Saturday, 16 June 2012

Swift update.

We're still quite busy with all things survey at the moment as all the spring work comes into it's crucial final stages. Ortolan Buntings are feeding youngsters, which is great news, we ringed a brood of 4 chicks last week and they luckily fledged hours before the farmer cut his grass. I was horrified to wake up to see the farmer had mown in the night. See below the open-topped nest remains. 
Ortolan Bunting after mowing, a sorry scene.

The Marsh harriers we have monitored through spring have hatched and look amazingly cute. There is a runt, but I'm sure they'll find enough food to equal things out as the adults are hunting non-stop throughout the day.
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus. Photo; Strahil Peev

Heather has arrived and now work begins to start preparing the nets and net rides ahead of the ringing season; yesterday whilst fixing nets this little gem landed next to me. I was very, very surprised because I've always been told you need to flick-net for Swifts, maybe this one was a stupid individual. Though it was a stunning stupid individual and a very welcome ringing tick. I now know why Seumus told me his fingers were like pin cushions after handling many of them.

Swift - Apus apus
We also finished off the first round of "normal" nest boxes with a brood of Pied flycatcher. Heather also got to grips with a bit of mist netting and caught this known age Tree Sparrow. Ringed here 1 year ago (almost to the day) as a chick. He can now be sexed on his cloacal protuberance.

Heather and Mr Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus
Pied Flycatcher chicks - Ficedula hypoleuca
A few days ago we heard Long-eared Owl chicks near the house and after a short search I found the nest and climbed to it. The result, 3 Long-eared Owlets ringed. 
Long-eared Owl chicks - Asio otus
One of the chicks 8 days on.

Long-eared Owlet in nest - Asio otus

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Worth a post.

First of all apologies for not posting in nearly 3 weeks. I was busy winning the bird race against Magnus. The final scores Craig 141 - Magnus 134. A combined total of 148 Species were seen during the "race" which took place between 9th and 31st May, the prize this year is only beer as after Magnus' dip in the Canal last year Anthrax was discovered on the banks exactly where he went in... He was therefore a bit worried last year and now won't jump back in! It was a nice competition this year anyway and we each saw "lifers". I had Broad-billed Sandpiper, Golden Oriole (bad but true) and Blue-winged Teal, Magnus had the latter and Glossy Ibis for his "lifers".

Other than the competition we've been busy surveying things all over the reserve. A project on Sedge Warblers is hotting up and the Ortolan's are getting down to their breeding business (a pair carrying food today was nice). I was supposed to be studying Savi's warblers but Kvismaren is reflecting the national trend this year and NONE have arrived. I'll keep listening for them though. Marsh Harriers are down on eggs now and all of our farmland surveys are completed. Highlights from there included finding 4 Dotterel which filled the scope on minimum zoom, stunning birds!!!

I've finished with the Starlings after ringing nearly 260 shitted up stinking chicks. I think I've ringed enough for a lifetime now?

Also we've ringed a lot of Blue and Great tit chicks with more to check up on soon. All of the Pied flycatchers are still on eggs but I've managed to lift and ring at least 5 females.

As part of the Ortolan project we were asked to try to catch a bird to take a feather sample for analysis, so late last night/early this morning I decided I would stay up all night and attempt to catch an unpaired male at dawn! I headed out a 3 am with mist net and playback lures and set a net near our unpaired guy, I narrowly avoided catching both a Fox and a Wild Boar the latter of which was running at full speed towards the net and grunting furiously. The conditions were against me and the bird not singing back to the song I was a little worried we were too late and he'd moved off? Less than 10 minutes after I'd set the net and started the playback, I saw what appeared to be a Bunting flitting around in a nearby bush... next thing, I looked and it was in! A stunning 2cy male Ortolan Bunting, definitely worth no sleep and a gorgeously gripping ringing tick!!! Below are a few shitty pictures of the stunning bird, the light was terrible and my excitement probably a bit too much to make any decent pics, but less excuses you can see how stunning he is!

                                          Emberiza hortulana 2cy male