Thursday, 15 December 2011

Scandinavian scorcher

After a hectic rush of e-mails back in April I finally received confirmation that I was to be heading out to Sweden to work for 5 months; my role entitled Bird Surveyor/Head Bird Ringer. In all honesty I was a little pessimistic about this, maybe I was running before I could walk? However, 10 days after receiving confirmation I was on a flight and Stockholm bound.

It was the 18th of April when I departed the UK, seems a long while ago now after the rioting during the summer, the many deaths and huge headlines. It was however only 9 months ago. A train journey from Stockholm Airport led me towards my home for the next 5 months; Örebro. Here I was met by Magnus Persson, my partner in crime for the first 2 months of my stay. We made our way from there to Kvismaren Nature Reserve.

Magnus and me set about some of the survey work the morning after my arrival. Various surveys were to be done: Wetland bird surveys (WeBs), Farmland Bird Surveys, Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS), Sedge and Reed Warbler Surveys, Ortolan Bunting Studies, Starling surveys, Pied Flycatcher study, Black-headed gull surveys, Lapwing census, Marsh Harrier Nesting surveys and the primary task Hooded Crow Surveys. These surveys took up masses of our time, 14 hour days were not uncommon and many hours alone staring into hedges or reed beds became the norm! Much time in the field however produced many birds and this was especially a good time for me to catch up with some new species. Three-toed and Black Woodpeckers were amongst the nicest finds for me but also a feldegg – Yellow Wagtail was a nice result. Kvismaren Bird Observatory 137

                                                Kvismaren from Öby Kulle.

As the time rolled on into May the leaves on trees began to open and Kvismaren changed from a sleepy wintry scene to a blossoming haven for birds, migrants began to arrive and many birds were in good voice. I added Icterine, Marsh, Blyth’s Reed, Great Reed, River and Savi’s Warbler to my “life list” within 2 days of each other and from there the fun really began. I saw the rise and falls in the number of migrants and I came to appreciate bird migration on a whole new scale! We were joined by another member of staff or two whom focused primarily on the Great Reed Warblers that use Kvismaren as a breeding stronghold.

The Surveys dried up into mid June and it was time for Magnus to leave and me take charge of the place – by now the surveys were in their final stages and the writing up was well under way. My work load easing I had a little time to recoup myself in readiness for a long ringing season.


Kvismaren Bird Observatory 053             Above a picture of the elevator net erected at the southern tip of Ässön.

By June the 22nd I had cleared/re-built or created all of the net rides at 3 main sites (75 net rides).  I was joined by a couple of assistants at first, Zsombor Karolyi and Helena Hedkvist. These 2 helped immensely with the prep work and on June 23rd we began ringing. The Ringing season ran through from June 23rd to September 30th and we caught a little over 6000 New birds in this period; ringing was carried out during most days though some bad weather did hinder us in the mid/back end of September. I would like to thanks all those whom were involved throughout the season: Assistants - Zsombor Karolyi, Helena Hedkvist, Rebecca Knutsson, Jalle Hiltenen, August Thomasson, Philip Bertrand, Kristine Richardsson, Gittan Matsson, Heather McGinty, Magnus Friberg, Anders Petersson, Tage Ashing, Johannes and Monica Wearn, Deborah Arlt and Daniel Hedenbo. I would also like to thank Assisting ringers Peter Villanyi and Simon Valle who’s professional approaches and skills made it an utter pleasure to be out ringing. A special mention should go to a true friend and a massive help throughout his two visits to the station during the season Martin Carlsson – Martin came to me first in July with a vast knowledge of the birds and wildlife in Sweden however he had never seen many of the species we were set to catch. His enthusiasm to learn and better his knowledge was second to none and by his second visit Martin had gone from an inexperienced handler to an adequate ringer of birds, his transformation was truly amazing and I dare say we shared some amazing times together so Martin – Thanks very much for being my most dedicated assistant and great company throughout.


Kvismaren Bird Observatory 162                                            Martin Carlsson.

We broke many ringing total records due to our enthusiasm and I dare say that if the weather had been better we could have smashed a few more. Particularly special species for me to ring included Barred, Marsh, Icterine, Savi’s and Great Reed Warbler, Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Pygmy Owl and Goldeneye amongst others.

Pygmy owls 2                                              Pygmy Owls –Photo: Martin Carlsson.

September the 30th flew in and I said goodbye to Martin and Kvismaren and I had planned to be going home, however I decided whilst in Sweden I should visit the infamous Falsterbo and so a 2 week venture there ensued.

My first day at Falsterbo was unreal – I was greeted by a thick mist hanging low over the gold course and the car dodged birders on the way to ringing hut in half light. Song Thrushes and Robins ticked from every bush within the small garden and the staff were saying how today was the first “fall” of the Autumn. The first net-round came and we took 250 birds from the nets, mainly Robins and Song Thrushes but a scattering of Wrens, Goldcrests and Chafflings too. A smirking member of staff then appeared from the haze with one hand behind his back mumbling Pärluggla – I racked my brains and figured it out. TENGMALM’S OWL!!! This was a mega (lifer) for me and having been gutted about missing it in the north I was glad to finally catch up with one up close down here. As the morning rolled on more than 600 birds were caught and another lifer in the form of Serin appeared in a net. The 3rd and final lifer for this day was Short-Toed Eagle. After the Tengmalm’s appearing in the net during daylight in the garden we decided to try and catch owls at night! By the time we’d finished setting the nets I had another Tengmalm’s Owl in my hands. We caught around 10 (New) that night, truly unforgettable.

Falsterbo Bird Observatory 036

                                                Tengmalm’s Owls at Falsterbo

My 2 weeks wore on at Falsterbo and not only was I welcomed and Mentored by the amazing team here I also saw some mega migrations, caught some mega birds and met some amazing people. The Migrations here honestly have to be seen to be believed.

