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Thankfully activity levels in May picked up after an extremely slow April.

After a short break in Poole (8th – 11th) visiting family and with the windy weather abating a little, I finally got to ring some birds, 3 Blue tit pulli from one of my garden boxes, I had checked the box on the 7th and found a brood of 8, unfortunately the weather had been rather cold, wet and windy over the weekend and by the 12th there was only 3 pulli left.

On the 14th I was over at Woolley Firs (WF) to give support to Carl who was giving a presentation on bird ringing and our involvement at WF to the members of the Wildlife Trust, this proved to be very popular and provoked plenty of interest and questions.

Woolley Firs Presentation

Carl, Woolley Firs Presentation

On the 16th I was back at WF again checking boxes with Carl, Paul & Roger, initial findings suggest this season’s productivity is below last year.

On the 17th this female barn owl was found to be incubating a clutch of 5 eggs in a box at another one of our Berkshire locations.

Barn owl

Barn owl

The following day (18th) I was on my own patch checking boxes in the woods on Langley Bottom Farm (LBF).

I was happy to see the 3 ringed garden box birds fledge on the 19th, a relief really knowing how difficult it had been for the hardworking parents during the horrible weather.

The pulli ringing ramped up on the 23rd on LBF with 29 birds ringed from 3 boxes, one box with 12 pulli turned out to be the largest brood of the year in the wood.

In the woods on LBF

In the woods on LBF

Wraysbury CES 3 was held on the 28th, again there was a worry the wind would cause issue and we would have a weather affected session, however the predicted gusts didn’t reach the suggested speeds and we did manage to complete the session. 42 birds processed with a 21 new/21 retrap split.

Wraysbury team

Wraysbury team

The final birding activity on the 28th saw me once again in the woods on LBF with a further 28 pulli ringed from 4 boxes. There is just one brood left to ring.

So all-in-all an excellent month. Next up, more owl boxes to check and a trip to the Isle of May.

 

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April came and went in a flash with the wind keeping my ringing pliers firmly tucked away and no birds in the hand! The only birding activities of any note; building a bird box for Paul, Spotted Flycatcher design, a twitching day along the river Wey with Carl (which was very enjoyable) and first check of my boxes over in the wood.

River Wey day

River Wey day

River Wey day

River Wey day

River Wey day

River Wey day

 

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Our netting attempts are being badly affected by the winds this month, with many planned sessions having to be cancelled at the last minute. We seem to be in a bit of a cycle at the moment with the wind speed rising at the weekends.

March 7th

A return visit to Fifield and Touchen End with Carl & Paul, adding 2 Kestrel boxes, 1 Little owl box, 1 Barn owl box and a replacement Tawny owl box for one that had been fitted in 2013 and disintegrated in 2014 (not one of ours I might add!). A pleasant dry day with plenty of sunshine. A visit to our ‘local’ in the area for a spot of food and a pint.

March 14th/15th 

Planned session on Chobham Common cancelled.

March 21st/22nd

Planned weekend session on Chobham Common cancelled but Monday 23rd did show a little more promise with wind speeds down to 8mph with 11mph gusts, just within our margins. I had a days leave booked and with a few ringers eager to get out managed to persuade 4 of them to join me.

We met at 0615 hrs with a plan to catch Meadow pipits if they were about; Dartford Warbler, quite a few territories have been identified so far this year, and Stonechat which also seem to be on the Common in fairly good numbers. We set up our nets for the Meadow pipits and identified a couple of areas for the Dartford’s, a male and female Stonechat were also spotted along with a Whinchat so a net was deployed for them too.

It stayed calm for a while but a slight breeze was detected about 0930 hrs gradually building over the next hour or so, by 1030 hrs the nets were looking obvious. To say it was a slow morning would be rather understating it, we managed to catch just one bird, a male Reed bunting.

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I dropped in on the session at Woolley Firs on my way to Leicester on Sunday for a couple of hours of ringing and to pick up some bird boxes for repair.

Carl, Marie and Paul had set the nets up at the main house this week and where busily extracting birds when I arrived.

It was a ‘tit’ filled morning with 45 birds processed in total and all where either Blue tit or Great tit bar a Coal tit and a Treecreeper.

After setting down we retired to the local pub for lunch before I headed off to Leicester.

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with another early visit to Woolley Firs looking to catch more Redwing, a 0600 hrs start saw 4 of us in the fields setting up in the dark. The weather forecasters haven’t exactly been on top form of recent so we took a slight chance that the wind wouldn’t be as forecast. However it was and this had a big impact on our catch with only 10 birds caught, but at least we did catch a 5 Redwing! Also caught; Yellowhammer, Jay, Great tit, Blue tit and Long-tailed tit. However, I missed most of the action though due to the quick onset of a headache shortly after set-up which had me in the car popping pills (headache remedy pills!).  I was in two minds whether to go home but thought it best to let my pounding head subside first. I didn’t really want to leave because we had plans to ring Tawny and Barn owls later in the day.

Yellowhammer carefully being ringed

Yellowhammer carefully being ringed

 

Jay

Jay

 

 

The wind continued to cause issue, most of all making the nets very visible to the birds, the decision was made to set-down around 1045 hrs after a couple of rounds without birds. I was able to help with take down as my headache was finally easing, which was a relief as this meant I would be ok to ring the owls.

We left site and headed for a cafe for a spot to eat before heading over to Bisham wood and the owls, a very tasty full English was consumed which helped banish the remnant of the headache.

Over the past two years a few members of our ringing group have been taking part in the reinstating of an owl project in some of the woods in and around Berkshire. Initially we had to establish the locations of the boxes and gps them, once this was done we had to clear the boxes out, removing multiple layers of nests or old squirrel dreys, then remove the boxes we considered to be surplus to requirements and relocate in new locations. Many of the boxes have been in place for 10 years so there was also plenty of repairs to do.

