Thursday, 18 November 2010

Recent trips


I recently spent a very enjoyable weekend with Kane and Chris at the SCAN Wader ringing groups' organised weekend in North Wales, it was great to meet new people and put faces to names and vice versa. throughout the weekend we made 1 successful Cannon net catch and also had a mist netting session in the dark; a totally new experience for myself and Kane. We caught 103 Waders in our night session, species caught were Dunlin, Redshank,Oystercatcher, Curlew, Lapwing, Knot and Snipe in the order of most caught to least; The latter being a single. We also caught a single Starling which was a ringing tick for a fellow trainee... Up early and Cannon nets set the next morning just after dawn and we'd set for Redshank in Penryn bay. Further up the coast at Abergele Richard and his team had set for ringed plover and Oystercatcher however this catch was abandoned due to a rising tide and no birds in the safe catching area. ( To see rants about Dog walkers see Seumus Eaves' Blog - Link on the right ). Anyway a rush back from Abergele to Penryn and the birds were in the catching area, Net fired and a rush down the hill and into the Water to retrieve the birds as quickly as possible... "No need for Waders in this weekend" remember folks... Chris bridge 2010! What a pillock! After Kane had taken a soaking extracting birds in the dark on the Friday night ("We don't need headlamps either" Chris Bridge 2010.) I'd just taken 2 full wellies full and still we had a day to go!!! We extracted the 67 Redshank and put them into holding cages until we were set and organised. We processed these birds (and checked each individual ring) and then it was down to decisions on the next steps... We later recieved a message from Steve saying Cannon netting tomorrow... Up early the next day and a trudge along a farm to a pool well within thigh wader safety zone... Well out of Welly zone and the intension was Redshank... Around 200 were on the pool and Twinkletoes Christopher Bridge and his radio set about "Twikling" in a field full of cowshite and freezing hands we sat, waiting for twinkle toes to twinkle the birds into the catching area... He did this successfully, NOT!!! All the birds flushed and with twinkle toes disheartened we softened the blow and told him that a Sparrowhawk had flushed the birds! We abandonned the catch and put the field back to its original self and then said out goodbyes... A great weekend spent and hopefully we can do it again soon??? If somebody will please pass Chris Bridge a Radio!!! We then found some Waxwing nr Bangor Harbour and Kelvin Jones supplied a net and entusiasm. One Waxwing was caught and processed and everyone was chuffed to see this lovely bird in the hand!!! Myself and Kane then left twinkle toes to consider zig zags and study the kitlist. Thanks for having us Birdman, as always it was a good crack!

Local Birding

Harsh weather and Gales has hit the fylde pretty hard recently and I was sure it'd have blown in some sea birds to the Mere. I checked the Mere time and time again and nothing was there... Then Last Friday, 12th November I found a Male Common Scoter on there giving cracking views. I've seen common scoter by the thousand on the Coast but to be the only person watching one right infront of me was a bit special... This a Patch tick for me, I was chuffed. I continued walking round and I saw 5 Tree sparrow, Water rail, Cetti's warbler and a Goldcrest. I saw other things as well but they were the highlights. I then stopped in my tracks as I saw thousands of starling diving into the reeds yards from me... I stood and watched these for a good 20 minuts as the flittered and swung through the reedbed. Next thing a Sparrowhawk whipped over my shoulder and landed in a tree less than 10 feet from me, it seemed oblivious and carried on prying into the reeds. It lept from its perch and plucked a starling from the reeds in front of my eyes, if that not good enough another 3 sparrowhawks did the same as did a Kestrel, a Peregrine and more suprisingly a Buzzard. It was growing dark now and I had to get back to my car before the path disappeared in the gloom, on my way round I watch a Sparrowhawk rip apart a Starling; Again less than 10- 15 feet away... Awesome.

