Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pleased to meet you

It was (common) quality and definitely not quantity in the lighthouse garden nets this morning — just four birds were ringed: a Common Redstart, a Common Chiffchaff, a Common Whitethroat and this beauty, an adult male Common Rosefinch.

We spent the rest of the day helping at a wader study site — after which we were all treated to burgers and chips :) — and then checking more nestboxes/ringing more pullus (mostly Great Tits again with a couple of broods of Blue Tits). Anyway, I'm pretty tired; it's been a busy day and the net opening time changes tomorrow, brought forward by an hour to keep in-line with dawn. This is what my alarm now looks like:

I think I'll be going to bed...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Full pull

Another fairly quite morning in the lighthouse garden (though 22 ringed is an improvement on recent days; totals online — click Ringing). We filled most of the rest of the day with some pullus ringing, ringing several broods of Great Tits:

 A brood of White Wagtails:

And the lighthouse Kestrels:

The top of the lighthouse also gives great views across the peninsula; looking north towards Flommen:

And looking south over Falsterbo Golf Course:

In the garden, the first Starlings have fledged:

We finished the day with two giant pizzas to celebrate the end of Måns's exams and a successful day of pullus ringing — seafood for starters and meat for main.
Modelled here with what is, I can assure you, a normal sized hand...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hooded Crow saves the day

This morning was, to put it bluntly, dismal. It started off with strong winds that only stopped when the rain arrived... We caught five birds in the lighthouse garden (three new: an Icterine Warbler, a Spotted Flycatcher, and a Marsh Warbler; and two retraps: an Icterine Warbler and a Garden Warbler).

After the rain had cleared in the afternoon, I went to take a walk in the woods. I hadn't got further than 30 m from the station when I found this chap, tame(/stupid) enough to let me walk up to it and pick it up.

It was promptly ringed and returned to its perch, becoming only the 8th Hooded Crow to be ringed at Falsterbo since 1980!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The spring is dead?

Another slow morning this morning with the number of birds ringed struggling to reach double figures (totals online — click Ringing); that did include five Icterine Warblers, though — always nice birds to handle and quite easy to age (their iris turns from green to brown, similar to Acrocephalus warblers). The weather is still good (clear, warm and not too windy) and we're wondering if this might be it; if all the birds have passed and that the spring season is now effectively over.

A 2cy Common Rosefinch was singing by one of the nets as I walked around the garden:

You can hear that the song at the start is a bit "flat" and with a few extra notes — this is, presumably, the as yet uncrystallised song of this young bird. The recording above is split in two parts — one from when I first started recording the bird and one from a minute or two later when I'd got a little bit closer. You can hear that, even in that short time, the bird has started to sort itself out a bit and the song sounds a little bit sharper in the latter part of the recording (NB the increase in volume is because I'm now half the distance from the bird!).

But still, when you compare the song to this bird from last week— an immature, a 3cy I think (see here) — you can hear that the 2cy bird still has a bit more to do with its song.

You can see the differences on a sonogram, too. Included here are the first song phrase from the recording of the 2cy, the last song phrase from the same bird, a song phrase from the imm. bird, and a song phrase from an adult male recorded by The Sound Approach. Even though — compared to the 2cy — the immature bird song sounds quite crystallised, you can see it still has a way to go before it becomes as clean and simple as the adult male's up-up-down-down song phrase.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Waking up is the hardest part

I love being up early in the morning. Without getting too soppy, it's a constant joy to listen to the first Skylark start singing as the first slivers of pink light appear in the sky. But, irrespective of how much sleep you've had the night before, waking up and getting out of bed at 03:00 is never easy. There's a way to avoid waking up, of course; don't go to sleep. So Arvid and I partied until 03:20 then went straight to opening the nets.

Ringing was again quiet — the first round brought us a single Thrush Nightingale. A couple of Willow Warblers were the best we could manage in the hour or so that followed. Björn arrived and suggested that, given how quiet it was, we go and get some sleep; he'd call if he caught anything interesting. So we did and, not unexpectedly, he didn't call — the number of birds ringed over the couple of hours ringing after we'd left barely reached double figures (totals online — click Ringing).

