Monday, 17 December 2012

The Welsh-French-Senegalese Connection

We’ve recently heard of some controls; some of ours going elsewhere and those of others coming to us….
Back in June 2010 6232921, a Sedge Warbler, was caught in Dunes du Mont St Frieux, Dannes, Pas-de-Calais, France. 284 days later, in May 2012 we caught 6232921 at a sunny Cardiff Bay. Meanwhile the Welsh-French connection was reversed; we first ringed Reed Warbler X612793 at the bay at the beginning of August 2011. By the beginning of September, 34 days later in fact, the plucky traveller was caught at Braud et Saint Louis, Gironde, France.
As you may recall, Vaf and Facey headed to Senegal back in January, while they were there they caught Sedge Warbler 6693961, who had originally been ringed on migration in Marais de Cap, Montmartin-en-Graignes, Manche, France 159 days earlier. They also caught DYT538, a Chiffchaff also ringed on migration in September 2011 but this time in Blighty, well Icklesham, East Sussex to be precise. This means that in 2012 Vaf and Facey have dealt with SEDWAs on all three stages of their life cycle; wintering, breeding and migration. Neat eh?!
Actually this is not  6693961 but is an actual Sedge Warbler, actually ringed in
Senegal. By Vaf actually.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Realing from Recoveries

News of recoveries arrived recently, which is always a pleasure. However, we recommend you have a box of tissues to hand as death and destruction is very much the theme:

We’ve not ringed many starlings at the Cardiff Riding School so we were excited to see a recovery slip for LB09232. Sadly this adult female ringed in 2010 had smacked in to a window. Now, the last “window collision” starling recovery of a Cardiff ringed starling we had was from Lithuania. LB09232 however was obviously too fond of Brains Dark and a Clark’s Pie as she smacked into a window within the city limits, albeit 2km away from the Riding School, on 14 May 2012.
Two Fforest Farm ringed Great Spotted Woodpeckers also met their end in Cardiff gardens. One was taken some 3km away (in Radyr for the local readership) by a sparrowhawk on 26 April 2012; 1551 days after it was ringed in 2008. The second was found worse for wear within 1km of the reserve on 27 May 2012, 233 days after ringing. It sadly died the same day.
Ringing gulls on Flat Holm is an experience. Actually ringing gulls generally is an experience. One of the herring gulls chicks we ringed on the cliffs of Flat Holm in 2011 was found dead, but not fresh, in Dorset on 19 July 2012; 382 days and 89 km from when/where we ringed it.
Mallard GR03883 was ringed at Cosmeston Lakes as a health first year male in September 2011 with a life looked full of promise – until he was shot 5km away in the Barry area.
Our Cosmeston Mute Swans haven’t fared much better:
Z21136  was ringed as a second year in January 2009. On 15 October 2012 it was found 19km away in Newport as little worse for ware –The slip read “In care at Swan Sanctuary”. This is the first recovery of one of our swans from the ‘Port.  ZY5212 was among of 37 swans that died in the Cardiff area due to a disease; it was found dead on 29 June 2012 Cardiff Bay 251 days and 4 km from where we had ringed it.
W28928 originally ringed on 10 June 2010  was found on 13 July 2011 at East Moors Cardiff  (398 days, 7 km) having had a “Misadventure”. The bird crash landed and was sadly put to sleep on 5 August 2011. W28914 didn’t fair much better; 665 days  after being ringed in 2010, it met its end on 14 January 2012, 31 km away Portishead Marina, North Somerset. It was put to sleep after being attacked by a dog. W28948 also had a run in with a dog on 26 September 2012 (598 days Distance, 10 km). Luckily it survived to tell the tale. Hopefully this dog owner has learnt their lesson and will keep their dog under control (on the lead!) while near wildfowl.
W28515 was victim of the overhead wires on 23 January 2010 (yes bit of a while getting to us) in Chepstow. Having flown 44km form its place of ringing, it was put to sleep on 18 February 2010. W28949 met the same end and was found dead under the wires it hit 30 May 2012, 28 km away in  Rackley, Compton Bishop, Somerset. Shame as markers on power lines reduces this sort of thing. W28528 was found dead in 113km away in Powys, Mid Wales on 09 July 2012. Cause of death unknown. This was our first Mid Wales recovery –Diolch chaps!
We’d like to say thank you to the people who took the time to report the rings of the birds they found; it’s very much appreciated.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

25 and counting! Slowly..

