Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Circle of Data

A week or so ago while chatting in the pub with my pal Sam, we came to the subject of the excellent Project Splatter *- the coordinator of which is his housemate.

Sam mentioned that he'd found a squished swallow near the Ambulance Station - he'd take a picture of it for his house mate, who noticed it was colour ringed. Of course I became excited! A colour ringed swallow in Cardiff had to be one of ours! But only two colour rings were on show... Easy, we caught all 10 adults at the Station so just check the notebook... oh, no it wasn't one of those... hmmm.

With 6 Red over Purples and 6 Purple over Reds to choose from, the identity of our swallow looked to remain a mystery. Until last night when Sam brought the now very, very, very splattered swallow to the same pub to complete the circle of data.

Our mystery swallow hatched on 27/07/2012 at the Cardiff Riding School in 2012, (one of 4 nestlings of a second brood). She was ringed L224778 on 06/08/2012, the lightest of her brood at 21.1g . She died on or just before 24/07/2013 having lost a fight with a motor vehicle. The day after we heard of her demise we found out it looked as if a sixth pair had moved in to the station - she was likely one of those before her untimely end having made it back from Africa.

This is genuinely a picture of the clutch of eggs L224778 hatched from in 2012.
Rumour has it she is the one of the left...

Although its a sad end to a beautiful creature, L224778's short life has
contributed to science in several ways; as well as to the BTO's RAS scheme
and ringing scheme, her early days will be included in the dataset of projects
as diverse as shell maculation, nestling growth, and female fecundity. And of
course she contributed to the  Project Splatter. A fair bit for a small bird.
* Project Splatter is a citizen science project based at Cardiff Uni that collates UK wildlife road casualty data using social media. Project Splatter collates UK wildlife road casualty data via Twitter ( or @SplatterProject) and Facebook with the aim to identify roadkill 'hotspots' for future mitigation projects and help preserve our wildlife.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A Productive Morning

Greetings from Northern Ireland! It was lovely in the forest this morning. The canopy provided excellent protection from the sun and a light breeze payed through on occasion, lifting the heat and the small biting insects along with it. Much of the morning was spent with a coffee in one hand, a book in the other. Occasionally I'd rouse myself to tend the nets. This, almost predictably, is where, time and again, my morning came apart. Between 4:30 and 10am, three birds hit the nets. I'm not allowed to post without including a picture of a bird, it's an old charter or something, so here's the second 3J Robin of the morning:

It's not quite a Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher or Wryneck but it'll do.

It goes without saying of course that the forest was full of birdsong and movement, most of it 20 - 30ft up. It's probably time I explored another part of my site. The Estate is quite large and while I'm sure my current area will be good in the winter, especially with some tapes playing, the canopy is altogether too tall and too mature for much to come to the level of the nets. Here's a picture of one of my nets so you have an idea of what I'm dealing with:

The black stick down the bottom is, of course, the pole. The canopy extends to the top of the frame.

I'm sure there's a more appropriate summer ringing site somewhere on the Estate, I just need to find it.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

More Dippers

On 18 July, we visited Taf Fechan Local Nature Reserve just north of Merthyr Tydfil for the monthly Dipper netting session. If you’ve not visited, then you’ve been missing out on one of our local treasures. The reserve is managed by the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales, and is made up of deciduous woodland, grassland, river and cliffs. It’s renowned for its bryophytes.

Mist net across the Taf Fechan
We ran a single mist net across the river between 6:30 and 8:30am. A Kingfisher whizzed by as we erected the net. Would it return later?

We didn’t have long to wait until our first Dipper speeded downstream and straight into our net. A safe return to the shoreline, and a juvenile was returned to the river with a fresh CC ring and its biometrics added to our notebook.

Another 45 minutes went by, with a few Jays and Long-tailed Tits over, before Dipper number 2 hit the net on its way downstream. Another new juvenile.

We hung on for a while longer in anticipation of the Kingfisher return. Sure enough, it came back upstream, bounced and return from whence it came. We lingered awhile, but it was clear this bird was too smart for us, and with breakfast and work beckoning we relunctantly departed, already looking forward to the next visit.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Blackbird Curry

  • A RAS on the abundant and seemingly easy to catch Blackbird (other species can be substituted)
  • Friend with a project based on resighting colour ringed gulls

  • Take nets and struggle to catch blackbirds before missing season one target of 50 birds completely
  • Read Facebook comment by friend, when on 32 gulls, betting a curry on the fact that they will reach 50 gulls before you reach 50 blackbirds.
  • Fail to inform friend that blackbird total stands at 47 birds
  • Accept bet
  • Struggle to catch birds for 1 month until two more are caught
  • Watch as Blackbirds evade every net put up.
  • Read Facebook and twitter messages from friend as they make it into the forties
  • Colour ring gulls, thus making it easier for friend.
  • Read more comments; become concerned,
  • Check bank balance and look up reviews of curry houses
  • Catch 50th blackbird on a whim and sigh
  • Claim curry via blog post 
Never, we repeat never, has a blackbird been more welcome
HP - also known as 2 poppadoms with dips followed by Thai
green fish curry with a pashwari naan and two pints and
whatever Dr V is having.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

A Few More Photographs Of Plumage Characteristics From This Mornings Sand Martin Colony

As Rich has already indicated a good session was had by all at this mornings SAND MARTIN Colony

Juvenile Plumage - Note The Buff Fringes Of The Tersials
Juvenile Head Pattern
A comparison is covered below of the Adult head pattern and plumage characteristics also  additionally a brood patch is shown from An Adult Female

Adult Head Pattern
Adult Plumage Characteristics - Note NO Buff Fringes On Tersials
Mrs Sand Martin Showing Off Her Brood Patch

Sand Martins in the Mist

A very early start this morning rounded off a packed two weeks of ringing. Our species of choice this outing was Sand Martin; possibly one of the nicest birds the world has to offer. We've not been to the colony for a year or two so it was nice to be back. Even in the mist!

