Archive for September 2011

Wednesday 21st September – Lytchett Bay   Leave a comment

With rain throughout the night and drizzle at dawn, today was never going to be a great day for migrants. I had hoped that we would be able to catch many of the Goldfinches that have taken up residence in the maize field at Lytchett Bay but they largely seem to have moved on.

Paul, Shaun and I were joined by Sharon O’Reilly, another of the self-styled ‘Kevin’s Angels’, i.e. one of Kevin Sayer’s trainees. We caught a total of 46 birds including 27 Chiffchaffs, a late WIllow Warbler and regular fare such as Dunnocks, Robins and Chaffinches, all good practice for trainees.

Paul get-the-tape-on Moreton and Sharon


Willow Warbler (below) and Chiffchaff. Willows trapped recently have been more like Chiffchaffs in their plumage tones, but note how much further the primaries extend beyond the tertials in Willow Warbler, plus the more attenuated head.


You can tell the age of a Robin by the colour of the inside of the upper mandible. Who ever thought to look there in the first place!

Posted September 21, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tuesday 20th September – Coventry   Leave a comment


For the second time since I started this blog I have had to attend a funeral. This time it was not as unexpected as the death of my friend Clive, as my aunt Doris has passed away at the age of 84.

I must admit that in recent years I haven’t seen much of my aunt’s, uncles and cousins and have no recent pictures of Doris, but I do have a photos of my mother and her brothers and sisters taken in 1987, at yet another funeral, that of my maternal grandmothers.


L-R: Tommy, Doris, my mother Margaret, Audrey and Gwylim at my grandmother's house, Coventry 1987

Between them these five brothers and sisters had seven offspring. They also posed for photos in 1987.  But the big mystery is –who owns the hand that can be seen between Simon and Julian?

There were some who insisted it was our grandmother waving goodbye!

L-R: Alan, Elaine, my brother Simon, Julian, myself, and Doris' sons John and David. Coventry 1987.


However I think it's an optical illusion caused by a wide-angle lens......


....if you look at the same group taken at the same time on my camera, you can see that John who has his hand on my shoulder could easily have reached behind Julian.

Well 24 years later how things have changed, Tommy has passed away, my mother is wheelchair bound and couldn’t attend, Audry was unavailable and Gwylim can only walk with a zimmer. Six of the seven cousins were present and after we had paid our respects to Doris, we had to have that photo taken again. Some have changed more than others in the last quarter century.

24 years later, L-R: Alan, Simon, Julian, John, Ian and David

My mother’s side of the family originally came from South Wales, but moved to Coventry in the 30’s as there was no work in the coal mines. My mother, Doris and Audrey were with my grandparents through the worst of the blitz, whilst all the houses around them were flattened.

The old Coventry cathedral after the Blitz.

My mother met my father when both worked in Sainsbury’s during the late 30’s and they married in 1940. They were still living in Coventry when I was born in 1951 but we moved to Kettering in 1955 and then to Derby in 1965, where my mother and brother still live. The rest of the family remained in Coventry, with the exception of Tommy (and Julian his son) who with his Navy connections moved to Torpoint in Cornwall. The following photos are from the internet.
Apart of course for the story of Lady Godiva….
…..Coventry is best known for the rebuilt cathedral, opened in the sixties. It still is to my mind an architectural marvel.

Posted September 21, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Italian Sparrows   Leave a comment

Steve Smith sent me a link about the Italian Sparrow. This form has been considered a full species recently, e,g in the Collins Guide.

Apparently recent genetic research has confirmed that although the form italiae was derived from hybridising House and Spanish Sparrows, it now does not interbreed with either and should be considered a separate species.

Five years ago last July I went on a rather unsatisfactory walking holiday to the Dolomites. Great scenery but a host of other issues….

Dolomite mountains, northern Italy
However the trip did give me the chance to look at lots of Italian Sparrows.

Most sparrows had the brown crown and white cheeks indicative of Italian Sparrow....


...but some had whitish cheeks and a partial grey crown. Are these just House Sparrows occurring sympatrically or is there a hybrid zone?

Narrow hybrid zones do not necessarily place a ban on full species status (e.g. Carrion and Hooded Crow) but I doubt if the last word has been written on the Spanish / Italian / House Sparrow complex, or for that matter on the migratory ‘Bactrian Sparrow’  of Central Asia which only arrives to breed on cliffs after the House Sparrows in the villages are already well into the breeding season.

