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'@' 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Introducing The New Scottish Team Coot

This weekend saw the formation of Scottish Team Coot. After all of the planning and hard work it was finally time to colour mark some Scottish Coots.

On Friday I picked up Chris & Kane from the train station in Linlithgow and took them down to the my favourite Coot site: Linlithgow Loch. I have been counting the Coots at Linlithgow Loch over the past few months, watching the numbers gradually grow up to 350+ last week and it was great to finally be able to mark a sample of the population.

Scottish Darvics - coming to a Coot near you.

It wasn't long before I grabbed the team's first Bonnie Coot which received a lovely new Darvic along with the standard BTO metal ring. The day's total came to 20 new and 1 recap, not a bad start to the project.

CAA - the very first Scottish marked Coot

We noted a few metal ringed Black-Headed Gulls whilst there and so attempted to catch a few. We managed to catch this Swedish control.

Swedish control - photo stolen from Kane Brides

After Linlithgow and introducing the guys to some traditional Scottish cuisine (deep fried pizza) we ventured over to my 'local patch' of Stirling University and Airthrey Loch. The Coots on the loch decided that they didn't want any new Darvics so we decided to catch this beautiful male Goosander instead - my first Goosander!

What a stunner!

This stunning beauty has now overtaken my previous favourite (Water Rail) and has become my new favourite bird to have ringed, what a beauty and so lovely to hold. Massive gratitude goes to Kane for catching him and by hand no less!

My new favourite bird!

After meeting up with some more Dinsmores for a cuppa we were off the The Scottish Ringer's Conference up in Aviemore (one of my favourite places in Scotland). We had a superb couple of days at the conference and enjoyed many talks, personal favourites were talks by Ewan Weston, Raymond Duncan, Tony Fox  and Euan Ferguson.

During an afternoon break the three of us took a trip to Loch Garten to try and see some Crested Tits (of which myself and Kane have never seen before). We took a short walk to some woodland bird feeders and were lucky enough to observe many Crested Tits close up but as we arrived at the bird feeders someone else stole the show - the resident Coal Tits. The Coal Tits were incredibly tame and would land on our hands, heads and even phones - what an experience, sorry Cresties!

There's a Coal Tit on my head!

I really enjoyed myself at the conference, getting to swap stories, talk to many of the people I have been pestering with ringing emails recently and meeting lots of new people and networking. I especially enjoyed hearing about the gull grabbing antics in Aberdeen and getting an offer to ring at Bobby Smith's famous Sand Martin wall next season, can't wait! Well done to the Grampian Ringers for hosting the conference and entertaining us for the weekend., I especially loved the videos and would love to help out on some of the groups projects if they'll have me!

We had to leave the conference early on the Sunday as Kane was giving a talk at my uni. I really enjoyed the talk and Kane did a fantastic job of inspiring the students to get out and start looking for colour marks.

Fly By Night

On Monday we visited my other Coot sites and ringed 13 new Black-Headed Gulls including my very first hand caught one, which was shortly followed by a couple more. I really love catching and ringing Black-Headed Gulls, I don't know why there is just something special about them.

My first hand caught Black-Headed Gull

In Edinburgh Kane, once again, showed off his amazing hand catching skills by catching me this beautiful Tufted duck, another new species for me and such a bonnie wee duck to hold and admire at close quarters.

A Bonnie Tuftie - mega thanks to the hand catching master Mr Birdes for this one!

Throughout our catching trips Kane was teaching me how to take biometrics so that one day (hopefully soon) when I have my C permit I will be able to go out and add some Coot data to the project on my own. It was interesting to note that the Scottish Coots seem to be a bit heavier than the English ones, although as only 20 were caught it is too early to confirm. I'm also learning from the master about improving my hand catching techniques and manged to catch quite a lot Coots over the weekend. I think I'm starting to learn the art of Coot mind reading!

Reading this Coot's mind I could tell he was about to poo on me!

I had such an amazing weekend and cannot wait until the next time Scottish Team Coot comes together - hopefully with some more members on the next trip. I want to thank you all of the ringers and land owners who have given us their permissions to ring at their sites, to my sister Elaine for letting us invade her flat for the night and of course I want to say a huge thanks to the new Scottish Team Coot for a class weekend and some top banter as usual - you guys made my weekend : )

Scottish Team Coot

If you see any colour marked Coots in the UK then please email your sightings to kanebrides'@'

Saturday, 5 November 2011

New Faces, New Species

Today I made the journey up to Barry Mill near Dundee to meet up with some of the members of The Tay Ringing Group for one of their social gatherings. This was my first time meeting the group and it was great to finally met many of the ringers I have been emailing for a while.

The morning was spent chatting away, getting to know new people and of course some light ringing. There was a nice mix of species during the morning including: Dunnock, Coal Tit, Robin, House Sparrow, Great Tit and of course plenty of Blue Tits!

Coal Tit

A personal highlight of the morning was getting to ring my first Woodpigeon, a species I have been wanting to get my hands on for while. So many times I have seen them bounce out of nets or avoid them at the last second...not today!

At last a Woody!

Another highlight was witnessing a huge skein of Pink-footed Geese flying over the site, the biggest flock I have seen this winter by far!


I want to say a big thank you to The Tay Ringing Group for being so welcoming and especially to David Douglas for inviting me along.