Archive for the ‘Chiffchaff’ Tag

Mid July to October 2016 – Where have I been hiding for the last three months?   Leave a comment

Readers of this blog may have wondered whether I had abandoned it completely, was spending the last three months abroad or just had nothing to write about.

For a while I did nothing for the blog because I had used up all my storage space and was reluctant to pay for more. I’ve now capitulated and paid up for the extra space, although I will be uploading lower resolution photos in the future.

The main reason I have not updated this blog is because I have been incredibly busy manning the ringing site at Durlston near Swanage. Since 17th July I have visited no fewer than 50 times. My near-daily schedule has been getting up about two hours before dawn, arriving a good hour before sunrise and getting the nets up and ready for when the birds start moving. We have had the most successful season ever, by mid October we had ringed nearly 4500 birds, far more than any previous year with at least a month of autumn migration still to go.

Much of the afternoons have taken up with uploading the data onto my PC and sending it off via our group secretary to the BTO, preparing for the next day and sometimes having a nap after an early start. Hence the lack of blog posts. I have also been uploading our daily ringing totals from Durlston to the migration website Trektellen http://www.trektellen.org/ Go to captures and then select Durlston RS, the daily and annual totals. Summaries and graphs of occurrence for each species can be found by navigating the site. I have also been doing the laborious job of loading the daily totals from past years onto Trektellen. I have completed 2013-15 and have just got 2011-12 to do.

This post deals solely with ringing in Dorset at our sites at Durlston, Lytchett Bay and Fleets Lane in Poole from mid July to mid October.

By far the largest number of birds ringed were the two species of Phylloscopus warbler, Willow Warbler (below in the photo) and Chiffchaff (above)Whilst superficially similar they do have a lot of characteristics that tell them apart. Chiffchaff is smaller overall, has shorter primary projection, darker legs, darker flanks, more rounded head, a less prominent supercillium, but the most conclusive features that can only be seen in hand are the length of the second to fourth primary and the presence (Chiff) or absence (Willow) of an emargination on the 6th primary.

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Although I said that Willow Warblers were larger than Chiffchaffs there is some overlap. Small female Willow Warblers (left) certainly overlap in wing length and weight with largest Chiffchaffs. The bird on the right is a large male Willow Warbler with a wing length of 70mm. Only a proportion of Willows can be sexed on wing length as there is overlap between the sexes. In both the Willows above the long primary projection (the projection of the primary feathers beyond the tips of the tertials) can easily be seen.

 

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The following graph taken from Trektellen shows the numbers of Willow Warblers ringed at Durlston (averaged out per hour of ringing activity). The gap from early May and late July is partly because we do little ringing at this season but also because the species no longer breeds at the site, the range having shifted north with climate change. A few migrants are seen in spring, but numbers are dwarfed by the huge influx that occurs in late July and early August. By early September only a few are seen with the odd straggler occuring into early October. In total 942 birds were ringed with a maximum of 212 on 5th August this is our best year ever at Durlston and is well in excess of the previous maximum of 626 in 2013.

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Chiffchaffs show a different pattern, Again migrants/returning breeders are seen in spring but because the birds breed locally they continue to be recorded into mid May and in late July to late August (no ringing took place between 14th May and 17th July). At the time when the Willow Warbler migration is tailing off Chiff numbers rise rapidly reaching a peak in late September to early/mid October. 1382 have been ringed so far this year, a huge increase on the best ever year (2013 – where 875 were ringed) and more than triple what was ringed last year. This is partially due to ringer effort/availability but also undoubtedly points to a bumper year for the species.

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The third most ringed bird in 2016 has been Blackcap. The total of 796 doesn’t quite match the bumper year of 2014 when 860 were ringed but the season isn’t quite finished yet. After the post-juvenile moult, Blackcaps can easily be sexed by the eponymous black cap of the male and the brown cap of the female. This bird presents a conundrum but it is far more likely to be a male that is showing some female-type brown feathers than a female that has somehow grown some extra male-type feathers. The colour and structure of the brown crown feathers does not fit that of the juvenile plumage and I think the entire crown has been moulted.

This biggest surprise of the year has been the capture of 102 Grasshopper Warblers, compared to the annual average of 16 over the last five years. It is true that we have been getting to the site earlier to try to catch this crepuscular skulker before the sun is up but that can only be part of the story.

