Sunday, September 30, 2012

Third highest Blue Tit ringing total... ever

It was the last day of the Flommen ringing season today; but strong winds (again) put a stop to any ringing efforts in the reed bed. That meant I was at the lighthouse again but it was slow there... several rounds and just half a dozen birds later, Måns and I decided we'd go and clear all of the poles and guy strings out of Flommen for the winter. We returned to the lighthouse a short time later to find things had changed; the Blue Tits had arrived. From there on in it was a steady 7 hours of ringing. The grand total at the end of the day: 1,851 birds! Of them, 1,692 were Blue Tits — the third best day for that species at Falsterbo since the ringing began there!

Two Kestrels in the same net round was a surprise — in fact, two full-grown birds in the same day equals the previous Falsterbo record.

Great Tits ordinarily moult the entire tail during post-juvenile moult, so it was unusual to find this 1cy female with four retained juvenile feathers (arrowed):

A few other interesting things too that I'll say something about another time — sorry, but I'm just about ready for a lie-down now! :)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Back to Flommen

It was our first morning back in Flommen after a combination of wind, rain and water-levels conspired against us over the last week or so. The morning was dominated by two species: Reed Buntings and Penduline Tits. We caught six Penduline Tits; four new, one Swedish control and one bird carrying a French ring*!
Swedish control

We ringed all four 'age/sex classes' this morning — 2+cy male (above), 2+cy female, 1cy male and 1cy female — and I'll put together some comparison photos with some notes on ageing and sexing when I have a bit of time.

*The reality is that this bird has probably been in Sweden for some time; it was carrying colour rings, which seem to be from a Swedish scheme, so it's been caught nearby at least once previously...

I flushed at least three Jack Snipe whilst walking the rounds this morning (perhaps as many as six, depending if they were coming back to the same spot after they'd been flushed or not), but the only snipe we managed to catch was this 1cy (female — sexed using the length of the outermost tail feather) Common Snipe in one of the walk-in traps.

Again, I have plenty of photos of this bird that I'll put online with a few comments when it's not so late in the day.

Arriving special delivery by courier from that lighthouse (er, that'll be me on a bike then), this 1cy Wryneck:

The bird showed a very obvious moult limit in the tail, visible on the resting bird above as well as in the photo below. It has moulted the outer three feathers; the central two pairs are juvenile.

I was under the impression that Wrynecks had only ten tail feathers; indeed, there are only five pairs of obvious tail feathers visible in the photo above. However, checking BWP, I've discovered that they do in fact show the more expected twelve tail feathers with R6 “strongly reduced, a tiny feather hidden at base of R5” — I wonder if that's what we can see on the bird's left side in the photo above. Something to take a closer look at next time I'm handling a Wryneck!

Perhaps even better than the Wryneck, for me at least: this 1cy Nuthatch.

A ‘domaniewski’ type bird... if you're into naming every arbitrary point on a cline; somewhere between caesia and europaea if you're not!

Ageing the bird is easy and, with a bit of squinting, is even possible in the photo above; the bird has retained a number of juvenile median coverts as well as all of its juvenile greater coverts (which, being a greyer blue than the moulted lesser coverts, inner median coverts and mantle/scapular feathers, form a slight contrast in colour):

A 1cy (female?) Pallid Harrier was hunting over the Flommen reed bed with what was probably a second individual (maybe a male this time) over the observatory when I went back for something to ear.

More tits

It was a slightly busier day again today with 467 birds ringed at the lighthouse (totals online — click Ringing); as expected, the bulk were Blue Tits (322) but there was a considerably upturn in the number of Great Tits too (106); also two Coal Tits again.

This 1cy male Siskin was one of two ringed. I mentioned in an earlier post that wagtails often leave GC10 unmoulted whilst moulting CG9 or occasionally GC 9 & 8 during post-juvenile moult — Siskin is another species that seems to display this pattern with some regularity. This bird has moulted all of median coverts and GC9 but not GC10; the tertials are juvenile.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mega-day syndrome

I don't want to suggest we were sat around twiddling out thumbs this morning, but we certainly had plenty of time on our hands. After several days with 1000s of birds, a morning with 'just' 192 (totals online — click Ringing) is really quite relaxing. We had plenty of time for a close look at the birds we were handling, time for photographs, and still we were never late for the next net round. 

We're catching a few Coal Tits each day now; the nominate grey-backed race — lovely little birds. Perhaps it's my imagination, but I'm sure these birds show longer crown feathers than British birds; the raised feathers, rather than simply giving the bird a peaked crown, form a small crest.

This 1cy bird, sexed as a male (broad solid black centres to the lesser coverts) has left two greater coverts unmoulted.

