Monday, 15 April 2019

April and Spring begins on the Teifi

A Teifi Spring is always full of expectation and doesn't really deliver any numbers until early May.
We do catch a few Willow Warblers as they arrive and 5 at Mallard one morning was good.
White Wagtails appear in spectacular numbers.

Returning birds are difficult to catch in Spring,
We do try and sample a few of the 200+  roosting most nights in mid April. We have ringed 16 this year
Wendy brought her thermal imaging camera one night...fascinating and an alternative method of counting. For those not used to the image each white spot below is a roosting bird.

A female Mallard in a mist net proved an interesting experience, and the undertail coverts of the first Grasshopper Warbler of the season a delight...

Although 150 + Sand Martins each night are feeding over the marsh, we don't target the hirundines in Spring, though we did catch one early one morning.

Small numbers of Reed Buntings are still coming to the Millet feeder on the reserve including some old birds not seen yet this year. This male Reed Bunting was ringed as a juvenile in 2011 so is coming up to 8 years old.

The improvement in the weather should provide us with some early returning acros.
Back in 2016 the first 9  returning Reed Warblers captured were all our ringed adults from previous years....amazing site fidelity.

A round up of other Group site activities at the end of the month.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The year so far....

As the Group keeps expanding we think that short summaries with species totals and relevant notes will help keep Group members up to speed with all activities.
The totals in the table below are for the period    Jan 1st - March 31st  2019
If you have anything to add to any species notes - please add directly or email Wendy.

No surprise that during this late winter period those species attracted to feeders make up the numbers caught, though a variety of catching methods used.

Mist nets in gardens for Siskins, Tits and Lesser Redpolls etc

Interesting that on the same day that we caught our first Lesser Redpoll at  Mallard in the reeds, Redpolls were also caught in three garden sites.

Whoosh nets for Linnets at Mwnt and in Wendy's garden resulted in this Collared Dove and 3 Yellowhammers as discussed in a  previous post.

Our RAS season for Reed Buntings has now started - April 1st !
Hopefully some re-sightings of these colour-ringed birds will add greatly to the picture, a very impressive total of new birds and re-encounters this winter. On one of these visits to Mallard we caught a Water Rail in a new triple cage Potter Trap, again posted about at the time.

The good Starling total is from Andy mainly using a drop trap in his garden.
One of the 194 Blue Tits ringed has been subsequently encountered in Shropshire. Quite a movement for a Blue Tit ..

Blue Tit  ACF8355
Ringing date: 11-FEB-2019 Bancyffordd Carmarthenshire, Wales
Finding date: 08-MAR-2019 Big Pool, Shavington Park, Calverhall, Shropshire, UK
Duration: 25 days Distance: 159 km

Finder Shropshire Ringing Group

Charlie's Llanfynydd site continues to be invaluable for training over the winter with a variety of species and good numbers of birds coming to the feeders.

A trainer's permit assessment was carried out here for an A ringer, Paul from Mid Wales. Also a Trainee, Marina with her Trainer, Stuart from Worcester visited to gain experience with Finches.

We hope to form more links with other groups to give trainees opportunities to ring birds that their own group don't catch.

Seven species appear on the list due to Lamping, not massive numbers or particularly productive, but we have manged to do a complete list in BTO Birdtrack for every night out of all birds recorded, seen and heard on the Pembs/Cere sites.

Early Spring ringing has resulted in a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap ringed.
Now to see what April brings. The week has started well with the first Dipper pulli of the year at one of Karen's boxes. Today we heard the first Sedge Warbler near Mallard, if weather permits we will expand the Mallard site with 2 more nets this weekend. This week Charlie opened nets at his Common site too.

(Wendy and Rich D)

Saturday, 30 March 2019

South Africa 2019 Part 2

This second post includes non-raptors and other trip highlights.
During the heat of the day we undertook various drives not only for raptors but to bird or enjoy the country.
Whilst staying at our Ndabushi site this drive took us into the Blyde River Canyon at the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains. This a site for Verraux's Eagle one of the few raptor species which we didn't see but from the bridge we saw an African Finfoot and the sky was full of locally breeding Little Swifts.
An incredible scenic setting...

Wildlife appears everywhere on a trip like this....

We left the airport for our first site Intulo, catching some raptors on the way.

Nets placed in scrub at the site for the morning but the initial target was Little Swifts nesting in the buildings.

Seven Little Swifts were ringed and a Pearl Spotted Owlet obligingly appeared.

Next morning the nets were opened, a couple of spring traps set and a variety of birds were ringed. The following Palearctic migrants were the highlights. Common Whitethroat (a notable species for here) Willow Warbler and Red-backed Shrikes.

On to Speculatie, a farm near the Botswana border where birding rather than morning ringing produced the best results. With species including Little Bee-eater and Double-banded Sandgouse at the watering hole.