Again I planned on being home mid October as I’d now been away for 6 Months but instead I took a job as Ringer at Gedser Fuglestation in Southeast Denmark and here I again was welcomed by an amazing group of people and birds. Throughout the month long stay here I logged some nice birds and again gained some ringing “ticks”. Yellow-Browed Warbler and Great Grey Shrike had been bogey birds for me when it came to ringing and finally getting to grips with them was nice! Also Serin and Woodcock were nice in the hand and amazingly a Barnacle Goose I managed to catch by hand! A dozen Owls were caught during my time here split equally between Long-Eared Owls and Tengmalm’s and this was again a lovely opportunity to see such birds! The main highlight in Gedser for me was the Sparrowhawks and we caught over 60 in 1 Month!

Kvismaren Bird Observatory 224

                                   Juvenile female Sparrowhawk - Falsterbo

The 15th November flew round and it was time to head home – relaxed yet exhausted from a fascinating experience. I met many great people and shared many good times. The fond memories and great birds will never be forgotten and I truly wish to visit these places again! Thanks again to all whom I worked with during my time here and a special thanks to Bo Nielsen and Jan Sondell for employing me whilst at Kvismaren, Måns and Lennart Carlsson at Falsterbo and Rune Skjold Tjørnløv and Hans Lind at Gedser.


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A moment to recline.

I haven’t been able to keep up with the daily blogging as I had hope, I think sleep deprivation and numbers of birds have caused that. But now stuck in the second week of November a brisk Easterly grips the Gedser coast and the birds just don’t like it! An update then on the past few days or even weeks. Not day by day however; you can follow that on the Gedser site (see side).

It’s not been a bad few weeks here at Gedser and in total I think I’ve had 5 or so “Ringing Ticks”. Nothing mega rarity wise but it’s been nice to handle and learn about some different species.

Gedser Fuglestation 258 Great Grey Shrike – Lanius excubitor, 1cy male. No room for gloves or wimps here.

Gedser Fuglestation 062                                     Woodcock - Scolopax rusticola, adults.

Then for the really late, out of season oddity. First I heard this bird early morning and then I used tapes to catch it later in the afternoon.

Gedser Fuglestation 098

                                         Serin – Serinus serinus, adult female.

Other nice species to catch include (Northern) Bullfinch (though their tendency to get their oversized heads through the undersized mesh is a little annoying.) Gedser Fuglestation 179

                                Big Bullfinches - Pyrrhula p. pyrrhula

Redpolls (The birds which I do not put down as subspecies unless something is really obvious.) I’m quite sure these birds are hybridising and in Scandanavia as Lesser Redpoll looking birds are coming in with wing lengths above 75mm which is already out of the range; however I have caught Lesser and Common along with many hybrids. 

Gedser Fuglestation 048

                    A ‘clear cut’ Common Redpoll’s arse – Carduelis f. flammea.

Robins actually, I have caught many robins here probably near 400 without checking the database, and I’ve been amazed by how much these birds vary in wing lengths, fat , weight, general bulk and getting into more detail the difference in the amount of un-moulted or moulted Greater coverts within birds. I’ve actually had a couple that proved difficult to age. But nice because we catch a different Ssp. at home and so will be nice to hopefully notice the difference.

Gedser Fuglestation 064                                Robin – Erithacus r. rubecula, adult female.

Unfortunately the only shot I have of a Robin was this German control.

Sparrowhawks, I’ve never heard of a place that catches as many Sparrowhawks as we have here at Gedser this year. In 3 weeks we have caught more than 60 Sparrowhawks, which gave me a chance to figure the ageing of these birds. We saw many juveniles, some 2cy, some 3cy and at least one 5cy Plus. It’s a new record year for Gedser this year apparently with over 125 Fully grown Sparrowhawks ringed.

  3cy  Male 25-10-11 Gedser

                                  Sparrowhawk – Accipiter nisus, 3cy+ male.

Finally there’s the Owls. I caught my first Long-eared Owl here and I’ve caught another 2 since – again nice to learn ageing and sexing on these. Then due to the big invasion of Tengmalm’s Owls in Sweden I’ve had a few tries here to catch them. I’ve caught 4 now. Only 5 have been recorded in Denmark this Autumn to my knowledge and I’ve held 4 of these so not a bad total. This species is probably very under recorded and I believe that under 50 records in the UK isn’t too accurate, there must be birds passing the extreme South-East in invasions like this years? 

 LEO close up

                                       Long-eared Owl – Asio otus, 1cy female.

Gedser Fuglestation 006

                                    Tengmalm’s Owl – Aegolius Funereus, 2cy female.

 Gedser Fuglestation 103Me ringing a Tengmalm’s, they really are small. (I would say tiny but I’ve seen Pygmy’s.)


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Quality not quantity.

Yesterday was poor weather, no attempts were made to ring birds. Instead me and Rune (another ringer here) went bird watching at a nearby nature reserve.
It was a fantastic place actually. The birds were not at all bothered by the people in the hides and the road running not too far behind it. For total birds seen see Gedser Fuglestation link at the side.
Highlights for me however were the White-Fronted geese, Bewick's Swans and Dunlin - Not rare birds but I have never had a better view than I did yesterday.
Also a cracking observation of Little Gull 1cy.
Anyway, Today. This morning I set only few nets due to the even present wind! As I set the nets I saw a Tengmalm's Owl and shortly followed by a Long-Eared - NICE. I watched the Long-eared as it whirled around the garden before settling back in to the bushes at the roadside!
First net round came and I had taken only 3 birds, A P.Colybita, a Blackbird and a Goldcrest. I saw a few Sparrowhawks whilst setting nets so I opened the Sparrowhawk nets up - Within 5 Minutes a huge Female Sparrowhawk was hanging in the net by just her claws. I ran and got her! I wandered through the other nets back towards the house and I saw a Goldcrest and another bird, the other seemed brighter, more defined I clocked it properly then... Nice, a Firecrest!
Next round and Rune joined me. As we walked an otherwise empty round we came to a last net and this jumped in.

