31 December 2011

End of the year

With the end of the year just under two and a half hours away it is time to reflect on the past 12 months.

The aim was to get my C permit by the end of this year but like all great plans there was a big spanner in the works when I broke my leg. Not content with that, it then got infected and then three months down the line just when I thought things were heading in the right direction I then went and got DVT!! So ringing activites were seriously curtailed for the best part of five months.

The weather for the last couple of months has done nothing to assist ringing activities either as there has been one gale after another.

There was a good end to the year this afternoon when I got a call from my trainer to say he had just had a catch in his garden, so I popped down to ring a Blackbird and a few House Sparrows, Greenfinches and Starlings. I also got there in time to take a few birds out of the whoosh net too.

Hopefully my leg and the weather will improve early in the new year and ringing activites can get back to normal.

It just remains for me to wish all my blog followers a very happy new year and I hope you will continue to follow the blog next year.


25 November 2011

When the wind blows

Well the hatches are battened down here as the high winds battering the West and North coasts of Scotland this weekend blow outside, it was gusting 40 knots here at breakfast this morning!! Along with the wind there have been several hail showers and the odd rumble of thunder.

Definitely a weekend for staying indoors and catching up with all the birding mags that have arrived in the post over the last couple of weeks. Coupled with the latest twist in the broken leg saga - DVT - a weekend of rest sounds good to me.

This weekend should have seen the local ringing group heading off to the Northern isle of Sanday with the primary aim to ring Sanderling and Purple Sandpipers as part of two ongoing projects (See: http://www.orkneyrg.co.uk/wader.html).

However due to the forecast winds it was decided to postponed the trip for a couple of weeks.

So it was very fortuitous that I decided to make a brew just after 10 this morning. As I walked into the kitchen I glanced out of the window to see a Sparrowhawk sitting on one of the handrails for the steps from the patio up to the lawn.

It was studying the two bushes either side of the steps very carefully and on several occassions disappeared into the bushes after the sheltering House Sparrows. Fortunately for the House Sparrows it left after about 10 minutes without a catch.

5 November 2011

Jackdaw behaviour

While in town this afternoon spotted this Jackdaw on one of the car parks. Not sure what it was up to but it looked like if was pulling a small stone out of the tarmac!!


 Having got the small stone out of the tarmac it then flew off leaving the stone lying on the tarmac.


There have been at least two male Blackcaps in the garden for the last week now. A couple of them were enjoying some apples out on the lawn this morning.

The Big 50

Yesterday saw me mark the Big 50 milestone. No, nothing to do with birds it was my 50th birthday.

The day started off dull, damp and misty, although the wind had dropped from the previous day. The drop in wind allowed me the opportunity to put my new weather station up on the pole where my previous one was. This new station allows me to monitor a few additional weather parameters as well as analysing the data better.

The only birding present this year was a book entitled 'Scotland - Birds of Prey' which has some stunning photographs in it.

In the afternoon 3 of us, plus my good lady were back on Deerness for another session at the same site we were at last week. Three mist nets were set and in the region of 20 birds were caught. 1 Blackcap, 1 Dunnock, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Redwing, 2 Robins, 1 Song Thrush and the rest Blackbirds.

For me, I got to ring 6 Blackbirds, the Blackcap (a female this time), the Dunnock, the Goldcrest, the Redwing, the Song Thrush and a new species a Robin. Another first for me was extracting the Goldcrest from the net.

This session also saw me ring my 1000th bird.

So all in all not a bad day.

Typically today is blue sky and sunshine, at least it's the weekend :)

30 October 2011

More Blackies

After ringing my first Blackcap yesterday it was a pleasant surprise this morning, when I came out of the garage, to spot a movement on the far side of the garden which turned out to be a male Blackcap.

Moving as quickly as I could into the house, hobble permitting, I grabbed the binoculars to get a closer look and found not one but two males skulking around the base of one of the trees and the surrounding undergrowth. It was a pleasure to watch them flitting around.

