Monday, 5 November 2018

October summary

The highlight of October was the return of Redwings.


The first this year was caught on the Teifi Marsh on the 15th October. The following morning, Charlie also caught one at his Llanfynydd site and noted the consistency of the usual dates of his first each autumn.
15/10/2015
15/10/2016
17/10/2017
16/10/2018
It has been a good year for them with a total of 200 for Charlie so far. His sites at Fygyn Common and Llanfynydd have provided good variety and experience for our trainees in a generally quite quiet month. 506 birds processed in the month at the two sites.

When weather has allowed we have been ringing on the Teifi Marsh but with key members of the group busy with other things the number of sessions has been limited.  The expected mix of Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, Thrushes, decreasing numbers of Blackcaps and a variety of Tits. Amongst the birds that had been ringed in previous years was a Blue Tit ringed in 2011.


According to BTO birdfacts the average lifespan of a Blue Tit is only 3 years so this one 7 years is doing well.
The best news of the autumn though is that after not catching, seeing or hearing any Cetti's Warblers on the Teifi Marsh throughout the breeding season we have now ringed 5 compared with 41 last year  and a retrap from last May 2017.  What we don't know is whether our birds died in the freezing weather in April or moved away. Hopefully we will start to catch more of our previously ringed birds once the unsettled weather passes and we can open some nets again.


Recent news of several recoveries of our birds, the first three on their first migration south

ABE1835 Reed Warbler ringed Teifi Marsh 17/09/18 re-encountered Oxwich Marsh 7/10/18
                  67km 20days  

AED8273 Sedge Warbler ringed Teifi Marsh 15/07/18 re-encountered Uskmouth 04/08/18
                   131km 20days

KJL620 Chiffchaff ringed Teifi Marsh 12/08/18 re-encountered Durlston Country Park 30/09/18
                  251km 49 days


AHA4081 Blue Tit ringed Fygyn Common 18/10/17 re-encountered nr Rhandirmwyn 24/05/2018
                 26km 218 days

We have previously exchanged birds with this site adjacent to Dinas RSPB when a Great Tit ringed in a nest box there in 2015 was caught in St Dogmaels  137 days later  
      
S574122 Goldfinch ringed Llanfynydd 03/07/2017 re-encountered Strad, nr Stroud 30/09/2018
                134 km  484 days


November has started with wind and rain. We have lots of plans and enthusiasm but need the weather to settle. Rock Pipits number have increased in the estuary so we will again be using spring traps on the shore. Woodcock are returning so our long term monitoring of those and other species that roost on sheep pasture will start again. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Mongolia, the journey continues.



This is the second Mongolian blog and the contents are Birds of Prey only. We were aware there were opportunities to catch and ring Birds of Prey but were not aware of how the birds were caught prior to our arrival to the Khurkh Bird Ringing Station.

Wedged between Russia in the north and China in the south is Mongolia the second largest landlocked country in the world. To the east and slightly north from the capital city Ulaanbaatar is KBRS, it is probably one of the remotest areas around the world at 1200 metres above sea level. It is as if time has stood still, but most famously, Mongolia is the resting place of Chinggis Khaan which roughly translates to "Universal Ruler" who came to power uniting all the countries famous warriors from the different nomadic tribes and went on to conquer large chunks of China and Central Asia.

It takes 9 hours to get there, mostly on dirt tracks. This is a stunning country, with great blue skies, amazing landscapes, grasslands and in our case lots of habitat with scrub trees running along the side of a small river which became a magnet for all the amazing birds we caught. The landscape was forbidding but beautiful and sitting quietly all you could hear were birds, literally only birds.
Daily around the tops of the hills and valleys we could scan the horizon constantly watching birds of prey soring in the blue skies above, going over one hill top to the next. Often we would see birds of prey squabbling with each other and sometimes the small birds chasing off the larger ones.

The list of Birds of Prey we saw including those we caught are as follows. I might have missed a few.

Ringed

Lesser Kestrel, first one caught and ringed for KBRS.
Common Kestrel
Japanese Sparrowhawk
Amur Falcon
Hen Harrier
Long-eared Owl




Flying

Black-eared Kite
Steppe Eagle
Sakar Falcon
Black Vulture
Upland Buzzard
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Merlin
Peregrine
Hobby
Steppe Eagle
Eastern Marsh Harrier
Pied Harrier


Colin extracting an Amur Falcon. There is a line of 4 x 60ft nets on top of one of the highest hills. This is where all the Birds of Prey were caught and seemed to be reasonably successful. We had to close the nets on several occasions because the wind speeds became to high, the nets became like big sails and then a few hours later it had calmed down again. Other birds were also caught in the nets, Pine Bunting, Chough, Daurian Jackdaw, Magpie and Rook. Access to the nets was about a 20 minute walk the long way round which was not so steep. The nets could be viewed with binoculars from the Yurt.


