Saturday, 18 March 2017

Colour Ringed Oystercatchers

Since Autumn 2015, all oystercatchers caught in Pembrokeshire have been colour-ringed. Most of the 38 that have been ringed so far have been caught at the Gann, with six ringed on Skokholm and one at Sandy Haven. Of these, 17 have been subsequently seen again involving 44 resightings in total. The commonest scenario by far is to see birds back at the same site as they were ringed, though there is clearly a link between The Gann and Skomer/Skokholm with six individuals moving between these sites. So far only two have been recorded outside of Pembrokeshire "A1" and "04";

"A1" was ringed at The Gann on 14/03/2016 and was seen on Tiree on 13/03/2017.

"04" was ringed at The Gann on 16/10/2015 and spent the summer at Stranraer, before returning to the Gann on 11/08/2016.

"A4" was also ringed at the Gann on 14/03/2016, and was seen on Skomer on 21/07/2016 and again there on 16/03/2017.

Oystercatcher resightings from birds ringed at the Gann
There's a lot to be discovered about this declining species, and any resightings will be very gratefully received (see contact form in the side bar). The Pembrokeshire scheme has a plain orange ring over the metal on the left tarsus and an inscribed orange ring with black digits/letters reading upwards on the right tarsus, as shown below.

A0 about to be released


Monday, 6 March 2017

An Average Winter for Woodcock

Maybe it's part of getting old, but its puzzling why there is a tendency to feel that previous years were somehow better in some way, with either endless sunshine or, in the case of bird ringing, hundreds of birds, all of which were easy to catch. When asked how the season had gone for woodcock this winter, I have said on a few occasions "not very good". To be fair, there were a few nights in January which were very unproductive, resulting in only six birds ringed from five nights' effort, and this experience must have negatively influenced morale, giving a feeling of gloom. The winter of 2016/2017 is now almost at an end in terms of available lamping sessions, because most of the woodcock will have started to move back east before the next period of dark evenings from 16th March, so lets see how bad it really was.

Well, in terms of ringing totals from the central part of Pembrokeshire, this winter has been slightly above average for woodcock, but for all other species that roost in pasture at night, the totals are lower than usual, though most are typically only found in small numbers anyway - see table below. The exception is snipe which is often seen in good numbers but is very difficult to catch.

  Total Individuals caught
2016/2017
Average for winters
2008/09 to 2015/16
Fieldfare 1 5
Golden Plover 3 6
Jack Snipe 1 1
Meadow Pipit 5 10
Redwing 2 4
Skylark 2 6
Snipe 4 7
Woodcock 101 89
Total 119 128




During ringing visits counts are also made of all woodcock seen, regardless of whether they are ringed or not and this enables a more reliable comparison of the encounter rate, which is perhaps a better indicator of actual numbers because catch rate varies enormously with weather conditions and the brightness of the sky. In Pembrokeshire catching is often best when there is at least some wind, under thick, low cloud or (surprisingly) no cloud at all when every star is visible. High or scattered cloud makes a bright sky due to light pollution, especially on the horizon, and in such conditions, woodcock often fly before close approach can be made. Having said that, the average encounter rate based on 161 field visits was 0.55 per hectare, 10% above the combined average for previous winters since 2008/09 (0.50), so in this case the slightly higher field counts agree almost perfectly with slightly higher ringing totals. Not so gloomy after all!
Woodcock roosting in pasture. Photo: Myles Jenks

Thursday, 16 February 2017

deer Park and Starlings

This morning 8 gannets close inshore following porpoise  and the Skomer cliffs full of guillemots and Fulmar.  No sign of any Canada Geese around and the Deer Park itself was very quiet.

In the last few days have plotted some massive starling flocks leaving the Dale peninsula slightly SE, passing over Herbranston almost due south and have see other flocks in the Milford area all travelling south (ish).  When I put them on a map it points to a roost somewhere around Angle village, Freshwater west (Gupton), Stackpole or possibly Orielton.   They are somewhere in that area I reckon.

Also has anyone any idea where there are large Pied Wagtail roosts this winter?  The long established one on the jetty at Valero (up to 600 birds for many years) has gone missing and the Port of Pembroke one (c.200 birds in the last two years) is also vacant.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

An amazing recovery

We have just had notification of a ringing recovery for a Cormorant which apparently beats the oldest previous record by 4 years:-

Ringed on St Margarets Island on 27th June 1992 as a chick it has just been found dead at Pointe du Moustoir, Morbihan, France on 22nd January 2017.

We used to get many records from this area (usually caught in fishing nets) but almost none in recent years so this bird was 24 years and almost 7 months old compared with the 21yrs, 6months and 21 days previous oldest which was set in 1984. 

The only caveat is that the finder reported a dead bird with no idea how long it had been dead!!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Swallows passing through

In the last four weeks we have been catching swallows in a local reedbed on one evening per week and have now processed 330 birds.  The first three catches, each around 100 birds, were comprised almost totally of juveniles with the initial catch mainly recently fledged birds.  Each week has seen the plumage of the juveniles advance and last week more birds near to completing their post juvenile moult were caught. 
In the first three weeks we caught very few adults (one or two each week) but yesterday with only 22 swallows caught there were 4 adults, all females, perhaps indicating that the breeding season for the adults is just about completed. 
Perhaps more surprisingly, even though the reedbed has been an attractive roost for swallows every evening, none of the birds has been retrapped - they have all moved on quite quickly. 
The islands have recorded a light swallow passage to date and my notes suggest that the first third of September is peak swallow migration time but these ringing notes suggest that the passage has been going on for the last month although perhaps in smaller stages and in smaller groups which we hardly recognise as migratory movement.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A few interesting recoveries

The BTO have just sent through a few recoveries with an interesting mix :-

A young female Blackcap ringed in Milford Haven on 25th November 2014 and presumably wintering there was killed by a cat on 23rd December 2015 in Les Nouettes, Forest, Guersney in the Channel Islands and was presumably wintering there having been back to Denmark or Germany or somewhere east for the breeding season.