Long-Eared Owl (Asio otus) - 1cy female.

Apologies for my ugly mug there, but the Long-Eared Owl was a gorgeous bird. I've waited a while to see an Adult in the hand (well full-grown).

 Firecrest 1cy Female. Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla) -1cy female


I heard the Firecrest just before catching it, a really nice bird even smaller than it’s cousin the Goldcrest - Regulus regulus. The Firecrest weighed just 4.7 grams and had a wing length of 52mm. Goldcrest females are normally around 54mm and weigh 5 grams or more; so why it is said that the Goldcrest is Europe’s smallest bird is beyond me.

The "weird" thing about today is despite the stormy wind condition we have caught a few birds, the most numerous being Sparrowhawk with 5 new in the ringing book. Never before have I ringed so many Sparrowhawks in one day and you can really start to appreciate the plumage differences. Note here the eye colour of the birds, the first calendar year male has a lime/lemon coloured iris whilst the third calendar year plus bird has a much deeper orange iris. (These pictures were both taken in identical light and so quite good to compare)

 1cy Male 25-10-11 Gedser 

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) 1cy Male

3cy  Male 25-10-11 Gedser  Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) 3cy+ Male


5 Sparrowhawk
1 Long-Eared Owl
2 Blackbird
2 Chiffchaff
3 Goldcrest
1 Firecrest
3 Great Tit
4 Robin
Highlight sightings include 6 Red Kites, 3 Rough-legged buzzards, 20+ Sparrowhawk, 30+ Twite and (From Rune's small sea watch)60+ Little Gulls, Possible Red-necked Phalarope amongst more common birds such as Eider and Common Scoter.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Too late

So I woke a little late this morning so I had to rush to put the nets up in time (or maybe a little late.) As I rushed around leaving my headlamp off to cause minimal disturbance I was cursing and swearing to myself, there’d been a fall of thrushes in the night and I could hear Redwing, Song thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush and Fieldfare leaving the hedges! I estimated at least 150 Redwings 5 minutes of intense calling with hardly a second still, Similar numbers of Fieldfare and a few dozen made up of the rest. Robins and Wrens ticked as they woke and exited the garden quickly. Chiffchaffs Phwipt from the hedges too. I heard an unfamiliar call too a little like an Acro, (harsh and brief) but I only heard it once and no sign of anything out of the ordinary.


I rushed the first round then expecting nets sagging with thrushes; not to be I’m afraid. Hardly any thrushes compared to the numbers before first light! I took 3 Redwing, 1 Fieldfare and 2 Song Thrushes. The Big Female Sparrowhawk brought me a Song thrush into a net before leaving.

The rounds were quiet and varied with species after that which was nice. 12 newly ringed species with an additional 3 retrapped so 15 species caught.


At 11 I rolled the Greenfinch tape on and managed to catch 15.


74 New birds today. Blue tit (31 new) and  Greenfinch (15 new) the most numerous. Also Chaffinch, Brambling, Song Thrush, Fieldfare, Redwing, Wren, Robin, Lesser Redpoll, Chiffchaff (Colybita) and Reed Bunting the new birds with Great Tit, Bullfinch and Yellow-browed Warbler Retraps. The Yellow-browed died today, weighing 10% less that the other day (and she was thin then). A sad end for such a pretty bird.


Highlight sightings include: Rough-Legged Buzzards, Kestrel, Red Kite, Common Gull ( A big passage near to dusk), Sparrowhawk (4, all avoiding the nets), A Yellowhammer flew over too.


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Moments of madness.

This morning I woke early doors and decided I’d set the nets well before first light. It was 6 am when I’d finished putting nets up and during my time in the garden I’d heard many Redwing and Song thrush. I knew it would be a decent morning! I went back to the house and waited for the first round. We took it early due to a very heavy rain shower and ended up closing 12 nets due to the weather. 8 Remained open as we knew we could handle this many should rain return. The first round yielded no birds then.

The shower passed and we took a further round, still not many birds. Jesper took a round on his own and I stayed in with Anders to watch over proceedings. Jesper returned immediately with a handful of birds asking for more bags. I opened the door to see what was happening and the floor was white with hail. A very heavy shower had brought maybe 1000 birds into the garden! Just for 10 minutes the garden was alive. We only took 35 birds in the round but this is all from one net really. But I counted 200 Redwing, 250 Fieldfare, 20 Linnet, c350 Chafflings, 20 Skylark, 40 Mipits, 10 Sparrowhawks, 6 Rough-legged Buzzards and one Common Buzzard. I was actually busy with ringing as we were running out of bags and I wanted to keep all measurements going.

Next thing I was appreciating a stunning female Brambling, I released her on her way and slam, from no where a Sparrowhawk grabbed her and flipped away over the hedge. A sad end for such a stunning bird but it’s nature.

The birds disappear as soon as they came and left the garden silent once more. Myself and Hans stayed and the others went twitching a Red-eyed Vireo (Successfully as they later informed us; a 1st for Denmark.)

We then received a phone call about a tired Barnacle Goose which we could possibly catch on the cliff top. I was there within minutes with a hand net at the ready. Never before have I sprinted towards a cliff edge but today I did and I caught the Juvenile Goose without much fuss.

  Gedser Fuglestation 006

(1st Calendar year – Barnacle Goose. Branta Leucopsis)

We brought it home and ringed it -  Rested it for a while and intended on releasing it when it had it’s strength back, however it was not to be and unfortunately this little one died. Closer inspection afterwards showed the bird had 0 muscle on the sternum, in fact the bone was sharp!

We continued ringing all day and visitors came and went. In total just over 50 birds were caught today but some quality amongst them.

Highlights for me then. 5 Sparrowhawks, 2 Northern Bullfinch, 1 0 Brambling, 3 Redwing, 1 Fieldfare, 1 Barnacle Goose (briefly), 2 Linnet and NO BLUE TITS.

