Monday, November 26, 2012

It's grim out west

It was my last day at Falsterbo on Saturday; most of it was spent cleaning the house, though I did sneak out for an hour to do one of the resting bird counts. It was generally quite quiet with a lot of people walking along the beach but there were a few raptors; three Kestrels, a 1cy female Hen Harrier and an immature White-tailed Eagle. Then it was off to Copenhagen to catch a flight back to wet, windy and cold UK.

With a brief break in the weather this morning, I opened a net in the garden and caught 18 birds in a couple of hours: 12 Goldfinches, two Greenfinches, a Blue Tit, a Coal Tit, a Robin and a Chaffinch. It was actually quite an experience ringing British birds again. The Coal Tit was disgusting; a nasty messy green-brown on its back and without so much a hint of the cute little crest that the grey-backed Swedish birds show.
Despite the crappy photo, you can still make out the moult limit in the greater coverts on the closed wing. Note also that the bird shows some yellow in the cheek... have fun trying to string it into hibernicus :)

With a bib like that — and with such ill-defined markings on the lesser coverts — it must be a female.

Next surprise was how small the Blue Tits are; this bird had a wing of 62 mm (compared to most birds in Sweden that were around 67 mm).
This bird also shows a moult limit in the greater coverts — 2 retained juvenile feathers (outermost).

It was nice to get my hands on some 'interesting' Greenfinches again. This first-year bird had moulted all-but-two tail feathers and had moulted P6 on both wings during post-juvenile moult (but, as is usual with the eccentric primary moult, it has not moulted the corresponding primary covert).

And this evening — despite the weather — my sister found this sitting next to the porch light; it's a male Feathered Thorn:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Beats cleaning windows

It's been windy and mizzly on the peninsula the past two days so we've been relegated to cleaning the station top-to-bottom. On my way out to put some washing in the machine, I heard a flock of Waxwings — not an unusual occurrence, but these didn't sound like they were passing by. They were, in fact, just outside of the garden near to the church and, best of all, they were coming down to feed on a low hawthorn bush. I grabbed some poles and set up a net; a few minutes later, hey presto! One Waxwing. Then the flock did what Waxwings often do and flew off completely out of site before returning 20 minutes later. And then, hurrah, another three birds. Twenty minutes later, another two.

adult female

I knew there hadn't been too many Waxwings ringed at Falsterbo but I was surprised when I found out just how few. The highest annual total was 104 in 1996; then the annual total drops sharply to 11 in 1984; and then it's 2012 in 3rd place with 6 birds! The only other Waxwings ringed at Falsterbo were 1 in 2005 and 1 in 1989. Let's see if we can move 2012 into 2nd place if the flock is still around tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Record cakers

For anyone who was wondering, here are what the numbers on last week's cake mean. Each one is a new Falsterbo record:

1 Yellow-breasted Bunting.

2 Kestrels in a day (two Kestrels in a net round, in fact).
7 Kestrels over the autumn season.

59 Sparrowhawks over the autumn season.

72 Long-tailed Tits in a day.
331 Long-tailed Tits over the year.

487 Great Tits in a day.

2,178 Blue Tits in a day.

3,173 Great Tits over the autumn season.
3,262 Great Tits over the year.

3,426 birds in one day.

18,833 Blue Tits over the autumn season.
19,227 Blue Tits over the year.

22,910 birds in October (monthly record).

32,600 birds over the autumn season.

38,894 birds over the year.

2012: a record breaking year!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A different view

For various reasons — mostly related to a certain swallow on Öland — there was no one to do the Nabben migration counts on Friday so, with no prior experience, a bad track record when it comes to estimating the number of individuals in a flying flock, and a strong reluctancy to do any sort of vis'migging, I stepped in.

Thankfully the migration was pretty slow with only just over 3,000 birds passing (a nice introduction to counting moving targets) and I really enjoyed the morning's count. The best of the lot were 220 Waxwings, a male Goshawk and a handful of Twite.

Friday's office

This little critter was 'sun'-bathing on the path on the way back... I wonder why it was still out and about in such cold overcast weather?

