Wednesday 25 November 2015

Garden Fieldfare and news of controls..

Back in May we blogged about a Sedge Warbler we caught on the Teifi Marsh with a Spanish ring
May 13th 2015
Today we had news from the BTO that it was ringed at Getxo near Bilbao, Spain just 6 days before. A distance of 979 km although likely a much longer overland route up the west coast of France.

Other news was of a Siskin with a Brussels ring caught in my garden near Cardigan in February 2013. We have waited a long time for the original ringing details from the Brussels ringing scheme - ringed on 23rd April 2012 at De Haan, West -Vlaanderen.

A control Great Tit caught by Chris in St Dogmaels, during a noticeably large movement of Great Tits, was ringed as a pullus at Craig Alltyberau near Rhandirmwyn, Carmarthenshire.

Lastly a Reed Warbler ringed on 13th September at Oxwich by Gower Ringing Group was controlled by us on the Teifi Marsh 13 days later, a reverse migration NNW 65km. This was the last Reed Warbler we caught this year, 10 days after the previous one. Late and going the wrong way!

At the moment there isn't much news as due to persistent high winds and rain we have only been able to open mist nets occasionally. Woodcock are still not back in large numbers - on a 4km walk around one of our best farmland we saw only one.
With the colder spell last weekend an influx of thrushes into our gardens was noticed.
No chance of a net in the hail and wind and the Redwing and Fieldfares ate all the Hawthorn berries within 24 hours. The Fieldfare are now coming down to the remaining apples and a couple have been ringed.

If any one coming to the Pembrokeshire Bird Conference on Sunday would like to know more about ringing come to see one of us for a chat. We will be by the Skokholm Island display during breaks.

Friday 20 November 2015

Wilson's Warbler - 5 winters faithful ?

16th November 2015, adult male Wilson's Warbler,... Costa Rica Highlands.
What a great looking bird, with an amazing deep yellow forehead.
We knew from the band that the bird was ringed at least a couple of years ago at a CRBO site. As good practice we photograph all our banding sheets, and hopefully Wendy, though back home in Wales, would be able to help. The conclusion from our records that the bird was banded in 2012 or earlier.
We band between 10 and 33 Wilson's Warbler in a season at Madre Selva. (33 my maximum  in 2014)
This species along with Black-throated Green Warbler, are by far the commonest wintering warblers in the Costa Rica Highlands, so great to prove a site faithful wintering bird.

A return call from the CRBO office both confirmed, and excelled our thoughts !
The bird was first banded on the 6th January 2011 as an adult male. This is the bird's 5th winter as a banded bird, and I guess that this male has likely been site faithful for those five winters or more..
I am still to research the longevity of these tiny 6-7g migrants...
Help with the answer please?

Slate-throated Redstart, another New World Warbler.
This is a resident of slightly lower elevations, and we catch about one per year. This bird our first this year and on our final day...

The track home...
.....from a  fourth year of fantastic banding trips to the Highlands of Costa Rica.

The first of the two Scaled Antpittas.....
The absolutely heart stopping bird of the trip....

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Geo-locators for Golden-wings...

Golden-winged Warblers - Costa Rica --(not Maidstone, Kent UK!)
We caught this female a couple of days ago. Unusual to see a female this high in the Costa Rica Highlands, the males winter at this altitude - the females lower down.

Males are what we usually hear then see calling from the branches above, though this male was in Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast. From January Geo-locators are to be fitted to Golden-winged Warblers part of a much larger all Americas study into the species, though hybridization with Blue-winged Warblers is the real concern, and why we may never see one in the UK again....
I retrapped a site faithful wintering bird here in 2013, see  A first !...and golden-winged finale in Costa Rica  for details....

On the same subject we retrapped  this very fine male Wilson's Warbler this morning. Again another site faithful returning bird. We think this is my first returning Wilson's, and we think it was ringed in Fall 2012 or earlier.

This is the Highlands habitat they enjoy.

These warblers winter in mixed flocks with resident warblers, redstarts, vireos etc. They seem to like the forest edge and the lightly wooded dairy pastures, the main feature of our habitat outside primary forest.
Black and White Warblers are often in the flocks too.

Yellow-winged Vireo, an endemic to Costa Rica and Panama Highlands.
Here showing it's close family relationship to shrikes...

We were back in our primary forest site yesterday and ....
our second Scaled Antpitta of the trip.
Wendy and I were stunned to find the first, and when Yuly came back yesterday saying that she had just found another...amazement.
This second bird also a juvenile.
Tomorrow if the rain stops....our final visit to Lake, then on Wednesday our last session in the forest. Hopefully when we return in 2016, two further standard banding sites may be open, to complement the three currently in use here at Madre Selva in the Highlands.  

Friday 13 November 2015

Flycatchers...Banding above the clouds

Above or in the clouds for the last few days of this visit to Costa Rica.
Our standard banding sites, like Lake, are now quiet for migrants. They never heave with migrants like the coast, but a couple of new birds arrived yesterday, a migrant Great Blue Heron was probably crossing coast to coast.
We also gained a 5th Least Grebe, likely a wanderer, but both surprises at 2400m in the Highlands.
With the only migrant caught - a recapture of a Wilson's Warbler, Wendy and I banded a month ago, time to look at residents....Flycatchers.

Black-capped Flycatcher- an Empidomax that hangs around the  homes like Eurasian Robins.

This another Empid...Yellowish Flycatcher, a bird of the forest edge and not particularly numerous.

