28 November 2014

This week in ringing blogs...

It's been very quiet for exciting news here at The Nunnery (we're all waiting for the preliminary CES and NRS results next week!), so we thought this week we'd take a quick tour of some of the ringing group blogs out there. Links to many of the most popular blogs are listed in the right-hand column here, so why not browse and follow a few.

Bardsey Bird Observatory
This week Bardsey Bird Obs resurrected their buried portable walk-in trap and had some success catching Starlings. They can be tricky to age accurately so catching several together allows for a good comparison. There have been several long-distance movements of Starlings ringed on Bardsey including to Latvia, Belarus and Lithuania. However, it's not only movements of Starlings that are interesting. One individual that was ringed on Bardsey was found killed by a bird of prey in the same location nine years later!

Teifi Ringing Group
Also catching Starlings in Wales were Teifi Ringing Group, but more exciting news on their blog was just the sixth Firecrest caught at the site since 2009. This bird came with a further surprise in the form of a ring with a Belgian address on. This is the 11th record of a Belgian-ringed Firecrest in the UK, with other foreign-ringed Firecrest coming from The Netherlands (three), Channel Islands (two) and Germany (one).

Gower Ringing Group
One last Welsh blog focuses on a few wader captures at a new netting site, with a pre-dawn catch managing to produce both Snipe and Jack Snipe at the same time. It's not every day you get the chance to compare these species side-by-side in such detail, so the pics are well worth a look.

Snipe - Tommy Holden

Jack Snipe - Tommy Holden

West Cornwall Ringing Group
Staying in the west, further colour ring records from the West Cornwall Ringing Group included this young male Peregrine in France. Whilst there are several other movements to the near Continent, these unexpected sightings in your email inbox are certainly a treat.

Lower Derwent Valley
With wildfowl starting to come back to the valley in good numbers, the ringing group have just started to catch again (including this smart male Teal), but they've also taken the opportunity to look at a few of the more interesting group recoveries, including a Mallard that was later found in The Netherlands.

Gibraltar Point Bird Observatory
In the east, many sites were still benefiting from an earlier arrival of winter migrants, including small numbers of warblers. Scarce species such as Yellow-browed Warbler are getting scarcer now, but various sites were catching Chiffchaffs, some of the collybita race and others the eastern migrant tristis race (Siberian Chiffchaff), such as this one ringed at Gib Point on 22nd November.

Portland Bird Observatory
A rather more unexpected warbler catch was a Willow Warbler at Portland on 24th November, the latest ringing record at the site.

The BirdTrack results for Willow Warbler show how unusual this record is, with very few Willow Warblers seen beyond late October.

22 November 2014

Portuguese-ringed Lesser Scaup in Wales

Here Mark Waldron relates a quite exceptional resighting at Llangorse Lake in south Wales:

"On 17th October, scanning through a flock of 100 or so Tufted Duck that were feeding just off Llangasty car park, I came across a duck which had a bright orange or red nasal saddle. At first I was so concerned with reading the saddle that I hadn't taken much notice of what the duck actually was. It suddenly dawned on me that I was not watching a Tufted Duck but a Scaup. This made it even more exciting as I desperately struggled with the code. I digi-scoped a number of photo's hoping that I may be able to read the code from the photos later if needs be. The Scaup came much closer to the reed bed, perhaps only 2-3 meters away from its edge and with a brief break in the cloud giving better light I clearly saw the code read 'YH'.

However, the better light also clearly showed light grey vermiculations along its flanks. Alarm bells started ringing in my head; could this actually be a Lesser Scaup? It was similar in size to the surrounding Tufted Ducks and I checked the head carefully and there was the bump at the back. I now started taking photo's trying to get a decent profile shot. It continued to feed and occasionally preen so I made a film of the bird during which it gave a brief wing flap. I knew I needed the wing pattern and I hadn't managed to clearly see it. I now set my camera up on a repeat shot mode to try and capture the wing pattern. Another wing flap eventually came and I got some shots, but the wing bar looked too pale in the primary feathers. I had to leave the lake as I had to attend an open afternoon at my daughter's school, but all afternoon my mind was going over the ID features and I was still leaning toward Lesser Scaup.

