Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Portstewart Strand 22+25th October 2016

Well after complaining about the lack of warblers of late we were finally delivered a Chiffchaff, which are scarce enough around the ringing site and it is only the third ringed this year (also 3 ringed in 2015).  The migrating birds have continued in a similar theme over the last couple of visits on the 22nd and 25th with plenty of Blackbirds, Chaffinch, Skylarks, Song Thrushes, Teal, Whooper Swans etc.   The conditions were ideal for the ringing visits of Dean & I on Saturday and John & Dean this morning (Tuesday) although temperatures have dropped down close to freezing but still no frost! 


The catches are still slightly lower than usual with the finches still missing but decent numbers of Blackbird and Song Thrush did make up for that.  We also caught yet another Stonechat making it the twelve for the year and the Chiffchaff the third as mentioned above.  It looks like we have had another small arrival of Goldcrests and 5 more new birds were caught.  Redwings continue to pass through in small numbers and we had attracted c10 birds around the nets on Saturday morning but all managed to remain unringed. 


PSS Ringing Totals 22 + 25/10/2016
                                New      Retrap
Blackbird                   7              2              
Blue Tit                     4              1
Chaffinch                  5              1 
Chiffchaff                  1
 Dunnock                   2             2
Goldcrest                   5
Goldfinch                  1
Great Tit                    1              5
Linnet                        2
Meadow Pipit            10
Robin                         4              2  
Song Thrush              7
Stonechat                   1
Wren                          2              5           

Total                        52             18            

On the very windy Sunday morning I was on site again around first light to do a little work to some of the net rides.  I was about for around 4 hours but noticed few birds other than some Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and a Sparrowhawk.  I did get quite a bit done with the chainsaw despite the chain coming off twice (real pain if it jams) but I'll need another morning or two to finish off everything we've planned - more net rides that are protected from the wind in various directions plus lowering a few trees at the side of East Ride.

Steve was down home in Gortin, County Tyrone at the weekend and headed out to one of his woodland ringing sites.  The catch was pretty decent considering the site has no feeders to focus the birds into one area.  He did have a flock of c40 Redwing pass over mid-morning and they showed a bit of interest in the Latvian Redwing tape but only one bird hit the nets.

Treecreeper (SF)

Gortin Ringing Totals
                           New        Retrap
Blue Tit                 7
Coal Tit                 1
Goldcrest               2
Great Tit                                1
Long-tailed Tit       5
Redwing                1
Song Thrush          2
Treecreeper           1
Wren                      2

Total                    21              1            

Redwing (SF)

Friday, 21 October 2016

Thrushes plus Sandwich Tern and Storm Petrel Recoveries

It has been yet another quiet week in the Bann Estuary and we still can't manage to find a warbler of any form!  The week was split into two weather wise with windy and wet conditions from Saturday to Tuesday and warmer settled weather for the rest of the week, with the winds still generally from the east or south.  Wednesday marked the first day of northerlies for almost 3 weeks and it brought some new birds with it.

Redwing (JC)

The first half of the week was the quieter period with little obvious passage or grounded migrants with only a handful of Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Song Thrushes and singles of Redwing flying over early morning.  Goldcrest numbers have dropped off quite substantially with only one bird caught and only a few heard.  Things on the estuary have been a little better with lots of Golden PloverTeal and Wigeon, a constant stream of Whooper Swans flying over from Wednesday, six Greylag Geese, six Little Egrets (3 more than my previous patch max count), three Great-crested Grebes and only the second Little Grebe of the year.  Thursday seen a better movement of thrushes with larger numbers of Redwing and a new wave of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes.  Skylark movement also picked up with flocks of up to 50 birds passing through on Thursday.  At least one Long-eared Owl is still frequenting the area and was spotted on two mornings pre 7am. 

Whooper Swans (JC)

Again we managed a couple of ringing sessions before work or on days off so generally shorter restricted sessions when working by ourselves or in twos.  A sprinkling of northern migrants has helped boost the numbers as the local bird numbers continue to struggle.  The first Redwing of the autumn is always nice and a further two Skylarks are welcome as they can be a challenge to catch! 