Gedser Fuglestation 024                                                        1st Calendar year Female – Siskin (Carduelis spinus)

Gedser Fuglestation 036                              1st Calendar year female “Northern” Bullfinch (Pyrrhula p. pyrrhula)

Gedser Fuglestation 040                                    2nd Calendar year Redwing (Turdus iliacus)

Gedser Fuglestation 010

                                         1st Calendar year Male Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nicus)

Interestingly all the Sparrowhawks were males, young and old birds. The reason we were so successful with the Sprawks is due to some special nets here at Gedser with large mess, these nets are almost invisible too and I’ve walked into them a few times. The Sparrowhawks hit the same net in the same place time and time again. 2 Other Sprawks flipped out of our standard nets and one left me half of ringed Robin.

Another Goose was seen on the cliff this afternoon and for a moment I thought I would get this one too, but it was just playing with me and took off no problem when man with net came running! It’s rough conditions today so I may nip to the beach this evening and try my hand at Dazzling, though the last 4 nights have been shite with only 1 Grey Plover heard (not even seen).

Hopefully the wind ebbs over the weekend so I can catch some Owls in the garden! 

Sightings wise highlights included much of the same as previous days. Rough-legged Buzzards, Sandwich Terns, 10 Swallows (getting late now) 2 Common Scoter close in on sea, 125 Barnacle goose and a Crossbill that chipped onwards to Germany.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Slow and Windy

The title sums today up I’m afraid.

Last night myself and Jesper walked around 5 km is horrendous conditions hoping to dazzle some birds, we didn’t even see anything so catching was out of the question.

Today much of the same. Only 2 recaps and nothing in the way of new birds. A big female Sparrowhawk was hanging by the claws in one net but when I got there she was long gone. I didn’t hear a single bird in the garden until 2 pm and that was a Wren. Bird watching was slow too with only a small flock of Siskin, 4 Redpoll, 6 Goldfinch, a Brambling and c12 Twite flying around. A few gulls rode the surf and around 50 Cormorants and a Red-breasted Merganser flew by.

The undoubted highlight has to be a big adult female Rough-Legged Buzzard, she flew so low giving exceptional views before she powered through and over the rough sea to Germany!

We will try again to Dazzle tonight, a quick check of the beach by Jesper and Anders at least produced a few birds. Grey Plover, Barnacle geese, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Dunlin are all on the menu then!


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Seeing Soot.

This morning I woke early doors as I knew conditions would be marginal. I intended to take thrush for 1 hour then close nets. The weather didn’t want me to so instead I stayed in bed. A casual lie in later and Jesper woke me up near 10am. I slowly woke up and decided to have a look on the sea as the wind was south potentially pushing the Eider and Little gulls close by. With in a couple of minutes I had Eider flying over the field in front of the house and these gave great views. After about 10 minutes of watching I picked up a bird a long way off banking, Shearwater like. I managed to get a better view of the bird and then told Jesper calmly “Sooty Shearwater.” He lept up and I put him on the bird. We later took a look on the Danish bird site and it seems this is only the 3rd Record for Gedser and the first since 2001.

Late morning, Gert picked me, Jesper and Anders up to go around the local parks catching Coot. It felt homely, wandering around parkland, catching birds in plain view of the public. It was only a short session but we managed to catch 2 Coot (plus 1 re-trap) and 6 Mallards – I can’t however take any credit for the Mallard as our “co-ordinated catch” turned in to me lying face first on the floor without any birds, Jesper having picked his two and Anders and Gert also empty handed. This brought back memories of a certain Canada Goose in the Lake district back home, I’m sure Kane, Chris and Ciaran will remember which!

A nice day then although no passerines to be seen. Highlights today – Sooty Shearwater, Little Gull, Rough-Legged Buzzard, Catching Coot and a decent flock of Siskins way up in the trees in a city park.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Denmark day 2 -3

Not many birds are around now with just a small scattering of Wrens, Robins and Chiffchaffs. A guided walk was given by Hans and Bennie here at the observatory and it was nice to re-catch the Yellow-browed and show the guests, however this bird is losing condition and unfortunately I fear it will die here. The loss of fat in just one day is quite suprising (from 2.0 to 0.5) there was a frost on Saturday night and this could have had something to do with it. Other birds seen were Great-grey Shrike, Merlin, Common Crossbill, Woodlark, Rough-legged Buzzard and a few Redpoll.


Day 3 – Monday 17th

Again the wind was high and after having the nets open for 5 hours we had managed to ring only 12 birds, Wrens, Robins, Goldcrest, Great Tit and Blackbirds. The tapes were turned on after this and another 3 birds were captured, a Goldfinch and 2 Siskins. Not really worth 11 hours of effort but still nicer than nothing. A trip to the nearby town of Gedser this afternoon to shop produced some half decent birds, a nice flock of around 50 Twite in the ploughed field next to lighthouse was nice and 2 late Sandwich tern fished along the sea front. A White-tailed Eagle flew west quite distantly – A dead Barnacle goose was found later and this was the presumed meal of the aforementioned Eagle. A few Rough-legged buzzards tried to migrate only 8 or so in Total but they gave great views. Eiders continued past the tip and a Black-guilly was seen by Anas (assistant ringer). The weather will continue to be bad for a day or two and so we hope for many birds after this “hold up” period. An attempt to dazzle on the Beach this evening was soon knocked on the head as no birds were present in the late evening due to a high tideline.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Denmark- Day one.

Denmark is a relaxed set up, with the nets furled on the private site I was allowed to lie in until 06:10. All nets were opened by 06:30 as the light broke on this beautiful site. Immediately the passage of Siskin and Chafflings was apparent and in the first hour alone I estimated 1000 Siskin and around 800 Chafflings. A Hawfinch whistled through early on as did 3 Yellowhammer, next stop Germany! Throughout the morning I also picked up around 200 Barnacle geese, 15 Bean geese and an impressive (for me) flock of 20 White-fronted geese.


