Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 - What A Year!

How can I sum up my 2011?  It's been an amazing year, so much has happened that it's hard to think of it as only a single year! From starting the year off working for The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in South Wales to ending it back in Scotland, studying for an Ecology degree. To summarise my year here are a 'few' photos...!

Peanuts the Water Rail. It took me a long long time to convince this fella to  investigate the potter trap.
Spring saw me cannon netting on a rubbish dump (an interesting experience), where I met Chris & Zac for the first time. I also started nest recording for the BTO, finding my first Whitethroat nest.

Whitethroat nest

Great Black-backed Gull from the day I met Chris & Zac on a rubbish dump!

Great Tit pulli

Summer was a hectic time, making two trips to help ring the seabird colonies on Puffin Island where I met Kane, helping out at my first CES, attending the Abbotsbury and Llangorse round-ups, being introduced to a whole new world of ringing and of course starting this blog!

My first ever Coot

Abbotsbury Mute Swan round-up

My first experience of ringing adult Black-headed gulls

A very colourful highlight of the summer

Getting down n' dirty for the Llangorse Canada goose round-up

My first Puffin, Puffin Island

Reed Warbler nest

The UK's first controlled Portuguese Sand Martin

Knot from The Wash which was both my 1,000 ringed bird and 60th species.

Autumn was a time for change as I left Wales, volunteered at Slimbridge and then moved back to Scotland to start my university degree course.

A great homecoming to Scotland was catching both a male & female Sparrowhawk  together.

I also took up a new hobby of ring reading

In winter I went to my first ringer's conference up in Aviemore, shortly followed by my second at Swanwick, the Coot project was extended into Scotland, I was taught the fine art of gull catching and ringed my favourite bird to date - a stunning male Goosander.

The first Scottish recruit

The day we ringed 50 Cangos

One weekend we decided to visit Ciaran on The Farnes.

My beloved Goosander.
 I loved every minute of 2011, met some fantastic people, helped out on a few ringing projects and advanced so much in my ringing. I wouldn't have enjoyed 2011 if it weren't for some amazing people: Heather Coats, Chris Bridge, Steve Dodd, Geoff Sheppard, Jean Southall and Kane Brides - I thank you all so much.

Plans for 2012.....more nest recording, start my own ringing project and have some more adventures!

Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Bit O' Festive Ringing

Before heading back up to a very wet and windy Scotland on Christmas Eve I enjoyed my last few days in warm England with some ringing, ice skating and a wee trip to Windermere.

On Thursday Kane, Zac and I had a session at Atherton woods, helping Zac with his dissertation project. A busy morning's ringing included a beautiful Nuthatch (only the second one I've ringed) and a new species for the site in the form of a stunning male Bullfinch.

New recruits! 

We ended our day off by getting into the Christmas spirit by going ice skating and I think it's fair to say the lads had a good laugh watching me 'attempt' to skate!

On Friday Kane and I had the day off and did the housekeeping (topped up all of the bird feeders and cleaned the car). My poor car was clean for all of 2 hours before we went out in search of some gull rings to read and got it covered in fries and poo again!

The quick way to dirty up your freshly cleaned car!

On Christmas Eve the group met up in Windermere for a day of ringing in The Lakes. Some of us got up a wee bit early to try and catch some gulls at Preston Docks but the gulls were surprisingly uninterested in our hotdog offerings!

It was my first time at Windermere and I think it is such a quant little place. We enjoyed our day out round The Lakes and added some more gulls to the North West project as well as some Coots (can't forget the Coots). I even managed to caught my first gull on the ground, something I was finding hard to master. The highlight of the day was seeing 2A00. 2A00 was the first bird to be colour marked for the project and after being ringed at Bowness-on-Windermere spent the summer in Norway before returning back again. It was great to see him and I could see that the little porker was doing well!

2A00 - Someone's been enjoying a little too many mince pies this season!

It was soon time for me to return back to Scotland. I had a really great week and want to say a huge thanks to Kane for having me.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Slimbridge Sunrise

Last Wednesday myself, Ciaran and Zac joined Kane on a wee day trip down to WWT Slimbridge. It was an early start but at least we were able to enjoy the sunrise at Slimbridge and the sunset, as we stayed to watch Kane do the floodlight Bewick feed.

