Sunday, 26 January 2014

7 year old Great Tit

Whenever we carry out a ringing demonstration, many people ask the question, "How long do birds live?". Obviously ringing and retrapping individual birds can help to answer this question and the BTO has records of "longevity records" on their website here.

At yesterday's ringing demonstration at Blackburn Meadows we retrapped quite a few Great Tits, and this morning I got an email telling me that one of the birds I handled yesterday had first been ringed, as an adult bird, on 24th August 2007, making it at least seven years old!

Looking at the BTO website, we can see that the oldest ever Great Tit was 13 years old when it was hit by a car and killed, so "my" bird still has a way to go.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Another new book and ringing at Blackburn Meadows

Whilst out ringing with the Sorby Breck Group this morning I was very pleased to get my hands on a copy of the new  book "Breeding Birds of the Sheffield Area 2003- 2008", which have been written and produced by the Sheffield Bird Study Group.

I haven't had time to read it from cover to cover yet (sorry David!), but after having had a quick look through, I can definitely recommend it. At just £20.00 ( and £5.00 p+p), this 358 page hard back book covering all the breeding birds found in the Sheffield area and the north-east Peak District between 2003-2008, is the bargain of the year. For details of how to get hold of a copy follow this link to our ringing website.
After buying the new book I also got on with some ringing this morning. We were at the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust's Blackburn Meadows Reserve carrying out another ringing demonstration. The nets were set at 5.30am (thanks Kevin and Sean), and when we arrived at we went out to find the first birds of the morning a Snipe and a Blackbird. The Snipe was a first for Alan, so I watched enviously as he ringed it! Unfortunatly we didn't catch any more today, so I'll have to wait a little longer for this new species.
Over the course of the morning we managed to catch another 36 birds (Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit, and Reed Bunting), which we shared with a dozen or so members of the public. Very enjoyable!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Swallow Recovery

Every year in July and August, we (Sorby Breck Ringing Group), ring Swallows coming in to roost at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands reserve near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. (see here)

Last year we ringed on several occasions, catching over 400 birds, and today I received an email from David, to say that one of the birds ringed by my trainer on 26th July, had been "controlled" or re caught by another ringer. The bird in question, a 3J or bird born this year, was controlled in Martham Pits in Norfolk by members of the East Norfolk Ringing Group, 38 days later, a movement of 210km.

This isn't the only Swallow ringed at The Avenue that's been recaught. See here and here for details.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Ringing Tick and Year List Update

Yesterday morning I was up and out with the Sorby Breck Ringing Group again. This time we helping out at a ringing demonstration at the National Trust's Longshaw Estate .

We set up at 7.00am and the first net round produced a very nice sight; an adult male Brambling. This was a first for me, and thanks to the generosity of the other ringers present, I got to ring it. Thanks everyone! No photos unfortunately, cause the ones I took were all rubbish and too poor to post! Have a look at this link to see just how nice a male Brambling is.

After this the weather started to deteriorate and we had the close the nets for a while. Luckily though, we reopened them after half an hour or so and managed to record 34 birds including 3 male Bullfinches, Great, Coal and Blue Tits, 1 Chaffinch,  a couple of  Blackbirds and a Great-spotted Woodpecker.

In the afternoon I went out to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with my wife, daughter and her boyfriend, for some lunch and a walk.  We went down to the lake, where we saw a couple of  "year ticks"; Grey Heron and  Great-crested Grebe. The herons were back on their nests on the islands on the lake. They aren't breeding yet, but are back rebuilding the nests and preparing for the forthcoming breeding season. Here's a picture of the lake with the nests in it. Its well worth a visit later in the Spring, as the nest can be seen very well from public footpaths.

Heron nests at YSP

Year List update:
81 - Grey Heron
82 - Great-crested Grebe

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Linacre WeBS - Januray 2014

The first WeBS walk of 2014 turned out to be a wet one with heavy rain throughout. Thankfully, however, the 2 members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group  who came along (many thanks!), soldiered on and managed some reasonable numbers, given the conditions.
Birds seen were: Mallard (76), Coot (12), Moorhen (6), Mandarin Duck (13), Black-headed Gull (5), Cormorant (2), Tufted Duck (60) Goosander (1 male). Unfortunately, due to the awful weather, there weren't any records of the Crossbills this week, but a report on the Sheffield Bird Study Group website of 38 from earlier in the week was very good. A Woodcock was also reported on 19th January on this website, the first record of the year.
I didn't walk around this month, but instead, put together 7 new tit boxes with Gillian, the DCC ranger and Noel from the RSPB Group. I'm going to get them up in the half term holidays to replace the open-fronted boxes that have never been used in the 7 years they've been in place! Come April time, hopefully these boxes will be used by the resident Blue and Great Tits, or, if we're very lucky, by Pied Flycatcher. Whatever happens, I'll record the details for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme ring any pulli and keep the blog updated.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Garden Birding and Year Tick

