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Posts Tagged ‘Runnymede ringing group’

Sunday 5th July

Myself and 2 others spent a day with Phil Belman ringing geese over in south-west London.  We started the day with a roundup in Richmond Park on Pens Pond.  A quick count was made and we determined c75 Canada geese on the pond, Pens Pond is dissected by a track and all the geese were on the ‘wrong’ side, this meant we would have to coax them over the track and into the water opposite. The usual location was chosen for the pen and lead-in nets and we set up. We always have to put a boat onto the pond for the roundup and Phil set about inflating the dirigible. The roundup didn’t at all go to plan, two reasons, firstly, there was a hole in a fence we thought secure and secondly, there was a Mute swan with cygnets on the side of the pond we were trying to corral the Canada’s,  and the swan was very aggressive, flying at the Canada’s and scattering them. We eventually managed to corral c35. With the main catch of the day complete we headed off to locations in Chiswick, Moseley & Walton on Thames for some hand catching.

Measuring the wing length of an Egyptian goose

Measuring the wing length of an Egyptian goose

 

Wednesday 8th July

Another trip to Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire for another round of Barn owl box checking, a further 10 owlets and a single adult ringed, with a box containing 3 healthy chicks being the highlight.

Barn owl owlets

Barn owl owlets

 

Monday 13th July

Another trip over to south-west London, Wimbledon Park our destination for another goose round-up. We would have liked to have visited sooner but a certain popular tennis tournament had delayed us by a week! The access to the pond is via a golf course which over the Wimbledon fortnight is turned into a car park and staging area, so there was quite a lot of cleanup activity going on. A count of c100 geese was noted and we got to work setting up the pen and lead-in nets. Once all the netting was in place we all got into our position while Phil once again took to the water in the dirigible. Everything was going well, with the flock slowly moving in the required direction, Phil had managed to elicit the help of a couple of club canoeists, the geese were just starting to exit the pond heading towards the pen when the sight and sound of a grass cutter suddenly filled the air and spooked them, chaos ensued and the geese scattered, Phil and the canoeists were overwhelmed as the flock disintegrated. To me, it seemed like a deliberate attempt to scupper our roundup, subsequently I learned that the head groundsman had previously been reported for shooting the geese, I guess he’s not a big fan! So no birds caught. After we had packed the net away we headed around to the other side of the pond to try some hand catching, a single Mute swan was the result.

Mute swan

Mute swan being weighed

 

 

 

 

 

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The first week of June, 3rd & 7th, saw Paul and myself out and about in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire checking our owl boxes on behalf of Bisham Barn Owl Group

Barn owl pulli

Barn owl pulli

A week on the Isle of May 13th – 20th

Having missed out previously, it’s a very popular location for photographers, artists and ringers alike, and with limited space, a team of us, Carl, Paul, Marie, Tonia, Stuart and myself managed to secure a week on the ‘May’ in June.

The Isle of May boasts Scotland’s oldest Bird Observatory, which was founded in 1934, and is home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds, including Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Shags, Cormorants and terns, it is also a stop-off point for many migrating species.

Transfer out to the island was courtesy of Roy, aboard the RIB “Osprey”, an interesting and rather exciting 25 minute journey due to the wind and a choppy swell which had us all thankful for the supplied waterproofs!
Osprey

 

The island has two accommodation area’s; the main block which is home throughout the season to the reserve staff and volunteers who monitor the vast and varied wildlife and the Lowlight Lighthouse which is where visiting ringers, birdwatchers and artists stay, duration is limited to one week.

 

Lowlight - IoM

Lowlight – IoM

The accommodation is well-appointed considering it’s an old lighthouse stuck on a rock, a recently added block consisting of 3 bedrooms, toilet and a solar-powered shower have really added ‘stars’ and a level of comfort previously missing, it’s not quite living off-grid but pretty close!

The six of us quickly settled in to island life and found a routine that suited all.

As always with ringing the weather plays a major factor in activities and that was certainly the case on the ‘May’, and as you’d expect the wind played its part and at times hampered our mist net deployment, however, there was plenty of other ringing to be had which the wind didn’t affect.

Throughout the week we were involved in various ringing activities; we helped catch and ring Puffins, part of one of the schemes being carried out on the island

Puffin

Puffin

we were able to ring Shags, Razorbills and Guillemots

 

 

Shag

Shag

 

Razorbill

Razorbill

 

Guillemots

Guillemots

along with some pulli ringing which included, Oystercatchers, Herring & Lesser black-backed gulls.

Gull egg hatching

Gull egg hatching

 

Oystercatcher pulli

Oystercatcher pulli

 

Gull pulli

Gull pulli

 

Gull pulli

Gull pulli

We visited the 4 heligoland traps a couple of times a day throughout the week

Heligoland trap

IoM scenic

Heligoland trap

and deployed mist nets when we could, these turned up a few species between them including; Rock pipits, Nightingale, Starling, Chiffchaff, Robin, Willow warbler, Pied wagtail, Dunnock, Songthrush, Blackcap, Lesser whitethroat, Garden warbler and Wren.