Whilst watching them foraging other movement through the field of view kept distracting me so I scanned around to see what else was around. A female Chaffinch and a male Brambling were quickly spotted.

By now the two Blackcaps had moved further down the garden and were joined by a third. There could have been more as they were in and out of the undergrowth and bushes, but three was the most seen in one go. They seemed to like feeding on the various red berries we have in the garden. Hope they leave some for the Waxwings.

This was about as good as I could get.

29 October 2011

Blackie's Galore

Late on this afternoon saw 3 of us over on Deerness at one of our ringing sites to see what was about in the way of migrants. After days of South/South-Easterly winds it would be interesting to see what was about.

Three mist nets were set and after just over two hours 36 birds had been caught. 28 of them Blackbirds, 3 Goldcrests, 2 Housesparrows, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Wren and a Blackcap.

For me, I got to ring two new species a Goldcrest and the Blackcap as well as the Song Thrush and around a dozen of the Blackbirds.

Compared to the Wren the Goldcrest was a very docile little bird. So much so that when we walked back to inspect the nets one sat on a tree branch just feet from us and didn't seem bothered by our presence at all.

The rain held of until just as we were packing away the last net so all in all a good afternoon.

24 October 2011

A flash of 'Blue' inspiration

As I sit here listening to the Force 6 gusting 7 wind which the locals refer to as a gentle breeze it was interesting to read on the BBC News pages about a Kingfisher that has recently been retrapped at Orford Ness in Suffolk.

The Kingfisher is a rare sight up here, but I have seen a few on the Scottish Mainland and in England. Most people are amazed at the bright Blue of the plumage which is usually the first thing they see as it whizzes past as it flies along a river. When they perch on a branch over hanging a river or on a post next to a stream the Orange of the body also stands out well. These birds are often considered a local resident just patrolling their patch of river bank.

So it was interesting to read that the Kingfisher caught at Orford Ness was wearing a Polish ring making this particular bird a record breaker. The actual part of Poland it was ringed in is yet to be confirmed but it is thought to have flown at least 620 miles (1000km) breaking the current record of 603 miles (970km).

For the full story go to:


9 October 2011

The first week of October

It's been a while since my last post and I've not had the opportunity to get out and doing any ringing since then so I thought I would just add some other bird activity.

After a fairly quiet end to September in terms of garden visitors the first day of October bought a sudden influx of visitors. As well as the usual House Sparrows, Starlings, Colloard Doves, Blackbirds, Greenfinches and Pied Wagtails we also had visits from a Robin, Song Thrush, Redwing, a pair of Chaffinch and three Linnets.

Then it all went quiet on the 2nd and back to the usual visitors. Oh well it was good while it lasted.

Out the front of the house, overlooking St Mary's and Ayre Bay's there where the usual Eiders, Red Breasted Mergansers, Redshanks, Oystercatchers, Common, Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls and a couples of Grey Heron. Towards the end of the week Turnstones also started appearing after their summer absence.

The big news of the week was the appearance of a Bonaparte's Gull between Graemeshall and Churchill Barrier 1. I've not managed to see it yet but I keep looking.

19 September 2011

Sedgies gone?

Yesterday, Sunday, was a better day weatherwise. To start the day there were 3 Pied Wagtails out on the lawn, there has only been one up to now so the arrival of a couple more was a welcome sign even though they will probably only be around for a couple of weeks. They always seem to move on after a brief visit here.

Then while I was looking from the porch out at the seals on the rocks in the bay, a nice male Wheatear appeared on the wall on the other side of the road. I also spotted a couple of Red Throated Divers out in the bay.

There had been one or two reports of the odd migrant turning up over the last couple of days, so my trainer decided it might be worth a look at a site over on Deerness which is usually a good migrant spot. After an hour at the site and nothing being found we decided to go to our usual Swallow roost to see if there was much there. On our way we spotted a couple of Whinchats, a new bird for me.