We have also had our best ever year for Meadow Pipits with 220 ringed to date (although that was mainly down to one very successful day where we ringed 126). We have yet to get a recovery on any of the Meadow Pipits ringed at Durlston but we hope this year’s batch will change all that. Some Meadow Pipits can be hard to age but this one is easy. The brown not blackish centres and the diffuse buffy borders of the greater coverts and the unmoulted white edged median coverts showing a small black tooth clearly show it is a first year bird.

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Common Whitethroats are regular breeders in the park and surrounding area and also occur as migrants. Young birds are easy to age due to their dark, rather than hazel coloured eyes.

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Another aging feature is the muddy brown rather than white on the outer tail feather plus a restricted pale area on the 5th (penultimate) tail feather. This first-year bird is unusual in that it has lost its left hand outer tail feather but not the right. The replacement has grown back as an adult type, clearly different from its first-year counterpart.

whitethroat-2016-dcp-trek

Whitethroats show an interesting pattern of occurrence. As a common breeder in the park we ring quite a few in the spring (one trapped on 1st May was ringed as a juvenile in July 15 – an example of natal philopatry) and would probably continue to trap some in late May – mid July if we had been active during that period. The spike in late July/early August represents locally bred juveniles before the main migration gets underway in mid August. The migration tails off rapidly in early September.

 

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Now for some of the birds we ring less often. A first year Whinchat ….

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The species can easily be identified by the white bases to the outer tail feathers.

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Although quite a common migrant, they prefer more open ground. We have ringed just two Wheatears this year. Both were of the Greenland race leucorhoa which leaves its breeding grounds in Greenland and eastern Canada and makes a non-stop flight across the Atlantic to Europe before continuing on to its wintering grounds in Africa.

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Common Redstarts weren’t all that common with an about-average showing of 15 . All but one showed the brown (rather than grey) tipped greater coverts of a 1st year bird

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The grey head and black chin, still fringed with white tips (which will wear away by next spring) indicates that this is a male.

 

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Although common inland, especially in coniferous woodland, Coal Tits are very unusual in our ringing area and this is the only Coal Tit to be ringed there this year.

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Melodious Warblers occur as close Dorset as northern France but are still no more than scarce migrants to the county. This bird was trapped on the early date of 26th July and is only the second to be ringed in the Park. Although its wing length is comparable to that of a Willow warbler, it is much stouter, has a much broader based bill, a plain-looking face with a beady eye. The short primary projection helps distinguish it from the similar Icterine Warbler.

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The group has been called on to do two public ringing demonstrations in 2016, one at Durlston and one at Lytchett Bay. At Lytchett (above) we had a good turn out of both ringers and public with about half of the group arriving to help. L-R Tony Taylor, me, Kevin Lane, Claire Young, Mike Gould, John Dowling and newcomer to the group Kath Clay, group ringing secretary Bob Gifford is at the front sat down. Photo taken by Lytchett stalwart Shaun Robson who did all the public demonstrating.

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The weather has been quite good throughout the period concerned with little rain and without protracted periods of wind and this has helped boost our totals, However for the first two weeks of October the winds blew strongly from the east and brought exceptional numbers of Siberian birds to the eastern shores of the UK. Few filtered down to Dorset (with the exception of Yellow-browed Warblers – see below) but we did see an exceptional number of Ring Ouzels. Although they are a scarce breeder in the uplands of Britain, they occurred in such numbers that they must have been augmented by birds from Scandinavia or beyond. For several days the winds were too strong to ring at Durlston so I fell back to our more sheltered site at Fleets Lane in Poole where this Ring Ouzel was trapped. Another was trapped by Shaun and Bob at Lytchett Bay. Photo by Terry Elborn.

YBW DCP SB

Yellow-browed Warblers breed in the Siberian taiga zone as close as the Ural Mountains, but migrate to SE Asia to winter. Numbers have been increasing in Britain in recent years (and wintering has been proved in SW Iberia and in the Canaries) but 2016 has seen the biggest influx ever. Counts at single sites in Yorkshire have exceeded a hundred on a single day and the total in the UK must run to many thousands. Even as far south as Dorset records have been broken.

