Saturday 27 December 2014

Success with stormies....but are they ours ?

Storm Petrels have been caught by the Teifi Ringing Group during the summer months over the last four years. Our totals may seem small but our efforts are directed to other breeding and migration activities during the season and we do help ring stormies in south-west Pembs.
Enough of excuses and let us look at our amazing results and our way forward....

We started catching Storm Petrels at the established site of Strumble Head, where for over thirty plus years stormies have been caught, mainly on visits by Ian Spence. To date we have caught 36 birds at Strumble, with our birds controlled on nearby Skokholm, Sanda in the Inner Hebrides and an amazing control of one of our own birds from our new site at Mwnt in Ceredigion.

As the map shows Mwnt in Ceredigion is along the coast of Cardigan Bay and is 40km from Strumble Head

The headland at Mwnt is used for sea-watching and for some migration studies - mainly Greenland Wheatears.
On the 13th July 2012 we attempted our first catch at the site.
Three birds were caught, two new and to our delight a control ! We now know the bird was ringed on 11th August 2011 - Deep Point, Isles of Scilly.
These birds were the first captured, ringed and controlled for the county of Ceredigion !!

To date we have encountered 44 stormies at Mwnt delivering some amazing movements-

The RSPB island reserve of Ramsey, Pembs is now rat free and they have a new (since 2008) small colony of c10-15 pairs on on the west coast. On the east coast of the island they have managed to attract and ring six likely non-breeders. A bird they ringed last year on 6th August 2013, we controlled this 1st July 2014.  One out of six isn't bad....

More local !
A bird we ringed at Mwnt on the 13th July 2012 we controlled ourselves at Strumble Head 368 days later on 19th July 2013.
...More local still !!.......we recaptured our own bird at Mwnt almost exactly one year later, ringed 5th July 2013 and retrapped on 1st July 2014.
Site faithfulness is of  course expected, but WE don't have a breeding population. The nearest  breeding birds are to the southwest on the Pembrokeshire Islands, and to the north a smaller number on Bardsey.

 2661480 our favourite to date and perhaps exemplifies the faithful wanderings within the Irish Sea.
Ringed at Mwnt on the 22nd July 2012...
Controlled on the Calf of Man on the 26th June 2014...
Controlled on the Ceredigion coast near Aberystwyth a month later on the 28th July 2014....
(A first encounter of the species in Ceredigion for Tony Cross !!)

To round off  "OUR" curent Cardigan Bay movements, a bird ringed on the Lleyn Peninsula on the 27th July 2013 was controlled by us at Mwnt on 1st July 2014.

The photo above shows the usual net in position at Mwnt on the northwest facing slope of the headland, with Cardigan Island in the background. The island has been rat free since 1970.
We are trying different and additional net positions at Mwnt and will visit Strumble Head in 2015. Hopefully our effort in Cardigan Bay will complement the ringing of Storm Petrels on the islands and shed more light on the summer wanderings of

Hopefully we will be out for stormies on the 3rd July....31 years since I first ringed a Storm Petrel.
No surprises..... that was with Steve Sutcliffe down on the Deer Park opposite Skomer, and I guess we will be down there again this season.......

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Site faithful Woodcock returns

Out last night on Y Frenni we caught the first retrap Woodcock of the winter.
It was in the same field, just 260 metres away from where it was ringed on January 30th this year. (yellow line on the map) Although we know how site faithful they are on their wintering grounds it is always humbling to think of the huge distance that the bird has flown since last seen.
The route on the map shows a fairly typical night out with the lamp - 4 kilometres and 168 metres of ascent on improved sheep pasture.Batteries dying are the only reason for stopping so with a new torch on the Christmas wish list, the route will hopefully be longer in the new year!
Location of the three new Woodcock ringed were logged when they were caught then ring numbers added to Google Earth once the night's track is uploaded.This adds to our database of ringing location at each site, building up a picture of distribution and density.

Another of our Woodcock ringed in Crymych won't be returning this year. News this week from the BTO that one ringed on 22nd January this year was shot near Lostwithiel in Cornwall on 28th November.

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!