Sunday, 31 May 2015

Lastest Linacre Nestbox News

Yesterday I was down at Linacre with 3 other members of Sorby Breck Ringing Group to have another check on the nestboxes. We had a three hour session, and ringed 88 new pulli (young birds in the nest), made up of 26 Great Tits and 62 Blue Tits. This brings us to a total of 124 pulli so far this year (90 Blue Tits and 34 Great Tits). Unfortunately, there were a few nests that had failed, probably because of the cool, windy conditions we've been experiencing this month.

The Blackbird nest we found was still present, and still contained 5 warm eggs, so hopefully it will continue to develop over the next week or so.

There are still 16 active nests in the boxes, so another return trip is definately on the cards. All the data from these nests will be  added to the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Year List Update and a new Dragonfly

This week is half term, which means I've had a bit of time to get out and about to do some birdwatching and increase my "year list". I've also added a new species of dragonfly to my "life list" with a Scarce Chaser seen.

The first new bird that I found was the Long-eared Owl. I saw this bird hunting over the moorland in the Peak District. I won't give the exact site, as it is a site where the bird has been known to breed.

The next birds, numbers 132- 138 (except House Martin, which I saw a few weeks ago, but forgot to add on), were all seen on a recent trip the RSPB Ouse Washes reserve in Cambridgeshire. I'm particularly pleased with the Short-eared Owl, Bittern (heard booming), and the Common Cranes, which are never easy to find. Whilst on site, we also saw and heard at least 2 Cuckoos, saw a Great-spotted Woodpecker feeding chicks, a fly-over Green WoodpeckerSwallows and caught up with my first dragon and damselflies of 2015, namely Blue-tailed Damselflies, Emerald Damselflies and this beautiful Scarce Chaser, which is a new species for me!!. I'm pretty sure its a young male, and, as its name suggests, its pretty scarce in the UK. See here for more details about this species.

Scarce Chaser

The final new bird is a Nightingale, which is now imposssible to see in Derbyshire. For this bird we, Jayne and I, travelled a little further south to Paxton Pits Nature Reserve. We were very lucky and managed to hear and actually see at least 2 male birds singing around the Kingfisher Hide. If you've never heard  the song of the Nightingale, listen to it here, as its an amazing sound. Whilst there, we also heard more Cuckoos, and saw a couple of males flying around the site. 

Year List update:
 131 – Long-eared Owl
132 – Common Tern
133- Common Crane
134 - Little Egret
135 – Short-eared Owl
136 – Bittern
137 – House Martin
138 – Reed Warbler
139 - Nightingale

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Starling Resighting

A couple of weeks ago I ringed a brood of 5 Starlings that had been raised in the box on the side of my house (see here). The birds fledged from the nest on 20th May (see here), and, although the garden has been full of Starlings every day, including 16 juveniles yesterday, I'd not seen any of the ringed birds.... until today.

Juvenile Starling

Whilst watching the garden for the BTO's Garden Birdwatch this morning I spotted one and then a second ringed bird. Now the chance of the birds having been ringed elsewhere was pretty slim, (I've never seen a ringed bird in my garden despite watching it every week since 1995!), but I still needed to get some proof that these were in fact "my" birds, so out came the camera.

After roughly an hour, and a lot of frustration, I managed to get photos of both birds' rings, giving me enough of the ring numbers to see that I did in fact have two of the birds ringed in the box, numbers LE57022 and LE57024. Here are a couple of the best pictures showing the last 2 digits of the rings.

Ring number LE57022

Ring number LE57024

Coal Aston Update

After checking the nestboxes at Linacre yesterday morning, I drove across to the farm site at Coal Aston to check on the four active nestboxes.

The first box that contained 8 Blue Tits on my last visit now contained 7 chicks that were old enough to ring.

Blue Tits

The next box contained one large Great Tit chick that was also old enough to ring and 9 cold eggs. The final two boxes both contained sitting Great Tits, which I left. I'll come back to them next week.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

More Linacre Nestbox News

Last weekend I was down at Linacre checking the nestboxes (see here), and managed to ring the first chicks of 2015, a brood of Blue Tits. Well, this morning I was back again with 3 other members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group, and between us we managed to ring another 4 broods of chicks; 3 more Blue Tits and 1 Great Tit. One of the Blue Tit broods was 12 strong, which is always good to see! There were several other broods present that were a little too small to ring, along with several more clutches of eggs, so another visit or two will be needed to ring them all. The possible mixed clutch pictured last week was still being incubated, so we don't yet know what's in there! 

