Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Warblers or Wheatears ?

My plan was to go to Stanford and ring more warblers on Monday morning.
Seems fairly straight forward. That was until I received an e-mail late on Sunday saying that there were at least four Wheatears on a patch of waste ground not far from my house. Past experience has taught me that catching Wheatears can be quite rewarding as they are easy to catch with spring traps baited with mealworms.
However, I'm not familiar with the terrain where they are and I find that a pre-trap reccie is best to see the area and note the favourite perches. Compare that to the easy task of erecting mist nets and guaranteed warblers as an end result.
So, Stanford it was!
I arrived at the reservoir to be greeted by another mild morning, that's two morning in succession........
I could get used to this sort of weather! 14 nets from the feeding station to the point were erected before first light. The first net round proved best with this years first Sedge Warbler and seven Willow Warblers, although the latter were all retraps. A few more retrap Willow Warblers and a new Chiffchaff were the only migrants in the next two rounds. By 09:00 a breeze started to pick up and I was mindfull of the windspeed forecast to reach 12-14mph by 10:00. This years first Lesser Whitethroat in the feeder nets was a nice surprise and as if right on cue, the wind increased and stopped the days session.
I think I made the right choice!
However, I may be visiting that small patch of waste ground to see if I can tempt a few Wheatears with a  juicy mealworm.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

First Whitethroat

I was working solo today and therefore decided that I would have to leave my house earlier than I had planned to allow myself plenty of time to get the nets up before first light. I could see a frost on my shed roof as I walked to the garage, the skies were cloudless, there was a chill in the air but I had a feeling that today could be the start of summer!
Last Saturday we caught our first summer migrants of the year, three Chiffchaffs (including a British control) and a female Blackcap. Today I was hoping to ring some more of the same and with the favourable weather conditions last week, migrants should have been, slowly but surely pouring in!
I arrived at the reservoir at 05:00 to the songs of Song Thrush and Robin (don't they ever sleep?) and quickly counted and sorted my nets. With all nets erected by first light it was time for the first net round. Four Bullfinches, three Willow Warblers and this years first Common Whitethroat. Things were looking promising. These were processed along with singles of Reed Bunting, Wren and Tree Sparrow.
The second net round only found a pair of Song Thrushes in 'The Safari' ride and a single Wren and Chiffchaff in 'The Oak'.
Throughout the morning, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Reed Buntings were singing, a male Blackcap perched in a Hawthorn at the feeding station, sang a few phrases and prompty flew over the gully and down the railtrack. A new Chiffchaff was the only real excitement from the remaining net rounds although a burst of activity at the feeding station finished the morning with a handfull of Tree Sparrows.
A total of 28 birds was less than I was hoping for but most birds are staying on territory and singing. When I did manage to catch a break, I sat back to soak up the sun and watch the Buzzards displaying over the wood.
After last years washout, a sunny day seemed like a distant memory but today reminded me that things are going to get busy.
Watch this space.........

New / Retrap
Wren 1/2
Song Thrush 0/2
Common Whitethroat 0/1
Chiffchaff 1/1
Willow Warbler 0/3
Blue Tit 1/0
Great Tit 0/1
Tree Sparrow 3/6
Bullfinch 2/2
Reed Bunting 0/2

Thursday, 11 April 2013


With the weather forecast looking good I decided to go to Stanford for a ringing session on Wednesday morning. On arrival at 6:30 the conditions seemed perfect with no wind and overcast sky so I erected 6 nets to see what was about. This was my first ringing session since returning from holiday in Mexico two weeks ago, and may be my last for a while as next week I'm going to Canada to ring for 6 weeks.

I was hoping for some long awaited migrant warblers at Stanford but, alas, there are none yet about. This year will probably go down as our latest spring ever, as by now we have usually a range of warbler species present.

To say todays ringing was 'a bit slow with a limited range of species' is putting it mildly. I managed a total catch of 42 with just 11 of these being new birds. This was over a 6 hour period and 3 of the nets were at the feeding station - not great!!

On returning home I decided to have a look at last years efforts, and, as it happens, we were out ringing on the 11th April 2012 in much warmer conditions. Then we caught fewer birds (only 31) but we did catch 3 species of  warbler - singles of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, and 7 Willow Warbler.

With the weather forecast for the weekend promising warmer conditions lets hope I can get to grips with some warblers before I leave for Canada (and the wonderfully colourful birds over there).


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Not quite spring!

I was up bright and early this morning and arrived at the reservoir at 06:35.
A hard frost greeted me, as did a small flock of vocal Fieldfare which were roosting in the Blackthorn hedgerow.
Just five nets were erected as there hasn't been much bird activity over the last few days. This quickly proved to be true as the first round produced just three birds. Numbers didn't improve for later net rounds and when the wind increased at 10am, it was time to take the nets down.

New (retraps)
Blue Tit - 2 (5)
Great Tit - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Song Thrush - (1)
Chaffinch - 2
Reed Bunting - 2
A visit to the dam produced sightings of a Red Kite and a Kestrel which was feeding on worms near the carpark.. 70+ Wigeon flew in from the fields behind the dam. A pair of Long-tailed Tits were busy building their nest with half of it completed,
I never thought of taking a photograph of it until I was closing the gate at the top road. It should be complete by Saturday so hopefully I'll get one then and upload it to the website. They really are a work of art!
There were singing Chaffinches, Dunnocks, Reed Buntings, Yellowhammer and Song Thrush but no singing Chiffs yet....... so spring will just have to wait.

Merlin v Skylark

Saturday saw the last session of this years habitat management program.
We had only just arrived and about to get to work when we were alerted to a Skylark singing overhead. Hot on it's tail was a Merlin! The Skylark sang as it spiralled higher and higher with the Merlin also trying to gain a height advantage. The Skylark was the first to break away, still singing loudly and heading over the wood. The Merlin folded it's wings back and followed the Skylark in a steep dive till both were lost from view.
A fantastic start to the day and a first for me.
This winter, the scrub clearance has been concentrated mainly on an area parallel with the railtrack which will create more grassland that will hopefully prove irresistible to Grasshopper Warblers, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Reed Buntings. A small area cleared of Blackthorn has revealed a hidden pond that has been created by water drainage from nearby fields. We have seen Redpolls and Siskins feeding on the Silver Birches here so this may provide a drinking area for these small finches.
There will be some pictures of our work uploaded to the website soon.