Friday, December 31, 2010

Around the house

I spent today at home, catching up on jobs that needed doing and tidying the house for this evening. Two moths were on the porch:

A winter moth, of sorts. I think it's a Winter winter moth, rather than a Northern Winter Moth. At least I can be confident about the sex; females are practically wingless so this must be a male.

And I think this one is a male Mottled Umber, though do feel free to correct me in the likely event that I'm wrong.

With overcast skies and no wind, I took the opportunity to put a mistnet up in the garden. The day's total was 22 birds ringed of five species: Goldfinch (13), Greenfinch (4), Coal Tit (2), Chaffinch (2), and a Wren.

Adult male Goldfinch

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Devon Glossy Ibis

A short video of the Budleigh Salterton Glossy Ibis from a couple of months back that I've only just got round to uploading:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Colour-ringed Coots

I had a date with the sales in Southport this afternoon but first, before I was plunged into shopping hell, time for a little bit of birding.

Sands Lake was pretty much completely frozen over except for a small patch near the car park, which was full of wildfowl. Four Shoverler were on the ice and amongst the throng of Coot present were quite a few carrying colour rings.

These have all been ringed as part of Kane Brides' study looking at Coot dispersal. There's been some really fascinating results so far, which you can read about on his blog. Each bird has four rings - one metal ring and one plastic ring on one leg, and two plastic rings on the other leg. If you see any of these birds you can e-mail Kane directly at kanebrides[AT]gmail[DOT]com

Here's Yellow, BTO, purple, pink:

Marshside was also mostly frozen over and pretty quiet. There were plenty of Pink-footed Geese out on the saltmarsh along with a Sparrowhawk, a Merlin and a Peregrine.

Final (birding) stop off was at the north end of Soutport marina. Lots of Coot here, too, and again lots of them colour-ringed.

The only other sighting of note was an unidentified small skua sp. on Lord Street.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter birding

It's far too long since I've had a proper day's birding. So, with the snow and ice just about gone, Alex Jones and I headed north into Lancashire. First stop, though, was closer to home at Allerton in Liverpool.
Not too long ago a flock of Waxwings had been reported in Liverpool - I went and I dipped. I did, however, attempt to be slightly proactive and drove the long way home past a few sites that I knew had berry bushes in the hope I might be able to find some of my own. I didn't, of course; but one of the sites I checked was Allerton Road. A week and a half later there was a flock of 120 Waxwings there. At least I'd predicted the right location, even if my timing was a little off. Anyway, there was still a small flock present at the same location yesterday. We arrived at 10:40 to fine... nothing. Not a single Waxwing. OK, irritating; but to rub salt in our (my) wounds, a report then came through of 28 birds in exactly the same location we were at at 10:30. Argh. We gave it a bit of time before giving up and heading up the M6 to Preston.

No such stress at Preston: the juv Iceland Gull was sat out in the middle of the frozen dock. Walking along for a closer view, I heard a Waxwing calling from one of the trees above us. Hurrah! I was starting to get a bit worried by comments like "if you haven't found your own Waxwings this winter you can't call yourself a proper birder" and "I'm so sick of seeing Waxwings everywhere I go" so was pleased to have finally caught up with some. There were three Waxwings in total; at least two of them first-winter males.

We finished off with a bit of Black-headed Gull ring-reading. All of the birds we saw seemed to be Kane's birds from before Christmas but frustratingly all-but-one managed to keep the crutial last two digits of the ring number hidden from view.

Next we headed up to Poulton-le-Fylde where we managed to locate a flock of Pink-footed Geese near Todderstaffe Hall. They were fairly distant, though we did manage to pick out an adult Greenland White-fronted Goose before the flock was flushed by a group of shooters in the next field.