Last week, we found a Wren's nest in one of the boxes with 3 eggs, and today it was still going strong and contained 5 eggs. Also last week, we found a Blackbird's nest, which had 1 egg in it. Against all odds, it was still present today, and contained not 1, but 5 warm eggs!

Blackbird's nest

I think the egg on the far left is starting to hatch. What do you think? As always, I'm keeping everything crossed for this nest.  

The outcome of all nests will, as always, be forwarded to the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Whilst walking around the reservoirs we saw a female Mandarin Duck with 5 ducklings, a Coot sitting on a nest (my first for the year here), a couple of Swifts, a fly-over Grey Heron and hundreds of tadpoles swimming in the shallow water by the boardwalk on the top reservoir. I also heard and saw my first Linacre Whitethroat of 2015, that was singing by the Rangers' Base when I arrived on site. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

All Gone!

I've been listening to the Starling box all week for the moment that everything goes quiet.. and today was that day.

I checked yesterday and got this photograph. You can just about make out 5 fully feathered young birds.

Starlings- ready to fledge

When I got in today I couldn't hear any noise coming from the box , so I checked again and here's what I found - an empty box. Hurrah!!

Empty nest

I saw 3 juvenile Starlings in the garden this morning, feeding on the mealworms that I put out at this time of year. None of these birds were ringed, but now that I know "my" birds have fledged I'll be looking out for them in the morning. Hopefully I'll get some photos for the blog. I'll add this final record to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website, and, if I'm very lucky, I'll start a new one when the adult birds start a new nest!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Blue Tit Update

Yesterday I blogged about 2 ringed Blue Tits that we'd found using 2 of the nestboxes at Linacre Reservoirs. I checked with Dave, our data manager at Sorby Breck Ringing Group, who told me that both birds had been ringed by us last year at Linacre.

The first bird had been ringed by me in March 2014 as a 5 female, which means it was born in 2013. The second bird was even more interesting, as it had been ringed on exactly the same day, but a year earlier i.e. on 17th May 2014, as a pullus in one of the nestboxes at Linacre, by Ray, my ringing trainer. This is the first record of a Linacre-born Blue Tit using one of the boxes to raise its own chicks.

House Sparrow ringing

I've had a House Sparrow terrace nestbox on the side of my house for several years, but have had very little success in attracting birds into it. This year, however, I noticed a pair of birds enetering the box and decied to check the contents.

I looked in last week and saw a couple of  naked and blind chicks. I decided to leave them for another week, and checked them again yesterday to see if they were big enough to ring. Luckily they were, so I ringed them with Ray from the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. These are the first House Sparrows I've ringed in my graden, and I'm looking forward to recording them on the feeders in the near future!

House Sparrow pullus (complete with yellow gape)

The records have been added to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Linacre Nestbox Update

This morning I spent 3 hours with Ray, my ringing trainer, checking the tit boxes at Linacre Reservoirs. By the end of the session we'd recorded a total of 39 active nests (up from 18 in April), ringed our first brood of Blue Tits (8 chicks), found a Wren's nest in one of the boxes with 3 eggs, recorded 2 ringed Blue Tits using the boxes, and found a Blackbird's nest complete with 1 warm egg!

First up the nest boxes. As stated, there were 39 active nests today. The vast majority were Blue and Great Tits, along with 1 Wren. Most of the nests were still being incubated, but a few had chicks that were hatching, so next week should be a very busy time for ringing! Here are a few photos from today's session. Firstly, a Great Tit's nest that I had to include due to its amazing symmetry.

Great Tit

Next up, the Blackbird's nest. As you can see, there is just 1 egg in at the moment. This nest was found on the woodland floor, so it may noy survive predation, but hopefully, there will be a few more in over the next few days.   

Blackbird's nest

Lastly, here's a picture of a nest that was found in one of the tit boxes. If you look carefully, you can see eggs of 2 different sizes. The nest was being incubated by a Blue Tit, and the 9 eggs on the left hand side of the nest look like Blue Tit eggs, but the 3 larger eggs on the left hand side look more like Great Tit eggs. It will be very interesting to see how this nest develops.
Blue and Great Tit eggs

All of the 39 nests have been entered into the BTO's Nest Record Scheme, and their progress will be monitored  and recorded.