A Woodcock ringed by Paddy at Llanmill on 5th February 2013 was shot 373 Km north and west at Cloongoonagh, in Co Sligo, Ireland on 22nd December 2015.  As many Woodcock seem to be quite site faithful in subsequent winters this is one that definitely overshot.

A Goldcrest ringed at Grimston, on the cost in the  East Riding of Yorkshire on 12th October and possibly having just arrived there after crossing the North sea was retrapped at Pwllchrochan just 5 days later early on the 17th October having travelled over 400Km.

Other interesting recoveries are a second year Herring Gull from Caldey seen at Radipole on the south coast - very few are found outside Wales and a Manx Shearwater chick from Skokholm eaten by the Valero Refinery Peregrines

Monday, 4 January 2016

2015 round up

All of a sudden it is a new year and three months have gone by since the last post - I think this is mainly down to the wet weather which has put a damper on any netting activities. It has been particularly frustrating that our new wader colour ringing programme has got off to such a slow start. 

We now have three new colour ringing schemes approved for curlew, redshank and oystercatcher but since two successful netting sessions in October when 18 waders were fitted with colour rings it has not been possible to put a net up.

The colour ringing is part of a long term study aiming at getting a better understanding of how these species use the estuarine habitat, their survival and site fidelity etc. All three species have declining populations with curlew recently added to the red list of Birds of Conservation Concern. The cost of the rings and some of the equipment has been funded by the Crown Estate.

All the Pembs schemes use a plain orange ring and a numbered ring that reads upwards

Late October and early November saw some busy netting sessions with good numbers of thrushes and goldcrests caught at the Preseli woodlands. In total 125 blackbirds, 63 redwings, 76 goldcrests were caught including a control that had been ringed in Cornwall two weeks earlier. In addition, a sparrowhawk, a second yellow-browed warbler, 4 bramblings and black redstart added variety.

Adult male brambling

1st winter black redstart

2nd year male sparrowhawk


Further south at Mullock, 4 firecrests were ringed during a single net round during October but this species did not feature at the two Preseli sites.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Siberian surprise

At the woodland  CES site at Llandilo this morning a single net was opened, mainly as a form of distraction to alleviate the monotony of sitting at the computer writing reports. There wasn't much around really, with most of the summer migrants having left and even the resident birds seemed to be elsewhere, so it was a very pleasant surprise to pull a yellow-browed warbler out of the net! With up to 74 of these recorded in a day on Fair Isle recently, it is perhaps not surprising that they are starting to turn up in the south west, but it is nevertheless a nice bird to get on your local patch.


Among the 20 or so other birds caught there was a control great spotted woodpecker, LH96113 (already entered into IPMR) so hopefully will find out where that came from soon.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Identity crisis

As in recent years, the mid summer period has been dominated by a nightjar population study at Brechfa Forest with a view to better understanding any potential effects of wind development. This is in association with Tony Cross who initially worked at the Brechfa site for many years before taking on two other intensive projects at sites in South and Mid Wales see http://midwalesringers.blogspot.co.uk/.

Whilst trying to catch nightjars for ringing and radio tagging, it is very common to catch a few swallows going to roost in the sitka stands during late July and August, though we have never caught a house martin. So whilst extracting a white-rumped hirundine from a mistnet last night I thought -  oooh a new species of by-catch for Brechfa! But as it changed angle it began to look more swallow-like. After a brief bit of even more excitement, I thought "what about a juvenile red-rumped swallow?!" but this idea was quickly quashed by the lack of any collar, so hybrid house martin x swallow it had to be,



The back end looked very much like a house martin with a deeply forked tail

The front end was more like a swallow though the amount of red above the bill was much reduced and the gorget was very pale

The feet were much paler than on a swallow with the faintest trace of the white feathering found on a house martin

Back to what I should have been doing, the nightjars are nearing the end of their breeding season, which has been a challenging one for them in terms of weather. There have been prolonged unseasonal cold snaps in the first half of June and late July and some very low night time temperatures e.g. 4.5degC last week. The wind has also been an issue with very few nights suitable for netting making capturing adults for radio tracking difficult. Nevertheless, the study has gone very well and productivity looks set to be very similar to the last two years largely due to lower levels of nest predation than usual compensating for any losses due to bad weather. One of the most satisfying moments of the study is when at the final nest visit, the fledged young are sat tucked up with an adult.

Adult female and two juvenile nightjars



Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Interesting Recovery

We have just received details of a Sedge Warbler which we caught at Mullock on 20th July 2014 - presumably on passage at that time.
It was ringed at the Reserve N'Diael, Senegal on 5th January 2014 so was wintering there and returned to the UK for the breeding season.  We do not often come across birds ringed in their wintering quarters so this is a nice record.