A couple of hours at the Swallow roost only saw us catch one Reed Bunting and around a dozen Swallows, although there were good numbers overhead they were keeping up high. The noticeable absence was the Sedge Warbler, this was the first time we hadn't caught any this season so it looks like they have now set off on their long journey South.

17 September 2011

Sussex Visitors

On Thursday (15 Sep) five members of the ringing group were joined by Marc and Penny, friends of mine up from Sussex for a week's holiday, for another session at the local Swallow roost.

The evening produced 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Reed Buntings and 80+ Swallows.

There was also 3 Sparrowhawks and a Kestrel seen flying over the reed bed with one Spaarowhawk managing to take a Starling out of the flock getting ready to roost.

It's likely that next week will be the last week of catching on the reed bed this year so hopefully there will be some reasonable weather to permit one or two sessions.

15 September 2011

Cast away

Just a quick update on the leg.

Went back to the hospital yesterday and after looking at the x-rays the docs decided that the cast could come off. So now it's time to start the physio sessions to get my leg back up to full strength so that I'm fully fit for all the winter ringing activities.

Ducks, geese, winter visitors including hopefully some more Waxwings.

11 September 2011

Is it all over?

After some heavy rain over the last few days and with a bit of a breeze it was decided to venture down to the local Swallow roost to see what was still about.

Swallows numbers overhead were well down with a the largest group only being around 60 birds.

The first trawl of the nets resulted in another 3 Sedge Warblers for this years total and the next two visits to the nets didn't produce anything at all leading to thoughts that the summer season could be over.

A final visit to the nets in the fading light produced another Sedge Warbler and 22 Swallows, one of which was a youngster sporting a ring on its left leg. Unless it got ringed on the wrong leg, we usually ring on the right leg on East Mainland, a left leg ring would indicate that it had been ringed somewhere over on West Mainland (For those not familiar with Orkney the main island of the Orkney island group is referred to as Mainland). So we'll wait and see where it was originally ringed and by who. Could it be one of the ones I ringed on the nest earlier in the year??

The forecast is not looking promising for the next couple of days but hopefully we can get out again later in the week and see if our luck is any better, otherwise ringing on this site could be over for this year. The arrival on North Ronaldsay of a Reed Warbler provides hope that we may get some at our site as we haven't seen any so far.

2 September 2011

Mara's last outing

Although the wind had picked up a little compared to the previous night, last night (1 Sep) saw us back at the local Swallow roost. This was to be Mara's last outing with the ringing group for at least this year maybe longer.

Mara is over from New Zealand, she has been here for the summer working for the RSPB and now it is time to head South like the migrating birds to warmer climes for the winter. I don't think she has seen a winter for at least three years now!!

It was another small catch, only 13 birds, but it gave Mara her first Pied Wagtail. The other birds caught were 2 Reed Buntings, 6 Sedge Warblers (including 2 re-traps) and 4 Swallows.

Mara got to ring the last bird of the evening, a Swallow.

So it's 'Bon Voyage' to Mara and with the forecast for the weekend not looking too brilliant a wait until next week before we are likely to get out ringing again.

31 August 2011

Sedgies and Midgies

This broken leg has meant that I have missed out on some recent ringing sessions down at the local Swallow roost.

However, as I can now start putting a little weight on my leg it's time to start getting my hand back in. So this evening, as there was little wind and it was dry I joined some of the other members of the ringing group down at the roost. I might not be able to go out to the nets and extract the birds but I can certainly sit by the car and process the catch, despite the midges. Must remember to take the repellent next time!!

It wasn't a particularly busy session, i.e. no Swallows caught despite there being several hundred in the skies above us, but we did add around another 10 Sedge Wablers to this years total which has now passed through the 100 mark at this one site.

Sedge Warbler

We also processed a couple of Wrens, one of which was an adult in moult so I got the chance to look at how to do moult scoring.

If the weather stays reasonable we might have another go tomorrow night.

