Thursday 12 December 2019

Early winter highlights

Starlings to and from Lithuania....

In June 2016 a Starling we had ringed on the Teifi Marsh in 2014 was caught in Silutes, Lithuania.

Today we had news of a Starling ringed in Richard's garden in Boncath in 2017 also being caught in Silutes.
Starling   LH96168
Ringing date: 09-Dec-2017
Boncath, Pembrokeshire
Finding date: 31-Aug-2019
Ventes Ragas, Silutes, Lithuania

Duration: 630 days   Distance: 1738 km

We have also had news of a Starling ringed at the same site in Lithuania caught in Andy's garden.
Starling  KH87524
Ringing date: 12-JUL-2018
Ventes Ragas, Silutes, Lithuania, Lithuania
Finding date: 21-NOV-2019
Bancyffordd, Carmarthenshire, Wales
Duration: 497 days Distance: 1717 km

With the wet and windy weather for the last few weeks there have been minimal ringing opportunities. We have managed the first of the winter phase of our Reed Bunting colour ringing project looking at adult survival. 21 Reed Buntings were caught in Potter traps including 2 old retraps ringed in 2010 and 2011. The longevity record is 9 years and 11 months with an average lifespan of 3 years ( BTO birdfacts). Our second session with a potential trainee was much quieter on a milder morning with just one retrap and 1 new bird.
Thanks to the photographers visiting the reserve who send us sightings.

Good news that one of our trainees, Alison, has gained her C permit. Well deserved for her hard work. Thanks to other trainers who have welcomed her to widen her ringing experience which has included raptors in South Africa.

Richard and myself have just returned from a couple of weeks on a BTO ringing expedition to The Gambia. This has been running for 9 years at Kartong Bird Observatory.
It was great to be part of a ringing team working on scientific projects and sharing knowledge with locals, 2 of which are BTO trainees.

Friday 8 November 2019

Autumn 2019

Most of the Group have managed to join us in our site on the Pembrokeshire side of the Teifi Marshes Reserve over the early autumn. This is good scrubby habitat regenerating on slate waste adjacent to the river. We hope to maintain once per fortnight visits through the late autumn and winter seasons. Interesting records include an arrival of  Cetti's Warblers, several Firecrests and as expected with 11 years ringing at the site plenty of quality recaptures.

Some of the group highlights since the end of August include...

On the 19th September, our 6th new female Cetti's of the autumn. For two years Cetti's haven't bred on the reserve or nearby. By the end of October at least one male was singing and on 6th November Chris and Sion caught the 1st male since the "beast from the east" on the Pentood side of the marsh.
By mid September Blackcaps were the main warbler with 12 caught on the 19th and 14 on the previous day. Only 6 Chiffchaff on the 19th and the acro species had dried up, but Goldcrests now daily.

Cetti's Warbler

October 15th a great result for Wendy....
"Planting 800 trees on our fields near Cardigan has increased biodiversity but a surprise today in a Yellow-browed Warbler, a vagrant which breeds in Siberia and winters in SE Asia."

Yellow-browed Warbler

A Firecrest on Oct 22nd was the 2nd of four so far this autumn. November is our best month for them so maybe some more. Also the first 6 Redwing of the season with many more having been caught in early morning sessions since.


On Nov 4th, Chris and Sion made a very good return to the Pentood nets. Surprisingly no Firecrest amongst 70g of Goldcrests and 120g of Long-tailed Tits but the session did include 1 Water Rail, 1 Stonechat, 1 Blackcap and 3 Cetti's including the 1st male since wipe-out in winter 17/18. A first for the site is unusual but the 1st Siskin was caught too.

By early November Wendy recorded continuous passage of Redwing over her fields, many stopping off to feed on Hawthorn berries. Each evening large numbers dropped down to roost in woodland  planted a few years ago. Good to see a poorly drained unproductive field now developing into habitat being used by migrants. During this 1st week of November several of the Group have been ringing Redwings here and a Chiffchaff on the 7th. 


