Monday, April 30, 2012

2,000 up

Bird of the morning was a Greater Short-toed Lark that was found on the golf course at Nabben, ticked off with a short twitch in between net rounds.


Also several Wheatears and a few yellow wagtails.

Ninety-eight birds ringed (totals online — click Ringing) took our spring ringing total over the 2,000 bird mark. The most notable bird in the nets was a retrap House Martin, originally ringed as a nestling in the lighthouse garden last year.

A Cuckoo — our first this year — was singing from somewhere north of the lighthouse during the morning with presumably the same bird singing also heard on my way back to the house.

Most of the afternoon was then spent painting the outhouse at the station before being treated to a superb salmon dinner in the evening to celebrate the last day of spring. Yum!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Early birds

Wow, what a fantastic morning! We finished the lighthouse garden ringing with 224 birds ringed (totals online — click Ringing); by no means a massive total but notable for its variety. We had five new species for the year, four of them completely new. This 3+cy male Whinchat was a real stunner:


We caught 8 Pied Flycatcher, mostly males.

This 2cy Thrush Nightingale was quite early.

As was this Spotted Flycatcher!
Amazingly, we caught a second individual later in the morning.

Tree Pipit was a new species for the spring ringing although plenty have been passing through over the last few days.

I didn't have much time for "thorough" photography today, though a few of the Lesser Whitethroats were worth pausing for. This 2cy has moulted T3 and S6 on both wings during the pre-breeding moult; T1-2 are presumably post-juvenile.


On the tail, R1 left and right have been moulted pre-breeding; R5 on the right and R4 on the left have been regrown, presumably following accidental loss, giving us a nice chance to compare the adult-type feathers with the corresponding juvenile feathers on the other side of the tail. Note that the regrown feathers are blacker with more white at the tip.

Nicely illustrating why the central tail feathers are often moulted, this 2cy has a completely juvenile tail. Or at least it has most of a completely juvenile tail...

In contrast, this 3+cy is a vision of freshness.


It has also, by the looks of things, moulted the central pair of tail feathers during the pre-breeding moult.

The bulk of the catch was, again, Willow Warblers; 128 individuals. Sightings around/over the garden included a Merlin, two Cranes, some flyover Yellow Wagtails, and a calling Wood Warbler.

The wind increased considerably this afternoon and birding was hard. The few birds that were around (Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats) were keeping low in the sheltered areas. No sign of any buntings, Black-faced or otherwise, in case you were wondering...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Måns-factor

It's a known fact that when Måns Karlsson (editorial board of Roadrunner, Falsterbo supremo, and all round good egg) arrives on the peninsula, the nets stay empty — or at least that was the case until this morning when the arrival of Måns prompted a sudden surge in migrants with 109 birds ringed over the morning (totals online — click Ringing). It just so happens that Måns's arrival coincided with Arvid's departure for a weekend at home; perhaps the Måns-factor ought to be renamed the Arvid-effect...

But whatever it was that caused the rush of birds (perhaps it might even have been the weather...), we were pleased to catch a few firsts for the year. The first net round produced this beauty:

The first to be ringed this year, though there are plenty of singing males around and about the place; like buses with red tails, he was promptly followed by a 3+cy female. A second first for the ringing tally came, surprisingly, in the form of a 2cy female Brambling.

And a (totally) new species for the year, this Whitethroat:

A pleasant surprise was our second Wryneck this spring.

I saw this tweet today (in relation to a dead Woodpigeon that @teamscotch had found and was planning to cook, in case you're wondering):
So, as the tweet says (though likely not as the tweet means), I shall now "age the shit out of" the Wryneck.

Not that there's actually a whole lot of shit to be aged out of this one — certainly not as much shit as one can age out of a Woodpigeon. Does that even make sense? Anyway, the Wryneck was a 2cy, allowing opportunity to compare it to last weekend's 3+cy bird.

Dull is an understatement to describe conditions this morning and consequently my photos are pretty dire. There is a moult limit in the primary coverts with the inner five moulted and the outer three (visible) retained juvenile feathers (four on the left wing). The juvenile primary coverts show a terminal spot on both the inner and the outer webs (though, in the case of the innermost retained primary covert, the terminal spot on the inner web has virtually worn away). The juvenile feathers are more worn, narrower and more pointed and, with the bird in the hand at least, duller and browner compared to the darker every-so-slightly glossier moulted inner primary coverts.

The primary coverts on this bird are very similar to the 2cy bird I ringed in Spain last April, which shows a similar moult:
2cy

But both appear quite different from the 3+cy — the primary coverts on the 3+cy are less worn (perhaps as a consequence of their apparently slightly later moult than first-years, and/or perhaps because the feathers are of better quality) and show more solid and more extensive pale markings. The overall colour of the bird also seems to differ. It would be interesting to know how much of this is due to individual variation and how much is down to differences between formative ('first-winter') and definitive ('full adult') plumage.
3+cy

The bulk of this morning's catch (88 birds) consisted of Willow Warblers, including some very grey birds.

A heavy shower set in just after we'd closed the nets, bringing with it a pair of Common Swifts. On the way back, the male Serin was singing along the lighthouse road, briefly joined by a second (unsexed) bird.

