Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Chardonneret for LOTTIs

To say that Long Tailed Tits like cheese would be an understatement, and the modified Chardonneret in the photograph exploits this to target the species for ringing purposes.
The door for this active trap, triggered by the ringer, is clipped to the top of the trap when not in use. The small mesh box at the back of the trap is for the cheese. This is an effective method but if allowed these birds are high maintenance

Lostock Nursery Heligoland, N.E. Cheshire

Not everyone gets a Heliogoland trap for his 15th birthday; here is Jake's. The entrance has feeders, feeding table and the white box protecting the infra red CCTV camera.
The hoops are from a redundant greenhouse, and the entrance hoop supports a drop net shown furled.

A view towards the entrance shows the curtain release strings with the left one leading to the trigger.

To the rear of the trap is the double door running on a castor and concrete arc, which closes off the funnel and ramp and leaves an exit at the rear to allow any birds to escape should they enter the trap when not in use.

The catching box and extraction port from the rear. The box door is closed but the tipping plate and restraining screen are not visible.

Finally the control monitor, and release trigger (hanging from the blue tube behind the monitor)
The desk and seat were retrieved from a skip!
Just sit in comfort with a hot drink and select the birds.

Our ringing priority is Reed Bunting; wish us luck.

Sunday, 23 May 2010


The joy was short lived; within a day of laying the first egg the female Swallow was found dead in one of the water filled plant trays. The water was only a couple of inches deep but deep enough, so now as we process our birds we are no longer entertained by the singing male. With an early, for us, start at 0500 hrs Jake was smiling as our new net ride, quickly yielded 3 retraps, a fledged Great Tit, a Jay and a Blackcap. Nothing remarkable about the Jay, we do ten for every warbler, but the Blackcap was our first ever retrap, and when later in the morning we caught a male, we had trebled our best annual total of one. For the rest of the morning, Jake and I had to endure David gloating over his whoosh net catch, as the mist net catch dried up.
David finally weighed in with 17 Starlings of which 3 were retraps, one CollaredDove, one 3J House Sparrow and one 3J Dunnock.

Monday, 10 May 2010

One Swallow doesn't make a Century

We've ringed a Chiffchaff at the nursery, and in so doing we have equalled our annual best score.
David, the owner, has been burning the midnight oil over the winter planting wildlife habitat and maybe his efforts are paying off. We currently have 3 Chiffchaffs singing, and 4 Blackcaps (1 of these will also equal our site annual ringing total). In the meantime, all is not well with our Oldham Dippers, where a few birds have lost full clutches of 5 where all chicks have died within about 3 or 4 days of hatching; the adults are not returning to the nests with beaks full of food. Is this due to the unusually cold winter? Not all nests are failures and yesterday, which coincided with our first aphid hatch of the year, we ringed three decent broods of 5,5,4, well developed youngsters near Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire. Back at the nursery David has been watering his water plants to the apparent advantage of the Swallows. Up to twenty have been circling the nursery, a sight not seen for over ten years, they have been removing mud from the plant pots, and this has led them to realise that the pump house is a desirable nesting site; we are all delerious about this and David and Jake are fighting for the priviledge of ringing the first brood,

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Nether Alderley Ringing demo

The farm open day seemed less well attended than last year, but we still had scores of interested children watching the tits fly off to freedom. 91 birds for Jake to process, so by the time he is 16 his total will be 3000+. There were few birds of note; the Bramblings had all gone, uncomfortable numbers of Chaffinches with 'bumble foot', a single Goldfinch, a couple of retrap Nuthatches, and the group's first Blackcap of the year. The Cheshire Wildlife Trust next to us even ran out of 'Bats', which led us to an image of their Chairman burning the midnight oil making more for next year.
There was even time to pose for a photocall. 'Look what the cat dragged in'.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Holy Grail

We were hoping to start our Dipper pullus ringing today, but the five eggs were deserted, leaving us to curse those wild life 'lovers' who have inflicted Mink on us. Now Dippers are lovely birds with a confiding nature, and they don't desert their nests especially with well developed embryos; something had had the female. We have had them taken by cats in the past but the abundance of Mink in our rivers is causing concern. We trudged forlornly back to the cars, when the kee-keeing started, followed by the undulating flight and my first ever sound of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming. No consolation for the lost Dippers, but not bad. Will I live long enough to see another?
I doubt it. For the benefit of all you Cinclophiles, the second nest of 5 eggs and the female were fine.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Fat Chaffinches

After a morning Dipper nest recording there was still time to get a few hours in at the nursery. The highlight was ringing three Chaffinches with fat scores of 5. Totals as follows:-

LESRE 20/6

David was too busy to run the whoosh so no JAYs, but still 45 'new opportunities to learn', for Jake and me.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Traffic light repair man?