Whilst Kane was busy working the three of us ventured around the grounds and reserve, enjoying some amazing wildlife along the way including my first Lesser Scaup and the best views of Snipe I've ever had. I never been able to appreciate Snipe's plumage up close and I must say they are beautiful.We also had great views of the famous Zeiss hide Bitterns, Water Rail, White-fronted geese and a bathing Peregrine.

Female Lesser Scaup (photo Zac Hinchcliffe)

We couldn't resist hand feeding a few of these fellas, along with the Moorhens .

We also watched a Spoon-billed Sandpiper commentated feed and the wee guys are looking brilliant. WWT have been working incredibly hard to help save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, both in their native breeding/wintering grounds and by captive breeding them at Slimbridge in the hope that they can save this stunningly majestic and characteristic species from extinction - more information can be found Here about the important work the WWT are doing.

After 10 hours at Slimbridge (and maybe a few at the pub!) we finished our trip off by watching Kane do his Bewick feed and he did a brilliant job.

Floodlight feed - amazing to watch. Kane you are one lucky pup!

It was great to be back at Slimbridge again and I'm really looking forward to moving down there in a couple of weeks to volunteer with the Species Monitoring Unit.

Thanks to the guys for a great day (I hope Ciaran enjoyed his first trip at Slimbridge) and to Kane for doing all of the driving and inviting us along.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Southport Stunners

I've just returned from spending the week down in Manchester with the gang and had a fab time. One of the main highlights of the week was getting to join in on my first Southport ringing session with Ciaran & Kane. I have heard many stories about the infamous Southport and so was quite eager to experience ringing at the site first hand. We started off our visit with a spot of Coot catching (what else!) and caught a good number of Coots to add to the ongoing colour marking project. We then moved onto Black-headed Gulls.

Ciaran and Kane started a new project in The North West of England back in March this year. The project aims to find out more information about Black-headed Gulls by using uniquely coded blue darvic rings. More information about the project can be found Here. If you see any Black-headed Gulls with a blue darvics on, starting with the number 2 then please email - bhgulls'@'

And finally Ciaran makes his debut on my blog with his favourite  BHG -  2A00

After visiting a few more local catching sites we decided to stop off for lunch in good old McDonalds (a very handy place for mucky ringers!). Whilst sitting in the car eating our (very healthy!) lunch we decided to do a bit of multi-tasking by setting up some potter traps for Starlings. To our surprise not only were the Starlings extremely keen on the potters but so too were the local Black-headed Gulls. Unfortunately the gulls could not quite work out how to access the delicious Mcfrench fries but the Starlings did and so I got to ring my first Starling. I had been warned by many a ringer that Starlings are very messy birds and should be handled with care so whilst sat in my dear little Chillibug (yes I named my car) I took extra care not to get any 'mess' inside. To my surprise the little fella was very clean and well behaved - is this a unique bird or have people been pulling my leg?!

Great wee birds and check out the plumage...oooft!
After lunch we started the old 'lets cover Gillian's car in gull bait and poo' game (not my favourite game!). We had great success, catching many Black-headed Gulls and my first Common Gull!

Common Gull

After we left the now very much loved Southport we travelled over to Preston docks for some more gulls. On the way we couldn't resist a quick stop off for some light Coot catching and the guys caught these beauties whilst there!

Three wet, scruffy, happy ringers!

This was my first time at Preston docks and what a catching site! It's almost as good as my wee Linlithgow ; ) Whilst at Preston I decided to give gull grabbing 'a la car' a try and to my surprise I was rather good at it and ended up catching quite a few. Unfortunately though my arms can't quite reach the gulls on the sunroof so I had to go for the windscreen option. I really enjoyed catching them from the car and will definitely be doing it again soon.

A new edition to the North West project (photo Ciaran Hatsell)

A great time was had by all and I must say I can definitely see the charm of Souhport and look forward to my next visit there. Thanks goes to Kane & the gang and to McDonalds who I personally think should start sponsoring us, purely for the amount of mentions they get on our blogs - free gull fries perhaps?!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A Colourful Gathering

Last weekend I went to the Loganhurst Ringing Group Christmas meal down in Manchester. It was great to be back in the North West and to join up with the other members of the group for some festive ringing and maybe the odd bit of festive karaoke too!
Over the weekend our wee group went ringing at both Shakerley and Atherton woods. Some great birds were ringed at both sites including a lovely Reed Bunting at Shakerley and a cracking male Bullfinch at Atherton woods. As well as our normal ringing we were also helping out with Zac's Blue Tit colour ringing project.