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Between 2004 and 2015 our group has ringed six Yellow-browed Warblers (3 of those in 2015) this year we have ringed twelve already. None of these has been retrapped indicating rapid onwards movement. It would be wonderful to get a recovery on one of these Siberian waifs and help elucidate where they are going and why some have taken up a new migration strategy and maybe country-wide the BTO will, but on numerical grounds the chances of any of our twelve birds being recovered is slim.

 

This article has discussed the various birds that we ring and their identification and aging/sexing characteristics. The timing and variation in migration year on year plus the ability to age and sex the birds concerned provides valuable ornithological data. However what we all hope for is that our birds will be trapped elsewhere by another ringer (controlled) or recovered by a member of the public.

Although this year has been good for the number and variety of birds ringed it has also provided us with many recoveries: those received in 2016 pertaining to Durlston are shown below. We have also got three more controls in the pipeline.

DCP = Durlston Country Park

Species Ringed Ringed at  Date recovered Where recovered
Goldcrest 08/11/2015 DCP 13/03/2016 Milton Abbas, Dorset cat
Chiffchaff 12/10/2014 DCP 25/03/2016 Longis Pond, Alderney, Channel Islands retrapped
Willow Warbler 02/09/2015 DCP 27/09/2015 Arneiros, Querenca, Faro, Portugal retrapped
Blackcap 25/09/2013 DCP 19/04/2016 Longis Pond, Alderney, Channel Islands retrapped
Blackcap 01/09/2014 DCP 17/04/2016 Chew Valley Lake,  Somerset retrapped
Reed Warbler 18/06/2016 Chew Valley Lake,  Somerset, 06/08/2016 DCP retrapped
Willow Warbler 06/08/2016 Billinge Hill, Merseyside, 14/08/2016 DCP retrapped
Pied Flycatcher 13/06/2015 Kentmere Hall Plantation, Cumbria, 18/08/2016 DCP retrapped
Whitethroat 17/07/2016 DCP 14/08/2016 Gravelly Marsh, Needs Ore, Hampshire retrapped
Blackcap 21/09/2016 DCP 24/09/2016 Brook Farm, Reculver, Kent retrapped

In addition there have been many recoveries/controls of birds ringed at Lytchett Bay including many Reed and Sedge Warblers that moved to France, as well as others that were recovered nearer to their ringing location.

Each recovery adds to the complex jigsaw that makes up the life history of our birds.

No, I’ve not been hibernating! – January and February 2016   Leave a comment



Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything about 2016 yet – mainly because I’ve spent three weeks in India.

I’ve just about edited all the Indian photos and will start uploading some of them soon. But first I thought I do a short post about other things that have been going on in 2016.

The weather in the UK has been a major factor, constant wind and rain, particularly early in the year, has prevented ringing and hasn’t made birding very pleasant.

We tried to organise a bird race for the first weekend in January and quite a few teams were going to take part but the weather was dreadful. We were finally able to run it on 10th January but by then only two teams took part. It was good fun but my team came a rather poor second. Even so I find the annual race to be an interesting and worthwhile challenge and I like to start the year off by searching out some of the scarcer (but not necessarily rare) birds like Marsh Tit or Barn Owl that otherwise tend to get forgotten about. We started before dawn for owls in east Dorset, headed to Weymouth for first light, visited Portland, the areas around Maiden Castle and Hardy’s Cottage before returning to Poole Harbour for the rest of the day. 113 wasn’t a great total, in 2015 we managed 126 but then its only a bit of fun.

IMG_1816 Black Redstart

One of the many quality birds we saw on the bird race day was Black Redstart. However I didn’t stop for photographs – this one was photographed in Turkey last autumn.

 

 

On my return from India I was delighted to find that I had been offered free tickets to an Afro Celt Sound System gig at the BIC. This wonderful band (not to be confused with any other bands with a similar name) fuses traditional African and Scottish rhythms and has a unique and very infectious sound. Margaret was unable to go so I took granddaughter Amber along instead and she had a wonderful time.

