Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sprawk Alert

As you may of guessed Saturday was another ringing trip with Peter, Pete, Dad and Dan. Getting up isn't as early now, but I was still a bit tired when me and my dad left the house. I was up in South Lancashire this session and we noticed from various sections of the site that there had been some reasonable bird movements. Although finch numbers are building up their has been fewer numbers of Goldcrests.

In the last 3-4 weeks we have been catching quite a good number of Redwing and Fieldfare at this site and we had a feeling we might catch even more. A new net ride we had been trying has been catching really well and probably has caught the main Redwing and Fieldfare numbers. Once all the nets were up we went down a track to where Peters van was parked and collected our ringing equipment.

On the first net round we all check them together and if we bring back a large volume of birds me and Pete will start processing them straight away and ring them. When my dad and Peter came back after one net round he had loads of birds he also said that a male Sparrowhawk was around the area. This particular site doesnt seem to have many sparrow hawks about so it was noticable.

But when they both came back from another net round; I saw them bringing a large bag with a biggish shape in it; as the bag came closer towards me I saw these four big talons piercing through the bag material, me and Dan then knew it was the Sparrowhawk.

 However, this Sparrowhawk wasn't the male that had been seen earlier it was a female. The female is much larger and takes and E ring. The male takes a D ring. Dan ringed this bird and we both were amazed by its beauty and it was fantastic to gain this experience.

 At the end of the day the total of ringed birds equaled 130;  the most amount of birds caught in a session with me training yet. Other birds ringed were:

2 Fieldfare
13 Redwing
4 Song Thrush
27 Greenfinch
2 Bullfinch
13 Chaffinch
37 Goldfinch
1 Yellowhammer
8 Blue Tit
1 Coal Tit
2 Great Tit
9 Long Tailed Tit
3 Wren
4 Goldcrest
1 Meadow Pipit
1 Blackcap
1 Robin

Here's me looking rather cautious holding this stunning bird, it possibly will become my new profile picture. I had a lot of respect for this powerful predator.

A big thank you to Dave Culley on Twitter who gave me this information on using the eye colour to age a Sparrowhawk. 

"Eyes first born,black brown/then grey green/then lemon/then yellow/then orange/blood red in older birds. That would put his bird at about 5 months old."

Dave made a film all about a family of Sparrowhawks living near Northwich and Chris Packham narrated it.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Red Kites, Red Kites and More Red Kites

I spent most of half term holiday at my Grandma's in North Wales. She lives in a valley with a river running through it and it's great for all sorts of wildlife and den building, but more about that to come in another blog. 

On the way back from RSPB Conwy, we were driving along the country roads when we suddenly spotted a group of Red Kites soaring above a grassy green hill. We pulled off the road onto a track, stopped and spent the next few hours flying with 13 mesmerising Red Kites (well it felt like I was flying with them).

No more words needed. I hope you enjoy the pictures. If you click on the pictures they do go bigger.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Turtle Doves - Extinct in my Lifetime?

Seeing as Mark Avery has been kind enough to share my badger homework today, I thought I might do his Sunday book review.

A few days ago when I got home from school I got in and found what looked to be a very old book on my kitchen table,. It had been given to me by a generous man called Stephen Entwistle who buys and sells old books. Anyway I looked inside and it was filled with records and pictures of birds recorded by a lady called Rita Howell. She lived on a farm on the Wirral in Cheshire.

It must of been her pride and joy because there were feathers and all sorts pressed in it, there were even the crest feathers from a lapwing.

Here is the front page of the book, it was originally a bird guide, but the lady put all her records in at the top of the page of the birds she had seen and the dates she saw those particular species. I can imagine her walking across those chalk fields and lifting her bins up and being in wonder at watching those birds.

When I was talking about her pressing feathers she had collected these spectacular Barn Owl Feathers.

But the most interesting thing for me is that when I had a flick through the book I realised two birds that she saw regularly in her days, but now are not far of extinct in the UK the Cuckoo and the most amazing Turtle Dove.

