19 February 2012

It'll be all Twite

After a lazy start to the morning following my aurora escapades during the early hours I got a phone call from my trainer to say that he was going to go out Twite ringing at lunchtime at our usual spot on East Mainland. I say usual in a loose sense as this would be the first visit this winter and my first visit to the site to ring since winter 2009/2010.

As I arrived on site my trainer has just released the whoosh net on the first batch of the day. I quickly joined him and started extracting the Twite from the net.

We were soon joined by another member of the ringing group and we set about ringing the catch. In additon to the metal ring we have been colour-ringing the birds to increase the chances of re-sightings.

Colour ringing of Twite has been part of a co-ordinated effort with members of the Highland and Grampian Ringing Groups throughout Northern Scotland to try and provide a better understanding of the movement of these birds. 

While two of us concentrated on the metal ring and the biometrics of the birds, my trainer looked after the colour ringing. We were also joined by another trainee from the group who helped out with the colour ringing as well as the other processing activities.

We made two more catches and by the end of the session had processed 120 Twite around half a dozen of which were retraps. Of these, one had been colour ringed here in Orkney a couple of years ago and two others which were also colour ringed and may possibly have been ringed on Fair Isle. We need to wait for confirmation on that.

Female Twite
Male Twite

We must be mad!!

I had gone to bed at 10pm as I was feeling quite tired. I was woken up by my good lady at about quarter past midnight to say that one of our friends had just been in touch to say that there was an aurora in progress.

I dragged myself out of bed and peered out of the kitchen window but couldn't see too much due to the street lights behind the house. The lawn was looking pretty white though!!

I booted up the PC to check out my various sources of information relating to aurora and it was showing that we were on the edge of the region where it should be visible on the horizon. Another look out of the window, it was snowing again!!

The indications were that it was getting a bit stronger so we decided that we were going to venture out into the cold darkness and see what we could see from a darker vantage point. We got togged up in plenty of warm clothing, grabbed the camera bag and tripod and set off. The car thermometer was showing -2C but with the strong winds it was feeling more like -7C.

We drove to the other side of Churchill Barrier No 1 and parked up. There was a definite auroral type glow to the sky to the North East as opposed to the lights of Kirkwall reflecting off the cloud round to the North.

I set the camera up on the tripod and took a few photos. These are the results:

The lights of St Mary's Village and the Orange glow of Kirkwall mixing with the green of the aurora.
Similar view with a shorter exposure time, 20s instead of 30s

Changed lens from the 10mm wide angle to the 55mm.

5 February 2012

Back home

Having spent a week down in the Preston with work I made my exit on Friday afternoon to start heading North before the forecast bad weather arrived. It was a dry run to my overnight stop near Pitlochry and from the clear starry sky it looked like it was going to be a very cold one.

However on waking the next morning the car was frost free but there was a very light dusting of snow on the ground. Setting off on the next leg North I was soon driving in some light drizzle which turned to sleet as I gained some height. By the time I had got to Dalwhinnie this had fizzled out and it was a dry run until Brora when I encountered some heavy rain, which stayed with me all the way to the ferry.

The only birds of note on the second leg of my trip were two Red Kites on the Southern side of the Black Isle. The flocks of geese I had seen on my drive South the previous weekend had all disappeared.

The ferry crossing itself was smooth and moonlit which was good, as earlier in the day there had been gale force winds forecast. So I had managed to get home without encountering anything too dramatic with the weather. Reading some of the news stories today it looks like my timing was perfect. Preston and the Fylde area were enveloped in fog today so had I been there this weekend instead of last weekend I might not have been so lucky with ringing.

This afternoon I had a call from my trainer who had just made a small catch in his garden so I was soon on my way and arrived just in time to extract a Starling and a House Sparrow from the whoosh net.

In total 13 birds were processed, 11 new birds and 2 retraps. The new birds consisted of 8 House Sparrows, 2 Greenfinches and the Starling. The 2 retraps were both Greenfinches. So that's my first ringing session on Orkney for this year.