Keep it under your hat but the Blackbird Project may be heading into a productive patch; the last two outings to a newly established feeding station have resulted in TWO whole new BLABI's for the project. The last of these was the project's 25th Bird! Welcome aboard FH!

Who'd have thought back in April of this year that it would take
this long to catch and colour  ring 25 Blackbirds? Not us!
Hahahaha! Hahahahaha... Hah.... Ha. Ha...

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Cold Cardiff

Gloves would have been a welcome addition to the Cardiff Ringers' wardrobe this morning as would have thicker socks. Yes the bay was a little parky on our arrival this morning. But it was a clear, crisp and bright morning so spirits and hopes were high, especially with a view like this:

A beautiful view of the sunset over the barrage from the end of one of our rides.
It was far better in real life of course!

Our hopes were for flocks of wintering finches and thrushes; the Gods of Ringing partly answered. First bird of the day was our first redwing of the winter. It was quickly followed by BLABI after BLABI; possible continentals, residents, retraps and a possible control. Of course this stream of black gold, which nearly made double figures, was accompanied by Facey whimpering in to coffee "Why can't we catch this many in the park?! Why!? Why?!".

ASBO and Pliers processing two of the first catches of the day
 Variety was added by robins galore, a couple of Songthrushes, a new Cetti's for Vaf's PhD, a Goldcrest, Blackcap and obligatory great and blue tits and this little beauty:
Bird of the day by far!
Sighting and sound of the day went to the burble as the starling roost began to rouse before flying over our base camp. It was a good few hundred strong this morning.

This blog post was brought to you by Facey, Vaf, ASBO, Pliers and new editions Sam and Lizze G, with visitor Ryan.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Blackbird Bonanza!

Friday morning saw the break of what has been an unlucky run for the blackbird project. The last four outings have failed to recruit any new birds.

But erecting nets in the dark paid off, relatively speaking, as we caught 3 new blackbirds (and two retraps!), which is out second best session to date! For a change most of the new birds were female. We also landed about the same number of robin; perhaps we should to a RAS on them...

The first bird of the day.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

A Lesson in Wet Marshy Places

The wet marshy habitats across Europe and Africa (and probably the world) are similar in lots of ways. They are all usually wet, smelly and jam packed full of blood sucking invertebrates. They will all usually support a range of specialist wetland passerines (and "near passerines") in some form or another. 

A "near passerine"
When you spend much of your working week standing in damp waders, putting up and taking down mist nets, attempting to distinguish chironomidae from dixidae between the occasions when you catch a study bird species in order to collect its "dietary waste"- you gain a sort of insight to some of the differences between marshy wet habitats. 

Always smiling

For example, some of these habitats carry less risk of contracting a party list of liver or blood-cell parasites. Some are not surrounded by hundreds of miles of Sahelian arid habitats. Some of them are within a wine-growing country -where you can enjoy the local produce at the end of yet another sunny day after day after day. 

But one of the main ways they differ is in the variety and quantity of birds you might encounter. For example, as you get further south you might encounter a 'zitting cisticola' or fan-tailed warbler.

or perhaps a Little Bittern or two.

Yes it is very sharp and 'jabby'
 And a steady netful of introduced species from Africa.

and some typical European migrants.
Now what was this one again.. something 'throat'


After a full season of catching reed warblers in South Wales- what more could I wish for than a research trip to Portugal to catch some more reed warblers. Suffice to say I coped...

Monday, 24 September 2012

Missing anything?

Steve Pickering, Head Ranger at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, has been in touch to say they have found a notebook full of ring numbers and bird names. Its not one of ours, so check your pockets and if you find your missing a note book you know who to contact!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

This week we have been mostly...