Scaly-feathered Finch

We did have interesting results in the evening though with two European Nightjars caught, both appearing to have suspended moult. A third European Nightjar was ringed the following morning, this bird still moulting flight feathers.

Our third location was Kaoxa in the Mpungubwe National Park. Wonderful views from the ringing table out to the Botswana and Zimbabwe borders. Elephants in the distance and Rock Hyraxes on the close rocks. Lions, Hyenas and Jackals calling at night...

The birds caught here were mainly around the swimming pool....

Species here included several Green-winged Ptylia

Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Golden-breasted Bunting, and Greater Blue-eared Starlings.

During the heat of the days two great drives through the bush, several Kori Bustards amongst the Zebras, Wildebeest, Giraffes, Jackals...etc..

Kori Bustard - one of 6 seen on the plain there

Red-billed Oxpeckers

 On our first night here, no Nightjars came to the nets, but I managed to pick up this Freckled Nightjar.

Out on a night drive whilst based at Koaxa we had an amazing experience....
We came across a roadside Spotted Eagle Owl and we dropped a trap. Whilst waiting for a response, a Red-crested Korhaan flew and landed on the road. Amazing viewing for the team as I managed to catch the Korhaan, on a noisy underfoot gravel road, whilst keeping their eyes on the Eagle Owl as it arrived on the trap.

A majestic Spotted Eagle Owl,.

On the journey back to the site we did pick up a Cinnamon-breasted Bunting  which we roosted overnight before release in the morning.

 Kaoxa is also an historical site for cave paintings

After a visit to view the artwork here we are looking at the nesting Rock Martins, Cinnamon-breasted Buntings and the Mocking Cliff Chats.

Our next site was at Zulani, where recent rains had made the surrounding land fertile and full of seeding grasses. A mighty Red-billed Quelea colony was present, at least 10km long along the one side we travelled. This colony was the cause of our next spectacle ! The colony was a feeding ground for a combination of raptors and storks, the main species being Lesser Spotted Eagles, White, Abdim's and Maribou Storks. Birds arriving in the thermal above forming a spectacular kettle.

Every night we cooked on a Brai, fresh steak daily...

.....complemented with Malcolm's famous Veg packs

Last year on a similar timed visit we ringed 16 European Rollers, this visit we only managed two.
How each year and visit differ ! Whilst searching roadside wires for the often 3 species of  Roller that are present in the area, we encounter far more Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes.

Zwakala Brewery was our next ringing base and lodge, a craft brewery overlooking the Wolkberg mountains.

Our first visit to higher altitude....a drop in temperature and forest, riverine and cultivation more akin to home in Wales.

Spring traps were valuable here for catching birds like this Cape Robin-Chat

This delightful Swee Waxbill, one of the endemic species of the higher altitude area as were the Forest Canaries and the 2 Barratt's Warblers we captured. The first Barratt's Warbler was a valuable recapture.

After Zwakala we headed down to the Lowveld and heat again staying at Ndabushi Lodge bordering the Kruger

Here around our accommodation Wire-tailed Swallow were always present, nesting nearby.

Nyala around the nets....

Here we were able to set some nets in the riverside vegetation. We were hoping for Olive-tree Warbler and Marsh Warbler here. No luck with the Olive-tree Warblers on this visit but we did catch 8 Marsh Warblers. As part of processing we do moult score the primaries of every bird. For both Marsh and Willow Warblers we had birds in active wing moult and birds that had finished their moult.

Interesting race Willow Warblers - both ‘acredula/yukutensis and trochilus sub-species.

A few common residents,  Black-backed Puffback

African Pygmy Kingfisher

Our final site was Moorfield Farm near Muller's Pass at 1750m. Surrounded by superb Highveld grassland, the land of Cranes, Black Harrier and Secretary Bird.

Cape Batis recapture.

All the sites that where we use mist nets are regular ringing sites for Malcolm, therefore we do recapture a proportion of resident birds. None on this visit but we do recapture site faithful Palearctic wintering birds too eg a Red-backed Shrike on a visit in Feb 2018.

African Thrush

A Highveld speciality - Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler

Many Cape White-eye,  the " Blue Tits" of our higher altitude sites

This waterfall was at end of our net rides at this location.

We used Moorfield Farm not only as a ringing site but for accommodation that best suits visits to the Amur Falcon roost in Newcastle, as described in the previous post.

We encountered a great variety of insects on the trip, this Katydid was our favourite and one of the more colourful.

A final mist net session on the way to the airport, the low bridges across the streams often have breeding endemic South African Cliff Swallows.

We caught 28 SA Cliff Swallows and a Malachite Kingfisher here.

Finally the Team photo at 2000m in the Normandien Pass, not far from where we caught the Secretary Bird.

 This and the previous post about our experience with Raptors give an insight into our 2 weeks in South Africa. Many thanks to Malcolm Wilson  (African Affinity)

(Photos - contributions from all, especially Andrew)