Friday, 12 January 2018

2017 Group Ringing Totals

In 2017 we finished on a total of 1832 new birds and 286 retraps. We processed c800 birds less than last year with a few hundred less Sandwich Tern pulli, no Swallow roost catches, less Stomies & waders, c600 less tits and finches with basically no garden ringing and no ringing in Nov & Dec. Much higher numbers of Sand Martins and Sedge Warblers brought totals back up a bit.

Species Name          
Black-headed Gull       - 10 (1)
Black-tailed Godwit   - 2 (0)
Blackbird                       - 51 (14)
Blackcap                        - 62 (3)
Blue Tit                      - 162 (29)
Bullfinch                        - 31 (17)
Chaffinch                       - 52 (2)
Chiffchaff                       - 9 (0)
Coal Tit                        - 31 (6)
Common Gull                - 38 (0)
Common Tern                - 2 (0)
Curlew                        - 2  (0)
Dipper                            - 14 (3)
Dunlin                        - 2 (0)
Dunnock                       - 51 (26)
Garden Warbler             - 1 (0)
Goldcrest                      - 58 (15)
Goldfinch                       - 24 (1)
Grasshopper Warbler    - 1 (0)
Great Tit                      - 99 (27)
Grey Wagtail                 - 1 (0)
Greenfinch               - 4 (0)
House Martin               - 1 (0)
House Sparrow       - 6 (1)
Kingfisher               - 4 (0)
Lesser Redpoll       - 8 (0)
Linnet                      - 83 (1)
Long-tailed Tit             - 15 (3)
Magpie                       - 3 (2)
Meadow Pipit              - 54 (2)
Redshank               - 6 (0)
Redwing                       - 1 (0)
Reed Bunting             - 34 (2)
Reed Warbler             - 30 (0)
Robin                     - 58 (19)
Rock Pipit                   - 16 (0)
Sand Martin           - 327 (77)
Sandwich Tern          - 139 (0)
Sedge Warbler    - 152 (4)
Song Thrush             - 29 (1)
Sparrowhawk               - 1 (0)
Starling                       - 2 (0)
Stonechat              - 12 (2)
Storm Petrel             - 44 (4)
Swallow                       - 3 (0)
Tree Sparrow               - 1 (0)
Treecreeper               - 1 (0)
Wheatear                     - 1 (0)
Whitethroat               - 1 (0)
Willow Warbler             - 45 (14)
Wren                           - 47 (10)
Yellowhammer             - 1 (0)

                                    1832 (286)   

At this time I don't see much change in the activities through the year so will be expecting something similar at this stage next year. 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Turn of the year - 2017/2018

It has become a reoccurring theme that on recent posts I begin with an apology for the lack of updates and again I'm a week shy of two months without a post, so....sorry!

We have been pretty idle on the North Coast and haven't done any ringing since our last visit to Portstewart Strand on the 27th of October through issues of weather, free time and the others cooped up indoors with a three week bug.

John and I finally got back into action on the Sunday the 7th with a the first visit to Castlerock since last February. The Sea Buckthorn scrub and the millions of berries have been absolutely bubbling with birds since the end of autumn and we had been itching to make our first visit. It was a cold start at 07.30 - -3°C, crystal clear skies, still and a hard frost which we thought we would be perfect to entice the ground feeding winter thrushes from further afield. Throughout the winter I had only noticed around a dozen Fieldfares amongst the scrub daily but we called the weather correct and many more appeared with c75 plus c50 Redwings, which aren't regular.


We did try our various tapes to try and lure them into the nets but were absolutely unsuccessful and only caught two Redwings which were caught before the tapes - even the infamous 'Latvian love song' failed. We are restricted with the placement of our nets to the bottom of the hollow and generally the thrushes stick to the bushes on the safer higher slopes so we need to think up a new plan to catch them. There were also decent numbers of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes but only caught two of the former.

Our nets are all along the bottom centre of the scrub but thrushes prefer areas to the left

The thrushes aren't the only interest at the site but also the finches. These days Castlerock is about the only site where we encounter Greenfinches and another 6 caught today was nice. As with recent winters there is a healthy population of Bullfinches with probably 15-20+ and another three were trapped. Chaffinch numbers were a quarter of what they normally are with perhaps a dozen about. We finished with a nice mixed catch of 24 new birds of 9 species.


Castlerock Ringing Totals - 07/01/2018

Blue Tit                  4
Bullfinch                3     
Chaffinch               2            
Goldcrest               1
Greenfinch             6           
Redwing                 2
Robin                     3
Song Thrush          2
Wren                       1

Totals                    24      

The second Copeland Bird Observatory winter training session took place back on the 17th of December with seven in attendance all together. The forecast had been looking pretty ropey but the rain stopped just before arrival and started as we slipped onto the motorway home so it worked out great. 