A couple of Red-backed Shrikes and a showy Thrush Nightingale were seen on the walk back home. Back at the station a Greenish Warbler was singing, audible from my bedroom. I managed a few shots of the bird and a dodgy recording with my phone before I headed off to bed.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lighthouse party

Ringing was slow this morning — just 13 birds (totals online — click Ringing). To bulk up the totals a bit, Arvid and I worked our way through the remaining Starling nest boxes ringing another 55 chicks.

The afternoon/evening/night was spent back at the lighthouse for Göran Walinder's 70th birthday bash. If that name sounds familiar that's because you've tried to identify a Marsh Warbler using his formula...

half-time entertainment

dessert is served!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Flycatcher fun

Again I was going to write about Spotted Flycatcher moult; again I've chickened out. Don't cry. Seriously, please don't. It wasn't that interesting anyway.

I do have some interesting flycatcher news from today, though. In contrast to the last few days, we caught only one Spotted Flycatcher; but that was enough to tip this spring's Spotted Flycatcher total (46 individuals) over the record — the previous record of 45 in a spring season was set in 1996.
Record breaker — the small whitish bases to the primaries are not something I've ever seen (noticed) on this species before.

You're still crying above me not talking about Spotted Flycather moult? Oh, OK then. Here's a sneak peek at what I've been looking at.

Good, huh? Exciting, right? Confusing as f*ck? Yes, yes and yes. With thanks to FBO for permission to use this photo (and the photos that will follow when I eventually get my act together and write about what I've observed on the species this spring). There are quite a few interesting articles on the FBO pages using similar photos for other species — navigate to Publications.

Continuting the flycatcher theme, we caught our third Red-breasted Flycatcher of the season this morning; a 2cy.

The most noticable feature of this morning was the goose migration that was taking place overhead — mostly dark-bellied Brents with smaller numbers (about 30%) of Barncales.

There was also several Common Rosefinches still around; this bird was singing, which should make it a male, while the female-like appearance makes it a first-summer.

With the afternoon temperatures now lower — and thus more comfortable — than yesterday, I biked up to the harbour road pools for the weekly count. There was nothing of any great surprise, though a few migrants did include a male Red-backed Shrike, a Lesser Redpoll, some Reed Warblers in bushes, and a Whinchat. Nice to see plenty of Avocet chicks, too, with 70 present (along with 17-0 adults).

In Skanör new cemetery I found a pair of Pied Flycatchers and, to take this post full circle, at least 8 Spotted Flycatchers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cold as ice

It's (relatively) warm as Hell here at the moment. It's nice, though — we're ringing in t-shirts and we're catching lots of birds (82 this morning of 16 species; totals online — click Ringing). In contrast to the weather, this Acrocrphalus warbler this morning was alarmingly cold.

Adding to the interest, it had a wing length of 66.5 mm (Blyth's Reed Warbler = 58–67 mm; Marsh Warbler = 65–73 mm). Don't worry, it wasn't a Blyth's; the wing formula (emarginated on p8 only; p8 longest; p6 more than a couple of mm longer than the wing point) soon ruled that out. And actually, in overall structure it just *looks* like a Marsh Warbler — it's only when you take into account the colour and the size that it becomes more interesting, especially coupled together. Marsh Warblers, although more olive-toned than Reed Warbler, still show some warmth on the rump and flanks; this bird didn't.
'normal' Marsh Warbler

Oddly, the wing formula differed slightly between wings: the left wing was half a mm shorter (66 mm vs 66.5) and the primaries were slightly more bunched together; p8 on the right wing sticks out a whole mm more (2 mm vs 1 mm)! The difference is actually visible on this photo.

So, an interesting bird... And, erm, yeah.

I have to confess, I feel like I haven't been saying a great deal of interesting stuff on here (again) lately. The 3am starts probably aren't a help, nor is the hot weather — by the end of the day when I sit down in front of my laptop I'm completely drained. But it's also because I've been learning a lot over the last few days and I'm still trying to work a few things out; you'll notice I skilfully avoided saying what age/sex the Barred Warbler was (it was a 2cy male, by the way, but I'm buggered if I can tell you why), and I'm just about getting my head around Spotted Flycatcher moult*... and potential ageing. Both age classes of Spotted Flycatcher undergo a complete moult on the wintering grounds, or so common wisdom states.