I spent a few hours watching the birds in the garden this morning, and was really happy to count 17 species including at least 39 Goldfinches, 2 Long-tailed Tits and 5 Lesser Redpolls. I get Goldfinches coming in everyday to feed on the sunflower hearts, but such a high count is very notable. Lesser Redpolls are annual winter visitors to the garden, but 5 together is again,  a good record. The records will be sent off to the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk with Jayne and Lydia to the National Trust's Longshaw Estate and Padley Gorge. We walked for about an hour, and although we didn't see much in the way of birds, we did come across a lovely flock of between 40-50 Bramblings feeding in the beech woodlands by the pond. A very nice Year Tick!

Beech woodlands at Longshaw
Year Tick update:
80 - Brambling

Saturday, 11 January 2014

First Linacre ringing session- 11th January 2014

I arrived at Linacre at 7am this morning to meet up with my ringing trainer and 2 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group to carry out our first Linacre ringing session of the year. On arrival we heard Tawny Owls calling in the surrounding woodlands.

Our aim was to set the nets while it was dark, and ring some Crossbills as they left their roost site. Unfortunately, the plan didn't come together and we didn't see any Crossbills at all, never mind ring any!! We did, however, manage to hear a Green Woodpecker (year tick), and catch a couple of new Goldfinches, a few Blue and Great Tits, a female Bullfinch and 1 Robin, but within an hour it began to rain, the wind picked up and so we decided to call it a day.

My nephew had come down as well, so when the rain cleared up, we decided to have a quick walk around the middle and top reservoirs. I'm glad we did, because, we managed to see a lovely flock of about 20 Crossbills(!), a couple of "red-head" Goosanders, 135 Mallards, 56 Tufted Ducks, 35 Mandarin Ducks, 1 Little Grebe, 56 Black-headed Gulls, 1 Grey Wagtail, 6 Moorhens and  9 Coots.

Year List update:

76 – Crossbill
77 – Green Woodpecker
78 – Grey Wagtail
79 – Goosander

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Avenue Ringing - 5th January 2014

After a four week break from ringing due to bad weather and Christmas I got out this morning with the group, visiting the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands reserve near Chesterfield. This is one of our regular sites and today's visit will be the first of many this year I'm sure.

We arrived at 7.45am and during the next three and a half hours we caught and processed 61 birds. The first net round produced a small flock of Long-tailed Tits, most of which had already been ringed by us on previous visits. It's always good to retrap ringed birds, as this helps us learn more about their movements and longevity. Here's a picture of my first bird of 2014- a Long-tailed Tit.

Long-tailed Tit

Throughout the morning we carried on catching a good number of birds of many different species; Blue, Great and Willow Tit, Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, Bullfinch and this beautiful male Greenfinch (1 of 5 birds).
Male Greenfinch
During net rounds we also like to do a bit of birding. Black-headed Gulls were flying over most of the morning along with a Jay, several Blackbirds and Robins. Sighting of the day, however was the small covey of 8/9 Grey Partridges that flew up from the site- a very good "year tick"
Year List update:
72 – Willow Tit
73 – Grey Partridge
74 – Reed Bunting
75 – Yellowhammer

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Whoopers at Linacre

Yesterday morning I got a text from Kathy, a member of the Chesterfield RSPB Group and regular WeBS counter at Linacre, letting me know that she had seen a herd of approximately 15 Whooper Swans on the middle reservoir at Linacre when she arrived. She said there were still 5 present when she left. I dropped everything, including the hoover, and drove straight down. When I got there there the 5 birds were still present and I was very pleased to see them, as they were my first at Linacre since 2008. As a group, we've only had 2 records (33 flying over and 27 on the reservoirs in March 2008 and 4 flying over in 2013), so any sightings are well received.

Whooper Swans

On the way back to the car I spotted a Song Thrush on the wall by the car park, which was my first of the year.