PSS Ringing Totals 15 - 20/10/2016
                                New      Retrap
Blackbird                   6                
Blue Tit                      1  
Dunnock                    1              3
Goldcrest                   1
Goldfinch                                   1
Great Tit                    2              1
Linnet                        2
Meadow Pipit           18
Redwing                    4
Robin                        1               5  
Skylark                      2   
Song Thrush             2
Wren                         4           

Total                       44               10            

Skylark (JC)

The feeding station has been relocated as it has become very exposed since the leaves have fallen off the trees so the birds are steering clear when the nets are up.  The feeders have also been plagued with rats with up to three large brutes spotted at a time so a new location was certainly in order.


It has been a while since we have had a Sandwich Tern recovered in Africa but news came in of our 66th bird to the continent.  The bird was retrapped in La Somone, Senegal, which is our second bird from the site and 25th to Senegal.  The last one was controlled some 14 years ago so it has been quite a wait to get one from La Somone!
The bird was ringed by us as a pullus at Inch Island, Donegal on the 4th of June 2014 and re-caught by a South African (at least registered) ringer on the 6th of April of this year.  The straight line distance between the sites is 4585 km with the time lapsed of 672 days. 

Sandwich Tern recovery in La Somone, Senegal

As mentioned in the previous post we had news of another Storm Petrel controlled elsewhere in the British Isles and since then we've had another two reports in!
The first bird was controlled at Rhuba nan Sasan, Loch Ewe, Highland, Scotland on the 3rd of September 2016 at a distance of 305 km.  We had trapped the bird 38 days earlier on the 27th of July at Rinnagree Point, Portstewart. 

The other two birds are quite interesting and almost associated.  They represent an exchange from the Calf of Man Bird Observatory in both directions.  The first of these was a bird that we ringed at Rinnagree Point on the 19th of July this year which was controlled only 4 days later at the Observatory at the southern tip of the Isle of Man.  On that same night the Obs staff ringed another Storm Petrel which made its way to us nine days later, taking the reverse route as the first.
These are not the first Storm Petrels that we have exchanged with the Calf (174km straight line distance away) with two of ours going there and two of theirs coming our way.  Two of those birds were also caught within less 15 days apart so it is clearly a natural route for the birds through July and August. 

Edited note: I've only just noticed that the bird of ours trapped at the Calf was the same bird also caught at Bardsey Bird Observatory 19 days later. 

Storm Petrel Recoveries

The settled weather looks set to continue into the weekend so we will hopefully get another visit in and potentially carry out a bit of habitat management.
Our final visit to Copeland Bird Observatory for the season is pencilled in for next weekend so fingers crossed the weather is kind to us and we actually manage to get to the island and get some nice birds!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Early October

The spell of easterlies has continued into a second week and they've gradually got stronger and brought some wetter weather in the later half of this week.  In the quieter spells we managed another couple of visits to Portstewart Strand in what you would call 'ideal conditions'.
The hoped for rarities from the east didn't materialise and Northern Ireland managed just two Yellow-browned Warblers when there have probably been 1000+ across the UK and Ireland including 50 ringed at Cape Clear Bird Observatory at the far end of Ireland.  NI didn't miss out totally and notched up its first Red-flanked Bluetail and a nice Red-breasted Flycatcher - all four birds in County Down.
We on the other hand couldn't even muster a Blackcap or Chiffchaff but we have seen a continued run of thrushes.  The first few Redwings started passing through last Friday with further Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and the first Mistle Thrush I've seen at Portstewart Strand itself. Goldcrests continue to flit through with birds scattered everywhere through the scrub.  Other notable arrivals include more new Stonechats, another wave of Blue Tits (no doubt local), 3+ Great Creasted Grebes, flocks of Skylarks, the first Jack Snipe of the year and a Long-tailed Duck which I missed.


Ringing was by no means prolific but another 3 new Stonechats and a Skylark were nice catches. October was the best month for numbers last year so hopefully things will pick up with a return of some northerlies.