Thursday is my day to visit Mr Bun for my speciality bread order, and involves crossing the A6 at the pedestrian crossing. This activity is more pleasurable now with the incubating Coloured Dove sitting atop the traffic light gazing down. I wonder if I can ring the pullus/i without being arrested.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

First Dipper eggs

With many territorial birds loafing about, and only one nest checked so far at lining stage, we were expecting first eggs next week. An early morning trip to Happy Valley hoping, in vain, to avoid the legions of dog walkers proved us wrong. The female shot off the nest parting Nev's hair (ha ha) leaving 4 warm eggs. The female at the next territory downstream looked bored perched up a tree keeping its feet dry and not bothering building yet. As we identified the colour rings, a kingfisher, the fourth in 8 days. shot by. Once again we didn't have a net up. As Nev left to sort out paternal duties on Mothers' Day, I headed for the Nursery, but with the wind getting up yet another influx of REEBUs skipped the feeding station nets. A similar situation prevailed at the whoosh net, so we only processed a Jay, our 14th new Jay since the middle of October and another adult. Before Jake disappeared to carry out filial duties we managed to find a couple of LOTTI nests currently at N1 stage; will they escape the MAGPIs this year for a change?

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Cinclophiles abroad

The fourth season of our Dipper RAS has got off to a pretty good start. Kath, Phil, Steve and Stephen have not only sent us sightings of colour ringed birds on the River Tame, but perhaps more importantly of non-colour ringed birds. As we checked the nest sites of most of the territories upstream of Stalybridge we knew where to try to catch the unringed birds, especially those with only BTO metal rings, and this will help us with arranging priorities. We were using a 4 metre Ecotone, metal sectional poles and a pair of 'Rocks' (climbing jargon for half inch BSF nuts with string attached). It was a bit of a laugh really watching an out of practice trainer fumbling with bits of string and a couple of trees. The pair of Dippers patiently waited down stream for the variety turn to finish before Justin and I walked 50 yds down past them and twinkled the male into the bottom shelf. The female followed but bounced out, so it took another short walk before the female was successfully bagged. We were pretty cold after a morning's work, so it was interesting to check the fat and muscle scores to find out how the birds had survived the winter. 0/2 or as good as they were last year after a mild winter. Justin applied the colour rings to the male which was a recruit, 2009 pullus from Uppermill Garden Centre. This is the fourth recruit from this site which must have amazing food supplies! One the way home we called in to Greenfield, where we found possibly 4 unringed birds in a half mile stretch down to the Chew Brook confluence. There is still a fair amount of snow on the north facing slopes above Dovestones Reservoir, so maybe they like the warmer waters round the WwTW?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Robins galore

The Nursery is nearly a warbler free zone, so the best of the ringing is of winter visitors, attracted by the feeding station. Our 2010 'good' passerine new capture figures are as follows:-

Goldfinch 31
Greenfinch 29
Siskin 25
Bullfinch 22
Lesser Redpoll 16
Reed Bunting 16

The total captures have just passed 500 for the year, but there has been a drop in the ratio of new birds/retraps, to which 10 new Robins and 53 retraps are a sizeable chunk. In spite of that the eponymous 'Gate' Robin only 30 metres from the feeding station remains unringed!
If birds learn net placements then X656553 is a very thick bird; we have caught it 13 times since September. On the other hand it gets three meals a day, warm feet on extraction and 15 mins out of the cold in a bird bag.
The pond at the Nursery has been frozen, apart from two days, since mid November and the temperature low at Woodford Airfield was -16 Celsius, so it is interesting to see how a Robin copes.
X656553 maintained 18.3 gms with 0/2 fat/muscle until early December which was the start of a steady rise up to 20.6 gms on Feb 20th with 1/2 fat/muscle.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Mighty Hunter thwarted by Nimrod

Now David lives at the Nursery and in Nov 2008 was still sleeping when I put the nets up. The modest first round brought the site's first Brambling and expecting it to be first of several it was it was processed and released. David arrived vowing revenge. It was the only Brambling of the winter (!) and until last week there have been no regular sightings in 'our' part of Woodford just north east of the AVRO factory (British Aerospace in modern parlance). On Saturday David was poised with the whoosh net trigger like 'tail end Charlie' in a WW2 Lancaster waiting for the one Brambling and a Meadow Pipit to move a couple of feet into the catching zone, when the silence was shattered by an RAF Nimrod taking to the skies. No Brambling. It was a lack lustre weekend with only Bullfinch (Jan total 36 birds) reaching double figures. Fieldfares and Redwing reappeared in a pre-roost assembly of about 40 birds so the whoosh net moved back into Richard's orchard on Sunday. In an inch of early morning snow the thrushes were very reluctant to feed, but eventually David fired on a single Fieldfare and just managed to keep the female Sparrowhawk from having it for breakfast. This was the second attempt to take a bird from the whoosh net with David, out of the hide, only a few feet from the birds. Nimrod is yet one more excuse for poor catches.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Nursery Boys fight back