Another trip out on the 17/11 produced a nice inland sea bird and another 2 nice sea ducks on the patch.Also saw a mammal patch tick. The nice sea bird was a Grey Phalarope that had been found 5 days ago or so but I had no intension of going on "Dickhead day" and so I didn't think of going at all... I decided I'd go and look where the whooper flock had moved to, to see if rings would be readable yet and in doing so I saw the Phal spinning by the side of the road. I stopped and watched it for a bit and recorded some stuff for bird atlas, then I went to the Patch, On arriving at the patch it was cold and not a person in sight I decided I'd sit in the hide and be lazy instead of drag my sorry sekf around and get piss wet through... So there I sat in Fylde bird club hide and counted and Listened for anything I could, I counted the Coot again and had 87 birds and little else to be honest. Then I picked up 2 Juvenile Scaup swimming together, a few yards behind the small group of tufted duck! These drifted in and out of view until something strange happened... I noticed all the ducks from the right took flight including birds that prefer to just swim off; Coot and Tufted duck. I figured that this is what the birds did last year before the Bittern was due to fly... However no Bittern... And the Starlings were still wooshing round so I thought that it couldn't be an aerial predator like a Peregrine... I had mink in my mind but i'd seen these before and the birds don't really flush from them... So staring at the waves I noticed a break in the water, a strange shape moving along the north reeds, then in a playful manner an OTTER jumped almost clean out of the water and continued to do this in order to dive, I watched it scout around in the "North reeds" for about 15 minutes before losing it to view near the container hide. However I did notice that the Otter was very playful when I first saw it, and the one lost to view looked very differnt. Diving cleanly, swimming straight on the surface and the Otter I had first seen was messing in the waves this could therefore have been a Mother and Cub. I did not see both at once and I couldn't be sure of size difference in the choppy conditions, but I am sure that I was damn chuffed to have seen this! Then I was watching the Starlings' and I saw 2 sparrowhawk whip amongst them and on bird pursue a single starling over the water before slamming it into the water and killing it. Such a quick event but very happy at seeing it in full view!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Summary of a Summer without a camera!

This summer has been the most memorable summer ringing and birding wise that I have ever had, I've ringed and seen some fantastic species and best of all met some fantastic people.

In early July myself and 3 very close friends ( Kane Brides, Ciaran Hatsell and Chris Bridge. ) Set out for a month long trip to Iceland. Our aim was to meet up with fellow British ringers and Icelandic ringing enthusiasts whilst out there and catch and ring a variety of birds. My expectations were far surpassed!!!

We set off for Keflavik and then onto Rejklavik for the first part of our journey, Flying into Keflavik airport the land was baron and we wondered what lay ahead of us, however upon touch down we were greeted with a pleasant atmosphere and very accomodating Icelandics. We stayed a few days in the Capital of Rejklavik birding and mooching about, before heading up to Stykkisholmur on the western side of Iceland. We stayed here for another couple of nights whilst waiting for the "ringing team to assemble" before heading out via ferry to Flatey Island. We clocked up a few special species of birds whilst waiting for the team. Notably we had a juvenile White Tailed Eagle flying over the campsite giving amazing views, also saw some surreal sites like Great Northern Divers sat on ponds by the side of the roads, Red throated diver chicks sat no more than 10 yards from us. Ravens and Whimbrels always calling along with Golden and Ringed Plovers always "distracting" us away from their youngsters.

The Morning of the 15th July came and this had been long awaited by the four of us. This was the day we were to head out onto Flatey. We met up with Ævar Petersen and his wife Solveig Bergs and set off to the island, arriving at this tiny blob of land in a massive expanse of water was a little suprising but the close knit community we found there was astonishing. Everyone was very pleasant and welcoming and during our stay on the Island we were made to feel at home! Sverrir Thostensen and Siggi his son also came onto Flatey Island along with Kane's trainer Steve Christmas and his Brother Tim Christmas, during our 10 days here we ringed nearly 2000 birds, species included - Mallard, Meadow pipit, snow bunting, Arctic Tern, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Shag, Puffin, Black Guillemot, Snipe, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Red Knecked Phalarope, Dunlin, Redwing and Eider. We left Flatey Island on the 26th July and said our goodbyes to everyone.

We met Sverrir the day after and headed North to Akureyri where he lives. Here we were greeted again by fantastic hospitality and we met Sverrir's wife Thorey. We stayed here for a further 10 days catching Whooper swans along with Golden Plover and Whimbrel. We saw some amazing sites here and got exceptional views of Gyr Falcons, Great Northern Divers and many other species of birds! We caught 80 or so Whoopers and a handful of each Golden Plover and Whimbrel but most of all had a great time whilst up in the north, Partying, singing and laughing the hours away, never a dull moment whilst we stayed with Thorey and Sverrir so thanks must go to these amazing people and I hope someday I can repay the favour to them?

