Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Variety at night and a Woodcock to Denmark

We have previously had recoveries of our Woodcock from Russia and Norway but news of one being shot in Denmark is a first.
EX94463 was ringed on 14th January 2013 near Crymych. 673 days later it was shot on 18th November at Oksbøl, Ribe in Denmark. Where it has been between those dates is unknown but with information from Satellite tags fitted by the Woodcock Network some of the mysteries of Woodcock migration are being identified. Woodcock Watch
Our Woodcock numbers are slowly starting to build while the ringers in mid Wales are already seeing huge numbers. See their blog "What a load of old Scopolax" Also see Owen Williams interesting post  Woodcock breeding with information on the 2014 breeding season and proof of high site fidelity.

As well as ringing Woodcock, we have been finding a variety of other species roosting on the fields.
We regularly see Fieldfare and Redwing but this Mistle Thrush was a surprise.
This was only the 4th Mistle Thrush that the group has ringed, the other three being caught in garden nets in the daytime.
Some of our fields have small numbers of Skylark but this week was the first time we have seen and caught any this winter.
With a new moon on the 22nd I expect the group we will be out spending the dark evenings lamping, not wrapping presents!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Plotting the migration of our Sedge Warblers

Since 2009 we have ringed 2,874  Sedge Warblers either passing through or breeding on the Teifi marsh.
With news this week from the BTO of one of our birds being controlled in France, another dot can be added to our Sedge Warbler movement map.
This latest recovery was down in the South of France at Reserve Naturelle de la Maziere in Lot et Garonne. Ringed on the Teifi on the 16th July 2014 and recaptured on the 4th August, just 19 days later.

Migration across southern Britain can be seen from the map with many recoveries from Icklesham where huge numbers of birds are caught as they migrate through before crossing over to France.

Most recoveries are in the Loire Atlantique and other Sedge Warbler ringers will recognise the locations Donges, Frossay, Tour aux Moutons, Feu de la Calotte, La Tertre Rouge. Presumably a lot of French ringing effort is concentrated in these marshy areas which provide good habitat on migration. Sedge Warblers need to lay down fat reserves before undertaking the rapid long haul flight across North Africa and the Sahara to West Africa so are very dependent on good feeding areas rich in aphids. This emphasises the importance of conserving these wetland areas and slowing down man's interference with the habitat by drainage and development.
There is still a big gap on our map through Spain and North Africa with the next location being their wintering area in Djoudj National Park in Senegal where two of our Teifi ringed Sedge Warblers have been recovered.
This year our total of Sedge Warblers ringed was 571. Seventeen retrapped adults from previous years represent either site faithful breeding birds or migrants passing through on the same route.

Hopefully some ringing news soon if the wind ever eases enough to open some nets. The full moon has slowed down our night time lamping too.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Costa Rican Highland mix - or Harry Potter & friends ?

The Highlands; a magnificent part of Costa Rica, and an absolute privilege to encounter the birds here. Cold not-withstanding.
Here is a flock of the Highland endemics (and some of their visiting friends from afar)
Firstly, as in the field, so in the blog; the flock leader...
Chlorospingus pileatus - known to some ie Pauline as the Harry Potter bird, for obvious reasons ie the lightning head pattern, or to mere muggles as a  Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager...

The slatys...,
Slaty Finch-a fine adult male here,

and Slaty Flowerpiercer, a slightly leucistic adult male.
A notable absence from this group thus far, is the Slate-throated Redstart.  So we include his close relation, the Collared Redstart.

The flaming......,
The stunning male Flame-coloured Tanager,

 and the equally stunning Flame-throated Warbler.

The creepers...,
Spot-crowned in the Highlands, is to Streak-headed in the lowlands (below)

A perfect example of related and very similar species that are geographically separated.

A Red-faced Spinetail, perhaps more common at this elevation than previously thought ?

The flycatchers...,
A lovely surprise to find that this young Tufted Flycatcher had found "our" Lake. In previous visits we had to visit a lake further afield to find the species.

This is a Paltry Tyrannulet - formerly Mistletoe Tyrannulet, a less common flycatcher found alongside lots of Olive-striped and Yellowish Flycatchers, and Mountain Elaenias.

The Mountain Elaenia is a flycatcher which is gradually turning to berries, from insects, and as a result their wings are getting shorter and broader. No need to slice the air in quick aerobatics when your food source now sits still.

The dark & dusky...,
A young Dark Pewee, like the Tufted Flycatcher a "new" arrival at our Lake site, where interestingly they were both found on the same morning.

A Dusky Nightjar, this bird caught just prior to dawn, and after release roosted in a nearby tree.
A fabulous result with these beautiful birds and the most encounters to date !
Some, even as simple as coming to the two-shelf garden net whilst dinner is being cooked inside to the pleasant strains of David Gray !

