Saturday, 3 December 2016

Another Redwing recovery, 1011 ringed and a 'coburni' too.

Another recovery report for a Redwing landed in my inbox yesterday and gives further support to my view that most of the birds that migrate via Billinge in October and early November are heading for wintering areas much further south. While this movement isn't as quick as the recent recovery in Spain it still shows a good onward movement in the main migration period. It was almost certainly still on passage when recaptured on Guernsey and will probably spend the winter further south in France or Iberia.

RZ37675               Redwing      (first year)
Ringed                  12/10/2016   Billinge Hill, Billinge, Merseyside.
Caught by ringer   02/11/2016   Jerbourg, Guernsey, Channel Islands. 454 km S, duration 21 days.

Redwing passage appeared to have ended at Billinge by mid Novemeber, when the ringing total stood just under the 780 mark, but after a lull of around ten days there has been an upsurge in Redwing numbers/movements in the area that hasn't ended yet. This has resulted in another 232 Redwings being ringed at the Billinge and Crawford sites between 23rd November and today. Quite why this is is hard to say but a northerly (NW to NE) push of Redwings has been recorded at vis mig sites in Staffordshire and on the West Pennine Moors in the same period, including 3464 moving NW over Winter Hill on 29/11/2016.

I caught another 15 Redwings at Billinge this morning which brought the combined ringing totals for Billinge and Crawford to 1,011 and all since 3rd October; a good effort even if I do say so myself. I didn't take a photo of the thousandth Redwing but thousand and eighth certainly got my attention as it was a very obvious Icelandic Redwing, the first and perhaps the only one of this autumn. It didn't have a particularly long wing at 120mm but far too much is made of their wing length considering there is a huge overlap between the two races. The real indicator is their much darker appearance, not their wing length.

If a Redwing as dark and as well marked as this doesn't get your attention I don't know one that will.

The legs and toes were quite dark, although not as dark as some 'coburni', but darker than most 'iliacus'.

Strongly marked undertail coverts seem to be a feature of Icelndic birds. While the tail itself is broad and quite rounded there is plenty of wear.

A very obvious moult limit with 4 ogcs'; old tertials are present too. There is no doubt that this is a first year bird.

While on the subject of Redwings I will be updating the Redwing ageing page fairly soon. Any new information/images will be tagged on at the end and labelled as an update to make them easier to find.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A walk in the park.

I took one of the dogs for a walk through Orrell Water Park and around some of the adjacent farmland at lunchtime and it produced some really good sightings. I had only just walked into the park when I came across 15 Goosanders on the top lake which is easily a record count for the site. There has been a really confiding bird recently and that one even comes out of the water for bread, but the species is normally a scarce and visitor (in low single figures) and they usually fly off as soon as there are a few people around. This flock was remarkably settled and didn't seem to mind numerous people and their dogs walking round what is only a very small lake. The light wasn't very good but I thought it was worth getting a few record shots so I nipped back home for the camera.

After getting a few photos I carried on through the park and around one of the adjacent fields that has been holding a small roost of Snipe. I only counted 9 but there could have been a few more as they can be difficult to see if they are well hunkered down. I first noticed that Snipe were roosting in this field on 12th November, when I counted 19, and a few days later (15th) there were at least 27. I have not seen Snipe roosting in a field of winter cereal before and it was even more surprising because there is a very popular dog walking route that goes around the perimeter of this field.

There are at least 9 Snipe in this photo, 6 in the little huddle and at least 3 others dotted about to the right.

A zoomed in view of the huddle taken from a closer vantage point.
After checking out the Snipe and throwing a ball for the dog for a while I headed back towards the park and home. The light was a little better as I was passing the top lake in the park and the Goosanders were still there so I took a few more photographs.

12 of the 15 Goosanders plus a Great Crested Grebe.

This Great Crested Grebe is a youngster from a late brood and semi-mingled with the Goosanders. It also indulged in a bit of display towards them at one point as can be seen from the sequence of shots below.

After photographing the Goosanders I decided to check out the gulls by the car park so I took the dog home and grabbed a few slices of bread. Somebody was already feeding the gulls and tame wildfowl as I approached and it wasn't long before I saw a familiar ringed bird. It was the German ringed Black-headed Gull that I first recorded on 27/10/2012 and has wintered at the site each year since. It is usually present from late October to late February and is often one of the first birds to come to any handouts.

German ringed Black-headed Gull.
IA141745    Black-headed Gull (ringed as an adult)
Ringed              29/04/2012  Bohmke und Werder, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.
Photographed   01/12/2016 Orrell Water Park, Orrell, Greater Manchester. 1102 km W.

IA141745 wasn't the only ringed Black-headed Gull and I also noticed one with a green colour ring inscribed J360P. This is a bird I hadn't seen or photographed before and it also had a metal ring with number K06036 and Stavanger as part of the address, so it was obviously a Norwegian ringed bird. A did a quick search on the internet when I returned home and soon found the colour ringing scheme and a site where I could report the bird and access the ringing data as detailed below.

