Sunday, 26 October 2014

Banded birds

While we were away in Cape May we were fortunate to catch up with a few colour ringed birds. I have now had all the information back and it makes interesting reading.

In all, we found 7 sanderling, 2 western sandpiper, 1 American oystercatcher and a great black backed gull.

Great black backed gull OX4 - ringed on Appledore Island in Maine on July 18th 2012. My sighting at Cape May was the 1st since it was ringed

American oystercatcher M3 - ringed as a chick in Northhampton, Virgina on July 15th 2008 and my sighting was the first since it was ringed.

Western sandpiper - lime green PT3 and HU3 were both ringed together at Stone Harbor in New Jersey on October 3rd 2007. Both birds have been seen in New Jersey several times since

Sanderling - all lime green flags and ringed as part of the same scheme.

Y6X, T0K and O1Y- all ringed on May 19th 2014 at Villas Beach, New Jersey. T0K has also been seen in Delaware.

H3K - ringed at Stone Harbor on May 31st 2011.

2AT - ringed on Villas Beach, New Jersey on June 1st 2010.

X0Y - you will have to stick with me on this one. This bird was originally ringed on May 14th 2007 with the flag code YL0 on Reeds Beach in New Jersey and was sighted in Mexico in 2011. The bird was recaptured in New Jersey in May 2011 and was found without its original colour flag so was retagged with X0Y. Hope you followed all that!!

Pic 1 - great black backed gull OX4
Pic 2 - sanderling X0Y (YL0) in Mexico in 2011
Pic 3 - sanderling H3K at Stone Harbor this October

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Double Dip

Lightening seemed to strike for a 2nd time yesterday afternoon while I was wandering around the fields close to home. In the spring it was a twitter message about the slender billed gull on the reserve, this time it was a message from James Shergold saying there was a penduline tit present!
I called Dave to let him know but I was at least 20mins walk from home!
Made it home as quick as poss but it was after 5 by the time I made it to the reserve by which time it hadn't been seen for at least 40mins. Dip 1!

Ironically,  I had commented to Dave last Wednesday that the bulrushes along the Parrinder bank looked good for a penduline tit!

Forecast rain for this morning meant that ringing was cancelled so it was a dawn appointment with a penduline tit. I arrived just before 7 and was slightly surprised that there was only one car in the carpark. I know it was still dark but penduline tit is a good bird. Waiting for pagers to beep I presume...
It was still too dark to bird when I got to the Parrinder bank but I was in position. A good count of 52 roosting little egrets and a stack of gulls were present.

Sadly, between 7am and 9am there was no sign of the bird. A nice stonechat entertained and 2 lapland buntings (179) over west were highlights.
A walk to the beach saw a strong movement of skylark offshore,  a couple of possible lap bunts (too far out to be sure), tufted duck and a handful of lapwing.

The bird was reported again late this afternoon so maybe it will be 3rd time lucky...

Pic 1 - Titchwell at dawn
Pic 2 - stonechat trying its best to entertain while no tits were on show ;-)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Murky Autumn Day

Typical autumn weather on the Norfolk coast today with calm but foggy on the coast, not great for our WeBS count.

We were fortunate enough to have got most of the count completed when the fog suddenly descended taking it from bright sun to visibility down to 50m!
Numbers of duck are building up now with at least 500 teal present along with 6 spotshank, 2 greenshank and a couple of juv little stint. Beardies were good value although views weren't great due to conditions.

The fog wouldn't lift so we had to finish the count early. By the time I'd finished a cuppa the fog was lifting fast so Dave and I headed around the Meadow Trail in search of the yellow browed warbler. Our Cape May catch up was cut short when I heard the bird call. Despite being elusive, we had good views so headed for the sea.

I was hoping to catch up with some of the divers and grebes and wasn't disappointed.
Neither of us had seen the sea so calm and with the fog about, at times you couldn't tell if you were looking at sea or sky and judging distance was really hard. Good views were had of 2 slav grebes, at least 2 red necked grebes and a nice group of little gulls but I couldn't get onto any of the black throated divers that were being called. I yearticked guillemot and razorbill before getting onto a pom skua flying east. Two further skuas were called chasing a gull. They turned out to be an Arctic and great and we even managed to get the pom flying back into the Wash, 3 skua sp in the same scope view!!

We decided to head off to Thornham Point in search of the 'big one'. A group of linnets (70+) drew out attention but we couldn't see any twite so we checked the sea again.
We were both following a young little gull when I picked up a small bird sat on the sea. I didn't really think but just said to Dave that I had a grey phalarope. The bird was feeding in one small area but did fly a short distance.  We radioed it in and a small group of people twitched it

We left them to it to search the bushes but apart from a few reed buntings, the cupboard was bare.