Margaret is not happy. Well she lives up this track at Dobcross and got stuck in the snow as we made our modest contribution to the Fieldfare totals. What can one say? Michael on the other hand, lured by Kane's offer of a few Coot and group first Tufted Duck, took his eye of the ball a little and gave the Nursery Boys a bit of elbow room. The Greenfinches have moved on, the Fieldfares have moved on, so our three nets 9m, 4m, and 12m whoosh were aimed eagerly at our priority species Reed Bunting. Unlike Michael down in Alderley Edge with a dozen or so, we had rarely seen more than three, but last Saturday was a bit different. We ringed nine (and a retrap) and followed this up with two more on Sunday. Now The Prof writing in the Cheshire and Wirral Atlas would have us believe that he has them all at Runcorn, apart from when he lets a few go to either Woolston or the coast; so how come two dozen are slumming it in the north east of the county when we don't even have a dot on our tetrad in the Winter distribution map? In addition we ringed seven new Bullfinches (thirteen for the year so far), six Goldfinches, five Lesser Redpolls and eleven Siskins. For our sins David pulled the trigger on four Wood Pigeons, before the flock descended (!), and demonstrated his handling skills by nearly let one fly up his nose: He has seen the error of his ways and realised that a pane of glass in a greenhouse just might not hold a fleeing 550 gram bird.
Of more interest to Jake was the fact that on release every Reed Bunting flew directly to the small phragmites bed, in contrast to the tits which headed for the wood and the Blackbirds for the laurel hedge. Our haul of two Song Thrushes was equal to our whole 2009 total, but having ringed eleven Jays since the middle of October it was a surprise not to add to the total. 77 birds processed on Saturday was only 7 short of our daily best tally for the site.
News of our exploits brought Nev, Justin, and Clive along on Sunday, and although we failed to repeat the performance 25 new and 37 retraps added one or two 'old friends' to our year's total.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Ice Station Woodford

With a night time temperature just two degrees above that at the South Pole and early morning showing minus 16 inside the greenhouses all the apples in the orchard were frozen solid and the thrushes were busy looking for freshly chopped bits in the nearby gardens. Meanwhile we had given away half of our non-frozen supply to the Shelter Belt Boys, who began to rub our noses in it. Firstly Michael had 8 Reed Buntings in a small cleared patch in his back lawn and beat our 2009 total in a morning, then followed this up with a session with Hugh in sunny Great Warford with a 96 bird total including 21 Greenfinches, 21 Blackbirds, 10 Fieldfare, and 7 Mistle Thrushes of which 4 including a retrap were in one of the two nets deployed.
The Nursery Boys looked on in envy.

YT, DH, JG, MM and HP

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Fieldfares at the Nursery

NE Cheshire is not the most inspiring place for bird ringing in the summer as our total of 12 warblers out of 1118 new birds in 2009 shows. In winter however things are a bit better with a couple of decent roosts round the Nursery holding 1000+ finches and 100 or so thrushes. A couple of snowfalls and minus 6 Celsius temperatures saw us leaving the Lesser Redpolls to get on with the nijer seed as we tried for the thrushes. The cleanest surface for the whoosh net was on the bungalow front lawn, but only the Blackbirds were regularly on the feed line. A constant stream of shouting dogwalkers and their barking friends and the clatter of car doors from the next door neighbours had the Redwings and Fieldfares leaping into the treetops before they could settle onto our chopped apples, and we had two near misses only to show for a few mornings' effort. Next door down the track towards the airfield Richard has a large bungalow with an old orchard behind and Richard kindly let us have a go there. The ground was covered with hundreds of windfalls but with most of them covered with snow the Fieldfares were squabbling over the spoils in front of the net. In spite of a few small technical problems, over a couple of days, we ringed 13 new Fieldfares and retrapped one. The retrap had lost 3 grams in weight overnight showing how hard life can be at this time of year; they can now have a few days to put their weight back on before we try again.
Together with the total from the Great Warford Shelter Best boys we have 10% of our group's 43 year Fieldfare total, and Jake and Clive finally had an opportunity to sex and age them.