Other ringing around the Group's sites has included ;
Karen making catches of Meadow Pipits near Dinas and Andy at Blaenduad.
Starlings have returned to Andy's garden and he has caught a bird ringed elsewhere with a BTO ring in March 2016. Details awaited.
Arfon has been catching Lesser Redpolls whilst carrying out a recce at  new site..

Some recent encounters elsewhere of  birds ringed by us

Chiffchaff  LNY034
Ringing date: 14-SEP-2019, Blaenduad,  Carmarthenshire
Finding date: 19-OCT-2019  Le Neubourg, Eure, France
Hit a window, but recovered

Duration: 35 days Distance: 487 km Direction: 131deg (SE)

Sedge Warbler  S160853
Ringing date: 01-MAY-2016  Teifi Marshes, Cardigan, Ceredigion
Finding date: 26-AUG-2019   Nanjizal, Lands End, Cornwall

Duration: 1212 days  Distance: 238 km Direction: 199deg (SSW)

Sedge Warbler  ABB9764
Ringing date: 21-APR-2019  Teifi Marshes, Cardigion, Ceredigion
Finding date: 21-AUG-2019 Migron, Frossay, Loire-Atlantique, France
Duration: 122 days Distance: 571 km Direction: 160deg (SSE)

Wendy and I are off to Gambia on a BTO ringing expedition and return at the end of November.  I understand Andy, Arfon and Chris are likely - weather permitting to be able to offer ringing opportunities to the group.

We were disappointed that we had to cancel our September trip to Skokholm Bird Obs due to the weather, but Group members should be aware of 4 trips to Skokholm arranged for next year.

Friday 11 October 2019

2019 - an overview of Blaenduad and some thoughts on Willow Warblers

I made a couple of casual visits to the Blaenduad plantation in 2018 and considered that it might be a good area to carry out some nest recording in future years. I requested permission to carry out study work at the site and my first visit in 2019 revealed my lack of experience with conifer plantations. Off the main rides, a ‘secret’ maze of drainage channels existed and within 30 minutes I had ended up viewing the landscape from the perspective of beetles, ants and the like. I located a Willow Warbler nest site under construction but soon realised that a broken ankle or worse was also a potential outcome of such off-piste adventures. One sunny morning, I estimated around 50 male Willow Warblers were holding territory.  A further visit to locate a Stonechat nest ended without a fall but also without success. On the next visit I wasn’t surprised to find a newly fledged party of Stonechats and a male Common Whitethroat courting a female, slightly too early for nest construction but they would surely do so. Tree Pipits were displaying (how do they sing with food in their beaks) as the plantation gradually started to come alive.  During some of my initial visits, mist nets were erected in locations where pairs of birds were thought to be holding territory and after three visits, I had ringed 35 birds of 13 species with Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat being the most numerous.

The season progressed and I started to get more familiar with the site. I watched how birds flew around the site and adapted the positioning of mist nets to suit. Nets that would seem quite avoidable still caught birds. The following four visits saw a further 59 birds ringed including 14 Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff and 4 Common Whitethroat. I also worked out when the midges started biting in the morning and by what time they would finish.

By the end of June, 20 different species had been ringed along with a further 92 individuals. The Willow Warbler total increased by another 34 birds and surely the midge season would end soon.

July arrived and the Willow Warbler total quickly increased… a further 209 birds! This mass of birds was largely within the first three weeks of the month as nests were vacated. August arrived and only 16 new birds were ringed. The final Willow Warbler to be ringed was on the 2nd of September. July was very productive and the diversity of juvenile species ringed at the site was hopefully a good indication of successful breeding in the immediate vicinity. The way the Willow Warblers rapidly disappeared was an indication that the site may not be attractive to birds on passage. This idea was reinforced by the similar post breeding departure of Blackcaps.

September saw large numbers of Meadow Pipit invade the site and good numbers of Goldcrest and Chiffchaff continued throughout the month, the latter being contrary to what I had expected considering what happened with the Willow Warblers and Blackcaps. Reed Bunting numbers gradually increased which might have indicated some sort of passage or perhaps the heather or similar plants were producing seeds resulting in an influx from the surrounding areas. Lesser Redpolls also appeared in significant numbers with some juvenile birds still having no red forehead well into the month but there was nothing to say that these birds were from the locality.