PSS Ringing Totals 07 - 11/10/2016
                                New      Retrap
Blackbird                    6             2
Blue Tit                      7    
Bullfinch                    1
Chaffinch                   3                  
Dunnock                                    2
Goldcrest                   4    
Goldfinch                   5              3
Great Tit                    4               3
Meadow Pipit            3
Reed Bunting            1
Robin                         1               2
Skylark                      1       
Song Thrush             4
Stonechat                  3               1
Wren                         2               1              

Total                       45               14             

Song Thrush

Last week Ken hosted Siobhan in his garden for another training session.  Conditions were good and the number of birds visiting the feeders continue to build.  Chaffinch, as usual, were top of the bill with 13 new birds while Coals Tits were the most numerous species processed with 18.

Kens Garden 06/10/2016
                                New      Retrap
Blue Tit                       7            4    
Chaffinch                   13           3        
Coal Tit                      9             9
Dunnock                    1              1
Goldcrest                   2    
Goldfinch                   8
Great Tit                    8              6
Robin                         4              2
Wren                         4                          

Total                       56              25             

Unfortunately our weekend trip to Copeland Bird Observatory has been canceled due to the weather but we will hopefully get rescheduled for a couple of weeks time.  As such, the prospects for weekend ringing look limited to a wind restricted short window on Saturday morning but we may give it a go.

We've had word of another Storm Petrel recovery but I'll update on that next time.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

1st of October 2016

Finally, after waiting for what seems like months, we got our first day of northerly winds which were ideal for ringing.  We have had pretty constant southerlies for much of the autumn which doesn't really do us any favours in the centre of the north coast of NI and we tend to have more luck from the north!  John, Dean and I were on site pre dawn and quickly set about getting the nets up covering all our usual net rides minus the end 60 metres of west ride.  We have abandoned this stretch of nets since the summer as they haven't been catching birds.


It was a slow start with thick cloud so it took a couple of hours before the birds, particularly in the open, got moving.  The morning started off with a nice surprise when I flushed two Long-eared Owls from the end of East Ride which appear to have been roosting in the vicinity for the past week following sightings from the local walkers.  Thrushes were also notable after first light with lots of freshly arrived Blackbirds and a few Song Thrushes chittering.  Finch numbers have increased with more Chaffinch and Bullfinch in the scrub and bigger numbers of Linnet and Goldfinch roving around the open dunes once the sun got up plus the first two Lesser Redpolls of the autumn.  Other arrivals included another small wave of Goldcrests, the first movement of Skylark (c40), yet more Meadow Pipits, 3/4 Reed Bunting, five new Stonechats and singles of Blackcap, Sparrowhawk and Wheatear.      


The ringing didn't produce a big catch given the numbers of birds about but there was a nice spread of 13 species including 3 new Stonechat, another Blackcap and a Reed Bunting.  The number of new Blue Tits this year is out of the norm but I suspect it is just the earlier feeding station attracting them in and keeping them there. 

PSS Ringing Totals 01/10/2016     
                                New      Retrap
Blackcap                    1          
Blue Tit                       3              
Bullfinch                     1
Chaffinch                   1                            
Dunnock                    3            
Goldcrest                   3              1
Goldfinch                   3
Great Tit                    1              1
Linnet                        2
Reed Bunting            1
Robin                         2              1
Stonechat                  3                
Wren                         2               2             

Total                       26               5             

A quick wind restricted attempt last week produced only a few birds but it did include the first Coal Tit of the autumn!  As we stand at the moment we are c190 new birds down at Portstewart Strand from the same point last year!

Coal Tit

One of the Storm Petrels we ringed on the 19th of July this year wound up in another mist net and this time it is a new destination for us - Bardsey Bird Observatory.  This represents only our second Storm Petrel to/from Wales following one of ours caught at Porth Iago, Llyn Peninsula, Gwynedd in 2013 which is just across from Bardsey Island on the Welsh mainland.       
The bird was caught at Bardsey BO 16 days after ringing at a distance of 298km. 