Posted September 19, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Monday 19th September – Lytchett Bay   Leave a comment

An improvement in the weather meant I was back ringing, this time in the arable field at Lytchett Bay. The crop margins continue to be most productive with over 40 Chiffchaffs and good numbers of Goldfinch ringed. Other species ringed included a Grasshopper Warbler, Blackcap, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting and a couple of Willow Warblers. A Sparrowhawk was a near miss, getting out of the net before we could reach it.

This morning we were joined by Kathryn Ross, a trainee who normally rings with Kevin Sayer at Hengistbury Head


Chiffchaffs continue to be the commonest bird ringed


As they have a complete moult after breeding, ageing Chiffchaffs can be tricky, solidly dark and broad tail feathers with a lack of nicks (caused by abrasion in the nest) indicates that this is an adult.


If we want to ring in the reed bed and arable field we have to avoid this fella every net round!

Posted September 19, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th September   Leave a comment

With wind and rain making the conditions unsuitable for ringing I caught up with a lot of domestic chores this weekend. I also took Janis and Andy to Hurn airport. Andy is returning to their yacht Ladycat in Gran Canaria for the time being, Janis is going for a week to sort out and retrieve her possessions. I was most annoyed to find that Hurn airport now charges you to drop off passengers. Am I sounding more and more like Victor Meldrew every day?


Janis and Andy depart for Hurn airport, Amber and Kara with their friends in the background.

Andy will continue his web-based business in Gran Canaria and avoid the British winter. Photo taken in eastern Spain 2010


The girls of course, moved back in with us, which has become a logistical nightmare as they continuously commute between the two houses looking for one item or the other.

On Sunday morning Shaun and I hoped to have a go ringing Goldfinches at Lytchett Bay but the rain arrived much earlier than forecast so the early start was wasted. Later I was able to do a little ringing in the garden and was rewarded with the capture of this feisty Woodpigeon. Although they may seem highly sedentary, there is a large migration of Woodpigeons across Dorset in early November. Little is known about the origins of these birds, so ringing remains of value.


Adult Woodpigeon, Upton.


Posted September 18, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Thursday evening and Friday morning 15th / 16th September   Leave a comment

I was invited for a Curry at Wetherspoons in Poole to celebrate my former boss Andy Barber’s birthday. It was great to meet up with old colleagues and get up to date with the happenings at the hospital.

Andy Barber, Tash Barrow and Anna Pietrangelo

Foreground Carmela Pietrangelo and Tim Kellaway, background, Dave Tiller, Gio Pietrangelo and Andy Tucker.


 This morning six of us went to Durlston with the intention of working both ringing sites. It proved to windy to ring on the slopes so we all ended up in the garden. Although threatening at first, the sun soon came out and the wind subsided somewhat.

Red sky in the morning, ringers warning?

We did quite well in the end with 93 birds ringed, mainly Chiffs and Blackcaps again. The main feature was an enormous movement of Swallows, estimated by Hamish to be 16,000 per hour for the first few hours. We also saw 8 Common Buzzards heading east, a Hobby, Sparrowhawk and a Turtle Dove.

We only trapped three out of the tens of thousands that were passing.


I've included this poor photo of a Swallow mid manouver. Not only is the tail spread but the alulas are pressed forwards, acting like the slots on an aircraft wing.


The increasingly uncommon Turtle Dove

Posted September 16, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

14th and 15th September – Lytchett Bay and Durlston.   Leave a comment

A two days in one post (to try and catch up) Been ringing both mornings, Lytchett Bay on the 14th and Durlston on the 15th.

The reed bed season is drawing to a close, although we need to maintain twice weekly reed bed sessions until the end of the month to fulfil our Aquatic Warbler survey commitments. Acros are now in short supply and the majority of birds ringed at Lytchett came from the margins of the maize field, mainly Goldfinches and Chiffchaffs.

This is an adult Goldfinch undergoing the complete post-breeding moult. The blackish-grey rictal bristles and lack of red behind the eye indicate it is a female.

The wing of the same bird. The outer three primaries are unmoulted, the next is missing, the next is regrowing and the inner four have been replaced.



After a clear cold night with a very light easterly breeze we trapped a remarkable 235 birds at Durlston this morning. Fortunately we had a good number of ringers for the early morning at least. At times the garden has heaving with birds but this tailed off by about 0900.

Numbers may have been high but variety was low compared to say late August. Chiffchaffs predominated with 124 ringed, followed by 69 Blackcaps. Only one Willow was caught and just 6 Whitethroats. More unusual species, at least in the hand, included Woodpigeon and Lesser Whitethroat.

Too busy at Durlston today to stop for photos, just a quick shot of this Lesser Whitethroat was all I could manage.

Posted September 15, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized