Thursday 20 July 2017

Acros Galore

John and I headed off to the western shore of Lough Neagh on Sunday 16th July following a kind invite from the local gun club who had recorded a number of singing male Reed Warblers, which, as I had mentioned in the previous post, have a restricted distribution in N Ireland.  The site is a former island which has reconnected to the shore after the draining of Lough Neagh decades ago and has since become a huge reedbed with surrounding ASSI Wet Woodland.  Access isn't the easiest and requires a mile+ plus walk to get to the 'island' but fantastic habitat the whole way down.

We didn't arrive at the ringing site until after 8am but we soon set about erecting two 18m nets in a likely spot close to lough shore.  It was clear that it was a going to be a good session as we had managed to capture 14 birds before we had actually opened the nets fully!  After 3 hours we packed up and headed for home but had caught a massive 83 Sedge Warbler, 13 Reed Warbler, 6 Reed Bunting and 2 Willow Warbler.  The catch 13 Reed Warblers is probably a record for a single day catch in NI and 83 Sedge Warblers is by far our biggest.  The vast majority were birds of the year including 79 of the Sedge Warblers.  A 6am start would have easily produced double the numbers.  We were surprised not to get a control amongst the big catch but there is a good chance of one or two being recovered on the way south.

Reed Warbler

The gun club have recorded up to 6 singing male Reed Warblers in the direct vicinity so there is probably a sizeable population across the greater area.  An estimate of 1000+ Sedge Warblers wouldn't be far off the mark for the same area. It was also a great spot for wildfowl watching with plenty of Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall, Mute Swan, Great Crested Grebe, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Mallard on the water and a Black-headed Gull breeding colony on the offshore island.

Reed Warbler

On Monday the 17th John, Ken, Nick and I had the second go at catching Storm Petrels this summer in good conditions.  We had the net open between 23.30 and 01.30 and managed a catch of 9 birds.  There didn't seem to be too many more Stormies about but we will hopefully hit better passage in the coming weeks.  An extra bit of interest was the capture of a Common Pipistrelle bat early on which is a fairly regular occurrence - potentially the same bats/family each time!

Storm Petrel
Myself, Ken and Nick

Saturday 15 July 2017

Early July

Since the last update we have been ticking along with the various projects and had particular success with the Sand Martin ringing at Grangemore.  As mentioned in the previous post the Irish Open Golf Tournament was being held at our main ringing site so we had to steer clear for a few weeks as they turned it into a mini city and hosted over 92,000 people.

Two weekends ago we did visit 2 to Grangemore in perfect conditions and caught another 145 new Sand Martins, retrapping 19 from visit 1 and the previous year.  The productivity of the colony looks to be fantastic this year and we ringed 91 juveniles amongst the catch.

The following evening I did a quick visit to Macfin for the first time this year.  My main interest here was to catch a number of retrap Sand Martins from previous years, so I was pleased to get 12 out of a catch of 33 birds.  Two of these were adults from 2014, one of which was recovered in Anglesey, Wales in the autumn of 2014 and now has been retrapped by us again in 2016 and 2017. 

Elsewhere around the estuary in the past week I did net restricted visits at Portstewart Strand and Grangemore.  The PSS catch was very disappointing and no warblers were caught when two days previous there had been Willow Warblers everywhere.  I heard only two through the morning so perhaps the first wave have moved south - I know the first trickle have started to pass through the coastal bird observatories of the UK. 

Juvenile Lesser Redpoll

The Grangemore visit was targeting Sedge Warblers so I had placed 3 nets across the main ditch that splits the marsh.  The catch of 13 Sedge Warblers were very good considering the minimal amount of habitat covered and it was good to see lots of fresh juveniles (adult pictured below).  That takes us to 20 for the year at the site so far with probably more to come over the next six weeks. 

Sedge Warbler

Portstewart Strand/Grangemore                            
                                New       Retrap    

Blackbird                 1            
Dunnock                  1               1            

Great Tit                  1
Lesser Redpoll        2                                      
Linnet                      2           

Meadow Pipit          2    
Reed Bunting          1      

Sedge Warbler       16                         

Totals                      26               1                    

Back on the 5th we had out first attempt at Storm Petrel ringing for the year.  The conditions weren't quite what we has expected and we got rained off after an hour but we did catch the first Stormie of the year plus a BTO control. 

Storm Petrel
The control ring sequence looked familiar to birds we have trapped before so a quick message to the Calf of Man Bird Observatory confirmed that it was one of their birds ringed on the 13th of August last year.  This is the seventh bird we have traded with the CoM, four of theirs to us and three back the other way.

The forecast looks decent for early next week so we hope to get back out and catch a few more.

We have had two short spells back out on the rivers with a couple of C permit holders who were seeking to get some experience ringing over rivers and to handle some new species.  We had a decent total catch of 3 Kingfishers, 2 Dippers (1 a retrap) and a Grey Wagtail.


John and Ken did a bit of ringing around the university last week with a catch of around 30 birds.  The catch was made up mostly of tits but did include some quality with Blackcap, Willow Warbler and a retrap Sedge Warbler from last year.

We would also like to take the opportunity to thank the National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) and specifically the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR) who have kindly given us funding of £756 from the Environmental Recorders Group Fund.  With this money we have been able to purchase some new nets, poles and rings which will greatly help with our various projects!

NMNI Website -

We are heading down to the west shore of Lough Neagh tomorrow morning to do a bit of reedbed ringing in the hopes of catching a few Acro warblers.  We are probably some 30 miles north of the northern range of breeding Reed Warblers in Ireland so they are a species we never catch but should be on the cards tomorrow.  I'll possibly update on that soon but no doubt it will take me a few weeks to a month on current form! 

Dark-green Fritillary - nice feature of our Bann Estuary ringing sites in July

Monday 3 July 2017

Recovery Maps Updated

I've taken a bit of time to update the recoveries/controls and maps in two of the tabs above - Controls/Recoveries and Terns and Gulls.  The main additions are the 2 French Sand Martins, the Portuguese Sand Martin and the Belgian Blackcap plus a few of the UK recoveries.  With autumn just around the corner and Storm Petrel season starting this week we will be hoping to add a few more controls to the maps! 

Here's an example of the European passerine/near passerine recoveries map below.