Whilst walking around the reservoirs, we spotted a few other birds, includng a brood of 4 Mandarin Duck chicks, 3 Swifts (the first Linacre record of 2015), 2 Sand Martins and 3 House Martins. Nice!

Linacre WeBS - May 2015

This weekend was the allocated time for May's WeBS walk, so a big thank you to Mandy and Carmella from the Chesterfield RSPB Group for carrying out the count in my absence.

As is usual, May can be quite quiet still, but there were the first records of Mandarin Duck chicks (5, with  1 female), along with 4 young Mallards (and 21 adults), 6 adult Coots (no chicks yet), 14 Tufted Ducks and just 1 Great-crested Grebe.

All the usual woodland birds were recorded, along with Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Swallows. 3 Swifts (the first Linacre 2015 record), 2 Sand Martins and 3 House Martins were also reported over the top reservoir on the 17th.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Starlings Ringed

After watching the Starlings in the nest box on the side of my house grow and prosper over the last few weeks, tonight I got some C rings from my trainer, Ray, and ringed 5 very healthy looking chicks. Here are a few photos.

Just before ringing

Young Starling

Developing feathers

Looking at how far developed the feathers were, I don't think it'll be too long before these birds fledge. Hopefully the adults will start again, and we'll have another brood to bolster numbers of this super bird.

I'll update the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website with details of today's ringing. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A quiet session.

This morning's ringing session took place at the Derbyshire Wildlife Tust's Avenue Washlands reserve. In the 3 hour session we caught just 6 birds, made up of 3 new Whitethroats, 1 new Chiffchaff, a retrap Wren and a retrap Great Tit.


Chiffchaff (with pollen horn)

As you can see in the above picture, the Chiffchaff from this morning had a "pollen horn", perhaps indictaing a recent arrival from further south (see here for more information about pollen horns).

Throughout the morning a Garden Warbler sang, and was uncharacteristically "showy", often singing from the top of the trees. In addition, we had several Swallows flying over, and small groups of Swifts around the reserve.  

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Nestbox update- Coal Aston

I popped down to our new ringing site in Coal Aston this morning to check on the progress of the nestboxes that we put up this year. Last time I checked, there were 2 boxes with eggs in (see here), and today there were 3!

1 box had a Blue Tit sitting tight, 1 had a Great Tit sitting tight, and the other had 10 warm eggs in it.

Blue Tit

10 eggs

Great Tit

The site where these boxes are has horses on it, and all 3 nests contain alot of horse hair. BTO nest record cards have been set up for these nests.

Starling Nest Update

A week ago I posted an update about the Starling nest in the box on my house (see here). The adults have been working very hard all week, and, despite some pretty awful, heavy showers, when I checked in the box this afternoon, this is what I found.... 5 very healthy looking chicks!!

Starling chicks

Looking at the size of these chicks, I should be able to ring them this week, and I'll also add the information to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge website.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Deep Dale

On Monday it was a bank holiday, and the weather was bright and sunny, so I went out to Deep Dale in the Peak District for a walk with  my family. The site is managed by Plant Life, and contains many species of  plant including many Early Purple Orchids and Cowslips.

Early Purple Orchid
Unfortunately, we were a little early as most of the flowers were just coming out, so a return trip in a few weeks would be useful!!

As well as the flowers, we also spotted a black Rabbit. I've never seen one before, but apparently they are not that uncommon, and the area around Deep Dale is, according to the Derbyshire Mammal Group, a known "hotspot" for them. Here's a picture.

Black Rabbit

Whilst there, we also managed another "year tick" with a singing Garden Warbler heard by the entrance to the reserve.

Year List update:
130 - Garden Warbler

Tawny Owl ringing

On Sunday I got  a text from fellow ringing trainee Stewart from the Sorby Breck Ringing Group to say that he was popping across to our private site in Wingerworth to ring some Tawny Owl chicks. As this is a species I haven't ringed before he asked if I wanted to go along. Obviously I said yes, and was lucky enough to ring 1 of the 2 chicks.

Tawny Owl chick

Monday, 4 May 2015

Derbyshire Year Listing

This morning I got up early and had a couple of hours on the moorland in the Peak District National Park, adding 6 new species to the "Year List".

