Sunday, 30 November 2014

Marsh in the day, sheep fields at night..

The Teifi Marshes continue to bring surprises. Until this year we haven't used our nets on the Ceredigion side of the marsh in winter. The number of Meadow Pipits over that side has been unexpected.
Interestingly all those ringed recently have unmoulted Greater and  Median Coverts and Tertials unlike those we caught at Mwnt on passage earlier in the autumn. This is thought to be indicative of birds from Northern populations (Svensson)
Other species increasing in number are Blackbirds with longer wings and heavier than our local breeders. This time last year we were catching an unusually high number of Lesser Redpoll but none have even been seen yet.
At night we have been walking the sheep fields but still very few Woodcock around unlike in mid Wales where they seem to be back in large numbers.
First Snipe of the winter was ringed on thursday night
and another Woodcock, one of only three seen
Hopefully some more will arrive with the next phase of the moon and with it getting colder in Russia.

The Starling roost on the Teifi Marsh is still huge and spectacular so we will be out again during the week to ring some more.

Mostly the Starlings are dropping into the Kingfisher hide reedbed but some area also gathering noisily pre-roost in the trees behind the visitor centre.
Well worth a visit to watch them.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Another Firecrest, Water Rail, Woodcock and more

Some interesting species ringed on the Teifi Marsh this week.
Last Saturday the highlight was an adult Water Rail. We had heard a lot squealing from the reeds but were quite surprised to find one in a net on the edge of the reed bed as we don't catch many.
 Water Rails are skulkers and usually a challenge for photographers so it was a privilege to be able to study the plumage in detail particularly these well-marked undertail coverts.
That day we also caught the first Stonechat on the reserve, a Cetti's Warbler, some Redwing and Reed Buntings.
After the excitement of a Belgian ringed Firecrest that just Chris and I saw last week, our trainee was very pleased to be able to study one in the hand as we caught another one on Sunday. 

One of the advantages of being out at dawn on the reserve is to enjoy gorgeous sunrises over the marsh. This week, the spectacle of tens of thousands of Starlings coming out of roost has added to that pleasure..
We have caught some more Starlings this week as they go into roost. The noise and smell in the reed bed has to be experienced to be believed.
 They are interesting birds to try to age and sex but often ambiguous.
Away from the marsh, our efforts have been mainly on lamping birds at night. The fields have been quiet and only last night did we ring the first Woodcock of the season. It was a three species night with Fieldfare and Golden Plover ringed too.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Foreign Firecrests

Putting our recovery yesterday of a Belgian-ringed Firecrest into context, the BTO's Online Ringing Report tells us that up to the end of 2013 there have been only 16 recoveries in the UK of Firecrests ringed abroad. The countries in which these 16 birds were ringed are:

Belgium 10
Netherlands 3
Channel Islands 2
Germany 1

The Migration Atlas (2002) lists the number of recoveries from these countries as 7, 1, 1, and 0 respectively.

I don't have any more information about the Belgian ones (too many for the online ringing report to list individually), except that two of them were before 1979. Apart from one in Bucks, all six from the other countries were recovered at Portland or on the East coast of England.

There have been no previous recoveries of Firecrests either into or from Wales except for two into and one out of Gwynedd; UK movements in all three cases.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Firecrest with a Brussels ring

Having caught 5 Firecrests on the Teifi Marsh reserve since 2009 it wasn't totally unexpected to find one in our nets this morning. It was a surprise that it had a Brussels ring though!
It will be interesting to hear where it was ringed.
Other birds this morning included 4 Redwing, some more Reed Buntings for our RAS project, a Cetti's Warbler and two Meadow Pipits.
Some other ringers around the country have posted pictures of Redwing with unusual moult. This one had moulted half of its tail nicely showing the difference between juvenile and adult feather shape .

After the annual Wildlife Trust annual get together for volunteers later today we are planning to try to catch Starlings in the Kingfisher hide reedbed. We will be ringing by the river viewpoint - anyone is welcome to come along to watch from 4pm (assuming we catch some!)

Monday, 17 November 2014

Motmots, a Mango..and mountains next

One of several Blue-crowned Motmots sitting around the site today. What a great start to the morning  when...

Pauline walked back from a net round with one....
A stunning adult  complete with a full raquet tail.

A visit to net two and three hummingbirds. Predictably two were Rufous-tailed, but the third ....??
We quickly worked out that we had a juvenile, probably a female Green-Breasted Mango. Not that unusual and the species range is increasing, but not on my radar for our San Jose site.

 The rufous feathers around the throat are juvenile, and a moult in the primaries can be seen.