A fantastic week came to an end far to quickly and after a big clean up of the accommodation we packed and headed off to the boat, the trip back to the mainland was rather less wet and we were able to take in final views off the island as we departed, before we knew it we were back on the mainland and packing the car ready for the journey home.

I will return…

Photo gallery –

IoM scenic

IoM scenic

 

Guano cliff

Guano cliff

 

Fulmar

Fulmar

 

Lighthouse by Robert Stevenson

Lighthouse by Robert Stevenson

 

Razorbill

Razorbill

 

IoM scenic

IoM scenic

 

Puffin on the wing

Puffin on the wing

 

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Midnight on the ‘May’

 

IoM scenic

IoM scenic

 

Monday 22nd June

Back to one of our Kestrel boxes to ring a couple of pulli.

Kestrel pulli

Kestrel pulli

 

Friday 26th June

A very enjoyable chat by Mark Avery at the Surrey bird club.

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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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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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Although the wind speeds where far from ideal for netting Skylarks, the forecast of frost and clear skies early morning did tempt me out. I set the alarm for 5am so I would be able to get set-up before sunrise. I set my normal line of nets in the field along with a 30′ 4 panel across the hedge line.

Frosty Sunrise on Tadworth Meadows

Frosty Sunrise on Tadworth Meadows

It certainly was a lovely morning, crisp and fresh, the golden hour just after dawn is always a special time. Again there where plenty of Skylarks up and about with some of the males displaying their song-flight and parachuting techniques, already looking to impress the females, spring is definitely in the air. It turned out to be a very slow morning both with the Skylark nets and the 4 panel, the wind making the Skylark nets just a little too visible and very few birds in the 4 panel, with a total of 5 birds ringed, all Blue tit and all new.

Blue tit

Blue tit

The wind continued to gather speed and I ended up taking down at 9am, although it was slow on the bird front it was still great to be out and about on such a lovely morning. I was back home by 10am with a nice cup of tea in hand.

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14th – Demonstration at Woolley Firs

We were over at Woolley Firs on Saturday 14th giving a ringing demonstration for the Wildlife trust. We set the nets and our ringing station up in the usual positions and created a semi-circle of various bird boxes for the public to stand behind, this gave us space to carry out our normal ringing procedures without the birds or ourselves getting overwhelmed.

We managed a respectable 55 birds processed, mostly Great tits 22 new/12 retraps and Blue tits 5 new/9 retraps , Dunnocks 3 new, Coal tit 1 new/1 retrap and singles of Long-tailed tit and Firecrest both new birds.  Carl did a great job keeping a very eager public engaged whilst the ringing process was taking place. It was really satisfying to see faces light up and huge smiles break out when someone got to hold and release a bird for the first time, it always takes me back to a frosty morning on Chobham Common and my very own first bird in the hand. The crowd dispersed at 11am and the feedback from Carl was very positive, it seems everyone enjoyed what they’d seen and heard.

Unfortunately for our visitors the highlight of the day came too late, on the last net round of the day Carl came back with a lovely Firecrest, and as you can see – an absolute cracker!

All in all the demonstration was a success and we all had a great morning, we headed off to the pub for a well-earned pint and lunch.

Firecrest

Firecrest

A further write-up can be found here on the Runnymede Ringing Group pages

15th – The farm

On Sunday I was on the farm adding 7 more nest boxes to my scheme, 6 more tit boxes and a Treecreeper box, this brings the total up to 12. Last year I ringed 24 pulli from 5 boxes so with the additional boxes added this season I would be hoping for a few more, fingers crossed!

After a few different builds and material choices I have now settled on this design, the main changes have been the materials, I now use 21mm gravel boards, purchased from Farm Fencing, a big thanks to them for the great deal they give me, I use old truck wheel inner-tubes for the roof hinges, recycled and donated for free from Tadworth Tyres, a big thanks to them too and a mixture of screw and nails for the construction, an extra coat of wildlife friendly preservative on the roof and we’re good to go!

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New design tit box


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A much better use of a golf trolley!


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Treecreeper box

 

All the boxes get GPS’d and added to my Googlemaps when I get home, obviously this is really helpful come the summer when the wood is transformed from winter bare branches to lush summer foliage.

Bring on the breeding season!

 

 

 

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Saturday 7th February

A trip over to the farm to catch Skylark, the weather was against me with the winds up enough to make my nets very visible to the keen-eyed Skyla’s with the inevitable result, no Skylarks! I did put up a 30′ across the hedgerow and caught a few of the usual suspects. Highlight of the day, this Leucistic Great tit.

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Leucistic Great tit

IMG_0049

Leucistic Great tit

 

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