.... ringing birds, despite the paucity of postings on the blog might suggest!.
Vaf, with Dr V, has been busy showing Cardiff University students the joys of birds and bird ringing during a field course, catching an average of 0.4 birds per student. On Friday he jetted off to Portugal for some PhD field work with his family.
CJ and Facey head out to test the water for wader season. It proved to be a fruitful exercise; in 5 seconds of the sounds going on, five redshank were in the net. It genuinely happened that fast! At the end of play 23 redshank and a dunlin had been ringed, with at least another 9 RS bouncing.
Facey and Pliers Morris headed to the Bay on Saturday for a bumper catch of 8 birds. The mix was good though with a Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and a Blackcap on the list.
Later, the pair headed to the stables for the last RAS catch of the 2012 season. Three of the four birds caught were retraps. Among them was this fella who, while his misses just re-feathered her brood patch, has decided to start his wing and tail moult - with a touch of body moult too. The inner two primaries have already been replaced and his inner most tail feathers were in pin. X558872 was first recorded at the stables last year in mid September, in the same stable.

Yes, not the best photo by you can make out the two new blue inner most
primaries contrasting with the old brown outer primaries. They usually do moult
in Africa but occassionally birds decide to start earlier. For another example

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Ringed locally?

Is a question we’ve heard on the web a few times about colour ringed birds in the Cardiff/Glamorgan area. If the species is listed below then the chances are the answer is “Yes, by us!”

As many of the projects aim to look at survival as well as connectivity we’d love you to tell us about your sightings (, even if you think the bird was ringed locally/on the site you saw it.

Swallow - mainly at Cardiff Riding School. A general overview of this project is here

Coot – several water bodies in and around Cardiff. We’ve already had some good movements from these see here and here.

Blackbirds – Pontcanna Fields

As part of James' PhD we are colour ringing the following at Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve, Cosmeston and Kenfig:
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Cetti’s Warbler

Monday, 17 September 2012

Late news from last week

Last week was our September visit to catch Dippers and other watery birds at the WTSWW's Taf Fechan Reserve. We set up the net on what Sherpa Solman has christened "The Meander of Shame" in reference to our previous record of bugger all for that stretch of river. There was (some) method to our madness as the Meander of Shame is right next to some lovely hawthorn scrub which offered the chance to vary our catch.
In true CR style things didn't go exactly according to plan. Two Dippers flew toward the net as I was just making my way back across the channel, so they avoided us like the plague for the rest of the session. And of course the hive of activity in the hawthorn scrub dried up the moment the nets went up there.
We ended the day with two dippers and one each of Grey Wag, Robin and a Great Tit. Not exactly the bumper haul we were hoping for but nevertheless it was time well spent.

This little lady was the second of two dippers. A third, or
possibly this one again, bounced. She is very cute. The two
that arrived early were going downstream, the two we caught
were going up stream.

Its never a bad morning when one of these ends up in the net.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

If It Isn't Bolted Down...

Today I had about £100 worth of ringing equipment stolen almost from under my nose while packing up the nets at a supposedly private site near Cardiff.

Which put a bit of a dampener on an otherwise rather good morning during which just over 100 captures were recorded. I had little option other than to return home and make myself a large fry-up. Thankfully the perpetrator(s) left the nets untouched.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Cardiff Ringers on Tour

Last Friday morning seemed full of potential. The potential that those five unringed blackbirds would end up recruited into our RAS and a weekend in Devonshire would be replete with birdies.

At Pontcanna, nets were erected. We waited. A small skirmishing party headed in to the riding school to ring two of the three final swallow broods of 2012. After waiting three hours, during which six 60ft nets remained devoid of birds apart from a retrap blackbird and a new robin, we packed up.

In the afternoon a small contingent head undetected across the Severn Bridge to Sharpham Estate near Totnes in the land of Devonshire. We were ringers on tour with one aim; to bling as many migrants in a two day ringing blitz for the estate. A convenient board walk into part of the reed bed provided a ready made ride, that only needed a little bit of a tweaking. We thought the Gods of Ringing would be smiling on us for the next two days when they delivered a REEWA and a SEDWA within 10 minutes of the nets going up, closely followed by the "gift" of two Wrens... Sunset came, swallow calls were broadcast, a party of 60 flew over the reedbed, close to the net. Two were caught… One had an abscess.

