Sunday, 28 December 2014

Ringing at Castle Eaton 20th December 2014

Hi, ringing at farmland sites is one of the best things in Wiltshire, Winter is the prime time as well with birds flocking from all the local Hawthorn, Blackthorn and other shrubs to particular hot spots. Today was no exception with over 200 birds ringed with Matt's previous estimate being only 70! It was largely dominated by Yellowhammers, Chaffinches and surprisingly a record catch of Bullfinches.

Frost covered the ground which proved to be  disaster with my hands being absolutely frozen, this problem with my hands was first found out in September while ringing on the Salisbury Plain. My Mum gets effected by Reynolds syndrome, I never thought I had it until them when just a bit of cold caused my hands to freeze up a bit and made my little finger (when my fingers are straight) move away from my ring finger, how strange!

Anyway! Back to the birds, while setting up the nets we already heard some Tree Sparrows wriggling around in the shrubs. Our first catch included none of these rare little cousins of the House Sparrow as they're late starters, in other words lazy! However, Yellowhammers (which breed in some of the highest densities in the country round here) were in full force with a total of 55 by the end of the day which is a respectable catch until we visit Windmill Hill by the sounds of it.

I just about scraped through the first round without having to bale out through my hands! The next few round had a few more beautiful birds with a total of 16 rosy Bullfinches and 9 Tree Sparrows with the odd Reed Bunting, totaling 11 by the end if the long day. An unusual occurrence was 12 Robins inc. one re-trap which was 3 years old. The blue devils were around too, nibbling at my fingers as if they were a hard gobstopper!

So a grand day with me only having to watch one round while trying to warm my hands up. Here are the totals thanks to
: Yellowhammer 55 (2), Tree Sparrow 8 (1), House Sparrow 4, Bullfinch 16, Chaffinch 34, Reed Bunting 11, Goldfinch 1, Greenfinch 4, Dunnock 12, Blackbird 7, Robin 12 (1), Redwing 2, Wren 2, Goldcrest 2, Blue Tit 23 (1), Great Tit 10

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Ringing at Hannington 6th December 2014

Hi, it was very cold morning, with frost left on Matt's car and ice covering over the puddles. A few Tawny Owls were calling around the clusters of trees. We also saw a couple of Woodcock finding their little hiding spot for the day.

Our ringing team was Anna, Matt and I with Matt's wife helping us out by recording, great work! There were a lot Finch flocks around this resulted in a nice balanced catch of Tits and finches. There was only one slight problem, I didn't bring my SD card... Thankfully Matt had his phone on him so was able to take photos of the best birds. Due to the Tawny Owls calling Matt attempted to catch one/ it by tape luring. This method had been really unlucky for us with them not even replying or dodging the net. He sent me back after 10 minutes or so and there it was in the 2nd to top shelf! I tried to keep it in but it flew out again then thankfully it went in again. I was relieved to say the least!
As you can tell it really did want a sleep! One star attraction though was the number of Redwings that made their way into our nets.58 in total thanks to the famous Latvian lure. 

One thing that has proven to cause me great trouble is the cold, my fingers can barely move! To counteract this from happening Matt brought a long an electrical heater, it sure did work!

Here is the full list that we ringed, thanks to Tawny Owl 1, Redwing 58, Song Thrush 2, Blackbird 2, Tree Sparrow 11 (1), House Sparrow 14 (1), Chaffinch 18, Bullfinch 0 (3), Goldfinch 2, Reed Bunting 1, Yellowhammer 4 (1), Robin 8 (2), Dunnock 7, Blue Tit 17 (10), Great Tit 5 (6 ), Woodpigeon 1

Sorry for the late post, I've had a lot of school work recently so haven't got round to posting!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Bedwyn Commoon (Savernake Forest) & WOS 40th Anniversary meeting 29th Novemeber 2014

Hi, what a day! The number of birds was astounding and the quality was impressive to say the least! Our first stop was Bedwyn Common, part of the great Savernake Forest. It as usual (it seems for this winter) was very mild and did make it easier for me, as I seem to be disabled from ringing once I'm cold!

After we had cleared the rides for 7 nets, 2 for Redwing, 1 for Goldcrests and the rest for anything else, it was off! Now it was dawn and we had already seen some migratory birds including redwing and Woodcock both fly just over the nets. Paul A told me that one flew into it and popped out because it wasn't a wader net! That was annoying and just after he said that a big blob was found at the bottom shelf, you guessed it Woodcock! We extracted a few other birds on the way, being mostly Blue Tits.

