Tuesday 1 September 2015

End of August Update

The last few weeks of August have been pretty quiet in terms of ringing, with some poor catches.  Mondays session at Portstewart Strand marked the change of the seasons and the arrival of autumn and a decent catch.

The first session was the 7th attempt at catching Storm Petrels on Wednesday the 19th.  It was John, Steve, Ken and myself present in ideal conditions.  The first bird was caught 7 minutes in, after opening the net at 22.25.  It was slow going, so Ken and myself left around midnight, while the other 2 persevered until 01.30.  They managed to add a couple more Storm Petrels, taking the nights total to 12.  Their perseverance was rewarded with a new species for the group, in the form of a juvenile Turnstone


On Saturday the 29th John, Ken, Alison and I, attempted a combined night of a Swallow Roost catch and the final Storm Petrel visit.  It was a bad night, with the roosting Swallows yet to have gathered, resulting in just 1 Swallow caught.  At least it was new species for Alison!  We will probably leave it a few weeks and hope that some Swallows materialise before attempting again. 
The Storm Petrel visit was late in the season and the catch of zero birds suggests why.  The massive bright moon probably didn't help the nights ringing.  This marks the end of the season with a total of 104 new birds, 2 retraps and 4 controls.  This is pretty poor result, with a much lower catch than the previous three years, with similar effort. 

I have managed two sessions at Portstewart Strand in the last two weeks.  The first was on Saturday the 22nd and, like the week before, I needn't have bothered.  It was a very quiet session with little to nothing about and an absence of the usual common species.  The total was just 9 new birds and 2 retraps.  Dunnock 3, Bullfinch 2, Blackcap 2, Wren 2 and 2 retrap Bullfinches. 


On Monday morning the forecast looked more promising with a change in the winds, now coming from the north.  Given the location of the site, we probably need some form of northerlies in autumn to bring us anything.  Steve and I met on site at 05.30 and set up east ride and gorse nets + the 12m in the Alders and the first 24 metres of west ride.  The conditions were decent, with light winds and it was overcast. 


The change in the seasons seems evident in the exchange of birds.  The only Warblers present in the last couple of weeks have been the Blackcaps, with the rest headed south.  On Monday there were signs that the autumn birds are moving with the first Goldcrests (c8) since spring, c25 Robins and an arrival of c75 Meadow Pipits.  Other birds of note were a pair of Kingfishers chasing each other back and forth across the estuary, making them the first of the year.  Other birds of note on the estuary recently include up to 13 Ruff, 1 Knot, 3 Greenshank, 5 Common Sandpiper and a Ring-billed Gull.   

Meadow Pipit

Overall it was a pretty good session with good numbers and a decent selection of birds but disappointingly, only a single warbler.  The Meadow Pipits were playing ball today and despite a few slipping the nets, we ringed 28 new birds.  The local Stonechat family were knocking about, with what I presume to be their second brood and we caught 2 juveniles.  The Bullfinches keep coming and the catch today takes their total to around 35 new birds since last September. 

Ringing Totals 31/08/2015
                                        New        Retrap           
Blackbird                          1                 
Blackcap                           1  
Bullfinch                            3               1
Dunnock                            1               2            
Goldcrest                           3
Lesser Redpoll                  1      
Linnet                                3
Meadow Pipit                   28
Reed Bunting                    1
Robin                                6                2                                                           
Stonechat                          2                                                                 
Wren                                 2                1

Total                                52                6         

Six-spot Burnet Moths
Steve and I are heading over to Copeland Bird Observatory for the weekend, so fingers crossed for some nice birds.  The forecast is looking quite windy from the north but we can hopefully make it work.  The wind seems to have been a persistent problem for our visits this year.

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