Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Wood Warbler, Mallard and CES 2

Interesting news from the BTO this week that a Wood Warbler we ringed in Ffynone Wood in May 2016 was retrapped this May in a wood near Maenchlochog 19 km away. Read about this in Paddy's post on the Pembrokeshire Bird Blog
Spotted Flycatcher and Wood Warbler

We have been continuing our Spring reed bed migration ringing for a couple of hours every morning that weather allows. Sedge Warbler numbers have been reducing after the big days 2 weeks ago. Since the first Sedge Warbler on the 8th April we have ringed 356 on the Teifi Marsh, retrapped 9 from previous years plus the controls detailed in the last blog.
As mentioned in the blog of the 6th May we have the impression that our number of returning Reed Warblers is much lower this Spring than previous years. We have had a look at some historic data to see if there is a rough trend to support our thoughts.
The graph shows a year on year comparison of new Reed Warblers (blue) and returning ringed birds from previous years (red) with similar effort to the 15th May each year.

It is easy to remember the bumper years like 2016 and forget the normal baseline. Hopefully there are still more to arrive back. As we do a Reed Warbler RAS (Retrapping adults for survival) this data makes a contribution to national trend analysis by the BTO. See RAS results for more information.

Last Saturday was an unusual morning with some species not usually caught in the reed bed. A Blackcap and this Whitethroat

 and a 4 year old Great Spotted Woodpecker

Mallard hide is an excellent base for our ringing as we can chat to early visitors to the reserve about ringing and show them birds in the hand.  Not many birds for a group of interested youngsters..

but some Sedge Warblers , a returning Reed Warbler and a 7 year old Reed Bunting provided good discussion points.
With just one Sedge Warbler ringed this morning we will be leaving the Mallard area of the reserve this week. We will return to weekly visits until Autumn migration starts at the end of July.

The first juvenile Siskins were ringed in Richard's garden on 12th May.  10 juveniles ringed which will go towards future years RAS study population (Retrap adults for Survival) at this location.

Just a few lines about CES 2 . It was a cold, delayed start as the nets were frozen. Mist was hanging over the adjacent River Teifi

It was a quiet morning for the 5 enthusiastic trainees. Only 31 birds with no juveniles of any species unlike last year when we had many. We made the most of the time though with some useful learning points for all. By mid morning it was very hot and sunny and some emergent insects added interest like this Broad-bodied Chaser.

At other group sites, Karen has been ringing at Goodwick Moor and caught the first Grasshopper Warbler of the year. She has also been ringing Dipper pulli in the Gwaun Valley with a trainee. Charlie is continuing his Tree Sparrow nest box project in the Towy Vally with help from Andrew.
Two of us are off to Skokholm on Monday to assist with general ringing and to colour ring adult Great Black-backed Gulls and Oystercatchers.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

May Sedge Warbler controls

In the last blog we mentioned that we had caught 4 UK Sedge Warbler controls.
The details were entered into DemOn immediately after the ringing sessions, the new online data entry programme and already we have the ringing details of all of them.

All were ringed as juveniles on autumn migration and now passing through the Teifi Marsh on spring migration.

D994644 was ringed at Squires Down, Dorset  12th August 2016

D879410 was ringed at Orfordness, Suffolk 15th August 2017

S692175 was ringed at Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve in Hampshire  5th August 2017
It looks like this was a big migration day for them - from Twitter @Trevor_Codlin  "Just shy of 340 birds ringed this AM  mainly sedge (1 Belgium control) & Reed (2 controls UK & France)70 willows 11 groppers"

S816284 was ringed at Keyhaven Marshes, Hampshire 28th August 2017

Since the big days of Sedge Warbler migration last week, the numbers have slowed down with just 20 Sedge Warblers ringed on the last 3 mornings.
Returning Reed Warblers are still slow to return. One from 2016, also seen last spring, was retrapped this morning.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Sedge Warblers and CES on the Teifi

On May 3rd the Sedge Warblers arrived en masse though we ringed our first bird on April 8th.

We ringed 113 new Sedge Warblers at the Mallard Pond site on the 3rd and on the 4th another 65 at Mallard plus 63 at the CES site as part of CES visit 1. On the 5th we only ringed 30, a lower catch and I expect a couple of larger catches again before next weekend depending on migration conditions. This week we have also controlled 4 UK ringed and 2 French ringed Sedge Warblers.