You can follow regular updates from Bardsey Bird Observatory on their blog Bardsey's Wildlife @ http://bbfo.blogspot.co.uk/ or click on the link at the side. 

Storm Petrel recovery to Bardsey Bird Observatory

The forecast over the next week or so seems to be constant south-easterlies which for everyone else is great news and it might be that they will blow something our way given the strength and longevity of the winds!  A Yellow-browed Warbler seems to be on the cards for someone in Northern Ireland in the coming week given the numbers in Britain at the moment, particularly the observatories in the north Irish Sea.   

Monday, 3 October 2016

Cape Clear Bird Observatory 22-25 September

This weekend seen myself (Dean) and another trainee from the North, David S, head down to Cape Clear Bird Observatory to help trial the new bird ringing course.  After a rather long but fun filled drive from the north (6.5 hours), David and myself set off from the lovely seaside town of Baltimore for Cape Clear at around 18:00.  As we made our way out of the sheltered bay composed of a scattering of small islands and islets we were hit by strong south westerly winds.  Immediately our quick pint and a pizza at Baltimore didn’t seem like such a good idea as the ferry was met by the rather daunting swell.  Our sea legs faired however leaving us to enjoy a superb journey from Baltimore.  On route we were blessed with sightings of numerous Gannets, Black-headed Gulls and a lovely raft of around 100 Kittiwakes just off the North end of the island.  Slowly but surely we powered into Cape’s waters, eventually reaching a small islet located along the north west stretch of the island aptly named “Bird Island”.  As we approached we realised the islet was covered in Cormorant, Shag and a small number of Great black-backed Gulls.  Then as I was making some brief counts, something small and pale floating on the surface of the water caught my eye.  After raising my bins I was surprised to see a Grey Phalarope floating between the now reserved bouts of swell, David and I were delighted!  A new lifer for us both and we hadn’t even landed on the island yet, a sign of great things to come we thought! 

We landed in North harbour at around 19:00 and were met off the boat by Sam Bayley the current Wildlife Officer at Cape Clear Bird Observatory who, after helping us lug our kit to the observatory building, gave us a bit of a tour and a brief introduction to the island and the other bird ringers involved in the course.  We were both pretty wrecked from the long Diet Coke fuelled journey so after the evening log and a quick hot toddy we settled down for an early night to try and re-charge the batteries for the excitement ahead.

Goldcrest sheltering from the wind (DJ)

The next morning we split up into two groups and set off to unfurl the nets at two different sites on the island by 06:00am. Things were rather breezy as we arrived, though better than predicted, which enabled us to catch a small number of Goldcrest, Blackbird and Dunnock amongst others. We also made an attempt at catching some Meadow Pipit which were fluttering in small numbers around the site but the weather didn't work with us.  Disappointingly the winds then picked up leading us to furl the nets and leave the site a few hours earlier than planned.  We caught up with the other group by an area called the Nordy Wood, a lush area of mixed native woodland species which were planted there a number of years ago by another group of Northerners.  The other group faired roughly the same as us though they were lucky enough to catch the only Blackcap and Song Thrush of the weekend as well as a new Chiffchaff.  As we were getting ready to pack up at this site we got the news of a juvenile Common Rosefinch which was spotted in a Sycamore tree not far from where we had set up base.  David and I couldn’t pass up the chance for bagging another lifer so we set out to see if we could catch a glimpse, unfortunately we dipped!

Chiffchaff (DS)

The south westerly gales battered on through the afternoon squandering any attempts to get out ringing again.  Instead we equipped ourselves with hiking boots and numerous choccy biscuits and headed out to the south west part of the island for a spot of sea watching, something Cape Clear is reputed for being one of the best places in Europe for.  Scopes were shaky in the oncoming winds but we did manage to get some counting done.  The highlight during our watch had to be a lone Sooty Shearwater gliding and circling effortlessly above the intimidating waves.  We spent a good hour counting before we decided of head back via the East bog ringing site and the lake where we seen Chough, Dabchick, Stonechat and a nice flock of Starling (No Rose-coloured Starling however which had been seen a number of days previous).

