Thursday, 27 June 2013

End of the year report.

No I'm not going crazy. I know it's only June, but for the birds using the nest boxes at Linacre this year, it is the end of the breeding season. I went down last night to ring the last 2 remaining broods, 1 of 7 Blue Tits and 1 of 5 Great Tits, so I thought I'd give you a round up of this year's highs and lows.

Thankfully this year, the highs have far outweighed the lows. Over the last month or so we've had 28 tit boxes and 2 owl boxes used, which is a 33% occupancy rate. Of the 28 tit boxes used, 25 were successful and only 3 failed before the young birds could be ringed. Obviously, not all the birds have fledged yet, so there could still be some more deaths before the birds fledge.

Blue Tits used 19 boxes, 18 of which were successful and brood sizes ranged from 3-12 chicks, with the mean being 7. Great Tits used 9 boxes, 7 of which were successful, again with a  range of  3- 7 chicks, the mean being 5. A total of 166 tit pulli have been ringed from the boxes (129 Blue Tits and 37 Great Tits), which is 20 more than last year.

Two of the three owl boxes were used by Mandarin Ducks this year. As a group, we managed to ring both female birds. Both boxes contained between 10 eggs and, after fledging, just 2 eggs were found in one box and one dead chick was found in the other, giving a successful fledging rate of 80% and 90% respectively. At least 2 broods have been spotted on the reservoirs already this year, and we look forward to seeing if the female bird will breed again in the boxes in 2014. The third owl box wasn't used for breeding this year, but a Tawny Owl was present in it in April, so again, fingers are crossed for next year. The Kestrel box was occupied by Grey Squirrels again this year!

Away from the boxes, the only open nest found was that of a Song Thrush. Four eggs were found on 12th May (see here). Four chicks were seen later in the month and three were ringed in early June (see here). The nest is now empty, so hopefully the birds fledged successfully.

The final nest that we managed to monitor and ring birds from was a Little Owl nest found in a tree by the entrance. The first reports of Little Owl came in summer last year, and a pair was spotted in the same set of trees throughout the Spring. In May we checked out a possible nest site and ringed the female bird (see here), and then one chick from the nest on 16th June (see here).

Nests that were seen, but not ringed, included 2 Great-crested Grebes and 1 Little Grebe, but I'll update these as the summer progresses. Now all we want is to recapture some of this year's birds over the winter period and, hopefully, using the boxes again next year.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Linacre insects and flowers

At this time of the year the birdlife at Linacre can go quite quiet, so, whilst walking around on Sunday, I also started to look around at the flowers that are coming out and some of the insects that live on them. Some of the species I didn't recognise, so I put them on iSpot and got a few new names. Here are a few pictures.

Red and Black Froghopper
Marmalade Hoverfly
Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius - male)
Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum)
Marsh Snipefly (Rhagio tringarius)
Marsh Orchid species
Common-spotted Orchid

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Linacre WeBS- June 22nd 2013

This month's WeBS count at Linacre was a joint effort between myself and Chesterfield RSPB Group. I counted for a couple of hours this afternoon, whilst Mandy and Chris provided details from yesterday morning. Thanks for the input.

The counts this month were as follows: Mallard (49; 17 adults and 4 broods of ducklings, 7, 7,8 and 10), Coot (20; 7 adults and 5 broods of chicks totalling 13 birds), Great-crested Grebe ( 11; 3 adults and 2 broods of 4 chicks each), Little Grebe (2 adults with a nest), Tufted Duck (11; all adults), Grey Heron (1), Canada Goose (1 on the bottom reservoir with a female Mallard and her ducklings), Cormorant (1 adult bird- the first of the "winter"!!),

Checking back on June sightings for the last few years, these numbers are pretty much in line with what's expected. I'm particularly happy with the Little Grebe nest though, as this species has been very quiet and elusive this year. Hopefully they'll continue with the nest and raise some young as well.

Here are a few shots of the Mallard ducklings.

Mallards and a Canada Goose

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Nightjar Walk - Clumber Park

Every year, at about this time, I join up with Chesterfield RSPB group to lead an evening walk around the National Trust's property of Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. The key species we're looking for are Woodcock and Nightjar, and this year we managed excellent views of both species.

The evening started in the main car park, where we spent a couple of hours walking around the lake and woods. We managed good views of many different duck species, including Mallard, Tufted Duck and Gadwall. Canada and Greylag Geese were present in very good numbers (50+) of each species and there were at least 30 Mute Swans, with one group of 7 cygnets. Gulls were represented with several Black-headed and 1 over-flying Lesser Black-backed.

Summer migrants were present around the site and included Swifts, Swallows, House Martins attending nests on the buildings, a singing Cuckoo and 3 species of warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.

The night ended with a short drive to another area of the park where we heard and saw the stars of the night; Woodcock and Nightjar. Lovely birds!