There are no other bands where you can hear a duet between an oud and bagpipes or for that matter where they have four different drummers. Can’t wait for their next album, due out I believe in April. Regrettably I didn’t take my camera and these photos were taken from their website http://www.afroceltsoundsystem.org.uk/

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Drummer Johnny Kalsi

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Bagpipe player Griogair

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Traditional African instrument player Nfaly Kouyate

 

 

Recently I gave my talk on bird evolution and how birds spread around the world to Poole RSPB group. The talk was entitled ‘what came first the Archaeopteryx or the egg’. There are several different ideas of what the Archaeopteryx, the 150 million year old proto-bird looked like. I took this reconstruction from the internet. I have done this talk four or five times now and I think its time I came up with another subject.

01-archeopteryx-2-Archeopteryx (1)

Whenever conditions have allowed I have tried to continue our ringing program. During the winter I have ringed at Holton Lee where we have continued to monitor common woodland birds, and at Fleet’s Corner where the primary target is wintering Chiffchaffs. We have proved that some Chiffchaffs return to the site each year to winter and that wintering birds are a different population from breeding birds. We have caught two or three Chiffchaffs on most ringing attempts this winter but on 10th February we caught 18! Six were re-traps first ringed in November or December, one had been ringed in Southampton in early November and the rest were new. Five days later I returned, and we caught none, although two or three birds were in the area, the following day I returned just to check and found just one. In spite the fact that this is only mid February it would appear that Chiffchaffs are already on the move. It is possible that a full month before migrant Chiffchaffs wintering in the the Mediterranean and North Africa start arriving in the UK, the Chiffchaffs that winter here are already moving towards their (unknown) breeding areas.

IMG_6713 Chiffchaff ELR135 12 12 15 FLC

This bird, a potential Siberian Chiffchaff, was ringed on 12/12/15 and re-trapped on 10/2/16.

IMG_3795 GGS Warham Forest

Unusual birds have been thin on the ground in Dorset this winter. A Great Grey Shrike has been wintering in Wareham Forest, I have only seen it once in three visits and that was the time I forgot my camera, but I did manage a poor digiscoped image using my pocket camera.

Margaret-&-Christine

Our young birding friend Christine (who also goes to the choir with Margaret) has recently decided to up her birding game by doing a year list. Without her own transport she isn’t going to do well, so we have offered to help her out. Visits recently to Wareham Forest, Studland, Portland, Weymouth, Abbotsbury and a few locations around Poole have added a good number of species to her list.

We recently went to a talk for the Christchurch birding group CHOG by top Israeli birder Yoav Perlman who is currently studying for a PhD at UEA. I met Yoav in Israel in 2013 where he took Margaret and I to see the critically endangered ‘tamarisk’ race of Nubian Nightjar and have met up with him since at the Bird Fair. Yoav gave an excellent talk which brought back fond memories of my three bird-filled visits to Israel.

Not having any photographs of Yoav from our Israel trip, I looked on his website http://nubijar.blogspot.co.uk/ and found this memorable photo taken on Shetland which I have reproduced below. I know or have met all five in the photo; on the left is Peter Colston, former curator of the bird collection of the British Museum who I met on a trip to French Polynesia in 1997, in the centre is Yoav, to his right is my friend and bird identification expert Paul Harvey who I have known since 1978 and on the far right is Roger Riddington, editor of British Birds magazine who I met in Shetland and at the Bird Fair. But the reason I wanted to post this photo is because of the guy to the left of Yoav, Martin Garner. Martin died recently after a long battle with cancer and the birding community has joined together to mourn his passing.  Martin  loved to be at the cutting edge of bird identification and many conundrums were explored in his excellent website Birding Frontiers http://birdingfrontiers.com/ and the two ‘Challenge Series’ books. Martin was a kind, generous and inspirational man, with deeply held religious beliefs and faced death with a serenity that was quite awesome. I only met Martin a few  times, at a talk in Poole and at the Bird Fair but wish I could have known him better.

 

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L-R Peter Colston, Martin Garner, Yoav Perlman, Paul Harvey, Roger Riddington. Photo from http://birdingfrontiers.com/

 

Posted February 18, 2016 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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December 2015 – a few friends and family, locations and birds that kept us busy for most of the month.   Leave a comment

This post covers from when we returned from Turkey on 2nd December until the end of the year.