Spotted Flycatcher (older pic of adult from CBO)

Again Saturday’s weather was less than favorable composing of more strong winds and heavy showers.  Therefore we opted for a bit of a lie in (which was well needed after playing Bill Oddies bird race game till near 2 in the morning) followed by a morning of presentations from Sam about his birding adventures around the world along with a few bird ageing quizzes to get the brain juices flowing.  After a late lunch we then headed to South Harbour where we had received a report of a small stranding of Portuguese Man O War.  We counted a total of around 60 of these colonial Siphoniphores the most I have ever seen in one wreck.  Shortly after we headed back out to set up the nets at an area called Cotters Garden situated behind the islands pub.  Here we caught some new Goldcrests, a few Blue Tits and the star of the show a super juvenile Spotted Flycatcher.  Things were looking good then out of nowhere the rain started pelting it down leading to us once again having to pack up the nets.  All was not lost however as after the rains had passed we had a go at Woosh netting baited with bread and sausages (these darn birds eat better than I do).  Within seconds of baiting the trap we caught a smashing 1st winter Herring Gull, shortly followed by a Hooded Crow.  A new ringing tick for our trainer and tutor Jodie Crane, the first she has had in two years!

Hooded Crow (DJ)

Sunday morning’s weather followed a similar trend to the rest of the weekend however we did get the nets up briefly in both the Nordy Wood and Cotters sites.  After we processed a few birds which included some new Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.  David and I then got a brief insight into Potter trapping on the isle before we embarked once again on the gruelling travel north.

Willow Warbler (DJ)

Blue Tit (DS)
All and all our weekend on Cape Clear was an extremely interesting and enjoyable one, despite the rubbish weather.  I'll definitely be heading down to this beautiful island again for a spot of birding and it possible another one of the Observatories ringing courses! 

Dean Jones

Cape Clear Ringing List 22-25 September

                                  New            Retrap
Blackbird                     4                   1
Blackcap                     1
Blue Tit                      12                 4
Chiffchaff                    3                  1
Dunnock                     6                  2
Goldcrest                   27                 6
Goldfinch                     1
Great Tit                      1
Herring Gull                 1
Hooded Crow              1
Robin                          2
Song Thrush               1
Spotted Flycatcher     1
Willow Warbler           4                   1
Wren                          4                   1

Totals                       69                  16

Cape Clear Sighting List

Little Grebe
Manx Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Grey Heron
Black Guillemot
Peregrine Falcon
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Grey Phalarope
Rock Dove
Song Thrush
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Willow Warbler
Reed Warbler
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Pied/White Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Spotted Flycatcher
Hooded Crow
Reed Bunting
Common Rosefinch

As of this year Cape Clear Bird Observatory is once again open to visitors to come and stay and they are always very keen for ringers to visit.  For more information on the Obs and how to visit check out the BirdWatch Ireland page - http://www.birdwatchireland.ie/Birdwatching/CapeClearBirdObservatory/tabid/567/Default.aspx

For up to date sightings at Cape Clear you can follow the Obs on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/CCBOIE
or all Ireland sightings at - http://www.irishbirding.com/birds/web

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Copeland Bird Observatory 17-18th of September & PSS

After our 13 hour delay getting to Copeland Bird Observatory due to the tide, we set sail from Bangor at 7am, all a little weary eyed.  As well as Dean, Steve and myself, we were joined by Laurence from the Belfast and Down Ringing Group for the weekend.  The trip out was a new route for us leaving from Bangor and it was a real treat with perhaps 500+ Razorbills all around the mouth of Belfast Lough with a scattering of Black Guillemots, Guillemots and Eiders along the way. 
We arrived on the island around 8am and immediately set about opening the traps and getting some mist nets up.  We used the usual lot of the favoured net rides and opened the 4 helgoland traps, crow trap and a few potters baited with sardines.