It is not possible to draw too many conclusions from one season of ringing at a site. 1070 new birds of 29 species were ringed over the five-month trial period and that alone generates enough interest for me to want to ring the site again next year and beyond. Blaenduad is a plantation; trees grow and so a CES is out of the question. Sitka Spruce are fast growing trees and the site will rapidly change and will in time become less attractive to such a diversity of birds while becoming more attractive to individual species.

Blaenduad has yielded significant numbers of both Willow Warbler and Common Whitethroat. It will be interesting to see what return rate there is to the site next spring. For Willow Warbler there could be enough individuals to create a RAS. I hadn’t considered Common Whitethroat to be a particularly common bird around northern Carmarthenshire as most hedgerows do not appear that suitable? Perhaps I haven’t got that correct or maybe the scrub at Blaenduad provides an equally good alternative.

With a significantly large catch of Willow Warblers, it has been possible to plot the wing length of adult birds and juvenile birds. The first of the graphs below shows two distinct peaks but at the same time a potential overlap between sexes. The second graph introduces first year birds.

The two peaks in the juvenile wing lengths reflect the adult peaks but offset by about -2mm. The magnitude of the right had peak in the ‘first year bird’ line is probably a bias introduced by playing sound lures (ie more males trapped). At present I don’t have enough data to look in detail at body mass comparisons against wing lengths. Many of the spring females were in various stages of egg production/laying and male birds may have been on the light side due to energies expended during territory defence. However, it has made me wonder if first year birds are forced to adopt a different autumn migration strategy if, as a result of shorter wing length, they have a higher wing loading.

Sunday 8 September 2019

The Summer of 2019

A summary of the last three months - Summer 2019 !

One of nine Kingfishers ringed this summer... an average summer for the species.

Here are the ringing totals for the Group, covering all sites from the Teifi Marsh sites to a variety of new sites developed  by Andy and Arfon. A few new high totals for the Group and attractive species we rarely catch and recent recoveries not yet discussed.

This Pied Flycatcher was a nice start for Arfon and Naomi at the new site in Cross Inn forest. We ring far more pulli in the nest than fledged birds or adult Pied Flycatchers.

New birds ringed......
The period covered June - August inclusive.

This isn't a comparative exercise due to the changes with the loss of Charlie's sites and the gains due to new sites set up and run by Andy and Arfon with help from Group members.
I am sure the ringers who "own" sites will produce their own posts later in the year with their results and findings of interest.
A few highlights that stand out to me are....
- - The impressive post breeding results from Blaenduad, Andy's plantation site.
Good variety, great phyllosc numbers especially the 298 Willow Warblers and the three Lesser Redpoll controls in nearly as many days.
 - - Arfon has managed to access a couple of river nesting Sand Martin colonies and has ringed c100 this summer and caught a French control. He is also developing a plantation site similar to Andy's, this one at Cross Inn forest.

The other totals are mainly from CES and the other Teifi marsh sites and gardens. Group ringers properties are valuable sites for training activities and for some species eg House Sparrows and Siskins. Other specific trapping activities eg Storm Petrels and waders add interest to the variety of species and catching techniques we use.

Recent news of movements of some of our birds.....

Reed Warbler   S914114
Ringing date: 15-AUG-2018   Squire's Down, Dorset
Finding date: 23-JUL-2019  Teifi Marshes, Ceredigion
Duration: 342 days Distance: 200 km Direction: 308deg (NW)

Sedge Warbler  S508957
Ringing date: 04-MAY Teifi Marshes, Ceredigion
Finding date: 08-AUG-2019  Squire's Down, Dorset
Duration: 461 days Distance: 200 km Direction: 128deg (SE)

These movement to and from Squires Down near Gillingham in Dorset are not the first for the group. This interesting site seems to be on a route for some of our migrant warblers. It was originally just a stubble field but since 2007 it has been managed to encourage wildlife and the increase in species and use as a stopover migrants shows what can be done.