May I take the opportunity to wish all readers of this blog a very happy 2016

 

IMG_2203 M, A&J, Lois and Gavin, Maldon

After we returned from our trip to Turkey we braved the M25 rush hour traffic and drove straight to Anita and John’s in Maldon in Essex. They will be in South Africa at Christmas time so we made our Christmas visit in early December. They have John’s sister Lois and her husband Gavin staying with them and this was the first time I had met them. L-R Gavin, Lois, John, Anita and Margaret (with an imaginary selfie-stick).

IMG_2189 Teal

With John and Anita at work we had time on the first two days to do a little birding, first at Abberton Reservoir where large flocks of wildfowl were present, including these Teal but also many Pochard, a bird that was once abundant in Dorset in winter but is now only seen in relatively small numbers.

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These 16 Great Crested Grebes are just a small part of flock that numbered over a hundred.

IMG_2161 Goose hybrid

I was initially puzzled by this bird, it looks quite like a Cackling Goose, the diminutive relative of Canada Goose, but the black of the neck extending onto the upper breast and the sharp demarcation between the black breast and the grey of the belly is reminiscent of a Barnacle Goose. It must be a hybrid, either between Barnacle and a Canada, or given its small size, between a Barnacle and a Cackling. Hybridisation between geese species is not unusual in feral populations, where the ecological and geographical conditions that would normally separate them during the breeding season, are absent. Its close association with a flock of feral Greylag Geese is a further indication of its dubious pedigree.

IMG_2178 Bewicks & Wigeon

The best sighting of the day was a group of seven Bewick’s Swans, two of which posed nicely for photos.

IMG_2194 Wallasea

Last Christmas we paid a visit to Wallasea, the RSPB’s new 1,500 acre mega-reserve in Essex. A huge area of former farmland has been reclaimed for nature using literally millions of tonnes of spoil from Crossrail project ((I object to the term reclaimed land – changing wildlife rich coasts into farmland cannot be ‘reclaiming’ it as it was never the farmer’s land in the first place – turning farmland back into a nature reserve on the other hand is ‘reclaiming’). Since our last visit much has happened, sluice gates erected, lagoons, both fresh and saline at various heights, have been created to provide feeding habitat at all stages of the time and for the first time in 400 years the sea wall has been breached allowing the former farmland to revert to salt marsh.

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Although our visit in December last year was bird-filled we were a bit disappointed this year, perhaps the very low tide meant most waders and wildfowl were still offshore, leaving the lagoons on the reserve somewhat empty, or perhaps the very mild conditions hadn’t induced many birds to come this far south and west.

IMG_6692 John Gavin

A fair amount of my time was spent accompanying John and Gavin as they visited Maldon’s many pubs. I have been in Poole for 37 years but never know anyone in pubs unless I arrange to meet someone there. John has been in Maldon less than two years and Gavin as many months, but they seem to know everybody. We were often asked what was the relationship between the three of us was, Gavin would reply ‘I married his sister’ and I’d reply ‘I married his mother-in-law’.

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John even took us to a free beer tasting event hosted by the local brewery.

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Noticing an ale called ‘yellow snow’ I commented that was the title of a Frank Zappa song, the barman nodded in agreement and pointed me to the label on the barrel. They also had a beer called ‘elementary penguin’ so the brewers clearly have a good taste in music (as well as in beer).

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As I said, John knows everybody in Maldon, so we also given a tour of the micro-brewry by the head brewer.

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Back home, mid-December was absurdly warm with temperatures reaching 15c and not dropping much lower at night. Flowers are in bloom, butterfly and bumblebees are on the wing, birds are in full song and trees are in bud. I like four seasons a year not one and half.

IMG_6769 Chris & Ginny

I had hoped to spend a fair bit of time with my two trainee ringers, Chris and Ginny, however the incessant wind that has accompanied the warm weather has reduced the opportunities.

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However we have taken advantage of the few lulls between the storms and have visited several of our local patches, ringing birds like this immature male Sparrowhawk ….

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…. and this breeding plumage Lesser Redpoll.

IMG_6706 Goldfinch abnormal bill

As birds are supposed to be in normal health before they are ringed we released this Goldfinch with a deformed bill without ringing it.

IMG_6718 Chiffchaff ELR143 12 12 15 FLC

At our Fleets Lane site we trapped three wintering Chiffchaffs. One was a typical nominate collybita, but this very brown bird just might be the Scandinavian race albietinus.

