Friday, 1 September 2017

There is a roving Spanish Dunlin.....

Just received another postcard, this time of YELLOW T67 1,142kms SSW in NW Spain (1,142kms). It was originally ringed just a week earlier at Ynyslas on 24th August. 

If your Spanish is up to it you can read more on Antonio Gutierrez's excellent blog here

P.S., for the younger readers out there, a postcard was how we older folk used to piss people off with our holiday adventures before the invention of Facebook!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Done-in by Dunlin!

Last night was pretty amazing! I have been ringing waders at Ynyslas National Nature Reserve for 35 years now and last night Paul Ashworth, Mike Shewring and I had by far the biggest catch I have ever witnessed - by almost 100%!! Conditions were nearly perfect with a high tide, new moon and a slight breeze. Autumn migration is in full swing at the moment and there were literally 1,000's of Dunlin littering the strand line.  By the early hours of the morning we had dazzled, ringed and processed some 220 Dunlin (and 1 Sanderling for a bit of variety!). 84 of the Dunlin were also individually colour-ringed as part of our monitoring project on this species. 

The previous night myself and Jane had caught and colour-ringed an additional 95 Dunlin and only one or two of these were re-sighted showing the massive numbers and turn-over of birds experienced at Ynyslas. Birds varied in condition with many carrying large amounts of fat. Some looked like tennis-balls and weighed in at over 60g. Others were clearly newly arrived from more northerly breeding grounds and were almost half that weight. Ynyslas is clearly a brilliant feeding-up location on their migrations further south. Last night's catch was predominantly juvenile birds whereas a few weeks ago it was mainly adults. This is usual with adults moving through early and rapidly. Many of the birds we caught last night could be in Spain, Portugal or even North Africa within a week or two perhaps joining the adults that are probably already there.

The colour-ringing only commenced last autumn but has already considerably boosted the number of recoveries from all the years of BTO metal ringing only. So far sightings have come from birdwatchers in Iceland (3), Sweden, Eire, Denmark, The Netherlands, France and Spain (2) as well as numerous records of birds scattered around the estuaries of Britain. All birds have an engraved yellow ring on the right tibia and a plain orange one on the left. Please keep your eyes peeled and report ANY sightings - even local records help us gather a picture about how long birds stay on average.

Below are a few of the holiday snaps so far received of colour-ringed Ynyslas Dunlin!!

21/04/2017 Tacumshin Lake, Wexford - Killian Mullarney

23/05/2017 Höskuldarnes, NE Iceland - Guğmundur Örn Benediktsson

26/05/2017  Rödkallen, Luleå, Botnic Bay, N. Sweden - Lars Sandberg

28/07/2017 Fanoe Beach, Denmark  - Kim Fischer

20/08/2017  National Park of Doñana, (Salinas de Bonanza) Cadiz, Spain 
David Fernández and Lidia Arroyo. 

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Russian roulette...

We've recently received another exciting Jack Snipe recovery, this time from RUSSIA!! Unfortunately this one was also found dead, most likely shot but it was found in 'poor condition' so weather could have played a factor?! It certainly seems that Russia is a popular breeding ground for the like of our over wintering Woodcock and Jack Snipe, but getting back and forth to there definitely throws up many obstacles as all of our Russian woodcock recoveries and now this Jack Snipe have all been dead!

With very little known about Jack Snipe migration movement and migrations routes/patterns, this little bit of information could prove to be very valuable as only 1 of 19 British ringed Jack Snipe have been recovered abroad and only the 2nd in Russia.

Hopefully this recovery and the French one earlier in the year as the start of things to come, as we've gone from catching 30 new Jack Snipe back in 2013 to a massive 104 new birds in 2016. This increase has come around from spending a lot more time in the field and finely tweaking our catching skills. As well as all of the news birds, we also re trap 20-30 individuals each year (a mixture of birds from the current years, plus re traps from previous winters) so we may look at starting to fit the with data loggers, but before that we need to find a pot of money. Given some of the stuff we do find in sheep fields at night time, you never know!!

(map showing distance between the ringing and recovery locations)

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Cracking Finnish!

On Thursday night Jane and I popped down to Ynyslas on the high tides for a session dazzling waders. There wasn't a lot there other than several 100's Oystercatchers (which we don't generally catch by dazzling), a good few Redshank and a handful of Dunlin and Knot. Right at the end of the night I noticed that one of the few Dunlin running around was wearing a metal ring - that doesn't look like a BTO ring I thought! Thankfully, shortly afterwards, the bird gave itself up and sure enough the ring was one from the Finnish ringing scheme. I think that in over 35 years of ringing this is the first Finnish-ringed bird I have ever seen.

Finnish-ringed Dunlin with one of our colour-rings added

The total catch was 19 Redshank (including one control), 3 Knot, 2 Dunlin (including the Finnish one) and 1 Grey Plover. Will post details of the Dunlin when I get them.

Monday, 27 March 2017


Silvia and I headed out this afternoon, to a site where a flock of Yellowhammers, Chaffinches and Tree Sparrow were feeding on spilt sheep feed. We only had a couple of hours spare to try and catch them today, but it was heading down to see where best to set the nets, and if they would play ball. When we got there, we were a bit baffled as the field we had planned to go in had no sheep in it any more, and more importantly no birds. Luckily the sheep had only been moved a few fields down the road, and sure enough the birds were there too. We set up a line of three nets between the hedge, and the sheep feeders. Within minutes of getting back in the car we had already caught our first birds, things were looking promising. After only an hour and half we had to pack up because of other commitments, but in that time we managed to catch a respectful - 4 Tree Sparrows, 18 Yellowhammers, 13 Chaffinches, 3 Meadow Pipits and a House Sparrow!

