Sunday, 25 September 2016

First Ringing Session of Autumn

It has been a while since I did a blog about ringing, so I thought I would give you a summary of this weekends results.  

The forecast for the weekend was a bit unsettled so late decisions were made over the weekend as to  if, when and where there would be suitable ringing conditions.  Saturday wasn't looking the best so we decided to prep one of our winter sites, with a little maintenance of net rides.

  Overnight on Saturday conditions were set to improve so a late call was made and we agreed to ring this morning. After leaving the house at 4:45am we arrived to find the conditions reasonably calm and overcast.  There was a very slight  breeze which had a cool edge to it, reminding us that Autumn is now upon us despite the relatively mild temperature. 

We set 9 nets and whilst walking around there didn't seem to be too many birds moving around, or much song or calls. This was extremely evident on the first net round, as the only birds caught were a couple of Blackcap and a Chiffchaff, plus 3 Goldcrest. As the morning moved on things picked up a little with the odd tit flock roaming round the surrounding woodland. One of these flocks found it's way into the catching zone, along with 3 Treecreeper and a couple of finches. We pondered whether any Yellow Bowed Warblers were in the vicinity.

A few Meadow Pipits were heading overhead, however, none ended up in our nets this time.  The only other highlight of the session aside from the Treecreepers was this very striking juvenile male Bullfinch.

Looking forward to see what else the sites produce this Winter.

Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Quiz Night Tuesday - The Golden Question

Welcome to Quiz Night Tuesday

Tonight's question is all about sunflower hearts and Goldfinch.  Last year I noticed a surge in the number of Goldfinch in the garden from the middle of Autumn. Much bigger numbers than in previous years, so I decided to track the Goldfinch a bit more closely by monitoring their numbers and the amount of food they were eating each day. 

I learnt a lot from the study last year and am therefore going to repeat it more accurately this year in an attempt to calculate the amount of energy Goldfinch get from a garden feeder in the Autumn/Winter months.

So your question for tonight, and it is a very tricky one, is as follows:

How many individual sunflower hearts (individual kernels not kilos) did the Goldfinch eat in the 7 day period from 11th October - 17th October 2015. I will help you out with a couple more facts:
  • we had approx a staggering 120 Goldfinch visiting the garden each day
  • it was a dry, sunny week
  • we were using one massive 12 port feeder for the sunflower hearts
  • and finally, this is what a kilo of sunflower hearts looks like

The person with the closest answer will win...................a bag of sunflower hearts of course.

When you post your answer, it would also be great if you could mention what your thought process was in working it out. You have until Thursday evening to post your answers.

And the answer is:

First of all, for a full explanation on last year's Goldfinch survey, please click here.

So here is how I worked out the final answer.

From from 11th October - 17th October 2015 the Goldfinch ate 7.92kg of Sunflower hearts.
I weighed out 50g of sunflower hearts and counted 1120 kernels
So 22,400 in 1kg
7.92 kg x 22,400 kernels = 117,408 kernels

So the answer is 117,408 kernels.

So the closest to this was Hugh with an answer of 174,804 kernels.

Thanks to everyone for having a go and well done Hugh, a bag of sunflower hearts will be on it's way soon.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Spurn Migfest 2016 - Isn't Migration Brilliant!

Migfest (or Migration Festival to give it a full title) really kicks off the Autumn migration season, and is held at Spurn on the East coast. With the highest mainland avian species list, excluding Shetland and Scilly, there really is no other place like Spurn if you want to see the phenomenon of migration in full force! 

Early Saturday morning I arose from a sleepless night, with just a 3 hour journey separating me from a fantastic weekend teeming with birds; and of course catching up with some great friends. Arriving at 9am, I was soon equipped with scope and bins and coat as well (for those of you that attended Migfest you'll know why a coat was particularly necessary). However, before I ventured into the (let's just to put it bluntly) absolute down pour, I called in at Westmere Farm to collect tickets for the Migfest and hog roast, and to say hello to the fabulous organisers and collect a pager for the weekend (thanks Brian/Rare Bird Alert).