So our first port of call for the owls was Bisham Wood,  a couple of Tawny owls had been seen roosting in one of the boxes the previous week and we had high hopes they would still be using the same box, it turned out that they had moved residence but fortunately only along to the next box. We carefully retrieved the Owls and checked to see if they had been ringed before, they both hadn’t so we ringed them. A thorough examination of the wing feathers had us determine they were both adult bird with both having 3 generations of feathers, a wing length was recorded and a weight taken and a few photographs of the open wing for the records before we released them back into the wood.

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl

The second location, Little Marlow, where we hoped to ring a couple of Barn owls, was just a short 10 minute trip from Bisham wood, a private family house with a Barn owl box in a tree in the garden. A camera was installed in this box so we where able to confirm the owls where in residence with a quick phone call before setting off. This box had had a breeding pair in the summer who had managed to fledge 5 from a brood of 6, which is a very good outcome for Barn owls, the young birds had all been ringed before they’d fledged. Now the box was being used as a roost possibly by the breeding pair. Again we carefully retrieved the birds and ringed them. These two did indeed turn out to be an adult male and female.

Barn Owl

Barn Owls

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

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http://bishambarnowlgroup.blogspot.co.uk/

A new blog dedicated to owls, owl boxes and owl ringing from my friend and fellow ringer, Paul.

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Having spotted c70 Redwing last week at Woolley Firs it was decided that we should have a go at catching some this weekend. This did mean a really early start as we needed to get the nets in place before first light. With a 0600 hrs meet time agreed and a 40 mile journey to site I set my alarm for 0420, I also factored in time to thaw the car as a -3°c frost had been forecast for Epsom Downs!

A small team of 4 arrived on site at the designated time and we set about setting up, splitting into 2 teams we soon had the nets in place.

The first round was key to our Redwing success and we weren’t disappointed with 9 caught. After we’d processed the initial catch we added some double panel nets in the hope of catching Skylark, a few had been spotted by the staff during the week.  Subsequent rounds throughout the morning didn’t yield any more Redwing, or Skylark for that matter but we did catch a good number of other thrushes, 11 Blackbird (a session record for the site beating the previous high by some margin) and a single Song thrush. Other species on the day; 4 Great tit, 3 Blue tit, a Robin, a flock of c20 Meadow pipits were seen in a tree near by late on, so with a quick change of bird call on the players we managed to encourage 6 to the nets, however the c20 Yellowhammer we also spotted couldn’t be tempted!

We ringed our last bird at 1230 hrs, bringing the total to 35, and proceeded to set down. With another successful session in the bag we retired to the local for a well earned meal and a pint.

Other birds of note spotted; Red Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel (sat atop one of the net poles!)

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wf 027

Meadow pipit

Redwing

Redwing

 

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…for this season.

 

Although wading through the thick mud of the reed beds at GMP can be very hard work (the water levels have been very low this year) the last visit of the year is always tinged with a little sadness knowing it will be 6 months before we again don our waders and step out into the reeds.

Having completed the CES last visit we were able to set more nets in different locations this time around, our main area of concentration this week was the NW corner. The catch for the session was 35 with a 24/11 new/retrap split, highlights of the day, a Cetti’s warbler first ringed April 2011 and a first year Grey Wagtail.

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail

Unfortunately for Carl having replaced one of his 60′ nets a few weeks ago after a Canada goose went through it, twice! the same thing happened again, another costly hole.

The last visit of the year also means gathering up all the poles, ties and potter traps for removal from site for repairs and safe keeping.

It’s been a most enjoyable season on the pond and the customary after session pint and chips at The Beehive will be missed. All that’s left to do now is crunch the numbers and see what sort of year it’s been statistically.

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with new backs and roofs, also a preservative treatment.  Now to get them placed.

2013-12-24 15.26.15

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on Tuesday.

Having had limited walks on the farm for a couple of months because of the rain I was eager to get out today and try to catch some wildlife photographs even though the weather was far from perfect with overcast skies and the threat of rain hanging in the air. I decided to head straight for the farm to see if there was anything of interest around the farm buildings. I sat down at the foot of a grain silo and immediately spotted a few Swallows flitting in and around the barns feeding on the insects, their precision flying no match for the prey,  a Kestrel was hovering over head scoping the fields for a meal and I noticed a  pair of Grey Wagtails bobbing close by, I watched the wagtails for a while and saw them fly up to a shutter opening mechanism and disappear inside.

I didn’t want to hang about for too long once I realised they had a nest so decided to head off into the fields. Just as I was leaving the farmyard the gamekeeper came into the yard, I had a quick chat and he informed me that he’d seen a few Lapwing in one of the fields, this was great news as I’d seen a Lapwing weeks ago but hadn’t seen it since.

It took 20 mins to get to the field and as I arrived it started to rain but I wasn’t deterred as in the field I spotted 8 Lapwing   There was a wood on one side of the field so I was able to work my way into a position a little closer than I could have out in the open.  They were still quite away of but I did get a couple of shots.

Lapwing on the wing!

Lapwing

After spending around 90 minutes with the Lapwing (in the pouring rain) I decided to head for home. On the way just as I was just climbing over the gate  I saw a Blue tit fly out from the fence post.

Blue tit nest

Blue tit with grub

Blue tit with grub

Blue tit with grub

Obviously I had to stay and get some shots, I had a quick look into the nest and saw 8 healthy chicks that I estimated to be 8-10 days old.

I did eventually get home after spending 5 enjoyable hours roaming the farm.

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