Yellow browed, red necked & slav grebes, 3 spp of skua, a self found grey phal and 8 new species for my yearlist (176), not a bad day at all.

Pic 1-2 - foggy morning WeBS count
Pic 3 - sunny yellow browed warbler bushes on the Meadow Trail
Pic 4 - flat calm sea conditions and some good birds proved popular!
Pic 5-7 - the Thornham Point bushes only produced a handful of reed buntings this time

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Steppe on it

With the nights starting to draw in I was straight out the office door at 5 in the hope of catching up with the steppe grey shrike.

It was thankfully quiet for people and parking was easy. On the walk out it was nice to catch up with a few small groups of pinkies overhead but there was very little in the fields.
There was a small group looking for the bird but unfortunately it hadn't been seen for 20 mins! I decided to walk further up the track to get a different view on the hedgerow.
The bird reappeared after a few minutes actively feeding, dropping down onto insects in the grass then flying back onto the brambles and fenceposts.
The bird never came that close but it was great to watch it. At one stage it sat on top of a post and coughed up a pellet.
The bird eventually flew to the brambles at the back of the field just before dusk, presumably to roost.

A calling cettis warbler and a flight of 600 pink footed geese into the marsh to roost ended the day.

Pic 1 - Burnham Norton
Pic 2 - steppe grey shrike coughing up a pellet
Pic 3-5 - steppe grey shrike never came close enough for any better shots

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Final fling

Sadly the start of our last day didn't go to plan as the weather was against us for final banding session.  We did manage to open some nets but the rain came and we closed without catching a bird.

We packed and cleaned and the weather cleared so we managed a last visit to the Meadows before leaving. Nothing of real note but there did seem to be a strong passage of tree swallows south along with 9 killdeer and 5 pec sands. Maybe signs of things to come...

As we had a late flight we decided to give Brigantine another shot in the hope we could get a new species for the day. We ended up with 3 leaving us with only one day where we didn't add anything new. Not bad.
The first species was a rather scruffy juv ring necked duck feeding with a flock of wood ducks. Then I managed to pish out the 8th sparrow sp of the trip, the surprisingly smart saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow. A good one to get as it has a fairly limited east coast distribution.
There were a few more waders about that the first visit with a scattering of greater and lesser yellowlegs, a couple of dunlin and a small roost of grey plover that contained 3 dowitcher sp (I could only see their heads) and our final new bird, 7 knot.
Great views of a clapper rail bought out trip to a nice end.

Thankfully the journey to the airport was uneventful!

Pic 1 - observation tower at Brigantine gave great elevated views over the site. Might build one at Titchwell ;-)

Friday, 3 October 2014

They think its all over...

Well sadly it nearly is :-(

With no warbler flight in sight we decided to spend the morning banding with Patti. The right decision as we had the best morning of the trip.

Although we were not getting big catches, there was a really nice selection of birds. I was very happy as I got to band a black & white warbler along with northern waterthrush, several American redstart, eastern phoebe and a couple of yellowthoats.

Two net rounds stick out. The first held only 3 birds but it was magic extracting 2 American redstarts and the B&W warbler! The second was a net of 4 red eyed vireos or that is what we thought. Turned out that one of them was smaller and lacking the bold head pattern of red eyed. It turned out to be a warbling vireo, the 5th species of vireo on the trip!

As we were finishing Patti called one of the raptor banders to see how their morning was going. It had been very quiet but he had just caught a peregrine. 5mins later we were looking at a stunning juv male. I was surprised at how small the bird actually was in the hand. We took a few pics and away it went.

Decided to have a last look at Higbee Wood in the afternoon.  Things were pretty quiet but we did find a lovely little feeding flock of 10 tufted titmouse, 5 carolina chickadee, 3 black & white, magnolia, male black throated blue warbler, couple of red eyed vireo and an ovenbird! Not a bad flock... ;-)

Pic 1-2 - eastern phoebe
Pic 3 - carolina wren
Pic 4 - 1st yr female common yellowthroat
Pic 5 - warbling (left) and red eyed vireos
Pic 6-7 - warbling vireo
Pic 8 - red eyed vireo
Pic 9-10 northern waterthrush
Pic 11-14 - juvenile male peregrine caught by the raptor banders
Pic 15-16 - last evening walk along the beach with the black skimmer flock for company :-)


Its only Monday afternoon but our trip to Cape May already seems ages ago!

It was a fantastic trip and I would encourage anyone that is interested in observing migration to visit for a couple of weeks.
Yes, like all migration sites it can be quiet and our 2nd week was but there are always things to see especially being somewhere where the birds are unfamiliar. There were plenty of waders on the beaches at Stone Harbor,  searching for crakes and rails and getting your head around sparrows! There was also great satisfaction in pulling out a very elusive Connecticut warbler and getting great views.