Reed Warbler   ABB8775
Ringing date: 05-MAY  Teifi Marshes, Ceredigion
Finding date: 19-JUN-2019   Llyn Ystumllyn, Gwynedd (as well as 25-MAY-2019)
Duration: 410 days Distance: 100 km Direction: 18deg (NNE)

Sand Martin  S574823
Ringing date: 22-JUL-2017 06:00:00 Teifi Marshes, Ceredigion
Finding date: 29-JUL-2019 Pollardstown Fen, Kildare
Duration: 737 days Distance: 194 km Direction: 310deg (NW)

Lesser Redpoll  AVC3915
Ringing date: 22-OCT-2018  Hazeley Heath, Hampshire
Finding date: 15-JUL-2019 Blaenduad,  Carmarthenshire
Duration: 266 days Distance: 247 km Direction: 288deg (WNW)

Lesser Redpoll  S872297
Ringing date: 23-JAN-2019  Brandon, Norfolk
Finding date: 09-JUL-2019  Blaenduad Carmarthenshire
Duration: 167 days Distance: 342 km Direction: 261deg (W)

Lesser Redpoll  ANF8601
Ringing date: 22-MAR-2019  Chilworth, Surrey
Finding date: 07-JUL-2019  Blaenduad, Carmarthenshire
Duration: 107 days Distance: 276 km Direction: 288deg (WNW)

A male Blackcap, a species we are encountering in good numbers as we enter autumn, particularly at TeifiP - (the administrative name for the CES site on the Teifi Marshes reserve when not CES)

Tristian posted previously a great summary of the first Group visit to Skokholm Bird Obs in June.

Later this month six of the Group will be making another visit to Skokholm, Manx Shearwaters and autumn passage the theme....

The first week of September is now over and passage ringing is well underway.
What will the autumn bring....?
An early surprise.... a Leach's Petrel

Read about this impromptu ringing demonstration at he Ocean Lab in Goodwick
"A Bird in the Hand" by Cliff Benson

Saturday 7 September 2019

Charlie Sargent remembered

Charlie Sargent

Following a short illness Charlie passed away on the 22nd August 2019

Charlie was inspired to ring by Steve Sutcliffe whilst on work party visits to Skokholm.
He joined the Teifi Ringing Group having started his ringing career in the West Midlands with a group of  ringers and friends with whom he travelled extensively. Charlie's activities with ourselves are posted on these pages and will be with us forever, his activities, his highlights, his life with the Teifi Ringing Group.

I know from national and international interest his most read pieces were these posts about his trip to Mongolia with Colin Mcshane, a mentor for his ringing career.

His written words are a wonderful memory for us all. 

The amazing trip to Mongolia ..Khurkh Bird Ringing Station  

 Part 2 of this extra ordinary ringing trip ..Mongolia, the journey continues 

Charlie this summer, assisting with the ringing at a Sand Martin colony,

Wednesday 31 July 2019

Sedge Warblers - Teifi Marsh autumn migration

As we head into autumn migration we have had a look back at data for Sedge Warbler catches just in our Mallard nets on the Teifi Marsh.

Adult Sedge Warbler
In July we catch relatively small numbers of locally bred juveniles and adults then in August the main passage of migrants start, mostly juveniles.

Juvenile Sedge Warbler
This graph shows the total number of new Sedge Warblers caught with similar effort with nets around Mallard pond each year since 2010.

The main conclusion is that we need to open the nets every day that weather permits during August otherwise a peak could be missed. The peak has been different each year but the bulk of the Sedge Warblers pass through around the middle of the month. The largest and most memorable day that can be seen in blue on the graph on the 18th Aug 2010 when we caught an Aquatic Warbler along with 67 Sedge Warblers. (the 5th Aquatic for the Teifi Marshes)

Controls and recoveries of Sedge Warblers last year, shown on this map, were fairly typical of most years particularly the sites along the West coast of France.

Thursday 4 July 2019

A week on Skokholm !

