Friday 4 December 2015

Late Autumn into Winter

After such a dry and calm spell through early/mid autumn, late autumn made up for any short comings on the expected and it has been abysmal.  We only managed one session in the last few weeks of November and the conditions for that were breezy.  We kicked off the winter ringing yesterday morning at Portstewart Strand, which will be the last visit to the site in 2015.

                                       Skylark                                JC

Steve was successful in his recent C permit application and now, armed with a couple of nets and a bunch of rings, I'm sure he will be very active over the winter.
To help him get set up with his first ringing site, John, along with Thom headed out west, to Steve's family farm near Gortin in central Tyrone, on Sunday the 22nd of November.  John had first visited the site back in March and did a little tester ringing, catching a number of Chaffinch and tits.
 As I mentioned earlier it was a bit breezy and damp at times but still workable and safe.  They set two nets - one through a hedgerow and another in an area of woodland. 

                      Treecreeper              JC

There were large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing feeding on haws through the hedgerows which resulted in four Redwing being caught.  The catch was decent for the conditions and coverage and it could prove to be a decent site for Steve to work.  The hedgerow net caught the majority of the birds, with the woodland net only chipping in with a couple of birds after 11.30.

Ringing Totals 22/11/2015                                      
                                       New        Retrap           
Blackbird                        2               
Blue Tit                           4              
Coal Tit                           1               1                             
Great Tit                         3               2           
Redwing                         4                    
Treecreeper                    1                                                                            
Wren                               1                

Total                               16              3              


Yesterday, John and I took the morning off work and we had a last bash at Portstewart Strand for the 2015 season.  We has hoped to get the last session in before the end of November but the weather put a stop to that.  The conditions were favourable with complete cloud cover and light winds.  The wind did pick up to around 10-12mph for a couple of short spells but generally stayed around 3-4mph. 
We arrived around an hour before sunrise and set a couple of nets each in east and west rides plus further nets through the open gorse rides and the alders. 
It was very quite overhead with little to get excited about.  As usual there seemed to be quite a few Blackbirds and Song thrushes calling pre dawn, followed by the Dunnocks, Robins and Wrens.  There weren't many finches on show now that the feeding station is gone and the berries are all but gone.

                                                Reed Bunting                                                JC

The catch for December was good with some quality birds including a possible wintering Blackcap, two Reed Bunting and one Redwing. We also caught another Skylark, making it our 5th this year, adding to the three last year.  From 2013 back to 1975 there had only been 88 ringed in Northern Ireland, the last one coming in the year 2000. 

Ringing Totals 03/12/2015                                      
                                       New        Retrap           
Blackcap                         1
Blue Tit                           2
Bullfinch                         1               
Chaffinch                        1              
Coal Tit                                             2                             
Dunnock                                           3
Goldcrest                                          1           
Linnet                              5
Redwing                          1
Reed Bunting                  2
Robin                                                2                                                          
Skylark                            1
Song Thrush                   2                                                                                                                      

Total                               16               8              

We have been given permission to use a similar site on the other side of the estuary, at Castlerock Golf Club and we plan to do a little work there soon, to make some net rides.  The benefit of this site is that the Sea Buckthorn plants are female (supposedly) and are berry laden.  The concentration of birds tends to be much higher here into late winter because of the fruit and it usually has a few Fieldfare and Blackcap knocking about. 

A new project we will be initiating over the winter period is setting up a couple of new nest box schemes on the north-east coast of Northern Ireland, following the completion of Kens long-term studies on titmice at the University campus in Coleraine.
We have already gained permission for one woodland and we will be searching for another ideal location.  The hope is to provide tempting accommodation for Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers that pass along the east coast in Spring before they flit over to Scotland where they breed in Dumfries and Galloway. 
It is an ambitious plan given that Redstarts last attempted to breed in 2011 (and failed) in County Kerry and before that, 2003.  Pied Flycatchers haven't bred (proven) since 2003 in County Wicklow and before that 1999.
They have bred along the north east coast before, including a pair of Pied Flycatchers in a nest box in Breen Oakwood in 1985.  This was the first successful breeding attempt recorded in Ireland and in the same year, two pairs attempted to breed in boxes in County Wicklow, but failed.  Nest boxes had only been installed in Breen Oakwood in 1984, following 120 boxes being installed, two years previous across three oak woodlands in Wicklow.  So the idea works anyway!    
There is a lack of substantial habitat in Northern Ireland which the species favour, but also, with the absence of Woodpeckers and veteran trees, there are insufficient nesting holes.  The limited holes that do exist, are occupied by resident breeders such as Blue Tits in early spring, before the RS and PF reach our shores. 
To combat the problem of early occupancy by titmice, we plan to use the tried and tested method of placing nest boxes in groups of four/five.  The idea is that Blue and Great Tits are quite territorial and will not nest in close proximity of their own kind, thus leaving one or two boxes unoccupied for the target species to inhabit.  We may also remove the front of a few boxes and place them in more concealed locations to attract the likes of Robins or Spotted Flycatchers. 
It is project that is unlikely to be successful but you certainly have no chance if you don't try!

No comments:

Post a Comment