Norwegian ringed Black-headed Gull
K06036 (J36P)  Black-headed Gull (ringed as a chick)
Ringed              14/06/2015  Søndre Langåra, Frogn, Akershus & Oslo, Norway.
Photographed   01/12/2016  Orrell Water Park, Orrell, Greater Manchester. 1065 km SW.

I also photographed a colour-ringed Canada Goose. This bird was originally ringed in Cheshire and I have recorded it numerous times already this year.

Canada Goose C75
5260475   Canada Goose (ringed as a first year)
Ringed              05/09/2013  Baddiley Meres, Natwich, Cheshire.
Photographed   01/12/2016  Orrell Water Park, Orrell, Greater Manchester. 53 km N.

All in all not a bad set of sightings in the space of an hour or so.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

More Redwings

I did go up to Billinge this morning and there was a flurry of activity in the period half an hour either side of sunrise that was similar to that seen at Crawford over the past 3 days. Around 200 Redwings were involved, the majority in 3 flocks, but there were only a dozen or so Fieldafare. A total of 19 Redwing were caught which wasn't bad all things considered. There wasn't much else around and the site is starting to look pretty bleak now that the trees have lost most of their leaves and the herbage is dying back. The only other birds caught were 4 Goldcrests with one clearly being of continental origin judging by its appearance and size.

This continental Goldcrest was a female and had a wing of 56mm which is longer than any British female and most British males for that matter.

The very pale face, grey nape and paler underparts are quite distinctive.
I have finally finished the article on ageing Redwings which can be accessed via the relevant tab under the blog header.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Ringing update

I have not posted anything about my ringing activities recently but I have been quite busy despite the period of unsettled weather. The garden has been very productive with the feeders attracting a lot of Goldfinches and I have ringed 62 in the last couple of weeks along with few of the other resident garden species. The most unusual garden visitor, however, was a female Brambling which proved to be an adult when caught. I have also been getting quite a few Starlings coming to the fat cakes which is unusual for my garden at this time of year and this has allowed me to colour-ring 19 new Starlings as well as obtain over 50 re-sightings of further 21 individuals that were colour-ringed over the past couple of years.

I have not done much ringing away from the garden prior to the last few days because the weather hasn't been suitable, apart from the odd hour or two here and there which I took advantage of for garden ringing, but with the onset of settled conditions on Thursday (24th) I decided to see if there were any thrushes at the farmland site in Crawford. I set a line of 2 nets by the hawthorn hedge at first light and used audio lures for to attract any Redwings and Fieldfares that may be near by or passing over. There were a lot more thrushes around than I had expected and I caught 25 Redwings, 7 Blackbirds and a female Sparrowhawk in just over an hour. I saw well over 200 Fieldfares in total but, frustratingly, those that dropped into the hedge stayed just above net height. I packed up just after 9 am as I had other commitments but most movement had already stopped by that time.

Many of the Redwings have soil on their beaks which shows they are spending plenty of time feeding on soil invertebrates.
I went back yesterday morning (25th) and the same set up produced 37 Redwings and just 1 Blackbird in similar amount of time. Again there were a lot of Redwings and Fieldfares moving over the site in the period from first light to about half an hour after sunrise. I presume the ringing site is near or in between a roost site and favoured feeding locations as the movement slows down at sunrise and more or less stops not long after. The clear conditions has also seen some nocturnal movement as I have had Redwings calling overhead when I have been loading the car each morning so there is a chance some of the birds were migrating, although I suspect they are mainly local movements as previously outlined.

Another visit this morning saw a similarly brief but even bigger movement of thrushes that involved well over 200 Redwings and at least 350 Fieldfares. Unfortunately, I was extracting birds from the nets when some of the bigger flocks came over and those birds veered away when they saw me. The catch was still very good and was made up of 27 Redwings, 1 Fieldfare, 1 Blackbird and a Great Tit. Again nearly all the birds were caught in the first hour.

89 Redwings ringed in 3 mornings is good going in late November

There was a good frost this morning

There are plenty of berries around on the hedges as we have not had much in the way of frost prior to the last few days.
Although the conditions are forecast to be good again in the morning I am going to give the site a rest. It doesn't mean I will be having a rest as I may go up to Billinge to see if similar movement happens there as some of the Crawford thrushes were heading in that direction and it is only about 3km between the two sites.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Rapid Redwing recovery in Spain

I have just received a recovery report for a Redwing that was ringed at Billinge on 16/10/2016 and had reached northern Spain just 4 days later. It was found in Barakaldo which is just to the northwest of Bilbao and 1132 km south of Billinge, giving it average rate of travel of 283 km per day. It was reported as being found freshly dead but that doesn't mean it reached Spain on the day it was found so the movement could have been even quicker.

RZ37816 Redwing (aged as a first year)
Ringed        16/10/2016  Billinge Hill, near Billinge, Merseyside.
Recovered  20/10/2016 Barakaldo, Vizcaya, Spain. Found freshly dead 1132 km south.