Then there was the ringing and that wasn’t too bad either. Myself and Hans (another ringer) walked around constantly checking nets and ringing at the nets for 2 hours. A scattering of Colybita and Abietinus Chiffs, Goldcrests, Chaffinch and too many Wren (or as I was taught by Phil – Wriggle Arses; they sure lived up to that.) Throughout the morning singles of Brambling, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting were also caught. At around 9.30 I heard a familar (though I’ve never heard one in the field before) call, a high pitched, piercing “Psweeet”. Yellow-browed Warbler I said to Hans. He didn’t hear it. Unfortunately there was many birds in the nets so I carried on. A little later in the morning I heard another call, then another. Finally at around 10am, Hans heard the bird too. This brightened our spirits and we spoke a little about the species. At 11am the “standardised ringing was over and I was straight to the speakers to play Taigasanger, Yellow-browed Warbler. Within the hour and a net check, I found this beautiful little juvenile female in our nets. Weighing in at an astonishing 5.9g.

Yellow-browed Warbler

                                                          Yellow-browed Warbler – Phylloscopus inornatus

In the evening I opened up 15 nets and tried for Tengmalm’s and Long-eared owls – Unfortunately not a repeat preformance of Falsterbo on Friday evening. In fact I drew a blank, but I will succeed!

Falsterbo Bird Observatory 035

                                                                    Tengmalm’s Owl – Aegolius funereus

For age comparison above is a picture of a 1cy bird (left) and a 2cy bird (right - note the two generations of Primaries, obvious by contrasting colour in the 2cy) this is quite a clear cut case but in fact these can be very difficult to age. Owl moult is a very complex and irregular thing they moult “backwards” and often miss out feathers in sequence. The above birds were photographed at Falsterbo on Thursday night were we caught an impressive 13 Tengmalm’s Owl and 1 Pygmy.


Friday, 14 October 2011

Life is good

From the tital you can see how I feel about things at the moment, the last few months have been a crazy blur for me. I’ve met some amazing people whom I know call friends and I have learnt so much. Firstly in Kvismaren, an amazing few months with a great team. I would like to mention Martin and Anders (The September team) as they dug deep and tried hard for little amounts of birds at times. Always in good spirit though – Great guys!


I was then lucky enough to be able to join the team at Falsterbo (Southern Sweden) for a fortnight. Here I again met some awesome people, had a great laugh, made some good friends, saw and ringed many new birds. On my first day here we caught 650 birds throughout the day. Including 11 Tengmalm’s Owls. Christian kindly let me ring most of the Tengmalm’s and for that I am very grateful. It was awesome to see this species in the hand and learn about there wacky moulting. Our furtunes turned however and throughout the next 2 weeks there were unseasonally low amounts of birds ringed at Falsterbo; the weather just wasn’t cold enough to push the birds down. Still I enjoyed being there and taking part. The final days of my stay brightened up again (or should I say cleared – as it got bloody cold.) The penultimate day we caught over 500 birds and 392 of which were Blue tit. I was really happy to see a “Blue tit morning" – Flocks of Blue tits calling away in the air and then dropping into the nets in there dozens, surreal.

The final night came and we were trying for Tengmalm’s Owls. In the back of our minds we hoped for Sparvuggla (Pygmy Owl) but not since the 1970’s have they been caught in Falsterbo. Anyway the night was a total success with 10 New Tengmalm’s caught along with a Norwegian control – Birds of different ages with many different moult patterns were encountered and this was very nice to see. Around 3am myself and Andre took a walk around the North hedges (away from the play backs of Tengmalm’s owl) and saw a small bird in the net. I clocked it first. “Oh F*****G HELL, it’s a Pygmy” I said. Andre replied with “F*****G S**T THAT’S REALLY F*****G NICE”. We were both very excited. Many phonecalls to local birds and helpers were made and moments later the Pygmy was back in the hut being compared to the Tengmalm’s we had caught at the same time.

We worked all through the night from 1am and then started with the standardised this morning. A good morning was had and 2 more first for the years were caught at Falsterbo before I had to leave early – Great Grey Shrike and Mistle Thrush. Both New birds in the hand for me so that was nice. As I left the team were knee deep in Blue tit and Chiffs (Albietinus and Colybita). I caught the bus and train to Denmark and I found it a remarkably easy and stress-free journey. It’s a little sad to have left Sweden having lived there for the last six months but the adventure has to continue so I’m now sat in my little cottage by the sea. A gorgeous little house and I enjoyed watching Eiders migrate close by my window whilst I was cooking dinner. I saw Sandwich Tern and “Baltic gull” here also. I watched the sunset and Germany disappear before my eyes. Then it hit me – I am one of the luckiest people around! I love my job and I love travelling. We’re currently trying for Tengmalm’s again here at Gedser. Here’s hoping we control a Falsterbo bird!

I’ll try to blog often (I always say it) here. If not I will document it with Photographs and catch up one day.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011


So the ringing season here at Kvismaren is drawing to a close and I now have a little bit of time to briefly update on the seasons preceedings! (Only due to Miss Katia's tail)

The season has been great, many more juvenile birds than normal have been caught and a few observatory records have been broken; maybe this is due to new methods being used however?

Up to now we have caught a little over 5200 birds and recaptured in the region of 1500. So we've been busy. I refer to we as me and the small team of assistants (and 2 other ringers.) We started June 22nd as a team of 3 setting 24 nets at Vallen and 20 nets at Banvallen, alternating days. Many birds were caught in the first few days before weather turned a little bit into the begining of July. Peter (Hungarian Ringer) Jalle and Rebecca then arrived (making us a team of 6, 2 ringers 4 assistants) we felt over staffed and didn't really catch "many" birds throughout July, around 30 the daily average. Peter and 4 assistants left and 3 new assistants came, we saw out July as me being the only ringer with 3 assistants, a very busy time with 60+ new birds a day and long hours of data input to follow.

