Sunday, 26 June 2011

Moth Trapping in Atherton

Last night Kane set his moth trap as he has got me hooked on moths and moth trapping. We sat out last night and watched the moths swarm round the trap and drop in. We only saw one moth that ended up alluding the trap which was a Light Emerald. We checked the trap early this morning and found some great specimens, as I am new to moth trapping every moth received a gasp and it's own personal photoshoot! 104 moths were caught of 40 different species including Buff Ermie, Flame Shoulder, Ghost Moth, Purple Clay and Gothic. Below are some of the other highlights of the catch.

Beautiful Goden Y
Buff Arches

Brimstone Moth

Swallow Tailed Moth

Elephant Hawk-Moth


Burnished Brass


Peppered Moth
Big thanks to Kane again for some class moth trapping.

Worsley Warblers

Yesterday I packed up, said goodbye to The Man of Steel AKA Dad and set off from home for Kane's house in Artherton. I had been invited to come along for another few days of ringing. After getting there at around 4.30pm, I gave Kane his much anticipated homemade malteaser squares and we set off for Worsley. Worsley is a 5 year old reed bed site which is just off a canal. The site is quite stunning, filled with swaying bull rushes and bright, fragrant wildflowers.

Worsley Reed beds

The evening's team consisted of Kane, myself, Kane's trainer Steve and fellow trainee Jenny. We caught 45 new, 2 recaps and 1 control of 14 different species. The evening was very enjoyable, slightly less fun when the mosquitoes decided to attack us as it got dark!

Sedge Warbler
Highlights of the evening included Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Robin, Song Thrush, Reed Warbler and my first Reed Bunting.

My first Reed Bunting (Male)
It was a great experience, especially ringing the Reed Warblers as their range does not extend as far North as my home in Scotland. The evening was extended as we took in a Swallow roost which contained both Swallow and Sand Martin with the Swifts elluding us.
Reed Warbler
A great evening was had by all and special thanks goes to Steve and to Kane again for inviting me and letting us trainees do all of the ringing.
Song Thrush

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A Day of Goblins! - 22nd June 2011

I got a surprise phone call this morning from my trainers ( Jean Southall and Geoff Sheppard), they invited me to go out ringing Barn Owls around Loch Ryan. So I quickly got out of my flamingo pyjamas and into my ringing clothes - which had just been cleaned of Cormorant and Black-Headed gull deposits!

I had an amazing day catching up with my trainers and ringing Swallows and Barn Owls or as I call them Goblins! I ringed 6 Barn Owls today; 4 and 2.

The first Barn Owl of the day.

I love ringing Goblins and it still amazes me how light these birds are at only around 370g each and how calm and docile they can be. The runt in the first brood was quite small and was still at the ball of white fluff stage.

The runt of the first brood.
Putting the runt to scale.

The first brood were quite lively and two made a break for it but thanks to my earlier Black-Headed gull training I was able to round them up and grab 'em! Most of the first brood were near fledging stage and so could be sexed quite easily which I found hard to do on the occasion I went ringing last year as they were a lot smaller.

A Beautifully speckled female.

In between the owl ringing sites we went in search of some Swallows. We found many new nests and nests containing eggs, only 3 contained chicks. I ringed 12 Swallows; 3, 5 and 4. One brood were at the fledging stage but thanks to Jean we managed to ring them and get them back into the nest. Those Swallows could be classed as 1s or 1Js.

The first brood of Swallows.
The last wee brood.

I always love ringing swallows as you can't help but smile when you see their happy wee faces!

The wee brood.

I didn't know until today but you will rarely find Swallows nesting in the same barns as Barn Owls and that was proven today as where we had Barn Owls there were no Swallows and vice versa. Whilst trying to find Swallow nests I found plenty of empty House Sparrow and Pied Wagtail nests and had a horrible moment where I reached into a nest, felt a warm chick, got excited, lifted it out and found it to be an unringable Feral Pigeon.

I got some great experience of ringing today and of climbing up tall ladders, under tight beams whilst holding little Barn Owls - quite the challenge! I want to say a huge thank you to my amazing trainers Geoff and Jean and I look forward to seeing you again sometime soon.

The last owls of the day.

Monday, 20 June 2011

How To Get Your Car Covered In Jam! - 20th June 2011

This morning I got a crash course in moth ID from Kane. The night before he set out his moth trap and we eagerly waited until this morning to check it. We had some real beauties today such as Elephant Hawkmoth and Orange Underwing. This was my first time moth trapping and I will definitely be doing it again as it was brilliant to get to see such superb moths up close.

Kane's moth trap
Elephant Hawkmoth

Swallow Prominent 

Poplar Hawkmoth

Buff Ermine
After releasing the moths we headed off for Killington in Cumbria where Kane, Chris and Zac have been ringing a Black-Headed gull colony. Today was my first experience of ringing both Black-Headed gulls and gull pulli.

Killington lake and the gull's island.
It was great to be in amongst a nesting gull colony and seeing the chicks at different stages from eggs and newly hatched chicks to spotty, fluffy balls running around your feet and almost fully grown fledglings that are extremely hard to catch!

Black-Headed Gull chick with it's new BTO ring.
It was a very interesting and fun experience catching the chicks as they dipped and dived under trees, through bushes and made a break for it across the lake. We were each given a large box to carry around the island to collect our chicks in once we had nabbed them and then we all gathered at the ringing point for the ringing and Darvicing.

