dinsdag 26 juni 2012

Back from Britain

I returned home yesterday evening after a week's stay at Menzie in Liverpool. We had a great time and did lots of good stuff, less ringing than we'd wanted, but the weather conditions didn't allow us to do more. Highlights in short: the ringing of Manx Shearwaters, the Rose-coloured Starling twitch and the Little Swift of course!

On Sunday afternoon, we booked our first 'real' succes with the trap in the garden. After a Robin, four Feral Pigeons and 2 Grey Squirrels we got a Wood Pigeon in the trap. It was the 4th Wood Pigeon to be ringed in Menzie's garden in two weeks time, not a bad score!
Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus); I'll leave the in-depth analysis of the age to Menzie of course!

Sunday evening we headed to Woolston where we camped overnight. A ringing session was held the next morning. The ringing was nice; we ringed 5 Bullfinches, 2 Willow Tits, some Reed Buntings, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Wrens. There was a good amount of juvenile birds; good to know that some birds here still dealt fine with the horrendous weather the UK has had the past month. 

A purple pink sunset at Woolston.
 Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos ssp. clarkei); 2cy male of the British subspecies; the continental Song Thrushes are greyer on the upperparts (note the brown-cap of this bird) and have less buff on underparts than the British ones
 Willow Tit (Poecile montanus ssp. kleinschmidti); juvenile, the continental Willow Tits are supposed to be larger and greyer and paler than the British Willow Tits
 Robin (Erithacus rubecula ssp. melophilus); 1cy, never seen a (juv) Robin with such grey pinkish legs
 Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes ssp. indigenus); adult, the British birds should be darker and browner than the nominate. Though, I don't see a colour difference with a Continental Wren in the bird pictured above
 Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula ssp. pileata); 2cy male, the British birds are less brightly coloured and smaller than the nominate.
Wing of the Bullfinch: note the two retained old greater coverts, carpal covert and alula 1.

The information concerning the subspecies all comes from the article: Bird forms in Britain by Steve Gantlett from the paper Birding World, Volume 11, Number 6, 1998.

maandag 25 juni 2012

Rainy birding up in the moors

The wind was too strong and the chance of rain was still to high to give ringing a chance. That's why we chose to do birding up in the Derbyshire moors south of Manchester, yesterday morning.

Menzie and I had a calm start and after an hour drive we arrived up in the Derbyshire moors around 11:30. On our way we had encountered some rain and also up in the highland moors the clouds were hanging low above the land, dropping some rain every now and then.

As the heathland came in sight the search for, amongst others, Red Grouse. It didn't took long before Menzie shouted: I see one! A male was perched on an outcrop of heather next to the road. A good look at the male revealed a female just behind. Last week we failed to see any Red Grouse in Wales, so it was a welcome lifer for me! The light was horrible, with a high iso I was able to take a few decent shots of the birds though.

Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica); male on the right, female hidden on the left
The female, popping up her head above the heather

We continued to 'The Bridge' where we parked the car and took a walk through the moors. A Grey Wagtail was showing well on a fence:
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)

Further up the moor Menzie found a couple of Red Grouse. It turned out to be a group of at least 10 birds, of which some were juveniles. great to see! While enjoying the grouse a splash shower suddenly appeared, and completely washed out, we headed back to the car. 
Male Red Grouse sticking its head out of the heather.

After the rain we took a walk along some small river, finding a very nice Dipper. The one here is the 'red-bellied British' subspecies.
 The Goyt valley
Dipper (Cinclus cinclus gularis)

Back at the car park a male Lesser Redpoll was present in some trees next to the car, showing well from a close distance.

Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis cabaret); male

Not much later a Short-eared Owl was found by Menzie, hunting above the heathland. An unexpected observation. 
 Derbyshire moors
Upland sheep fields preceding the moors

With the Red Grouse in the pocket we drove back to Liverpool!

vrijdag 22 juni 2012

Local Liverpool Little Swift Twitching

This afternoon we saw an alert message on BirdGuides: Little Swift, New Brighton! As we were already in the car driving to a shop we easily took off in the direction of New Brighton. It would be a 30 min drive from Woolton. We were kept up-to-date by the BirdGuides news app. A little after 15:00 we arrived at our destination. There were about 20 twitchers standing in front of us. The Little Swift was giving amazing shows - shearing by on eye level - from up close. What a superb bird!! I'd seen Little Swifts before in Spain, Morocco and Israel but the views we got in this bird might be my best!

It was foraging together with Common Swifts and House Martins along the promenade, making rounds around us all the time. The rain wasn't so bad at times, which was pleasant for us as we were looking at the bird. At the twitch we met Alex again and also some other ringers Stephen knew.

It was too bad that I only had my small 28-50 mm zoom lens on my camera. Photographing a bird with 50mm instead of 400mm is quite a difference. But as the bird got really close I got some satisfying pics with my camera! So it wasn't that bad after all!

Next to the Rose-coloured Starling from last week another great twitch here in the UK!

