Saturday, 29 September 2012

September round-up

The weather during September was rather poor as far as ringing at Whitburn was concerned.  The majority of weather was strong SW winds and a fair bit of rain, however we managed 9 ringing sessions over the month.  It was looking like a quiet month until the weather forecast a long period of easterly winds last week.  From Birdguides it was clear that birds were starting to arrive on Tuesday with a white's thrush on Inner Farnes and good numbers of red-breasted flycatchers, yellow-browed and barred warblers along with other common migrants on the east coast. On the 26th Whitburn had a small fall of common migrants but there was very few scarce migrants yellow-browed warblers reported in Marsden Quarry and around Shearwater Estate (southern end of the Coastal Park).  However Whitburns remarkable run of rares continued with a pallas's grasshopper warbler (PG Tips) trapped and ringed.  Remarkably there was also another PG Tips found in Hartlepool earlier in the morning.  No scarce migrants were ringed at Whitburn during September, but we are not grumbling after the star bird.  Below is a list of the species and number ringed during September at Whitburn Coastal Park.  September 2012 has been the most productive September (288 birds) since we started ringing at Whitburn with the last highest total being 161 birds in 2008.

sparrowhawk  3
great spotted woodpecker  3
swallow  2
meadow pipit  1
wren  9
dunnock  7
robin  34
redstart  4
blackbird  7
song Thrush  31  
redwing  2
garden warbler  7
blackcap  10
lesser whitethroat  2
whitethroat  4
sedge warbler  1
pallas's grasshopper warbler 1
willow warbler  5
chiffchaff  14
goldcrest  25
spotted flycatcher  2
pied flycatcher  1
great tit  22
coal tit  20
blue tit  27
chaffinch  16
common redpoll  1
goldfinch  16
greenfinch  5
siskin  3

TOTAL - 288 birds

27th September

After the excitement of yesterday I decided to take the day off as holiday from work to go ringing.  Nets were open an hour before sunrise however it was soon apparent that there were fewer birds in the Big Mound.  The winds shifted during the night to northerly and was fairly clear so was expecting birds to move on.  The first few net rounds produced a handful of robins and song thrushes including some retraps from yesterday and a retrap garden warbler, so clearly some birds had remained to feed up.  The best bird of the day goes to a common redpoll.  Other birds trapped included goldcrest (3), chiffchaff (2), robin (2), whitethroat (1), sedge warbler (1), chaffinch (4), dunnock (1), goldfinch (1), blackcap (1), blue tit (1) and song thrush (6).

Friday, 28 September 2012

Mega Day

Over the weekend the weather forecast was for strong easterly winds for quite some time over the week to come and with that came rain.  With no heligoland trap at Whitburn Coastal Park I decided to brave the weather and work Monday and Tuesday over in Scotland so I could take the rest of the week off to ring if need be. Tuesday night was easterly winds including rain that fell upto approximately 3am, perfect for fall conditions. With a White's Thrush on Farnes I was rather excited.  I got up at 4am, 3 hours before sunrise in order to get as many nets open as possible. I was going to be the only ringer so knew that this would take some time to do.  When I entered the Big Mound there were a number of song thrushes calling so I was looking forward to the first few net rounds.  I intentionally set the nets slightly lower than usual in order to trap robins and redstarts hoping that a fox wouldnt go through the bottom shelve of the net. As expected these net rounds produced several song thrushes and robins plus garden warbler and blackcap.  I soon had a general warbler tape on that was helping pull in the sylvia warblers to the trapping area. The sky soon cleared and it became sunny, not ideal and it soon went quiet. Upto 9am I had already trapped approximatley 50 birds.  Several redstarts starting showing up in the area and a spotted flycatcher was trapped and lunchtime soon came around.  I was a little surprised that we had not trapped or had reported any scarce migrants such as yellow-browed warbler, red-breasted flycatcher or a barred warbler.  Little did I know what was about to happen.  Dougie had joined me by this point and as we went on a net round I noticed a bird in the bottom shelve of 'Walter's' net.  Expecting another robin or redstart I got closer and noticed the buff belly and thought reed warbler then as I got to the bird I could see that this was a locustella warbler and presumed grasshopper warbler. By this point a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler (PG Tips) had been found at Hartlepool. As I extracted it I soon noticed the dark under tail colour and grey tips to the tail.  I have never seen PG Tips and was expecting the tips to be lighter.  I said to Dougie 'Is this a PG Tips? I think its a PG Tips, I think its a PG Tips!!!!  Adrenaline starting to flow.  Dougie initially thought I was joking then soon realised as I started to get excited that I wasnt.  Once out of the net we went back to the ringing hut and consulted the Collins Field Guide, forgetting that right next to me was this month Birdwatch magazine with an ID guide to Locustella warblers.  Sure enough it showed all the characteristics of a PG Tips.  Word was put out and it didnt take too long before bird watchers started to arrive.   I continued to do the net round and processed the birds that were trapped.  Mark Newsome (Durham County Recorder) turned up and I showed him the bird and he confirmed what I already knew, that I was holding a very very special bird and one that I thought I would never see, especially after dipping the bird in Whitburn in 2010.  The bird was ringed, aged as a juvenile and biometrics were taken.  The bird was released into the Small Mound (east of the Big Mound) and flew down into cover.  It wasnt seen until later that evening when Dave Foster re-located it feeding where it had been released.  This was great news as John who rings with the Whitburn Ringing Group was in Harrogate at the time it was trapped and managed to see it.

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler © Ian Mills

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler © Ian Mills

Thank you to all the birders who donated money.  This will go towards ring costs.

Other species trapped included goldcrest (6), chiffchaff (2), willow warbler (1), wren (1), robin (20), redstart (4), blackcap (5), garden warbler (7), whitethroat (1), spotted flycatcher (1), blue tit (2), great tit (2), coal tit (1), siskin (2), dunnock (2), greenfinch (2), chaffinch (2), great-spotted woodpecker (1)song thrush (23), redwing (2) and sparrowhawk (1).  Photos of other species caught.

redstart - male © Stephen Egglestone

garden warbler © Stephen Egglestone

great spotted woodpecker - juvenile © Stephen Egglestone

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Mid-September review

We have had three ringing sessions at Whitburn during September with a total of 60 birds ringed.  As with many other sites across the UK, we are not catching many sylvia warblers.  A couple of lesser whitethroats, pied flycatcher and spotted flycatcher have been the highlight.  This weekend saw the first migrant robins and tits.  A flock of coal tits turned up on the site and a total of 8 were ringed. On the last net round on Saturday a rather grey looking willow warbler was trapped (picture below), Dave Foster popped by the ringing hut to give a second opinion to race, however given the large overlap between races we ended up not assigning race.

My fiance Lisa has a keen interest in birds but the siting around between net rounds is not part of ringing process that she is keen on.  I have been ringing a few goldfinch in the garden which she soon asked to ring.  Whilst I spent the day ringing, Lisa visited me at Whitburn with her friend and her friends daughter.  They joined me on a net round and low and behold the spotted flycatcher was trapped.  As we have been looking for spotted flycatcher on several walks this summer,  she was very keen to ring it.  I ask myself is she hooked on ringing yet?  I guess it may take a few more little beauties to get her hooked.

© Adrian George

© Adrian George