Sadly a rare sight in Wales now!!

Always nice to see these birds, whether in the hand or in the field.

It's a bit of a long shot, but I'm hoping that one of the Tree Sparrow chicks that we've ringed in previous years about 2 km away might be in the flock! But as we haven't managed to ring many in recent years I won't hold my breath!!

Friday, 24 March 2017

Going Hungary isn't good for you...!

Well not if you're a Woodcock anyway. Relative newbie, Chris Griffiths, has just had his first Woodcock recovery and it's a really interesting one. The bird, ringed near Carno in Mid-Wales on the night of the 3rd February 2017 was shot in Nagygyanté, MezőgyánBékés, Hungary (1,886 km ESE) just 44 days later on 19th March 2017. 

This bird is the first Hungarian recovery of a British-ringed Woodcock and was presumably en-route to its breeding site. This recovery highlights the sad fact that many of our Woodcock, having survived the rigours of winter in Wales (not that they had many of those this year!), are killed on their way back east to breed.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

I don't want your help thanks!

As part of our ongoing Curlew research I paid a visit to Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust's Dolydd Hafren reserve last night in an attempt to catch and colour-ring more of the local breeding population. The high water levels and strong winds of late have seriously curtailed any attempts previously but last night shaped up pretty well. Four nets were set over small floodwater pools on the main river island and 19 Curlews out of the 50-odd present were caught. All proved to be new birds which is interesting as 9 out of 30 odd present there a few weeks ago were birds colour-ringed in previous years. I guess these birds have already dispersed to their breeding territories and the ones we caught last night were either newly returned from their winter haunts or were passage migrants. Many thanks to Michelle Frater for much needed assistance.

One of last night's Curlews expressing exactly what it thinks of us disturbing it's nightly rest!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Au revoir Jack...

We've just received one of those bittersweet recoveries - the group's first foreign Jack Snipe recovery (from France), unfortunately though the bird had been shot!! Nevertheless it may still shed some light into the migration patterns of the Jack Snipe, which we really seem to know very little about because of it's very secretive and elusive nature. The bird was originally trapped in Mid Wales on 23rd October 2016, and then shot in January 2017. So probably just using 'our field' as a place to refuel rather than a permanent winter site as many of the Jack Snipe do.

With over 200 Jack Snipe trapped and ringed (95% of them by dazzling) over the past 3 winters it's hoped that this won't be our only foreign recovery. Our only other Jack Snipe recovery, was of a bird controlled the following winter in Scotland (presumably back en route to Mid Wales?).

Map showing the two recoveries.

Even though it is sad news, it's certainly made all those nights going out looking for birds (often in foul weather) a lot more worth while. Who knows, maybe our next recovery will be of one at its breeding grounds?!!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Black suns, big bills and bitten fingers - let the hawing begin!

Today marked the first day of catching Hawfinches at Dolgellau in the excellent company of Hawfinch maestro Dave Smith and garden-feeding Hawfinch champions Trevor and Chris Bashford. There were plenty of birds present today but catching was modest with just 7 birds caught including 4 new and 3 retraps.

Dave also had news of one of our birds that had been found dead in a Churchyard in Denbighshire yesterday. It had originally been ringed Yellow C68 as a 2 year+ male at our main woodland study site on 7th April 2012 (on a visit with Lee and Rachael Barber). When next caught on 5th May 2012 (at the same site) it had already managed to crack off its colour-ring so was re-ringed Yellow E10. On 15th June 2013 it was recorded at a nest-site several kilometres from the ringing site by Dave Smith. Amazingly the next sighting was in Trevor and Chris's garden feeding recently fledged (ringed) young over 6km from that known nest on 2nd July 2013. Following 25 more positive sightings and 1 retrap it was last recorded in the Dolgellau area on 27th June 2015. On 5th February 2017 its two bloodied rings and a pile of freshly plucked feathers were found by John Harrop in Ruthin, 50 kms from where it was ringed!! There is clearly much still to be learnt about this stealth finch with nomadic tendencies.

Dave has recently written an article on Hawfinches in Meirionydd for Natur Cymru, I will attempt to get a pdf copy and post a link

Thursday, 26 January 2017

A Norwegian visitor

On Monday Silvia and I were trying (unsuccessfully) to ring Waxwings at a site just down the road where there has been a flock building for the past few weeks. During one of the many times I scanned the flock for colour-rings I suddenly caught sight of a bird with an engraved Yellow Darvic! Annoyingly, despite three pretty good scope views over the next few hours, all I could make out was something that looked like U*U. A quick message to Ewan Weston of Grampian Ringing Group confirmed the bird had been ringed in Norway. The following day saw Paul, Silvia and I attempting to see/photograph/catch the bird in question to clinch its identity. Eventually Paul managed to grab a few photos that confirmed the ring code as Yellow ULU.

On Wednesday, with the Norwegian birds identity confirmed, I returned to try and colour-ring a few more to add to the 33 that we have already caught this year. Once again the flock was very mobile with the birds feeding at any one of a vast number of berry trees available. Eventually the flock settled by a net and a passing car flushed them towards it. They all appeared to have flown over the top but on closer look with the binoculars I could see a Waxwing hanging there with its yellow-ringed leg stuck out! What are the chances of that? (well about 1 in 60 actually!).

Email confirmation has been received that the bird, a first-winter male, had originally been ringed by Kjell Mork Soot on 15th October 2016 at Grimstadvatnet, Hareid, Møre & Romsdal, Norway 1,264 km NNE of where it was re-trapped.