Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Turtle Dove

Yesterday I met Paul for another session in his garden ringing site with a view to catching more juvenile warblers. This goal was achieved with a good degree of success with all Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs proving to be young of this year.

In addition to the summer migrants and regular garden fayre of Blackbirds, Wrens, Robins, tits and finches this morning had some surprises in store. First came a new bird for Paul's garden in the form of Marsh Tit. Given his proximity to acres of grazing marsh and several stands of alder carr I was surprised to learn that he'd never previously seen a Marsh Tit in the garden. Needless to say I persuaded him to ring this 'first'.

Marsh Tit

To those reading this blog post the next unexpected species will be all too obvious but Paul and I were very excited to a hear a male Turtle Dove calling in his garden. It was even more exciting to discover a well grown Turtle Dove pullus sitting in what resembled a hurried construction of flimsy twigs built in a hawthorn tree next to a net ride. Then on a routine net round the unimaginable had happened; an adult Turtle Dove had flown from the nest straight into the net that had already been there for several hours. Paul immediately rushed over to extract it as whilst he has ringed Turtle Dove in his garden on several occasions he knew that it would be a new species for me. After ringing the bird a quick check with Baker confirmed it as a 6 female.

Adult female Turtle Dove

The final surprise of the day loudly announced its presence and both Paul and I looked up to see a juvenile Green Woodpecker trapped and calling incessantly. We quickly noticed another bird in the net beside it but before either of us had a chance to get moving an adult woodpecker had managed to escape. Needless to say I was quick to extract the juv before it too managed to beat a hasty retreat.

Juv. Green Woodpecker

Along with a good quantity of warblers and garden birds these three 'treats' made for a good morning ringing session.

Totals - 83 New, (11) retraps
Turtle Dove - 1
Green Woodpecker - 1
Wren - 2, (1)
Dunnock - 1, (1)
Robin - 5
Blackbird - 3, (3)
Cetti's Warbler - (2)
Reed Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 2
Garden Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 15
Chiffchaff - 9
Long-tailed Tit - 5
Marsh Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 8, (2)
Great Tit - 11, (2)
Chaffinch - 1
Greenfinch - 6
Goldfinch - 8
Siskin - 1  first of this autumn

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Haddiscoe Island with East Norfolk RG

Once again I was able to borrow a brush-cutter to cut the ringing rides in the reed bed ringing site that East Norfolk RG operate on Haddiscoe Island. Dave had also brought a slasher and was already hard at work when I arrived. The brush-cutter made short work of the cutting and with the rides cleared nets were soon erected. A few birds were caught and processed before we furled up and left the growing cloud of mosquitos and midges to find an alternative food source.

We both arrived early on Sunday morning to open up and set tape lures playing. We also knew that we would have a short catching window as gusting winds were forecast for mid-morning. Juvenile Acrocephalus warblers were soon on the move and Bearded Tits responded to our tapes a little later.

Juvenile Reed Warbler

On one net round I came across two juvenile Starlings which must have got trapped when a small flock flew over the top of the reeds. I managed to extract and bag them up before Dave came along ensuring that he had a surprise to look forward to when processing the catch. They were smart birds just starting to gain their characteristic iridescent spotted plumage.

Juvenile Starlings

Totals - 62 New, (1) retrap
Sedge Warbler - 17
Reed Warbler - 26, (1) originally ringed at the site in 2007.
Bearded Tit - 15
Starling - 2
Reed Bunting - 2

Monday, 8 August 2011

Rained off at Lound

Friday evening I decided to have a go in the reed bed at Lound Lakes as I'd been working in another area of the site cutting some rush pasture. I suspect that I was a bit late as all that I caught for my effort was two retrap Whitethroats that I'd ringed during the ringing demonstration given by East Norfolk RG in May. It was good to see that they could both still be aged as 5 which is the age code I'd assigned upon first capture.

Saturday should have been a good morning and looked promising when shortly after putting up the 30' and 40' nets in one of the woodland compartments at Lound they'd caught 4 Blackcaps and a Coal Tit. Almost immediately upon releasing the Coal Tit, however, the heavens opened and I rushed to close the nets hoping that it would soon pass. After quarter of an hour I decided that I had little option but to give up, pack up and go home. The ringing gear was almost dry the next day!

The heavy shower wasn't forecast and I wasn't the only one to get caught out.

Mini Wash Week

Saturday 30th July to Wednesday 03 August was the Wash Wader Ring Group's (WWRG) Mini Wash Week. Two teams were assembled, one for the Lincolnshire side and another covering the Norfolk side of the Wash. Having been assigned to the Norfolk team catching attempts were made at Terrington Marshes, Heacham Beach and Ken Hill near Heacham. Additionally on Sunday afternoon I and several others from the Norfolk team went round to help the Lincolnshire team lug gear out for a cannon net catch of Knot on Wainfleet Island. Having been on a couple of Wash weekends based in Norfolk this gave me the opportunity to experience the Lincolnshire side.

This trip was another great Wash Wader Ringing experience with successful cannon net catches made on several occasions. 