Common Kestrel


Common Kestrel, nothing special about this I hear you say, but it is the first one I have ever ringed, no matter where I have been to so I was very pleased to have done it.


Japanese Sparrowhawk. Very similar to our Sparrowhawks at home but much smaller birds. To give you an idea the wing length of one of the two caught was 165mm with a weight of 109.6gms. One of my UK birds I caught last year had a wing length 203mm with a weight of 166.3gms, a considerable difference.


We had two German guys with us for the two weeks we were there, Abu and Jonas. Both these guys as well as the Mongolians hold their birds differently than we do for taking pictures the emphasis holding the wings and tails like all the wing and tail pictures on this blog, including this Japanese Sparrowhawk and other birds. I have to say I have never seen it done in the UK but these guys were very experienced at it and no birds came to any harm. As you can see I was able to get some stunning pictures.




Japanese Sparrowhawk


The Amur Falcon for me was the most exciting bird of the trip. I had read about them before the holiday and really hoped to catch at least one. Three birds were caught in the first half of the first week, then they were gone. 



Their diet is mainly insects, grasshoppers and beetles which they catch on the wing  but do catch small birds and amphibians. At the ringing station it was noticeable that there was a large population of grasshoppers.


We were told that the best way to age this Falcon was to look under the wings. The grey colour between the white spots on the primaries and secondaries is rather narrow making this bird a juvenile. On adult birds the spacing between the white spots is larger. We had to be reliant on Batmunkh for help when it came to some of the birds of Prey because there was no reference books like Bakers guide to Identification of European Non-Passerines to help out.



They breed in south eastern Siberia and northern China. I have read they actually migrate half way around the world in large flocks to over winter in South Africa. They weigh around 150gms but have the strength, stamina and bodily reserves to fly the 13000km from their breeding grounds to their wintering quarters, feeding on the wing as they go.
It is estimated 110,000 birds have been recorded arriving in South Africa during the main migration period. Enroute many birds are trapped and killed for food in India. Education has improved this and reduced these deaths.  Amur's feed on insects on the wing, most of the insects they eat are mosquitoes and it is said this has helped to reduce malaria.


The Lesser Kestrel was a new bird for the Ringing Station.


The Lesser Kestrel is smaller than the common Kestrel. It has long pointed wings and a long tail. Males and females are distinguishable by colouring. This bird is a female, the head and back are mid brown, males have a blue/grey head and cheek and a darker brown back, they also lack the tail feather bars as can be seen on this female.


Just the one Long-eared Owl was captured.



Long-eared Owls do migrate, The numbers in the UK do increase with the arrivals from the continent during Winter. They arrive from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Russia and Mongolia. We do know for a fact one bird ringed in Cumbria was found  8 months later in western Russia 3,279km from its ringing site.


This bird is a juvenile Hen Harrier, caught in the nets at the top of the hill. Processing the bird first and then fixing a tracker.




All Birds of Prey have excellent eyesight which they use to locate their prey.
To keep them calm and not distracted by anything a small hood is fitted over its head. The hood is only removed when the bird is ready to be released.



First it was aged and then wing and weight was done prior to fitted a transmitter.


A satellite transmitter in the form of a back-pack is mounted to track large birds on migration. It is a two person job and the young lady is Tuvshee. Who looked after us in Ulaanbaatar and throughout the holiday and was also an experienced ringer and assistant ringer to Batmunkh.



Fixing it to the top of the body below the head of the Harrier is done using tapes and tying from underneath and the end of the ties goes up between the wing and the flanks of the bird and then through the eyelets on either side of the transmitter and tied off. Loose ends then removed.


From what I understand the tracker regularly transmits, these signals are monitored somewhere in Northern China.




The finished bird. I do not know how heavy the tracker is on this Harrier but I did pick one up and it felt very light, maybe the weight of 30-40gms.


Batmunkh is going to release the Hen Harrier. The bird is relaxed and ready to go.


Always like to take a head picture, all Birds of Prey have such piercing eyes.




It looks strange with the transmitter on its back but the bird was fine and lifted off the ground and flew into the distance and it was gone.


