Portstewart Strand - 08/08/2015
The forecast for early Saturday morning looked spot on, so John, Steve and I arrived on site at 05.45 and set all the nets. The wind was due to pick up through the morning and it was blowing at roughly 18mph on departure at 11am. It was a sunny start and remained clear for most of the morning before clouding over. The only plus side to the wind was that it kept the flies away as it heated up to 16°C.
There was more of a late summer feel around the estuary with lots more Meadow Pipits, Linnets, waders and gulls about including the first 3 Ruff that I have seen this year. I didn't get to watch them for long before a Peregrine bombed through and scattered everything smaller than a Curlew. The Peregrine was also a first for the year, although usually regular through Autumn and winter. The scrub was a little quieter but a number of the Willow Warblers have taken to song again.
The catch was decent with 30 new birds and 5 retraps. The young birds are finally starting to move through the scrub with 26 of the 30 new birds being born this year. It was a nice mixed bag of species; the nicest bird being a juvenile Stonechat.
Ringing Totals 08/08/2015
Bullfinch 4 1
Dunnock 2 2
Lesser Redpoll 8
Meadow Pipit 3
Sedge Warbler 1
Willow Warbler 4
Wren 1 1
Total 30 5
Storm Petrels - Visits 4 & 5
John, Ken and myself met at Rinnagree Point on the 30th of July for the fourth Storm Petrel ringing session of the season. The wind was a little stronger than forecast and there was a large bright moon, peaking out behind the clouds through the night. The birds responded to the tape quickly and there was an initial run of birds, with the first hitting the net at 23.48. Things slowed down there after and we only managed a total of 11 new birds, with the final bird coming at 01.30. We packed up and headed for bed at 01.45.
Session five was held on the 6th of August by John and Steve. The conditions were again a little breezy with very little cloud. They set up a bit earlier at 23.15 and the first bird appeared at 23.35. The catching was much better with 38 new birds, 2 retraps and 1 control. The last bird was caught at 2am and the net was taken down. The first retrap was originally caught around 2 years ago on the 14th of August 2013. The second was originally a controlled bird from the 26th of July last year, although we are still awaiting feedback on that one...
The occurrence of these retraps (13 now), with some over multiple years, does perhaps support the idea of a closer breeding colony. It has been suggested they may breed on the Skerries - Portrush, a few miles along the coast but they have yet to be checked, as far as we are aware. Until breeding is proven, they will remain non breeding nomads, moving from colony to colony.
We received a bit of interesting information from a ringer - Tom, at the Isle of May this week, which may make us rethink our ideas of Storm Petrel movements. We had presumed that Storm Petrels always flew over the sea and that the birds that we trade with east coast Britain would have to pass around the top of Scotland. The suggestion received is that some birds may actually cut across Scotland via the Clyde / Forth Valley, with some decent evidence to back the theory. The first piece is a trade of a bird, between the east coast of Scotland, near the English border and County Down, Northern Ireland.
"2396008, ringed Sheepland, Ardglass (by North Down Ringing Group), 0125hrs on 01.07.1995
controlled, St Abbs Head, Scottish Borders (by Borders Ringing Group), 0230hrs on 02.07.1995 - 283km, 50o."
The distance between the two sites, travelling around the north of Scotland is over 1000 km and it seems very unlikely that a bird would do this in one night. The 283km (straight line distance) flight in one night seems impressive enough in itself! The other information is below and is supportive of the theory, with this bird being caught some 16 km west of Edinburgh.
"There is a previous record of a Stormie accidentally mist-netted by a ringer to a Dunlin lure (if I recall the report, his batteries were running low and the Dunlin calls may have been distorted) on the Forth estuary, near Bo'ness possibly, which is quite far up the estuary from the North Sea."
I'd be really interested to hear of any other similar occurrences of possible cross country movements of Stormies in the UK & Ireland if anyone has any?
Swallow Roost Catch
I headed down to the River Site at the University of Ulster, Coleraine, on Friday night (7th) to test the water and see if the Swallows have started to gather. In the past we have only tried it out in early September with perhaps as many as 5,000 Swallows gathering over the estuary. We aren't really sure when the birds accumulate but a number of groups in Britain are currently catching successfully, so I thought I'd give it a go.
The weather conditions were perfect and there was a lovely sunset over the estuary to boot. As I was by myself and I didn't have any means of holding the birds overnight, I set just the one net in the willows and turned off the tape lure after the first flurry of birds. There were only c50 birds fluttering about and I caught ten new birds, four of which were adults. At least I now know that early August is a little early in our neck of the woods, plus I did get a bit of clearing done in the net rides.
We will probably leave it a couple of weeks before we go for the first proper attempt, with a large team assembled. Going by last year, 150+ birds in a session seems feasible!