zaterdag 21 juli 2012

Bienvenidos a Lanzarote!

We're having a great time on Lanzarote! A small posts here, with a few pics. Birding wise it's quite succesful already. Two lifers so far: amazing views of already 8 Houbara Bustards, 2 Eleonora's Falcons. Not many bird species here on Lanzarote, but most of the species you see are special and you are able to get wonderful views of otherwise more difficult species in Europe, such as Stone Curlews and Lesser Short-toed Lark. On the cultural/ non-birding aspect it's enjoyable as well, with a trip to the Timafaya National Park - the place on Lanzarote where the biggest volcano eruptions took place three hundred years ago - that was made today. 
Houbara Bustards (Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae), totally unexpected, four birds were discovered  from a driving car on our day of arrival! What a start!
 Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae), light morph, this stunner flew past while standing in the harbour of Orzola.
 Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), extremely easy to see and photograph on the plains of La Jable.
 Timafaya Parque Nacional
 Another view from Timafaya Parque Nacional
Geiser at Timafaya Parque Nacional

zondag 15 juli 2012

Roosting in the Reed

Wednesday evening I headed to Bram in Nijmegen. We had planned the Thursday to do some ringing. When we woke up the next morning a look outside and a look on made us want to stay in our bed, just awful weather! There was a strong wind blowing outside and Buienradar told us a lot of raining was coming our way. It would still be dry a few hours so we decided to head out and open some nets. Throughout the morning we caught the incredible amount of 4 birds: 2 Great Tits, a Blackcap and a Nuthatch.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), juvenile male; lots of chestnut-brown feathers on the flanks and undertailcoverts.
 indicating a male.

In the afternoon - after the many millimetres of rain - the weather became better and the sun was shining. We decided to head out again and do some work. Bram is going to ring the entire autumn (from August to November) at the Ooijse Graaf so some maintenance work was needed. Before we did some work we did some birdwatching, hearing Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker and some Hawfinches.

Two weeks ago I passed my driving exam so I'm in the possession of a driving license finally: I'm a very happy ringer now! Bram's mum was so kind to let us use her car to drive to the Ooijse Graaf with all our equipment. The drive went smooth (I didn't drive over any children) and after we arrived the hard work could start.

 We transported a lot of wooden planks with us so we could build some platforms for in the reeds.
I pull weird faces when I'm concentrating.. 

We were able to make a few platforms; we stabilized the path in the reeds very well now, no danger of drowning anymore, haha! Some cleaning of the net rides was also done. Around 1930 Bram's mum came along and we had a nice dinner in the Ooijse Graaf, seeing the sun go down.

As the weather stayed stable, we decided to open some nets in the reeds to try our luck with roosting swallows/ and or yellow wagtails. We put a tape near the nets and then we could start the waiting. Some 30 Yellow Wagtails and equal numbers of Barn Swallows dropped in to roost, togehter with a few hundred starlings - we didn't want too many of those in the net though. The catch was quite decent, as it was the first roosting session. The number of Barn Swallows that found their way into our nets was a little bit dissapointing: 1. But the we had a the 11 Yellow Wagtails hanging in the net, which was a real treat! The 11 Yellow Wagtails existed out of 9 adult males and 2 juveniles. 

In an upcoming blog post I will write something about the variation in Yellow Wagtails; those I've caught here in the Netherlands and those I've caught in Israel. 

 Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), juvenile female left, juvenile male right; females show a light grey iris whilst males have a completely dark iris.
Both juveniles were busy with their post-juvenile moult. The female (below) was in a further stage of post-juvenile moult than the male (above) was.
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), juvenile
Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava), juvenile
Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava), adult male

So more on the Yellow Waggies later!

dinsdag 10 juli 2012

A Yellow Ending

Our last ringing session of the year was held at my site and it's clear the woods have become really empty now.. Last year saw us ringing on the 10th of July as well and last year's session stood in big contrast with the ringing today. The birds have gone quiet, only very few birds were singing. The Robins continue, with every now and then a Song Thrush but otherwise it's quiet. No singing Wood Larks, Tree Pipits, Redstart or Pied Flycatchers (and so on) anymore. I think the latter two have moved away from their breeding grounds already, I didn't observe a single bird of both species. I was surprised to hear both Woodcock and Nightjar still singing during this time of year. I was able to make a recording of the Nightjar, as it was singing from a reasonable distance.

Nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus by Fmeijer

During this time of year it should be booming with juvenile birds. There were quite a few juvenile tits etc. around but none were found in the nets. And if those are missing out, the numbers of birds ringed can be considered quite poor. Sometimes it's just a matter of luck..

