Sunday, October 28, 2012

Week 43

Sorry, I've been quite busy recently — working; being ill; trying (and failing) to find an Asian accentor and/or Far Eastern Phylloscopus in the park. Not necessarily in that order.

It's starting to feel like the season is nearly over here at Falsterbo. In fact, it will be in just two weeks. Ringing in the lighthouse garden is getting quieter each day; over the last few days we've gone from 200+ to >100. We'd hoped the drop in temperature yesterday (the first real cold snap of the autumn) would bring a load of Robins, Blackbirds etc. It didn't. It looks like Sweden might be empty already. Nonetheless, even if we're not catching big numbers of things we're still catching interesting things.

On one day, we caught three Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. A male:

And two females:

Despite what's apparently been going on in the UK, we've seen very few Jays here at Falsterbo. A while back, six arrived in the lighthouse garden; we thought that might have been the start of things... but it wasn't. And, thankfully for our fingers, they managed to avoid the nets. Since then we've seen just a handful of Jays and we've only caught one. Again, thankfully for our fingers, this one wasn't really the best at biting...

The bird had been feeding and, apart from the bill, was in reasonable condition so we ringed it, wished it well and sent it on its way.

We've now equalled the annual record for Sparrowhawk.

And for Long-tailed Tit. Most birds are clean caudatus but we've also caught at least one good europaeus and a handful of intermediates.

Last night we did some owl ringing. Part of the by-catch was a new in-hand species for me, Skylark.

The commonest species was, as expected, Tengmalm's Owl; we caught seven, including a Swedish control.

A nice bonus was this 1cy female Long-eared Owl.

I've got lots of photos of various ages of Tengmalm's Owl (a lot of last night's birds were 3+cy or older) and I'll post them sometime. I've also got some photos and recording of tooty Bullfinches, lots to say about retained alulas, ageing Robins as adults, and some stuff on Great Tits. At least it'll keep me busy through the long winter nights! Talking of Great Tits, partly tying in with what I'll say at the future date, yesterday we caught this bird carrying a Lithuanian ring.

Despite thrashing the bushes on the way back home from ringing every day, birding has been quite slow. At the start of the week there were hundreds of Goldcrests to sift through; now, it's getting harder to find birds of any sorts — just a few Robins etc. I keep on in the hope that eventually one of them will have a blue tail.

On my way back today, I did manage to connect with three Bewick's Swans, a Barn Swallow and a 1cy female Goshawk.

Interesting birds in the lighthouse garden over the last seven days have included a dozen Waxwings (one in the garden and a flock of 11 flying over), a couple of Nutcrackers, and migrating Parrot Crossbills and White-tailed and Golden Eagles.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

All time high

It's been a while since we broke a record, so...

Today, with the addition of 681 birds (totals online — click Ringing), we passed the all-time Falsterbo annual record. Not bad considering it was such a quiet spring. And hurrah, this time the record breaking bird wasn't a Blue Tit:
Mmm celebratory cake; thanks Sissel!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Long night/small wonders

We tried for owls again last night. It was fairly slow going with 'just' three Tengmalm's Owls caught — including a Swedish control. After several blank rounds, we closed the nets at 2 O'clock to head back and get a few hour's kip.

It was another reasonably busy day's ringing today: 1,230 birds, less dominated by Goldcrests (though we did get another bird carrying a Russian ring) and with quite a bit of variation (totals online — click Ringing). The highlight for me was this 1cy female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a species that I really don't get to see often enough...

This 1cy Robin had leucistic outer primaries/primary coverts on the right wing:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Goldcrest central

1,400 birds... 1,100 and a half Goldcrests. Two with Russian rings, another one with a Polish ring:
Желтоголовый королек

And the half; I mean, umm, 'putative half':

The other half [putatively] came from a Firecrest. More about that one when we've scraped the crud off the base of one of its feathers and run the resulting flaky skin cells through a PCR machine.*

*It's a hybrid. You and I both know that. But better to be safe with cautious words than sorry...

And, hurrah, we finally got a white-as-snow Nuthatch. I feel like I can finally put europaea on my list now.

Finally, to balance out all the pretty photos of pretty birds, here's a 2cy female Chaffinch that retained A1 and A2 on both wings:


Anyway, we're off owling now. Or wolfing, if it's still around.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spoken too soon

It seems the autumn isn't over just yet — this morning we ringed close to 700 birds, mostly Goldcrest (including a Polish control) but with a good number of Blue Tits too. There were a few goodies to be had as well: a Great Grey Shrike, a Nuthatch, a Yellowhammer and a female Bullfinch (the first time I've had a good look at a non-British bird; quite different in appearance) were top of the bill.