This Green-breasted Mango surprised me with a weight of 6.4g, slightly heavier than our more regular species. The Violet-headed Hummingbird that we saw yesterday is a 2.9g bird. From tomorrow we will find the occasional Magnificent or Violet Sabrewing, these will weigh c9g.  A bird more likely though is the the Volcano Hummingbird with the males weighing in at a staggering low of 2.3g

Violet-headed Hummingbird (Kim)
Our new home for the next 12-14 days is the CRBO  Banding Station at Madre Selva in the Highlands.
 At Madre Selva we band at three sites, all are at an altitude of c2400m. Yesterday the girls were suitably dressed for a visit to Braulio NP at c1000m....
Warmer clothes packed for tomorrow ?

Kim is from B.C. Canada, and joined us two days ago. Pauline is from Australia and has been banding with me in Tortuguero for the last month. Neither girls have been to the Highlands before, and I predict great birding and banding to tell....once we return to the land of the internet...!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Batteries are charged for winter ringing....

It is that time of year when our ringing becomes more nocturnal.
For several years we have walked lowland sheep pasture at night to catch and ring Woodcock, contributing to the long-running research of The Woodcock Network
Other species which roost on the fields are also caught. Our first night out this week and it was good to see Golden Plover back in their usual fields
Also Fieldfare which have just started to be seen again in the hedges, stripping the Hawthorns of berries.

This evening at dusk we had some nets open on the Teifi Marsh to see what came into roost. At 4pm many thousands of Starlings put on a fantastic aerial display over the reserve and went to roost in the reed bed by Kingfisher hide.
A few were caught
A picture doesn't do justice to their glossy sheen and intricate markings.
 We also ringed some Blackbirds, Redwings and this Sparrowhawk
As we left the reserve a Tawny Owl and Water Rails were calling and the thousands of Starlings in the reed bed could still be heard chattering.
A chilly start tomorrow but at least the forecast is for less wind than recently so hoping for a good ringing session.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Our final day and a first.. turning Indigo !

We've seen a few Indigo Buntings  in recent days and this morning we were delighted to find this immature along the canal at our Sea Turtle Conservancy site. The first that I have caught in Costa Rica, and with not many captured over the 20 years of the project.

This was a quiet final session with continuing clear skies and 30 plus degrees in the shade -- so we weren't surprised.
The day started well with our fourth Band-tailed Barbthroat.

I wonder why we have failed to find this species on previous visits?

We have captured twenty Prothonatory Warblers this Fall, none this session but an interesting record from a recent night.
This bird was found by our ever vigilant security guards, Jose and Alfredo, roosting c3m up  on a branch near the STC buildings. The bird is of great interest being banded  with an American ring. The significance of this - the project from this year is fitting Porzana rings. Therefore the bird is a control or a returning site faithful bird.....

These beasts have become more visible around the sites in the last few days...

Always amusing as they fall, their weight or fighting often causing branches to break. At our Aero site this week one Iguana crashed to the ground, crashed through the vegetation and through our banding equipment on the floor.
Do you remember this Iguana performance from last year...Iguana 2013

A quick trip back to yesterday and our last day in primary forest at Cano Palma
The American Coot ...
I have seen a couple on the main canal, but not here...nor Charlotte or Darryl, current and past Station Managers. The photo by Roy Belderok, a student from Holland studying Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs who joins us when we band at Cano

This smart looking American Pygmy Kingfisher at our Parque site this week...

We have captured ten this trip, but this our first at Parque in three years of standard banding at the site.

Our second visit of this Fall trip to Tortuguero is now over,  with 768 captures of 68 species to date. 486 of those being migrants of 33 species. Time to analyse some data over the weekend whilst we change locations, - and band at our San Jose site !

One group of birds clearly on the missing list, the "ant-related" forest birds, where are they ?  All birds of every "ant-related" species are proving hard to find at the three forest sites.

A rarity this trip...a Bicolored Antbird, and no Chestnut-backed Antbirds to date.
All is not finished...we have one more planned visit to the Caribbean forests at Tortuguero and we expect to be back for the beginning of December.

Plenty more to post, a summary of site faithful returning migrants, including some new species to that list, and some comparisons with previous visits.
A sunset to finish tonight, looking west across the Tortuguero canal from our Sea Turtle Conservancy base.

A late start tomorrow, a flight from LA lands at 630am  and brings Kim to join us. Kim is arriving from her home in British Columbia, Canada, and is joining us with Costa Rica Bird Observatories until January.
More from Kim soon, when last heard Kim was watching Orcas from the ferry as she left home...WOW !

