Monday, 20 February 2012

Owl ringing

I have been taking full advantage of trying to catch the short eared owls on my local site when the weather has been good.  I went down on Friday evening and put up three nets.  Although the owls were out hunting I had not caught after three hours so went home.  Last night the wind looked like it was going to calm down so Jason and I headed back over for what may be our last attempt for the owls this winter.  340 foot of netting was erected and we waited.  A short eared owl was observed flying over the net twice before sunset so I had high hopes that we might catch this bird after dark, however this was not the case and we didnt catch any shorties.  We did catch a fine looking immature female barn owl.  A new species for Jason so he left the evening very happy.

barn owl © Adrian George

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Whitburn Ringing Group

When I started ringing at Whitburn back in 2008, it was just John Brown and myself plus John's trainer who turned up for a weeks ringing holiday every October.  Since then I have taken on two trainees and the ringing team is growing.  We therefore decided it would be a good idea to start a ringing group, headed by John's Trainer and myself.  We had initially requested the 'Souter Ringing Group', however this was too similar to an already formed group so we opted for the 'Whitburn Ringing Group'.  Hopefully the group will continue to grow over the years and provide good ringing coverage on the east coast around Whitburn and Sunderland.

We have already gone from ringing out the back of cars to having a security container that acts as our ringing base.  There are future plans to build a permanent building at the Big Mound and relocate the security container at the south end of the coastal park for when the trainees get their C permits.

As spring is only around the corner we look forward to a good years ringing as the Whitburn Ringing Group.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Short eared owls 2 - Ade 1

A local site has had several short eared owls since August 2011.  It is quite a public site so I resisted trying to catch any of the owls.  However last week when I was on the site, I bumped into a local birder who informed me that one of the owls was ringed.  Given that the BTO have only 138 recoveries/controls of short eared owls I thought I should make the effort in finding the landowner and try and catch the ringed bird. I gained permission and set off on Saturday lunchtime to set nets up. Nets were located where we knew the owls roosted and another net along a hedge where the birds regularly hunted.  At half light one owl flew into the net and then swiftly back out again.  I was GUTTED!!  We stayed till well after dark but with little luck so headed home.

The next day Jason and I returned to the site.  I placed the nets in the same place as yesterday however I put the larger mesh net where the bird had flown in yesterday.  We had a bird bounce out of the net beside the hedgerow which then sat a nearby fencepost looking rather confused about what had just happened.  Unfortunately I think it was this bird that was ringed.  I then went to check the other line of nets and noticed the large mesh net was taught.  Thinking it was probably only a blackbird I wondered over and noticed a cream coloured wing rise.  At that point I ran over and extracted a stonking short eared owl.  It made for a new species for Jason who was as equally over the moon as I was.  It was aged as an adult and was most likely a male based on weight.  The bird only weighed 305grms which may be due to the cold snap that week but it felt small.

Below is a picture of the ringed bird in the hand and a bird in flight, both taken by Paul McMullen and reproduced with his permission.