Sunday, 25 November 2012

Returning home and recent recoveries.

This week I returned home from my 7 Month long Scandinavian adventure! In short, it was awesome. Handling well over 10'000 birds of more than 100 species is pretty special!

The last week at Gedser was hit and miss, not so many birds ringed but we did get some quality ones. The highlight being another dose of Waxwings, a Black Redstart and on the last night 2 Long-eared Owls. We also caught an "Eastern type" Chiffchaff; in my book a pale Abietinus. Not brown enough for fulvescens/tristis.

"Eastern type" Chiffchaff - pale abietinus?   

Black Redstart 1cy - Phoenicurus ochruros

Long-eared Owls (Male and Female) - Asio otus

 Returning home late Monday night it was a lot of seeing the family and catching up to be done. Tuesday however I was out with my bins and managed to locate an old friend, JHZ2. I also managed to grab and ring 2 juvenile Herring Gulls.

Herring Gull 1cy - Larus argentatus argenteus

JHZ2 was originally marked in Breiavatnat, Stavanger in Norway 25th March 2011, he stayed there until the end of March before disappearing. He was next seen on a local saline lake near to me; Fairhaven lake 12th November 2011 (792 Km from original ringing site) where he was seen on and off until 22nd Feb 2012. He returned to his original marking place by 28th March where he presumably stayed to breed nearby and was seen until Late June. I recorded him for the first time back at Fairhaven Lake 20th November 2012.

Black-headed Gull "JHZ2" - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
 The above photo was taken last February, just before he returned to Norway; hence the moulting into breeding plumage.

Map of Black-headed Gull JHZ2's Movements

I  also received a batch of Blue Tit recoveries from Gedser where I had controlled some Swedish ringed birds back in October. It turns out all 7 of them were from Falsterbo and had each travelled 106Km in times ranging between 12 and 24 days; mean being 17.14 days. All were 1st year birds and 6 of the 7 were sexed as females, (might sound obvious, but )the last was sexed as a male; sometimes birds are left unsexed. These birds were sexed based on plumage and measurements combined and if there was any uncertainty I would have left them unsexed.

Blue Tit movements between Falsterbo, Sweden and Gedser bird obs, Denmark.
All of these Blue Tit were recovered on October 19th or before and this correlates nicely with the peak passage of Blue Tits over Falsterbo October 2nd, if the birds were on average to take 17 days. Interestingly not all of these birds moved at the same speed as of the three birds ringed on 25th September at Falsterbo, two birds were the fastest recoveries; 12 and 13 days and the last was the slowest (24 days).

As you can see above, it's really easy to get out and read rings on some birds. If you do happen to notice any birds with rings on whilst out and about please report them to and remember to always check any dead birds for rings. 

Chiffchaff picture - Troels Eske Ortvad

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Standardised ends.

Having been at Gedser for a little over 6 weeks now, the autumn standardised ringing season has just finished! The autumn season ran from 20th until today and over 11,500 birds were ringed in this time. I was only here for the last 6 weeks however. We have managed to ring just under 5000 since October 1st. Some niceties have also been caught, Firecrests, Waxwings and a Woodcock. Long-eared and Tengmalm's Owls and many Sparrowhawks.

Tengmalm's Owl - Aegolius funereus 2cy

Long-eared Owl - Asio otus female

The finer points of a Woodcock 1cy, scolopax rusticola

Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus 1cy male (light rufous type)

The birding has been great at times with very heavy migration; over 50'000 birds moving on some days! This week the birding has been fairly quiet though. Long-tailed Ducks, Common and Velvet Scoters, increasing numbers of Red-throated Divers (Ca80 this week) and an occasional Black-Throated too.

Waxwings and Goldfinches seem to be the dominant passerine migrants at the minute with a few hundred of each moving this week, supported by a few dozen Yellowhammer and Reed Bunts! Another (late) Serin has been hanging around but returned again after a second migration attempt.  

I received news this week of a Sparrowhawk ringed back in October which had flown 270Km in 5 days before slamming into a window in Hannover, Germany. (See map below)

Sparrowhawk Movement, 270km in 5days; hit window.

We are trying to catch some more owls tonight, though the weather isn't on our side it seems. Check back soon to see how it's been.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A fantastic week

The weather picked up a bit this week and made for some nice days birding and ringing. Migration seemed to pick up mid week and saw decent numbers of Waxwings arriving too. We ringed somewhere near a hundred birds though I won't mention full totals. Highlights included 2 Firecrests and 3 Waxwings.
Waxwing 2cy+ female - Bombycilla garrulus

Firecrest - Regulus ignicapillus - 1cy Male
 We also caught OK numbers of Thrushes, some Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares; few Redwings.