The colour ringing project is part of Zac's university dissertation that he'll be carrying out next year. I won't go into detail about this, as I'll leave this for Zac to reveal all. However I'm rather looking forward to helping both Zac & Kane with the fieldwork next year!!

Zac enjoying some 'festive' ringing

Monday, 12 December 2011

More Bonnie Coots and Shakerley Magic!

Before I blog about this weekend I wanted to briefly write about last weekend's trip to The Annual BTO Conference at Swanwick. It was my first time at the conference along with Kane, Chris and Craig Brookes. I really enjoyed the conference and it was great to met so many new people such as BTO's Andy Clements and Kate Risely. Over the course of the weekend there were many fascinating talks, my favorites included talks by Richard Castell, Richard Broughton, John Wilson and Jane Reid. An enjoyable weekend was had by all and it was especially nice to finally met Craig who's just returned from Sweden. 

This weekend was very varied from catching Coots up here in Scotland to hiding in the bushes at 6am in Bangor harbour waiting for the 'boom'! As the snow fell and the weather here in Stirling suddenly turned cold Kane and I decided to go after the local Coots. Thursday was a little manic shall we say, trying to get Kane to Scotland as red alerts were being issued by the Met office, flights were cancelled and mobiles ran out of batteries but luckily Kane made it and so after a horrific car journey to pick him up we were finally ready to catch some Coots. 

After my uni exam on Friday morning we set out in search of Coots - what better way to de-stress after an exam? We had a good catch of Coots which now sport new Darvic rings and as the Black-headed Gulls were hungry and therefore catchable we ringed 8 new and had 1 Polish control!

Kane was worried he was losing his 'BHG touch' but as he caught all of the day's BHGs I don't think he has anything to worry about, especially due to the last catch - you'd have to have seen it to believe it!

As the Coots and gulls wised up to our intentions and started to shy away from our reach we decided to pack up and head down to North Wales. A nice but long drive later we arrived in Bangor for another SCAN cannon netting attempt. Unfortunately Saturday ran very similar to the last SCAN session we attended. After getting up at 5am and setting the nets in the dark, a nice catch of Redshank was lined up in front of the nets and as the time to fire came ever so close a juvenile Buzzard flew over and flushed the lot! Luckily the other team over at Beaumaris had better luck and managed to fire on a flock of 400+ Dunlin. As the catch was so large extra extractors were required, so most of our team from Bangor harbour were sent over to help out. This gave me a nice bit of extracting experience before Kane and I had to shoot off to Manchester.

On Sunday it was time to net Kane's winter feeding site (Shakerley) for the first time of the season. I had heard so much about the Shakerley feeding station and so was eager to experience a session there and what a session it was! A very nice catch was had of approximately 60 birds including a couple of new species for me in the form of a Treecreeper and a few Willow Tits.

Both Shakerley and I's first Treecreeper

I was a fool to think these guys would behave similar to their long-tailed cousins, more like their Blue Tit brothers - ouch!

Some nice Bullfinches were also caught giving me the chance to learn more about ageing them.

Juvenile Bullfinch (female) - note the obvious contrast in the greater coverts.

Adult Bullfinch (male) - note the uniformly light grey tips of the greater coverts.

A bonnie flock of Long-tailed tits were also caught which kept up busy.

Can't help but go 'awww!'

Another key bit of training over the weekend was getting to do some of the data input in IPMR, which I am quite enjoying using. Thanks to Kane for making the daunting trip up to Scotland and for both encouraging and teaching me more about ringing.

Tomorrow is my last uni exam of the winter and I shall then be free until mid-February to go in search of Coots, have some ringing adventures and go back down to Slimbridge for another stint of volunteering in the Species Monitoring Unit....stay tuned!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Let Loose In Lancs

I've just arrived back from my latest trip down to England and North Wales. Kane and I traveled across to North Wales for the SCAN catch on the Saturday, meeting up with Zac and Matthew Bruce in Bangor. After an early start to set the cannon nets in the dark we hid away amongst some bushes (for 3 hours!) to await the arrival of some Shelduck. Unfortunately the ducks decided not to play ball and so the catch was abandoned just before high tide and we packed up. 

The Hideout!

