Saturday, 16 March 2013

First Wash of 2013

Obviously this post title is referring to the first trip this year with the Wash Wader Ringing Group and despite the length of my straw thwarting my opportunity to ring a Greylag Goose I was looking forward to meeting up with friends that I'd not seen for nearly a year and of course, ringing some waders. I have ringed a few waders since my last Wash trip but they were predominantly Golden Plover captured whilst working as a research assistant with the RSPB in Sutherland last summer.

Saturday evening was suitable for mist-netting so two teams erected the usual layout of nets on Terrington Marsh while a glorious sunset occurred. After a fantastic dinner the bulk of the team left about half an hour after the tape lures had started playing as it has been recently observed that a large proportion birds are being caught well before high tide. After finding our way out to the nets in the estuarine darkness we started extracting birds immediately. Quite a few Black-tailed Godwits were caught and being prone to stress volunteers were required to take them back for immediate processing; seeing as I knew my way off the marsh I was one. This meant that I would soon be finding myself ringing a couple of Black-tailed Godwits and joining the processing team to take head and bill measurements of the Godwits and the many Dunlin that were caught. Oh, and to the disbelief of the Wash regulars I managed to ring a new species for me - Redshank!

 Putting the nets up around the 'E' pool.

On Sunday morning a single cannon net was set on the beach between Snettsiham and Heacham with the intention making a catch of Oystercatchers which had been seen there during the recce on Saturday morning. It was a quick early morning set and the team was briefed and in position in good time. The only slight issue was the lack of birds with just eleven being caught when the command to fire was issued. This, however, was the perfect opportunity for less experienced and new members of the team to have a go at extracting waders from a larger mesh cannon net in which birds can become quite entangled. The small catch also allowed these folk to take their time processing the birds as well as giving the chance for a few more experienced Wash regulars to have their biometric measurements checked by highly experienced lead processors.

6i Oystercatcher

On Sunday evening there was the option to try mist-netting at a new site that Aron has acquired permission for at Gedney near Sutton Bridge in Lincolnshire. The pools weren't far from the seawall but the mud was exceptionally sticky and a number of the small team slipped up, some more than once!

After a fish and chip supper the tape lures were set and we waited for the birds to arrive. The first round was quiet although two Black-tailed Godwits were a pleasant surprise. Then we found ourselves extracting a good catch of Dunlin after which high tide peaked and we took down before heading back to join Lucy and Carole who had already made a start on processing the Dunlin along with another two Black-tailed Godwits.

As the temperature dropped it was with much excitement that Lucy announced that amongst the modest catch of 36 Dunlin was a control from Helgoland. Coincidentally this was the final bird to be processed and everybody in the small team was able to get a look at the foreign ring.

Dunlin being weighed

Friday, 15 March 2013

Thetford Dipper and Wild Goose Chase

After having settled into my rented accommodation in Thetford and completed my first week working for the BTO I was looking forward to the first wader ringing trip of the year with the Wash Wader Ringing Group.

There were no plans to catch on the Saturday morning, instead the team was split, perhaps a little unequally, between carrying out recces at regular cannon netting sites and travelling to Thetford in an attempt to catch some Greylags on the BTO Nunnery Lakes reserve. These would be fitted with darvic neck collars, each engraved with a three letter combination allowing individuals to be identified in the field.

This meant that I managed a lay in and met the rest of the group on the reserve. A single cannon net was quickly set and we retreated to our vehicles and waited for the geese to arrive. All eight of them! After a lot of deliberation and unproductive wild goose chases around the lakes (no more were located), Nigel and Phil decided to fire on this small group. Somehow several escaped leaving just ith two Greylags and a Mallard. One goose was a retrap so just needed a neck collar and straws were drawn to ring the remaining goose and the Mallard. While the birds were processed the net was packed away and we were ready to head back to the Wash - via the Nuns Bridges to look for the Black-bellied Dipper.

After the thrill of seeing a pair of Otters, a bit of pleasant strolling up and down the rivers saw us heading west with a 'circus' of twitchers towards a sluice where the Dipper has been seen before. From the gathered throng it was clear we we were in the right place and the bird - which had, for a Dipper, made an epic journey from Europe - was bathing in the media limelight.

Black-bellied Dipper in Thetford

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Last few garden sessions and new job

Having received the good news that the BTO have offered me the the position of Oracle database developer I spent the last fortnight in Lound sorting and preparing to move as well as attempting to catch at least one of the Siskins visiting the nyger. 

Over a few mist-netting sessions a number of interesting birds were caught including the first Goldfinch seen in the garden for a while, another Lesser Redpoll bringing the total caught to 7 and a stunning male Siskin. On the same Saturday afternoon that the Siskin was caught I received a call from my ringing trainer Paul to ask if I'd like to come over and help ringing a Siskin flock that was taking advantage of his feeders with 39 being ringed in total.

Adult (6) male Siskin (left)  and male Goldfinch (right)

It was interesting to catch a Wren that had been ringed as a first year bird (3), in October 2011. This individual now an adult (6), clearly showed the staggering in the wing bars as discussed in the recent article by Rachel C. Taylor recently published in Ringing and Migration. A large tick was firmly attached just below the eye of this Wren yet when re-trapped again a few days later the tick was gone and the bird seemed none the worse for wear, weighing more than when it was caught carrying it's burden. Another interesting retrap was an adult Blue Tit that was re-captured on the same date and within ten minutes of first capture last year.

Adult (6) Wren showing staggering in the wing bars

Unfortunately in the week before I started in my new role the weather was less favourable so I decided to build and deploy a small ground trap with a view to catching some of the Blackbirds that are so adept at avoiding my mist net. After a bit of tweaking and an escaped Blackbird, a slow but steady stream of birds were caught with species trapped and ringed including Blackbird, Song Thrush, Starling and Robin. A valuable tool when the weather is unsuitable for mist-netting.

After a reasonable start to the year in Lound hopefully there will be plenty of ringing opportunities as I settle into my new role and home in Thetford.