Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wednesday to Saturday

Wednesday and Thursday were again spent recording, though after the relative success of Monday and Tuesday it was hard going. I'd headed down into Wales where it would, in theory, be nice and quiet... but with tractors, sheep, cows, helicopters and ramblers to contend with, recording wasn't easy. Plus, none of the things I 'needed' were performing. I did catch up with my first Redstarts and Cuckoo of the year, though, and with the weather as sunny as it was it was nice to be out and about.

A little bit of ringing in the garden whilst I worked in the evening produced only a handful of birds; this 2cy male Coal Tit was the only species of any note.

Yesterday afternoon I headed off to Woolston for a 24 hour ringing session, complete with overhead thunderstorm and a night in the car. Warblers were back in force with plenty of Willow Warblers, along with Chiffchaff, Blackcap, and the first Sedge & Reed Warbler and Common Whitethroat of the year. Also the first Woodpigeon of the year. I headed back home at 11 this morning; total for the two days: 93 individuals of 20 species.

And finally, for anyone interested, I wrote a short piece for Martin Garner's blog looking at the age of the 2011 Titchwell Iberian Chiffchaff and explaining why it isn't last year's bird returning:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More recording

My target for today was Willow Tit. Try as I might, I couldn't find one anywhere. I did, though, manage to cross off some more recordings from the target list - Treecreeper call, various Long-tailed Tit noises etc. Also some recordings of two screwed up Chiffchaffs. More on those another time if I have the chance.
This plane did its best to piss me off by circling low overhead:

Sightings included a Grasshopper Warbler, plenty of Whitethroats, Reed Warblers, a Sedge Warbler, and a Black Swan. All new for the year...

Non-avian sightings included these longhorn moths:

And, back at home, this Hebrew Character:

Opening the nets in the garden while I worked in the evening produced four birds: two new Goldfinches, a new Dunnock, and a retrap Dunnock originally ringed in February. Also some 'breeding behaviour' from our resident pair of Robins. Thankfully, I'd thought ahead and ringed each bird on a different leg. Turns out its the female that's been in our garden since at least October last year (ring on the right leg), with the male (ring on the left) turning up in February. Interesting!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sefton Park

My mission for today was to get a sound recording of Feral Pigeon. Easy! Right?
I'm up in the northwest still where noise pollution isn't quite so offensive as it is in London. Even so, point a Telinga in any direction and you'll still hear the roaring of some engine or other. And the difficultly with recording Feral Pigeons is that you're unlikely to find them in an oak woodland in a Welsh valley 20 miles from the nearest town; they like to potter around the noisy places they can possibly find. I tried to find an acoustic/pigeon compromise and headed off to the park with a parabola in one hand and a bag of bread in the other.
The plan was simple - throw bread; attract in pigeons; record pigeons. Plans rarely turn out to be that simple, though. There was already a pile of bread dumped on the side of the lake, big enough to last every bird in the park a week, and consequently the well-fed pigeons spent most of their time sat roosting in a tree doing not a lot (and making not a lot of sound). I did, however, manage to get fantastic recordings of a Treecreeper that was singing from a trunk about 3 m in front of me along with a few other target recordings, so the trip was a success overall.
Interesting sightings over the day included some Stock Doves and a flyover Yellow Wagtail.

Back at home, I spent the rest of the afternoon in front of the computer. While I was working, I opened up the nets in the garden. Within minutes I'd caught an adult Magpie. It was enough hour before I caught another bird, though; this time a Goldfinch. Another hour later, and just as I was about to close the nets for the evening, another two Goldfinches and a 2cy male Greenfinch flew in. The Greenfinch is interesting (erm, "interesting") in that it shows a moult limit in the primaries, with the 5th and 6th primaries having been moulted during the post juvenile moult. Admittedly it's not the most obvious moult limit...
In addition to the moulted primaries, it's worth taking a look at the primary coverts, too. Compared to yesterday's adult male, this bird lacks the lovely grey feather tips; and unlike in adult's complete moult when primaries and the corresponding primary coverts are moulted at the same time, the primary coverts here have all been left unmoulted.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Moel Famau

I took a wander up Liverpool's highest mountain today, 'Mole Vamma'. That's probably quite a funny joke if come from Liverpool. And probably quite offensive if you come from north Wales. All the usual suspects were out and about: Ravens, flocks of redpolls, my first House Martins and Willow Warblers in the UK this year, and a few Wheatears.