The view from our ride; it provided good sightings of water rail,
and common and green sandpiper. Also a kingfisher nearly flew
into the net just before this photo was take. One of many misses
 Saturday we awoke to what appear to be the sound of rain on what was forecast to be sunny and still day. It was just fog dripping from leaves onto our tents. It hung around until gone 11; we caught a mere 6 birds in 9 hours. Robins and Dunnocks No swallows came to say hello. But we did get to eat a stonking rabbit, black-pudding and cider stew!

Sunday; tiny bit of fog. Things looked up when a SEDWA graced the nets. Then a BLACA.Then a retraped Wren and finally... a Blue Tit... The God's clearly hated us.

Meanwhile at the bay... CJ and the crew racked up 50+ birds.... But they didn't get the stew!

(Ed: and on Wednesday morning another 80 between showers, including a SPOFL)
One of only two SEDWAs and 6 migrants caught
in Devonshire in two days. Next year. Next year

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Flying Flat Flies!

Another avian blood feeder for your delectation; you didn't think we were just going to stop at one did you?

Last time we told you about a flightless host specialist (at least it was very picky) but this time we have a species that can be described as a flighted host-hussy of a flat fly; Ornithomya avicularia.

With three others of its kind, this specimen of O. avicularia ably demonstrated its species’ ability to fly by flitting into the face of the ringer who was extracting their host. In this case they were partaking of blackbird but as a species, O. avicullaria is Catholic in its tastes; Hutton lists preferred hosts in orders rather than single species. It seems to prefer bigger birds though, with blackbird being at the smaller end of its hosts.
There are another two species of Ornithomya in the UK which seem to be just as unfussy as O. avicularia, so "hopefully" we'll be finding those soon... Worldwide there are 29 known species. We will not be featuring them all.

O. avicullara is a little more attractive than Crataerina hirundinis
but, lets face its, when it comes to flat flies its relative.

This is a female, the little disc between the "bum cheeks" is, apparently, the way
you tell... You can also see how the wings of this species are actually useful. 

Even parasites get parasites (hyperparasitism) and this specimen had its own
passenger; a louse or something. Don't worry we're not planning a series of
"parasites of flatflies".... Hyperparasitism doesn't seem to be that common in
 F-flies; Walter (1989, Angew Parasitol 1989 vol 30) 4 out of 153 O. avicularia
were infested by something called Microlichus avus.
That's all we're going to say on the subject.


Side view for completeness.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Colourful Cardiff

As pillars of the scientific community, the Cardiff Ringers are always participating in studies beyond periodic population monitoring. Such a study, investigating the effects of climate change on wetland foodwebs, has kept the ringers busy- colour ringing Reed, Sedge and Cettis Warblers and collecting their 'fecal browns' for molecular analysis. Clever bunch eh.

One of the study participants (left below Pale Blue over Metal, right below Yellow over Black- Or 'Nigel 183') was recently captured on jpeg by a local bone collector and member of the Cardiff bird ringing fraternity named Pete. Thanks Pete.

Suffice to say, Nigel 183 isnt a fan of the Drifters

If you see any more of these colourful combinations- be sure to take note of the sequence and let us know!
Other sites include birds with set colours on their left leg- Cosmeston Lakes  with 'Lime' Green, Cadoxton with Orange and Kenfig with Pale Blue.

Ooh, Pete's been spotted!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

A Ringer's Bugbear

Early mornings, lack of sleep, mozzies, trainees and flat flies are among several of the hardships that ringers must endure. Flat flies just pip trainees to the post for the most irritating and disgusting; after all, the latter can carry things and sometimes they bring cake. A mere glimpse of one (talking flat-flies now) can send the most hardened ringer in to girly flaps of "Ew! Ew! Ew!".
Most of the species of flat-fly encountered by ringers belong to the family Hippoboscidae, which contains about 200 species world wide but only 13 have been recorded in the UK.  Flat-flies are blood feeders and can be restricted to a single host species (monoxenous), a number of closely related host species (stenoxenous) or pretty much anything with fur or feathers (polyxenous). They are all bloody impossible to squish.
Our recent catches of house martin have been accompanied by one representative of the Hippoboscidae; Crataerinia hirundinis. This critter, as its name suggests, is pretty found of hirundines. In the UK it’s nearly exclusively found on House Martins but will sometimes piggy back on the other two species, as well as Swifts and even House Sparrow when they take over House Martin nests.
C. hirundinus is a stay at home kind of ectoparasite being closely associated with the House Martin’s nest and doesn’t appear to have been recorded in Africa. Infestations can be as high as 40 or more but the most we’ve counted one individual was 6, one of which is displayed in all its “glory” for your delectation:

C. hirundinis; looks like something from Ridely Scott's imagination...

Those wings are completely useless.

