30th August – 4th Sep – daily ringing trips   Leave a comment

The recent spell of relatively settled weather has meant that I have spent every morning of the last week ringing. As we also have Margaret’s daughter Anita and husband John staying with us, I have been rather busy and have fallen well behind in my blog entries.

On the 30th I agreed to go ringing with trainee John Dowling, but it was too windy to go to Durlston, so I contacted Trevor Squire and we headed to his private ringing site in north Dorset. It was still rather windy and we only ringed about ten birds, but four of them were Grasshopper Warblers (plus caught another which was a retrap). It was nice to see Trevor again and it was John’s first visit to his site.

Trevor and John in the ringing hut.

A first year Grasshopper Warbler. We only trap a few ‘Groppers’ at Lytchett and Durlston but Trevor has ringed over 90 this year!

As we left Trev’s news came through of a Sabine’s Gull at Portland. This high Arctic species is pelagic away from its breeding grounds and most UK records are of juveniles on a seawatch during gale force winds, however this was an adult in breeding plumage and was sat in a field near Portland Bird Observatory; too good an opportunity to miss. I persuaded John that a trip to Portland was worthwhile and set off south along Dorset’s narrow lanes. I went as fast as I could but clearly not fast enough, as we arrived to find it had flown off ten minutes before! There are good photos of this bird on the Portland Bird Observatory website.

John at Portland Bill – not seeing a Sabine’s Gull

On Friday 31st we headed for Lytchett Bay. The forecast looked good for Durlston, but Shaun could only ring at the Bay up until 0800 and needed another qualified ringer to continue the session. In the end it was an excellent morning with 67 birds ringed, a very good total for the Bay. Most of the catch was Sedge Warblers, the best birds being two Grasshopper Warblers and a Wheatear. There was good birding too with two Ospreys, a Marsh Harrier and a Hobby present, plus two Whinchats that sat on the top of the net but wouldn’t go in and a number of Yellow Wagtails overhead.

We later learnt that there had been a big fall of migrants at Durlston, but what the hell, you can’t be in two places at once and we had a good time at Lytchett.

A common migrant, but one that has only been ringed a few times at Lytchett Bay, as most ringing takes place in reed beds.

Saturday 1st September saw a group of us at Durlston. It was quite cool with a reasonable breeze and birds were much fewer than yesterday’s reports would indicate. Even so we ringed 52 birds with a nice selection that included a Whinchat and a Firecrest. Margaret, Anita and John visited us at about 0830 (having got lost in Swanage) but the best birds had gone by then. Even so it was a chance to explain the purpose and methods of ringing to our South African visitors.

Whinchat is a regular migrant, breeding mainly in the north of the UK, but being more of a bird of open country is seldom trapped at our site at Durlston. The white base of the outer tail feathers is just visible.

I have already mentioned the large number of young birds we have caught this year with fault bars in their tails, caused by poor nutrition during development in the nest. Less often seen are prominent fault bars in the wing as shown by this Whitethroat.

A beautiful male Firecrest. Most of our Firecrests occur in October, so this bird was exceptionally early.

This Whitethroat can be aged as an adult by its hazel coloured eye and the pure white in the outer tail feathers. The grey head indicates this is a male.

Wishing to avoid a fourth 0430 start I asked trainee Paul Morton if he would like to attempt to ring the Goldfinches that were visiting his garden in Worth Matravers. This was very succesful with 21 Goldfinches and 3 Greenfinches ringed, valuable experience for Paul and further work to monitor the population dynamics and movements of this species that has only recently taken to feeding in gardens in large numbers.

Juvenile Goldfinches do not obtain their red head feathers until much later in the autumn.

Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th saw a return to Durlston. Both days were relatively quiet with 37 and 41 birds respectively ringed. Good birds included two more Pied Flycatchers and two Lesser Whitethroats, five Redstarts (all on 4th) and another Grasshopper Warbler.

Lesser Whitethroat

A first year male Common Redstart lacks the white border to the black face mask.

None trapped in 2011 but 13 in 2012, so far. This Pied Flycatcher can be aged as a first year by the step in the white fringe to the central tertial feather.

The step in the white fringe of the tertials is more obvious in the spread wing.

Particularly frustrating on the 4th was the sight of a very large warbler (with a Willow next to it for size comparison) perched on a bush at the end of a net ride. I had a reasonable view and Kevin (who was processing a bird at the time and hence had his hands full) got a glimpse. It was uniformly coloured except for a thin wing bar and was almost certainly a first year Barred Warbler, a scarce migrant from central Europe. However the description isn’t good enough to get it through the local records panel, of which Kevin is the chairman. As another member of the panel was to say to me later that day, ‘frustrating of course, but you would have voted against a brief description like that when you sat on the records panel’. Fair comment I suppose!

Posted September 5, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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