Our first few net rounds were incredible, Tit after Tit after Tit did prove repetitive at times but was sure good practice in extractions, at one point Matt had to say sit down to me because I wasn't much use at the time and there were far to many birds in the net! Once we extracted a few rounds we started the ringing, it was an epic...

We ringed 31 Redwing in total which is a pretty impressive, using the ever more profound Latvian lure. One Redwings however, caught our attention, "111 wing" Adam stated (which is unusually short) we took a good look and noticed the supercillium was less buff and a clean white also it has less streaking on the breast, we suspect it to bo a different subspecies, I will inform you otherwise.

After a few Redwing it was the grand reveala wader that was found in the woods...
A Woodcock, and the first time I've ever seen it properly. All the time it has been fleeting views, this time I was allowed to have a fantastic examination. 
I was even allowed another "head on view"!
We checked the wing as well...
What a fantastic bird ay? Tits had become a pest now and alarmed Matt! So we quickly extracted the last remaing few until we reached an absolutely ridiculous value... 300! 
This bird didn't make the trip any easier! So another fantastic day with loads of things to be happy about.

Here is the full list, thanks to: 

Woodcock 1, Jay 1, Redwing 31, Blue Tit 111 (7), Coal Tit 39 (5), Marsh Tit 2 (2), Great Tit 25 (1), Long Tailed Tit 9, Treecreeper 1, Goldcrest 16, Nuthatch 3, Chaffinch 26 (1), Bullfinch 2, Robin 6 (2), Blackbird 2 (1), Dunnock 6 (1), Great Spotted Woodpecker 2 

WOS 40th Anniversary 

Following on from the ringing session Matt and I went to the 40th Anniversary of WOS. It was great to meet up with some local birders, some were incredibly knowledgeable. I met up with Peter Cranswick - Programme Manager of Threatened Species for WWT, he was greast to talk to. I don't know yeat but I'm hopeful that he has saved a slot for me and my work experience there, fingers crossed! 

Another interesting Woman who told me about the Swift Project in Bradford on Avon. She gave me some useful tips & tricks. Recently I have been looking at wood hinges and nails for making the boxes, all I need now is to contact WOS!

Thanks for nearly 5000 views guys!


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Hen's Wood & Swindon STW 22nd November 2014

Hi, today was the day to visit Willow Tit wood or Hen's Wood. Even though the forecast was fairly dodgy we braved it and we got our rewards. We start to target woodland birds at this time of year as we (Matt) feeds these sites regularly to try and catch Willow Tits and other species.

Sadly it wasn't a Willow Tit today which was worrying as we didn't even hear a call. Goldcrests, Blue Tits and Coal Tits dominated the catch. Although, in the morning Woodcock were having a whale of a time flying over all the time, all we need is a tactical wader net set. With Coal Tit being a new bird for me. Ageing of these birds wasn't for the faint hearted... Covert break was the answer and if you only had a slight sight defect there was no chance in ageing!

Another great new bird was a Nuthatch, what a fantastic bird though... Just look at that supercillium (eyestripe)!

Just after that I asked for a "Head on view", this is the result...

Just look at this clown (Matt Prior)! At least the shot was in focus though, later on Marsh tits started to arrive. Even though the non keen birder may dismiss it as a drab bird I think that it is wonderful. Up close the cap is nice and glossy, also it has a nice timid attitude unlike the Blue, oh the devilish fiends!

After a fantastic morning we were off to a roost at Swindon STW. Redwing and Pied Wagtails were the target, but we did try Water rail at the Pied Wagtail net through the reeds for 10 mins with some responses but no catch. In fact nearly 5 answered in a small area and there was definitely one rustling around close by. 

We checked the reeds we cut and the main lagoon totalling 22+ Snipe and a Jack Snipe, wow! Thanks to Simon, Matt and Jack N's great work this happened so good job :) The Redwing net was very exciting seeing flocks of 50+ redwing flying over did liven it up, but with only 9 Redwing caught wasn't a true reflection...
Sorry for the terrible photo...
Back at the Pied Wagtail net we discussed future plans for the reserve which was great and exciting at the same time with Snipe being mentioned! In the net thought there were two Chiffs and one Wren. One of the chiffhcaff's wasn't normal however, it was greyer and drabber to be honest! This suggested it to be an eatern race, the prominent supercillium and dashes of green suggested Albeitinus, but you can never be sure!

Here are the totals from today, thanks to...

