Archive for November 2013

18th – 19th November – another transatlantic visitor to Dorset.   Leave a comment

No, this time it wasn’t a wader or a duck. The visitor from the New World was friend and fellow ringer Patty, who lives in Connecticut.

Patty and I met on the Remote Papua New Guinea tour in July 2012 and have remained in touch ever since. After a number of changes of plan due to events back home, Patty finally arrived last week, first visiting friends in London, then coming to Dorset before heading up to see others in Grantham.

 

Patty (L) on a small boat to the island of Tong in the Admiralty Islands north of New Guinea July 2012, with Eric from Sweden (R) and a french lady who wished to remain anonymous.

 

On the 18th I took Patty around Poole Harbour, showing her our ringing sites at Fleets Lane, before birding at Holes Bay, Sandbanks and Studland.

 

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Of course Sanderling, seen here at Sandbanks, are a familiar migrant on both sides of the Atlantic ….

 

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… but the same can’t be said for the almost exclusively Old World Bar-tailed Godwits

 

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After a good look at Brands Bay and Studland Bay (Patty even got to see an American Surf Scoter here in Dorset) we moved on to Durlston, but there were few birds on show.

 

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A tall sailing ship off Durlston. From here we went to Middlbere. It was almost dark when we arrived and we found that the big flocks of waders seen earlier in the day had departed on the tide. That evening, along with Margaret, Janis, Amber and Kara we went over to John and Anita’s in Bournemouth for a meal.

 

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On the morning of the 19th, trainee ringer Carol and I paid our weekly visit to Holton Lee and Patty was able to handle some of the birds, after we had processed them. I have never seen someone get so excited about holding a Blue Tit or a Dunnock before. Here Patty holds a retrap Nuthatch that was first ringed in 2012.

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Later, joined now by Margaret, we went to the revamped visitor centre at Ferrybridge for lunch. The large windows that once gave a view of the Fleet from the warmth of the centre are now gone, the centre seems to have been redesigned with eating rather than wildlife viewing as the priority. Margaret and Patty are at the top of Portland with Fortuneswell, Ferrybridge and the Fleet and Weymouth in the background.

 

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Although the skies were clear there was a bitter NW wind blowing, so our visit to Portland Bill was rather brief and pretty birdless.

 

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We ended the day at the visitor centre at Radipole where we could watch the flocks of Mediterranean Gulls flying from the Fleet to Weymouth Bay to roost. Once a scarce visitor to Dorset, this winter has seen numbers on the Fleet rise to over a 1000 for the first time and we must have seen over 400  during the day.

 

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I had planned for us to meet up with the other local birders in the Blue Boar that evening but an England vs Germany football match took precedence for most, so the three of us went to the King Charles on Poole Quay, where this folk band were playing of all things ‘Willy and the Poor Boys’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival, not your traditional English folk tune.

 

We hope Patty has a great time during the rest of her UK visit and we hope that we will meet up again next year, either in the UK or in the USA.

I am off on my travels again later today, so this will be the last blog post for a while.

Posted November 22, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

The MAM index   Leave a comment

I suppose the real measure of success of a ringing trip would be whether it contributes to the science of ornithology; was some significant data collected, was one of the birds ringed subsequently re-trapped or recovered and so on. But all of these criteria will only be realised in the future, to all intents and purposes the success of any individual trip comes down to whether a reasonable number of birds were ringed or not, ie was it worth getting out of bed at some unspeakable hour for?

Bearing in mind that this index purely a bit of fun between the group members and has no significance what so ever, Ian Alexander proposed that a successful ringing trip was where the number of birds ringed was equal or greater than the number of ringers present times the number of nets erected. He later modified this by adding ten to this total which became known as the Modified Alexander Minimum Index or MAM index, that is MAM = 10+(a x b) where a = number of ringers present and b = number of nets in use.

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On the  night of the 17th we had a go at ringing waders and wildfowl at Lytchett Bay, but after three hours all we caught was this female Teal. 7 ringers, 11 nets, 1 bird – MAM index of 0.01

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Dawn at Durlston with aircraft contrails backlit by the rising sun. That day three of us using four nets ringed 22 birds, a MAM index of exactly 1. On one of the busiest days this autumn I got a MAM index of over 18.

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Of course this ‘bit of fun’ doesn’t take into account the duration of the ringing session, the quality of the birds handled or the scientific data gathered. Most ringers would rather handle Lesser Redpolls than Blue Tits ….

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.. and the same can be said of the Linnets we ringed the same day. As I said above the MAM index is not to be taken seriously.

Incidentally no sooner had I completed the last post about ringing recoveries then a bunch more arrived. I’ll get round to entering those in due course.

