Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kentsk tärna

Wind and rain put paid to any chance of ringing this morning — most of the day was subsequently spent catching up with work in the house. Highlight of the day were two Sandwich Tern seen during a brief afternoon seawatch. My first this year. I even have a super high-quality digiscoped shot of one of them flying uphill, i.e. north.

Friday, March 30, 2012


We were sailing at half mast in the lighthouse garden this morning with just ten out of 21 nets open due to the wind. We didn't feel like we were missing much though with just two new birds caught all morning — one Wren and one Great Tit. We did, however, retrap last Friday's europaeus Long-tailed Tit, which I hadn't managed to take a proper look at the first time.

Unfortunately, strong wind + dull conditions + fidgety bird = not great photos; but I tried to get a few 'instructive' photos nevertheless.

This afternoon we did the count for the harbour road pools — over 70 Avocets were present along with much higher numbers of the usual stuff compared to the other day.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


It was too windy to ring this morning so we had a lie-in then went birding — well, technically it was a trip to the supermarket but we couldn't resist calling in to check the harbour/harbour road pools. Lots of Tufted Ducks on the pools but not a lot else. Not a lot in the harbour or on the sea either — some Red-breasted Merganser were fishing offshore, doing a good job of staying just out of range of my lens.

A male Goosander joined them.

Ängsnäset lagoon this afternoon was also quiet with some Pintail, some Shoveler and just seven Avocets.

Being home this morning did give me a chance to sort out some more photos from yesterday and put together a few words on ageing the wagtail and the treecreeper:

The White Wagtail shows a very obvious moult limit, with the 6 inner greater coverts, the tertials and the central tail feathers new. In many species, this sort of moult limit would age the bird as a 2cy; however, pipits & wagtails are one of a group of species who undergo two moults a year — both age classes have a partial pre-alternate ('pre-breeding') moult in late-winter/spring, so a single moult limit effectively counts for nothing when it comes to ageing. [Some 2cy birds can show two moult limits — they're easy to age!] So, with this bird, we have to look at other features. The older feathers (primaries, primary coverts, secondaries and outer tail feathers) are dark almost black and in extremely good condition; a 2cy bird would be expected to show much more worn brown feathers by now. Thus, this bird is a 3+cy (adult) — a conclusion backed-up by eye colour and supported by the overall general clean and bright appearance of the bird.

The Common Treecreeper is easier to age, though detecting moult limits is extremely difficult. The pattern of the primary coverts is a useful tool for ageing this species: adults show small symmetrical pale tips to the primary coverts (can be absent); immature birds show more extensive pale tips that extend further up the outer web of the primary covert feather than it does up the inner web. This bird shows classic immature-type primary covert tips extending 3 mm up the feather shaft of PC8 (average 1 mm in adults; 3 mm in immatures), ageing it as a 2cy — a conclusion backed up by eye colour. Additionally, it seems the rather obvious contrast between the colour of A2 (middle alula) and A3 (large alula) is further evidence for the bird being a 2cy, though I've yet to test out this ageing feature myself yet.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Subspecies ticks

A strong wind kept the ringing totals low this morning (online here — click Ringing), though we did catch two new ringing species for the season; both sort of new for me, too.

The first was a new subspecies in the hand — a 3+cy (adult) male White Wagtail. And very smart he was too!

The second was completely new — a 2cy nominate race Common Treecreeper. Paler/greyer above (except for the rump) and cleaner underneath than the British britannica birds I'm used to seeing... though I'll admit that I wasn't exactly overwhelmed by the differences!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Much the same

It was a quiet (typical March) day at the lighthouse this morning with just 19 birds (totals on FBO website — click Ringing). The only notable was a 3+cy (adult) male Reed Bunting; the first to be caught since my arrival here.

Also a 3+cy female Goldcrest. Nice to be able to compare the ageing of this bird to the 2cy birds we've been catching. 

We took a wander down to Nabben where we had a couple more Goldcrest and two Peregrine. 

A single redhead Smew was on the lagoon and offshore there was one Velvet Scoter, several Common Scoter, four Goosander passing by, and the usual Long-tailed Duck, mergansers, Common Eider etc.

Also from this morning, I make no appolgies for posting another photo of a Dunnock wing. It's a 2cy bird with a really nice obvious moult limit in the greater coverts — and I should also say thanks to Björn Malmhagen for his very helpful advice on ageing Dunnocks! 

This afternoon I took a walk up to the heath — 23 Avocets and 6 Whooper Swans were on the lagoon, while a few White Wagtails and two pairs of Yellowhammers were seen on the walk up there.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Flea circus

It was a frosty sunny start at Falsterbo lighthouse this morning — ringing totals were much the same as yesterday, though with more of a "garden ringing" feel today (totals on FBO website — click Ringing). That gave us chance to take a closer look at one of the more commoner (and more difficult to age) birds, the Dunnock (aka flea circus).
This one's a 3+cy (adult)...