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Sedge Warbler to Senegal

Interesting news from the BTO today - a Sedge Warbler that we ringed on the Teifi Marsh in July 2013 was caught in Senegal on its wintering grounds this January, 173 days later. A distance of 4,090 km in a straight line but we know from recoveries of other Sedge Warblers that they tend to head south east from the Teifi and cross the Channel at its narrowest point before traveling down the west coast of France.A long journey for a bird weighing just 11g.
This is the second of our Sedge Warblers to be recovered in Senegal.
The Teifi Marsh is good habitat for migrant Sedge Warblers. 509 Sedge Warblers were ringed in 2013 and 571 this year. 2,874 since we started ringing on the Teifi Marsh in 2008.

Other recent recoveries include
A Storm Petrel ringed at Mwnt in July 2012 was controlled on the Calf of Man in June this year.

A juvenile Sand Martin ringed on the Teifi Marsh in July 2013 was controlled at Strath Rory Lower Quarry, Highland this June as a breeding female

A juvenile Reed Warbler ringed on the Teifi Marsh in July 2012 was controlled at Bude Marshes, Cornwall in June this year.

Other news - a former Teifi Ringing Group member, Kevin, is now ringing in Cumbria and had the privilege of ringing the Red-eyed Vireo that was at Walney Bird Observatory this week
Walney Bird Obs blog

On the Teifi we are continuing to struggle with the weather but this morning managed a short session and ringed another 20 Reed Buntings. Having never before ringed on this part of the reserve in November we have a lot to learn about numbers of Reed Buntings using the reed bed for roosting. The photographers who visit the hides now have over 100 Reed Bunting with colour rings to try to photograph for us.

Washed-out Warblers post tropical rain..

We weren't sure what we would find in the nets in our first day of standard banding after two days of tropical downpour (251mm in 36hrs), but we were itching to get back to the field.

Keeping a good weather eye out in case we needed to close nets in a hurry, we were rewarded by our efforts with 26 birds; 20 new birds, 14 of which were migrants.  Three species of thrush and six different species of warblers, including the following gems:

A not-so-common-here Common Yellowthroat

Tennessee Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Canada Warbler (hardly 'washed-out', and quite a nice change from the drabs)


Northern Waterthrush
(which is a warbler, not a thrush at all.  The distinguishing difference being that all North American warblers have nine visible primaries, not ten.)
 I rather like the name, Northern Water-not-thrush.  But Richard doesn't seem to think it will catch on !

~ Author Pauline Pearse

Monday, 3 November 2014

Migrant colours before tropical rain

The expected change in the weather, from a mixture of high humidity and sunshine to near constant rain has happened. No banding today, a mixture of vismig and shorebird counting in the rain, more on today later but a look back to some colourful birds from the last two days. Like this adult male Summer Tanager above, this the only adult male of the eight Summer Tanagers to date.

An interesting shot of the reddish tones of a this Summer Tanager, we think an adult female.

Much more unusual here are Scarlet Tanagers, this one the first of the trip.
Prothonatory Warblers numbers are increasing with three more caught, this area being a major wintering site for this large and colourful warbler.

Not everything is colourful, some are more subtle. This the underside of a Pewee bill, showing the size of the dark area.This and the distance between upper tail coverts and tail tip being the key in hand features for separation of  these flycatchers.
This being a Western Pewee, on both criteria mentioned above.

You may have picked out a retained secondary feather in the photo Wendy posted of a male Black-cowled Oriole, a resident species in the previous post.
Here a different view of the wing showing the three ? different age feathers in the wing.

Another colourful resident, a male White-collared Manakin
We catch few adult males, so three males caught in one morning was unusual and all finishing their primary moult. The outer primaries produce a noise, so without being able to produce this sound, I doubt if lekking.

Back to today, and our hike in the rain to the bocca, where canal meets the Caribbean. Considering the weather, a look for weather driven birds and we were not disappointed.
Terns were the highlight, with c80 Royal, - 6 of them ringed. Two Sandwich Terns, and a first sighting for me here of Common Terns, 8 in the roost. 12 Laughing Gulls were present too.
Waders seen included, 2 Collared Plover, 4 Semi-palmated Plover, 10 Sanderling, 1 Black-bellied Plover,  several Hudsonian Whimbrel and Spotted Sandpipers. Two flocks totalling c60 Blue-winged Teal were the first of the Fall .

Here we work in very humid conditions, bird bags,..and clothes get damp!
Used bird bags are washed and dried every day, here our cheerful housekeeper Elisa, with some freshly washed and tumble-dried bags for us...
And if the rain gets too bad to go birding, as it sounds right now, we mend nets !!!!