 Some photos from the Little Swift (Apus affinis)
Twitchers with the Little Swift soaring by on the right

What would taste better?

A Feral Pigeon or a Wood Pigeon? We discussed this matter in depth yesterday.

 Menzie seems to go for the Wood Pigeon.
Whilst Faab doesn't seem particularly happy with the Feral Pigeon.. 

So I guess the Wood Pigeon is our lucky winner!

Other birds ringed in the garden yesterday afternoon included a varied bunch of species. Several Goldfinches, Blue Tits, two Coal Tits, a Greenfinch, a juvenile Dunnock and the undoubtedly highlights Feral (well we didn't ring it) & Wood Pigeon.

 Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)
 Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), 3J in English terms
 Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris), 2cy male
 Dunnock (Prunella modelularis), 3J with a tasty meelworm in its mouth!
 Pair of Coal Tits (Periparus ater), female left; male right
They turned out to be a nice comparison: the female (upper one) was a 2cy; note the brown alulas and primary coverts. The male (the one below) was a >2cy; dark alulas and dark primary coverts in contrast to the female. Both had started the post-breeding moult.

Yesterday we bought some wire at the shops and spend quite a few hours building a trap for in the garden; aiming for trapping the Wood Pigeons of course:) We had finished it in the evening and put it out this morning. We already have result: a Robin!

I would also like to share this photo of a Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) pullus:
Wednesday afternoon we joined David Norman again for some pulli ringing this time. We went to a farm with Tree Sparrows. We ringeds a few broods of Tree Sparrow, a single House Sparrow brood and a single brood of Great Tits.

donderdag 21 juni 2012

Magical Manxies

As I said in my blog post from last Saturday we were supposed to go petrel ringing that day, but because of the bad weather (rain and strong wind) that was canceled. Instead - if weather permitted - we would go Tuesday evening. After getting all of our stuff together we - Menzie, Tammo and I - drove to Kieran Foster's place, whom we would be joining for the ringing. The subsequent two hour drive took us to Point Lynas, up in Anglesey, North Wales. We enjoyed a wonderful sunset on the calm sea, together with some Manx Shearwaters shearing off shore; a good sign!
 A bright sunset at Point Lynas
Tammo, Menzie and Kieran pictured in the photo (and yes, Menzie is always ruining the photo..haha)

We set up two 18 m nets, one for the Storm Petrels and one for the Manx Shearwaters. We got the nets up at 22:30 and then we had to wait till it would be completely dark to put the tapes on.

Kieran and I at one of the nets.

It took some time before we heard the first Manxie calling off shore. It took until 1:00 am that the Manxies came closer to the nets. They flew over the nets, but weren't eager enough to go in. Then, as we changed the sound of Storm Petrel into Manx Shearwater (that set of speakers was louder) we lured them all in and as I saw the first Manxie get in and get out of the net, the others had already caught four in the other net, awesome!! We kept it this way for the rest of the time, resulting in 14!!! Manx Shearwaters, a record, since the highest Kieran had ringed here before, was 7. It was an amazing experience, Manx Shearwaters just calling everywhere: off shore, on the land, above your head etc. You could see and hear (their wings) come over from close by.

 Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus); one close-up
Wing photo from one of the Manx Shearwaters.
 Menzie and Tammo, carrying 7 kilo worth of shearwater!
 Happy ringers!
 Tammo and Kieran
 Gnome Tammo holding a Manxie!

By the time we were finished with all the ringing it was 3:00 am. We didn't catch any Storm Petrel, Kieran did see one bouncing against the net, but it didn't get caught, probably because of the wind. 

Full of satisfaction we packed our stuff and started the journey home. We all felt sorry for Menzie as he had to drive haha.. We got home safe around 6:00 am  and slept for another five hours. After that we dropped my dad off at the Liverpool airport, as he had to go home again. 

Special thanks to Kieran for the great night (and Menzie for the driving!)

woensdag 20 juni 2012

Not so wild

After a calm start yesterday morning, Menzie, Tammo and me headed for the WWT reserve Martin Mere, north of Liverpool.

We entered the reserve and did some birdwatching at all the hides. There weren't many birds around, just the regular stuff. We saw plenty of Avocets, a Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plovers, Marsh Harriers, lots of Tree Sparrows and a lot of ducks. After the 'wild' birdwatching we went to see all the captive ducks that are being held here at Martin Mere. Within a few seconds I already had two UK ticks: Marbled Duck and White-headed Duck, great! We went through all the different  parts of the 'duck zoo'. Eventhough I'm not a fan at all of captive ducks it was fun to see all the different species from up close. A funny observation was a displaying Common Crane there, it was full of testosteron as it tried to impress us!

 Marbled Duck (Marmaronetta angustirostris)
 White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)
 Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus)
And a dumb juvenile Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), yet to find out you can also fly over a fence..

On our way to Martin Mere we also passed some nice fields that held some singing Corn Buntings. One was singing from really close by so I recorded the song and photographed it.

Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra)

Corn Bunting by Fmeijer

There was also a family of Mistle Thrushes foraging in the field:
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)