Archive for the ‘Redstart’ Tag

Early September 2015: mainly ringing and a couple of get togethers with old friends.   Leave a comment

The early part of September has been dominated by bird ringing. When I’ve not been out in the field I’ve been catching up on the considerable amount of paperwork that this activity generates.

However there has been time to catch up with two old friends. Two years ago I reported on this blog that Guy Dutson, someone I have known since the early 80s had returned from Australia with his wife and newborn daughter Lila to meet up with his relatives (see ). Well, two years later Lila has grown somewhat, our get together was, due his crowded itinerary, typically brief but it was really great to see them again. We must make plans to visit all our friends in Australia but as always, there is so much to fit in.

IMG_6437 Guy & Lila

Guy with two-year old Lila.

IMG_6442 Margaret & Bronwyn & Lila

Margaret and Lila with Lila’s grandmother, Bronwyn.


Another get together with an old friend occurred last week when a bunch of us got together with Ewan Brodie to celebrate his 60th birthday. I have been friends with Ewan since the late 70s and we have been on at least five foreign trips and countless twitches together. Changing shift patterns and other commitments has meant that we haven’t seen each other for a few months, so it was good to catch up.

France 09 Ewan and Tim

In 2009 Ewan (seen here on the right) and my friend Tim from work went on a week-long birding and sightseeing trip to northern France. The trip was beset with difficulties from having my car broken into and gear stolen to not being notified that the hotel had changed ownership causing us hours of unnecessary searching. That said, we had a good time seeing tens of thousands of Common Cranes and many other birds, visiting Fontainbleu and Paris, seeing the Bayeux Tapestry and getting together with my University mate John and his family. Maybe one day I’ll post the photos on the blog.

IMG_6454 Grillo bottle

As anyone who reads this blog will know, my nickname is Gryllo, (if you don’t know why then read the very first blog entry in June 2011). I was surprised and pleased when fellow birder Graham Armstrong kindly presented me with a bottle of Grillo wine (not spelt quite the same, I’ll admit – grillo being Italian for grasshopper, obviously from the same root as the scientific name for mole cricket). My verdict, a lovely gesture from Graham but a mediocre wine.


Now back to the main subject of this post, our continuing bird ringing program. In September I only made two visits to Lytchett Bay, one to try to catch Swallows and another for general ringing. The most numerous reed bed species, Sedge and Reed Warblers have largely left the UK by this time, although a few will persist into October. We will continue there however, as other species such as Reed Bunting and Pied Wagtail become commoner as the autumn progresses.

IMG_6434 Winchat

This first year Whinchat was ringed at Lytchett Bay on 4th September

IMG_6436 Winchat

The characteristic white bases to the outer tail feathers can be seen well in this photo.

Our program of ringing at Durlston continues, however with most of the group at work mid-week most of the sessions have been understaffed and it has fallen to me to keep it going. Details of migration counts and numbers of birds ringed at selected sites across Europe can be seen at We now upload our ringing totals to the site, whilst local birder Hamish Murray uploads his ‘vis mig’ counts. For example, details of a very busy morning for me on the 17th  can be seen at . The totals page can be accessed by clicking on ‘totals 2015’ in the top right and by clicking on each of the dates above the word ‘Durlston RS’ will give our totals for the nine visits I have made in September.

Here are a few photos taken at Durlston this month.

IMG_6445 Common Redstart

The brown fringes to the coverts indicates that this Common Redstart is a first year bird. The black chin and white band on the head shows that it is a male.

IMG_6453 Sand Martin

We have been able to ring small numbers of all three hirundines, including a few Sand Martins.

IMG_6452 Sand Martin

The white edging to the flight feathers, especially the tertials and the scalloped rump and uppertail coverts show that this is a first year bird.

IMG_6430 Wryneck DCP

Ringing is all about researching the movements and population dynamics of our regular species and probably the most significant events of the last few days were the trapping of two ‘controls’, a Reed Warbler and a Blackcap ringed elsewhere in the UK, and the notification that a Swallow we ringed at Durlston was retrapped recently in Hampshire. But there is no doubt which event was the most enjoyable, ringing this Wryneck, the first I have seen in the hand in the UK was the highlight of my Durlston ringing this year.


Well that is all for both blogging and ringing for several weeks. In a few hours I leave for South America, my 16th visit, this time to Paraguay. I hope to upload some interesting photos on my return.

Posted September 18, 2015 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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Early September 2014 – a ringing update   Leave a comment



Just a quick blog update before, once again, I go on my travels, this time to northern Madagascar, however the Air France pilot’s strike has already caused problems and threatens to wreck the whole trip.

The settled dry, easterly conditions have been good for ringing at Dulston, although it has been a bit on the windy side at times. Since the start of September we have ringed nearly a thousand birds with Blackcaps occurring in unprecedented numbers (550 in the first 18 days of September). Over the last few days there has been a large movement of Meadow Pipits and close on 100 have been ringed.

IMG_0019 Yellow Wagtail

We also have done some ringing at Lytchett Bay. Sedge Warblers were still present at the start of the month and we ringed a few Yellow Wagtails at dusk one evening.

IMG_0030 Mipit

Meadow Pipits have been ringed in large numbers over the last few days. The whitish fringes to the unmoulted median coverts with the centers forming a downward pointing tooth indicate it is a first year bird. Another first year feature is that the  unmoulted greater coverts are not very dark centred and have a diffuse brown fringe. Contrast them with the two longest tertials which are darker with a better defined fringe.

IMG_0031 Mipit

The heavily streaked flanks and long hind claw are good features to separate Meadow Pipits from Tree Pipits (which seem to have all left for Africa). The constant pheet-pheet-pheet call is a bit of give away too.

IMG_0033 Blackcap 3&4

Telling a first year male Blackcap (L) from an adult (R) involves checking for contrast in the wing coverts, fault bars on the tail and pointed outer tail feathers, all first year features. Additional pointers shown in this photo are, the presence of brown fringes to the crown feathers, a brown wash to the ear coverts and slightly less richly coloured eye.

IMG_0022 Wilwa abberant wing

This is the wing of Willow Warbler but an unusual one at that. Normally the longest feather is the 3rd primary (counted from the outside in – and remember that the 1st is vestigial and largely hidden by my thumb) but in this case it seems to be the 5th. However it can be seen that the 6th – 10th primary are unmoulted whilst 2- 5 are new, so is the 3rd still growing? I must admit I forgot to check this at the time. Adult birds should complete their moult before migration but this bird has either suspended its moult mid way though or is migrating with moult in progress. Not all birds fit the rules.

IMG_0020 ringing demo

We are asked to perform two public ringing demonstrations annually. One on the 14th was attended by about 20 people. Here Sean Walls is explaining  the use of radio tags on birds.


IMG_0034 Sparrowhawk juv male

It’s a shame that we caught this Sparrowhawk the day after the public demo, rather than during it. The pale eye and chestnut fringes to the feathers show it is a juvenile, the small size shows it is a male. Male Sparrowhawks are so much smaller than females that they take a different ring size.


IMG_0041 Redstart

We trapped a Common Redstart the day of the demo, but soon after dawn well before the public arrived.



DSCF4423 WEO and Christine

Last Friday our young friend Christine Arnold came round for a meal. She was about to return to teacher training college and was keen to catch up with our news. She has been staying on Brownsea Island and was most impressed that Bill Oddie was staying there as well. I don’t know if this is in his guise as Autumn Watch presenter or as a private holiday. Either way Christine was most impressed to be in the company of a wildlife celebrity and asked that I post this photo on my blog.

Posted September 18, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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