Migrants this week

Whooper Swan - 5
Mute Swan - 3
Rough-legged Buzzard - 3
Red Kite - 2
Buzzard - 10
Sparrowhawk - 9
Merlin - 1
Peregrine - 1
Kestrel - 1
Rook - 49
Long-tailed duck - 46
Velvet Scoter - 6
Common Scoter - 82
Eider - 1800+
Red-throated Diver - 40
Black-Throated Diver - 1
Scaup - 12
Little Gull -5
Waxwing - 1320
Fieldfare - 840
Starling - 55
Redwing - 350
Goldfinch - 00's
Chaffinch/Brambling - 00's
Greenfinch - 00's
Siskin - 00's
Redpoll - 200+
Linnet - 25
Twite - 80
Bullfinch - 40
Yellowhammer - 75
Reed Bunting - 13
Snow Bunting - 6
Woodlark - 5

Again, migrant numbers are minimums as I can't watch all day, everyday!

Recent recoveries

I also received news of some recoveries of recently ringed birds. A Song Thrush I ringed in October was found freshly dead having been killed by a cat; though it did travel 511km in 154days before hand.
Song Thrush movement, 511km in 15 days

Another, 'better' recovery was the finding of a Blue Tit ringed October 3rd which traveled 548km in 19days and was caught and released by a ringer in the Netherlands. This recovery was actually the furthest Southerly recovery of a Danish ringed Blue Tit, ever. (See map below.)

Blue Tit movement, 548km in 19days.

I also have some findings of birds controlled here to report so maybe over the next few weeks we will find out some more interesting data. In fact I caught 5 Long-tailed Tits from Sweden with consecutive ring numbers.

Long-tailed Tits (3 types) - Heather McGinty
The picture above shows 3 types of Long-tailed tit. The left 2 and the far right are the northern Aegithalos C. Caudatus. The 3rd from left and 2 inside right birds are of europeus ssp. The central bird is somewhere inbetween. Apologies for the mixing up, but if you kept up you did well.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Migration ebbs

Apologies for no recent posts. I now plan on posting at least weekly with updates.

Weather here in Gedser has been quite poor recently. I've only managed to ring around 25 birds in a week due to high winds or rain and so I have tried to watch visible migration when I have had time. It's getting to the time of season when the finch migration is drying out, most finches have passed South earlier in the season where they will stay for the winter in warmer climes. Still though, late birds trickle through daily. Raptors are also fizzling down to zero apart from a few Rough-legged Buzzards which I expect to keep passing for a week or two. Ducks are arriving in the Baltic for the winter and I plan on talking a little more about this later.

A brief summary of this weeks migration highlights. Combined totals of birds migrating this week, in no particular order are.

Eider 400
Fieldfare 1200
Purple Sandpiper 1
Parrot Crossbill 18
Crossbill 4
Serin 1
Red-throated diver 26
Black-throated Diver 5
Common Scoter 184
Velvet Scoter 3
Waxwing 22
Scaup 3
Little Gull 8
Peregrine 1
Red kite 14
Sparrowhawk 8
Buzzard 8
Snow Bunting 2 (Resting)
Chaffinch/Brambling 450
Greenfinch 600
Siskin 800
Redpoll 450
Tundra Bean Geese 5
Grey Wagtail 2
Twite 70 (Wintering flock)
Raven 4 (Roaming)
Long-tailed Duck 26
Golden Plover 95 (Resting)
Lapwing 3
Reed Bunting 7
Yellowhammer 25
Bullfinch 30

Below is a quick, unedited video of 2 Resting Snow Buntings on the beach; by me.

I didn't count migration, all day everyday so these counts are in no way accurate, but we can say that these are bare minimums of each species.

I have really enjoyed my Sea-watching time here, stonking views of Long-tailed Ducks, Scaup and the Scoters aren't common on the West coast of the Britain. Preben the migration counter here at Gedser has been very disappointed with the duck migration so far this winter, he says usually you would see some thousands of each species passing the point daily at this time of year as they flock for the winter. Common Scoter, Eider and Long-tailed ducks form the largest flocks here and can be quite a sight.
Mixed sexed flock of Long-tailed Ducks migrating - Photo Arne Ader

An estimated 1.4 Million long-tailed ducks are said to winter in the Baltic (2009) though this number is down by 65% on the previous estimate in 1992/3 when there were approximately 4, 272,000 Individuals in the winter. So these fascinating ducks are in decline.

Common Scoter females in flight - Photo Joe Pender
 Common Scoters also use the Baltic as an important wintering area, the European population is said to be 130'000 birds of which the majority winter in the Baltic.

Common Eiders resting - Photo Scott Leslie

Finally Eiders, declined from C. 800,000 to C. 370,000 birds in Danish waters between 1990 and 2000 according to a paper by the WWT. Another source suggests that the population has increased since 2000 to approximately "500,000 bird by the winter of 2009" Christensen & Bregnballe (2011)

It is unfortunate then, that all of these charismatic species are in decline. It is, however a pleasure to be able watch these fascinating birds on a day to day basis as they pose no real identification problems in the field and are a joy to watch. 

Hopefully the weather this week will pick up a bit and there will be some more ringing. Maybe some more Owls at the end of next week, I'll wait and see.