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.