20 October 2013

If you go down to the woods today ...

Yesterday was wet and windy as we were hit by an Easterly storm which made it a stay indoors day. This morning started off wet but with lighter winds. Thoughts started to turn to what birds on their migration may have been blown in and grounded by yesterday's bad weather.

As the rains eased I looked out from the house around the garden and the surrounding fields. There was definitely an increase in the number of Blackbirds about and also quite a few Redwing. Then I spotted a movement in the corner of the garden, it was a male Blackcap. Then another and another. Within a few minutes I had counted 5 males and a female. I suspect that there were more but with them flying across the garden and back and disappearing into the undergrowth it was difficult to keep track of how many birds there were.

Word on the local birding grapevine was that there were loads of Blackcaps all over the main island along with good numbers of various thrush species.

I had already received a text message from Andy last night to say that if the rain and winds eased today he would be opening the nets at his place and this morning I got a text from Colin to say that he would be going out too if the rain stopped. About an hour later Colin rang to say that he would be going to the area of woodland above Andy's place.

Colin picked me up on his way through and we arrived at the site around 1pm. As we set the nets up we could hear Robins calling and there were Blackcaps and Chiffchaff flying along the paths in front of us. There were also a number of Blackbirds feeding in the Rosa Rogosa bushes around the perimeter of the site.

We had a steady stream of birds throughout the afternoon with a total of 45 birds caught in total consisting of 42 new birds and 3 retrapped birds which had been ringed by Andy on a previous occasion.

Species caught were (retraps in brackets): Blackcap 21, Blackbird 6 (1), Wren 5, Chiffchaff 2 (1), Goldcrest 2, Mealy Redpoll 2, Robin 2 and Redwing 1.

They say that if you go down to the woods today you may be in for a surprise and we certainly were as the star bird of the afternoon and a new ringing species for me was a female Crossbill.

Female Crossbill

18 October 2013

NRBO Autumn Visit - Day 4 (16 Oct)

Today was the last day of our visit and as per the past two days started with an early morning session up at Holland House.

The wind started off light but soon picked up and there was a noticeable chill in the air. There was also the occasional short burst of light rain. This was reflected in a smaller number of birds about than the previous day. The walk up to Holland House had been much quieter with no Redwings being heard, only the occasional Lapwing and Golden Plover.

Up until breakfast time the main species being caught was Redwing, with a single Robin, a Blackbird and a retrapped Blackcap.

As is often the case something good turns up at the Obs just as you are about to start walking back there for breakfast. Today was one of those days and thankfully Mark let me borrow one of the Obs bikes so I didn't have to run. Just as I started to pedal off I heard him saying something about no brakes!!

I arrived back at the Obs in record time to get my first close up look at a bird that you would usually see only very briefly as it skulks through a gap in the reeds on the edge of a loch. The bird I'm referring to is a Water Rail.

Water Rail
 After breakfast Claire and I walked from the Obs around the coast to the hide at Gretchen Loch. On the way we saw a number of Goldcrests working their way through the stone dykes. Down on the shore there were a couple of Redshank, eight Oystercatchers, four Turnstones and 26 Shag and out on the sea were at least 20 Eider ducks.

From the hide we could see Teal and Wigeon on the wildfowl front and waders in the form of two Redshank, 15 Snipe roosting in amongst the rocks on the water's edge closest to the hide and around 200 Golden Plover over on the water's edge furthest from the hide.

It was back to the Obs for lunch followed by a short walk around the Obs before the rain arrived. The Blyth's Reed Warbler was still lurking around the small area of reed bed where it had been caught the previous day.

The end of our stay had arrived and it was time to depart for the airfield and the short flight back to Kirkwall.

A big thank you to all the Obs staff for making us welcome once again and for allowing me to join them on the ringing sessions.

One of the birds I would like to have seen was the Bluethroat which had been around the previous week but hadn't been seen by anybody during our stay. It was no surprise to hear the following day that it had been seen again in the same area as it was in last week!!

For those that have been following my posts during the week I have now added photos to the posts for Day 1 to 3 and updated the text.

15 October 2013

NRBO Autumn Visit - Day 3 (15 Oct)

Today was as forecast a day of very light winds and resulted in a long day up at Holland House, with the mist nets opened from 7am until 6.30pm. The day was spent with Alison, Kevin and Gavin and Stan joined us for the first couple of hours.

After breakfast Claire came up to Holland House for the morning to watch the ringing and see some of the birds close up, including the Redpoll which was a new bird for her.

In total over 200 birds of 17 species were caught. These were Blackbird, Blackcap, Brambling, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, House Sparrow, Linnet, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Redpoll, Robin, Song Thrush, Wren and the Bullfinch that has been around the area for the last couple of days.

I managed to ring 40 birds across all of these species except for the Bullfinch (I was at breakfast when it was caught),the Robin, Wren and the woodpecker as these were retraps. I procesed 13 retrapped birds from seven different species.

The Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush were new ringing species for me, the latter being only the eigth record for North Ronaldsay.

Mistle Thrush

One of the Redwings was wearing a Danish ring so it will be interesting to hear a bit more about that bird in due course.

Just before breakfast word came through that a Blyth's Reed Warbler had just been caught at the Obs so we managed to get a lift back to the Obs instead of having to walk. Gavin was the lucky person to ringing it.