The above, same bird below is a Mountain Elaenia,...
...and this is an Elaenia flycatcher not an Empid...though it looks like one.
Another, perhaps our commonest of our Highlands flycatchers,
Olive-striped Flycatcher, a Miconetes flycatcher of which we can catch several per day.
Several Costa Rican flycatchers (there are 72 species) are evolving to eat fruit berries too.

With so few migrants around the number of recaptures increases too.
62% this last 4 days, it felt more. With few migrants in the resident population and breeding productivity low this adds to the picture. With most residents species only laying one or two eggs you don't often see juveniles of some species.
Very pleased to find this very juvenile Black-faced Solitaire.

This is a juvenile Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, a much unknown species so nice to find a very young and locally bred bird.

A final note, and purely an American theme....
This Gray-breasted Wood-Wren is the 10,000th bird that I have captured and processed in the Americas.
Whatever next...

(photos Yuly)

Thursday 12 November 2015 Woodcock not mist nets

West Wales is being battered by one windy day after another so mist netting has ground to a halt, waiting for a lull.
At least windy weather means it is perfect for lamping. Last night we ringed our first Woodcock of the winter.

Conditions were difficult with very long, ungrazed grass and lots of slurry. Only 3 Woodcock were seen in 2 hours of walking and just 2 Fieldfare and a few Snipe flew from hiding. It is easier after sheep have been in the fields.
Birds are returning to our fields but numbers are still low unlike the density that Owen Williams in Mid Wales is already seeing, including one with a Geolocator. Numbers will increase for us when the weather turns much colder.
At our long running sites for lamping, sheep pastures in the Preseli Hills, Carningli, Boncath, St Dogmaels and Llechryd,  we have ringed 276 Woodcock since 2009 with some interesting recoveries, the furthest 2,845 km to Volgoda where it was shot.

Species seen in the last 3 nights include a few Golden Plover, Snipe, Skylark, Fieldfare and the highlight, a Short-eared Owl sat in the middle of a field that is our best for Golden Plover. Although we didn't catch it (very nearly though!), the chance to see one within a couple of feet of us was fantastic.

Friday 6 November 2015

Antbirds, Euphonias, Great Green Macaws !

Invaded by Macaws.....
Not our nets, but Tortuguero town......Great Green Macaws !!
Until this year a journey across the canal to the forest near Cano Palma was the easiest way of trying to find these huge Macaws. Now every afternoon several come along above our Sea Turtle Conservancy site and make their way through town. In noisy squadrons of a few pairs or to up to thirty (30) these Macaws - just a few cms less than 1m in length come to feed in the Almond trees.

As the numbers of migrant birds fall, resident species seem to start to appear again. This male Spotted Antbird was a great find on the forest floor of our Parque Nacional Tortuguero standard banding site.
Even more pleasing was the younger bird we caught a while later.
We find all Antbirds very difficult to study at our standard sites as their behaviour closely follows that of Army Ants, whose appearance varies greatly.

In most species of Euphonia in Costa Rica, the males are predominantly blue. Again at our Parque site, very unusual for us to catch an Olive-backed Euphonia - and a species where the male is not blue.

A few kms north at our Cano Palma (COTERC) site a few local school children joined us for banding.
One of the youngsters had written a small project on Hummingbirds so nice to be able to show our smallest lowland Caribbean hummer...
All 2.7g ..of a Stripe-throated Hermit, surely often mistaken for Bees or Wasps in the forest !

This band is on a Long-billed Hermit.
 We don't currently band Hummingbirds - the only reason being  is the time required and training. But we do catch banded birds, as you can see the bands are very different, and a totally different process of preparing the band and in the fitting.

"Our Next Gen Birders and Banders - Costa Rica."
Here with Luis from Spain. Luis is one of the COTERC staff with a Kentucky Warbler, a fairly common winter visitor to the wet forest.

Before we leave the lowland forest, and from some of the smallest to one of the larger birds we handle regularly.
A Northern Barred-Woodcreeper.

At Cano Palma, studies are also undertaken into many other living creatures. A current project is showing about 33 Caiman live within their study area. The same individual ? usually drifts around our banding station, and we have photographed him regularly...
Not sure what Yuly did today.....

The rain season for the lowland Caribbean is nearing, our last day in Tortuguero was lost due to rain but we did manage some migration monitoring from a boat..
Great to pick up this young Bridled Tern resting on driftwood.

I am back in San Jose today, banding at our INBio site in the morning.
Black-billed Cuckoo last time at the site...what will tomorrow bring....

(photos by Yuly and Rich D)

Monday 2 November 2015

Hot, hot, hot!

Like looking into the mouth of a volcano...

Sunday 1 November 2015

Autumn on the West Wales coast..

With the large number of Firecrest being reported in the UK this autumn it wasn't a total surprise to catch one today on the Teifi Marsh.

Not quite the 7 ringed on Skokholm or 100 in Cornwall this autumn!

Rather more of a surprise was a Brambling caught in the garden, only the 17th in regular ringing there since 2008. All of those were in spring 2013.

Since ringing this bird earlier in the week there have been big movements of Finches. With over 10,000 mixed Finches logged on Bardsey yesterday more Brambling are likely to turn up in the county than in recent autumns.
Also in the garden many more Coal Tits, Goldcrests and Goldfinches than usual for Late October/November.

A target species on the reserve and fields at home at this time of year is Redwing.
Many are being reported flying over at night at the moment. See Stephen Culley's post on the We Bird North Wales blog for a nice description of night migration.
This interesting blog about Icelandic Redwing by Martin Garner is worth a read. We shall be looking out for birds with features of the race coburni discussed in it.