Ringing activities curtailed

For those that have been following my blog from the start you may have wondered about my lack of posts recently. This was due to the fact that while out hill walking recently I slipped and broke my leg. Not to be content with breaking my leg I then went and got an infection in it which put me in hosptial for a week.

So that has put my ringing training on hold for a bit, but not one to miss a birding opportunity I was challenged by a local birder to see how many species I could see from my hosptial bed. On discharge, I closed the list with a total of 16, three short of beating the total set. The list consisted of:
Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Rook, Starling, Swallow, Wood Pigeon and Wren.

Finally, last Wednesday (24th) after having had a back slab (half cast) since breaking the leg due to the swelling I got the full cast fitted. An X-ray showed everything was nicely lined up and I wasn't going to need any surgery to sort things out. So now I have to wear the full cast for three weeks then I will get another X-ray to see how things are doing and hopefully an idea of how long I will need to wear the full cast for.

So for now it is hobbling around on crutches and birdwatching from the cottage.

6 August 2011

Fulmar Time

Finally we have a nice sunny day, blue sky and little wind and just in time too for today is the annual Fulmar ringing trip to the uninhabited island of Swona.

The yacht Emerald which had been moored up in the bay in front of the cottage here since Thursday due to the bad weather finally managed to move on just after 07:00.

The ringing party arrived at Burwick Harbour, South Ronaldsay and set off for Swona at 10:00am. We landed around 10:30 and set off to the South end of the island, split into two groups and set about ringing the Fulmar chicks.

The challenge of the day is to avoid these cute little bundles of fluff from gobbing a stinking oily fish mixture all over you as you put the rings on.

The trip went well and around 260 chicks were ringed, slightly up on last year so the earlier rumours that the breeding season may not have been quite so successful this year might seemed unfounded.

Fulmar chick on nest

5 August 2011


After a few days of fog, rain and wind the weather is finally improving. The sun is now shining, the visibility improved and the wind is starting to decrease.

Hopefully this trend will continue for the next 24 hours as tomorrow morning I'm off on the annual Fulmar chick ringing trip.

Last year over 200 chicks were ringed but initial reports suggest this year's number could be less.

I'm not the best of sailors so I'm hoping for a calm crossing. I'll let you know tomorrow.


There was a good group of Greenfinches in the garden this morning, a total of 13 consisting of 3 males, 2 females and 8 juveniles.

4 August 2011

Pied Wagtails

For the last 2 years around the end of July/start of August I start getting adult Pied Wagtails appearing in the garden. Then after about a week or two the juveniles start appearing. True to form an adult appeared in the garden about a fortnight ago running around the lawn collecting food and disappearing with it, although I wasn't able to find out where it was going.

Then this afternoon, the first juvenile has appeared on the lawn finding its own food. I wonder how many brothers and sisters will turn up in the next few days. Last year I had a maximum count of three juveniles.

Swallow Roost

Went to my local Swallow roost last night with Colin, my trainer, and a few other members of the Orkney Ringing Group (ORG). This was our 5th visit this season.

Caught a few more Sedge Wabler and around 50 Swallows. There were a few more adult Swallows this time.

The more sessions we do at this site the more intrigued I am as to how many Sedge Warblers there are here. We must have ringed nearly 70 so far over the last 5 visits yet the number of retraps is very small.

3 August 2011


Welcome to my blog.

The first thing I'll say is that this blog has nothing to do with bells (church bells, hand bells or whiskey).

This is a blog where I hope to record my bird ringing and other birding activities here in Orkney and further afield. I may also occassionally post something non bird related.

If you don't know what bird ringing is all about then you can find out more here: http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/ringing/ringing-scheme

I'm currently a trainee bird ringer and have had my trainee permit for about 20 months now. In that time I have ringed just over 1000 birds of 49 species.

Hopefully you will be able to follow my progress as I work towards my C permit and learn more about ringing and birds along the way.