IMG_6713 Chiffchaff ELR135 12 12 15 FLC

This bird, trapped on the same day lacks the yellow tones of collybita but does show some green on the bend of the wing and on the fridges of the primaries, together with the prominent supercillium and the whitish belly this could indicate that it is the race tristis from Siberia. A feather from each bird, accidentally dislodged during the ringing process, will be forwarded for DNA analysis.

IMG_6766 Holes Bay

Away from ringing, I have only done a little birding but did take part in the monthly wetland bird count. My area, the southern part of Holes Bay, failed to turn up very much, but the dramatic shower clouds propelled across the Bay by a brisk SE wind were photogenic.

IMG_6719 Star Wars premiere

Being science-fiction fans we managed to get tickets to see the new Star Wars film on its opening day. The steps of the Empire Cinema in Poole were littered with stormtroopers and Jedi knights.

IMG_6730 Phoenix Xmas dance

We only attended one pre-Christmas party, the annual Phoenix dinner-dance (the organisation where Margaret and I met nine years ago). Here Margaret found herself seated next to the only other South African in the Poole group.

IMG_6757 Phoenix Xmas dance

We never had lighting like that when I used to attend discos, a glitter ball was the highlight!

IMG_2206 B mouth Xmas market

Also just before Christmas we visited Bournemouth but paused only briefly at the entertainments near the Winter Gardens ….

IMG_2244 Jools Holland

…. as we were on our way to see Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra play at the BIC

IMG_2227 Jools Holland

A superb line up of top class musicians playing rhythm and blues and boogie-woogie. This is the third time I have seen him play and have enjoyed every minute of it.

IMG_2241 Ruby Turner

As always the ‘queen of booie-woogie’ Ruby Turner gave a splendid vocal performance ….

IMG_2222 KT Tunstall

…. as did guest star KT Turnstall.

IMG_2250 Jools Holland

All of which more than deserved a standing ovation.

IMG_6776 Adrian Dominique Francesca A&K Xmas 15

This brings us on to Christmas. This year, along with Janis, Amber and Kara we were invited over to their friends Adrian, Dominique and Francesca’s in Southampton. Amber and Kara have been friends with Francesca since nursery school. Amber has spent the last few months working in Cornwall but came back for Christmas. L-R: Adrian, Amber, Francesca, Dominique, Kara.

IMG_6777 Boxing Day dinner

We had similar good fortune on Boxing Day when we were invited for dinner to Winterbourne Abbas near Dorchester by Janis’ boyfriend Nigel. L-R: Margaret, Nigel’s daughter Ellie, Amber, Nigel’s son George, Nigel, Nigel’s younger son William, Janis and the children’s grandmother Ros. (Kara is absent as she was invited to go to France by a friend and her parents for the rest of the holidays).

On the 27th we drove up to Duffield in Derbyshire to visit my brother Simon and his family. We also visited my sister-in-law’s parent Ida and Dennis, old friends from school, Martin and Tricia and Di who I knew from University day and her husband Steve in Breedon-on-the-Hill. We also we met up with Nigel whom I was at school and university with and shared a place with for many years. We also did a little birding at Carsington reservoir, a twenty-minute drive from my brother’s house looking (as usual) for Willow Tit and Tree Sparrow – two birds we never see in Dorset.

I have posted photos of friends, family and scenery in the Derby area at Christmas several times before, see these links if you wish to see more.

2014: https://gryllosblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/christmas-eve-2014-to-new-years-day-2015/

2013: https://gryllosblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/merry-christmas-everyone/

2012: https://gryllosblog.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/26th-31st-december-its-been-a-great-christmas-and-heres-to-a-happy-new-year/

2011: https://gryllosblog.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/25th-december-merry-christmas/ also a number of other posts between Christmas Day and New Year

 

 

IMG_6783 Nigel and Steve

Nigel and Steve cooking pizza, Breedon-on-the-Hill, Derbyshire.

IMG_2252 red sails

As it is Christmas we decided to treat ourselves to a very nice painting, called Red Sails. It is mounted at the top of the stairs. It was painted by Margaret’s sister Cathy in Austria.