See that big block of unmoulted flight feathers? How d'ya like that 'complete' moult? Anyway, I'll will attempt to go into some detail on this sometime over the next couple of days — I even have some really nice photographs to illustrate things with.

*"Getting my head around" is perhaps too strong a phrase to use; "coming up with some sort of theory that might have an element of truth in it" is probably a more accurate thing to say.

But back to today. We caught our third Hawfinch of the season; a beautiful adult male — it was a bitey one and I make now apologies for wearing gloves.

Usually once you have a bird in a firm grip it was settled down; not this bird. You see that pink staining? That's blood. My blood. It gave me a nibble as I was taking it out of the bag. (I'm not sure why my blood is pink though.)

Equally aggressive — though not so lethal — was this adult female Common Rosefinch. Well done to Sissel for doing what we've failed to do over the last week and catch one of these — though she was completely gutted she didn't manage to catch the male that was singing next to the net!

Arvid and I attempted some birding later in the day but it was too hot and most of the birds were keeping a low profile — only Spotted Flycatchers were conspicuous. We managed half a dozen Red-backed Shrikes and a couple of Marsh Warblers before we turned back (via an ice cream at Falsterbo grill).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Terrific trio

Today was a very nice day. Forty-two birds were ringed during the lighthouse garden standardised ringing (totals online — click Ringing); enough to keep us occupied but not so many that we were too busy. There was high variety (15 species) and high quality. Quality like this Barred Warbler, for example:

At the same time, we also caught a Grasshopper Warbler (centre) and a Red-breasted Flycatcher (right).

In terms of ringing records — at least in recent times — the Grasshopper Warbler is considerably scarcer than the flycatcher. Both birds were our second individual of that species this year but Red-breasted Flycatcher is pretty much annual during the spring ringing (and commoner in autumn); in contrast, the last Grasshopper Warbler ringed during the spring before this year was one in 2007 and before that one in 1997.

A couple of Common Cranes passed over the lighthouse garden, several Common Rosefinch were still around, and this male Honey Buzzard came low overhead:

When the standardised ringing was finished, we grabbed a ladder and took a look in some of the Starling nest boxes; 29 chicks were ringed in total from six broods.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quiet again

It was back to quieter times again today with just 16 birds ringed (totals online — click Ringing). The winds are still blowing from the southeast and the temperatures are still up above 20 °C; we're holding out for that mega rarity... The best we could muster was a Greenish Warbler (scarce) that passed rapidly north through the lighthouse garden unseen but heard several times. On returning to the station mid-morning, what was presumably a second individual sang once in the trees outside but didn't linger — still, a new bird for my "birds heard through the window whilst trying to extract an SD card from a laptop CD drive with a pair of tweezers" list (long story; don't ask). A couple of rosefinch were still in the garden, though they're doing a good job of avoiding the nets. Also doing a good job of avoiding the nets — until today — was this Icterine Warbler; another bird was singing at the other end of the lighthouse garden while we were ringing this individual, so there are at least two birds around.

This 2cy Black Redstart was seen briefly in the garden before being caught in one of the nets around the golf maintenance buildings.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Freaky Friday (on a Monday)

I'd be lying if I told you my heart didn't beat a few extra beats when I spotted this at the far end of the net. It was only as I started to take the bird out that I realised it was a Chaffinch — a stunning looking bird.

It's a female (sexed on wing length and with a fully developed brood-patch). If she's breeding nearby, this is the first time we've seen her. It's not an albino, obviously, nor is it leucistic; if I had to pick a big word from the Dutch Birding paper to make me sound clever, I'd go for schizochroic.

We also caught this Ring Ouzel-wannabe (this one is [partially] leucistic).

Away from the aberrants, it was an excellent morning's ringing with 56 birds of 16 species ringed (totals online— click Ringing). We caught a remarkable five Red-backed Shrikes, two males and three females.

Also our first Marsh Warbler of the season.

And our first (and potentially only) Cuckoo, a female.

There were three Common Rosefinch in the lighthouse garden this morning; the afternoon was spent painting the outside of the station building so no birding today.

[I had planned to write something more about the Cuckoo and also something on Common Whitethroat moult — we had two 2cy birds that had moulted primaries during pre-breeding moult — but I'm a bit too tired to write anything that makes sense; something to look forward to another day, I guess...]