Sunday, 29 March 2015

Last March Visit

Yesterday morning the weather wasn't conducive to ringing, so instead I had a walk around all three reservoirs at Linacre. It was just 7 degrees, grey, overcast and windy when I arrived at 6am, but the Chiffchaffs were singing (3), as was a single Skylark (my first Linacre record of 2015), several Goldcrests (also my first singing record this year), and a few spring flowers had begun to flower (Cowslip, Coltsfoot and a single Marsh Marigold flower).

In addition, there was a pair of Canada Geese on the middle reservoir, along with a Moorhen that was sitting on an empty nest. The 2 Great-crested Grebe pairs were still on site, and I also managed 5 Mandarin Ducks ( 4 males and a female), which are always a bonus at this time of the year.

When I got home, I spent some time watching the garden birds for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme, and was treated to another visit from this beautiful male Sparrowhawk, this time sitting on the feeders for 10 minutes, before chasing, unsuccessfully, after a Blackbird.


I'm pretty sure its the same bird as last week, as it has 2 white spots on the back of its head. Just need to get a ring on it!!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Garden Sparrowhawks

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've been recording the wildlife in my garden for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Scheme on a weekly basis since 1999. One species of bird that has become a more frequent visitor during this time is the European Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). When I first started recording the birds this species was still quite uncommon, but I can now see one most days, if I'm not at work!

Just recently I've managed to get a few photos of different birds that have been visiting the garden looking for something to eat.

Sparrowhawk (2nd year bird?)

Sparrowhawk (adult male?)

The first picture was a bird seen on 3rd March 2015, and is, I believe, a bird born in 2014. The second picture was one that was seen yesterday, and is an adult bird with no signs of any juvenile plumage. Both birds are males.

I also managed to get a photo of a much larger female back in October 2014 (see here), which I also think is a juvenile bird. See this  gallery of pictures that can help with ageing this species.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

One-eyed Blue Tit

Whilst out ringing we sometimes come across birds that are ill or have been injured in some way. Today's ringing session took place at a private site in Chesterfield, and during the 4 hour session, we caught one such bird; a one-eyed Blue Tit.

Here's a couple of pictures of the bird, one showing the good eye, and the other showing the side with the eye missing.

Blue Tit
As you can see, the missing eye seems to have been missing for quite a while. We aged this bird as a 6; i.e. a bird born at least 2 years ago, and it appeared in good health, so it doesn't seem to be struggling too much with just 1 eye. Hopefully we'll retrap it again in the future.

As well as this particular Blue Tit, we also caught and ringed another 64 birds of 10 species this morning (Chiffchaff ,the first of the year; Robin, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit).

During net rounds we also saw and heard the local Tawny Owls, a couple of Jays, and the highlight for everyone a herd of approx. 90 Whooper Swans that flew north-bound over the garden!

Year List update:
87 - Whooper Swan

Saturday, 21 March 2015

First Chiffchaff

I managed to grab an hour at Linacre this morning (6am to 7am) and was rewarded with my first Chiffchaff of the year. When I arrived, it was quite grey, overcast and the wind was blowing, but by the end of the walk I had recorded one bird singing by the Rangers' Base. Last year, the first bird was reported on the 19th (see here), so today's bird was pretty much spot on.

As well as the Chiffchaff, I was also lucky enough to see a pair of the Little  Owls in the "breeding tree", and a great count of 5 Brown Hares that were "boxing" in the field by the main entrance. Lots of the resident woodland birds were singing and Great-spotted Woodpeckers were drumming.

A quick walk around all 3 reservoirs produced the following birds; Mallard (34), Tufted Duck (20), Moorhen (10), Coot (11), Mandarin (5; 3 males and 2 females), Grey Wagtail (heard) and Great-crested Grebe (4; 2 pairs, 1 on middle reservoir and 1 on the top reservoir). Frogspawn was noted in the top reservoir for the first time this year.

Year List update:
86- Chiffchaff

Friday, 20 March 2015

Sedge Warbler Recovery

So far in my ringing "career" I've only ringed 1 Sedge Warbler, so you can understand my excitement, when I received an email from David, our data manager at Sorby Breck RG, telling me that the bird I ringed last year, had been "recovered" by ringers in France on its way south for the winter!

The bird in question was a juvenile, born last year at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Carr Vale Reserve, and ringed by me on July 28th (see here for details and a couple of pictures). The bird was "recovered", which means it was retrapped away from the site it was ringed, by ringers in Sandouville, in the Seine Maritime region of northern France on August 12th, a distance of 431km. According to BTO's Birdfacts page, British Sedge Warblers have been recovered throughout France and Spain, down into Western Africa, so who knows where this bird spent the winter.

In the same session, we also retrapped another 2 Sedge Warblers, 1 of which had been ringed by my trainer at Carr Vale in 2013, so there's a possibility, that "my" bird could turn up in Derbyshire again this year. I'll be sure to let you know if this happens.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Avenue Ringing

Yesterday's ringing session with 4 members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group, at The Avenue Washlands began slowly, but, by the end of the session, we had reached a respectable 27 birds of 9 different species (Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit and  Robin).

My personal totals were new/retrap:

Goldfinch 2/0, Blue Tit 1/1, Wren 0/1, Long-tailed Tit 0/2, Yellowhammer 1/0 and Great Tit 1/0.

As well as the ringing, we also recorded the other birds around the site, which included over 100 Redwing in several small flocks and a "year tick" for me, Skylark, which were singing on nearby fields.

Year List update:

85 - Skylark

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Linacre WeBS - March 2015

I carried out this month's WeBS count yesterday morning, along with 2 members of the Chesterfield RSPB Group (thanks for your company, and spotting skills!). The weather wasn't great. It was quite sunny and 8 degrees, but there was a stiff wind that made the eyes water at times (very similar to last year's March walk - see here). Despite this we managed some good counts, and enjoyed a really nice walk around all 3 reservoirs.

Birds counted were Mallard (53), Tufted Duck (31- a very respectable count for this time of year), Coot (12), Moorhen (6), Great-crested Grebe (4- 2 pairs again), Black-headed Gull (20), Cormorant (3- 2 in breeding plumage), Mandarin Duck (1 male), Grey Wagtail (1 heard, but not seen).

No spring migrants were heard, but the resident birds were in good voice, with Great-spotted Woodpecker drumming, and Dunnock, Robin and Chaffinches singing. A Magpie was also seen, and 2 Common Buzzards were flying over the top reservoir.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Goose Update

Yesterday I blogged about a strange looking hybrid goose that I'd seen at Linacre. At the time I speculated that it could be a Canada x Barnacle Goose hybrid. I also posted a picture on Twitter, and got replies from David and Stewart from the ringing group, who said that it looked like a Canada x Greylag Goose hybrid.

Canada x Greylag hybrid?

With this in mind, I decided to look back on my blog to see if there were any other reports of a similar bird that I'd forgotten about. Although I didn't find any reports of this type of hybrid bird from Linacre, I did find this post from London that showed a very similar looking bird that I'd seen in Hyde Park in 2012. See link here for a picture. I also did a quick internet search and came up with many images of hybrids between these two species. See here for the images.

Greylag Geese are an annual visitor to Linacre, usually seen in the first few weeks of April, and often in the company of Canada Geese, so it's not impossible to speculate that this bird could be a hybrid of these two species.