dinsdag 29 juni 2010

Grass snakes!

Today I found c. 6 Grass snakes!

zondag 27 juni 2010

It's a Blue necktwister!

Had to get up this morning at 3.15 pm for bird ringing. That is really early. Luckily I became a bit used to getting up early in the morning, through the bird ringing! Everytime we drive to our ringing site we hope to see owls hunting in the dark in the farmland. Unfortunately we don't see owls that often. In the three years I've been ringing I have only seen: 2 Little owls, 2 Long-eared Owls and 1 Barn owl, that is not much since this farmland area east of Apeldoorn is occupied by quite a few pairs of Barn and Little owl. This night however I did see an owl! It was a nice Little Owl hunting next to the road. While sitting in the car and paying attention to owls I suddenly saw the remarkable flight of a Little Owl against the clear blue sky. So that was a nice start!
Our ringing site is always really mysterious by dawn. Often with sunrise one can find fog hanging above the ponds which make the sunrise really special (See pic of that a few messages back)

When we were finished with setting up the nets I went to check the nets. Usually, our first rounds don't result in lots of birds (unlike a ringing site in a reedbed area) But when I came across our final net I saw something blue hanging in it! A Kingfisher! Wow what a surprise. We were afraid that this CES we wouldn't be catching any kingfishers anymore because they froze to death this winter. Fortunately we trapped this one: it was a first calenderyear. Probably born somewhere along the IJssel.

Today turned out to be a good ringing day. We caught good numbers of Great + Blue tits (25,10) and we also caught some other youngsters such as: Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Marsh tit, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Reed Warbler (not full-grown yet!
Another surprise we encountered were young 3 Willow Tits hanging in the nets. This year -just like the kingfishers- no Willow tits were heard or seen at our ringing site. So it was nice to catch some Willow tits who roamed around with the other young tits. Below you can see the differences in Willow and Marsh Tits:

The upper one is a Willow Tit. You can clearly see a broad and sloppy jabot. The black feathers are much more spread to the left and right unlike Marsh tit.

Here you can see a Marsh Tit. Marsh tits have got a very neat jabot that looks a bit like a square/rectangle.

In addition some other differences can be found:

Willow tit:On this photo you can see the lighter feathers on the secondaries. This makes it look as if it has got a lighter wing. Furthermore you can see the absence of white tip on the bill (see Marsh Tit below)

Marsh Tit: on this photo you can see the presensce of a white spot on the Bill and the absence of ''lighter parts'' on the secondaries.

Sound however is definitively one of the best identifying guidelines to check if it's a Marsh or Willow tit. As a ringer something you have to check is the distance between the first and last tailfeather. If it's less than 4 mm it's a Marsh Tit, if the distance is bigger than 5 mm it's a Willow tit.

zaterdag 26 juni 2010

A morning full of Dragonflies

This morning I decided to go to the 'Salamandergat'. This is a pool in the middle of a forests and attracts loads of dragonflies and butterflies. Furthermore this is an excellent spot for Grass snakes, unfortunatly, I did not succeed to see any this morning but that was because my main focus was on butterflies. En route, I came across several birds. The route from our home to the Salamandergat is a nice ride through different kinds of forests. This means different forestbirds. I left home at 9 p.m (not that early, I wanted to stay in bed..) and on my way I had several singing Coal Tits, Goldcrests, 1 Firecrests and also a lot of young tits. On my way I also made some breaks because I had to look at the map (this was the 1st time for me to go to the Salamandergat, isn't that strange ;)). When I arrived at my destination I noticed a few Hawfinches, four Siskins, two calling Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers and a displaying Honey Buzzard. Tree pipits, Stonechats and Whitethroats were present as well. The Salamandergat is a really quiet place, with minimal disturbance so it is really a pleasure to sit down and enjoy the nature around you.
As I already mentioned I didn't see any Grass Snakes but I did see some nice dragonflies:

Grote Keizerlibel (Blue Emperor)

Vuurjuffer (Large-red Damsefly) 

Viervlek (Four Spotted Chaser)

Watersnuffel (Common Bluet)

Gewone Oeverlibel (Black-tailed Skimmer)
Smaragdlibel (Downy Emerald)

Also lots of Bosbesbruintjes (Rannoch Loopers) were present. This is an Geometridae (not a 'real' butterfly, look-a-like).