Though our yearly effort is biased by our trips for overseas ringing, back in 2009 we caught 144 Sedge Warblers on the 4th May - including 3 French controls and we caught 118 - including 2 foreign controls on May 10th ....large numbers are not without precedent for the Teifi Marshes
Maybe more to arrive....!!

An adult Sedge Warbler caught on the 4th May.

We haven't seen such a worn Sedge Warbler and presumably the bird only moulted a few feathers during the winter or survived very tough conditions.....

Only 2 foreign controls is surprisingly low this May, in the 1st week of May 2016 we controlled 9 French ringed Sedge Warblers...!! These figures may be biased by the effort to monitor Aquatic Warblers down the west coast of France, sites the 2 species share on migration in late summer.

The Reed Warbler above was ringed by us in 2014 and recaptured on 5th May - good for our RAS project. Reed Warblers arrive later and in lower numbers than the Sedge Warblers, but this year their arrival appears even later and with lower numbers so far with only 2 retraps and 2 new birds.
In May 2016 the first 10 Reed Warblers caught were all recaptures of our own birds. Presumably most are site faithful breeders though I suspect some are site faithful stop over migrants as we only catch some birds during passage.

Dave Leech has just commented that at Cranwich in Norfolk the first wave of the population arrived two weeks ago with another small arrival yesterday but nowhere near numbers at start of May 2017. By comparison we have caught 4 to date. In 2016 and 2017 our totals were 24 and 15 respectively by 10th May, hopefully many more to come...

We carried out Teifi Marsh CES 1 visit on Friday May 4th.

Apart from the 63 Sedge Warblers, we had a good mix of species including Whitethroat and Garden Warbler. Also some interesting recaptures...
Nice to catch a retrap Great Spotted Woodpecker as we have only ringed 8 during CES sessions since 2010. It was ringed as a juvenile last August. They are often heard on other parts of the reserve but our CES site does not have much woodland.

One of the 4 retrap Bullfinches was ringed by Chris in his St Dogmaels's garden in February, 3 Km away from the CES site. We also ringed 8 new Bullfinches, a species that seems to be increasing on the reserve.

A Blue Tit ringed as a juvenile in 2012 was the oldest retrap. It has been seen each year since apart from 2017.
Goldcrests were another species not often caught at CES, just 24 in 8 years so 3 retraps in one session including one with a brood patch was unusual.
Altogether we processed 91 new birds and 45 retraps, lots of learning points for two of our trainees.

A visit to our Mallard Pond site in mist this morning, the 6th produced little, just 4 new Sedge Warblers !!
Meanwhile Karen was ringing on Goodwick Moor where only 6 Sedge and 1 Reed Warbler were captured.
We will see what tomorrow brings, and a small ringing demonstration at the Mallard site too.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Three Boys

These three pictures, taken on the 18th of April, illustrate the wide range of plumages that male Linnets can display going into the breeding season:

 This one has no red on it at all, only by parting the breast feathers can you see broad brown tips on the feathers, distinguishing it from a purely streaky female. It was first captured as a juvenile in July 2017.

A typical example, this was an adult when first captured in June 2017.

An extreme case, bringing to mind birds typically seen in the Mediterranean at this time of year, and technically known as a 'stonker'. This one was also fledged prior to 2017.

I've spoken before about Linnets appearing in West Wales in the spring with bleached primary tips, a feature more usually seen on warblers that spend the winter somewhere considerably sunnier than Ceredigion. This female, fledged in 2017, shows the feature well. The brown tips are the parts of the primaries that are exposed to sunlight when the wing is closed.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The first Spring migrants arrive...

In the early morning, usually pre dawn, we open the 5 nets that are sited around Mallard Pond. Until the 5th April Reed Buntings were the main target for our RAS though in the evenings we were catching a few Pied Wagtails and enjoying the 2-300 hirundines feeding.

On Sunday the 8th April at least three Sedge Warblers were singing and Andrew and I caught our 1st Sedge Warbler of the year. Not until the 12th did we catch our 2nd Sedge. This Sedge had a fat score of 4 and weighed 13.5g unlike the 1st bird with no fat and weighed 10.9g

Our 2nd Sedge Warbler with most of Mallard Pond in the background.

We did catch our 1st Cetti's Warbler of the year on the 9th which surprisingly was unringed, but the star bird that morning was a male Reed Bunting we ringed in August 2011...approaching 7 years old.

Mallard Pond with a setting sun...

In the evening the Teifi Marshes are a great attraction for hirundines and wagtails. Peak counts of over 100 White Wagtails are recorded and we have a recovery of a ringed male to Iceland. Swallows and Sand Martins both occur in the 100s and feed on the pre dusk feast of insects. Catching these species in Spring is less successful than Autumn and we caught our 1st White Wagtails on the 11th April.

We have taken the Mallard nets down for a few days due to poor weather and a visit to Skokholm Bird Observatory.
We will be back on the 27th and ready for the main passage of Sedge Warblers here to refuel on stopover and the arrival of our breeding Reed Warblers

Karen has been ringing on Goodwick Moor including catching the 1st Willow Warblers - 5 on 13th April and she heard the 1st Grasshopper Warbler singing too.

At Mwnt we catch migrant Wheatears in spring traps, Wendy with Charlie and Alison caught our 1st of the year on the 27th March in between whoosh net catches for our Linnet RAS project.

We catch breeding Siskins as part of a RAS study as well as migrant wintering birds.

A quick summary of birds at my Boncath site, so far in April (1-13th) I have caught 9 females with brood patch 3 and 22 males with active CP.

(photos Wendy J)

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Return to the reed bed

With the end of March fast approaching, it was time last week to prepare our reed bed nets ready for Spring migration. A look back at previous years shows that the first Sand Martins and White Wagtails have been caught at the end of March but not this year.
Unfortunately, persistent wind and a drop in temperature has slowed down our effort but the most notable species caught during the week was Reed Buntings.

Another 6 added to our colour ring study birds. The colour rings enable the birds to be encountered again without catching them as the colour rings can be easily read and the unique combination enables us to look up where and when the bird was ringed. Over the winter, several different birds have been spotted around the feeders at the Visitor Centre and along the cycle track through the reserve.

The oldest male seen over the winter was ringed in 2014 and seen each year since.
Thanks again to the photographers who keep a look out for our colour ringed birds. Particularly valuable are records from April 1st - Aug 31st, the period of our RAS study

Just one Pied Wagtail was ringed last week but on two evenings around 100 have been seen going to roost. The Teifi Marsh is a major stop over site for White Wagtails on migration to Iceland and many have been ringed by us, with one recovery from Iceland. All we need is a window in the weather..!!

Looking ahead to our CES season, we have been able to purchase new bamboo poles thanks to a successful grant application to the BTO.

The Linnet project continues at Mwnt but low numbers for the last two weeks possibly implies that our wintering population has moved north and our breeding population have yet to arrive. We did catch a smart male Stonechat though.

and the first Wheatear of the year. The headland is good for migrant Wheatear but very few have been seen so far this year.

Another returning migrant ringed this week was a male Blackcap with a fat score of 5 ! It was in  my garden at the same time as a Brambling. Both unusual birds in the garden but never before at the same time.

And now we wait for better weather....

Sunday, 1 April 2018

More Foreign Fun - Urra

I'm just back from a trip to the Urra Field Centre in Almeria Province, Spain, where I was helping students studying Ecology & Conservation Biology at Leeds University with some of their field projects.

My specific role (assisting ex-pat ringer and external tutor Richard Banham) was to supply birds to two groups of students, a trio of undergraduates whose field project concerned the relationship between feather-mite load and the morphology of the uropygial gland, and a pair of masters students investigating the differences in fat and muscle scores in migratory and resident species (not as simple as you might think - how often do we look at the fat on non-migratory birds?).

Ed - Richard - Kieran - Marnie - Lewis - Roxanne
 Other groups of students were working on flowers, ants, bees, spiders, scorpions, lizards, and so on.

The species providing the bulk of the data were House Sparrows, Sardinian Warblers, Robins and Blackcaps, all of which we were colour ringing as part of other long-term studies...

 ...but of course there was also a nice supporting cast of other species for me to ring:

Rock Sparrow
Corn Bunting
Cirl Bunting
Black Redstart (male)
Black Redstart (female)
Blue Rock Thrush
Also Siskin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Spotless Starling, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Common Redstart, Great Tit and Thekla Lark.

My bogey-bird was the Great Spotted Cuckoo, of which there were a pair in the area, but once one of them had managed to escape from a net just before I reached it, they weren't going to be caught again. At least I managed a decent picture of one of them.

This is very dry country at the best of times - just down the road from Tabernas desert where there was once a thriving industry making Western films such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - and not helped by the extraction of groundwater on an industrial scale for vast new plantations of olive trees. This Spring has been particularly dry there, and there was as well a worrying scarcity of the trans-Saharan migrants that should have been arriving by now.

Four furled nets down there, around some small artificial pools
We had six nets across this dry riverbed
Paella night