To sum up, this was an awesome holiday the long journey time to get there was well rewarded. We caught lots of new species, we had 1600 birds in 10 days, had some really wonderful Mongolian company, learnt a great deal, including their culture and went to an amazing part of the world which was breathtakingly beautiful.
A very big thank you to Batmunkh and Tuvshee for all their help when we were finding out about the Kurkh Bird Ring Station which started back in January/February this year and for the many replies from the many emails we have sent to Batmunkh over the year. I can honestly say he is now a friend to all of us The team was myself Charlie Sargent, Stu Brown, Paul Ashworth and Colin McShane. A big thank you to Colin for finding this holiday and convincing us all it would be a holiday of a lifetime and for doing all the organisation for the trip.
Finally another big thank you to Nyambayer Batbayer (far right seated) who is the Director of the Wildlife Science and Conservation Centre in Mongolia for spending time with us and taking a big interest in our plans for the two weeks we were there and also sharing with us and explaining all the projects that are currently being worked on in the huge country of Mongolia, see for further information. www.wscc.org.mn


Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Mongolia - Khurkh Bird Ringing Station

The trip to Mongolia was a long drawn out affair. A trip to Worcester to share a car to London with an overnight stay at the Hilton Hotel near Heathrow. The next morning was an early 3.5hr flight to Moscow and then a couple of hrs later the connecting 7.5hr flight to Ulaanbaatar the capital of Mongolia. We arrived early morning (+7hrs difference to GMT) dropped off our luggage in the hotel and spent most of the day killing time. The next morning we thought we would start our final 400km taxi ride to the ringing station, but it didn't work out like that. We were asked to go to a meeting with the Director Nyambayar Batbayer of the Wildlife Science and Conservation Centre www.wscc.org.mn who was very interested in out visit and also gave us an overview of all the projects that were being carried out in Mongolia. As it turned out a valuable insight of the work being carried our by the  WSCC. We eventually got on our way and at midnight we arrived at the Khurkh Bird Ringing Station after a 9hr taxi journey.


The next morning after a lie in we got ourselves organised, familiarised our selves with the Yurt, ringing station and all the net rides. Later that day I took a couple of pictures of the area from the top of one of the surrounding hills. The picture above shows the Yurt and is looking north.


This picture is looking south and we were literally living with birds. It was so quiet, literally no noise other than bird sound. You can see from the pictures we were really remote and in the valley the river and scrub trees is where we had the net rides. I've never seen such blue skies.


The Yurt was our home for the length of our visit.

Mongolia, Khurkh Bird Ringing Station - Sept 2018

Species
New
Recaptures
Total
Little Bunting
154
2
 156
Yellow-browed Warbler
424
3
 427
Taiga Flycatcher
55
3
 58
Black-faced Bunting
52
5
 57
Dusky Warbler
97
15
 112
Siberian Rubythroat
577
1
 578
Red-flanked Bluetail
9

 9
Daurian Redstart
27
1
 28
Arctic Warbler
21
1
 22
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
15

 15
Pine Bunting
9

 9
Brown Shrike
3
2
 5
Thick-billed Warbler
1
1
 2
Common Rosefinch
7
3
 10
Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler
12

 12
Tree Sparrow
3

 3
Brambling
2

 2
Common Magpie
14

 14
Grey Wagtail
3

 3
Pallas’s Reed Bunting
7

 7
Olive-backed Pipit
47

 47
Common Snipe
3

 3
Lesser Whitethroat
1
1
 2
Lanceolated Warbler
4

 4
Two-barred Warbler
1

 1
Siberian Stonechat
1

 1
Radde’s Warbler
10

 10
Bluethroat
5
2
 7
Dark-sided Flycatcher
2

 2
Siberian Blue Robin
1

 1
Yellow-breasted Bunting
1

 1
Daurian Jackdaw
11

 11
Buff-bellied Pipit
1

 1
Chestnut Bunting
2

 2
Chestnut-eared Bunting
1

 1
Tristram’s Bunting
1

 1
Red-billed Chough
1

 1
Rook
1

 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker
1

 1
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
1
1
 2
Chinese Bush Warbler
1

 1
White Wagtail
2

 2
Skylark
3

 3
White’s Thrush
1

 1
Amur Falcon
3

 3
Common Kestrel
2

 2
Lesser Kestrel
1

 1
Japanese Sparrowhawk
2

 2
Hen Harrier
1

 1
Eurasian Nightjar
1

 1
Swinhoe’s Snipe
1
1
 2
Long-eared Owl

1
 1
52 Species
1605
43
 1648

Because of the 3 days it took to get there and a similar number to get home we only had 10 days ringing. The highest number of birds caught in one day was 437 but an average of 165 birds a day was an unexpected good result. From the list there are 15 bird species I've seen or ringed before and 37 new birds. I have to say the Magpies and Rook looked bigger and weighed more than UK birds.


There is a High Flyer set up at KBRS which caught us some nice birds including this Eurasian Nightjar just as it was getting light. You will see from this and other photographs that holding the birds for the camera often involves wing opening.


Thick Billed Warblers are large unstreaked Reed Warblers. They are a migratory warbler which breed in East Asia and winter in South Asia. In the hand they feel very large indeed.


Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler look very similar to our UK Grasshopper Warbler. The supercilium of the Pallas's GW are more prominent and the ground colour is slightly more reddish than the Olive colour of the UK bird. One other i/d are the tips of the tail feathers which are pale creamy grey coloured.


The Lanceolated Warbler is very similar to the UK Grasshopper Warbler, the streaks of the neck and underparts are more heavily marked than both UK Grasshopper and Pallas's warblers and the underparts are sometimes slightly more grey coloured as well. Finally the size of the Lanceolated Warbler is much smaller than the other two.



Red-flanked Bluetail is a wide ranging bird. It is a migrant breeding in mixed coniferous forest in north Asia and northern Europe and winters in south eastern Asia. Occasionally there are sighting in the UK, Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk had a couple of sightings last year. The bird above is a female.


Dusky Warbler


Radde's Warbler

Apparently separating Radde's and Dusky Warblers in the field during Autumn and approaching Winter can be difficult and are the most misidentified species on the British list. There is so much information about this, I have this link to the Internet for those who would like to read more about it. http://home.clara.net/ammodytes/randdw.html We were lucky having Batmunkh around and tapping into his knowledge if we were not sure about something. But, when you read about it, should we have taken these bird i/d's for granted. I think so because birds in the hand for identification are very different than those in the bush because key features can be seen clearly and compared with each other. Also Batmunkh has handled lots of these birds before and is experienced in identifying birds that could be difficult.



Two-barred Warbler a medium sized leaf warbler having a very long yellowish white supercilium, only 29 caught in 2017. You can just make out the two bars on the wing, not the best picture showing you this.



The Brown Shrike was caught in large numbers before we arrived, most birds had migrated passing through the Ringing Station so we only managed 3 new and 2 recaptures. As with all Shrikes they are stunning birds with attitude.


Olive Backed Pipit up until 2013 was on the BBRC species list. In 2012 there was an influx of 50 birds which meant it met with the criteria for removal from the rarities list.


Siberian Rubythroat were the most common bird we ringed, 578 birds in total. They really are stunning, breeding in mixed forests of Siberia, wintering in Thailand, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh.


Siberian Stonechat female. They are brown above and on the head, they have an indistinct pale supercilium and have chestnut buff underparts. There are 6 recognised subspecies. 


Pine Bunting


Chestnut Bunting


Little Bunting


Black-faced Bunting, male at the top and female at the bottom. Picture to show comparison.


Chestnut-eared Bunting


Pallas's Reed Bunting


Yellow-breasted Bunting


Tristram's Bunting


We had some great birds and in all I had 37 new species. However the most challenging birds for me were the Buntings, only ever ringing Little Buntings abroad before. When you get your eye in they become easier to identify but are they male, female or a juvenile bird. The first few days there was a great deal of referencing from books and help from the vast knowledge of Batmunkh the co-coordinator of the ringing station.


Chinese Bush Warbler is a wide ranging bird. It is found in China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. Although relatively common just the one bird was caught and ringed.


Arctic warblers are rather strong-billed, slim but are a highly active Phylloscopus as in many small birds. It has a very large range breeding in north Eurasia, north Asia and Alaska and wintering in south east Asia The western birds flying anything up to 13,000km


This White's Thrush was a surprise. Batmunkh the coordinator of the Ringing Station thought the migrating thrushes would not pass through until the week after we left. It is a large powerful bird breeding to the west of the Ural mountains in Russia and wintering in south east Asia. It was sadly the only one we had. 3 were caught is 2017 and this was the first for this year.


Like many Redstarts, Daurian Redstarts are strongly sexually dimorphic.We caught both males and females. The male in the picture is probably a non breeding bird which tend to have mostly a brownish-grey crown and upper mantle. 


Dark-sided Flycatchers have a large range from the northern India subcontinent, Siberia, western and north-eastern China, Korea to Japan with northern populations wintering in Southern China and southeast Asia. Males and females look alike but juveniles have white spots above, mottled breast and buff-tipped wing coverts.


Pallas's Leaf Warbler are very small warblers with a largish head and short tail. It has greenish upperparts and whitish underparts. It has a yellow rump which is not visible in this picture and yellow double wing bars, central crown stripe and distict supercilium.


Red-billed Chough or Chough a social member of the crow family were fairly common but difficult to catch. There are eight subspecies currently recognised. The UK subspecies is pyrrhocorax and the Mongolian is brachypus.

There a few birds that I have not blogged but the most exciting are here.


Just a couple of pictures from inside the Yurt


The two Mongolian students that came with us. Training was difficult their English was better than our Mongolian. Charlie Sargent front left Stu Brown standing, Colin McShane and finally on the right Paul Ashworth.

There is going to be a follow up blog to this and all birds will be Birds of Prey.