Sunday 13 September 2015

Early September Catch Up

Copeland Bird Observatory - 4-6th September

The forecast for the weekend was looking very poor, with strong winds coming from the north through Friday and Saturday, meaning our boat was in doubt.  Thankfully on Friday evening a calmer weather window opened, allowing Steve, Niall and myself to reach the island safely.  The winds picked up through the night and persisted until Sunday morning, when they switched to westerlies at around 10mph.  It stayed dry throughout and was sunny for large parts of the weekend; particularly Sunday.  Not great conditions for ringing but it's all part of the challenge.

Despite the windy weather we did manage to open a number of mist nets in the more sheltered rides (marked on the map below), mostly on the southern end of the island.  On top of those we also set the four Heligoland traps, the crow trap and three potters traps. 

The island remained quiet throughout the weekend with very few typical migrants making landfall - with a single Willow Warbler, one Goldcrest, two Wheatear and a few Blackcaps.  The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly the juvenile White-tailed Eagle which stopped off on the island on Saturday morning at 10.15.  This is only the second record for CBO and the first to actually land on Lighthouse Island.  It was also a first for the three of us and very unexpected.
The strong winds produced a strong passage offshore but very little time was spent sea watching (not my cup of tea).         
Through the weekend we managed a total of 43 new birds ringed and retrapped 24.  There was a total of 7 species, with Swallows making up most of the new birds.  We weren't ringing the Manx Shearwaters at night but we did catch two inside the 'Gully' Heligoland trap, pre dawn on Saturday morning. 

CBO Weekend Ringing Totals 04-06/09/2015
                                        New        Retrap           
Blackbird                           1               9
Blackcap                            3               8
Goldcrest                           1              
Manx Shearwater              2
Robin                                 6               4                                         
Swallow                            25                                                    
Wren                                  5               3              

Total                                 43             24   

Steve and Niall at work in the ringing lab

Kens Garden - 09/09/2015

On Wednesday Ken held a session in his garden for one of trainees, Tyrone.  They started at 10.30am, targeting the birds coming to the feeders (using four mist nets), finishing up in the late afternoon.  The day was very breezy but the sheltered location of the garden often means the nets remain relatively still.  They were kept busy with lots of tits and managed to extract a Woodpigeon before it flipped out of the mist net pocket.  They managed a total of 60 birds, both new and old, of eight species.   

Woodpigeon  (An old picture from 2013)

Ringing Totals 09/09/2015
Blackbird                          1                 
Blue Tit                           14
Chaffinch                        12  
Coal Tit                           15            
Dunnock                           3                           
Goldfinch                         1
Great Tit                          12      
Woodpigeon                     1

Total                               60

Swallow Roost Catch - 09/09/2015

Following the session in his garden, Ken had an attempt at catching roosting Swallows at the University of Ulster River Site.  He was joined by Tyrone, Steve, John and myself.  We used a line of one eighteen and a twelve metre net with a single tape lure.  The nets were set in an open glade amongst the colonising Ash and Willow, which was much more sheltered than the usual net rides. We were set up for 19.30, with the sun setting 35 minutes later. 
The numbers of last year still haven't materialised and there was a maximum of 50 birds circling over the nets.  A wave of birds dropped in at 20.20 and 22 Swallows were captured.  All but one were juveniles.  A single Blackcap was also caught soon after the nets were set.

The previous day, John had a morning ringing session at the River Site in calm conditions.  It was a bit quiet with very little moving through the net rides. 

River Site Ringing Totals - 08/09/2015
                                        New        Retrap           
Blackbird                           2              
Blackcap                            1               1
Bullfinch                            2              
Chiffchaff                          1
Dunnock                            1               1                                         
Great Tit                            1                                                             
Total                                 8              2 

Portstewart Strand - 13/09/2015

With a decent forecast and nice birds dropping in along the south and west coast of Ireland, John and I went into our session with a bit of optimism.  We arrived on site at 05.45 and set all nets plus a new extra net in the patches of gorse.  The weather was sunny for the most, with 9-12mph winds from the south. 

Coal Tit

There was very little new moving through the site with the only noticeable birds being Meadow Pipits, a Wheatear and the return of Teal to the estuary. 
The ringing was decent with 49 new birds and 3 retraps.  There were 11 different species caught, with Meadow Pipit accounting for almost half the catch.  Four new Song Thrushes was a nice catch and the Coal Tits were new species for the site.  We packed up after 11 and headed for him.

Ringing Totals 13/09/2015
                                        New        Retrap           
Blackbird                          1                 
Blackcap                           2  
Bullfinch                           3              
Coal Tit                             2
Dunnock                            6               2            
Goldfinch                          2      
Linnet                                3
Meadow Pipit                   23
Robin                                2                1                                                               
Song Thrush                     4                                                                 
Wren                                 1               

Total                                49               3         


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.