Blyth's Reed Warbler

Elsewhere on the island a number of interesting birds were found including an Olive-backed Pipit, an Arctic Redpoll, a Red-breasted Flycatcher and a Canada Goose which is a scarce visitor to North Ronaldsay.

NRBO Autumn Visit - Day 2 (14 Oct)

Day 2 started up at Holland House with Simon, Steph and Stan for the morning mist netting session. I don't have full details of the session however species caught included Redwing (40+), Common Redpoll (Mealy and Lesser), Goldcrest, Blackcap and Wren.

During the morning session, after Stan and I had left, Simon heard the Bullfinch that had been seen the day before but it still stayed clear of the nets. Maybe tomorrow if it is still about.

I ringed four Redwing and a Redpoll and processed a retrapped Blackcap.

After breakfast Claire and I went for a stroll along the beach between the Obs and Howar. There were a number of wader species including three Oystercatchers, 16 Sanderling, 11 Turnstones and four Ringed Plover.
There was also a flock of 20 Snow Buntings which promptly disappeared everytime they landed on the beach just above the high water mark as they blended in so well with the background.

In the afternoon I went back up to Holland House to rejoin Simon and Steph. 

During this session I ringed a Redpoll, a Blackbird, a Linnet, a Chaffinch and a another Great Spotted Woodpecker. There were also a few Blackcaps retrapped.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
The forecast is for light winds tomorrow so it will be interesting to see what turns up.

14 October 2013

NRBO Autumn Visit - Day 1 (13 Oct)

With the Autumn migration well under way I have come over to the Bird Observatory on North Ronaldsay for a few days with Claire, Stan and Margaret.

Having arrived at the Obs and dropped our kit off it was time to catch up on what was about and to have a spot of lunch before heading out. While we were having lunch I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly past the Obs heading for the quayside. It headed straight for one of the metal lighting towers and on landing, in true cartoon style, it slid down the pole as it realised it hadn't landed on a tree!!

The nets up at Holland House wouldn't be opening until 4pm so we headed over to the hide at Gretchen Loch just behind the Obs.

Here we saw a number of Teal and Wigeon, two Dunlin, a Redshank and a Golden Plover. A number of Snipe were also seen flying overhead. Also out over the East side of the island we could see a gathering of Gannets circling over the sea and a few of them diving down.

Leaving the hide we headed up the West coast towards the airfield. Along the way we saw three Jack Snipe, a Wheatear, a couple of Oystercatchers and a flock of about 200 Greylag Geese. Out of habit we scanned the flock and spotted two birds with Orange neck collars.

There has been a colour ringing project on Orkney for a few years now for Greylag Geese to try and understand the movements of the local population and on the whole they don't seem to travel very far from their breeding grounds although there have been a small number of birds that have found their way down to Norfolk for the winter.

So we wanted to read the rings on these two birds which we eventually did and got the ringing codes IBD and IBK. I thought I saw a third bird with a collar but before I could locate it in the flock something spooked them and they were away.

Continuing up the coast we saw a Grey Heron, a Goldcrest, a Peregrine and a life tick for Stan in the form of a Snow Bunting.

Snow Bunting
Out on the sea there were a few Eider and a couple of Black-throated Divers.

Turning inland we came out onto the road by Ancum Loch and set off towards Holland House. We decided to take the road down past the shop/post office and saw our first Redwings and Fieldfares. We located another flock of Greylags and a quick scan revealed that they were the same flock as seen earlier as I picked out IBD and IBK. I also spotted the third bird with a collar which was IBL. I have passed the details onto Al our Greylag colour ringing co-ordinator and will hopefuly get some info on them later.

A quick word with the Obs staff confirmed that they had colour ringed Greylags in the past but not this year.

We arrived at Holland House with about 15 minutes to spare so had a quick look around the area of derelict buildings at the rear of the property and the garden area alongside the main road. This is an area that can be good for small passerines and is always worth a scan when passing. Stan came up trumps when he spotted a male Northern Bullfinch.

The ringing session resulted in 25 birds being caught including seven Blackbirds, two Goldcrests, two Redpolls (one a Mealy the other a Lesser), a Robin, a Blackcap, a Woodpigeon, eight Linnets and three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, one of which was a new one and a new ringing species for me as the last one I handled was a retrap.

Mealy Redpoll - Carduelis flammea flammea
Lesser Redpoll - Carduelis flammea cabaret

The Lesser Redpoll is smaller and darker brownish when compared to the Mealy Redpoll.

The Redpolls were also a new ringing species for me.

A dawn start for tomorrow and maybe some Redwings.

12 October 2013

A morning on South Ronaldsay

This morning I went across to Andy's place on South Ronaldsay for a ringing session with Andy and Stan.

It was a fairly quiet morning all in all but still interesting with plenty of time to study some of the birds I don't get to handle very often.

The morning started with a male Blackcap appearing in the bushes opposite Andy's ringing shed, a bird which managed to avoid the nets for the whole ringing session.

There were plenty of Wrens, Robins and Blackbirds about of which we caught five, four and two respectively. We also caught a couple of Goldcrests and the highlight of the morning a single Willow Warbler.

A total of 14 birds.

A small flock of Redwings were seen flying over the woods closely followed by a Sparrowhawk but they all managed to avoid being breakfast.

A female Hen Harrier was also seen drifting across the fields.