Thursday 25 April 2013

First Dipper Pulli.....and American Woodcock

The pulli ringing season is underway with 3 Dippers on the Nevern to start.

Good to see that the bridge was well designed when it was rebuilt in 2005 with ledges perfect for Dipper nests.
 In conjunction with ringing pulli, we are planning to do more nest monitoring this year for the BTO Nest Record Scheme.

Meanwhile in Canada, at Long Point Bird Observatory, Richard was thrilled to ring an American Woodcock to compare with ours. It was much smaller, weighing 132g with a wing of 126mm. No doubt about the identification if we ever came across one of those when out lamping here!
With 50kph wind yesterday, there was no chance to open mist nets at the tip but they managed to ring 130 birds caught in traps including 88 Northern Cardinals! With very powerful bills that would have meant extremely battered hands by the end of the day.

Spring has not arrived in Southern Ontario yet so the big passage of warblers is eagerly awaited. Until it warms up, Sparrows, Cowbirds and Towees make up the majority of other birds banded.

Saturday 20 April 2013

Saw-whet Owl to start and news closer to home...

Richard has arrived at Long Point Bird Observatory in Canada where he will be banding for 6 weeks. The first bird he ringed was handed to him by the bat researchers - a Northern Saw-whet Owl, just 8 inches tall and around 80g!
Some highlights from his first day of banding...
28 Hermit Thrush, 18 Brown Creeper, 14 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, very early Wood Thrush, American Tree Sparrow and Fox Sparrow.
White-eyed Vireo was an excellent bird to catch as only four were banded last spring. Also interesting as we caught one in Costa Rica in November, an uncommon migrant beyond its normal range as described by CRBO

White-eyed Vireo
Meanwhile back at home we have been busy with garden ringing and a few sessions on the Teifi marsh.
Last week saw an influx of Goldfinches with large numbers at feeders across the county.
With very windy conditions it was impossible to open a mist net but 44 were caught in a small Potter trap over a couple of days. Interestingly these were heavy birds carrying a lot of fat the heaviest being 20.9g.
Now that this passage has gone the local birds including retraps from previous years are much lighter and carrying no fat.
Siskins are still being ringed too with females having brood patches and males not carrying fat. Hopefully there is a healthy breeding population nearby. It was a surprise to catch this control male with a Belgian ring, the second this year.
An unusually high number of Jays are still around too and another one was ringed in the garden this week.
On the marsh while catching White Wagtails we caught our first Sedge Warbler of the year and another few this morning. No Reed Warblers yet but we will out in the reed bed whenever weather permits hoping for the safe return of our many site-faithful birds.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Costa Rica - we go back for more !

For anyone considering ringing abroad, read the story of our experience in Costa Rica  now on the Costa Rica Bird Observatory website. You will be tempted !

" A note from the field
By Richard Dobbins and Wendy James

Although most of our bird banding takes place in the UK we are always keen to learn more about banding in other countries. An internet search led us to the interesting work being done by Costa Rica Bird Observatory (CRBO). After exceptional experiences in Uganda and Canada, which we had thought would be hard to surpass, we immediately felt that this sounded perfect for our next adventure.
In early November 2012 we arrived in Costa Rica full of excitement at the prospect of putting our months of studying into practice. We had learnt some Spanish, immersed ourselves in photos and descriptions of the fascinating variety of birds that would be new to us, studied banding data for each site as well as read the very informative banding handbook backwards and forwards!
Our first location was in coastal lowland forest at Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast. CRBO have been conducting research there since 1994. The daily routine was quickly established, weather permitting. Six hours of banding with migration counts every two hours and area searches of all birds seen and heard filled our days with new birds. Although the main migration period was over, we were still counting reasonable numbers of Barn Swallows, Ring-necked Ducks and Turkey Vultures.
Every day we marvelled at the richness of the habitat in which we had the privilege to be working. Awesome is a much overused word but it perfectly fits our daily encounters with not just the birds, but the flora and fauna too.

