Monday, 30 June 2014

Kingfisher saves the day

I was out ringing yesterday morning with Sorby Breck RG  at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands in Chesterfield. We arrived at 05.15 and set up the usual nets with high expectations of  juvenile birds, especially warblers. Unfortunately, the forecast good weather didn't appear, and neither did the birds, with just 13 individuals caught.

Imagine our surprise, then, when, on one of the final net rounds, we spotted an electric blue rump sticking out of the nets! We all ran towards it shouting, "It's a Kingfisher!!!" - a first for the group at this locality, and a new bird for Stewart. The bird was duly extracted, ringed, aged and sexed (a 3J male, one born this year), and released.


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Bumper Nest box Year

This time last year I was writing about a very successful year for the Blue and Great Tits in the nest boxes at Linacre (see here). I'm very pleased, therefore, to be writing a very similar report again this year.

The first sign of activity in the tit boxes this year came on 15th April, when 2 eggs were found in one of the boxes. This was much earlier than last year, due to the mild conditions. We (Sorby Breck Ringing Group), continued to monitor the boxes over the next few weeks, and by the end of the season, we had recorded and ringed a new highest ever total of 232 pulli.

As last year, all the nesting attempts came from just 2 species; Blue and Great Tits. Great Tits managed to raise 11 broods, and a total of 72 pulli, while Blue Tits raised 19 broods of 160 pulli.

Again, like last year, all the nesting attempts, including a few failures at egg and young stage, will be reported to the BTO as part of their Nest Record Scheme.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

RSPB Nightjar Walk

On Friday I spent 4 hours in Clumber Park with several members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group, on our annual trip to see the Woodcocks and Nightjars that breed there.

We met at 7.30pm, and spent the first couple of hours looking round the main lake and grasslands by the Chapel. Despite super weather conditions, warm and sunny, we didn't see too many birds, just the expected water birds (Mute Swan, Canada and Greylag Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Coot, Moorhen, Great-crested Grebe), and a few summer visitors (Swallow, Swift and House Martin).

We moved over to the regular area to see the Nightjars at about 9.15pm, and, within half an hour, we spotted the first birds. We were lucky enough to see 3 Nightjars over the next hour, along with about half a dozen Woodcocks, and a calling Cuckoo.

Here's a photo of one of the male Nightjars taken by a fellow RSPB member and friend, Norman Crowson.


Year List update:
151 - Woodcock
152 - Nightjar

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Empty Nest

Regular readers will know that I've been lucky enough to have  a pair of Starlings nesting in the nest box on the side of my house this year (see here). I've blogged a few times about their progress, including when I ringed the 4 chicks earlier in the month (see here and here).

I checked the nest on 17th June and this is what I found:

 On 20th June it was all quiet in the box, so I checked again, and this is what I found:

Empty nest
An empty nest box is the best possible outcome, so I was very pleased to see that all 4 birds had fledged. The results were added to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge scheme (see here). So far I haven't seen any of the birds in the garden, despite having 19 juveniles feeding on the meal worms this morning, but I'll post any information I get, if they're re-sighted anywhere.


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Linacre June WeBS and new insects

This month's WeBS count was carried out today by Mandy from the Chesterfield RSPB Group (thanks Mandy). Wildfowl numbers were good, and a confirmed breeding record for Tufted Duck was also a really good record.

Counts this month were: Mallard 57; 51 adults and 6 juveniles, Coot 25;13 adults and 12 juveniles, Moorhen 7; 1adult and 6 juveniles, Great-crested Grebe 2; 1adult and 1 juvenile, Tufted Duck 10; 5 adults and 5 juveniles, Mandarin 23; 14 adults and 9 juveniles, Canada Goose 1, Grey Wagtail at least 4; 2 adults and 2 juveniles.

Whilst Mandy was doing the WeBS count , I spent some time looking at some insects! 5 species of butterfly were seen; Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood , Ringlet (my first of the year), Large Skipper (also a first for the year, and a new species for the site, as far as I am aware), and a Red Admiral (seen by Mandy).

Large Skipper

I also spotted one species of damselfly; a pair of Common Blues "in cop" i.e. mating, and most excitingly, another brand new species for Linacre; Broad-bodied Chaser! Not only did I see 2, a male and  a female, but I also got a photo of both sexes.

Broad-bodied Chaser (male)

Broad-bodied Chaser (female)
Final note on the insects goes to two hoverfly species that were seen. The first, Great Pied Hoverfly, is one I first recorded last year.
Great Pied Hoverfly
At least 2 individual were seen, along with a couple of another species, Volucella bombylans, a stunning bee mimic (see last post for a photo).

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Linacre Ringing and Mothing- 14th June 2014

Yesterday morning I was up early and got to Linacre for 5am. The primary reason was for a ringing session, but I also managed to get a bit of "mothing" done when drizzle and a dearth of birds put an end to the ringing.

First bird on site this morning was a Little Owl, that I saw on the drive in. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to find the nest this year, so no ringing. I've had to make do with sightings instead. Arriving in the ringing area, we soon had the usual nets up, and started to ring the first of several juvenile Great Tits (3Js). These were quickly followed by a juvenile Bullfinch (the first of 4 Bullfinches ringed today), a juvenile Chiffchaff, Blackcap (2 from the 5 Blackcaps ringed today) and a Robin.  By 9am the drizzle set in, and as we'd ringed 21 birds of 5 species, we decided to call it a day.

When the other members of the group left, I decided to stay on for a while. Luckily the rain stopped, so I spent another hour and  a half walking around the ringing site checking for day-flying moths and butterflies. I saw 2 species of butterfly, a Small Tortoiseshell and my first Meadow Brown of the year. In addition I spotted 12 species of moth, 7 of which were new for me at Linacre, and a couple of hoverfly species, 1 of which was new for me at Linacre (Volucella bombylans, in case you want to know!)

