Friday, 1 July 2011

Warblers Galore - Monday 27th June 2011

I had a brilliant day on Monday spying on the competition at WWT Martin Mere with Kane Brides and Chris Bridges. We spent the morning checking the Tree Sparrow boxes in the reserve and found 3 boxes containing pulli with most of the other boxes containing third clutches of eggs.

Chris and Kane hard at work.

 The guys were very good and let me ring all of the pulli. Tree Sparrow were a new species for me to both ring and actually see!

Tree Sparrow Pulli

In the afternoon we ventured out into the grounds to try and find some grabable Coot and Moorhen. After some scouting around we found our first catchable Moorhen and within a minute of laying eyes on our Moorhen Kane had grabbed it and handed it over to me! This was my first Moorhen and they're quite the little fighters!

Adult Moorhen

Kane then went on to catch me another two juvenile Moorhens which were a real treat to ring.

Juvenile Moorhen

The next thing to 'land' in Kane's hands was the highlight of the day....a Coot! I have always wanted to ring a Coot, I love their strange feet and bright red eyes. Ringing it was a real joy and I couldn't have been happier, even after it managed to get poo on my chin!

My first Coot!

I had a really great day at Martin Mere apart from the blood sucking Clegs that seemed to follow us wherever we went. It was also great to finally see Coot Man in action, it does amaze me how easy he makes it look and how calm the birds are once caught. Kane and his team have been colour ringing Coot in the North West over the last three years, with well over 1000 birds now colour marked. The results have been fascinating ( ). The project has been a great success with some fantastic work being carried out on such an understudied species.

Later on Monday we went to another one of Kane's ringing sites and Kane and Chris managed to track down and catch 2 Lapwing pulli for me to ring which wasn't an easy task as they duck down and hide as soon as their parents signal danger. I think Lapwing pulli are now one of my favourite pulli to ring, being so cute and fluffy. It was very amusing to watch them trundle away after we let then go.

Lapwing chicks.

We later went on to check on the progress of the Long-Eared Owl nest where the chicks had just hatched. The nest contained 5 white balls of  fluff!

Long-Eared Owl Nest

Long-Eared Owl Chick

 That evening we all set off for another one of Kane's reed bed sites. On our way we passed through some amazing old English villages and earlier on Kane pointed out what was my first Corn Bunting! After having dinner in a nice old pub we took a walk around Kane's site and watched a Swallow/Sand Martin roost come down and eyed up some Mallard for the next day.

On Tuesday we got up at 4am and headed out to the reed beds where we set out two nets to try and catch some of Kane's now fledged Reed Warblers. It was a cracking morning, the sun was shinning, there were no Clegs and there were plenty of birds to be ringed.

4am over the reed beds.

Kane kindly let me and Chris do the ringing. Species for the morning included Reed Warbler, Reed Bunting, Long-Tailed Tit and Blackbird. Also whilst we were at the ringing site Kane casually caught an adult ringed Mute Swan, as you do! This was my first time holding Britain's heaviest bird and was really surprised how docile it was.

Retrap Mute Swan.

After we packed up the nets we returned for some much needed breakfast and a quick rest. Then we headed back out to try and get some more ringing in before I had to head back down to Wales. When we got back down to the lake the first thing we were greeted by was a small flock of Mallard on the grassy banks, just a bit too tempting! So we lured them in with some bread and all three of us grabbed a Mallard each. This again was a new species for me and my first time catching something by hand by myself which I really enjoyed. We ringed the two Mallard and processed the third which I believe was a retrap of Kane's.

Kane, Chris and myself with our Mallards.
After ringing and releasing the Mallards we set out to try and catch some more Reed Warblers but the wind soon picked up and the birds could soon see the net. Although Kane did manage to catch a newly fledged Reed Warbler by hand.

Newly fledged Reed Warbler.

 The guys then tried to teach me how to find my own bird nests. So after quite some time scrabbling through Hawthorn, Stinging Nettles and Briars I finally found my own active Blackbird's nest with 3 warm eggs inside. I have discovered that I am very good at finding empty nests! The guys managed to find active Reed Warbler, Blackcap and Reed Bunting nests.

Reed Bunting's nest.

Reed Warbler's nest.

Blackbird's nest.
After we had completely covered our arms in scratches from rooting about in the undergrowth in search of nests and finding some crackers we called it a day but not before I was set the challenge to find my very own Reed Warbler's nest back at work in Llanelli. So as I write this I have been spending the last 3 days out in the reed beds at work, wading through thick sludge in extremely hot, thick waders, getting cuts and mud all over myself I finally did it! I found my very first Reed Warbler's nest which looked as if the young had recently fledged from, mission accomplished!

Reed Warbler's nest at WWT Llanelli

I want to say a huge thanks to both Chris and Kane for another brilliant few days and especially to Kane for his hospitality and for getting me 5 new species! See you again soon.

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