I have never seen a Cuckoo or Turtle Dove before, but in 1962 Rita was seeing them in the fields of Cheshire. So are they in such a bad state that it is to late to bring them back or can we all work together to help them come back?

Our World Tuesday

Wild Bird Wednesday

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Viking Invasion

Saturday was another epic ringing session. The time to get up is finally getting a bit later and so I had a lie in until 4am. We met ScouseRinger at 5:30am when it was still dark. 

When we had set the nets up it was just getting light and, as we were walking down a track back to Peters van to get the ringing equipment, we saw the ghostly shadows of two Barn Owls hunting together; it was a true spectacle of nature. I have seen some amazing wildlife things in my life like the murmaration at Marbury Park or the flock of 400 Black Tailed Godwits that once flew over my head, but the Barn Owl spectacle has got to be one of my top ten. 

As it got properly light, birds started to move around a bit more, especially the flocks of Redwing that had just arrived from Scandinavia.  Our first net round brought us a few Robins a Blackbird and our first 4 Redwing, I have never ringed or even held Redwing before so it was rather special.  As well as big flocks of Redwing, large numbers of Pink Footed Geese were passing over.


 Redwing catches were steady throughout the morning and it was very interesting processing good numbers of these birds to understand their characteristics. Redwings take a ring size of CC  and by the end of the session we had processed 43 Redwings. There were also smaller numbers of Fieldfare moving through and they often mix in with the Redwing flocks .We only caught one Fieldfare though.

Female Fieldfare

This Fieldfare we caught was a female due to the markings on the crown.


It really was the day of the thrushes, catching 4 species Redwing, Blackbird, Fieldfare, and Song Thrush; one of my favorites, these are really noisy birds just like Great Spotted Woodpeckers (another nice species of bird we caught today, first time for a while). Some of the Redwings we caught today were possibly from the Icelandic form as they can have a greater wing length and have darker plumage.

Song Thrush

Another great session with lots of learning.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Is It Safe To Come Out Yet?

For my music homework at school I had to come up with a song that meant something to me and present it back in whatever style I wanted to.  This is the end result. I thought I would share it with you too.

Some of the badgers are the pictures I took in North Wales and some are from the internet.

Please stop the cull Mr Paterson.

Our World Tuesday

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A very Late Reed Warbler & Attack of the Ladybirds!


On Saturday I was out ringing again and caught some lovely birds as usual. Sparrowhawks were active again this week and the wonderful clattering of Jackdaws greeted us like last week. We caught quite a number of Blackbirds along with a Song Thrush, and some very fat Blackcaps weighing between 17 and 28 grams. The reason they have put on this much weight is because they are getting ready to migrate, the female we caught that weighed 28 grams had an amazing six of fat. 

Another amazing bird we caught was a Reed Warbler which is majorly unusual for this time of year (the one in the picture is from earlier this year).


On Sunday I visited Haydn's pool with mum . The pool was almost empty and not a single bird was on it so we soon moved onto Neumann's Flash which was much more exciting; seeing at least 200 Lapwings a a variety of gulls. We also had a family group of buzzards circling above us, calling to each other.

Whilst in out trip we were accompanied by loads of dragonfly as shown in the picture below. I think this might be a Brown Hawker from doing some research, but I could do with a bit of help confirming this.

As we were walking down a lane back from Neuman's Flash a lady bird landed on me and I blew it off, then suddenly another one landed on me I blew that off as well. I thought well that's unusual. I looked around and there were hundreds of ladybirds flying into me and my mum all looking completely different. This was the short stretch of path where they were swarming.

When I got home I did some research and found out they were all Harlequin Ladybirds. They are not native and were introduced here in 2004 to eat aphids. Unfortunately they are eating all of our native ladybirds food, not just that though, they are also very aggressive and eat butterfly and moth larvae.

It has been another very interesting weekend

And so once again I would like to say a big thank you to my mum and dad for helping me.

I still feel like the ladybirds are crawling all over me!