Year List:
145 - Nightjar

Monday, 17 June 2013

Busy Weekend

This weekend I have been very busy with ringing and birding. After Friday night's trip to Ladybower Woods I was out on Saturday and Sunday morning ringing with members of the group, adding another 23 Blue Tits, 2 Great Tits, 2 Pied Flycatchers and 1 Little Owl pullus to the total. As well as the ringing I also managed an addition to my "Year List" with a singing Quail in fields near Shilito Woods (thanks for the tip off Sylvia).

Saturday morning's ringing session took place at a new site for me, Greenwood Farm, an area of land in the Peak District, owned by the National Trust, and part of the Longshaw Estate. Over a three hour visit we managed to ring 2 broods of Pied Flycatchers, as well as several Blue and Great Tit clutches, including 1 Blue Tit nest with 15 well grown pulli, the highest number I've ever seen.

Sunday morning started with the year tick, when I went to listen to a singing Quail. The song is very distinctive, listen here, but the bird is very elusive and rarely seen. Afterwards I drove up to Linacre, where the group ringed another 44 more pulli, including a Little Owl chick from the nest where we ringed the female bird in May (see here). Back in May she had laid 2 eggs, but when we checked yesterday only 1 had hatched.

Little Owl pullus

There were three boxes with pulli still to ring, so when they're done next week I'll give a round up of this year's successes.

After the ringing we popped down to the ringing site to check on the net lanes and whilst down there we spotted this beautiful day-flying moth, which according to Ispot and UKMoths is a Forester. It's a new species for Linacre and it posed nicely for this photo.


Year List:

144- Quail

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Another Ringing Tick

Following quick on the heels of last week's Redstart chicks, I was back at the DWT's Ladybower Woods reserve on Friday to catch up with the Pied Flycatcher chicks that were too small to ring last weekend.

Oak woodland at Ladybower Wood

This time around there was one box of  pulli that were ready, so together with Ray, my trainer and Stewart, I got to ring my 43rd species of bird and my 5th new species of the year.

Here are the brood before ringing and one of the 6 individuals I was lucky enough to ring.

Pied Flycatchers
Pied Flycatcher pullus

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Small Phoenix!

Whilst out ringing at the DWT's Ladybower Woods this morning Stewart and I came across this interesting moth.

Small Phoenix
After a bit of research I think I've identified it as a Small Phoenix, which is a relatively common moth found across Britain, in open woodland, feeding on willowherbs such as Rosebay Willowherb. Here's a link to the UK Moths website, so you can check for yourself.

Ladybower Wood SSSI

Spent a couple of hours out at the DWT's Ladybower Wood reserve with Stewart from the ringing group to check a few boxes and ring my first Redstart pulli. He had 1 box  with 4 chicks in it and we ringed 2 each. Thanks Stewart!

Redstart pulli
We checked a few other boxes and ringed some Blue and Great Tits, but the 4 boxes with Pied Flycatcher chicks and eggs weren't ready, so they'll have to wait for another day.
Pied Flycatcher chicks
Pied Flycatcher eggs
As well as these birds we also managed to record several other species including 2 "year ticks", namely Wood Warbler and Tree Pipit. Cuckoos were calling all morning and Stewart managed a quick glimpse of one as I dragged myself up the hill!!
Year List:
142 - Wood Warbler
143 - Tree Pipit

Saturday, 8 June 2013

First Damselfly of the Year

Popped down to Ecclesall Woods in Sheffield this afternoon and whilst there spotted my first damselflies of the year; a pair of Large Red Damselflies. No photos of this pair, but here are a couple from previous years.

Pair in tandem
Large Red Damselfly

Pulli ringing at Linacre

Last Tuesday I went down to Linacre with the Sorby Group to check the nest boxes and ring the first of this year's chicks or pulli. The first box we checked, Box 18, contained a brood of 4 well developed Great Tits.

Great Tit pullus
Over the next 3 hours my trainer and I checked all the boxes and ringed another 40+ pulli of either Blue or Great Tit. We also checked on the Song Thrushes and found 3 birds in the nest, which we ringed (my first Song Thrush pulli).
Song Thrush pullus
Some birds were still too young to ring on Tuesday, so I returned today with Alan and we ringed another 46 pulli (all Blue Tits) and 1 adult Blue Tit, a 5 female (born last year) with a very well developed brood patch, that was brooding some young chicks in one of the boxes. After checking the tit boxes we checked the 2 Mandarin boxes to see if the eggs had hatched. Last time we checked them (see here), both boxes contained brooding females with 10 eggs in each box, but today they were both empty, except for 2 addled eggs in 1 box and 1 dead duckling in the other. Hopefully the other ducklings got off safely. Out on the water the first Great-crested Grebe chick of the year was spotted on it's mum's back on the middle reservoir.
Again, there were still a few nests with young chicks not ready to ring, so I'll be back again next week!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull and possible Caspian Gull

Whilst in Suffolk last week I spent quite a few hours at RSPB Minsmere. One morning, whilst looking out over the scrapes I spotted a colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull (see below).

Lesser Black-backed Gulls
I sent off the record to the BTO and am currently awaiting information to say where and when it was ringed. It could possibly be from nearby Orford Ness, where many birds have been ringed and tracked on their winter migration (see details here).
Also out on the scrapes was this large, immature gull, (left hand bird) that I think is a Caspian Gull.
Immature Caspian and Lesser Black-backed Gulls
I love looking at gulls, but I'm not great on identifying them in juvenile plumages, so if you can positively identify this bird for me, please let me know.
UPDATE: I received an email today (3rd June), telling me that my colour-ringed LBB Gull was ring as a pullus at Havergate Island, an RSPB site in Suffolk, in July 2010. This is the first sighting back in England, but it was reported 3 times in winter 2010 in Portugal and then moved south to Agadir in Morocco, where it spent the early part of 2011 and returned again in winter 2012. Interestingly, this is very similar movement to the birds from Orford Ness, in the BTO research shown above.
UPDATE 2: Just heard from Dominic that the above bird is definitely a Caspian Gull, so thanks for that Dominic and I'll update the Year List:
141 - Caspian Gull

Westleton Heath and Easton Bavents

Following on from the two posts at the weekend I thought I'd better update the blog with  some more pictures and info from my recent Suffolk visit.

First up  was an early morning visit to Westleton Heath, where, after a little searching I managed to locate a few Dartford Warblers.

Dartford Warbler
Also present on this site were Linnet, Chaffinch, Mistle Thrush and a singing Woodlark.
Later that day I "twitched" a beautiful Red-backed Shrike that was present in bushes at Easton Bavents near Southwold. Not the world's best photo, 'cause the bird was quite distant and there was a heat haze! Beautiful bird!
Red-backed Shrike

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Linacre Red Kite and Nest Recording

Last year I blogged about a sighting of Red Kite over Linacre through gritted teeth, as it wasn't me who had seen it. Today, however, I can blog about my own sighting - hurrah!!!! I managed to see one very low, about 15m above my head, flying west over the top reservoir. It's been a long time coming, and I hope the next sighting will come much sooner. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get a photo as I was too busy looking at it and getting over the shock/excitement.

Away from the Kite, the main reason for the trip to Linacre this morning was to check up on the progress of the nest boxes. It was quite a strange experience as I found 28 active nests (27 in the boxes and the Song Thrush nest), which was very good news, but what was weird was the fact that some had chicks that were nearly ready to fledge while others had clutches of eggs still being incubated! In previous years most of the nests have been pretty synchronised, but this year the rule book's been thrown out and anything goes!

Great Tits nearly ready to fledge
Eggs- not ready to fledge yet!
Of the 27 nests in the boxes 6 were definitely Great Tits, 12 were definitely Blue Tits and 9 were either of these two species, but couldn't be identified as they were either eggs or very young chicks. Unfortunately there was no sign of the Pied Flycatcher today and no evidence of a nest in any of the boxes. I'm popping back later in the week to ring those chicks that are old enough. More news and pictures then.

I was also very pleased to re find the Song Thrush nest and even more pleased to find it jam packed full of 4 well grown juvenile Song Thrushes. As you can see they're pretty big. Hopefully they'll still be there on Thursday!

Song Thrushes

On the water breeding was confirmed for Mallard, when a group of 9 ducklings was seen, Coot with 1 group of 3 chicks and Moorhen with 1 small chick on the middle reservoir. In addition, there was an active Coot nest on the middle reservoir and active Great-crested Grebe and Moorhen nests on the top reservoir. I couldn'y see any evidence of the grebe nest on the middle reservoir, but it could have been hidden by the vegetation, which had grown up a lot in the last two weeks.

Mallard and 8 ducklings

All of the above nests will be recorded as part of the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Avenue Ringing - 1st June 2013

Out this morning to the DWT's Avenue Washlands with the guys from the Sorby Breck Group for a few hours. The ringing was quiet with just 14 birds ringed, but it was nice to be out again and we were treated to our first Robin and Great Tit pulli/juveniles of the year, a new ringing tick for the site, Mistle Thrush, and to a great sighting when a Great White Egret flew up out of the reedbeds!!! This is still a pretty uncommon bird here in Derbyshire, a first for the site, and my first county record, so I sent the record off to the Derbyshire Ornithological Society.

Birds ringed today were: Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Wren, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Robin.

My totals were: (new/retrap)

Wren 0/1, Robin 1/0 and Blackcap 1/0.

juvenile Robin

RSPB Lakenheath- 28th May 2013

During our recent trip to Suffolk Jayne and I popped across to the RSPB's Lakenheath Reserve in the search of a male Red-footed Falcon, that had been present for over 3 weeks. Unfortunately, the day before our visit it had had a run in with a local Sparrowhawk and wasn't playing ball. Added to that, the weather had turned cool, wet and windy, so we left slightly disappointed!

Despite the "no-show" from the falcon, we did manage to see and hear 25 species of bird including 3 Hobbys hunting together, hunting Marsh Harriers, Reed, Sedge,Cettis and Grasshopper Warbler, "pinging"Bearded Tit, a Kingfisher and several Cuckoos, including this one that perched briefly.


This Reed Warbler sat singing in the reeds near the path and I managed to grab a few shots before it disappeared again.
Reed Warbler