Posted November 21, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Recoveries and controls   Leave a comment

I’m always posting updates about our ringing activities on this blog but haven’t as yet posted much about what we have learned from those birds. Of course a lot of the information which we  send to the British Trust for Ornithology concerns biometrics. age categories and dates of occurrence but from our point  of view the most eagerly awaited aspect of ringing is receiving information on recoveries (ringed birds found, living or dead, by the public) and controls (ringed birds re-trapped by other ringers).

Here I present a series of recoveries and controls of birds we have trapped in Dorset over the last couple of years. This is by no means a complete list, but does cover the majority that involve recoveries/controls outside of Dorset. Among the many other within county notifications we have received are;

Sparrowhawk ringed at Durlston, found dead a year later in Christchurch, a Barn Owl ringed as a nestling in north Dorset was controlled near Wareham, a Snipe ringed near Wareham was shot nearby 27 days later, a Woodpigeon ringed in Upton was shot at Lytchett Minster 18 months later, a Herring Gull movement from Weymouth to Brownsea Island was recorded, a nestling Great Black-backed Gull ringed in Weymouth and found long dead on Brownsea Island, a Coal Tit ringed at Lytchett Matravers was killed by a cat in Broadstone a few weeks later.

All the movements below have to be interpreted in context of the birds known migration patterns, for example the Blackcap below probably migrated south to the Mediterranean or north Africa before heading north in the spring to Norway.

Changes in font size have no significance and are just a result of ‘cut and paste’!

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Oystercatcher 

An adult ringed 5/2/98 in Poole Harbour; retrapped 24/3/12 on Brownsea Island  – 5159 days later.

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Dunlin

A first year ringed 11/8/13 at Makkevika, Giske, More og Romsdal, Norway; 08/09/13 controlled Brownsea Island, Poole

We have also recorded same season movements of ringed birds between Brownsea Island and other points in Poole Harbour.

Dunlin

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Sandwich Tern

An adult ringed 5/9/09 Brownsea Island, Poole; found with a broken wing at Pendeen, Cornwall on 4/4/13

A chick ringed 23/06/05 Pylewell Lake, Lisle Court, Hampshire on;  controlled 2/9/12 Brownsea Island, Poole 

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Kingfisher

A first year bird that we ringed at Lytchett Bay in August 2012 was retrapped at Fleets Lane in October 2013. As Kingfishers do not breed around Poole this must be a returning wintering/migrant bird. Unlike the other species this photo is of the actual bird concerned.

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Reed Warbler 

Ringed 21/8/13 Fleets Lane Poole, controlled 28/9/13 Longham Lakes, Poole – a movement of only 7km but a weight increase from 11.1 – 15.9g in a week!

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Sedge Warbler

First year, ringed 5/8/11 Lytchett Bay, Poole, controlled 16/8/11 Palencia, Spain – controlled after 11 days but it took two years for us to be notified.

First year, ringed 6/8/13 Lytchett Bay, Poole; controlled 12/8/13 Sandouville, Seine-Maritime, France  = 6 days

First year, ringed 10/8/13 Lytchett Bay, Poole; controlled 14/8/13 Le Tetre Rouge, Bouee, Loire Atlantique, France   = 4 days

First year, ringed 11/8/13 Lytchett Bay, Poole; controlled 19/8/13 Tour aux Moutons, Donges, Loire-Atlantique, France = 8 days

First year, ringed 30/7/11 Lytchett Bay, Poole; controlled  14/8/12 Etang de Moisan, Messanges, Landes, France 

First year ringed 30/8/12 Gunwalloe, Cornwall; controlled 08/09/12 Lytchett Bay, Poole

Also one ringed in autumn at Portland Bird Observatory was re-trapped at Durlston the following day and one ringed near Stalbridge was controlled at Lytchett Bay 13 days later.


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Blackcap

First year female, ringed 8/9/12 Durlston CP controlled 16/3/13 Utsira, Rogaland, Norway

 

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Chiffchaff

Juvenile ringed at Thornton, Yorkshire on 17/8/11; controlled 7/4/12 Durlston CP

First year ringed 22/9/11 Wigan, Greater Manchester; controlled 23/3/13 Fleets Lane,Poole 

First year ringed 15/12/11  Durlston CP; controlled 31/3/12 Portland Bill 

First year ringed 19/9/12 Kenfig Pool, Bridgend, South Wales ; controlled 27/9/12 Durlston CP 

Ringed 29/9/11 Durlston CP  controlled 18/10/11 Embalse de Pedrezuela, Guadalix de la Sierra, Madrid, Spain

Ringed near  15/10/11 Stalbridge; controlled  13/4/13 Stanford Reservoir, Northants.