I started off at Padley Gorge where I heard a couple of Cuckoos calling from the moorlands. I then walked down into the oak woodlands where there were a couple of male Pied Flycatchers and several male Redstarts singing.

Padley Gorge

Back up on the moorlands I added a singing Whinchat to the list, before driving across to Ramsley Reservoir. On arrival I had a singing Tree Pipit, several Meadow Pipits, a pair of Stonechats, a singing Redstart, and, best of all, a "reeling" Grasshopper Warbler on neighbouring Leash Fen.

Year List update:
124 - Cuckoo
125 – Pied Flycatcher
126 – Whinchat
127 – Stonechat
128 – Tree Pipit
129 – Grasshopper Warbler

Montagu's Harriers!

Yesterday I went to the RSPB's Blacktoft Sands reserve following news on the Bird Guides website that a pair of Montagu's Harriers were present, and viewable from the hides. Normally I wouldn't mention this rare breeder, but, as I said, the news has been put out in the public domain by the RSPB, and the site is now being guarded around the clock. The birds are best viewed from the Singleton Hide, and whilst there we (Jayne and I), saw the female bird on 3 occassions, as she flew up out of the reeds to see off the local Marsh Harriers that were also flying about. See here for more details about this species.

Whilst on site, we also visited the other hides, and heard or saw several good birds including 8 species for the Year List. The first new bird was Cetti's Warbler, that was heard, but not seen, singing loudly from the reedbed - a first for me at this site. Along with the Montagu's, there were also several Marsh Harriers flying around the site (year tick), along with Pochard, Shoveler, Avocets, 1 Swift and Shelduck (all new for the year). Moving to Xerox Hide, we also spotted a Greenshank, and a pair of Garganey, that were fast asleep on one of the islands.

                                                             Greylags and a pair of Garganey

Year List update:
116 – Cetti’s Warbler
117 – Marsh Harrier
118 – Montagu's Harrier
119 – Shelduck
120 – Shoveler
121 – Pochard
122 – Swift
123 – Avocet

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Linacre Nestbox and Ringing Update

Yesterday morning it was dry and relatively still so I went down to Linacre with my ringing trainer and 3 other members of Sorby Breck Ringing Group to do some ringing and check on the owl nestboxes.

In the 3 hours that we were there we caught 27 birds, including 3 Chiffchaffs (2 new and 1 retrap), 2 new Blackcaps, a new Bullfinch and 3 retrapped Nuthatches, along with 2 Robins, and several Blue, Great and Coal Tits.

As well as this, 3 of the group went to check on the Little Owl nest and the 4 owl boxes that we have on site. The Little Owls nest in a natural cavity in an oak tree, and today we found  the female bird sitting tight, presumably on eggs. Unfortunately, the site isn't accessible, so we won't be able to monitor this nest or ring any chicks. 

Last time we checked the owl boxes (see here), we found a female Mandarin Duck in one, and a single egg in another. Today's visit produced 2 female Mandarin Ducks, both on clutches of eggs; 13 and 16 respectively! What was even better, was the fact that we managed to ring both Mandarin Ducks, a new species for me and Alan. We didn't have any Mandarin nests last year, as the boxes were taken over by Grey Squirrels, so today's news was particularly welcome. As always, the nests will be entered into the BTO's Nest Record Scheme by the Group.

                                                          Mandarin nest with 17 eggs!
                                                                    Female Mandarin Duck

As well as the ringing, we also managed a bit of bird watching; the highlights being a fly-over Greylag Goose (the second Linacre record this year), and a pair of over-flying Ravens (the first Linacre record of 2015).

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Starling Update

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about a pair of Starlings that have built a nest in a nestbox on the side of my house (see here). At the time, I wrote that the birds had just started to incubate a clutch of eggs, and speculated that the chicks would hatch sometime around about now! Well, on Thursday evening I got home from work and could hear noise coming from the nestbox. I had a quick look in this evening and got this picture.
                                                                      Starling chicks

If you click on the photo you should be able to count 5 yellow mouths or gapes, which the young birds use to encourage their parents to feed them. I've been providing mealworms fpr them, so hopefully this will give the chicks abit of a headstart.

Unfortunately, the weather has taken a turn for the worse this afternoon, and started to rain. The rain is forecast to continue through the night and into the morning, so I'm keeping everything crossed that the parents can do a good job at keeping them warm and dry tonight.

As always, I'll add this development to the BTO's Nestboxes Challenge website.