After yesterday's dismal failure, I decided to try again with the nets in the garden and opened them up for a couple of hours this evening. Amazingly, they caught! Six Greenfinches and a single Goldfinch; all new. All of the females had broodpatches and all of the males cloacal protuberance, so presumably all locally breeding individuals. All second-year birds with the exception of a single adult male Greenfinch:

The rather bull-necked appearance is due to a crop full of sunflower hearts!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I'm back in Liverpool

And everything seems the same.

Headline news from today: I saw my first UK Swallows of 2011, a Blackcap was singing from some back gardens up the road, and there was a big spider in our garage, now residing somewhere down the road at the request of my mum.

Opening up a couple of mistnets in the garden for most of the morning caught a grand total of zero birds. I did however take some lovely photos of a Woodpigeon with retained secondaries. I was going to say something about the age of it but, thankfully for most of you, I then proceeded to smash my camera against the toilet (I was photographing the bird out of the bathroom window) resulting in the CF card auto-formatting (read: corrupting) itself. I don't seem to be having much luck with cameras recently. My compact also took a bash somewhere between Tel Aviv and Heathrow:

Please learn from my mistakes,
please learn from my mistakes.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Moffz and stuff

Yesterday evening was spent in the delightful Perivale Woods, setting up moth traps followed by a session of 'dusking' (running around with a net catching anything that happens to fly in front of you) and 'sugaring' (wandering around checking 'sugar' baited tree trunks, generally failing to find any moths).

Species encountered on our dusking tour of the woods included an Early Thorn, some lacewings (including a tiiiiiiny white one), several very attractive Lunar Marbled Browns that had already been attracted in to the traps:

a Nuctenea umbratica (we think):

And a European Hedgehog:

HH meets FB.

We were back this morning to check the traps. Plenty of Eriocrania subpurpurella:

Quite a few Brindled Pugs, too:

Some Hebrew Characters:

An Oak Beauty:

An Early Thorn:

And, excitingly, a new species for the site: Pine Beauty. It's nationally quite common and widespread but its absence from Perivale can be explained by the scarcity there of its foodplant - pine.

Messrs Howdon, Culshaw & Whitby photograph the Pine Beuaty:

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Lunchtime at KG

A quick trip out of the office this afternoon to Kensington Gardens. I'd yet to see the famous KG owlets, so we took advantage of the glorious weather (27 °C... according to the car) in the hope of catching up with them before the trees came into leaf and they melted away into the canopy. The Tawny Owls had been late to nest this year, and thus the owlets had been late to "branch", so already there were plenty of leaves on the trees. We'd given up, unable to find them, and were leaving the park when we received a phonecall from Des McKenzie who'd found the entire owl family in a tree about 300 m from their original 'hatching tree'. They don't half travel around a lot for a ball of fluff that can't yet fly!

Other sightings during our short stay included a handful of Stock Doves, the ever-present Ring-necked Parakeets, and plenty of singing Nuthatches, Treecreepers, displaying Blue Tits etc. All very pleasant!

Postscript: Little did we know had we wandered across to The Serpentine, we could have watched a corpse being dragged from the lake...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

More Catalan videos

How long can one drag out a three month trip? Thirteen months and counting...

Here are a few more shoddy videos from my time in Catalonia last spring.

We found this male Eagle Owl at Cap de Creus natural park, standing guard over its mate who was sat on a nest on the other side of the valley.

Also at Cap de Creus, off the point itself, we encountered a large flock (c.2,000) of feeding Yelkouan Shearwaters, with a handful of Balearic Shearwaters mixed in.

Temminck's Stints were never common; this bird was one of a group of four that spent a couple of days at El Matà; just about viewable from my kitchen window!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Catalan ringing

This time last year, I was 1/3rd of the way through my stay at Aiguamolls natural park. The ringing campaign is running there again this year, at the same location for the same time with (more-or-less) the same set of nets. This year, there's a blog dedicated to news from the ringing site. It's in Catalan, but it has some pretty pictures.
There's also a list of totals, which you can compare directly with last year. Promig means average; the rest should be pretty self explanatory...