Thursday 21 July 2016

Recovery streak - Portuguese Sand Martin & 2nd BTO Sedge Warbler

On Saturday morning, a mear 4 hours after getting home from Storm Petrel ringing, I was down at Grangemore for visit three at the Sand Martin colony.  I was joined by David S from Copeland Bird Observatory, who had come up from Belfast direction.  The conditions were dry, cloudy and a little breezy.  The main focus was on ringing Sand Martins but we also put up a couple of nets in the small reed bed and marsh.  The wind direction was ideal for the Sand Martins as the bank was well sheltered from the south but the other nets were a little more affected.

Grasshopper Warbler

The site is currently coming down with birds with large flocks if marauding LinnetsGoldfinches plus plenty of Meadow Pipits, Reed Bunting, Skylark and Stonechat.  Again there were two reeling Grasshopper Warblers from the off but Sedge Warblers were much less conspicuous.  I also managed a total patch tick in the form of a juvenile Moorhen which we flushed from an area of reeds.  I was sure they breed in the estuary as the habitat is perfect but I've somehow never encountered one in the past 4/5 years... until now!   

I had the two 12m nets up in front of the Sand Martin colony pretty quickly and immediately caught a number of birds as they exited their burrows.  We caught quite well in the first few rounds and opted to the close the nets when we started to catch a couple of same day retraps.  In total we caught 54 new birds, 11 retraps and also 3 controls.  The best of the bunch was a Portuguese Sand Martin bearing a CEMPA SEA LISBOA ring and equals only my third foreign passerine recovery/control.  We also managed a couple of local controls from Macfin which is 12.6 kilometres away (14.1km following the river) and the interactions between the two colonies was the main reason we started ringing here.  Now we have a basis of ringed birds in both colonies it will be interesting to see the future exchanges between them.  The majority of the catch seemed to be adult females and very few juveniles, so I presume that brood two are well on the way and it may be worth a final visit at the end of the month to catch a few of the juveniles.
The other nets weren't overly productive but we did catch the first Grasshopper Warbler of the year plus 2 Stonechat, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 new Sedge Warbler and another British/Irish Control Sedge Warbler.     

Movement between the Sand Martin colonies

Grangemore 16/07/2016

                                        New     Retraps     Controls
Grasshopper Warbler        1
Meadow Pipit                   1
Sand Martin                     54           11              3
Sedge Warbler                  1                              1
Stonechat                          2

Total                                59            11              4

On Friday night John, Geoff and I headed down to Rinnagree Point for our second attempt at catching Storm Petrels for the season.  It was much darker and milder this time around but a stiff westerly was just about workable.  We had the net open and tape on for 23.00 with the first birds appearing 15 minutes later.  The windier conditions seem to suit the birds and there was a constant stream of birds with 4/5 birds at a time and probably a few hundred birds over the two hours.  The wind was a real hinderance as the birds approached from the outside of the billowing net and the vast majority of birds bounced/turned.
We still had a decent catch and managed 21 new birds and one retrap.  If the wind had been a little lighter the catch could have been much greater, although perhaps not as many birds would have been attracted in.

The number of birds visiting the feeders in Kens garden are beginning to build as we approach the end of the breeding season so Ken held the first ringing session of the autumn season.  He was accompanied by Tyrone who is now approaching his application for his C permit.  The weather was a little hit and miss but the sheltered garden and the proximity of the nets to the house meant that the nets could be closed quickly during a short shower.
For mid July the catch was pretty decent with the finches already starting to gather in decent numbers.  House Sparrows were a species usually absent from the garden in the past 5/10 years but they seem to have taken up residence since the winter.  I'm not suggesting population increase/spread but they have certainly homed in on the plentiful food source! 

Kens Garden 12/07/2016                                                                      
Blue Tit                        4
Chaffinch                    11
Coal Tit                       5
Dunnock                      2
Goldfinch                    7
Great Tit                     3 
House Sparrow           1        
Robin                           4
Wren                            1               
Total                            38                          

I hope to get the data sent off to the BTO later this week and it shouldn't be too long before we receive the information on the three controls! (with the exception of the Portuguese Sand Martin).
We plan to get visit three at the Macfin Sand Martin colony at some point this week, maybe our first evening attempt and probably Portstewart Strand on Sunday morning.

Sedge Warbler

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