Thursday, 16 August 2012

Flick Me A Swift!

In June, whilst out checking on a few nests around the local cemetery, we noticed some Swifts flying particularly low amongst the gravestones. We decided to take the opportunity to try some flick netting so jumping in the car we whizzed back to the house, picked up the gear and hurried back before the Swifts started flying high again.

This was my first time flick netting and it was great to learn a new technique of catching birds. We soon had our first bird, a stunning male Swift – my first!

As I was handed my very first Swift I was warned of their claws, thinking ‘ach it’ll be fine’ I ignored this warning, bad idea! These little high flying wonders have such extremely sharp claws it’s unreal and very painful! Lesson learned I think! 

Unfortunately a downside of ringing these beautiful birds are the not so beautiful ‘passengers’ they carry with them. The biggest flat flies I have seen and they were so fond of me that I even ended up bringing some home, unknowingly to me!

By the end of the session we had a good wee catch and in doing so I learned how to age and sex the species. A stunning bird that I never dreamed of being able to get close to let alone ring – opportunist ringing at it’s very best!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Killington Gulls 2012

Back in June Chris and I met up with Steve and his new trainee Jamie at Killington reservoir, Cumbria. It was time for the annual ringing of the Black-headed Gull colony that resides on the islands.

The chicks at Killington are ringed every year (see last year’s post). This year the team managed to round-up and ring over 230 chicks.

As part of Ciaran & Kane's Black-headed gull study the biggest and strongest chicks had darvics put on them along with the standard BTO metal rings. This is to allow the birds movements to be tracked via sightings sent in by the public, without the birds needing to be re-captured again. 

Sightings of these colour marked gulls (dark blue darvics with white digits) can be sent to bhgulls'@'

I always look forward to the seabird ringing season every year. Being in an active gull colony, gulls circling overhead, calling and squawking, even the smell of the air – I love it (must be the ringer in me!).

It’s always great fun running around after gull chicks. I especially love the slow motion chases through the water when you are only slightly faster than the gulls!

As always the nesting gulls on the island were all at different stages. Some chicks were already on the wing whilst some nests contained small chicks or even eggs!

A great day was had by the team and I hope that Jamie enjoyed his first gull ringing experience and that all of the biting, scratching and pooing hasn’t put him off coming back!

A very tired and smelly team!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Pursuing Peewits

Now that the nesting season is coming to an end and things are starting to quiet down I am finding myself spending less time looking for new nests and more time in front of the computer working on databases, reports and finding time to blog!

One of my favourite parts of this summer was finding and monitoring Lapwing nests or Peewits as they are referred to back home.

As part of our partnership’s (Brides, Bridge & Dinsmore) nest challenge this year we decided to spend a lot of time early on in the season searching for Lapwing nests as Lapwing are on the red list due to recent decline and are also on the BTO nest recording priority list.

This is the first year I have monitored Lapwing nests. I really enjoy searching for them as it yields quite the challenge. The search is best done in a team as sitting adults are very hard to keep track off as they silently sneak off their nests as soon as they spot you, making the nests incredibly hard to pin down.

Once found we carefully and discreetly mark the nests a few metres away so that we can find them again in the vast fields. Once the chicks hatch however we enter an entirely different ball game. If you are lucky enough to find the chicks when they are young then they often stay in the nest and are easier to find.

Perfectly hidden - chicks in the nest

A newly hatched chick complete with egg tooth

As soon as the chicks are strong enough they leave the nest. When the adults sense danger they alarm call and the chicks in turn hide amongst their perfectly camouflaged surroundings. Again teamwork comes in extremely importantly here as whilst one member walks out to the chicks the other members can watch the chicks through binoculars and direct them to their exact location.

I really enjoy monitoring and ringing Peewit chicks as I find their fluffy appearance too cute to resist (very girly I know!)