Into August and Simon (Italian ringer) came to help. Just in time as the daily catch had gone up dramatically. We didn't get out ringing everyday in August in fact only 22 out of 31. We managed to ring 2239 birds. The highest catch of birds was 251 new birds in 4 hours (168 Willow Warblers.

September came and as did new assistants, Simon left and so we're now a team of 3. 1 assistant will leave in 1 weeks time leaving myself and Martin to see out the season. We won't be ringing many birds however unless this wind stops. September up to now has seen 625 birds ringed and we have only been out 7 times so we're still very busy (when we get chance to ring)

Highlights for the season include.

(1)Crested Tit
(5)Penduline Tit
(160) Great Reed Warbler
(1)Savi's Warbler
(8)Icterine Warbler
(10)Marsh Warbler
(2)Willow Tit
(42) Tree Pipit
(502) Barn Swallow
(1006) Willow Warbler

Hopefully soon the Bramblings will find the nets.

Hopefully Photo's will follow soon also.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Projects are ending.

This last fortnight has been quite a busy time on the Reserve with many people coming and going, board meetings and Magnus and I trying to finish off all of our “Spring Projects” before he departs this weekend and leaves the throne to me. The main projects we have trying to finish are Farmland Breeding Birds surveys, Wetland Surveys (WeBs), Nest boxes, Hooded Crows, Starling project, Ortolan Buntings and complete counts of wildfowl clutches on the reserve (Much harder than it sounds with such a massive area of reed, pools, field and marsh when there’s only 2 of you. I would say “There’s not enough hours in a day” but it doesn’t go very dark so there probably is!

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Ortolan Bunting habitat, above left is a normal small stand of trees and right is a piece of set aside which the farmer has been paid to leave unsown, this is because apparently Ortolan’s prefer “black soil” to feed and breed in. Our studies however suggest otherwise.

Anyway, we’ve finish with many of these and some just have a few bits and pieces to tidy up, Some Starlings are having second broods (Making my life difficult), Ortolan Buntings need to be monitored throughout June and into early July (we’re trying to locate pairs and nests – If anyone has tips on nest finding please share them). The Wetlands surveys are now finished as are the Farmland BBS’. The Nest boxes continue due to many pairs of Pied Flycatchers still on eggs so I’m not complaining about that, also a mystery nest which I hope somebody can help out on. (Think it may be Spotted Fly? but it’s in a normal nest box.

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            Spotted Flycatcher nest?

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Very bad picture of a very smart Marsh Tit chick found in the final nest box of the lot; a very nice little “ringing tick”.

The crows are about done and yesterday when checking the final un-climbable trees we managed to see many large young in the nests. We were also lucky enough to find a newly fledged youngster on the ground. This little fella gave me one of the nicest ringing experiences ever, when after releasing him he decided he would sit, call and preen on my arm for a good 5 minutes. He made all the long hours of straining my neck back in April worth while and made me realise how much of a privilege it is to ring birds.

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Confused Hooded Crow juvenile.

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I tried to release him…


Mystery Insect

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Finally we have the mystery insects, these things have turned many trees totally silver this week and I’m not quite sure what they are. The white film they cover the trees in feels like paper and is very strong stuff. I think they may be some sort of Moth Larvae? Either way I saw a cow pierce the film on a tree yesterday and enjoy eating thousands of grubs that fell all over her face. NICE

if anyone can help with anything on the Blog please comment :)

Thursday, 2 June 2011


Magnus and I had a little competition throughout May to see who could see the most bird species on the reserve. It came very close and I’ll give Magnus credit for finding some great birds and sharing them with me (I’m sure he’ll do the same for me) but in the end the English man won, Magnus took defeat well and will be punished accordingly this weekend. The punishment has changed from Hair dye, to beer buyer and now final we “agreed” on a Naked Jump into the Canal on a Saturday afternoon at a famous tourist attraction. I look forward to Magnus jumping from a small bridge into the deep murky waters below and I think he looks forward to it more so. The Final scores were 139 to me and 136 for Magnus. The best birds involved were 2 Red-Footed Falcon (Male and Female), Corncrake, Spotted Crake, Penduline tit, Black Kite, Red-Necked Phalarope, Honey Buzzard and Goshawk for me and Magnus was lucky enough to hear Great Snipe displaying on one of his wetland surveys. Between us we saw 146 Species on the reserve in one month and others saw birds that we both missed. It’s funny how it came to a close with the only species separating us being very common, Magnus failed to see (Or overlooked) Dunnock, Wren and Long-eared owl. The former 2 were very often in voice throughout the start of May and the latter is nesting nearby the house. It was a fun competition with excitement to the last, seeing 7 new species in the final 2 days. I’ll post some pictures of birds we saw at a later date.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Hooded Crows

Almost a month ago me and Magnus checked every tree in the area to try and find all active crow nest within the reserve. Many hours of work were put in and 36 nests were found. This week many of these nests have been climbed to so that the chicks can be ringed. Some of the nest however are not climbable and so we will check these in early June when hopefully we can see large youngsters hanging over the edges of the nests. Many of the trees look un-climbable at first but with the aid of a special tree ladder the job was straight forward.


Climbing near Nynas.

Climbing with help from the “Crow Ladder”. Basically scaffolding poles with steps on (that fit together with screws) the top section has a wide hook on it to loop over large branches. Very strong and moderately light weight.


Hooded Crow chicks, Varsta.

Above is a picture of some large Hooded crow youngsters that have just been ringed… Adopting the “If I sit still, you can’t see me. Right?” approach. A real pleasure to ring. I really must also get a special ladder made. I feel many more nests can be reached with the aid of this.

Apologies for the quick post with barely any detail. I’m tired, busy and up early tomorrow… Hopefully I will pin down the Honey Buzzards’ nest nearby. I keep seeing the adults from my front door!!!

