Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Cornwall & a bit of Devon 15-17 February 2015 1/2

Hi, this is the start of probably my favourite blog post I''ve done yet! We started off the journey down in Devon. I was again going to try and find those (now) famous Penduline Tits down at darts farm. Dependuling, I mean Depending on the person it is really affects who sees it. Some people have seen them over 5 times, after 10 or so visits, while I've been there 5/6 times and haven't seen them once, THEY HATE ME!!! However, some other birds managed to keep a smile on my face.
After many hours (it felt like) of trying to persuade my Mum & Dad to walk round Goosemoor RSPB I managed to make Mum go. We were in a rush, so speed walked to the bridleway. Just before I was informing Mum of my "Water Rail Magnet". 2 appeared round the corner, I wasn't that excited, I've seen far too many ;)
Further along, I found another Spotted Redshank, one other bird which loves me, also a Greenshank. My Mum carried on as I was helping the locals; I always enjoy pointing out birds to others and testing my knowledge :) I joined my Mum a few minutes fater who presented me with the official best bird in the world (I'll make it big to show it off)...
Due to the time I wasn't able to get world class images, but still happy with this photo. So great start and was raring to go down in Cornwall!

We arrived down and the next day went straight to the famous (Yellow-Throated Vireo) Kenidjack Valley. Not much was around except a Chiffchaff at the sewage works, oh can't forget the ridiculously underrated Grey Wagtail! Further along we started to climb the valley then came across a little (unique) gem. It was a Stonechat with a white head, at the start I thought it was a Whinchat! 

Quite beautiful really. This is a condition called Leucism, a condition that most believe is albinism. not every pure white bird is an albino (in fact most aren't), the easy way to tell is the colour of the eyes. Pink being albino, black being leucistic. Nothing much else, except for a female Merlin hunting ;) Yes only fleeting views but great to see one none the less :)

today was action packed and full fo birds and another unexpected creature! We went to Budock Vean first, close to Falmouth and by the Helford River. While my Mum, Sister and Grandma (not me!) were being manicured my granddad and I went down the valley. on the way we found a pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few Goldcrests. By the river some action took place, one Redshank graced the water below while 4 Little Grebes were diving down to the bottom... A Kingfisher is always a nice surprise, so to see one flying right by was a nice treat. While scanning the river I found a Shag, or so I thought... My camera was at hand so took a few shots of the diving bird, finally realising that it was in fact a Great Nothern Diver!
To find it this far up the estuary I'd say is fairly unusual, the give away from the oultine shows an upturned, and thick bill. Following from an already impressive walk we turned round only to see a "Chiffchaff" but after looking through by bins for about 1 millisecond I new exactly what it was!
Fircrests are one of my favourite birds, so to capture this photo which is a good for me I was very pleased! We carried on up the valley after, and heard a really harsh shout, but no, it wasn't someone shouting it was a pair of Jays! I find them rather stupid, they are extremely shy but give themsleves away with one of the noisest calls in Britain!
A minute or so after a leaf flew over the tree tops! So I thought WHAT! I had a closer look, turns out to be this

Friday, 20 February 2015

Salisbury Plain (centre) bird ringing 24th January 2015

Hi, I met up with Matt at a reasonable time of 8 a few weeks back for a nice gentle days ringing. Tom (a possible new trainee)and Andrew (a trainee near C permit ringer from another Wiltshire ringing group) made up the team. Our location was a beautiful farmland site in the rolling Marlborough Downs.

It was a varied ringing session with a pleasing number of birds but of good quality. 2 hours before this Matt had been out with the farmer "lamping" for Woodcock and Golden Plover. They came back succesful in some respects with there target species, a Woodcock had been caught. As usual Matt was grinning like a Cheshire cat this always tells you that he has done something! This time he told us that the Woodock he caught was in one hand, that it flew off then he caught it "with my true natural hunter gatherer instincts". Knowing that he caught a Bittern by pretty much doing a rugby dive and catching the bird (with no injuries) it's not much of a surprise. He also came back with a little present, Fieldfare my favourite Thrush.This one was mine, and what a bird, in some respects I feel a bit bad ringing a bird that a) Matt has to get up at an unearthly hour and b) the time it took him. But hey ho, if he lets me I'm not letting it go! Unfortunatley I wasn't able to use my camera this as I argued with my Dad, it happens, but of course I was right! I will us Matts images, thanks to him, check out his blog at:
( His grin though was when he only got to a few feet of Golden Plover that he has never ringed, surprisingly. Even though he's ringed the only record of an American Golden Plover in Gambia! That's mental, to put it into perspective!)
Just look at those markings, this was real sunner, shame it wanted my nose off, "look I know I'm brilliant Fieldfare but not that close" ;). Then off came another bag and Matt pulled out the show stopper.
You don't see this very often. But I've seen it twice now! The farmer got to ring this, how unfair... No, my time will come, I don't mind, as long as I see it I think.

