Monday 7 March 2016

2016 Ringing Season Prep and Visit 1 to PSS

Last Saturday, John and I headed down early to Portstewart Strand to get the site ready for the coming ringing season.  The site is a designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest & Special Area of Conservation, so any work has to be carried out before the beginning of March.  We had quite a bit of work to do, as we lost the majority of 'East Ride', which was 66 metres long, due to scrub management by the golf club.  The result was a large clear felled area of the invasive Sea Buckthorn, including removal of the roots.  We were of course given prior notification and are very supportive of the clubs habitat management program and grateful for access to the site.

Part of the clear felled East Ride

The net ride had been reduced down to around 20 metres, so with the use of the chainsaw, we were able to blitz a new path through the dense scrub and extend it back up to 48m. We then have the option of a 12m extension which has cover on one side and what should hopefully be an area full of seed bearing weeds, on the newly exposed ground.  The ride probably won't be overly productive this year, as many of the buds had already formed (and then removed), thus leaving it a little bare.  Everything should hopefully green up before the first summer migrants arrive - the first Willow Warblers appeared on the 9th of April, so we have around a month to go. 
We also gave the other rides a little TLC, topping a few taller bushes beside the nets and cutting back the brambles. 

The new, rather rough, East Ride

John and I went for the first proper ringing session of the season on Sunday morning in ideal conditions.  We set most nets but it remained very quite with only a few birds caught.  We had set a few feeders in and around 'East Ride' last weekend and it was from those that we caught most of the birds, attracting a few Goldfinch and Linnet.
The Skylarks and Meadow Pipits are in full song and ready for the breeding season and it was one of the former that bundled its way into the 18m three shelf gorse net, making a nice start to the season.   


Ringing Totals                                     
                                      New       Retraps          
Blue Tit                                           1 
Dunnock                       2                3
Goldfinch                      2                1         
Linnet                            2                                               
Robin                                               3
Skylark                          1 
Song Thrush                 1  
Wren                              1               1             
Total                               9               9      

During the quite spells I put up four next boxes in amongst some of the only mature trees on the site.  Two of the boxes are closed face, with the other two open and they have no real target species in mind.  We don't actually do any nest recording/searching on site, so it will be nice to some pulli in the scrub. 
The tideline of the estuary is in a bit of a state following the winter, so I started a bit of a tidy up.  I amassed quite a bit of rubbish in a pretty short stretch of the shore.  Over the coming months we will tidy further bits as we walk back and forth and hopefully keep it tidy until next winter.

On Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon I spent a bit time putting up more next boxes in a couple of locations.  On Saturday morning I put up ten closed face boxes and two open faced, at the derelict farm at Grangemore on the other side of the Estuary, owned by the National Trust.  This is the only location in the estuary that I see Tree Sparrows with any regularity and the hope is to boost the population, which is usually around 3/4 pairs. 

Nest boxes at Grangemore

In Caslteroe Wood we have had 30 closed face boxes in place for a number of years, which usually have a 50-75% occupancy of Blue Tits and Great Tits.  One of the boxes had gone missing, so I replaced it and added six new open faced boxes (in twos) in locations I observed Spotted Flycatchers last June.  The boxes are potentially a little low for Spotted Flycatchers but they were all placed in relatively concealed/sheltered locations on Ivy covered trees.  The last few boxes went up around my house for the local House Sparrows, although I may be a little too late, as a few of the birds appear to have paired up and found the usual nest sites under the ridge of the roof.    
Ken has initiated another nest box study on the University Campus and has erected c30 boxes as part of this scheme, looking at tree species preference for titmice.  We have three Kestrel boxes left to go back up, after which, I may spend a bit of time updating the nest box information in the Projects/Activities above.
That is us more a less ready to roll for migration and the breeding season, so hopefully here on out it will be ringing! 

I am taking part in the Patchwork Challenge for a second year with my patch of the Bann Estuary.  As of Saturday morning, I have notched up 75 species with the best birds of Merlin, Gadwall and a patch tick in Red-throated Diver.  The Irish contingent this year has increased to 29 patches and has now been divided into two sections, with coastal and inland patches. 
For more info on the coastal patches, check out the link below.  For blog posts, check out Patch Birding Ireland on the side bar.

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