This past week, several of us visited Skokholm Island Bird Observatory. It was my first time and, waiting at the jetty for the Dale Princess, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The dramatic scenery which greeted us as we drew nearer held promise for an exciting week ahead. 

From day one, there was much to do. Skokholm is home to a voracious top predator: the Great Black-backed Gull. These have become increasingly rare nationally so it is essential to keep a pulse on their breeding and survival rates.

To this end, many of this year’s young have already been metal and colour-ringed. Our challenge was to ring those left, before they fledge. This, as with a startling number of things in life, is easier said than done! First, one must sight the chicks from a distance. Typically, they stand, quite fearlessly in the open, on rocky peaks. To get nearer, a swift approach is required followed by a thorough comb through of the surrounding bracken, into which they dive like unerring needles into expanding haystacks!
As a trainee used to ~10g Sedge Warblers on the Teifi Marshes, the whole experience, from catching to ringing, was new and exciting for me. Each day, we typically ringed at least 4 new chicks.

 As night falls, the island, never truly asleep, wakes again with the eerie calls of Manx Shearwaters dashing in off the sea. With Wendy’s night-vision camera, we could put faces to the voices of this staggering spectacle; seeing dozens and dozens swirling over our heads (see clip below). And with a torch and net, we ringed 142 in our week there. It’s an immersive experience and incredible to think that each individual will, in a matter of months, begin a journey of over 5000 miles to their wintering grounds.

A Manx Shearwater as seen in the daytime,
 with its chick, likely just a few days old.

Of course, I cannot pass mention of the island’s most well-known residents.

Skokholm has a study plot of ~200 Puffins to observe population changes essential to their protection. Each year, for one day, this population is ‘topped up’ by metal and colour ringing around 30 new individuals. Teamwork is key: three to extract, one to carry extracted birds to the ringing area, one to read out the metal and colour ring combinations, one to metal ring, one to colour ring, one to check and the visitors to release. This was like nothing I had ever done before, and it was amazing to learn so much in a matter of just hours.

Watching puffins in the sunset at the day's end.
In the midst of all this, the long-term volunteers were assessing Storm Petrel productivity using audio-playback to check whether an adult was ‘at home,’ Ian Beggs was observing the Wheatears for a highly detailed insight into their mating and territorial behaviour, and Michael was creating a soundscape of the island.

One of the male colour-ringed Wheatears hopping
around his territory.
As Richard said when we left; every year, visiting at a given time, many things stay the same. The Razorbills, Guillemots and Puffins still return to their cliffs. The Gulls still hunt them from the air. But the people you meet, each passion-driven and fascinating, will change. Likewise of course, new birding ticks (of which I left with an alarming number!) can always fly in; such as the Laughing Gull pictured below. Moreover, plastic pollution and climate change is, and will even more so, threaten this unique and beautiful island, as everywhere of course.

Strong winds on Thursday swept up stronger currents and
The Laughing Gull, native to America, but likely storm-swept
over to Skokholm.
So to wrap up, a wonderful week for me and warm heartfelt thanks to all who made it possible. I will surely return!

Monday 1 July 2019

Unexpected 3J Chaffinch moult 1/7/19

We are all used to partial post juv. moult and complete moult in adult Chaffinch but the shot below shows something that I have not experienced before although I have heard of others finding complete moult in first year birds. I always wondered how one could tell unless a re-trapped bird was referenced by ring number. Catching the bird in the process of moult makes it easier; in moult sequence, P1-5 are in various stages of growth, S1 is growing. The flight feather moult was symmetrical. In all other respects the bird was only just begining post juvenile moult with the lateral/ventral feather tracts showing through. So, A 3J, moult code M, new for me!

Friday 7 June 2019

A round up of May

May is always busy with migrants, nest boxes and the start of the CES season.
The Group has processed 825 birds of 41 species during the month.

We concentrate our efforts at migration monitoring in the reed bed around Mallard pond on the Teifi Marsh.

Sedge Warblers pass through in large numbers in the first week of May. Numbers were well down this year but might have been that we missed the big days when we couldn't open the nets due to the wind. 181 total, 156 new. 12 from previous years, 1 French and 2 UK controls. The same period last year was a total of 299 and 523 in 2016.

