Sunday, 26 October 2014

Yellow Browed Warbler - here to stay?

Once again it was great to be back out ringing on Saturday.  The session started off slow (we expected more as the conditions were ideal), catching a couple of finches, tits and thrushes. With spare moments when we weren't catching birds we sat with a cup of coffee and a biscuit (or two) watching the huge flocks of Pink Foots drifting over- what a fantastic noise and commotion.

The Redwing numbers had died down massively considering the passage last week when we caught and ringed 30. In fact this week we barely heard any Redwing passing over never mind a flock and we only ringed three.

When we went on our third net round check, in one of our single 12 metre nets we noticed a warbler pocketed in the 3rd panel. We approached the solitary bird thinking it was a Goldcrest. We then noticed two distinct wing bars across each wing suggesting something different.. was in fact a Yellow Browed Warbler!

This Autumn has brought many things, the change in season, outstanding scenery, incredible fungi and some fabulous birds. Yellow Browed Warblers are one of those special birds and have become more and more frequent visitors to the UK.

In around the 1970's Yellow Browed Warbler occurred in Britain in very limited numbers; however in the last several years this species has flooded into the country distributing everywhere across the UK including the site we were ringing at yesterday. This could be  largely to do with the fact that our  Winters are warmer and they could be being using it as a wintering ground, this may be linked with climate change. Birds ringed across the UK and further afield will further help us understand their movements and populations.

We collected the biometrics from the bird with the bird weighing 6.4 grams, not much bigger or heavier than a Goldcrest (Goldcrests on average weighing just over 5g). This bird will stick in my memory for a long time and it was fascinating to be able to see it up close and study it,  a great reward for all the effort we put into ringing and the management of our ringing sites.

This Yellow Browed Warblers now adds to some great results this year including Spotted Flycatchers, Firecrest, Cetti's Warblers and Siberian Chiffchaff.  

Sunday, 19 October 2014

"Reddy" or Not, Here They Come!

It was good to be out ringing again on Saturday, especially because of the amount of Redwings flooding into the country from the East Coast. I'd seen my first couple of flocks on Tuesday morning on my way to school and with all the easterly wind in the week, it helped them along on their way.

We were ringing at one of our main Winter sites, however it certainly didn't feel like Winter or even Autumn, as on the way there the temperature was recorded at sixteen degrees.

Whilst setting up we could hear the Redwing passing over with their seeping contact call. As quite a few were going over we decided to set a couple of nets for catching them. 

When dawn finally approached we were already starting to get results.The Winter thrushes were coming in at a good pace, catching about several per net round, which is good for our first session catching them this year.

When we started to process the Redwings we noticed that we were possibly catching two different races of bird. One or two birds were quite dark with slightly longer wing lengths and heavier weights than normal (our lightest Redwing today weighing 51 grams and our heaviest 73 grams ). These birds were possibly from the Icelandic race - coburni.  Out of our 31 Redwings ringed today 47% were adults.

We also noticed on the Redwings that some of them had a couple of ticks, however all of these were very small which suggests that these specimens were on the birds just before leaving the country they came from. This is one way that places can get infected with parasites and therefore infect other birds with diseases.

Redwing with tick 

There were few finches around today, however there were some other highlights as an adult Jay made its way into our nets and a young female Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

Just waiting for those Fieldfares to put in an appearance next!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Harry The Hen Harrier's Winter Roost

Now I hope you all remember Harry! If not he's the six foot Hen Harrier who has been on quite a journey so far. It was all started off by a small scarecrow competition in my village, however now Harry is raising lots and lots of awareness about the persecution of Hen Harriers at events like the Hen Harrier Day in the Peak District.

Now, the last time I saw Harry was at the Birdfair at Rutland Water where I handed him over into the care of the RSPB.  However, a while ago I got an email from the RSPB saying that Harry was heading back North. He's back now, located at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands and reminding people of the real danger of Hen Harriers going extinct in England. 

Sightings of Harry so far - Moulton, Peak District, Rutland, Sandy, Leeds and Burton Mere.

Unfortunately on Monday I was at school, so wasn't allowed to travel over to Leeds and meet Andre Farrar who had Harry for us to collect and bring back to Burton Mere. Andre had some help from his son Jack when he was loading Harry up.

Jack Farrar and Harry

Harry "relaxing" in the van in Leeds

When my dad arrived at Burton Mere with Harry he was greeted by Dan Trotman (Visitor Development Officer of Burton Mere), who helped set Harry up in his new Winter roost position. 

Harry and Dan

Hopefully by having Harry at quite a popular reserve it will make even more people think about how we all need to work together to protect Hen Harriers.  Harry may be lucky to see other Hen Harriers flying across Burton Mere and up and down the estuary at Parkgate.

Already several of this year's satellite tagged juvenile fledged Hen Harriers have "disappeared" with no further information coming from their tags. England should support at least 300 or more Hen Harrier pairs, however only 4 pairs bred in England this year. What happened to all the others? Were they shot, poisoned, trapped?

The good news is that Harry is already attracting some attention These nice ladies were interested to know all about Harry and why he was at Burton Mere. Hopefully they will now talk to other people about saving our Hen Harriers.

I know that Harry will settle really well at Burton Mere because the area around the Dee estuary has a few roost sites for Hen Harriers. I will be going to see him again at the weekend. I've really missed him.  If you go to see him, please post a Harry selfie on Twitter and use #HarrySelfie

So there you have it, Harry the Hen Harrier is back up and running trying to save his species. The war against nature by some of mankind isn't over, not by a long shot, however hopefully more and more people will try to do what they can to protect species like the Hen Harrier.

Harry at RSPB Burton Mere

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Wilde on Wild

A few weeks ago I did some filming with CBBC for their Wild series. They followed me on a morning ringing session, right from the minute I got up!

It was a brilliant opportunity to show other children the interesting and important work that the BTO do. I am so grateful for the opportunity to reach so many people and I hope it inspires more younger people to get involved.

If you would like to watch the program, here is my bit:

Sunday, 5 October 2014

A Late Brood of Barn Owlets

Morning Session

As the Winter starts to draw in, getting up is gradually getting later which means I'm not too tired and can catch up and recover from the early Summer sessions. I was glad to be out this morning, as it poured with rain yesterday so I was a bit stuck at home, although I did manage a quick trip to Winsford Flash early in the morning to see this pair of Snipe.

 Today made up for all yesterday's rained off birding though. We of course started by putting all the nets up and a solitary Tawny Owl was calling close by, probably watching us. It was a lot cooler this morning than it has been and I needed my coat for the first time in months.

As we got in to the session, the birds came in in a steady pace, mainly Blackcap and Wrens, however as we continued along the nets we came to a Cetti's Warbler. I was stunned and amazed, and even though it was a re-trap from last week it was fantastic to study it close up, especially as it's the first time I've ever seen this species.

Throughout the rest of the course of the day we caught a couple of Chiffchaff, a beautiful male, a female Bullfinch, a few Blackbirds, a couple of Song Thrush and about five Gold Crests. It was really nice to see Kevin, Dan and Sophie; all the trainees were out today.

Owlet Session

After our main session of ringing we went to check a couple of our Barn Owl boxes. The first one we couldn't check as the owner of the farm wasn't in. However with the second one we managed to ring three healthy chicks. These birds take a ring size of a G. This is quite a late second brood, however looking at them, they still had at least 2-3 weeks to go before they leave the nest. 

Last year was a bad year for Barn Owls, so it is great to see second broods this year.

Just waiting for those Winter thrushes to show up now.