I’ll post a proper update soon.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

This week at Kvismare…

This week we continued the survey theme… Marsh Harriers, Farmland breeding birds and in particular, Ortolan Bunting- Emberiza hortulana. Many farmers around the Kvismare area have recieved funding to set aside some bare land for the Ortolan’s to nest in. For unknown reasons the population of Ortolan bunting has gone down from Circa 100 singing males to maybe half a dozen in less than 3 decades within the reserve itself; The species still thrive in Northern Sweden however, in fire prone forests.

Managing to hear a minimum of 5 Ortolan males in the first week of surveys then is quite good and these birds are all singing in the correct areas, again promising. It is still early for these birds and so we will continue to monitor this species throughout May.

The Marsh Harriers have begun displaying high above the reed beds this week meaning that their building period is all but over. We managed to identify 14 females in total and possibly 10 nests which we will confirm when the birds are feeding youngsters later in the season. We still wait for the Montagu’s Harrier that nested here last year.

All Starling boxes have to be checked every 5-7 Days (a rule in Sweden) and so this week we confirmed all the full clutch sizes for Starlings. Most hold 5 or 6 but one or two contain 7 eggs. These should be hatching any day now. The White Wagtail in the front garden is also now incubating her 4 eggs. 2 Broods of Fieldfare have hatched just by the side of the house and are noisily protected by the adults.

Some good birds being seen this week has heated the competition for Blonde hair. I still lead but Magnus has gripped me with Savi’s Warbler, Black Woodpecker and Little gull today. I however have Peregrine, Black Tern and Icterine Warbler on him. So it’s wide open.

Birds arriving in number this week, Cuckoo, Garganey, Whitethroat, Pied Flycatcher, Wood Sandpiper (flock of 140 seen regularly on Rysjon), Spotted Redshank (up to 25 present on Rysjon), Green and Common Sand also push through not in such great numbers but do reach a few dozen each some days. Common Tern in decent numbers with Arctics’ heading through some days. Myself and Magnus haven’t seen any as of yet! Today I had a flock of 47 “thunbergi” type Yellow Wagtails in one tree!

The Geese and Whooper swans continue to fatten up for their migration. Amongst the Bean geese (fabalis) this week, Barnacle,Pink Footed, Canada, White-fronted and some Bean (Rossicus).

If only races counted in our competition…

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Spring in Sweden

Spring in Sweden seems to happen a good month after it did back home. So I have already seen many of the birds we await here. This last week however has been full of migrants.

Studies turned to Marsh harrier nests/ territories this week to try and pin down nests if possible (as a visit to ring the young will be made in June) or if not accessible, just count the amount of females. There is one Female per nest but not necessarily one male; Polygamy does occur in these birds. Anyway this week we have Identified 11 different females with relative ease with possibly 2 or 3 other birds, and the nests are now very well pinned down.

These birds are amazing to watch, however you have to be up early to see the main nest building; This is thought to be because Marsh Harrier pick fresh twigs from trees and in the morning dew these twigs are more flexible and therefore easier to break and place into the nest.

Whilst out on these early morning watches new birds this week…

Black-Throated Diver, Wryneck, Osprey, Common Tern, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Pied Flycatcher, Ortolan bunting, Icterine Warbler, Wood Warbler, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and the nicest birds in my opinion the “lekking” Ruff. The Bean geese and a few Whooper’s remain on the fields by the house.

The work load slows in the next week or so, so I’ll be out and about trying to see as many species as possible throughout May (me and Magnus are having a competition.) No winning prize, but the loser has a punishment…

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Hooded Crow surveying

Magnus and I have been very busy this week trying to find all the “active” Hooded Crow nests within the Kvismaren reserve before the leaves open, we have previous survey data and this has been a great help as these birds often nest within metres of previous years, not always though… Having to be out by dawn every morning craning our necks trying to find nest, checking every single tree on the reserve has had it’s plus points; New birds.

We were lucky enough to stubble across a couple of Male Three-Toed Woodpeckers yesterday morning these birds gave amazing views for 30 minutes (down to 15 feet totally ignoring us) before we left them in peace. These only the 3rd and 4th records on the reserve since 1985!

A Pair of Hawfinch sang and fed happily in the glorious sun whilst above them a Rough-legged buzzard soared.

Spotted Crake and Jack Snipe displayed on the marshlands nearby.

Today I found a Yellow Wagtail, Feldegg race amongst a flock of White wagtails ( If accepted apparently only the 6th for Sweden).

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Also some of the more common birds have given cracking views, Lesser spotted woodpeckers drumming down to 3 metres away, Greens Laffe at similar distances. Marsh Harriers ignore us as they go about nest building. Bean, Barnacle and White fronted geese give great views and Bitterns constantly boom.

The next few days we will finish the first round of the Crow study and then begin to pin point Marsh Harrier nests. The Yellow wagtail and many Willow warblers around today signify the start of spring migration in Sweden. (Everything here seems to be a month or so  later than England)




Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Kvismaren Bird Observatory

Arriving in Sweden for the first time yesterday afternoon I was amazed by the sheer vastness of it all. I mistook lakes for seas whilst flying over them and the endless forests which hugged the horizon. I travelled across the country from Stockholm to Orebro by train where I met the reserve chief for this season Magnus.

Today Magnus and I began work surveying the Hooded Crow and Raven nests within Kvismaren itself. A cracking day with some extra special sights too. Marsh harriers floating around the woodlands picking sticks for their nests, White-tailed eagles hunting over fresh water reeds is also something different. The Eagles often pursued by Raven and Marsh Harrier alike. Green, Great Spotted and Lesser Spotted woodpecker also today; Still not seen the Lesser Spot but they’re drumming and calling somewhere nearby. Cranes danced in the fields.

Other things seen today -


A Beaver swam straight towards us and got within 3 metres of the car before diving.