Sunday morning two cannon nets were set on Terrington Marsh with a view to catching Curlew. The tide, however, was insufficiently high to push birds onto the saltmarsh. Sunday afternoon saw myself and a few others from the Norfolk team drive round to meet up with the Lincolnshire team to set four nets on Wainfleet Island. All but the hide team remained out of sight under a large piece of covering material waiting for the tide to rise with gulls and terns wheeling overhead. All those assigned a particular task ran to the nets as soon as the 'bang' was heard. The catch was dealt with quickly and birds were soon extracted and waiting in keeping cages while the ringing and processing teams were assembled. In total 108 Knot, 46 Dunlin and 2 Sanderling were caught and processed.

Knot - still in breeding plumage

Adult Dunlin
Monday morning saw us assemble behind the dunes of Heacham South Beach with a view to catching Sanderling using nets set by the rest of the Norfolk team on Sunday night. The catch was successful and once the nets had been lifted, birds extracted and put in keeping cages; ringing and processing teams dealt with 228 Sanderling, 2 Dunlin and singles of Ringed Plover and Turnstone. Having never ringed adult Ringed Plover I was lucky enough to get this opportunity.

                                       Adult Sanderling                    Adult Ringed Plover

After a tasty lunch provided by Barbara, our amazing cook for the trip, we headed off to Ken Hill where Nigel had seen 200 Curlew on Sundays recce. Four nets were set in a clap net pair and decoys strategically placed in the catching area. Watching from the hide a few birds settled in with the decoys but further birds landed in an adjacent field. Twinkling saw 25 in the catching area and it was decided to make a small catch in order to familiarise the team in dealing with a Curlew catch and reset for Tuesday morning. Twenty birds were caught of which four were retraps. After the catch was processed the fired nets were reset for the next morning.

Long shadows as the ringing and processing teams
deal with Monday evenings small Curlew catch

Tuesday morning saw the hide teams up and leaving for Ken Hill at 05:00. Once in position and all circuit testing complete the Curlew started to arrive steadily but were soon put off by a juvenile Marsh Harrier which took a liking to one of the decoys; the Curlew once again settling in a neighbouring field. Twinkling was performed admirably by John and Jo and a large flock of Curlew and Godwits were soon airborne and drifting over our field with Curlew settling in nicely; the Godwits, however, were destined for another day. Two nets were fired and the resultant catch dealt with very smoothly indeed with 63 Curlew and 2 Bar-tailed Godwit being caught.

Ringing and processing teams were assembled and dealt with the Curlew first. Having never ringed Bar-tailed Godwit I snapped up the opportunity. Both Godwits were also leg-flagged with my bird being given a white flag bearing the letters TJ. The leg flags should make them more easily resighted in the field, removing the need to recapture birds to identify individuals.

The Wash Wader Ringing Group are currently running colour marking projects on Bar-tailed Godwits, Turnstone, Grey Plover and Sanderling.

TJ the Bar-tailed Godwit

After lunch it was decided to explore the options of setting canon nets on the rocks at the back of the bund and a team headed out to construct a crude dry stone wall from which a cannon net could be fired.  After an hour or so of hard toil the wall was built and we returned to base for well earned showers.

On Wednesday morning we headed out to the bund with all the equipment shared out between the team before treading the Samphire pickers path out across the salt marsh. A single net was set and base camp members relaxed beneath camouflage netting waiting beneath a beautiful blue sky for the tide to come in. The tide and weather were not in our favour; the sea didn't come in far enough and without any wind to lap waves on to the rocks the few birds that arrived were well out of reach. The net was fired to give the team practice at performing a lift over rocks.

Once everything was packed up the wall was extended to allow two nets to be set and a group photo taken as sadly another Wash trip had come to an end.

WWRG Mini Week 2011

Friday, 5 August 2011

Pre Wash

Last Saturday I was heading up to the Wash to join the Wash Wader Ringing Group for their mini week. Not needing to leave until late afternoon gave me the opportunity to get up early and try out my 30' and 40' mist nets at Lound Lakes found between Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth - a local nature reserve owned by Essex & Suffolk Water and managed in partnership with the Broads Authority, The Environment Agency and Natural England. I started volunteering at the site in 2008 and have also held the warden post for a year whilst the incumbent was on secondment.

Lound Lakes - view from bird hide

The only hitch with this plan was my alarm which didn't go off (set to weekdays), so I was on site an hour later than planned which could be partly to blame for the poor catch as I missed the best of the mornings weather. The two nets were erected in rides created for use by East Norfolk RG who provide a ringing demonstration as part of a dawn chorus event held each May. With the rides being located in reed bed and mixed fen target species for the morning were Reed Warblers (Sedge are seldom present), and Whitethroats which inhabit the scrub bordering the mixed fen.

Despite the late start thirteen new birds were caught with one retrap. Interestingly all of the warblers besides the Whitethroats were adult birds.

Garden Warbler                               Robin                                   Reed Warbler

Totals - 13 new, (1) retrap
Dunnock - 2
Robin - 2
Reed Warbler - 5, (1)
Garden Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 3