Many thousands of Redwings migrate over Billinge each autumn and I have always been of the opinion that most were likely to be heading for wintering grounds further south in Europe rather than within the UK and this recovery adds weight to that view. It is the 2nd movement of a Redwing from Billinge to Spain in the same autumn with the previous recovery involving a Redwing ringed on 17/10/2014 and found in Fitero, northern Spain, 1272 km south, on 30/11/2014.

Whilst on the subject of Redwings I can now report that I have nearly completed an item on ageing Redwings in autumn. I have decided it merits its own page rather than just appearing as another post so a 'Redwing ageing' tab will appear under the blog header when it is finished and I hit the publish button. So if viewing lots of images of the wings and tails of Redwings is something that could interest you then please look out for the new tab.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

A late morning Firecrest

The forecast was for near calm conditions so I headed up to Billinge again this morning. I arrived half an hour later than planned and Redwings were already leaving their roost before I had time to get the first of the three nets up. So not the best start to the day but at least the forecast was spot on with hardly a leaf turning on any of the trees.

The first net round only produced 1 Blackbird and clearly wasn't helped by the late start which mean't I had missed the best chance of catching some Redwings. The catching rate remained fairly slow for the next couple rounds although there was some quality with a Fieldfare and a Grey Wagtail finding their way into the nets. The Grey Wagtail was a big surprise as there are no water bodies at the site and it must have been attracted to the size 11 puddles in the muddy part of the net ride where it was caught. There didn't seem to be any Goldcrests around to help make up the numbers and it was a little after 8am before the first 2 were caught.

The catching rate didn't really improve as the morning went on but another Fieldfare, a couple of Lesser Redpoll and a few more Goldcrests provided just enough interest to keep me going. Things then ground to a halt with nothing captured for a good hour and I was thinking about packing up when 2 Goldcrests and a Firecrest turned up in the nets. This encouraged me to stay on longer and another 3 Goldcrest were ringed, bringing their total to a respectable ten. When I eventually went to take the nets down a flock of Long-tailed Tits had been just been caught and gave the ringing totals a last minute of extra time boost. Sticking with it certainly paid off in the end with the Firecrest being the stand out highlight.

1CY female Firecrest, this is only the 2nd Firecrest to be ringed at the site making them rarer than Yellow-browed Warblers! 
Information from other ringers suggests there has been a small influx of Firecrests into the region in recent days.

A cracking little bird and one that made today's ringing session even more worthwhile.

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 13/11/2016 were: Goldcrest 10; Firecrest 1; Blue Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 9; Wren 1; Blackbird 5 (1); Fieldfare 2; Grey Wagtail; 1 Bullfinch 1 (1); Lesser Redpoll 2. Total 33 new birds and 2 retraps.

While I catch quite a few Grey Wagtails during their peak passage in September this was the first I have caught at the site in November and without the aid of an audio lure.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Billinge: 8th & 11th November 2016

We may be at the tail end of the autumn but we haven't quite reached the end, just yet. I am still ringing at Billinge now and again but only when there is little or no wind in the forecast. The trees at the ringing site have lost more than 50% of their leaves so there is a lot less shelter than there was and I have to be even more picky about the weather as a result.

The 8th provided suitable conditions and I had 3 nets set up by first light. There were a few thrushes moving first thing but Redwing and Fieldfare totals combined only just got into 3 figures. A few Blackbirds were present with one of the birds caught having a long wing length suggesting continental origin. A Woodcock, flushed near one of the net rides, was only the second sighting of the autumn and may well have been newly arrived. However, the sighting of the morning was a Waxwing which was a site tick for me and also my first of the autumn. It wasn't a huge surprise given the numbers that have been coming into the country and it certainly looks like a we are in for good Waxwing winter.

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 08/11/2016 were: Goldcrest 9; Great Tit 2; Blackbird 2 (2); Redwing 2; Robin (2) Chaffinch 1. Total 16 new birds and 4 retraps.

The 11th was more productive in terms of numbers ringed and Goldcrests topped the totals again with 15 ringed. This is a very good number for the date and shows that some are still moving. The total ringed this autumn now stands at 722 and there could be a few more to come.

And they keep coming. I never expected I would catch so many Goldcrests when I started ringing at the site.
Other than Goldcrests there was little evidence of migration save for a couple of hundred Woodpigeon heading north. Late movements of Woodpigeons are often in a northerly direction and it is tempting to speculate that these movements involve birds that previously went south and then return north for some reason. However, it is one of those mysteries of migration that we don't have the answer to and may never fully understand.

Other sightings of note were limited to 7 Brambling and 21 Mistle Thrush. The Bramblings were taking seeds from alder cones in the manner of Redpolls and this is something I have seen Bramblings do before at this time of year. The 21 Mistle Thrush was by far the largest flock I have seen for some time and was a bit of a surprise as it has been a poor autumn for this species at the site.

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 11/11/2016 were: Goldcrest 15; Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 2; Coal Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 3; Wren 1; Blackbird 1 (2); Fieldfare 1; Song Thrush 1; Redwing 3; Dunnock 1; Chaffinch 1. Totals 31 new birds and 2 retraps.