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

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