...while this unsexed 1cy bird has left four umoulted. Tits are one of the few birds where the juvenile greater coverts are considerably longer than adult-type greater coverts — especially obvious on this bird.

This 1cy female Great Tit has moulted all of its greater coverts; the moult limit lies elsewhere in the wing: in the alula (A1 is moulted, A2 & A3 are juvenile) and in the tertials (T1 & T2 are new, T3 is juvenile); the primaries, secondaries and primary coverts are all juvenile.

This 2+cy female Great Tit shows a single generation of adult wing feathers.

Finally, what appear to be two different subspecies of Chiffchaff — collybita:

And abietinus:

Both 1cy birds. Photos taken with a flash but using the same settings so they should at least be comparable.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Little blue devils

We ringed 666 birds this morning; apt, perhaps, given that most of them (480) were Blue Tits. My fingers have started to bleed from all the pecking. Not that any one Blue Tit can puncture the skin on my fingers, but after a couple of thousand a few holes start to appear... Full totals from this morning are online — click Ringing.

Back at the station, a Black Woodpecker was flapping about — probably the same bird that's been trying to migration over the last two days (and bottling out every time it reaches the point).

I talk a walk through the park in the drizzle but the best I could find were some Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps etc.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Flood pt. 2

If yesterday's water level in Flommen was deep (52 cm) then this morning's water level was just plain ridiculous (68 cm!). Needless to say, there was no ringing in the reedbed again this morning (and there probably won't be for the rest of the season now). Not surprisingly, all this water is starting to spill out the other end. Here's the view from the lighthouse of what used to be Falsterbo golf course:

Ringing totals were similar to yesterday's with 1,492 birds ringed but with fewer Robins (45 vs. 336) and a higher proportion of Blue Tits (1,219 vs. 909).

I was on Blue Tit ringing duty again, though did pause briefly to take a quick photo of the Kestrel:

And one of the Sparrowhawks:

Field sighting highlight was a flock of Common Cranes that passed over — part of an exceptionally large movement of several thousand birds that passed through the area today.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Wind and rain over the last couple of days have put a stop to the ringing, so we were pleased when we woke this morning to find clear skies and no wind — nothing could put a stop to ringing in Flommen now! Or so we thought. We arrived to find that water levels had risen considerably since the last time we were in there to the point that it was impossible to get into the net rides, even wearing waders. Time for plan B: the lighthouse.

There were a lot of Song Thrushes around as we left Flommen and a lot of Robins as we passed through the village. We arrived just before dawn to find the nets, which had been open for half an hour, full of Robins. I helped to finish putting up the nets and I caught two Robins before I'd even fully opened them. It looked like it was a good job we couldn't get into Flommen; it was going to be all hands to the pump in the lighthouse garden.

I've got no photos from today simply because I didn't have chance to stop and take anyway. Here's why:
(Dsum = daily total; Ssum = 2012 season total; Savg = season average total by this date)

There's not really a lot more to say about the ringing that the totals don't say.

Field sightings included four Nutcrackers, several Woodlarks and a Black Kite.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Spotted Crake and male Pallid Harrier

A quick post before I head off to bed for no other reason than to post a couple of photos of today's most exciting birds. This 1cy Spotted Crake wandered into one of the walk-in traps:

And this stunning adult male Pallid Harrier flew north over Flommen reed bed, the second Pallid Harrier I've seen in as many days (we had a female fly by at close range yesterday morning):

A total of 36 birds were ringed at Flommen this morning; totals online — click Ringing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nutcracker sweet

After a brief fly-by the other day, we scored with five (relatively) settled Nutcrackers on the way back from Flommen this morning. They were making their way south and seldom stayed perched for more than a minute or two, but they nevertheless gave great views (and plenty of vocalisation).

It was a busy day at Flommen again. Nothing too special, though Penduline Tits are always nice. This one is an adult (2+cy) male:

And so are Northern Wheatears. This one is a 1cy:

P.S. I haven't forgotten about the warbler... I'm just trying to avoid it :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

agri agro

Is it? Isn't it? I think I'm going to go and bang my head against a brick wall, like the bird itself had been doing by the looks of things...

[Edit: it's not. That means I'm going to have to change the file names now. “Instructive” I think is the ‘buzz word’ to describe these sort of things; “cock up” is another way of putting it. However, on a brighter note, there's a good chance it could be a first for the world. Rock on! (more tomorrow... or sometime)]

At least there's no problems with this one:

Nor this:

Nor this (a second bird, in case you're wondering):

There was a problem with this:

Incomplete complete moult. I think I'm going to hide under a rock until autumn has passed.