Goldcrest 35 (1), Coal Tit 13, Blue Tit 14 (3), Great Tit 3, Marsh Tit 1 (1), Nuthatch 1, Wren 6, Robin 2 (1), Dunnock 2, Blackbird 2 (1), Redwing 9, Chiffchaff 2

I'll post about my next adventure tomorrow. with a new bird added to my already impressive list! Also i have been doing some more drawing so will try and do that as well,


Friday, 21 November 2014

Bird Sketches #3 Great White Egret & Hawfinch

Hi, today I decided to draw two ne birds from the bird family, a Heron and a Finch.
After getting back from school I began my work on the Great White Egret, this being a pure white bird in real life was a difficult bird to sketch as there is no pigment to emphasize. Shading came into it through shadows, so I used this to try and create a 3d figure. Although it's not my best sketch in the world it still is good practice. One lesson I learnt is to take more time on it so that no irregular proportions; shades or mistakes were made.
After having an enjoyable time drawing that another had to be made...
So yet again I asked my dad to state a random letter, H! As soon as he said that I thought Hawfinch, or Hobby. Hawfinch, it had to be, with its secretive character and humongous bill, there was no question.
This time I knew I had to spend at least an hour so off I went. The whole bird was fun to make and a really good way of improving my shading through prominent feather colouration. Next a head on view and last a quick minute sketch of the bill, and here's the result...
It looks better in real life, trust me ;) the head on view is a bit off but other than that I am fairly pleased, and is starting to make my art book look professional in terms of amount, of course not quality :)

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Bird Sketches #2 Purple Sandpiperish!

Hi, after enjoying my last drawing of the Buff-Breasted Sandpiper (previous post), I decided to try another... So I asked my Dad to say a random letter which turned out to be P. The Collin's Bird Guide was straight out, after looking through all of them it reminded me of a fantastic bird, the Purple Sandpiper.
I hope you like it! Sorry for the camera angle, I didn't have time to make any adjustments, off to football! I am only disappointed with the other head, but am fairly pleased with the centre piece.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Bird sketches #1

Hi, school does get tiring after a while, so I decided to try art work again and have already drawn over 10 birds in the space of a week.

My favourite of these is a Buff-Breasted Sandpiper that I attempted, I still need a lot of time to master sketching, but I am still happy with these few sketches...
The one in the middle has a slight Buff-Breasted Sand feel about it although I must admit the other heads give more of the impression of a Ruff! It has brought me great enjoyment drawing these so will hopefully keep going. I will upload more once I've completed them,


Monday, 10 November 2014

Ringing, feeding and general work Saturday 8th November 2014

Hi, I had a full on day throughout Saturday, feeding different sites round the Marlborough Downs and inspecting the Swindon STW. We started off by having a late morning, wakeing up at 9:30! Which is incredible in ringing terms. Paul W picked me up from my house and we arrived in Swindon around 9:25, Matt, Paul A and Jack N had already arrived...

We decided to spilt up from the pack with Paul W and Matt and I acting as the journeymen. Our first farm was near Avebury, a beautiful village near some old standing stones. Although this farm seemed pretty derilict, life was still around with some pesky cats everywhere! While looking at the barns we all spotted at once this fast bird wizzng around some tyres, a Swallow! 8th November I may remind you, what a fantastic record of this poor bird, which unfortunately didn't want to make the huge trek towards South Africa. Matt told us that this was his latest ever record in Wiltshire, brilliant. By this time we were still sitting in the car waiting for this relentless rain to pass by... Paul W "Is that a Robin with an unusually long tail or something" he stated while pointing towards this small barn. Matt and I couldn't really tell although knowing that the habitat is countryside/buildings there was a slight inkling that it could be a Black Redstart. Swarovski's out and Matt had found it "You know what it is!" I was very excited as this is a new bird for me, after further inspection we narrowed it down to either a female or a 1st winter.
Thanks to Matt Prior for this photo:

Already a very eventful start, we even turned round to be escorted by 30 lovely Pied Wags, fantastic! While visiting a couple more sites Matt was telling us about what we could expect, "Hawfinch, Siskin and Willow Tit" had been said, how fantastic would that be? Two incredible birds being the Hawfinch and the Willow Tit, which sadly are in huge decline throughout the UK, and the Siskin which is another beautiful bird. A great days work followed until we arrived back to the Sewerage works to see Paul A having an enjoyable birdwatching trip, by satnding in the hide with his binoculars, trust him ;) he even managed to tell us off for not getting around enough sites, cheeky! The last best thing was seeing Matt walk his way round this chopped up reed bed, already 4 Snipes had flown out. Until this small one which went nearly until he stood on it, yes! A Jack Snipe, a brillinat little continental wader which hopefully this winter will find its way into one of our nets. Another lifer! 