Probably I missed out quite a few species of Dragonflies but since this was my first serious attempt for identifying dragonflies I think it was a good try.  During my holidays I hope to spend some more time down in the Salamandergat! It is a great place to be.
Tomorrow I'll probably be doing some bird ringing.

maandag 14 juni 2010

Crex Crex

Crex Crex in Latin, or Corn Crake in English, or Kwartelkoning in Dutch, was a species I encountered again yesterday evening. The last time I had heard (and seen!) them was two years ago, and since this calling bird was only heard ten miles away from home we decided to give it a try. The problem was that we had to be back again on a decent time (because of my testweek). And as a lot of you might know: Corn Crakes often start calling from dusk onwards. Nevertheless, we gave it a try.We arrived near the Ossenwaard at 19.45 and started to walk down the path into the Ossenwaard. After a few minutes of walking I suddenly heard ''crex crex'' among all the noise coming from Marsh Warblers, Whitethroats, Reed Warblers, Yellow wagtails etc. That was nice! Did not expect the bird to be calling at 19.50 already! I was satisfied already but we walked a little closer, and now we could hear the bird calling closeby (5-10 metres away). It paused several times. After a quarter of one hour we walked on and came across a family of Whitethroats, Linnets and a pair of Sandpipers (breeding-suspects!!). Someone sighted a Spoonbill the other day but we were unable to find it.
My father made a good recording of the Corn Crake, which I'll add later.

The calling Corn Crake of yesterday

As said above, I have seen Corn Crakes before. This was two years ago. It was during a ringing session of Corn Crakes in the evening where they got transmittors on their backs so that the researchers would be able to follow the Corn Crakes by day. And that they'd find out what the territory range of male Corn Crakes are.
I could also add it to my ''birds in the hand-list''.

zaterdag 12 juni 2010


June is thé time of the year to catch all the young birds who just flew out. For us, this means we catch a lot of tits, chiffchaffs and other (young) birds. Last week, we had CES 6, and that was not spectacular at all.. we trapped 23 birds. That is not much for the last week of may. Often, between the end of May and beginning of July we catch most birds during the project. Last time, the youngsters weren't eager enough to fly into our nets, so they decided to stay out (perhaps not all birds had flown out). So I decided that today should be the day that we would trap all the youngsters. Until 9.30 this wasn't the case at all, the number of birds caught so far laid around 15 orso. Not much.
When I went round at 10 I came across 6 Great tits and 2 Blue tits hanging in the nets! Finally a group of tits! The rounds after, produced about 15 Great tits and 6 Blue tits, which meant our daily total would be raised quite a bit!
Some other young birds caught today: Blackcaps (Zwartkop), Chiffchaffs (Tjiftjaf), Nuthatch (Boomklever), Short-toed treecreeper (Boomkruipre), Blackbird (Merel)

Adult birds caught: Several Marsh Warblers (Bosrietzanger), Reed warblers (Kleine Karekiet), Reed bunting (Rietgors) , House Sparrow (Huismus), Garden Warbler (Tuinfluiter), Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush (Zanglijster).

Two individual Marsh Warblers on the right:
Yesterday I checked out the website of the Portland bill Bird Observatory  . On the website I saw that they'd recently trapped both Marsh and Reed Warbler. I saw the photos of both birds on which one could clearly distinguish the larger upperbill of the Marsh Warbler. Therefore, I put my focus today on photgraphing the bill of the Marsh Warblers. And indeed, one can clearly see that the upperbill is thickker an the bill from a Reed Warbler. It is a good sub-identification mark for Marsh Warbler. Furthermore I photographed the back of the two Marsh Warblers because of the light tips on the fringes of the primaries and secondaries. Also a identification mark for Marsh Warbler.
 Here you can see the light wing tips of an Marsh Warbler.

I also took an overall shot of one of the Marsh Warblers
See it below: 

Total amount of birds trapped today: 60 birds

Unfortunately I will spend the rest of the weekend studying for my exams coming week...
Below a shot of a Marsh Warbler from last week