Sunday, 30 March 2014

B-L-A-C-K C-A-P!

On Saturday I was ringing again. Now that the days are getting longer it means earlier starts like I witnessed yesterday. I was at one of my favorite sites and it definitely didn't disappoint. The day started off quite slow with a couple of ChiffChaffs and Blue Tits. We were ringing outside the reserve as well as inside the reserve we normally ring in, and took a look at some of the summer net rides that needed adapting as well as looking at some new ones.

One of the nets we put up (a single 15 meter) caught by far my bird of the day.... the first Black Cap of this year. An absolute male stunner as well. This Black Cap had a fat score of 3,  it was possibly still passing through.

You can see the clear moult limit on the wing here in the photo below

 Whilst we were at ringing, we were talking about how we didn't catch that many Reed Buntings at this site, however yesterday we caught 3 of them.  The male is on the left below and the female is on the right. I think these birds have stunning markings, so next time you see one, have a close look at those colours.

By the end of the day we'd caught 5 ChiffChaffs, we think some of them were just passing through.  Throughout the day I was also able to watch a Great Tit going back and to building it's nest, which reminds me, I need to do another check on those nest boxes at my feeding station in the woods near home.

The next blog post will be my 200th and after a day in Angelsey today, I have some amazing birds to blog about.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

WeBS Count Meeting at Wigg Island Last Week

 Last Thursday I couldn't wait to get home from school because I was going to our annual WeBS count meeting for the Mersey Estuary run by Dermot Smith.  WeBS stands for The Wetland Bird Survey and "monitors non-breeding waterbirds in the United Kingdom and is a partnership between the BTO, RSPB and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee in association with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust".

I Try and volunteer to help out with the counts when I can, and will try even harder this year. It's a bit frustrating that some counting areas are not accessible to me as I'm under 16, but I can help Bill Morton at Frodsham Marsh, especially the waders on No.6 tank.

Our meeting was at Wigg Island by the Runcorn Widnes Bridge (below) and we arrived just before dark so we managed to fit in a bit of gull watching first.

The gulls were pretty much silhouetted against the clouds but I tried my best to identify some of them.

The Runcorn Widnes Bridge sometimes has big Starling murmurations, but there wasn't one about whilst I was there.

 The WeBS meeting was great, I met birding friends like Mike Buckley and Shaun Hickey, some new people and learnt lots of new facts.

It was really interesting as usual to see the numbers of birds that move about on the estuary and how their numbers are doing. The Mersey Estuary stretches for about 30 miles and is one of the most important wetlands in Britain and is internationally important for Shelduck, Dunlin and Black Tailed Godwit!

Black Tailed Godwits at Frodsham Marsh

Shelducks on the Weaver Bend

Wigg Island Visitor Centre

Volunteering for this is great because you get to be outdoors and watch some great wildlife and birds, and also help out with some worthwhile research. A perfect end to a school day. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Goodbye to the Brambling until Next Year

Yesterday I was up reasonably early for ringing. As the days are getting longer, you need to have the nets up before dawn, which meant me and my dad were up at 3:30am for a 5am start. The birds were out and about very early too even though it was freezing cold. Soon to be leaving this country, we caught the second Brambling of the year (my brother ringed the first). Numbers we have caught this year are way down on last year, maybe due to the mild winter. This one will soon be heading off to Scandinavia. This was a great and hopeful start to the session, which continued to impress.

We also caught a large bird today, an old enemy to my dad the JAY!!! I let my dad ring this, and I've got to say I was really proud of him, he focused really hard and when it came to measuring the wing my dad was only 1mm out.

 On close inspection we found that this fabulous bird was a juvenile. They are lovely birds when you see them up close but you have to respect that beak and claws.

We were catching a steady number of Chaffinches yesterday, and because it is coming into the breeding season, the chaffinches are starting to come into their breeding plumage. As you can see in this picture below, there is a huge difference between the two. The one on the left has worn away all it's brown on the feathers and this has given way to the beautiful blue crown. The male on the right has still not worn off the brown on the feathers. There is also another difference because if you look at the bill you can see the one on the left has got a blue breeding plumage bill and the one on the right hasn't, instead it's got more of a dull orange bill.

