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!

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