A search of the colour-ring website did not turn up any clues as to the source of the ringing project: this actually increased my hopes. Following further feedback the next day and comments from Andrew King, the county recorder, following his own observations of the bird I was convinced we had identified a Lesser Scaup. The real clincher came on Sunday when Andrew found a blog post that showed what looked like a first-winter Lesser Scaup that had been ringed in Portugal at São Jacinto Dunes Nature Reserve (over 1500km from Llangorse Lake). More than that, the photo's appeared to actually show 'our bird'. Later that night, confirmation was received from David Rodrigues that our Lesser Scaup had been marked at São Jacinto as a juvenile male juvenile Lesser Scaup on 20th December 2013. It was also confirmed that the nasal saddle code actually read 'VH' and not 'YH' as previously reported. The bird then remained at São Jacinto until 3rd February 2014."

This is, unsurprisingly, our first recovery of a Lesser Scaup, and as far as we can tell the first ever European recovery. Such records of transatlantic vagrants aren't exceptional, and there is even a record of a bird 'going back': a Ring-necked Duck ringed in Gloucestershire in March 1977, shot in Greenland in May later that same year. Rather coincidentally, the only other Ring-necked Duck recovery involving the UK also involved Llangorse Lake, with a bird ringed in Canada in September 1967 shot there in December that year.

Thanks to Mark and David Rodrigues for the photos of this bird either end of its journey.

13 November 2014

Winter of the Wisp

During the winter, our population of Snipe increases with an influx of birds from the continent and in some years this could be as many as a million birds. The reports of Snipe into our Ringing Scheme mainly come from hunters reporting them shot (90%+).

Summer Snipe in Iceland - Nigel Clark

We recently heard of one of these birds being 'found' this way in County Monaghan, Republic of Ireland. This bird was ringed on 1 August 2013 as a juvenile bird at Turov, Zhitkovichi district, Belarus and made the 2,302 km movement to Ireland. This is the fourth Belarusian-ringed Snipe to be found in the UK or Ireland; the majority of foreign birds come from Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Iceland and Denmark.

Ring recoveries show Snipe that breed in the north of the UK move to Ireland for the winter and Snipe that breed in the south of the UK move to France or Spain, with a few moving to the near continent. This draws on some parallels with Blackcap that we have reported previously, where birds come to the UK and Ireland for the winter while some or all of our UK and Ireland population go south.

So far this year the winter has been unseasonably warm, so we haven't experienced large movements of Snipe yet but in the next few weeks it is forecast that as the temperature will drop in Russia and central Europe, and so water bodies freeze over, more Snipe should reach these shores. If the temperature doesn't drop, the reporting rate via BirdTrack might continue to decrease.

Keep informed on Snipe predicted movements on the BTO Migration Blog.

04 November 2014

Ringer migration confirmed by a Blackcap

Back in September, we posted about the large numbers of Blackcaps that were moving through the central and western parts of the country. We were contacted recently with a fantastic story of a chance re-encounter between a member of the Brewood Ringing Group and one of these migrants.

Colin McShane writes:

Over the last 8 years I have been leading an Autumn ringing trip to the Parque Ambientale, in Vilamoura, Portugal with support from Vitor Encarnacao who heads up the Portuguese Ringing Scheme. Our trips have been successful on several levels and many British ringers have joined us over the years to expand their experience.

We have also controlled a number of birds from northern Europe, including Reed Warblers from Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden, and Bluethroats from France. On 06 October 2014 during this year’s trip, I extracted a male Blackcap from one of our standard mist nets and was very pleased, although not too surprised, to find that it was carrying a BTO ring. Back at the processing station, Dave Clifton (who has been an ever-present fixture on these trips) was doing his stint as the scribe. Having announced to the group what I had extracted, I began to process the bird - first reading out the ring number several times for accuracy.

Dave went quiet. He quickly got onto the phone to his wife, who checked in his ringing book back home. Hey Presto!! The bird was indeed one (of only two Blackcaps ringed at the site) he had ringed at Duckley Plantation, on the north shore of Blithfield Reservoir, Staffordshire on 11th September 2014 - only a few weeks before we had left for Portugal!!

Unfortunately Dave wasn’t able to buy a Lottery ticket on that day, but it must be a given that he was pretty certain of a big win with that kind of luck. We are looking forward to next year’s trip where we are certain that we will catch one of the many Red Spotted Bluethroats that we have been ringing in the Varanger region of northernmost Norway - no problem.....?

Thanks to Scott Petrek for letting us know - Eds