Saturday, 17 March 2012

Final garden session

Yesterday I opened the net in the back garden for the last time before heading up to Scotland to commence my summer job with the RSPB. The first bird in was a Woodpigeon which perhaps surprisingly, is a new species trapped and ringed in the garden, although given the amount of holes in the 30' that have already been caused by bouncy, scratchy Woodpigeons I'm not sure how many more I'd want to catch! It was nice to get another House Sparrow bringing the total caught since garden ringing commenced to 67 with 13 retraps; a reasonable haul for a plot the size of a small handkerchief - the 30' net only fits diagonally!

Adult (6) Woodpigeon

The real highlight was retrapping a Long-tailed Tit that had originally been caught in the woodland ringing ride at Lound Lakes. This individual was one of the first birds caught during a busy ringing session on a very cold morning in October last year, so it was uplifting to know that it had survived the winter and had undertaken an epic movement of 1.3 kilometres. 

A well travelled Long-tailed Tit

I will miss garden ringing sessions this summer and particularly the population of local House Sparrows for which I was planning to start up a RAS (Retrapping Adults for Survival), project. I am however, looking forward to experiencing a completely different habitat with different species and of course surveying and radio tracking the Golden Plover adults and chicks to examine any possible impacts of the wind farm upon their breeding success.

Totals - 8 new and (1) retrap
Woodpigeon - 1
Long-tailed Tit - (1)
Blue Tit - 2
Great Tit - 2
House Sparrows - 1
Goldfinch - 2

Garden Totals, July 2011 - March 2012 - 182 new, (27) retraps
Woodpigeon - 1
Wren - 3
Dunnock - 9, (4)
Robin - 11, (3)
Blackbird - 15
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 2, (2)
Coal Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 33, (3)
Great Tit - 9, (1)
Starling - 12
House Sparrow - 67, (13)
Chaffinch - 2
Goldfinch - 16, (1)

Monday, 5 March 2012

Sheepish Starling...

On Sunday morning I decided to open the garden net as well as having another go at catching a Blackbird in the front garden using a spring trap. The male bird in question refuses to visit the back garden and as a result remains unringed. Interestingly, he does seem to have taken up territory at the front and never moves far even when approached. 

With the trap set and the mealworms doing their best at wriggling all that was left to do was to put the kettle on and extract anything from the 30' in the back garden. Two Goldfinches later, including the first retrap for the garden and the spring trap had made a catch. It wasn't however the target species that had been caught but instead I was faced with removing a very sheepish looking Starling that had obviously been eyeing the bait from roof in which they've been busily building their nest this year.

 Spring Trap ready complete with bait

Rather sheepish looking female Starling

Although the morning wasn't exactly awash with birds a further four Starlings were mist netted along with two Chaffinches trapped together in the bottom shelf and were a new species for the garden. A female Blackbird was caught in the mist net, the spring traps failing to catch another bird.

 Chaffinches - 2CY (5) male left, adult (6) female right

Totals - 14 new and (1) retrap
Blackbird - 1
Blue Tit - 5
Starling - 5
Chaffinch - 2
Goldfinch - 1, (1)

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Mini ringing demo at Lound Lakes

Saturday was the last volunteer session at Lound Lakes before I head north to take up my summer job as a Research Assistant with the RSPB. It was also to be the final session being supervised by Bob Hindley the departing temporary warden. Upon arriving it was clear that Bob hadn't been expecting that many volunteers to turn up and as a result there were far too many of us for the work that he had planned. Given that the weather was good I had brought the ringing gear with a view to doing a bit after the planned volunteer session. With no set task I quickly decided to set the 30' in the usual gap in the hedgerow across which birds fly to an assortment of different feeders. A few volunteers remained to weed the wildlife garden whilst Bob took the others for a short walk around the reserve.

After a few minutes birds were being caught and ringing commenced with a small number of interested onlookers keenly looking at the wriggling bird bags. The first couple of rounds supplied the usual Blue Tits, Great Tits and Dunnocks and the wildlife gardeners patiently watched while I processed the catch, explaining ageing and sexing criteria as I worked.

Adult (6) male Blue Tit

It was not long before the rest of the group returned from their walk and were also eager to learn a bit more about our common woodland birds. The gathered group were not disappointed when a Greenfinch was caught and excitement levels were raised as I went dashing towards the net when not one but two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were caught inches away from each other at the far end of the net.

It was a good morning and while the catch wasn't overwhelming I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the Lound Lakes volunteers about bird ringing and to show them a few species in the hand. The stars of the show however, were undoubtedly the two female Great Spotted Woodpeckers who did a great job of causing a commotion, with one of them screaming incessantly throughout the ringing process and taking it's 'pound' of my flesh while I held it for photos. Interestingly both had early stage brood patches - BP1.

2CY (5) female Great Spotted Woodpecker

I shall miss working with the friendly group of dedicated volunteers who are committed to helping to improve and manage the habitats on the reserve at Lound Lakes for the benefit of wildlife. As I write this management of the site - owned by Essex & Suffolk Water - is in the process of being passed from the Broads Authority to Suffolk Wildlife Trust so I wash them well for the coming summer and year ahead.

Totals - 11 new, (9) retraps
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 2
Dunnock - 2, (1)
Long-tailed Tit - (1)
Blue Tit - 3, (5) including 2 ringed by East Norfolk Ringing Group
Great Tit - 3, (2)
Greenfinch - 1

Friday, 2 March 2012

Goldfinches - finally

After having tried nyger in the garden on several previous occasions this attempt finally seems to have paid off and several Goldfinches seem to be using the feeder on a regular basis. Interestingly none have tried to feed when the garden mist net is in use so it was a pleasure to find myself extracting a Goldfinch in the garden for the first time today followed by another four throughout the morning. Let's hope that there are more to come!

Adult (6) male Goldfinch

Totals - 13 new (2) retraps
Blackbird - 1
Long-tailed Tit - (1)
Blue Tit - 4, (1)
Great Tit - 2
Starling - 1
Goldfinch - 5