 The site we were at is made up of lots of small trees, unlike the habitat of a Nuthatch, so it was really nice and quite unusual to catch one today. I was really quite pleased with the variety of birds we got to ring today (this Nuthatch was a female, the male has a much richer, chestnutty coloured flanks).

It wasn't just birds we saw today, the flowers were all starting to come out including this Colts Foot and also a few Cow Slips and even a small tortoiseshell butterfly made an appearance. 

As spring is now here I am very much looking forward to some new arrivals - I reckon Sylvia Atricapilla is only a couple of weeks away.

Other birds today included Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Lesser Redpoll, Robin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Song Thrush and Coal Tit.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Chiffchaff, Nest Box Activity & an Early Grey


Today ringing was cancelled due to the wind, so me and my dad decided to take a trip to the feeding station like we do every weekend and in the week as well. All this sunny weather must be bringing the migratory birds in, because after about an hour or two bird watching in the wood me and my dad had seen about eight individual Chiffchaffs, four of which were singing in full song.

This one was showing really well, so I was able to get some great pictures. It wasn't singing, but there was a second one a couple of yards away singing in full voice.

The Pied Wagtails were also showing well coming rather close to us. There were four or five, so I suggest some of the young from last year were with the adult parents.

When we finally got inside the wood, all the feeders were alive with birds, including Nuthatch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Robin, Blackbird and even a Jay came down to the feeders. The Treecreeper were back and snooping around near the feeders; hopefully looking to nest (lets hope this year they're successful).

If you remember me doing that blog on how hard we worked on making and putting those nest boxes up, with some of them so far this year that hard work has payed off. As you can see in this Nuthatch box a Blue Tit (not that clear)  in busy lining the whole edge of the box.

After lunch I set off to the Feeding Station again, this time with my mum. The usual  birds were feeding with an unexpected visitor, a male Siskin. They are one of my favorite finch and always make me smile.  

We get plenty of Rabbits in the wood and as I went to check the nest boxes at the old feeding station (the one that got vandalised) I was greeted with half a rabbit. I suggest due to it being hung over a branch, it's been dropped by a Buzzard or possibly left by a fox as the branch was quite low to the ground.


As Sunday kicked in, I found ringing was canceled again due to the wind, so as a family we all went to the feeding Station again. There were lots of tits and plenty of finches including more Siskins!!! Due to seeing a Siskin on the feeders yesterday we decided to go and put two new nyger seed  feeders up. They definitely succeeded as when I arrived today there were at least 6 of them all feeding together (not in the picture below, that's a mix of the tits). 

Tits and finches weren't the only bird around today, two male woodpeckers kept on scrapping. I suggest it's the juvenile from last year and it's parent. There was also a female about as I saw it on the feeders, lets hope it's attracted to the male's drumming.

Due to us having some dry weather I set the moth trap up last night. because it is still quite cool we only caught 3 moths, nevertheless I still caught a moth that only comes out in March called and Early Grey (in the picture below).

The second and third moth we caught is called a Common Quaker, which I have caught before but always like seeing.

What a brilliant nature filled weekend. I hope you all had just as much fun. Although I am not sure mum enjoyed the "adventure route" I took her on out of the woods!!!!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Picture Underneath

A while ago I did a blog about the annoying stick and how it ruined my favourite Nuthatch picture. Well guess what. A very kind and brilliant photographer called Gwyndaf has removed the annoying stick and just look at the picture now. 

Thank you so much Gwyndaf.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Butterflies, Bugs and of Course Birds

Today I spent an enjoyable day at my feeding station in the woods; the sun was beaming hot and it was like a proper Spring's day. As usual all the birds were out, but the sun also brought some unexpected visitors including this Brimstone Butterfly below and also one or two other butterflies species as well (Tortoise Shell, Peacock and Meadow Brown). 

 Whilst walking along side the little stream flowing through the wood, I found lots of different species of fungi one of which included this Scarlet Elf Cup (thank you to Davey Man for the ID help), this is the first time I've ever seen this species.

 On the way down to the wood you have to walk past a bee hive, the bees had also been awoken by the sun. It was a hive of activity!