This Royal Flycatcher and a Pale–billed Woodpecker were amazing examples of some infrequently banded resident birds. Making detailed notes and taking pictures of these more unusual birds was an important part of our work to help fill in gaps in knowledge about these species. As well as residents we were catching North American migrants, particularly thrushes such as Swainson’s and Grey-cheeked and warblers including Prothonatory and Wilson’s. Our experience with migrants at Long Point Bird Observatory in Canada proved invaluable.
Our next base was at the Costa Rica Bird Observatories station at Madre Selva, 2,400metres up in the Talamanca mountains.
 Madre Selva is a homely base for the three different banding sites. Eighteen nets scattered around the hillside at each site made for an exhilarating day in the thin air. Apart from Clay-coloured Robin, all the species we banded here were different to those at Tortuguero so each bird provided great interest and education. This Slate-throated Redstart was banded at the Lake site, a beautiful site that became our favourite.
Starting the day with a pre-dawn walk to the site accompanied by hundreds of glow worms and watching Common Paraques displaying before going off to roost as we opened the nets was very atmospheric.
By taking pictures showing various ageing features we were helping to build a reference for future research. As an example, this photo of a Black-faced Solitaire demonstrates a clear moult limit in the greater coverts.
As well as banding we endeavored to produce comprehensive bird lists at each site. Over the two months we recorded 249 species at the sites where we banded and surrounding area. The number of species we processed was 103 so there are many more species that we could potentially catch and study on subsequent visits.
Alongside the awe inspiring birds, people that we met helped to make our trip so memorable. The enthusiasm that everyone has for the work of CRBO to date and plans for the future is refreshing.
We hope to be part of that future with a return visit before long."

Sunday 14 April 2013

Snipe to Sand Martin......variety before Canada

Saturday night a Common Snipe in a two shelf net, I guess our last of the season....
Friday night some firsts for the year ....a Swallow and Sand Martin in nets set for migrant alba wagtails. We did catch White and Pied Wagtails and one Willow Warbler to make a nice variety in a short dusk session.

A 530am start on Saturday morning- hoping for the weather window to give us a couple of early hours !
A great result - in one of the reed-bed nets - 8 Willow Warblers and one Chiffchaff. We only ringed one Willow Warbler last April !!

To Canada on Long Point Bird Observatory, and my third Spring there, this trip 6 weeks like last year..

A few lines from the 2012 LPBO Program Report...

" May was impressive to say the least. May 3 was the biggest banding day with 1,008 birds of 56 species banded. 108 species were observed at the Tip alone on May 2 and 3. Long Point’s warbler diversity quickly rose to 28 species by May 4...."

This was the highlight of last Spring.....On our first day at the Tip...
...the banding of North America's first Fork-tailed Flycatcher...!

For more details  and weekly updates on Migration Monitoring through the Great Lakes see Long Point Bird Observatory

Sunday 7 April 2013

Woodcocks and wagtails......Jays and Jack

This Woodcock should be on migration, a retrap we were delighted to catch on the 2nd April. Initally ringed in January 2011 and not seen over the last 26 months ! Three more woodcock were ringed this week, surely our last ......
Out on the marsh at our Mallard Hide site last night - only 1 Sand Martin in the air and a few wagtails came to roost. Our first White Wagtail of the spring along with 6 Pieds caught. A wander with a lamp on the commercial reed cut found a few Jack Snipe....but only after I had already caught one in a waterside two shelf !

Small as ever, this one weighing 52.7g

Earlier in the morning the Group had a pre-CES session preparing the site, including new access to the CES reedbed. A few Chiffchaffs caught, but the highlights being 2 Jays and 2 Treecreepers !!
Useful to catch birds of different ages at the same time to compare moult.
Wendy also caught a Jay in her garden sited Potter Trap too..

A post on Siskins soon...
New birds, retraps, females with brood patches and other birds with fat scores of 5...all this week. Local breeders and birds on passage. With approaching 400 ringed during spring 2013, by far our highest ever, some good data to crunch....

Tuesday 2 April 2013

April begins with a Brambling and a Goldie

Last night on Y Frenni it was a sub-zero start to the month. We caught our first ever April Golden Plover.
A couple of hundred Goldies were on the top but only one Woodcock was seen last night.
We also ringed a Skylark - another first for April.
The day had started with some garden ringing and a male Brambling was the first bird in the net. A third April first! Two more unringed Brambling were seen in the garden later so they haven't moved on yet.

Monday 1 April 2013

(Nearly) April gold.........

A couple of nice Goldies caught last night on Y Frenni, c50 seen and 3 Woodcock still here too.
We will have another look tonight-Monday.