I've done all of the resting bird counts this week. By-and-large, the resting bird counts consist of counting Barnacle Geese and Wigeon; however, I did manage to find two first-winter female Scaup on the lighthouse lagoon and there were decent numbers of Whooper and Bewick's Swan in amongst the hundreds of Mute Swans at Knösen/Revlana.

I tried again this morning for grosbeaks. Needless to say, Falsterbo is still a grosbeak-free zone. After a few hours I switched the mp3 to redpoll and within half an hour had caught twenty birds, split roughly equally between cabaret and flammea.

Also another Goldfinch:

Sightings in/from the lighthouse garden included a Nutcracker, a Rough-legged Buzzard and about a dozen Waxwings.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Today was — according to the weather forecast and our misplaced optimism — going to be grosbeak-day. We were fully berried-up and set to go... six hours later we were still grosbeakless. However, it turned out to be a nice day for some other G-species. Goldfinch, for example; eight birds ringed = new day record (OK, so the previous day record of 7 wasn't that hard to beat). That takes our Goldfinch annual total to 14, the second-highest annual total at Falsterbo.

We caught four Goldcrests, too. It's good fun making up moult limits in the greater coverts. This bird has left the two outermost unmoulted.
(Just nod and smile)

We completely the G-haul with a single 1cy Gulsparv.

Our berry-bait wasn't a complete failure. We managed to attracted down a flock of 20 Waxwings but they didn't stay for more than a few seconds before flying off and moving on to Denmark. Probably to go and jump straight into one of the nets at Gedser.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Essential Paddyfield Warbler viewing

I spent yesterday in Copenhagen museum with Aron Edman and Team Swedish-RK; a very enjoyable and extremely productive day. Most of the morning was spent looking at these:

First screening of The Hybrid

Then in the afternoon, some of these (again):
Puffinus tangerinocephalus 

David went on the hunt for the biggest bird he could find:
Bonus points if you can identify any of the species bottom right.

Many thanks to Jan and all the other staff who helped us during our visit.

We have grand plans for tomorrow. The MP3 player is charged and we've got a 20m-long washing-line draped in berries...

Now all we're missing are the grosbeaks. Wish us luck!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rainbow over Falsterbo

This morning started how most days this week (except tomorrow and probably Wednesday — but more on that after the event) are likely to start: cleaning the observatory. I fancied a break, so I headed to the lighthouse to mend some nets. A Parrot Crossbill was flying over as I arrived. While I fixed one net, I opened some others and set a redpoll mp3 going. Total catch in 3.5 hours: two retrap Great Tits....
I gave up and left for home; just in time, too, as the heavens opened.

The rain did bring with it this full double rainbow that stretched right over the lighthouse. Almost worth getting wet for. Almost.

The only other sighting of any note was a Long-eared Owl that left the park and flew south as I was going to the shop this evening. Even if the ringing is over, at least the birding isn't (quite) dead.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

End of season

Today was the last day of autumn standardised ringing; we celebrated with a fantastic meal, a record-breaking cake and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Each number represents a record broken this year — can you guess them all?

Only an hour short of being the last bird ringed this season...

That award went to.... a Blue Tit. Obviously.

Now the fun* starts — it's open season with the MP3 player and we're only just over a thousand birds short of 40,000 for the year. 11-hundred redpolls, anyone?

*Actually, now the net-fixing and the cleaning starts; but hopefully we'll be able to put a net in the garden in between times.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Quick update

It's been wet and/or windy over the last few days. Today's haul was 18 birds; better than yesterday's none. The 'highlight' was an assorted collection of Great Tits with, to a varying degree, unmoulted tails. This bird was the most extreme and is the first time I've seen a 1cy with a completely juvenile tail.

In my last blog post I mentioned that we'd equalled the Sparrowhawk and Long-tailed Tit annual totals; we've now beaten both — the Sparrowhawk total by one bird:

And the Long-tailed Tit total by about 60...

There have been a few Waxwings around. This is part of a flock of c.12 that were by the road on the way home the other afternoon.

I did the resting bird counts yesterday — nothing too interesting; a distant White-tailed Eagle and five species of geese (albifrons White-fronted, Greylag, Barnacle, bernicla Brent, and Canada) were the best.

And finally, a giant Bullfinch.
I'll say more about this when I've been arsed to had the time to edit the sound file.