Nothing too amusing with today's Blue Tits, though we did catch two nice examples of the either end of the 'neckband thickness' spectrum. The width of the band across the hind-neck is often cited as a good sexing feature; I have to say I've never found it all that useful myself, though in these two birds the difference is obvious.

first-year female

adult male

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tit for tit

Someone has turned the Blue Tit tap off. It's been almost a week now since we caught any big numbers; but the weirdest thing is how quickly we went from four-figures a day to five or six birds in a morning — it happened literally over night.

Things are very quiet now; we're not catching more than 50 birds a day. The Blue Tits have been replaced — admittedly in less-than-plague-proportion numbers — by these charming critters:

We caught 10 of them today, almost one-third of the entire total...

The base of the head feathers is actually dark so when the head feathers are raised, as they are here, some dark 'smudging' appears on the side of the head.

Not wishing to forget the Blue Tits all together just yet, we caught this bird today that showed an extremely interesting (“interesting”?) moult pattern.

The bird — a first-year male — had undergone what appears to be an extensive post-juvenile moult. All of the greater coverts, the carpal covert, alula feathers 1–3 and tertials 1–3 have been moulted — so far so normal. This bird had also moulted S6 on both wings — unusual but not completely mind-blowing. It also showed — hold onto your hats at this point — new adult-type primary coverts; PC6 and PC9... on both wings.

I've seen two birds this autumn that have shown a single new primary covert on one wing. While the primary coverts aren't the most exposed feather tract on a bird, it's been my assumption that these single asymmetrically new primary coverts were the result of regrowth following accidental loss. I've handled another bird that had moulted primary coverts on both wings but they were not symmetrical either; and besides, the bird was a bit messed up with a chunk of primaries missing from the right wing, so it was easy to blame the appearance of the adult-type feathers on accidental loss again (though I'm still not entirely sure I've managed to convince myself over that one). However, on today's bird it's very hard to dismiss the symmetrical feather replacement as accidental loss.

On a less geeky note, a Red-breasted Goose was found at Knösen yesterday and was still present this morning; we nipped up there in between net rounds to take a look (thanks to Josefina for providing the wheels).

The only other notable sighting from today was a Yellow-browed Warbler that showed down to a few metres in the park behind the observatory.

Yesterday we caught a few Goldcrests including this rather grey-headed individual (on the left — sorry for the shoddy photos; it was still pretty dark). The bill was also noticeably thicker than the buffier-headed bird; about one-third deeper at the base. From somewhere east of here?

In other news, a Wolf has been spotted on the peninsula.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The day that keeps on giving

Today (Thursday; yes, technically yesterday, I know) was probably the most perfect day at Falsterbo so far. It looked like it was going to be great for ringing — calm with clear skies — so we shipped in some reinforcements. We were a bit disappointed at how quiet things seemed... until we realised we'd actually ringed 1,300 birds. Things had gone so smoothly that we didn't even notice! It wasn't the number of birds that made today so special though; it was the number of species: 26 species ringed during today's standardised ringing (totals online; click Ringing). Common Treecreeper, Redwing and Goldfinch were all firsts for the autumn season, as was this 1cy Great Grey Shrike:

Early afternoon we caught our first Long-tailed Tits of the season; caudatus, hurrah!

By closing, we had the all-time Falsterbo day record — 72 birds! Well, we needed to break at least one record today, didn't we?

In the evening, we reopened all of the garden nets — by the first round, we had caught one of these:

And by the wee small hours of the morning we'd caught over 25...

Which reminds me of a joke. Which owl is most often found in kitchens?

Tengmalm's Teat-Owl. Ha. I really do need some sleep.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Broken record

This is starting to get a bit predictable now.

Today's headline news:

  • c.2,800 birds ringed — that's the 3rd or 4th best ringing day at Falsterbo, depending on the final count.
  • New Great Tit day-ringing record. Again.
  • New Blue Tit season-ringing record.
  • New season-ringing total record(!) — and we still have another month to run!
Our 7th Kestrel this autumn; previous season record: 3 in 2001...

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Another 2,000

Well, near enough as damned anyway: 1,971 birds ringed at the lighthouse this morning; 1,700 or so of them were Blue Tits. We recaught Friday's Marsh Tit again (it was also retrapped yesterday morning) as well as good numbers of Crested Coal Tits.

I still haven't managed to get a decent photo of the Marsh Tit. At least you can see the greater covert moult limit in this photo...

 This 3+cy male Sparrowhawk caught in the first net round was a real stunner.