It was much quieter this time out with the wild bird seed field being less productive with only six each of Chaffinch and Linnet compared to the last visits 22 and 29! Like this period last year the Blackbirds descended on the apple trees but we didn't match the catch of  21 new birds but 12 in one session is still great. Another winter Blackcap is nice catch and going by reports across Ireland this year they are increasing rapidly or simply visiting feeders more!  


Antrim Ringing Totals - 17/12/2017
                             New       Retraps

Blackbird              12              1
Blackcap                1
Blue Tit                  3              2
Chaffinch               4              2
Coal Tit                  6              3
Dunnock                2              
Goldcrest                                1
Great Tit                 2               6
Lesser Redpoll      1
Linnet                    5              1
Long-tailed Tit      3              2
Robin                     1              2
Wren                                      1

Totals                   40             21         

Earlier this week I had nipped across to the local retail park and noticed a large number of Pied Wagtails sprawled across the car park so I decided to watch them for a while. I've seen them here before when visiting the Supermarket across the park but never in such numbers and wasn't sure where they roost. I arrived at the right time as I was able to watch them go in to roost and estimated there to be around 250 birds. 
Where they roost looks quite difficult to set nets and there is a 30 foot vertical drop over the hedge so it will take a little bit of ingenuity but we are going to give it a go if we get a chance. Given the sheer numbers, some must be travelling quite a distance so it will be interesting to see if we can produce any results.

72 Pied Wagtails after the main portion had entered the roost

With the turn of the years starts a new season of the Patchwork Challenge. Last year I finished with a total of 130 species which was seven species up on 2016 and gave a score of 164 points. In my Coastal Irish League I finished fifth on points but had the second most species recorded. In the comparative score league I finished third. My CBO patch didn't get as much attention as I had hoped with only 5/6 visits but I achieved an encouraging 81 species and a score of 101 and finished fourth in the comparative league.

I've kicked off the 2018 list and recorded 58 species so far including two which I didn't get until October last year, Great Northern Diver and Redwing. I've set myself a high-bar but with equal effort and a bit of luck I could better it!

Phone/Binocular record shot of one of two Great Northern Divers on the 7th 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Copeland Bird Obs Winter Training - November 2017

I've been slacking once again and not updated the blog in a month but we have been a little idle over the past three/four weeks down to weekend weather and lack of free time. My last time out, until today, was back on the 27th of October at Portstewart Strand, so we really missed out on the thrush passage.

This morning Steve, David and I were up in Antrim for the first Copeland Bird Observatory training session of the winter. We ring here once a month Nov-Mar outside the Obs season to give the trainees a little more experience and to handle some new species. We had a good mix of 5 trainees, 3 C and 3 A permit holders.
The feeding station was really quiet with not a Goldfinch in sight and very few thrushes but we still processed over 100 birds.
The wild bird seed plot produced half the haul from two well placed nets.
The best bird of the morning was the first Blackcap for the site and 28 new Linnets is a great catch.


Antrim Ringing Totals - 19/11/2017
                             New       Retraps
Blackcap                1
Blue Tit                  6              2
Chaffinch              17             5
Coal Tit                  4              1
Dunnock                2              1
Goldcrest               8
Great Tit                 1               2
Lesser Redpoll      5
Linnet                    28              1
Long-tailed Tit      10
Robin                     7
Wren                      3

Totals                   92              12        

Initial signs are that it was a bad year for Blue and Great Tits. This time last year we caught 14 Greti but just one juvenile today. The Blue Tit catch was also low and only 3 of the 8 were juveniles. There were a few Blackbirds around but not feeding on the fruit trees just yet. We caught 27 new Blackbirds in the first two visits of last winter. A cold snap and a touch of frost would help the next catch!

Long-tailed Tits

Although we had planned to carry on at Portstewart Strand for a few more visits, it turns out that the 27th of October was the final visit of the season. I was down by myself in mild sunny conditions with some light northerlies. As I sit now I don't remember all that much about the day but I did catch 34 new birds. The total was heavily boosted by Linnets with 17 new birds.

Portstewart Strand 27/10/2017                            
                             New         Retrap
Blackbird               2                        
Blue Tit                  1      
Bullfinch                2                2
Chaffinch               4
Goldcrest               2                2 

Goldfinch               1
Great Tit                 1      
Dunnock                                  1  
Linnet                    17
Robin                                       1         
Song Thrush         1

Wren                      3

Totals                    34              6         


John was out on the 2nd  of November at the University River Site and over a few hours caught 23 new birds including 12 Long-tailed Tits and a Blackcap.

We were all up at the BTO Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Conference last Saturday at Oxford Island and thoroughly enjoyed the range of talks with plenty of focus on ringing, migration and talks on Ireland's two bird observatories!