But when it's good, it's awesome. The weather front in our first few days bought in big numbers of warblers, large numbers of flickers and cedar waxwings and the huge movement of American kestrels. The large numbers of roosting terns, gulls and skimmers on the beach each evening was special.

The place itself was great.  All of the sites were easy to find and in a nice compact location. The roads were great meaning the sites further away were in easy reach. Everyone was very friendly and more than happy to help. It was quite odd at times helping the American birders id 'their' own warblers but that is all part of the fun.

Special thanks must go to hospitality of Richard Crossley and Patti Hodgetts who kindly allowed us to ring with them. It really gave something extra to the trip and was a great learning experience.
The staff and volunteers working for the Cape May Bird Observatory on the Hawk Watch, monarch tagging demos and in the Northwood Center were excellent.

We ended up with a trip list of 171 which I was very happy with. If I knew more of the calls I'm sure I could have added more.

The top 3 species was actually quite tricky but I ended up with...

#1 Black & White warbler
#2 Piping plover
#3 Black throated green warbler

I will be back again soon :-)

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Banded Shorebirds

I think I must have been here too long, I'm picking up the lingo. Ringed Waders to those of us from the other side of the pond ;-)

Took another trip up to Stone Harbor this morning to have a look at the roosting waders again. When we were there a few days ago we managed to read a few colour rings so we hoped to do the same again. This time the flock was much smaller and only consisted of about 20 sanderling. Too many people and a peregrine had probably moved most of the birds on.
We did however managed to read 5 sanderling rings to go with the 2 western sands from the other day.
Having reported the western sands (PT3 & HU3) it turns out that they were both ringed at Stone Harbor on October 3rd 2007. The sanderling rings are very similar so I am assuming that they will have been ringed there too.
I still have an American oystercatcher and GBB gull to hear back about.

A look around the small patch of woodland again produced a nice selection of birds.  We managed our best views of robins, found a gray cheeked thrush, couple of red eyed vireo and a yellow rumped warbler.

No new species added today so we stay on 167.

Pic 1 - sunrise at Stone Harbor
Pic 2 - colour ringed sanderling. Like the western sands from the other day, this bird was probably ringed at Stone Harbor
Pic 3-4 - great views of America robins today
Pic 5 - all sparrows seem to be tricky to id. This one is a song sparrow unless anyone disagrees
Pic 6 - northern flicker
Pic 7-9 - roosting common nighthawk shown to me by a couple of local birders.
Pic 10 - the common and everywhere northern mockingbird. They have a lovely little song thrush-like song

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Royal Migration

Birding was slow again today. We tried Hidden Valley for the first time, got wet feet but did add white crowned sparrow to the list. Banding was also very quiet so we headed to the Meadows. A birding group told us of a vesper sparrow that was hanging out with a couple of savannahs but the trail was pretty busy and we didn't see any sparrows at all. A single greater yellowlegs was on the pool (water levels have been high since last weeks rain) and a small group of 5 pec sands roosting on the island. There must have been a load roosting out of view because 25 took off and flew south!

Having seen a tagged monarch while we were banding in the morning, we decided to check out the tagging demo run by the CMBO. There was an excellent introduction to the scheme and all about the life cycle, their threats and migration of the butterflies before the tagging started.

Quite amazing that they will have 4-5 generations in a year but it is only the last one, after August, that migrates south to spend the winter in Mexico. They then return to the southern States where they breed and die. They never return back to New Jersey. Tagged individuals have been recorded flying over 500 miles in 3 days!!

The monarchs are caught and a tagged with a small sticker on the underwing with a unique number. They are sexed, the wing condition is assessed, fat stores recorded and the wing is measured before it is released.

Still amazes me that they undertake such a long migration and can even reach the UK. 

Pic 1 - the tagged monarch we saw feeding in the morning. The tag has an individual number and email address to report it to
Pic 2 - male monarch. They have thinner black lines (look more orange) and have black spots on the hindwing
Pic 3 - female monarch. The black lines are much thicker and they don't have the black spots
Pic 4 - one of the CMBO volunteers explaining about the tagging
Pic 5 - the monarchs are kept cool and in a small breathable bag to stop them flapping too much
Pic 6 - wing condition checked for wear
Pic 7 - a small patch of wing scales are rubbed off before the tag can be applied. This causes no harm to the butterfly and doesn't fall off
Pic 8 - wing length taken. This can be up to 56mm but the average is about 50mm. The same as a goldcrest!!
Pic 9 - data recording
Pic 10 - release
Pic 11 - shows the migration routes the monarchs are taking.