Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Dippers Forgotten Already

Gilbert White, in his Natural History of Selborne, wrote of the Spotted Flycatcher that it:

"...builds every year in the vines that grow on the walls of my house. A pair of these little birds had one year inadvertently placed their nest on a naked bough, perhaps in a shady time, not being aware of the inconvenience that followed. But an hot sunny season coming on before the brood was half fledged, the reflection of the wall became insupportable, and must inevitably have destroyed the tender young, had not affection suggested an expedient, and prompted the parent-birds to hover over the nest all the hotter hours, while with wings expanded, and mouths gaping for breath, they screened off the heat from their suffering offspring."

Some time later, CJ ringed one down at the Bay, a first for the site we believe.

Forget the Dippers!

The monthly visit to Cwm Taf Fechan for dippers could not have been better. As well as the net for dippers we also had another net out to catch users of the riparian vegetation. Nothing much was happening. Approximately thirty seconds after Dr O had flippantly pointed out a robin near the net, we were staring, gob smacked, jaws on the ground at an otter snuffling around on the other side of our 30ft net!

It had come from up stream and could have easily passed us by it was so quiet and stealthy. It didn’t seem bothered about our presence, even giving the net pole a relaxed sniff. We were totally unprepared and in spite of it being there for a couple of minutes we didn’t get a picture!

A passing dog walker spooked it, however, and it bolted up the bank and was gone from sight. The aforementioned dog walker, with headphones in and blinkers on, had no idea that the mega mustelid had been there. For us though it was definitely a top notch wildlife encounter!

What a morning!

Oh yes, the birds, we managed to catch another two dippers (both juvs, bring the total to 12) but nowt else. But who cares. We saw an otter.

An otter was here two minutes before.

A dipper. You should have seen the otter though, it was amazing.

A bird ringer and a mist net. We saw an otter you know.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Weekend Wheatear

The Bay seems to be doing “well” with chats at the momment, with another species total significantly increased. Over the weekend CJ, Padwan Shewring and Billy Whizz had this among the 40 they caught:

This doubles our Wheatear total for the Bay which now stands at a glorious two!

We just need stonechat to complete the set...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Success in Failure

Ringing at my“Office Site” usually results in a load of tits and dashed expectations. So against all perceived wisdom I decided to go ringing there today. I’m not sure what I expected. Perhaps sleep deprivation was taking its toll and I truly believed (again) that the recent redstart added to the office list or the movement of chiff, wilwa etc I’d see out of the office over the last few days, would some how translate it to a meaningful ringing experience.

Four great tits later the feeding station was abandoned for something different. If I was going to catch naff all, I’d at least catch naff all in style. After much sweating, swearing and irritation a net was duly erected near by and with a CD playing the chatter chatter of swallow song, I stood back and watched for the best part of an hour and a half as 100 so swallows passed over head un-phased. Some did come down and whiz teasingly close to the net – if only there had been a bit less wind then may be just maybe…

There was an upshot of this unsuccessful venture. During the interludes between swallow flocks the net was checked for “by-catch”; nothing until the last check when, low and behold a reed warbler was in the net! This is a first for the site and hopefully one of more to come at this site; as one great ringer used to say “Well, it’s a start!”

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A (Red)start to the Morning

Yes an incredibly corny and terrible post title but it’s the best we could do on such little sleep.

The bay has been a productive little site recently with around 60 birds caught earlier in the week, with another good session this morning. Numbers weren’t quiet as high but we did catch three Common Redstarts.

Getting one is enough to raise a “Sweet!” from a Cardiff Ringer, but three in one morning gets a “Golly Gosh!” or possibly a phrase ending in “me”.

To put today’s catch into perspective, it increases the Bay’s REDST total by 50%; between 2006 and 2010 we only caught 6 Common Redstarts at the Bay. Half of those were in 2010!

Carrying on the tradition of the last few posts, we don’t have a picture…

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A week in less than 400 words

Despite some not so nice weather, the last week has been a hive of activity for us here in ringing land. The week can be summed up as “So tired our eyes may fall out”.

A couple of blurry eyed sessions before work at the Bay have had blackcaps and garwas as the theme. Both are moving through, staining our bird bags and hands purple with their blackberry rich shite on their way. The former are beginning to look like a Jackson Pollock so look out for our forth coming art exhibition “Shit on a Sac”.

Sore eyes have accompanied the aroma of horse urine during a few hirundine orientated sessions at the stables. While some female swallows have decided enough is an enough and have started to re-feather their brood patches, others are still laying eggs! We also re-trapped one of the first young of this year, who is still hanging around. A quick sand martin session resulted in… wait for it… 4 birds! With only two evading the net the quietness at the colony is a sure sign autumn is on its way and it was well worth the 4am start... 4 birds nearly became 3 when one bolted out of a whole in the side of the bird bag but luckily there was a conveniently placed net in its path.

A brief visit over the border to ring with Brian Bailey & Co saw the details of 88 birds safely scribbled into a notebook. The highlight of the morning, at least for the Cardiff Ringer in attendance, was a Lesser Whitethroat and the first experience of erecting a “mippit square”. 88 was, apparenlty, an “OK” morning… 

In other news...

JOV and RJF have finally been declared insane trainers by the great and the good of the BTO – you have to feel sorry for the people they train…

And finally, a big and long awaited “Whoop! Whoop!” goes out to JOV, who this week successfully completed his escape tunnel and having crawled through crap, emerged in to the shiny light of ecological research. We are reliably informed that posters of Rita Hayworth were not involved. He rejoins the ranks of academia in October to start a PhD on his beloved Acros - plenty more shit to collect!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


This morning, two blurry-eyed ringers, asking themselves "why so early?", headed to the Cardiff Riding School where they ringed the 100th swallow of the year at the site. And there are still more to come!

Hearts were set racing when a ringed but uncolour-ringed swallow with her metal ring upside down was extracted from the net... a control... of course not! Just a bird that was released by some neddy in a previous year without colour rings .

Friday, 5 August 2011

Happiness is a Hirundine

When John Hyde phoned on Monday to say he had some swallow broods in need of ringing on Wednesday, we couldn’t say no. How could we, especially as he mentioned the possibility of catching house martins too…

Based on what we had seen on other blogs, catching house martins seemed like a piece of pie. Put a net, on a really long pole, outside the nest and wait for the birds to fly out. Easy. Sadly, we are a little bit slow and so it was Wednesday lunchtime that we were out shopping for a really long pole and discussing what net we should use. All we had to hand was a landing net with about as much bag as a shirt pocket.

When we arrived at the farm it was buzzing with more hirundines than health and safety would allow you to shake a stick at. Swallows zoomed in and out of stables, while several pairs of house martins busied themselves around the eaves of the farm house. More of both were lined up on the over head wires. How could we possibly fail!?!

An additional net was put up along a track that obviously wouldn’t put off the 30 or so house sparrows we’d seen there. Clearly we’d soon be inundated with house martins and house sparrows so John got cracking with the swallow pulli.

An hour later we had 1 house martin and 1 house sparrow … plus a dunnock and a chiffchaff…

House Martin #1

Deciding we needed to improve out house martin catching equipment before another attempt, we turned our attention to one particular set of stables where we had witnessed over the preceding hour, about a dozen swallows flying in and out with the regularity of a high fibre diet. Sadly, once CJ and Facey were on either end of a 40ft net the swallows’ presence became as regular as British Rail. 1 swallow later we couldn’t leave too disheartened as we had met with success of sorts…

CJ engaging in an activity know as the forlorn hope