Great work from all of us today which sets us up for the mammoth winter!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Weekly bird quiz no. 1

Email me at or send me a message on twitter at @alexmxck for your answers

I'm thining of doing a weekly quiz. Either the bird will be a really hard bird to identify anyway or a bad photograph! 1 point for bird species, two for age!

This week is an interesting one!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Glenfeshie & the Cairngorms Saturday 26th October- Saturday 1st November 2014

I had a fantastic week with my family and found two new birds for myself...

Day one

We had a 9 hr journey today, it was surprisingly boring! Just before arriving at Glenfeshie we met up with some of our cousins at the House of Bruar. Boring shopping followed for an hour. My cousin suggested a walk behind the complex, what a relief! My parents both had completely different attitudes

On the stream pictured above we spotted a Dipper flying upstream, so I went on to try and photograph it...
The view from there was fantastic, thanks to the autumnal colours!
In some young conifers I found a mixed flock of Tits, and a few incredibly annoying Goldcrests...
Sadly we got to the house at night time so I couldn't do a small evening walk.

Day two

I had an eventful day today. I woke up at 7:00 in the morning and was desperate to find Crossbills and Crested Tits

I found some Goldfinches and a lot of different Tits, after a while I started to become a wee bit nervous as I lost track of where I had gone which is not a good thing in the Cairngorms! After three hours of looking at fabulous Crossbills, I managed to locate the road again and incredibly a car was passing by at exactly the same time!!! I had been saved, by a man called Peter Cairns who is a fantastic wildlife photographer which is a huge coincidence!
is his website check it out if you want some photographic guidance. The picture above shows my boots that I ditched due to them rubbing, I am a true survivor ;) Luckily we had two peanut feeders outside our house on some Silver Birch trees. I moved them futher away but still provided good views, it was an instant success with a 5 different Tits on the feeders at once! A Great, Blue, Long-Tailed, Coal and best of all a Crested Tit!
Great picture though ;) Great Spooted Woodpeckers also circulated the area, I suspected 4 even though the max we counted at once was four . Coal Tits were fanatstic posers and seemed to travel in pairs and changed from feeding to being on the look out. 
Red Squirrels were few and far between in my opinion with only 3 throughout the week. Lesser Redpolls started to appear later on in the afternoon and provided great views in the Silver Birches.
It wasn't just the birds that were nice to see, this Devil's Matchstick Lichen was beautiful!
Day three

We went to RSPB Insh Marshes on the 27th It was flooded however, which limited the possibilities of there being some nice waders. Feeders in front of the hide provided good views of Tits and allowed us to spot some vismig (visible migration) Redwing that were passing over frequently. 
A Hen Harrier showed itself, this wasn't a surprise as there is a proven roost on the reserve, this was a juvenile as it dive bombed rather clumsily. I have a video on my youtube channel BiffBash BOSH
Lesser Redpolls again were everywhere and I even managed to get a photo which for me is good!
There was only one Lapwing and a few Wigeon and Teal to show for itself, I was slightly dissapointed considering Wood Sandpipers breed here!

Day four

Now we were onto the 28th, loads of birds had arrived to our feeders with yet more Chaffinches, Tits, Robins, Blackbirds and best of all a solitary Redwing. We were going to have a walk around Loch Morlich, a fairly large loch situated near Aviemore. Our hopes were high
and were in prime Woodcock country, although there was nothing to show for it as always! Just as we arrived to Loch Morlich I spotted a pair of Swans taking off distantly, knowing that my binoculars weren't powerful enough I used my camera as a scope and after zooming in I could tell that they were Whoopers! I was really excited so told Mum and Dad. More Arrived over head, with an additional 19 in a flock adding to the total making it 21. 
On the other side of the Loch there was even more in store in the form of a female Goldeneye that spent 75% of its time underwater much to my disgust!
Another singular bird was on some rocks at the back... a Male Goosander bathing in the sunlight, truly beautiful!
After yet another great walk we went to back to our little haven...

Last Day

Nothing much followed in the next few days due to my lazy attitude and forgetting to charge my cameras battery up didn't help! The last day was just a horrible day knowing that tomorrow we had to go! While on my last walk I found a mixed flock of Tits inc. some Cresties a Treecreeper joined in on the fun as well.

Crested Tit 3 quarters up in the middle
Writing this back in Wiltshire I really do miss that feeling of stepping out the front door and listening to that high pitched call of a Crested Tit. Oh how I long to live in Scotland, probably the best kept secret there is in my opinion. As long as folks keep up the lie of it being the "Grim North" I/we are safe so to speak. Just remember to check out the isle of Coll and the Cairngorms the best kept secrets!

Goodbye Old friend :(