After the rain had passed, I headed out for some sans scope, sans camera back-to-basics binoculars and notebook birding to see what — if anything — had been grounded during the shower. Willow Warblers dominated with large numbers across the southern half of the peninsula; there were good numbers of Sylvia warblers around, mostly Lesser Whitethroats with smaller numbers of Common Whitethroat and Blackcap. At Falsterbohus, a Hobby flew over followed closely by a crowd of verbally abusive White Wagtails. A female Hen Harrier and three Little Terns were at the harbour road pools while a couple of Sand Martins heading north over Flommen were my first this year.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Yes, M'Lard

Another slow morning in the lighthouse garden this morning with just 17 birds ringed (totals online — click Ringing). The most exciting bird was a male Mallard, our first this season.

Here it is moments before it took a crap riiiight down my leg.

There were plenty of House Martins over the garden and a good passage of Barn Swallows, too. Adding a wintery feeling (from an English point of view, at least!) were several large flocks of Barnacle Geese passing over. Other sightings included a Serin that was singing along the lighthouse road and a Hoopoe that flew north through the garden.

Back at the station, I finally managed to get a photo of the partially leucistic Blackbird that has been around for some time now (albeit through the car windscreen).

And tonight... it's paaaarty time! Or at least burgers on the barbecue and 'civilised gathering' time.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Siskins

I'm afraid, despite our best efforts, with only 9 birds ringed (totals online — click Ringing) I'm still without anything amazingly exciting to talk about; though I make no apologies for posting some Siskin photos — they're such lovely bird, especially the males:

Two females — a 2cy and a 3+cy — provided a nice comparison.
2cy

3+cy

Note the difference in the tertials — worn retained juvenile feathers on the 2cy.

The 2cy bird had two retained juvenile greater coverts.

At first glance, there's not too much difference between the primaries — the 2cy was very fresh and unworn (perhaps a bird that hatched late last year?). However, the 3+cy bird shows overall blacker primaries with less bleaching at the tip, while the central primaries are distinctly more square-cut, especially on the inner webs. Additionally, the 3+cy shows considerably more yellow at the base of the primaries.

As with the primaries, the tail of the 2cy is in extremely good condition. It appeared that R6 on the right side has been moulted/replaced; the other tail feathers are most likely juvenile tail feathers — despite their broad and rather rounded appearance, they are still relatively brown and worn at the tip when compared to the 3+cy bird's tail.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rain, rain, go away

Come again after the spring season is over...

Ringing was cancelled this morning thanks for a broad area of rain that stayed over us for most of the morning; it wasn't until early afternoon that we ventured out, at which point the sun came out and the wet ground began to steam. Checking various sites at the north end of the peninsular, the best we could come up with 4 Barn Swallows at various locations, and a Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, and two Little Terns on the harbour road pools.

Steamy harbour road pools

Up at Foteviken there were another two Little Terns, some Greenshank, a gang of summer plumaged Ruff (some of which were displaying to a female), Barnacle Geese, Avocets etc etc.





Then we made a mad dash for it before a second band of heavy rain arrived late afternoon.

For dinner this evening: spicy chicken and blue cheese. (I'm very tempted to start a "what was for dinner" section to each post because, at the moment, it's potentially more exciting than anything I'm saying about the birds here. Hopefully tomorrow we'll catch something exciting. Like, umm, not another 2cy Linnet...)

And finally, in case anyone was actually wondering what that mystery bird from the other day was, it was this:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Porzana at dawn

The morning started with high promise when I found a singing Spotted Crake just north of the lighthouse as I was putting up nets at 4 O'clock — by no means a regular spring bird down here.


I've done my best to filter out the (substantial) wind noise, which is probably why the crake sounds a little bit not-quite-right; that and that fact it was recorded with my phone...

From there on in, though, things were quiet; just 19 birds ringed (totals online — click Ringing). As with yesterday, the most notable bird was a Lesser Whitethroat, a 3+cy; I'm building up as many photos of possible of these birds and will write something more about them at some point in the future (we should catch a considerable number more over the season).

Also two Linnets ringed today, a 3+cy male and a 2cy male. Linnets seem to come in two flavours: those that are easy to age (see e.g. yesterday's bird) and those that are a complete mindf*ck. Today's 2cy was the latter. Indeed, it wasn't until we compared it with the 3+cy that the differences really became obvious — though, of course, with some practice the same characteristics should prove useful in isolation.

Moult limits were devilishly hard to detect — for the greater coverts, we came up with a few theories: that GC10 had been moulted; that GC10 and (on the right wing) GC5 were new; that GC5–10 had been moulted; or that GC3–10 has been moulted. Regardless, GC1–2 (the two outermost) were certainly juvenile. (It seems likely that the latter suggestion, that GC3–10 are moulted and GC1–2 are unmoulted, is the correct one.)

The tail had at least two generations of feather. R4–6 on the left side were clearly (very) new, as were the associated tail coverts — presumably the product of accidental loss. At least the central two pairs of feathers appeared rather dark, broad and rounded, and were probably moulted during the pre-nuptial (post-juvenile) moult. The rest of the tail feathers are probably juvenile.

By contrast, the 3+cy bird looks a lot brighter and fresher with more red in the breast.


I've put together some comparisons that hopefully highlight the differences between the two ages — comparisons that I have no doubt I'll be referring back to myself next time we catch a tricky bird!




Unfortunately, I've managed to push the alula out of shot on the 2cy bird.

Note in particular the pattern of GC2 with a much more well-definted black 'thumb print' on the outer web of the 2cy (but bear in mind that the wing is slightly more spread than on the 3+cy, thus exposing more of the feather).

Barn Swallows have become a regular site passing by the lighthouse now.

The Firecrest was still singing from the same spot as I walked by and at least two Common Redstarts are holding territory around the station.