A box of BHG chicks waiting to be ringed.
I ringed 28 chicks today and Darviced about 3. I had never Darviced a bird before and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Me holding one of the chicks I Darviced.
After we finished ringing and left the island for the parent birds to return we packed up and made our way to Killington service station, where we planned on catching some adults. After a quick and much needed change of clothes we made our way to the cars to lay in wait for the unsuspecting gulls. I was told the birds were quite tame but today they seemed a little wary of our plans. Zac was the star gull catcher using the bait and grab technique from the cars.

Zac luring the birds in.

After a wee while Zac caught our first bird by hand using his bait of cereal. I was lucky enough to ring and Darvic it which again is a first for me as I hadn't ringed adult Black-Headed gulls before.

My first adult Black-Headed Gull.
The team have been ringing Black-Headed gulls as part of a study and up to the point when the first adult was caught they had ringed 599 birds. So not willing to accept an end total of 599 for the year Zac was determined to catch the 600th bird. By this point the gulls were playing hard ball and were proving very difficult to catch. After an hour or so of driving around the car park and baiting our hands with tempting treats the gulls were having none of it so we switched to the new technique of covering my car in gull food.

The baited roof.
After sticking mountains crisps, bread, cereal and jam to my car Zac grabbed the 600th bird of which he ringed and Darviced.

Zac's prize gull.

The last gull of the day doing his 'angry birds' look!

 After a quick nip to the photographer, he was quickly released and happily off on his way.
After biting everyone who came near it we released the last gull and so brought and end to what has been the best weekend of ringing to date for myself . Then Kane,Chris and Zac then went South and I went North back to bonnie Scotland and to see my poor dad who was feeling slightly neglected by this point.

Entering Bonnie Scotland.

It's great to be back in Scotland as I write this and really nice to see my dad after his big tumble! On my way home through Scotland I saw a male Sparrowhawk, a Roe buck and a Red Kite which was a nice welcome home. A special big thanks goes to Kane Brides for inviting me and to Chris and Zac for helping make my weekend a truly great one, see you again soon.

A Quick Update

The Sand Martin that was caught on Sunday is officially the first ever Portuguese Sand Martin to be recovered in the UK!
Well done little fella.

Cempa Sea, Lisboa ring.  Ring number A310342

Sunday, 19 June 2011

A Weekend of Firsts!

My weekend started off with a real treat on Thursday when I found my first Whitethroat nest at work and helped Tony Jenkins with some Swallow nest recording. We checked on 3 Swallow nests; one had newly laid eggs, one had newly hatched young and the other (which I ringed last week) had 5 smiley chicks chilling out in. The chicks that were ringed the previous week were doing well and should fledge within the next week as they were at the FS stage (Feathers Long).
Happy chicks!
  I found the Whitethroat's nest deep in a briar bush at the bottom of a muddy slope with a red ants nest on the top - great for the bird's safety, not so great for ringers! In the nest there were 6 blind, naked chicks which should be ready to ring next week.
My first Whitethroat's nest.
 The plan was for me to drive up to North Wales on Friday, stay overnight and then go ringing on Puffin Island on the Saturday but things went a little haywire and I ended up leaving at 2:30am on the Saturday morning, mainly due to my dad falling off a mountain.

 He fell off a mountain near Mallaig and broke both his shoulder and his elbow. After being flown off the mountain via helicopter and being filmed for The Channel 5 series Highland Emergencies he was treated at hospital on The Isle of Skye. His work mates on the Courisk ferry that runs between Skye and Mallaig were being very supportive singing 'I Believe I Can Fly' to him and renaming the now infamous mountain Tumble-Down Mountain! My dad is now back at home but needs regular trips to the hospital and needs to go back to hospital in Dumfries for an operation to fit Steel plates in his shoulder this week. So as the good daughter I am, I am on my way (slowly) up to Scotland to see him. By slowly I mean with plenty of bird ringing stops in between! Unfortunately due to his one-armedness he can't work, drive or ring for at least 7 weeks which meant he missed out on what would have been his first trip to Puffin Island on Saturday.

Saturday turned out to be a very successful day with plenty of ringing, biting and scratching! We ringed Shag, Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake and a new species for me, Cormorant.

Cormorant chick.
There were a lot of pulli to ring on this trip, so many that we needed to set up creches for the Guillemots and Razorbills in the form of two pop-up baskets. The Razorbills and Guillemots required a special auk ring which I now have the hang of and quite enjoy using. These special rings require the use of engineers pliers rather than the normal ringing pliers.

Guillemot chick.
 The highlights of the day were being watched by a Grey Seal, seeing lots of new gull chicks, meeting some new ringers and getting to help a PhD student fit data loggers to Kittiwakes.

A Kittiwake sporting a new data logger.
The totals for the day were; 299 Guillemot pulli and 14 adults, 10 Shag pulli, 5 adult Razorbill and 27 pulli, 6 Kittwakes and 250 Cormorant pulli, 50 of which were fitted with additional Darvic rings.
The Darvic team.
All in all a great day was had by all and special thanks goes to Rachel and Steve for the invite and for putting me up for the night.

The following day I had planned to drive up to Scotland to see my dad but received a text from Kane Brides, who I met on Puffin Island, inviting me to come to Atherton for a spot of ringing and how could I refuse! So today we have been out to look for nests and I saw my first ever Long-Eared Owl sitting on her nest and to an open cast mine to ring a colony of nesting Sand Martins and Lapwing ( a first for me).The highlights of the day was catching a Portuguese Sand Martin and seeing my first ever Hobby which soared over ours heads. A another great day was had apart from me losing my ringing pliers in the mine.
A Portuguese Sand Martin

My first Lapwing chick

Special thanks goes to Kane Brides ( for inviting me and Chris Bridge for catching the Lapwing.