And the comparable...
Two Yellow-thighed Finches.  One adult, the other clearly juvenile. Note the difference in intensity of yellow. We started to notice two distinct groups of wing lengths in adult individuals, and it seemed to correlate with the amount of yellow in the feathers of the alula. Possibly one could sex adults by these indicators ?

Louisiana Waterthrush. A nice one to compare to the Northern Waterthrush of the lowlands. Absent from our nets until the very last moment, when we then caught three in two days !

And the incomparable... !!!
A Spangle-cheeked Tanager......

An adult female Rufous-browed Pepper-Shrike. 
This species was a first in hand for the three of us and a great bird for Richard to end his final full banding session in the Highlands in 2014.

Pauline Pearse and Rich D,
photo credits, Pauline if watermarked, otherwise Kim or Rich D 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Highlights from the Highlands of Costa Rica

Bare-shanked Screech-Owl,
.........Another gem in the Costa Rica Highlands !
(photo credit Kim...)

More words from me later...but first some words from someone else...
Kim from British Columbia in Canada recently joined our small team.
Read and feel Kim's impression of our visit to our CRBO Highlands site at Madre Selva.
"Back down from the Cloud Forests - what an adventure !"

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Grey Wagtail to start a day of good winter ringing..

Our winter effort on the Ceredigion side of the Teifi Marsh continues. The reward today was a new bird for that area - a Grey Wagtail.
We had seen one around the stream several times before so decided to set up a two shelf net in its favoured area. We couldn't believe it when it was in the net before we had even finished putting it up!
A good start for Charlie Sargent who was visiting us from Gower Ringing Group.
It is always nice to show the reserve to other ringers - not a bad view from the ringing site across the reed beds to the Wildlife Centre.
A good vantage point to watch the Starlings come out of roost and record on Birdtrack anything else flying about, like the 30 Lapwing and 12 Snipe over today. 5 Jack Snipe flushed as we walked across the marsh.
Here Charlie and Chris discuss the aging of Reed Buntings - today's birds taking our total of Reed Buntings ringed this year to over 140.
Next some garden ringing where the number of Goldfinch and Greenfinch has suddenly increased this week.
Back to the reserve for the Starling roost with another 28 ringed.
It looks like it is going to be a cold night - the temperature was already down to minus 1°c when we left the reserve at 6pm. With a bright moon it looks a better idea to stay in the warm than go out lamping!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Marsh in the day, sheep fields at night..

The Teifi Marshes continue to bring surprises. Until this year we haven't used our nets on the Ceredigion side of the marsh in winter. The number of Meadow Pipits over that side has been unexpected.
Interestingly all those ringed recently have unmoulted Greater and  Median Coverts and Tertials unlike those we caught at Mwnt on passage earlier in the autumn. This is thought to be indicative of birds from Northern populations (Svensson)
Other species increasing in number are Blackbirds with longer wings and heavier than our local breeders. This time last year we were catching an unusually high number of Lesser Redpoll but none have even been seen yet.
At night we have been walking the sheep fields but still very few Woodcock around unlike in mid Wales where they seem to be back in large numbers.
First Snipe of the winter was ringed on thursday night
and another Woodcock, one of only three seen
Hopefully some more will arrive with the next phase of the moon and with it getting colder in Russia.

The Starling roost on the Teifi Marsh is still huge and spectacular so we will be out again during the week to ring some more.

Mostly the Starlings are dropping into the Kingfisher hide reedbed but some area also gathering noisily pre-roost in the trees behind the visitor centre.
Well worth a visit to watch them.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Another Firecrest, Water Rail, Woodcock and more

Some interesting species ringed on the Teifi Marsh this week.
Last Saturday the highlight was an adult Water Rail. We had heard a lot squealing from the reeds but were quite surprised to find one in a net on the edge of the reed bed as we don't catch many.
 Water Rails are skulkers and usually a challenge for photographers so it was a privilege to be able to study the plumage in detail particularly these well-marked undertail coverts.
That day we also caught the first Stonechat on the reserve, a Cetti's Warbler, some Redwing and Reed Buntings.
After the excitement of a Belgian ringed Firecrest that just Chris and I saw last week, our trainee was very pleased to be able to study one in the hand as we caught another one on Sunday. 

One of the advantages of being out at dawn on the reserve is to enjoy gorgeous sunrises over the marsh. This week, the spectacle of tens of thousands of Starlings coming out of roost has added to that pleasure..
We have caught some more Starlings this week as they go into roost. The noise and smell in the reed bed has to be experienced to be believed.
 They are interesting birds to try to age and sex but often ambiguous.
Away from the marsh, our efforts have been mainly on lamping birds at night. The fields have been quiet and only last night did we ring the first Woodcock of the season. It was a three species night with Fieldfare and Golden Plover ringed too.