Wednesday 21 November 2018

Out on the hills

Wind is really hampering opportunities to open mist nets but at least it is good for getting our winter lamping underway.

There aren't many birds roosting on our study fields yet but we have ringed some Woodcock, Snipe, Golden Plover, Fieldfare and the first Lapwing for several years.
For anyone not familiar with this work, we track our route each night and mark with gps where each Woodcock is caught. It is always fascinating how a Woodcock can return to the same field after migrating to Russia and back. This is a typical walk of about 3km, varying from visit to visit depending on where sheep, foxes or Badgers are and whether the field has been cultivated that year instead of being left to pasture. Several of our best fields have either been resown with grass or planted with winter beets so no good for finding roosting birds at the moment.

The tracker we use also includes altitude which shows that the fields above aren't flat at all so mean walking uphill a fair amount and it feels like a good workout. Only 130 calories apparently though so the hot chocolate and cake afterwards isn't really justified!

Because of the need to be as quiet as possible it isn't really a group activity but we try to take out at least one trainee to learn the technique and experience species not caught in mist nets.

Note Andrew obeying the strict rule of non rustling clothing!

We had hoped to be able to catch a lot of Blue Tits this November for a new national BTO project looking at variation in moult in juvenile Blue Tits. Hopefully the next 10 days will be a bit less windy to give us a chance but we have made a start with a few.

The project is described in the latest issue of Lifecycle Autumn 2018

Meanwhile, Richard is looking at moult in rather larger birds and in warmer weather. He is ringing in Uganda with African Affinity.
Here, looking at primary moult to age a Western Banded Snake-Eagle.

Charlie is continuing to catch Redwings in short sessions before the wind picks up each morning. He caught a very dark bird this week with a wing of 124mm which always raise the possibility of being a different subspecies.There are two subspecies of Redwing - those that we normally see in winter are Turdus iliacus iliacus which breed in Eurasia while the other subspecies is Turdus iliacus coburni that breeds in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The coburni birds are marginally larger and noticeably darker in their plumage.

Charlies comparison photos with the typical pale bird on the left and the darker bird on the right

Some useful comparison pictures are on Peter Alker's blog post about Redwings "Two in a bush"

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