Other year ticks from yesterday and today are House Sparrow and Lesser Redpoll which were seen in the garden today (along with a Nuthatch, my first garden record for over a year, but not a year tick). All good records for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme. I also saw Kestrel and Sparrowhawk whilst driving to Castleton this afternoon, and Feral Pigeon, which I forgot to add on the other day!

Year List update:
65 -Whooper Swan
66 - Song Thrush
67 - House Sparrow
68 - Lesser Redpoll
69 -Kestrel
70 -Sparrowhawk
71 - Feral Pigeon

Friday, 3 January 2014

WWT Slimbridge - 28 Year Ticks and a Lifer

The weather forecast for Thursday was the best of the week, so I decided to head out, with my nephew, birding and "year-ticking" at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's reserve of Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. In the end, I managed a very respectable 43 species, which, as the title suggests, included 28 "year ticks" and a "lifer"!

First up the lifer- a Green-winged Teal. This north American species has become an annual visitor to Britain, but, despite a few attempts to see, them I've never managed to catch up with one - until now! After a few hours of searching through the 2000+ Eurasian Teals, the bird, a male, was eventually found fast asleep in front of Martin Smith hide, where I managed to get a photo. Note the vertical white line. This is horizontal in the Eurasian Teal seen behind.

Green-winged and Eurasian Teal
Now to the Year List update. At this time of year it's quite easy to add birds to this list, with certain birds such as Collared Dove and Mistle Thrush being relatively easy to find. Others are more difficult to see, so I was very pleased to find, amongst others, wild Bewick Swans and European White-fronted Geese feeding on and around the reserve. Other highlights for me were Common Cranes (3), thousands of Golden Plover and Lapwings and a very obliging Water Rail and Snipe.
Year List update:

36 – Collared Dove
37 – Curlew
38 – Dunlin
39 – Black-tailed Godwit
40 – Golden Plover
41 – Redshank
42 – Lapwing
43 – Ruff
44 – Avocet
45 – Bewick Swan
46 – European White-fronted Goose
47 – Barnacle Goose (F)
48 – Greylag Goose
49 – Pintail
50 – Pochard
51 – Wigeon
52 – Teal
53 – Shelduck
54 –Shoveler
55 - Gadwall
56 – Green-winged Teal
57 – Mistle Thrush
58 – Fieldfare
59 – Pied Wagtail
60 – Skylark
61 – Linnet
62 – Common Buzzard
63 – Common Crane
64 – Herring Gull

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Welcome to 2014

I woke up at about 7am this morning to the sound of an alarm-calling Blackbird - my first bird of 2014! As I was awake I decided to get up and head out to Linacre for a few hours before it started to rain.

I got to Linacre just before sunrise  and the first birds I saw were two Little Owls that flew into the oak tree where we ringed an adult and young bird last year ( see here and here for details and pictures). Hopefully, these two were the adult birds from last year, and they'll breed again in 2014. I carried on down the main drive and the second bird I saw was a Tawny Owl that flew across from the middle car park into the woods. Not a bad start! When I got out of the car I could also hear several "Tawnies" calling in the woods.

I walked around all 3 reservoirs over the next 2 hours, and, despite the rain that started after an hour, I managed to record some excellent counts of Mallard (170 - a new highest count), Mandarin Duck (34), Tufted Duck (64),  Black-headed Gull (57), Coot (15- highest January count), Moorhen (8), Cormorant (2), Little Grebe (2) and Canada Goose (2 on the middle reservoir- my first January record).

Year List update:
1 – Blackbird
2 – Little Owl
3- Tawny Owl
4 – Carrion Crow
5 – Pheasant
6 – Robin
7 – Wren
8 – Redwing
9 – Woodpigeon
10 – Goldcrest
11 – Siskin
12 - Bullfinch
13 – Nuthatch
14 – Jay
15 – Chaffinch
16 – Blue Tit
17 – Great Tit
18 – Coal Tit
19 – Tufted Duck
20 – Mallard
21 – Long-tailed Tit
22 – Great-spotted Woodpecker
23 – Coot
24 – Moorhen
25 – Treecreeper
26 – Jackdaw
27 – Black-headed Gull
28 – Little Grebe
29 – Canada Goose
30 – Mandarin Duck
31 – Cormorant
32 – Magpie
33 – Dunnock
34 – Greenfinch
35 - Starling

Birds 2 - 31 were all seen at Linacre and 1 and 32 - 35 were seen in the garden at home.