Final stop was at Marton Mere LNR where the drake Ring-necked Duck was showing well - in between dives - on a small patch of unfrozen lake.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fieldfare pt. II

There was no sign of 'the' Fieldfare in the garden this morning but, with temperatures rising slightly and birds feeding well in the garden, I decided I would open up a mistnet to see if I could catch and ring any of the tits and finches visiting the feeders. The wind was stronger than I'd anticipated, though, with the birds flying over or around the billowing net and within half an hour I'd closed the net again. A short while later, 'the' Fieldfare was back feeding on apples. I took a couple of snaps but didn't take much notice of it.
With the wind dropping, I opened up the net again. Not a lot happened until the Robin (the without inverted commas this time - this bird has been around in the garden since at least October) flew into the net; walking out of the door to take the Robin out of the net, I inadvertently flushed the Fieldfare into the net. Taking it out of the net I noticed something wasn't quite right - it had pointed tail feathers and a moult limit in the greater coverts... Hmm. That meant either I'd aged yesterday's bird incorrectly (quite likely, on the scale of things) or 'the' Fieldfare was more than one.
Comparing pictures of this afternoon's bird with the bird yesterday, it clearly is a different bird. As well as the moult limit in the greater coverts, the mantle is less red-brown and lacking the dark feather centres, and the crown feathers seem less boldly streaked.
Here's today's bird avoiding my net:

So, what of today's bird? Well, as mentioned, it's a first-winter with 5 juvenile greater coverts, but what about the sex? Looking at the crown feathers and comparing with the figure in Svensson, I'd be tempted to err towards it being female. And, indeed, the mantle - lacking blackish feather centres - seems to suggest that too; the wing length (144 mm) lies at the bottom end for a male but somewhere in the middle for a female. The tail looked rather blackish and perhaps suggested a male. I think, all things considered, I would feel most comfortable leaving this bird as "sex unknown" until I know a little bit more about Fieldfares. Better to have no data than wrong data, and all of that...

Whilst releasing the bird, a second Fieldfare was chacking away from a garden down the road, so there are at least two birds around. It will be interesting to see which birds visit the garden again.

And finally, it was nice to see 'our' Robin was doing well for its little self. It had plenty of fat and weighed 24 g - a whole 5 g heavier than when it was first ringed in October.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Déjà vu

The year seems to be coming to a close in the same way it started: driving back from London to Liverpool, being border-line snowed in (the road outside is passable but getting the car to go in exactly the direction you point it in can be a bit hit-and-miss; partly a product of my car being completely crap at driving on snow/ice), and a Fieldfare in the garden.

By the looks of things, it's an adult male. As was the bird in January. Could it be the same bird? Given that I've heard about Norwegian-ringed Blackbirds returning to winter in the same UK garden year-on-year, I guess it wouldn't be too unusual for a Fieldfare to do the same. It knows there's a plentiful supply of food (apples), so why change wintering location if you've got no reason to?

Friday, December 17, 2010

More videos from Catalonia

The first, a Crested Tit, from a trip up into the Pyrenees in late February.

And one of several pairs of Audouin's Gull that attempted to breed at Aiguamolls. Sadly, they all failed; though watching how the male shapes himself here (or rather, doesn't), it's perhaps hardly surprising!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mid-month update

Since dipping the Pied-billed Grebe, my birding form has failed to improve. Not that I've had any time to go birding. Despite Waxwings being everywhere this winter, and despite checking all of the berry bushes on my way to work each morning, I've still not managed to find/see any. The weekend before last I dipped a flock of Waxwings in west London and the weekend just passed I managed to dip a flock in Liverpool - despite them apparently being present that afternoon.
And that's it; nothing more to report. I'll try and do/see something interesting soon... for my sake as much as anyone else's!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Winter mothing

You'd be forgiven for thinking that after the recent spell of freezing weather moths would be all but non-existent in the UK right now. Surprisingly, though, there are some moths that are quite at home in this winter weather. With temperatures this evening reaching the tropical heights of +2 °C, armed with torches and nets, our hardy band of west London moth-ers managed to locate over a dozen individuals of three species. Poor-quality photos taken with an iPhone.

First catch your moth, then find it in the net:

Male Winter Moth:

The commonest moth this evening, comprising 11/13 of the individuals seen.

Pair of Winter Moths with female above and male below:

The female is wingless.

Scarce Umber:

Another species where the female is wingless, so this one must be a male.

And the third species, in case you were wondering, was an Acleris sp. - probably A. ferrugana.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A couple more videos from Catalonia

Further to previous blog posts:

A male Little Crake

and a not-too-inviting Mediterranean.