Dad

And finally I would like to pay tribute to my dear father Brian. It is 30 years today since he died and 29th December marked 100 years since he was born. Photographed here in 1940, the year that he and Mum got married. I learned so much from my father and it was from him that I got an enquiring mind and the love of discovering places, history, landscapes and wildlife. Both Mum and Dad are greatly missed of course, but their memories are with us always.


Birding/Ringing in the last week – 16th – 22nd February 2015   Leave a comment

 

 

During the last week I have rather busy with paperwork and all of Wednesday was taken up with a trip to London (see next post) but we have got out a few times for birding or ringing.

 

IMG_2583 New Forest

On the 16th we went to Blashford Lakes near Ringwood but saw little of note. It appears that many waterfowl are already leaving for their breeding grounds. Winter seems to be getting shorter every year, which might sound like a good thing, but isn’t from a birding perspective. Later we continued to an area of the New Forest where Hen Harriers are known to roost.

IMG_2589 Fallow Deer New Forest

Surprisingly, in spite of staying until dark we didn’t see any harriers but a Merlin put on a good show as did this herd of Fallow Deer.

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This is a bachelor herd of about 25 males. Unlike Red Deer which shed their antlers after the rut in November, Fallow Deer (a species introduced to England by the Romans) shed their antlers in April/May.

IMG_2596 Great Bustards

We had heard that three Great Bustards were spending the winter along the Purbeck coast. These birds are from the re-introduction program on Salisbury Plain, an ambitious and worthwhile project which is returning this magnificent bird to its former home. On arrival on the morning of the 22nd we saw the birds in the distance but after a while they took off and flew towards us…..

IMG_2602 Great Bustards

…. giving good flight views before settling in an other field. An adult male Great Bustard is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world. As far as I am aware this group consist of an immature male and two females. I really hope that this enormous, stately bird becomes re-established (the native population was shot out in 1832) and that winter occurences in Dorset become the norm.

A distant Great Grey Shrike

We continued on to Mordon Bog/Sherford Bridge area where we met a couple who had just relocated the highly elusive wintering Great Grey Shrike. Two or three Great Grey Shrikes have been found this winter in Dorset with the same or slightly more in the New Forest, however they are often elusive and highly mobile, often flying for half a mile or so before perching. Our views were distant and brief so I have included a photo of another distant, but more co-operative individual, that I photographed in the New Forest in 2012.

IMG_2574 Bufffinch 5f

I spent a morning ringing at Holton Lee on 17th and Feet’s Lane on 21st. The former was predictably busy with common species like tits, Nuthatch etc trapped. After four winters of ringing there we are building up an interesting picture of the site fidelity and longevity of the birds, with retraps of several individuals that were hatched in 2011 or earlier. This female Bullfinch was ringed at Fleet’s Lane. The grey, brown edged alula and primary coverts indicate it is a first year bird, however the best ageing characteristic is brown edging to the carpal covert, a small feather that can only be seen on the closed wing.

Firecrest-no6

We also retrapped a Firecrest that had been ringed earlier in the winter at Fleet’s Lane showing that it is remaining site faithful throughout the winter.

IMG_2568 Chiffchaff

Our main reason to ring at the Fleet’s Lane site is to study wintering Chiffchaffs. Chiffs, normally a summer visitor arriving from late March onwards and departing from September to October, have become an increasingly common bird in winter. Nobody knows if the wintering birds are British breeders that have opted to stay for the winter or migrants from elsewhere. We have retrapped three or more birds over a number of winters, showing winter site fidelity and have failed to retrap wintering birds after March indicating that they depart to breeding grounds in spring. This individual is typical of the nominate western European race colybita.

IMG_2569 Chiffchaff best

This individual is slightly duller but is still typical of colybita …..

8224SibeChiff1

…. but this bird, photographed by Ian Ballam and used here with permission, is more typical of the Siberian race tristis. I presume that this bird, which is still showing well, is the individual ringed by others in our group on 27th January. The grey tones to the upperparts, pure white belly, very fine wing bar and green edging to the primaries all indicate tristis. If it is the same individual then it was sound recorded on the date of ringing and shown to give the characteristic lost chick call of tristis. So we know that at least some of the Chiffchaffs that winter in the UK come from the eastern side of the Ural mountains, the cloest breeding grounds of tristis. Some consider tristis to be sufficiently differentiated to be considered a separate species.