Also one ringed in the winter at Fleets Lane was killed when it entered a building 13 days later. We have also have had three examples of wintering birds being retrapped in subsequent winters, one of them present over three successive winters.

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Cetti’s Warbler

Unknown age, ringed 16/10/12 Lytchett Bay, Poole; controlled 4/5/13 Burgh Castle, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

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Barn Swallow

Ringed as a nestling 25/6/12 Broom House Farm, near South Wingfield, Derbyshire; controlled 13/09/12 Lytchett Bay, Poole

Ringed as a nestling 11/8/12 Spetisbury; controlled 7/9/12 Lytchett Bay, Poole

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Goldfinch

A first year ringed 2/12/10 Woolgarston Dorset ; controlled 21/8/12 Mickley Square Football Field, Northumberland 

A first year ringed at Upton, Poole on 3/2/13; found dead 3/7/13 Witham Friary, Frome, Somerset 

also one ringed 14/9/11 at Lytchett Bay was found dead having hit a window at Merley 14 months only and one ringed at Martinstown was controlled at Durlston two months later.

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Greenfinch

An adult ringed 11/2/13 Durlston CP; found dead 13/7/13 Barnham, West Sussex

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Siskin

Adult male ringed 20/1/13 Woolgarston; killed by a cat 30/4/13  at Crosshill, South Ayrshire

 

The most attractive bird ringied this morning was this male Siskin.


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Posted November 16, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

13th November – a BIG surprise at Arne.   2 comments

We were invited to do a ringing demonstration for the Forage Festival at Arne RSPB on the 26th October. Paul and I prepared a 180 ft net ride for the occasion but bad weather reduced us to ringing with a 30ft net in the lee of the visitor centre. With still and sunny conditions today we obtained permission to return and investigate the practicality of ringing at our original site.

As expected most of the birds ringed were tits, Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds. However a couple of larger birds provided a big surprise!

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This first year Magpie was caught at dawn.

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Later Shaun returned from a net round with this Buzzard ! I have only seen an adult Buzzard in the hand once before, in Israel in 1986 and this was a first for the others.

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There was no sign of immaturity what so ever and the bird was given an age code of 8 meaning it was hatched in 2010 or before.

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The chance of a standard mist net holding as big a bird as a Buzzard is rather slim. No wonder Shaun looks so smug.

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This penetrating stare was probably the last thing that many a rabbit saw.

Posted November 13, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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12th November – what a busy day.   Leave a comment

The 12th November proved to be a very busy and interesting day. After a spell of indifferent weather it was great to get out in some lovely autumnal sunshine. We had our regular monthly waterfowl count at 0900, so Shaun, Terry and I did a little bit of ringing at Fleets Corner beforehand. We didn’t catch many birds in the short time frame, but what we did was quite notable. A Redwing and a Firecrest were lovely birds to handle, but better was a Goldcrest that had been ringed there the previous winter, showing winter site fidelity for this tiny bird, but even better still was a Chiffchaff that we had ringed in January 2012 and retrapped in March 2013, a bird that has returned to this area for its third winter. As Chiffchaffs are considered to mainly be a summer visitor to the UK and little is known about winter site fidelity, we consider this to be quite a significant discovery. The fact that we have ringed regularly at this site and not retrapped this bird between March and November indicates that it migrates here specifically to winter, rather than being a breeding bird that just hangs around all year.

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This Redwing was trapped at dawn at Fleets Lane.

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Another female Firecrest

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It is only a short walk from Fleets Lane to my Webs count area in south Holes Bay. This monthly count of waterfowl and waders is carried out throughout the country from September to March and gives an accurate picture of numbers nationwide.

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The weather was excellent, visibility good, but there were very few birds in my sector, the vast majority being beyond  the railway line in the north of Holes Bay, where there is a lot more exposed mud. Here I am looking across Holes Bay to Cobb’s Quay marina. I briefly joined Robin Heawood who was counting the northern sector after my count and saw 10 Spoonbills, a Spotted Redshank and Yellow-legged Gull along with hundreds of commoner birds.

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I was back home before 11 and in time give my respects to the country’s fallen heroes on Remembrance Sunday – This view of the Cenotaph was photographed on the telly.

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As it was such a nice day Margaret and I decided to have lunch in the New Forest. Although most leaves are still on the trees, many are turning colour and others have already fallen. Autumn seems to be getting later each year, the temperature was about 13C and it seemed amazingly mild for mid November.

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In reality, the trees of Rhinefield ornamental drive positively glowed in the autumnal sunshine.

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Roads closed for repair and other hold ups meant it was quite late before we got to Beaulieu

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We headed for the The Bake House at Beaulieu, once a bakery now a cafe. Margaret and I met there at the end of October in 2006 and we like to go back on or near to the anniversary to celebrate.