We left Akureyri and flew to Rejklavik where once again we were welcomed with open arms by Ævar and Solveig and they invited us to stay the last night in their house where we had a hearty Icelandic meal and again laughed and smiled away our final hours in Iceland. This was a real treat for us all to kick back and enjoy looking back on a great month. We left for home on the 7th August and unfortunately back to the reality of work... Saying that, I'm sat at work now! ;-)

August was a slower month ringing and birding wise as it normally is in Britain, not helped by the fact that Kane whom I quite often go ringing with had another venture with Ciaran to Romania. During this month however we did manage a few sessions and caught some smaller birds which I hadn't seen in Iceland due to their lack of presence! Sedge and Reed warbler along with Whitethroat, Blackcap and a few others along with a couple of Swallows were about all that we caught, apart from 2 cracking Sparrowhawks in the same session at the farm, until however I noticed that the Coot on the mere and the park had started to become very tame.

So now I'm trying to get out after work most nights and catch and Colour ring Coot on the fylde mainly at Stanley Park and Marton Mere... So far we've colour ringed 18 Coot in the fylde and 10 of these have been in the last week so if you're out and about and happen to see a Coot with colourful legs, please contact either myself on or more preferrably Kane Brides as the project manager on

Sorry for the lack of pictures on here, if you want pictures from Iceland you can see Kane's and Birdman's blogs. Both are linked to this page.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Stanley Park ringing.

This morning foudn Myself, fellow trainee Ian Gardener and our trainer Seumus Eaves at Stanley park in Blackpool. Our aim was to catch and Colour ring Coot for a project being undertaken by Kane Brides on Coot movements in the north west of England. Nearly 200 have been ringed so far at various sights and if you are to come across any of these birds please find time to report them to Kane at the following address - So we set off to find the only unfrozen piece of water which the birds had kept clear by their sheer volume (Last night I had 70+ Tufted duck and 30+ Shoveler along with 128+ Coot, few dozen Mallard, lots of feral geese and a few Pochards.) This morning however there was not as many birds as last night however the Coot numbers seem to be quite stable at the minute! with around 200 birds spread between the park and the Mere. So with our bread and enthusiasm we began to feed the ducks, we caught and ringed 5 coot within the first hour (Not only because the birds were hungry but also because they were not used to being grabbed by the general passers by) So with 5 new coot caught we were all quite content and as the birds were not coming in close enough anymore we thought we would try to catch some gulls. The gulls thought better of it to be honest and really were not interested in our offerings at all, so this attempt unlike the previous was unsucessful.

After our session at the Park I decided to have a look on the Mere to see if anything out of the ordinary was happening today... And it was. I was greeted by the Sirens on the Wardens Van and their horn as they tried to get the attention of some absolute idiots who were Ice skating on the Mere! In fact she was more than old enough to know better (About 60). She came over to the wardens and argued about Autority and "Who was he to tell her what to do" he finest quote for me was "Well we're from the Netherlands, we just climb over fences!" her husband walked behind her Kicking at the ice underneath him to try and gage the thickness of it! Shame in my book that the ice didn't send a mighty crack infront of him so he would have learnt a lesson. Anyway after they were off the ice I went into the hide, Not much out of the ordinary in terms of species but behaviour was a bit different with Song thrush and Blackbird sat on the mere along with Jackdaw and crow. It is a bit surreal however I also feel for the birds as for how hard it must be just to survive in this recent weather! Cetti's Warbler shot across infront of the hide and a couple of people caught little more than a glimpse of it. 86 Coot on the ice today with only a very small area of open water which had a couple of hundred bathing gulls and around 150 mixed duck including Goldeneye, Pochard, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Tufted ducks! Evidence of the harsh conditions on the mere today with a Dead Herring gull which was providing some well needed Protein to some Coot which were not going to miss this opportunity! (I should have known they have a taste for meat after they scratched, bit and gouged at my arm as I tried to hold them steadyu to ring earlier in the morning) A couple of snipe on the ditch which had a bit of moving water in it probably also struggling to feed in this weather. Nothing else of note here so it was back home for me.

Back home I had a few more birds than usual in the garden including my second ever Redwing, a few Blue tit, Great tit, Song thrush, Blackbird, Robin, dunnock, Wrens, Starlings and House Sparrows also made the most of the feed. Lots of Starlings today however there was still not as many as in previous weeks so have some already fallen foul of the conditions? Let's hope not.