Water Rail

The weather was decent with moderate westerlies for Saturday morning switching to southerlies in the afternoon for the rest of the weekend.  Saturday was a hot sunny day, where as Sunday was a little greyer with light drizzle as we were getting ready to depart mid-afternoon.

The range of migrants on show was lower than expected but a couple of species passed in large numbers.  Swallows and Meadow Pipits were the main feature with probably 800+ of the former and 500+ Mipits passing over the two days.  As usual in September, Robins begin to arrive back on the island after heading elsewhere for the breeding season.  A number of adult birds were reencountered that hadn't been seen since the spring plus a number of new juveniles.  Finches arrived on Sunday with 80+ Goldfinch, 40+ Linnets, a couple of Chaffinch and a single Lesser Redpoll.  Lesser Redpoll will soon become the dominate passage species as the autumn progresses with over 800 ringed last year!  There was a light scattering of Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, House Martins and singles of Skylark, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Willow Warbler and a migrant Blackcap. 


The ringing was pretty decent in terms of numbers which were bolstered by the three main movers with 22 Swallows, 14 Meadow Pipits and 13 Robin.  The first couple of rounds on Sunday morning produced the majority of the new Chiffchaffs (5) and Golcrests (3).  The Chaffinch caught is more than likely a controlled bird although it could have been ringed on the island 6+ years ago. 

Willow Warbler (left) and Chiffchaff
On Saturday night, as we were heading out shearwatering, we got a nice a surprise when we captured a Water Rail in one of the baited potter traps.  The bird was already bearing a ring and was originally trapped on the island back in 2012.  Despite the very bright full moon we managed to ring 29 Manx Shearwaters which were all pulli or recently fledged birds.  We also set the moth trap to run through the night but the catch of 5 moths of three species was pretty low and they were outnumbered by Sexton Beetles who do a great job clearing up the bird and rabbit carcasses across the island. 

Song Thrush

Copeland Bird Observatory Ringing Totals 17-18th Sep 2016

                                 New      Retrap    Control
Blackbird                                  1
Blackcap                    1            1
Chaffinch                                                  1
Chiffchaff                   6             1
Goldcrest                   6             1
Goldfinch                   4
Manx Shearwater      29  
Meadow Pipit            14
Reed Bunting             1
Robin                         13           9
Song Thrush               1
Swallow                     22
Water Rail                                1
Willow Warbler          1
Wren                          4            3            

Total                        102           17               1           

All in all it was a very enjoyable weekend and we are looking forward to the next visit in mid October is the weather allows it. 

On Tuesday morning John and I squeezed in a quick visit to Portstewart Strand to make the best of the conditions before a delayed start to work.  There had been a report of a possible male Common Yellowthroat a couple of hundred metres further along the shoreline a few days before and although the bird had been searched for by others unsuccessfully, a number of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs had been sighted. 


We were on site bright an early and had the nets up by 7am.  The wind was a little brisker than forecast but that is usually the case with southerlies where they blow straight off the river.  It was evident that there had been an arrival of Robins with a number ticking throughout the scrub before first light.  Other new birds included Blackbirds and a few extra Bullfinches than of late.  Once the sun had risen and things heated up a few Chiffchaff began to call amongst a roving flock of Goldcrests and a few Blackcaps appeared. 


The main entertainment for the morning was the local juvenile Peregrine who has been terrorising just about every bird in the estuary.  Today it was testing out 4 Ravens, 11 Grey Herons in the roost and every duck and wader in sight.  It seems to have the most luck lifting the Black-tailed Godwits of which there were 140+ this morning.  It eventually made a kill before the tables were turned and the Hooded Crows tried to muscle in.  A second juvenile Peregrine appeared before we left around 10. 

The ringing was slow in the shortened sunny, breezy session but it is nice to see the arrival of some migrant Blackcaps and Goldcrests and hopefully a sign of the start of proper autumn migration.