The first control is unusual having been ringed in Suffolk on its outward migration, our recoveries and controls of our Sedge Warblers are usually the M4 corridor and south coast.
Sedge Warbler S564811
Ringing date: 27-AUG-2017  near Hollesley Heath, Suffolk, UK
Finding date: 07-MAY-2019  Teifi Marshes, Ceredigion,
Duration: 618 days Distance: 414 km

The French control was from Tour Aux Moutons on the West Coast of France, a ringing station with which we have had many exchanges of birds.
Sedge Warbler 8372055
Ringing date: 09-SEP-2018  Tour aux Moutons, Donges, Loire-Atlantique, France
Finding date: 21-APR-2019  Teifi Marshes, Ceredigion
Duration: 224 days Distance: 560 km

Then a control from North Wilts Ringing Group
Sedge Warbler AEA6536
Ringing date: 27-AUG-2017  Haxton Down, Wiltshire, UK
Finding date: 02-MAY-2019 Teifi Marshes, Ceredigion
Duration: 613 days Distance: 222 km 

Reed Warbler seem to be strikingly low this year. At the same site, date range and with similar effort the total numbers of Reed warblers caught were
2016   65
2017   43
2018   45
2019   9 !!
It will be interesting to see how numbers look by the end of this breeding season.
A recovery of one of our Reed Warblers ringed last May and caught this May by Kelvin Jones
Reed Warbler ABB8775
Ringing date: 05-MAY-2018 Teifi Marshes, Ceredigion
Finding date: 25-MAY-2019  Llyn Ystumllyn, Gwynedd

Duration: 385 days Distance: 100 km Direction: 18deg (NNE)

On to Pulli ringing.

Several of the Group have their own areas for open nest and nest box studies with new sites added this year.
The productivity seems to be high this year. Species include Dippers, Pied Flycatchers, House Sparrows, Song Thrush, Nuthatch, Swallows and Chough. 4 species of Tit; Coal, Marsh, Blue and Great .
This Coal Tit nest in Ffynone wood was colourful with wool selected from the areas of a sheep marked with dye.

We are also grateful to ringers away from our area who have welcomed a couple of our trainees to experience larger nest box projects for Pied Flycatchers.
Some of the group helped with a nest count on Cardigan Island, mainly for Lesser Black-backed Gulls but many Barnacle and Canada Goose nests too.

The 2019 CES (Constant Effort Sites Scheme) season is underway. 12 visits between now and the end of August to our long running study site on old slate waste and marsh by the River Teifi.
The early visits weren't boosted by large numbers of Sedge Warblers migrating through so numbers have been low with no particularly unusual species. House Sparrows though are new to our CES. The numbers around the Visitor Centre feeders and Chicken pens have recently increased significantly. Greenfinch also seem to be breeding on the reserve this year and very unusual to hear one singing throughout a CES session

CES 1 5th May  Total 38 (19 new)
CES 2 14th May  Total 36 (12 new) including the first juvenile Robin
CES  3 23rd May  Total 54 (31 new)  This included 2 returning Reed Warblers including an old one ringed in  2014 and seen each year since and a breeding female Lesser Whitethroat.

These figures seem low compared to previous years. Full analysis will be done at the end of the season.

Tuesday 7 May 2019

A look at Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler nests

The following photographs are of the very similar nests of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Both nests are located in scrubby grassland. The Chiffchaff has built next to a mature hedgerow where the bramble meets the rank grassland. The Willow Warbler has built at the base of Blackthorn that is encroaching the rank grassland.

This Chiffchaff nest is about 250mm-300mm off of the ground. The view of the six eggs is from the side entrance into the nest as it has a canopy or roof. The female was incubating after the fifth egg. All being well. the eggs should hatch in another seven days.

This Willow Warbler nest has been built directly on the ground. The nest has seven eggs at present and the camera is almost on the ground to look into the entrance of the roofed nest so sorry about the shadow over the eggs. I am not sure if this nest is going to be viable as I could see what appears to be a vole track passing directly below.