The main purpose of going down to the wood was to see if there was any activity in any of the 12 nest boxes we have put up. Me and my dad made a recording sheet and found that four of the boxes had a bit of activity. The one below had a Blue Tit investigating it, one of the open fronted had a Robin taking a look, one of the Nuthatch boxes had had something roosting in it i.e. it had a bit of poo and feathers in it, and finally another one of the Blue Tit ones had quite a bit of poo and feathers in it which to us was quite a good sign. 

We always keep the feeders filled up, and is always nice to photograph some of the attracted birds, my favorite attracted bird visitor has to be the couple of pairs of Nuthatches that keep on feeding on the nuts. 

 All together we have seven good big feeders at the station, all in the shelter of the trees. With the sun shining though the trees, the birds colours were even nicer to witness and enjoy.

Can't wait to get down there again next time!!!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Giving Up Time For Nature

It's the start of Lent today, a time when both religious and even non religious people give up something for 40 days.  It got me thinking about what I would give up if I was going to do it. And then I started to think about what everyone else might being giving up.

I could give up chocolate or maybe Hobnobs, but that doesn't really make any difference to anyone else. So then I thought what if I gave up more time for nature. For example, I could watch a bit less TV and use that time to do more to help our wildlife..........and so could all of you.

So I am asking you to give up some time for Lent (or just because you want to make a difference) and give that time to helping nature. There are loads of things you could do. Here are just 10 simple ideas:

1. Do a nest record for the BTO
2. Feed the birds
3. Clean and disinfect your bird feeders
4. Make a nest box
5. Introduce a friend to birding/nature
6. Give a talk in a school about our amazing wildlife
7. Plant some insect friendly flowers
8. Make a hedgehog house
9. Pick up litter
10. Do a WeBS count

So please add into the comments about what you will do to help nature with the time you give up. And lets get a good head start on making a difference.

I will add the names and promises of anyone joining in on Twitter to the end of the blog so we can all share our ideas. 

So over to you.

Your promises:

Betty Jo Workman ‏@bettyjo62  I am going to try and plant all bee friendly plants and flowers in my garden

BTO ‏@_BTO  We'd like people to look out for birds & record what they see - simples!

Dawn Balmer ‏@DEBALMER  I'll be making extra time to cover two of the random squares for the @_BTO Peregrine Survey. I do my usual surveys too.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Nest Box Weekend

Over the last few weeks I have been spending a bit more time at my old feeding station in the woods. I cleared out the old nesting material from last years nest box (we put up 3 last year and all were occupied by Great Tits or Blue Tits ) we also checked to see if they had been damaged by the horrific wind which some of them had, which gave me the idea to make some new ones. So yesterday on Saturday, me and my dad gathered some materials and equipment to create some new nest boxes, it took a lot of hard work but it was definitely worth it by the standards of the boxes.

We made lots of different types including low fronted, high fronted (this was an experiment to see which box they would prefer), Spotted Flycatcher boxes, Robin boxes, Blackbird boxes, Nuthatch boxes and Great, Coal and Blue Tit boxes. That's a lot of boxes!

This project took all weekend, and so started the second part of this project on Sunday; putting them up. This was probably a hundred times more difficult than I thought it would be. We didn't just have to put them up in the right places, but also load the 12 we made into a into a wheel barrow (along with a ladder) and wheel it through all the deep deep mud in the fields. By the time we got to the feeding station in the woods we were both exhausted so had a bit of a break while filling the feeders up (completely empty) before starting to put up the nest boxes up.

We did actually make 13 nest boxes the 13th of which was an Tawny owl box, but we didn't have the right equipment to put it up. The farmer ( yes you know who you are :) ) - as he reads my blog from time to time gave us two other Tawny boxes that he had been given some years ago but had never been put up. Here's the Tawny one we made below. Dad putting a sliding shutter in the back just in case it ever needs opening.  

We numbered all the nest boxes 1 to 12 and also made two Barn Owl boxes for my ringing trainer Peter.

Overall a brilliant weekend even though I was quite ill with a throat infection, but the question is now....

Will the birds use the nest boxes???

Speaking of nest boxes, Blue Tits have been roosting and investigating my colonial nest boxes which were supposed to be for House Sparrows.

And finally a big Happy Birthday to my brother Harley who is 10 today. Happy Birthday Harley.

Wild Bird Wednesday