...and, to compare, this one is a 2cy (which has managed to keep its wings feathers in excellent nick). Note in particular the difference in the pattern of the greater coverts.

In between net rounds we had an opportunity to take a look out over the sea. Five redhead Smew were on the lagoon and two Red-necked Grebes, some Long-tailed Duck and the usual Red-breasted Mergansers and Eider were offshore.

I've managed to develop a stinking cold — I would blame co-ringer Arvid for 'kindly' passing his on to me, but I started sneezing as soon as I arrived so perhaps better to blame someone on the plane... — so I have, much against my own wisdom, spent this afternoon sitting on the sofa next to the heater and not going out birding.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I'm not at the Eilat Festival...

...but I know several people who are; and I'm quite sure by the end of this week I'm going to be totally gripped off by all of them!

So, some blogs to watch over the next week:
Plus there are already some really nice photos on the IOC Facebook page.

But back to Falsterbo. It was a fairly average morning's ringing at the lighthouse the morning with 36 birds of seven species (totals on FBO website — click Ringing), but they did include a stunning adult male Black Redstart and a 3cy male Sparrowhawk carrying a Danish ring.

We all agreed, this is the nicest Black Redstart we've ever seen!

And the Sparrowhawk wasn't bad either!

We helped out with the bird count this afternoon before doing a bit of birding around the peninsular. The heath area was particularly productive with two Rough-legged Buzzards, an immature White-tailed Eagle, a Red Kite and a dozen or so Common Buzzards passing over, and three or four Woodlarks on the ground. Sadly, I'd left my D-SLR back at base, though I did manage one 'just with the camera' shot as one of the Rough-legged Buzzards passed low overhead, as well as a slightly iffy(!) bit of digiscoped video.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Falsterbo was fog-bound this morning, though we still managed a decent catch (see FBO website for totals — click 'Ringing'). Chaffinches were coming in off the sea all morning and by the time we were packing away the nets there were bigs flocks in the trees around the lighthouse. In the nets, we caught two nice firsts for the spring season: two Mealy Redpolls and a 2cy male Fieldfare.

2cy male Mealy Redpoll

3+cy female Mealy Redpoll

2cy male Fieldfare

2cy Redwing

I took a wander this afternoon but there wasn't a great deal out of the ordinary to see. Not surprisingly, Chaffinch numbers were up on yesterday, though Brambling numbers didn't seem to have changed much. Four Goosander flew over and this Hooded Crow posed just long enough for a photo:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hello from... Falsterbo

I arrived in Sweden late yesterday afternoon via Copenhagen airport, Malmö train station (which, by the way, is about twice the size compared to when I was last there and now seems to be mostly underground), and a bus from Malmö to Falsterbo — with 21 Common Cranes seen en route.

Ringing was unseasonably busy at the lighthouse garden this morning with 176 birds in total, the bulk (117) being Robins.

Other notables included a Firecrest, two Yellowhammers, a (European) Long-tailed Tit, and an adult male Starling (originally ringed in 2008).

Ringing totals are online here — just click 'Ringing'.

And back at the house this afternoon there were a handful of Brambling feeding with Chaffinches in the garden.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Scoter soup

I met up with Alex again today, starting our day out in North Wales at Llanddulas. There were 'lots' of Common Scoter offshore — like tens of thousands sort of 'lots'. Alex skilfully picked out two drake Surf Scoters; I managed to get onto one before it melted back into the flock.
There's a Surf Scoter in there somewhere. Possibly.

Next, to The Spinnies; a couple of Greenshank and a load of Little Egrets were on the estuary, a pair of Goosander were on the pool, and two Slavonian Grebes were offshore along with plenty of Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye, Wigeon etc.

Then up to Holyhead where we located the 2cy Rosy Starling with Common Starlings. We picked it up it in trees a couple of streets away from where we were stood but my the time we'd got round there it had done one.

The best we could muster in Holyhead harbour was two Common Guillemots. Onwards to a foggy South Stack where a pair of Chough and a Raven were by the upper car park.

Valley Lakes RSPB was full of Shoveler but not a great deal else — I thought I heard a Bittern, though I could have been a train...

We added to our Slavonian Grebe day-tally at Penrhos country park with three birds in Beddmanarch Bay.

Then it was back to The Spinnies where at least three drake Common Eider were offshore and a (the) 3cy Iceland Gull was loafing on the now flooded estuary.

We finished the day at Pensarn where three Mediterranean Gulls were on the beach — one adult and two 3cy birds. One of the 3cy birds was ringed (green darvik) but, typically, was the one of the three that flew before we could get any closer.