PSS Ringing Totals 20/09/2016
                                 New      Retrap  
Blackcap                    3           
Blue Tit                                     2
Chaffinch                   1             1                 
Dunnock                    1            
Goldcrest                   3            
Goldfinch                   5
Meadow Pipit            1
Robin                         3             1

Total                        17           4              

The weather forecast is looking grim but there is a chance of short session on Sunday morning.  Dean and David S are heading off to the south coast of Ireland tomorrow to the fabled Cape Clear Bird Observatory (I'm just a bit jealous) for a weekend ringing course.  Cape Clear is easily the best birding spot in Ireland for autumn passerines, particularly from North America and if they hit the winds and weather right, they could be in for an amazing weekend.  Dean and David will be back next week with an update and pictures of their trip. 


Friday, 16 September 2016

Bits and Pieces

Waders were again on the menu on Wednesday night with another Swallow roost attempted before.  We weren't overly optimistic going into it with a full high tide only beginning to drop around 9pm, clear skies, no wind and very large bright moon - i.e. bad conditions.  It was also a hot one and the midges were out on mass and somehow after all the rain and it being high tide, our pools were nearly dry!
We set as usual for the Swallows and managed to attract only 30 birds this time around.  We watched them for a while and they appeared to drop into the reedbed but not near the nets.  We ended up with 2 Reed Buntings, 1 Stonechat and 1 Wren.   


For the waders it was a bit of a tester to see if they are still attracted to the pools and tape during high tide or falling tide.  The answer I guess is NO but we didn't leave empty handed.  We caught 8 Dunlin and 3 Redshank with a couple more birds bouncing when it was still bright including a Curlew.  I think we will stick to rising tides in future!

Dean with a Redshank and Dunlin

We were out again at Portstewart Strand on Saturday morning in what was a mostly sunny morning with a stiff North westerly breeze.  Dean, John, Rick and I were on site shortly after 6am and set the usual nets, although none around the feeders.
The site was really quiet with the only obvious migrants being a single Willow Warbler, 6+ Wheatear, 70+ Meadow Pipits and a few Sand Martins and Swallows.  The feeders did get a bit of action through the morning with 6+ species visiting them and we probably should have put a net in front of them.

Meadow Pipit

We did spot an interesting duck, which when first glimpsed looked like a male Pochard with a bright reddish head.  I've only ever seen one Pochard in the estuary so I grabbed the scope for a proper look.  The bird had turned in the sun to show a clean white patch between the bill and eyes and Scaup-esque flanks like an adult female Greater Scaup.  It then showed an obvious white 'bum' with its white under tail coverts, similar to a Ferruginous Duck.  Overall a very confusing bird and surely a hybrid unless someone knows of some exotic duck that 'fits the bill'?  I would suggest it was a Ferruginous x Greater Scaup.  Not sure how hybridisation works exactly (i.e. can a bird show male traits of one species and female of another) but it certainly showed suitable features for a female of both species.

The lack of birds had a direct impact on the ringing and it was really quiet with five nets catching nothing.  Our usual staples of Blackbird, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Song Thrush etc. are still missing and surely indicative of a poor breeding season.

On Tuesday I paid a short visit to PSS once again between 16.00-19.00 to see if there was anything new in.  It was a sunny evening with a stiff breeze from the north.  There was very little about other than a flock of Goldfinches at the feeders and a single Chiffchaff calling from the bushes.


PSS Ringing Totals
                                 New      Retrap
Blue Tit                                    2
Chaffinch                   2
Dunnock                                  1
Goldcrest                   1
Goldfinch                 14           5
Meadow Pipit           10
Wren                          1            

Total                        28           8           

The ringing information for the controlled Portuguese Sand Martin came in during the week and it was a really nice catch.  The bird was originally ringed in the Algarve region of Portugal just behind the glitzy marina of Vilamoura in what looks like a marshy reedbed with a couple of ponds/lakes.  It was originally ringed on the 4th of October 2015 as a juvenile and retrapped by us 286 days later at a straight line distance of 2012 kilometres.   