IMG_1582 Woodcock

The only other ringing I have done this week is joining one of other group members near Corfe Castle  catching Woodcock at night . This is a very interesting species to ring, as the breeding grounds can be far to the east in Siberia, even on the same longitude as Burma (but of course much further north). As Woodcock are regularly shot for food, both when wintering in the UK and on migration , then the ringing return rate is high.

IMG_1583 Woodcock

Sometimes after processing the birds can be placed on the ground and remain still for long enough for photos to be taken.

IMG_1585 Woodcock

We ringed two individuals and saw at least 15, however most flew long before we could get near them. We also saw a Jack Snipe which stayed hidden until the last-minute before erupting at our feet.

IMG_1563 Raven TOL

As I mentioned above, Wednesday was spent in London, after the necessary tasks were performed, Margaret and I spent the day in the Tower of London where the pinioned Ravens performed for the crowds. More of our visit to the Tower in the next post.

 

15th – 23rd March – An hilarious cabaret act and a series of dips.   Leave a comment


A year or so ago I was sent a link to a cabaret act called Fascinating Aida, three ladies who sing some very amusing, yet risque song with lovely harmonies. Some of the songs were absolutely hilarious so when we found they were playing in Bournemouth we had to go and see them. See http://www.fascinatingaida.co.uk/ but beware that they use a lot of  ‘adult humour’. Check out their song ‘Cheap Flights’ on the link below. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6pj3Fdbwng   They concluded the set with a song about Bournemouth which included the wonderful line that ‘[Bournemouth] has seaside oceanarium, its not the same fish, ‘cos sometimes they vary ’em’ By the way I had to do an update to the WordPress software and now I am back with the situation of having pictures that either too small or too large. As the Fascinating Aida photo isn’t very sharp I’ll keep it in the ‘too small’ category.

P3190242-Fascinating-Aida

Fascinating Aida

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Over the last couple of weeks I have made a few ringing trips. At our site at Fleets Lane all the wintering Chiffchaffs have gone but some new birds have arrived, all with pollen stuck above the bill, probably picked up on migration in Spain.

Over the last couple of weeks I have done a few ringing trips. At our site at Fleets Lane all the wintering Chiffchaffs have gone but some new birds have arrived, all with pollen stuck above the bill, probably picked up on migration in Spain.

 

IMG_1204-New-Forest

Recently I have paid a few visits to Wareham Forest. A very visible pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were found in the Sherford Bridge area whilst I was away. On my return Margaret and I eventually obtained good view of the male in flight, but didn’t get any photos. I made three visits to the Sugar Hill area (above) in the hope of finding a  Great Grey Shrike that a number of birders had seen, but drew a blank each time.

 

IMG_1207-Middlebere

Middlebere near Arne in Poole Harbour can be an excellent place to see raptors but only Buzzards were on show when I visited last week. Clearance of pines on the ridge overlooking the marsh has allowed these improved views.

IMG_1210-Middlebere-deer

I had just got in the hide at Middlebere when this herd of Sika Deer ran past just in front of me, leaping over a barbed wire fence in the process. Thirty seconds later I would have been sat down with the camera ready and could have caught them mid leap.

IMG_1215-Spoonbills

A group of six Spoonbills were asleep opposite the hide. Spoonbills were once a rare visitor to Poole Harbour but now can be seen for most of the year. It appears that ‘our’ birds breed in Holland, I wonder how long it will be before they breed in Dorset.

 

 

 

IMG_1220-New-Forest

On the 22nd I made a quick twitch to Weymouth in the hopes of seeing an Iceland Gull at Ferrybridge but had no luck. The run of dips continued on the 23rd when Margaret went first to the Balshford Lakes in hope of early migrants like Garganey, Sand Martin and Little Ringed Plover but only saw the regular duck species. Later we headed to nearby Ibsley Common to look for another Great Grey Shrike but merely got caught up in series of hail storms and got frozen by a bitter northerly wind.

IMG_1221-New-Forest

….. however we did get to see a Red Kite and a flock of Fieldfares in this area.

IMG_1223-New-Forest

….. and the skyscapes were very dramatic…..

 

IMG_1235-Mandarin

….. but a few pairs of Mandarins on Eyeworth Pond was the only addition to the year list.

Posted March 25, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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