Fieldfare and Redwing are common thrushes here and they’re nesting everywhere in good numbers.

Yellow Hammer and Tree Sparrow are not very easy to see at home but are in abundance here.

White-Fronted, Barnacle, Greylag,Bean,Canada and Pink footed geese today.

around 100 Cranes seen today, some “dancing”.

Green Sandpipers and Snipe display on the marshlands.

Bitterns Booming.


Magnus and I will continue surveying Crows and Wetlands this week and still await the other staff to come and join us.

No pictures worth posting yet, I will get some soon. First though, I need to learn some Latin.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A big thank you and a new start.

I do not blog as often as I may hope but I feel that if I am to blog it has to be something of interest. There has been a few developements since I last blogged...

Firstly I would like to say a massive thank you to Seumus Eaves, Phil Slade and Kane Brides in particular for all their help and hard work putting up with me throughout my training to ring birds. I have recently applied for a restricted netting permit and this should appear hopefully before I vacate (More on this later) So many thanks to these 3 and all the other great people who I have been lucky enough to spend some time and great experiences with whilst out catching birds.

Next, the fantastic group of friends I have been lucky enough to travel around with, having countless laughs and triumphs as well as failings and frollocks which has temporarily split up. With Chris (Birdman) Bridge always at Uni I suppose we are all used to this and he seems to get back often enough to spend time with us, however Ciaran, after spending the whole last winter working hard and enjoying it being Kane's assistant has now vacated to the Farne Islands to be a Warden until September and possibly longer? I am sure Ciaran will do fantastic work out there and I wish him all the best with his travels. Stay safe mate. Kane and me have held the fort before whilst Ciaran and Chris travel far and wide birding or working, but never before have I left. This will mean all of the fantastic bunch are now fragmented, I am off to Sweden to Kvismare Bird Observatory to aid with Census work and from June to September run a ringing base.

I must wish Chris good luck with his academic studies whilst I am away, please concerntrate on Uni studies this year. Twitching is not the way forward and do NOT let Mr Hincliffe twist your arm for some "tick", it really isn't worth losing out on uni for!

Cia, stay safe and do well mate. I have faith you will be having a cracking time and will be in your element out there. I've seen the pics and it looks like you're already settling well.

Kane, look after yourself and keep busy (I'm sure you will). Thanks for all the help and hard work you've put in with me :) Really appreciate this.

All three of you have been a fantastic inspiration whilst out and about and I will miss you all greatly. I'm sure that the next time we each meet will be a fantastic occasion and I look forward to it already.

Possibly a joint belated 21st for Cia (very very late for you mate) and Birdman just a little late? I'll be back in October, however I hope to keep the blog updated from Sweden if at all possible.

Good birding and best wishes to all.


Friday, 21 January 2011

2010 Highlights

Another Year ends and a new begins... In a some bird watchers diary this is a time to manically start a new list for everything, not me. It's a time to reflect on a fantastic years ringing with some fantastic people.

Highlights ringing wise:

January - Watching/Helping Kane Catch 20+ Tufted duck in one day at Southport as well as catching 30 or so Coot. (We thought we'd never get the same numbers in a day again... We were wrong).

Swan Catch at Martin Mere - Always a pleasure seeing Teal, Pochard, Wigeon and Whoopers "In the hand."

February - My first Cannon netting session; Heysham power station, over 600 Oystercatchers Caught and ringed (Amazing).

March and April - Ringing ( Or scribing) at Rossall Ringing sessions due to a broken hand, But I saw plenty of decent birds in the hand. Lots of Lesser Redpoll and one Common.

May - My first Grasshopper Warbler (tape Lured) followed by accompany Kane whilst he found Long Eared Owls breeding in Manchester. All the hard work paid off and the following day I watched them get ringed, Then returned to my Local patch to find another Long Eared owl nest!

June - Black headed Gull colony with Robin Sellars, Steve Christmas, Will Price and Ian Gardener. Over 500 Black Headed gull chicks ringed in under 2 hours. A Follow up trip with Kane Brides and Chris Bridge produced another 110.

July through to August. - ICELAND.

Ringing Puffins, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Shag, Snow Bunting, Eider, Snipe, Red necked Phalarope, Dunlin, Oystercatchers, Arctic terns, Black Guillemot, Redwings,Ringed plover, Golden Plover and last but not least Whooper Swans for nearly a month. Seeing some other amazing sites ( White Tailed Eagle really close, Great Nortern divers from above as they dive in the crystal clear water, Also hearing their Eary call. Gyr Falcons getting unbelievably close to catching Ptarmigan right next to us, and the inquisative youngsters whom let us get really close.) I had a fantastic time with 3 of the finest friends. Kane introduced us to his very welcoming Icelandic friends and they looked after us like royalty. they're fantastic people and I'm glad I met them.

August back home - Recovering, wishing I was back in Iceland.

September - Started Catching decent numbers of Coot to Colour ring. Also started ringing at Rossall again.

October - Great numbers of greenfinch dropping out of the sky straight into the net at Rossall, Also my first British Great grey Shrike. Picked up by Ian and then all the group (including a very excited Seumus). Also went Cannon netting again with SCAN in North Wales, Caught lots of Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew and the odd Dunlin, Knot, Lapwing, Snipe and starling (Cracking trip). Oh and held my first Waxwing (STONKER)

November - Not too much but enjoyed catching Coot still at the Park and started to get good movements from them. Please keep your eyes peeled for colourful Coot.

December - Has to be the day Kane and Ciaran caught 106 Coot in a day, Also a trip to Will's Garden with Will and Phil where we were Lucky enough(?) to catch 28 Brambling in one session. A Priveledge that I probably won't see again for a long time.

Sorry no Photo's yet... I'm going to start 2011 with an update from a recent trip to Ireland and I'll try to slip a photo in.

Let's see if 2011 can be half as good at 2010... I'm sure with a lot of effort and a bit of luck, we can improve?