Like father like son; Billy Whizz and Ti ringing sand martins. At one point Ti
processing sanma quicker than his old man! Ti's ringing is coming on well
handling birds with confidence and is consistent with his wing lengths. He's also
very good at aging and sexing sand martins!
One of 19 birds caught and ringed. We didn't work any
colonies last year due to the rain. 2012 seems to have taken
its toll on the pairs of this site - it contains fewer pairs than
before and we had no retraps from previous years. Several
females had brood patches at a stage that suggested that they
were on second broods. Fingers crossed for a productive 2013.

Aging Sand Martins is pretty straight forward, even with such as low quality
image. The bird on the left is this year's young - note the ginger/buff edging to
the rump and tertials compared to the uniform colour of the adult (right). The
young bird's feathers are also a lot darker than that of the adult. You can't see it
in this image but an adult's feathers look worn; well they were used to fly back
from Africa! 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Gulls, gulls, gulls we just can't say no

On Friday we donned our second strip, that of the Flat Holm Ringing Group, and head to that small rock in the Bristol Channel for the annual gull chick ringing trip. With the retirement of Gull man Brian Bailey it was down to Facey and Vaf to lead the charge an ensure the annual quota of Lesser BB chicks left the island with a colour ring and a shiny BTO meta ring.

From left to right, G-Team 2013 were: Lizzie G, Vaf, Pliers Morris, Facey,
and Fisherman Mike. p.s. this photo was taken just before we left the island.
Landing on Friday afternoon gave us some time for mist netting the islands
smaller residents; as well as an obligatory visit to the Gull & Leek, Wales'
most southerly pub. Sadly the day trippers (aka migrants) were conspicuous by
their absence. What did we catch? Mainly dunnocks but also...
... three adult lesser black backed gulls which are now sporting
colour rings. Ringing adult gulls was great experience for the
trainees and excellent entertainment for their trainers!

On the Saturday, ably assisted by Island's volunteers and members of the Flat
Holm Society we got down to the reason we were there - ringing gull chicks.
Here we See three trainees modelling different gull ringing attire. While Mike
(right) sports protective overalls and hat, Lizzie G and Pliers opted for the
"Bugger it, lets get covered in crap" look which was all the rage this season.
Pliers is rocking the backwards cap, a look preferred worldwide by stake
boarding yoofs and ringers that don't want their necks covered in gull crap
or sunburnt too much.
Vaf on biometric duties about to weigh a gull chick. This
year, we took a number of biometrics as we did with Peter
Rock on our trip to the roofs. This will allow us to determine
the sex of the birds we ringed.

And of course we had plenty opportunity to study the diet of
nestling gulls of the Rock. Here we see bacon and eggs.
We always manage to miss a chick or thousand - well you can't get them all. The chick on the right is one of the unlucky ones that did not get its own set of personalised bling. As you can see this year's colour rings are green with white lettering. If you see any please let us or Viola know.
We had a cosy trip on the way back to the mainland.

A big thank your to the Flat Holm volunteers and staff for their excellent help and hospitality. And of course our thanks to the Flat Holm Society for their help and for organising the trip.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Ringers on the Roof

Tuesday saw what is becoming an annual event for the Cardiff Ringers – a visit to the roof tops of Cardiff with Peter Rock.* This trip, as well as providing a gulls eye view of our beloved City, is a great warm up for our Flat Holm gull ringing trip (coming this weekend).
Up on the roof...
...we were after these! Although this one was to you for us. 
As parent gulls defend their part of the urban metacolony with vigour, catching gull chicks on roofs is not for the faint hearted nor the fool hardy. Although by signing up you are clearly the latter so we fielded two trianees; Pliers Morgan and Lizzie G. Unlike their trainer, they both remained gull excreta free.
We finished the day with over 40 lesser black-backed gull and a few herring gull chicks ringed. Our biggest haul was 31 from one roof! We'll be heading back up in the next week or so to catch those birds too young to ring on this trip.
Lizzie G and Pliers with 31 gulls ready to ring.
This years colour rings comprise black letters on a yellow ring. If you see any in Cardiff or the great yonder then please let Peter know – he can be contacted at
With an estimated population of 3,339 pairs of gull breeding in Cardiff in 2011, the largest of 38 assessed in the Severn Estuary area, you would be forgiven for thinking that ringing sites abound. However, other than the obvious presence of breeding gulls, a roof has to meet several criteria before it can be deemed workable:
- It needs to be safe to walk on
- Be surrounded by a decent parapet to stop young gulls disappearing over the edge
- Have a good chick to roof ratio to make it worthwhile (i.e. pairs in or close to double figures)
- Be accessible
- Be control measure free (no nest destruction or egg oiling going on, plastic owls are fine as they don’t work)
If you know of any roofs that meet these criteria in the Cardiff are then please let Peter know (details above).
*correct, the very same Peter Rock of episode 11 of Springwatch 2013 fame (