April 29th – May 7th 2014 – this week’s birding and ringing.   Leave a comment



Of course to be able to ring birds you need a licence to show that you are properly trained. There are three classes of licence, T for trainee, which means you must be under direct supervision, C which means that you can ring on your own but your activities remain under the control of your trainer and A which means you are responsible directly to the Ringing Committee. If an A permit holder wishes to take on trainees they must have a trainer’s endorsement. I have assisted in the training of many trainees for decades but have only recently decided that I ought to take on trainees in my own right. To obtain a trainer’s endorsement you need to convince another trainer of your merit, by being observed supervising a trainee. This prevents cliques forming where bad practices are passed of from trainer to trainee ad infinitum.

With my friend Paul being ready to be assessed for his C permit we made arrangement s for us both to see Pete Morgan, a well know and long-standing ringer at Portland Bird Observatory on Tuesday 29th May. The first day would mainly be about Paul’s assessment and then we would both return later in the week for my assessment. However we were in luck, our visit coincided with a ‘fall’ and there were so many birds around that Pete could easy assess both of us on the same day.

During the day over 300 birds were ringed allowing plenty of opportunities for Paul to demonstrate his ringing abilities. The majority were, as expected, Willow Warblers, but there was a selection of other migrants including, Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, Wheatear, Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler,  Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. Away from the nets I also saw Lesser Whitethroat and Yellow Wagtail.


Here are some of the birds that were ringed that morning: a beautiful male Whinchat


Female Whinchat


Female Pied Flycatcher


‘Greenland’ Wheatear. Most nominate race Wheatears pass through in late March and early to mid April. By early May the larger Greenland race leucorha predominates.  From their African wintering grounds they briefly refuel in the UK before crossing the Atlantic to Iceland, Greenland and eastern arctic Canada, an incredible migration for such a small bird.



Margaret and I returned on Friday 2nd May for some general birding. This Peregrine was soaring overhead


In complete contrast to three days earlier there were few migrants around, however a good number of Wheatears, mainly of the Greenland race were around the Bill.


Skylarks were everywhere filling the air with their joyful song.


Later we headed down to Lodmoor where we had great views (but not photos) of Beared Tits and saw a number of Pochards above), presume local breeders


What is hiding behind this Coot?


Just one of their bizarrely plumaged chicks.


On 3rd May we performed a public ringing demonstration at Durlston. We have been requested to do this as part of our permission to ring there and it helps people appreciate the birds that occur in the park. However once again we found ourselves short of anything to demonstrate with. Over the two hours that the public were about we only ringed nine birds, but we filled the time explaining what has been learned through ringing and what needs to be learned in the future.

Monday 5th I birded around the Sherford Bridge/Mordon Bog part of Wareham Forest. I should have returned to Portland as there was a large passage of seabirds, including many Pomerine Skuas. The previous night two of my friends had independently heard Spotted Crakes making their ‘whiplash’ calls from the wet meadows near Wareham. On the 6th I got up predawn and listed for them at Bestwall and Swineham. The wind was quite strong and the rhythmic banging of ropes against masts from distant yachts didn’t help. By the time I got to Swineham the dawn chorus was already underway, I am fairly sure I heard a few calls distantly but I would prefer to have another attempt. At the moment the weather is unsettled with high winds, but when that passes I’ll try again.

For a selection of recordings of singing Spotted Crakes click here: http://www.xeno-canto.org/explore?query=Spotted+crake



it was a beautiful dawn which gave rise to a sunny morning. The church at Wareham seen from Swineham


The River Frome at Swineham




Later on the 6th I returned to the Mordon Bog area. This photo was taken in the cloudier conditions on the 5th


Both Meadow and Tree Pipits were in song allowing close comparison of both their plumage and vocal characteristics. Tree Pipits (above) have finer flank streaking than Meadows and a shorter hind claw and a subtly different face pattern. Tree Pipits nearly always end their song flight on the top of a tall tree, whilst Meadow Pipit land on or near the ground. The song is different too see the links below.

Song of Meadow Pipit: http://www.xeno-canto.org/explore?query=Meadow+Pipit

Song of Tree Pipit: http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Anthus-trivialis


Mistle Thrushes are regularly seen in the filed adjoining the Bog


Both conifer and deciduous trees fringe the Bog, which along with wet and dry heath  gives a mosaic of habitats



On the 7th I returned to Portland. I didn’t coincide with either a fall of migrants or a large seabird passage but did see some new species for the year. It was very overcast with heavy showers but this soon passed to give a pleasant morning.


A Whimbrel paused on migration at the Bill




Within minutes of arriving at the Bird Observatory, three pale morph Pomarine Skuas went by. A further 90 minutes at the Bill failed to produce any more so I hit it just right. Photo by Paul Bowerman www.thebirdsofsouthgloucester.co.uk


Ferrybridge, where the waters of the Fleet run into Portland Harbour is not only a good site for Little Terns and various waders but marks the spot where Margaret first made landfall in the UK when she arrived by yacht (all the way from South Africa) in June 2002.





Posted May 9, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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