Just before leaving Wales Kane and Zac managed to catch a Black-headed Gull each and read two metal rings (EG41185 and EX43734).

After arriving back in Manchester Kane found a lovely new packet of L rings waiting for him at home and so we couldn't resist having a go at catching some Canada Geese around Lancashire. We ended the day (and packet of rings!) on 50 new Canada Geese, along with 2 Black-headed Gulls and 3 new Coots for the project. Sadly I cannot say that I have hand caught my first Cango as they are so strong and powerful (quite the handful), all I got was a punch in the face...from the bird not Kane!

Number 50!

Whilst roaming the Lancashire countryside catching Cangos Kane managed to read a number of metal Black-headed Gull rings including both Danish and Finnish controls. He also managed to read a familiar ring - EY02115. This ring belonged to one of the Killington chicks that were ringed during one of the summer ringing trips to the breeding colony this year. This little guy traveled 90km to get to the park we found him in.


On Sunday we went to the North West Birdfair at Martin Mere where we enjoyed an excellent talk from WWT's director of conservation on saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Whilst at the fair I also joined the BTO ( can finally stop feeling guilty now!) and bought myself a copy of Jenni & Winkler of which I can't wait to use the next time I'm out ringing. Just before leaving we watched the Whooper fed - I think the Martin Mere feed is now my favourite....sorry Caerlaverock! It was also nice to observe a couple of colour ringed Coots whilst watching the feed.

Always a great sight - this one was seen at Plattfield Park whilst out catching Cangos.

Other highlights of the weekend were ringing a few more passerines in the garden and getting to see the famous Southport with it's wind swept Coots! Thanks to Zac for letting us stay over at his flat in Bangor and to Kane for another great weekend and for doing all of the driving.

Monday, 21 November 2011

English Gold

I write this having just returned back to Scotland from a nice wee weekend down in Manchester with Chris & Kane. It was a varied weekend which included a couple of new ringing experiences for me.

On Saturday morning we got up early and set up the mist net in Kane's garden with the aim of catching the visiting Goldies. We caught 8 new Goldfinches that morning along with a Long-tailed tit and a couple of obligatory Blue Tits. Goldfinches are by far my favourite garden bird to both observe and to ring, so bright and cheery and always puts a smile on my face!

One of the stunning male Goldfinches of the morning

After the morning's mist session we headed over to Dunham Massey to help Steve Christmas ring a brood of 3 Mute swan cygnets, each recieving a dark blue Darvic along with a standard BTO metal ring. This was my first time doing a swan brood. When ringing a swan brood you have to tie their wings and feet to prevent them from escaping before the ringing process is complete. Previously I have only ever used jackets at Abbotsbury to restrain the swans and it was nice to use a different technique. The Abbotsbury swan catch 2011 will be on BBC1 tonight at 7pm and there's a good chance that I might appear!.

DN6 - all ringed and ready to go.

Whilst at Dunham Massey the guys managed to catch a few Canada geese which were great to ring (bringing back fond memories of The Llangorse Catch ). It was great being taught how to age the Cangos, something of which I missed out on at Llangorse.

Kane ringing one of the Cangos

We then headed off to some Coots sites to add some more willing Coots to the project. By the end of Saturday I was covered in cuts and scratches - I had forgotten how feisty the English Coots can be, especially compared to the relatively placid Scottish ones. Weirdly I always thought it would be the Scottish ones that would be the real fighters!

After getting back to Kane's and cleaning all of the Coot 'you know what' off we decided to go out dazzling. This was the first time I had been dazzling and Chris lead the way. Unfortunately after roaming around the dark Lancashire countryside for several hours we can up blank and so headed back.

Ever the optimists! 

On Sunday we again mist netted in the garden, catching more of the English golden beauties. We then went off in search of some more Coots. In total we Darviced 4 new Coots and  7 recaps.

Whilst out searching for Coots Kane ran into an old friend in the form of L06072 - a Canada goose which he ringed back in 2006! On Sunday night we had one last try with dazzling and discouragingly we came up blank again. I'm sure with a little bit of tweaking and technique perfecting we will one day mange to successfully dazzle - never say never! Once again a really great weekend was had and thanks goes to the guys and Steve Christmas, roll on next weekend!

...and don't forget if you see any colour marked Coots you can email Kane at kanebrides'@' and if you see any other colour marked wildfowl then you can email your sightenings to colourmarkedwildfowl'@'