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Well it wasn’t quite our anniversary, it was blowing a gale on that day, but it was near enough. We even managed to sit on the same table as we had seven years ago.

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We were thinking of birding at the Blashford lakes on the way back but we received news of a Lesser Yellowlegs at Lepe County Park, which was only five miles away. Here is a view of the Solent and the Isle Of Wight from Lepe.

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Similar in size to our Redshank, Lesser Yellowlegs is one of the commoner North American waders to occur in the UK. This is the tenth I have seen in Britain.

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Breeding mainly Canada and Alaska, Lesser Yellowlegs winter in the southern USA, Middle and South America and the Caribbean. Several are recorded annually in the UK.

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This Rock Pipit was wandering around the car park unafraid of the Sunday trippers and the odd twitcher.

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And finally we topped off a very busy day with a quick visit to John and Anita’s in Bournemouth. All that remained when we got home was to pour a beer and watch the ‘Strictly’ results!

7th November (mainly) – another day at Durlston and a local twitch.   2 comments

Again, the week from the 4th to the 11th of November has been affected by wind and rain. I managed to make a short visit to Holton Lee on the 4th where I ringed or retrapped a nice selection of woodland birds. As this is now the 3rd winter we have operated there, I am getting some interesting data on site fidelity and longevity of the woodland birds.

On the 7th several of us had a very successful visit to Durlston (see below) but strong winds prevented further ringing later in the week. Margaret and I joined our friends from the Phoenix (previously Nexus) organisation for a meal on the 6th and we had a very pleasant get together with our birding friends on the 7th.

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Bonfire Night used to be celebrated just on the 5th of November, the date in 1605 when Guy Fawkes was caught attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament, as part of a Catholic plot to assassinate the Protestant King James. These days fireworks are set off anytime between late October and mid November, which sort of ruins the whole idea of Bonfire Night being a date where we celebrate an historic event. We didn’t go to any displays this year, I just watched a few fireworks in a neighbour’s garden.

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Some birds ringed at Durlston this week. Goldfinches are present in large numbers as they migrate to Europe for the winter. On the 7th we trapped 158 of them. The deep red on the head indicates that this is an adult, and the extension of red behind the eye, that it is a male.

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The wing of the same bird. Lack of contrast between the greater and primary coverts, the reduced brown fringing to the lesser coverts and bright yellow in the remiges confirm that this is an adult bird.

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Female Goldcrests show no orange/gold in the crown whatsoever.

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On the other hand, a female Firecrest shows a limited amount of orange, but nothing like the stunningly bright crown of a male.

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A male Bullfinch.

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The wing of the same bird. The outer two greater coverts are unmoulted, and the brown-fringed unmoulted carpal covert (just below the tip of my thumb) show that this is a first year bird.

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Later on the 7th I went over to Studland to look for an immature Surf Scoter that had been found by my friend Paul Morton. This American duck occurs in the UK in very small numbers every year. I have seen 15 before in Britain, 4 in Dorset but this is my first one in the Poole Harbour area. Note the stout Eider like bill, the two pale patches on the head, which distinguishes it from Common Scoter and the lack of white in the wing which separates it from Velvet Scoter.

Posted November 12, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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Auto Europe – a nice car to hire but a sting in the tail!   Leave a comment

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Back in July when we hired a medium sized car from Auto-Europe at Munich Airport I was very pleased with them, after all they supplied me with a very nice BMW. However when we returned the car the guy receiving it went round the body with a magnifying glass and a torch, rubbing his fingers over the body work trying to find the smallest scratch possible. Of course he found something, a scratch about one or two cm long and no more than a mm deep on the rear bumper. We had no incidents what so ever and this could have been caused by a stone on the road or someone pushing past the car when it was parked.

Of course we took out collision damage waiver, but that still left a 800 euro excess which could be reduced to 200 euros by paying a further 200 euros which we declined.  I never thought that we would be charged for such a tiny scratch, so imagine my surprise when I got a bill for £461 (536 euros) in my credit car statement. I have spent the last two months corresponding with them but to no avail, they claim it cost that much to repair the damage!

As you can imagine I have hired many cars in my travelling career and inevitably have returned some in worse condition than when they were picked up. Twice Janet has locked the keys inside the car and we have had to break a window to get in, once in Australia I was caught in such a fierce hail storm that it dented the entire roof and again in Australia someone scratched the whole side of the car when it was parked. The outcome in all these case, small charges or no charges at all.

The conclusion is clear – avoid Auto-Europe!

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Here is a photo of the ‘damage’. The green mark is the pen the inspector used, the damage is the faint brown smudge in the centre. 

 

Posted November 11, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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