On the journey down to Spurn, in fact just approaching Hull,  my phone had notified me of a KENTISH PLOVER seen on the Humber Estuary. On arrival however, after talking to a couple of individuals and the finder, BTO's Andy Clements (well done), there had been no further sign for at least an hour. As the tide was on it's way in, I decided that my best bet for finding the bird would be Kilnsea Wetlands. So I dashed there from Westmere Farm, seeing a couple of late Swift on the way, and meeting up with a few fellow young birders in the actual hide.

As expected the hide was absolute full of sodden birders, however thankfully I managed to squeeze my scope into the little room there was (jabbing the odd person with my tripod leg, sorry if it was you) and began scanning the scrapes. Due to high tide nearly being upon us, waders were flooding in and giving some pretty special views. Hundreds of Dunlin, Golden Plover, Redshank, Knot, Ringed Plover and a few Bar Tailed Godwit were soon settled making life much easier for picking through the masses.

We also got some great close up views of a stunning Wood Sandpiper.

I located the odd Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint within the Dunlin flock. However after nothing else particularly unusual I moved on to the mixed Plover and Knot flock. I scoured through the large quantity of birds; Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Knot, Ringed Plover... and then there is was, the Kentish Plover!

I literally shouted Kentish Plover and everyone in the hide soon had their scopes swinging round to locate it, but just like many scarcities it was quite a distance away. The decision was made with the other young birders to try viewing the bird from the top part of Kilnsea Wetlands alongside Beacon Ponds where hopefully the views would be clearer, but still a safe distance from the bird.  The relentless rain made it much harder to get good views from most places, but we carried on regardless. It was worth it, the views from the bank were great.

Kentish Plover admirers!

This Kentish Plover was only the third record for Spurn. What an amazing start to the weekend.

Sadly the Kentish Plover flew off onto Beacon Ponds, ending up just a tiny spec in the distance. I headed off with a couple of other young birders to do the full walk round the 'triangle', an area with a couple of fields surrounded by scrub, perfect for grounded passerines. With the awful conditions I thought there would be a few less common birds around, and sure enough we managed great views of species like Whinchat, Lesser Whitethroat and Redstart.

As always on the Saturday night there is the official evening of Migfest where great food is served, great people gather to talk to and the evening lecture takes place.  This year the evening lecture was about two international observatories; Cape May bird observatory in North America and Falsterbo in Sweden. Both these birds obs were interesting as they are both on spits just like Spurn.  But first of all, for the 2nd year running, the Spurn Young Birder of the Year award was presented. It was fantastic to see the BTO and Spurn Birds Obs  joining forces to support the under 16s in this fantastic young birders opportunity. This year's award was presented in memory of the fantastic and inspirational birder Martin Garner who has sadly passed away since Migfest 2015.

Martin was an inspiration to all generations of birders and it was so right that the Spurn young birder award is now named "The Martin Garner Young Birder Award".  This year the award went to a great young birder (of course from Cheshire!) called George Dunbar.  I feel so lucky to have met Martin last year at Spurn.  I have always heard so much about him from Bill Morton at Frodsham Marsh, where Martin did his birding at my age. Last year I talked with Martin about Frodsham Marsh. I wish that I could have walked round No. 6 tank with both Bill and Martin, even just once.

On Sunday morning I was up early for the sea watch as the weather was so much better. Visibility was fantastic. The sun rising over the cut corn fields round Spurn was just stunning.

 A couple of juvenile Arctic Skua were the first birds I spotted flying south relatively close in. They were then followed by a third bird even closer which put on a great performance as it chased the juvenile Common Terns. The highlight of the sea watch for me though was the Black Tern which flew past at only 10 meters off shore!

At the start of this blog I mentioned that Spurn is the place to come if you want to see migration. My stand out moment from Migfest was just a Meadow Pipit; well not really just "a" Meadow Pipit. The Arctic Skua, Long Tailed Skua and even the Kentish Plover were totally outdone by the amazing spectacle of migrating Meadow Pipits.  Standing on a grassy bank next to the North Sea, I witnessed not hundreds, but thousands of Meadow Pipits flying overhead and out across the sea. Living in land locked Cheshire I have never seen migration so raw like that before, and I will never forget it.

I spent the rest of the morning at the narrows observing the migration of the many pratensis going over. After being grounded by the weather the day before, there was no holding them back on the Sunday.

Isn't migration brilliant!

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday