17 February 2013

Off island Feb 13

Saturday 9 Feb 13 saw me heading South on my latest work trip. The first leg was down to Pitlochry. After a fairly calm crossing it was an uneventful drive and very quiet on the birding front. My usual Buzzard count only managed to reach two.

The second leg to Preston on the Sunday was a bit more demanding from a driving point of view as the weather kept changing between rain, sleet and snow all the way down. Because of the poor weather the birding front was even quieter and no Buzzards were seen.

After a busy week in the office it was time to head home again on the Friday. An early departure allowed me to make a small detour to meet up with Seumus at his feeding station. As I drove down the track I was greeted by a Kestel coming up over the hedgerow and across the track right in front of me. I parked the car and wandered down the track to help Seumus set up the two mist nets that we were going to use. These were put up parallel to a row of Hawthorn trees with plenty of seed on the track itself to encourage the birds in.

As we got back to the cars we spotted a Barn Owl flying across the field on the other side of the Hawthorns.

The morning had started calm and was looking promising but then the wind suddenly picked up, then dropped, picked up then dropped, so after two net rounds we decided that we weren't going to catch very much and took the nets down.

In total we caught 11 birds, 6 new birds to be ringed and 5 retaps (in brackets):

Blackbird - 1 (1)
Blue Tit - 1 (2)
Brambling - 1
Chaffinch - 3
Goldfinch - (1)
Tree Sparrow - (1)

At the time I thought the Brambling was a new species for me, but on checking my records later it turned out that I had ringed one before on the 31 Dec 10. However it was the first time that I had extracted one from the net so that was good.

Brambling - Photo by Seumus
The Goldfinch was a new species for me to process. I had extracted one from a net before but I didn't get to process that bird so that was good.

Apart from the species that we caught we also heard Tawny Owl and Great Spotted Woodpecker and saw a Redwing, Fieldfares, Lapwings and Yellowhammers.

The drive back up to Pitlochry was much more pleasant than the drive down the previous week and a bit more productive on the bird front. I saw a total of 27 Buzzards along the route with over half of them being pairs that were flying together. The remainder were predominantly sat on fence posts at the side of the road. There was also a group of eight Mute Swans swimming around in a flooded field.

The second leg of the journey from Pitlochry to Orkney added another four Buzzards to my count and as I crossed onto the Black Isle I spotted my first two Red Kites of the year.

My thanks as usual to Seumus for letting me join him at his feeding station and also for the photo of the Brambling. I look forward to meeting up with him again on my next trip South, weather permitting.

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