Volucella bombylans

I managed to photograph a few of the moths. Here are a couple of the new species:

Yellow Shell
Straw Dot
More information about the moths of the UK can be found here.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Starlings ringed

Since my last post about the nesting Starlings (see here and here), things have moved on, and today I was able to ring 2 of the 4 young birds (Stewart from The Group, ringed the other 2).

When I checked the box on 6th June this is what I found:

As you can see, the chicks have grown and are big enough to be ringed. Note also a dead chick in the top of the photo. This bird is also a juvenile bird, but not one from this brood. My only idea is that this bird came into the box to roost, and was possibly killed by the adult birds? The dead bird is obviously a health risk to the chicks, so I removed it when I ringed the chicks.
I contacted my trainer, and got hold of the "C" rings that a Starling takes and ringed the chicks today.

Starling pullus
I think the chicks will be in the nest for about another week, after which I hope they will fledge successfully, and then start feeding in the garden... and beyond!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Central Park Birding 2

On Tuesday, our second day in New York, we spent 3 hours walking around Central Park on a guided birding walk with Birding Bob. Over the course of the walk, we managed to see and hear 42 species of bird, including 35 "lifers".

The walk started at the Turtle Pond, a small pond surrounded by reeds. Whilst here, we saw our first of  10 species of warbler. I tried to get shots of the warblers, and managed a few distant ones. The best were of the American Redstart, which were common, and seen throughout the walk.

American Redstart
We carried on around the park, into an area called The Ramble, where we spotted, amongst others, a nest-building Baltimore Oriole, our first of many Grey Catbirds, and a superb little Downy Woodpecker.
Baltimore Oriole (male)
Grey Catbird
Downy Woodpecker
The last bird to mention was my first ever species of hummingbird; a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. We saw one on the walk, and Bob mentioned that, although it is a regular passage bird, no evidence has yet been found of this species breeding in the park. We only had brief views of the bird, but when I went back to another area of the park later, I spotted another bird that was in the process of nest building! I got in touch with Bob, who confirmed that this was the first ever record of breeding by this species in the park and in Manhattan!! Bob agreed to keep an eye on the nest, and let me know how the breeding attempt gets on. Meanwhile, here's a heavily cropped photo I managed of the bird on the nest.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Central Park Birding - Part 1

I've never left Europe before, but last week I spent five days in New York with my wife and daughter. The main reason for visiting America was to celebrate my wife's birthday, but, as always, I managed to get a bit of birding done between visiting all the traditional tourist sites and a few art galleries.

The main focus of my birding efforts was, of course, Central Park. This large park, set in the middle of Manhattan (see here for details), was a short 10 minute walk from our hotel on West 57th Street, and whilst there, I managed four visits.  Our first visit, a short evening walk on the first night, brought our first sighting of the very common American Robin.

American Robin
These birds aren't Robins at all, and actually belong to the thrush family. They take the place of our Blackbird, and were seen throughout the park on every visit. They breed in the park, and, on one morning, I spotted several recently fledged birds being fed by their parents.
Adult and chick
The other black bird of the park is the Red-winged Blackbird. This much less common, and I only managed a couple of views during my visits. Luckily, one of these sightings was of a male bird at a feeding station, so I managed to get a reasonable shot, showing the red wing.
Red-winged Blackbird
Another very common bird around the park is the Common Grackle. Again, this bird is seen throughout the site, and was seen on every visit. This bird came to see us in the café!
Common Grackle
One final bird for today is the stunning Cardinal. This was the second American bird we saw in the park, and one that we saw on every visit. This bird is the male, and was very tame, especially when it spotted the peanuts coming out.
Over the course of the five days we saw a total of 48 species (37 of which were lifers!), and included a new breeding bird for Central Park, but more about that later.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Barn Owl chicks

Earlier in the year I was talking to another member of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group at an event, when he told me about a nestbox on one of his sites that holds breeding Barn Owls. He promised to get in touch if they were successful again this year, so I was very pleased to receive a text over the weekend telling me there were four chicks ready to ring! Obviously, Barn Owls are a highly protected, Schedule 1 breeding bird, which means that you need a special licence from the BTO to ring them- something our group has.

Anyway, on Sunday, I set out to a secret site to ring my very first Barn Owl. There were four chicks in the box, and I got to ring 1.

Barn Owl chicks
After ringing, we put the chicks back in the box, and noted 4 dead mice/voles, which is a good sign that food is in good supply. We also saw an adult bird flying around the area hunting.
Whilst on site, we also took the chance to check another box, which had had 2 Stock Dove eggs in it earlier in the year. When we got there we found 2 well grown chicks, and again I got to ring 1.
Stock Doves
Both these species are "ringing ticks" for me, which is always nice. The Barn Owl was also a "year tick", which along with a Dipper a few weeks ago means I'm now on 150 species for the year.
Year List update:
149 - Dipper
150 - Barn Owl

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Starling nest update

Back on the 19th May I blogged about a pair of Starlings that were using a nestbox on the side of my house (see here). On that date, the female bird was sitting on the nest. Since then there have been some developments, so I thought I'd update everyone with the progress.

On 24th May I looked inside the box, and this is what I saw:

Starling eggs
... four eggs!
I went away for the week (more about that later I'm afraid!), and when I got back yesterday I spotted one of the adult birds entering the box with some food. I had a quick check again today, and was greeted by these "beauties". There are at least three chicks, possibly four, so I'm keeping everything crossed that the weather plays ball for the next few weeks.

Starling chicks
As I said in my last post, this nest is being monitored as part of the BTO's Nestbox Challenge, so I'll enter the details and, if the chicks survive, ring them.