Monday, 28 January 2013

Kessingland revisited

Last Friday I made the decision to get up early and meet Colin Carter and Derek Beamish on Pakefield Beach where they have been successfully whoosh netting some Turnstones and Sanderling that have been taking advantage of some well placed bait. It was a cold and icy morning then when I arrived to find Colin and Derek already in place so as Derek got up to talk to the first dog walker I made my move to join them not knowing that Colin had already fired on some Turnstone. As luck wouldn't have it only two birds were caught thanks to a small piece of bladder wrack that had stopped a large part of the net from unfurling. I manned the re-set net while Derek and Colin went back to the cars to ring the birds but all that came near were the omnipresent feral doves. While having a catch up and just before packing up Colin called 'fire' and Derek pulled on a Black-headed Gull which I was delighted to ring.

Next stop was one of Colin's main sites, Kessingland sewage works for some more whoosh netting. When we arrived a large number of Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits were noted feeding on the filter beds so while Derek and I were setting up the whoosh net Colin started putting up some mist nets. It wasn't long after I'd gone back to help Colin that Derek phoned to say that he'd caught a Common Gull which I was quite excited about as this would be a new species for me and besides Canadian birds, the first since last summer in Sutherland. I duly went to fetch the bird and help reset the net. When ringing the it I discovered to my surprise that these beautiful gulls are much smaller than expected.

Common Gull Larus canus

Once the rest of the mist nets were in place it wasn't long before they started catching and amazingly the haul consisted mostly of Meadow Pipits which Colin was surprised about as he has not previously noted this species at the site during winter. It would be interesting to learn where they have arrived from, particularly as local breeding is only likely to occur at low densities. Perhaps the control will provide some clues, maybe a bird originally trapped in Scotland.

 Meadow Pipit Anthus Pratensis

Only one Pied Wagtail was caught although a Grey Wagtail was nice to see and being a bird originally trapped at the site in November 2012, must be over wintering here.

A return to the sewage works on Saturday morning found us arriving in the dark and soon to be falling snow. The whoosh net was set and baited and we retreated to the ringing hut to drink coffee and wait for Mike Swindells to arrive. Mist nets were set with a view to catching one or more of the Redshanks present and to be ready for the Meadow Pipits when they awoke. Mike arrived to find us chatting and Derek left to man the whoosh net hoping that the gulls had found the bait but was horrified to discover that whilst we were keeping warm they'd already been through and eaten it so off to buy some bread he went. In the mean time the Redshanks did a great job of avoiding the nets and only a handful of Meadow Pipits were caught. 

Derek handed the whoosh net baton to me and despite a dozen or so Black-headed and Common Gulls having a look in there were no takers for the white bread that Derek had so considerately provided. A couple of Moorhens eventually decided they'd try it and I pulled on four catching two which considering the amount of effort that had been put it in was a bit of a let down but who can refuse a Moorhen? The net was quickly reset and I took my catch back for ringing. 

The accolade of bird of the day must surely go to the Woodcock that found a mist net just as Colin and Mike were taking others down. Colin's run found Mike ringing a fantastic bird and we all updated our memories on the art of Woodcock ageing.

Mike getting to grips with Woodcock ageing

Overall it was a great of couple of days ringing with Colin and his team with a really interesting variety of species across several sites using a couple of different catching methods. Friday was the better day with more favourable weather but Saturday provided Moorhen and Woodcock so it was definitely worth going on both days despite ending up with a seriously bad cold.

Friday Totals - 24 new, (3) retraps including a control
Turnstone - 2
Black-headed Gull - 1
Common Gull - 1
Meadow Pipit - 16, (1)
Pied Wagtail - 1
Grey Wagtail - (1)
Blackbird - 3, (1)

Saturday Totals - 13 new, (2) retraps
Moorhen - 2
Woodcock - 1
Meadow Pipit - 8, (2) both from Friday
Pied Wagtail - 1
Blackbird - 1

Monday, 21 January 2013

A snowy start to garden ringing in 2013

Well after a lengthy absence I thought that the first birds ringed in the garden this year deserved a mention. This morning saw a much welcome break in the harsh easterly winds that have been driving snow across most of Britain for the last few days so a mist net was hastily erected to capture a sample of the birds that have been making use of the food provided in the back garden.

A couple of Lesser Redpolls have been seen at the Nyger on a number of occasions recently and being a new species for the garden it was a pleasant surprise to find myself ringing one, particularly one with a very conspicuous moult limit which isn't always the case for Redpolls.

                              Lesser Redpoll                                                    Chaffinch 

                       Wren                                       Robin                                      Starling

All birds caught seemed to be very active and were all of good weights with some individuals showing good fat reserves indicating that for these birds at least, food isn't in short supply during the current cold snap.

                     Coal Tit                                     Blue Tit                                   Great Tit

It is my sincere hope to post a number of catchups further documenting my work in Scotland last summer and my trip to Canada in the Autumn (or should that be fall?), of 2012. However, trawling through and editing 2000+ photos is proving to be a somewhat onerous task so I thank readers in advance for bearing with me. In the meantime, I shall endeavour to keep posts as regular as time and activities permit.

Totals - 18 new, (2) retraps
Wood Pigeon - 1
Robin - 2
Blackbird - 1
Wren - 1
Great Tit - 2, (1)
Coal Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 6, (1)
Starling - 2
Chaffinch - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 1

Not bad for the first garden ringing of 2013 and an interesting species mix it would have been nice to have had an overwintering Blackcap but I've not recorded one yet in five years.

A brief trip into Great Yarmouth in the afternoon provided the opportunity to snap some twilight snow scenes as the night fell.

 Looking west towards the Breydon Bridge

Eastwards from where the rivers Yare and Bure meet