The ringing today was not particularly boring, as the species diversity was reasonable - for the amount of birds being caught. The highlight of the morning was the male Yellowhammer that finally found its way into the net, after so much avoiding of the nets:)

Blackbird 1 - 2 new juvenile, retrap adult female and juvenile
Blackcap 1 - adult female
Great-spotted Woodpecker 1 - juvenile male
Goldcrest 1 - adult male
Robin 5 - 1 all new juveniles, 1 retrap adult
Short-toed Treecreeper 1 - adult female
Yellowhammer 1 - splendid adult male
Willow Warbler 1 - juvenile

15 birds in total..

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), adult male
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus), adult male
Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla), female; this could be a 2cy because of the pattern (and now it's moulting, the large contrast) of the (brown/worn) old outer primary coverts. You can see the old ones have a narrow buffy/white shaft on the outer web, whilst the new ones have a dark buffy tip (adult type pc?) on the point of the primary coverts. I know that this feature can be used for ageing Treecreepers (Certhia familiaris), but I'm not sure it can be of use with the brachydactyla. This year and last year I took a look at the juvenile Short-toed Treecreepers and I found out that some juveniles had a smaller buffy tip (adult type?) but on the outer pc's this tip was sometimes somewhat larger. Others had more extensive buffy/white colouring , like the bird above. Here are just two random pic's to illustrate
Juvenile Short-toed Treecreeper from last year; note the outer primary coverts
Juvenile Short-toed Treecreeper from this year; note the smal(ler) tips on the pc's, the outer ones as you can see, somewhat larger. This is maybe not the best example as the wing is closed.. 

I don't know what experience/knowlegde other ringers have on this subject but I'm interested to know!

zaterdag 7 juli 2012

Fritillaries and a Snake Consuming Raptor!

I had a good sleep-in this morning and woke up around 11:00. You would say that's too late for a real birdwatcher (or birdringer) to do some proper birding but well, I gathered all my courage and decided to cycle 15 km to the National Park Hoge Veluwe. I didn't feel like cycling but it was good weather and a target species was awaiting me!

Yesterday afternoon a Short-toed Eagle had been discovered on the Deelense Veld at the Hoge Veluwe; the same place where I saw the Red-footed Falcons this year. Two Short-toed Eagles were present at the exact same place last year, but for some reason I was being a lazy bastard and didn't see those... However, it is never to late for a rematch! So I had a go for it.

I left our house at 14:00 and around 15:00, 8,20 euro lighter I arrived on the Deelense Veld. I only saw one other birdwatcher present there, Dick van Houwelingen, whom I joined. He said he had seen the bird drop in the heath 10 minutes ago, so all that needed to be done was waiting. It only took 10 minutes before we saw a large raptor circling low, quite distant however, and the heat waves didn't make this any better. We were pretty sure this was the Short-toed Eagle but a better view was needed. As requested, the Short-toed Eagle came our way and as I had cycled towards the bird, the bird flew past, showing really well through my telescope. It did some hunting above the heath, without succes. It disappeared to the North and was out a view for a while. I wanted to do some butterfly watching but a better photo of the Short-toed Eagle was still needed... I waited, and after some time the eagle came into sight again. This time quite close, and with a nice sun shining on the bird. I was only to take some recordshots, but that's good enough for species #210 in my county! It's only my second Short-toed Eagle in the Netherlands, but that's mainly because my dad and I refused to twitch one, haha.
Recordshots of the Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
Deelensche Veld, NP Hoge Veluwe; I stood here while observing the Short-toed Eagle

I cycled south to the Eikenhoutbergen where I saw some nice butterflies. Some rare butterfly species occur here on the Hoge Veluwe, that are almost impossible to see outside this National Park. I found the ones I was looking for quickly:
 Heath Fritillary/Bosparelmoervlinder; quite a few seen
Dark-Green Fritillary/Grote Parelmoervlinder; difficult to capture on photo as these were flying all the time

There were also some other butterflies to be found:
Small Copper/Kleine Vuurvlinder
After some more skipper checking I believe both are Large Skippers/Groot Dikkopje

On my way back to home I was cycling through the woods and as I stopped to drink some water I saw something running next to the cycling path: a young Meadow Pipit! What the hell was it doing here all alone? It must have walked away from its nest.. Anyway, I did a good deed and brought the bird back to the heath where it -hopefully- will be reunited with its parents, as I put it on the ground it started feeding, so there is hope!

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis), not yet able to fly..

Oh, inland Arctic Skua? Where? Veenoordkolk of course!

