. Black-headed Gull numbers are starting to increase and today's count of 78 was the highest count of the year. Also present were: 1 Cormorant, 2 Grey Herons and 2 Grey Wagtails.

The Crossbills were still around and c.20 were seen and heard, along with the first Siskins of the winter (3).

When I got back to the car park I spotted a moth on my window. It looked quite tatty and was very sluggish, but I managed to get a photo and identify it as a Red-green Carpet, a first for the Linacre List.

Red-green Carpet

Linacre Ringing - 9th November

After four weeks off due to the weather I managed to get out ringing again this morning. I went out with Sorby Breck to Linacre and together we managed to catch 28 birds of 7 species (Dunnock, Wren, Robin, Chaffinch, Great, Blue and Coal Tit).

My personal totals were (new/retrap): Blue Tit 3/2, Great Tit 1/1,  Coal Tit 1/0, Robin 0/2 and Dunnock 1/0.

One of the re trapped Great Tits was wearing a B ring, which means that it was ringed as a chick (pullus), hopefully in one of our boxes. I'll let you know when I get the details.

Other birds seen on sight were: Crossbill (20 flew over the ringing site),  Redwing (5+), Fieldfare (c40 over),  Starling ( 3 groups of approx. 40 birds flew over), Sparrowhawk (1 female being mobbed by a Crow), Grey Heron (2 flew over), Skylark (1 was heard flying over).

Sunday, 3 November 2013

One bird - three ticks

I'm not a twitcher (honestly!!), but when I switched Birdguides on today and saw news of a Glossy Ibis in Bakewell I just had to go over and have a look. Not only was it a Year tick, but also a British Tick and a Derbyshire Tick- wow!

The bird had been seen late yesterday and had then spent this morning flying up and down the River Wye. It was reported on the Bakewell Showground at 1.00pm, so I drove across with Jayne, just in time to see the bird heading off "high to the west". Phew, just made it. We had a look around the area for a while, but couldn't relocate it, so no photos unfortunately. Instead here are a couple of a flock we saw in Lesvos in 2011.

Glossy Ibis, Kalloni Saltpans, Lesvos, April 2011
Year List update:
195 – Glossy Ibis
UPDATE: follow this link for a photo of the Bakewell's Glossy Ibis.
The Brambling is still in the garden today as well.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Year List Update

I've just been going through my Year List notes, and I noticed that there were a few species missing. As a result, my Year List has just increased by 8 species!! Here they are:

187 – Great Black-backed Gull
188 – Grey Heron
189 – Knot
190 – Curlew
191 – Jay
192 – Jackdaw
193 - Canada Goose
194 - Raven

The 200 mark looks achievable!!!!

Garden Brambling

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) is an uncommon visitor to the garden, with my only other sightings usually in March/April, or during bad weather, so I was very surprised and pleased to find this lovely male bird hopping around in the Whitebeam tree this afternoon. Click on the RSPB's website here for some more information about this bird.

He was feeding on the berries along with a male Chaffinch for a good half an hour. Lovely record for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme, along with the 2 Redwing that popped in yesterday for a couple of minutes.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Linacre - first November visit

Had a couple of hours down at Linacre this morning (7am - 9am). The sun was out for the first hour and I managed to get a nice shot of the sunrise.

Bottom reservoir
 I also took this one of the top reservoir in the sunshine.

Top reservoir

This last photo is a panoramic shot of the top reservoir. Click on the picture to make  it bigger.

Top reservoir

Waterbirds seen today were: Mallard (107, the highest count this year), Tufted Duck (50, still a very good number following the 58 last weekend), Mandarin Duck (31), Coot (6), Moorhen (9, highest count of the year), Grey Wagtail (1), Little Grebe (1 adult), Great-crested Grebe (1 adult), Kingfisher (1 on the north side of the middle reservoir and perched on a branch by the overflow), Grey Heron 1, possibly 2 birds, both being mobbed by the gulls), and Black-headed Gull (62 - the highest count this winter).

The Crossbills were present again today, and I managed to count 16 as they flew around the south side of the top reservoir. Redwing and Fieldfare (c.6 flew over) were also flying about, and a couple of Mistle Thrushes were in trees by the bottom car park.