I will follow up with the end of season totals for Portstewart Strand in the next month or so. As for now it should be back to Castlerock but I have been saying that for a few weeks and not made it out the door! There has been no sign of the usual winter thrushes feeding on the Sea Buckthorn berries but it is early doors yet. I have prepared the net rides at Castlerock but other than that, we don't have any real plans for the winter and have yet to set up any feeders but will find other bits and pieces to keep us busy.

27m net ride at Castlerock

Monday, 23 October 2017

Portstewart Strand 14th &18th October

On Saturday morning I was out by myself with the others off on a day trip to Copeland Bird Observatory in the hopes of seeing the recent Yellow-browed Warblers, Wryneck and anything else that might appear.
I again restricted the number of nets but it was quiet with not a huge amount about.  I caught a total of 31 new birds which was boosted by the capture of 14 Linnets, plus 4 early Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrush by the winter woozle tape.


One of Long-eared Owls was again out and about until 07.22 and the regular juvenile Peregrine was busy terrorising the waders with a total of 51 species sighted.

On Wednesday morning John and I were out again for a couple of hours before work in what appeared to be ideal conditions. The birds started to move and call early on including the first 3 Redwings of the autumn but around 8am thick mist rolled in and killed off any activity, particularly in the open. We did catch one of the Redwings and a new trickle of Goldcrests and a couple more Song Thrushes but little else. A Merlin and a single Twite were present around the 'gorse nets' but not caught.  A number of Whooper Swans were grounded on the estuary in the mist with over 50 throughout the morning.


As we were departing at 10.30 the mist started to clear and things would have livened up again but unfortunately be had to be in work. The total was a rather tame 12 new birds but there was a little bit of quality in the species at least.

Portstewart Strand 14+18/10/2017                            
                             New         Retrap
Blackbird               4                1               
Bullfinch                2
Chaffinch               1
Goldcrest               7                1       

Dunnock                3                1    
Linnet                   14

Redwing                1 
Reed Bunting        2    
Robin                     2          
Song Thrush         5

Wren                      2

Totals                    43               3         

Fly-by Whoopers and the incoming mist

John visited the University River site on the 12th for the first time in a while and had a good catch for the site with c25 new birds. He had a good run of Blackbirds and Goldcrests with a few other bits and pieces.

The patch birding in the estuary this October has been great and I added a further four ticks over the weekend and another two on Wednesday morning. On Saturday morning I picked up a flock of 13 Pink-footed Geese which dropped in to Grangemore. These were a full patch tick for me and still a vary scarce bird in NI.
On Sunday I spent a bit of time around the bird hide and there was plenty more activity on the water with a Red-throated Diver (large red throat patch), 4 Eider, 13 Red Breasted Merganser in front of the hide and a large influx of Black-headed Gulls (500+) which included a patch tick Mediterranean Gull, a species I failed to get in 2016. I then picked up a black duck species whirling about the estuary at full speed which didn't look like an Goldeneye. Thankfully anther birder present had a large camera and was able to snap a record shot to show a fine Tufted Duck, my first in the estuary since 2012. I then headed over to Grangemore to see if the Pink-feet were about to get a closer look and managed a couple of record shots. On route I also ticked a single Twite, sighted only my second Kestrel of the year and had 4 Brent geese overhead.

Pink-footed Geese

On Wednesday the ticks were the Redwings and the nice male Merlin, with a single Twite present amongst the Linnets. I am now three species ahead of my record year in 2016 and I am hopefully of adding a few more new species before the year is out!  Of the 158 species I have seen in NI this year, I've seen 126 of those in the estuary!


Yet another storm is due this weekend, this time Storm Brian, so chances are slim of getting out, perhaps a short window on Saturday morning!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Portstewart Strand 10th October

John and I squeezed in a quick visit before work today (10th) with the lure of some nice birds about in the south and west of Ireland. It rained throughout the night and stopped around 6am leaving a damp and dull morning. The rain started again as we were packing up around 10am so we really made the most of the short window.

It was much the same as in recent visits with a slow start and more activity in the open saltmarsh. The catch was also very similar but it did produce another new species to be ringed at the site - a Yellowhammer. This is only the second time I have seen Yellowhammers along the dunes following a sighting of two birds back on the 17th of October 2015.


Portstewart Strand 10/10/2017                            
                             New         Retrap
Blackbird               3                1
Blue Tit                  1
Bullfinch                1
Chaffinch               2
Goldcrest               3                2
Linnet                     1
Meadow Pipit        14
Robin                      1            
Song Thrush          2

Stonechat                                 1
Yellowhammer      1
Wren                       1

Totals                    30                4      

The Yellowhammer is also a new species for my 2017 patch list and one that I had missed last year. I can find them easily (ish) a little outside the patch but my old spot in the hedgerows around Kilcranny doesn't produce the goods anymore. I'm only three species behind my 2016 total and have equalled last years score with very achievable Redwing and Kingfisher to come.