Piet Schermerhorn strikes again! Around 14:00 yesterday I saw an alert on my phone from : ''Kleine Jager, Veenoordkolk''. Whaat?? Arctic Skua in my county? And of course, the Veenoordkolk was again the place to be! Piet Schermerhorn had found this bird and he even managed to take photos. The photos showed a beautiful pale morph adult Arctic Skua. It didn't take long for me and my dad to get in the car straight to the Skua. First we had to do a quick delivery of groceries at my grandparents but afterwards we were ready to go!

In the mean time - while we were driving near Wilp already - Peter Lindeboom gave me a call saying that he had just seen the Skua at the exact same place around 15:15. My dad and I arrived there a little bit later. No sign of the Skua yet but the search had just begun. We walked northwards along the dike and I scanned the water and the land surrounding the 'kolken' to see if I could find it sat on the ground. I did not find the Skua but I did see an adult summer Yellow-legged Gull, a nice species in my county; Veenoordkolk/Teugse Kolk is probably also the best place to see those. 

Then all of a sudden I saw the Arctic Skua coming from the north, hunting low above the Teugse Kolk. My dad was searching somewhere else but also saw it straight away. It landed in the water of the Teugse Kolk, showing really well through the telescope. Another birder, Huub ter Haar, who had just arrived, observed the bird together with us. Then it decided to take off and do some gull-chasing, because that's what they're good at! What an amazing sight to see a skua actively hunting, and that inland! It became quite mobile and started crossing the IJssel and a bit later it started circling higher and higher and seem to dissappear to the north. Just before that I called Arno ten Hoeve - who lives practically next to the Veenoord/Teugse Kolk if he had already heard the news. At that moment he was standing on a bridge north of us and saw the Arctic Skua above him. His first thought he was seeing a Peregrine, as I was pointing directions, but that was because I hadn't told him yet the Arctic Skua was a pale morph, haha!

We thought we had lost it out of sight after that, that it was gone for good, but then suddenly we saw the Arctic Skua land on the Veenoordkolk behind us! So it was back! At that moment we were the only birdwatchers but later that afternoon/evening many more birders came to twitch this great bird.

It is something like the 4th record for the county, but those were far back in the 90s. So I'm really happy with this bird! It was just in the province of Overijssel, otherwise I could've added it to my Gelderland list on which I already have Pomarine Skua and Long-tailed Skua:)

Now something else of interest: the age
Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) ©Tammo Meijer

As you can see from the photos of Tammo (thanks for those great pics dad!), the bird has retained some pale-barred (greater and median) underwing coverts. This makes this bird a third-summer (4th calender-year) Arctic Skua. (As stated in Skuas & Jaegers by Klaus Malling Olsen & Hans Larsson). 

©Tammo Meijer

And here's my share (of less quality haha):
Third-summer Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus)

zondag 1 juli 2012


Friday morning we went ringing at my ringing site again. The thunder and rain they had forecasted for the night didn't come out at all.. which was good for us. There was no wind and there was a complete cloud cover, perfect!

In the first round I came upon a great surprise in the net: a Wood Warbler! This was one of the species I was hoping to catch here, and now we did! It's not a species that's ringed very often (especially not at the breeding grounds); the main ringing records come from the coastal areas (the isles) in autumn. It's the first time I ring this species here in Holland. The bird was an adult female; it was surprising to see how good the condition of the flight feathers was, you would expect a much more worn bird. There were (young?) birds calling nearby, in the adjacent oak forest; same place where a male has been singing this entire spring.

 Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), adult female; having a broodpatch
Wing of the Wood Warbler, note the good condition of for eg. the tips of the primaries and secondaries.

Another new, but expected species for this site was a 1cy Nuthatch. It was about time that we would catch one here! While doing a nestbox survey on Wednesday I had already noticed a large flock of young birds: many Tits, mixed with Willow Warblers, Chaffinches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers etc. I had hope the flock would still be around, and it was. We only managed to catch a small piece of the flock on Friday.
Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), 1cy

Among the tits we recaptured three juveniles that I'd ringed as pulli on this site this year. Good to recapture some! Furthermore it seems that most of the (adult) Pied Flycatchers have completed their post-breeding moult and left, none were caught this session.


Blackbird 1 -
Blackcap 2 -
Blue Tit 1 -
Crested Tit 2 -
Great Tit 9 - 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 -
Nuthatch 1 -
Robin 5 - 2
Song Thrush 2 - 1
Willow Warbler 5 -
Wood Warbler 1 -

Total 30-6 = 36
11 species