Portuguese Sand Martin Control

Ken and Tyrone were set for a good morning ringing in Kens garden last Friday but unfortunately the rain appeared and cut it short.  The garden is attracting quite a few birds at the moment with the majority tempted in by 12 sunflower heart feeders. Considering they were only up and running for around an hour they got a decent catch of 30 birds including 14 Coal Tits. 

Blue Tit      8
Chaffinch   5
Coal Tit     14
Great Tit     3

There have been some new Tern arrivals this week in the estuary including a Black Tern.  I grabbed an hour on Sunday morning to try and pick up the Black Tern for the patch list.  I located the Terns in their usual roosting spot and had a good sift through. Amongst the birds I found 2 Black Terns, 1 colour ringed Sandwich Tern and a further 14 metal ringed Sante and comic terns.  I tried to clinch the colour ring digits but the bird kept flushing.  The bird was either ringed in the Netherlands or much more likely, in the Ethan Estuary in Scotland. 

Dean, Steve and I are off to Copeland Bird Observatory this weekend so we are hoping for something good.  Tonight's boat was cancelled unfortunately but we hope to get out early on Saturday morning and make the most of it.  Fingers crossed we will have something to update on!

Friday, 9 September 2016

Waders and Swallows - Take 2

After the success of last Wednesdays wader and Swallow roost catches we went for a repeat performance on Monday evening (http://causewaycoastrg.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/wader-bonaza-and-roosting-hirundines.html).  The prospects were a little better with high tide peaking roughly an hour after full darkness and we were a little closer to peak Swallow time in the estuary.  We had a team of five this time around with John, Ken, Siobhan, Steve and myself and the nets opened for around 7.30pm.  The evening was a scorcher with full sunshine and temperatures hitting 25°C at 7pm and although it clouded over a little, it was still a muggy 20°C on departure after 11pm.   


The Swallow tapes worked immediately and attracted in c25 birds within a few minutes and over the next half an hour birds continued to trickle in and swarm overhead totalling around 1000 birds.  The commotion stirred up the resident Water Rails with 4/5 calling all around the reedbeds.  With the lower tide we were able to set two separate 18m nets slightly further in amongst the reeds. 
As with the last attempt, a number of waders and Teal etc. were flushed out of the pools when setting up the nets with the majority not returning.  We opted for the same set up but with an extra 18m three shelf net in the other pool without a tape.  The drier weather of late had dried out the pools a little, but as I write, it is raining cats and dogs, so I don't think it will be an issue on our next visit. 
There were a few other bits and pieces around the estuary with a Grey Seal, Otter and a couple of pipistrelle bats.

Sunset over the estuary

Given the number of Swallows that we had attracted in and the number that had dropped into the nets early we had to switch off the tapes.  The big flock circled overhead while we processed the other birds and eventually settled into the reebed just before dark.  Half had dropped in a bit earlier but a bird of prey (which we didn't get a proper look at) had flushed them back up. 
We caught a total of 73 Swallows, 4 Sand Martins and a single Sedge Warbler.

Last couple of Swallows being processed

For the waders, we again had to wait for complete darkness before the birds appeared and hit the nets.  We had an initial good catch but only a few birds in subsequent rounds.  The catch was quite different from the previous with some larger species in Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew and only a single Dunlin

Black-tailed Godwit (left) & Bar-tailed Godwit

Grangemore Ringing Totals 05/09/2016

Bar-tailed Godwit              2
Black-tailed Godwit           3
Curlew                               1
Dunlin                                1
Redshank                         18
Snipe                                 1

Sand Martin                       4
Sedge Warbler                   1
Swallow                             73
Total                                 104             


We are planning on heading to Portstewart Strand on Saturday morning with another attempt at Waders/Swallows at the start of next week if we can match up the weather and tides!  The stormy blast from the south this evening is probably good news for the guys on the south coast and the islands of the east and west but it might just produce a little bit for us - fingers crossed!
There are a few nice birds around the north coast at the minute including a couple of Little Stint and two Little Gulls at Magilligan Point pictured below. 
Little Stint

Little Gulls