The nets today were set up in one mixed crop specifically for finches which at the end of day proved too good for birds, so much so we only caught one Linnet! The other was set in a small crop field. Thankfully this proved more succesful and caught us a trio of Starlings. What was brilliant was that they were different ages and genders so showed us the variation. Out of a juvenile male, adult male and adult female the female was my favourite! It was the composition of the purple sheen of the head with no white streaks and speckled body.

So at the end of the day out of  300 Linnets, 40 Corn Buntings, 200 Yellowhammer, we caught this much credit again to Matt: Woodcock 1, Fieldfare 1, Starling 3, Yellowhammer 8, Chaffinch 8, Linnet 1, Reed Bunting 2, Blackbird 4, Song Thrush 1, Robin 3

The best bird however, was this beautiful dumpy thing, I may present Charlotte

Her kids gave us a nice sausage dosage to make us last the morning, and gosh they were almost as beautiful as her!

But seriously we did see a male Merlin which was my first one in Wiltshire ever, wow!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Marlborough STW ringing 17th January 2015 and the (2nd) best bird in the world

Hi, sorry for the late post, yet again! Lazy bones here can't be bothered to write it, I'm terrible (I'm a teenager ya see) :) Last week, Oh no 3-4 weeks ago I went to the Marlborough STW and was met by a cloud of Pied/ White/ Grey Wagtails, it was a specticle to behold with at least a hundred Wagtails in the vicinity. Chiffchaffs were the supporting cast with around 20 we expect hanging on in this hostile WET environment...

The team was Matt, Paul W, Anna and I who were all excited to see what we (Matt) could do! The first round was nice as we had all three Wagtails in our nets. Thankfully it didn't become a monster day again which prevents us from learning the age and gender of the birds.

If you look at the width of the secondary coverts that shows you something or other other! Also how worn the tertials are. Quite a smart trick that I like is if you push your thumb up to the start of the rump, and if it's grey it's a White and if it's black it's a Pied!
We also caught two Wrens, one had an interesting supercillium which turns out to be partially leucistic. The left one from our angle.

The amount of Chiffchaffs was quite incredible and considering that we ONLY caught 6, it does show you how plentiful they are. Due to the time we were able to study on how to set our nets next time. So while watching these Chiffchaffs we noticed that 5 sixths of them (to be exact) hadn't been ringed, just where are these coming from! Two of them Matt suspected to be an eastern race, sadly Anna released the earler one before we could study it. But the next one had paparazzi on its tail. The closest match would be an albetinus, however you can never be sure with these things, unless you hear it call, or DNA test.
So great day with only 42 birds, which is still an exceptable number with only 4 of us. It seems our expectations are so high a hundred would be considered amature!

After that Matt & I decided to go and try a new roost site on the Marlborough Downs, but before that Matt introduced me to a specticle, Which included six of these...
Yes Short-Eared Owls a rare localised predator that unlike the bog standard owls, flies at day. We were around Barbury castle which has become a rather popular destination for the Wiltshire birders because of these magnifacent Owls for three things 1) Long Grass 2) Varied terrain (Barbury Castle helps with that) and 3) food obviously.
The roost followed... Hopes were high when we saw 6 Corn buntings come in along with over 50 yellowhammers and a few Reed Buntings. It didn't prevail because every time the flock built up a cyclist or motorist drove up here even though the motorists aren't authorised. However, we did suspect they were roosting in a stubble field in front of us...

Brilliant, and I've got to say Matt has been an inspiration and recently went to Singapore to teach the locals out there. Great work, and has the birds to show for it, with a 20 year old Redshank being caught!