Freaky feet; designed for grasping on feathers and stuff.

Bottoms up!
These and other interesting facts about flat-flies were obtained from:
Hutson (1984). Keds, Flat-flies and Bat-flies, Handbook for the Identification of British Insects, vol 10, part 4. Royal Entomological Society of London.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Baby Barn Owls!

Yesterday evening, CJ and Facey made a dash over the border into Blaenau Gwentshire to help Roo and Steve Carter induct a brace of baby Barn Owls into the ringing scheme. Not just any Barn Owls but the progeny of one of the highest breeding pairs in Wales. Barn Owls have been hit pretty hard by this year's "summer" but judging by the large stash of voles in the box this pair seems to be finding enough to feed what's left of their brood.

Roo drew the short straw and got to get the birds out the box

Yeah, they were a long way up. Steve Carter, nest finder
extraordinaire, holds the ladder while  Facey shouts constructive
comments such as "Pellets! Don't forget some pellets! Pellets!"

One, two,three, Ahhh!
Roo with two cute, flat-fly infested, slightly
smelly, bundles of very cute fluff.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Wales' Premier Ornithological Get Together: Marvels of Migration

Details of this year’s annual joint conference of WOS, BTO Cymru & RSPB Cymru haven't long been released. Its being held on Saturday 10 November, at Myddfai, Carmarthenshire and features talks by some big names in ornithology:

More details can be seen on the WOS Website

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Show time!

Yesterday, Facey made a quick dash across the border to into Gwentishshire to assist Dr V with a ringing demo at Magor Marsh for the Gwent Wildlife Trust (there almost as good as the WTSWW)

The nets remained worryingly empty on the run up to the start of the demo. But in the end the Gods of Ringing provided a good variety of species to show the assembled punters; Cetti's, Reed, and Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, and Robin.
Dr V talks to the assembled muggles
 Magor Marsh is also home to some recently reintroduced watervoles. These weren't overly shy (for their species) and put on a good show. They are also incredibly noisy eaters; sound like someone eating celery.

The day didn't stop there and the evening saw Dr V and Facey trying their luck with House Martins; best described as a work in progress. Two swallows and four house martins later they retired four a couple of well earned pints and a much welcomed curry.

Almost as cute as a Swallow
One aspect of HOUMA's that people don't often appreciate
is how fluffy their feet and legs are. Anyone know why?

Another aspect is their parasites... Flat flies are possibly
among the ugliest creatures to crawl or fly or in fact breath.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

In Memoriam

Alan wanted to let everyone know that a plaque has been installed on one of the benches at Cardiff Wetland Reserve, in memory of his father.
It is near to where he used to park and overlooks the bay. He spent many a happy morning down there and this seemed very fitting. 

Ringing in Spain - the credits

Our highly successful expedition to Andalucia was organised with great efficiency by Richard "feather mites and weight" Banham who lives in La Duquesa, in association with Grupo Ornitologico del Estrecho.

Richard posts regular reports on the BTO Ringer's Forum, where a quick search will soon turn up his details.

Thanks Richard!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Costa Wind Up

Sunday - Billy Wizz and young Ti returned to the land of their fathers.

How Green was my Greenfinch?
Otherwise Scorchio, but now with a very stiff wind from the east that rather limited our options. A return trip to the Naranjal for more oranges was perhaps most notable for the number of times a pair of juvenile Booted Eagles evaded a string of nets set along their favourite ditch. 39 birds processed.

Western Olivaceous (or Isabelline, if you prefer) Warbler
Western Bonelli's Warbler
Nightingale (or in BTO speak - "Nigel")
Monday - too windy for mist netting, so a bit of a lie-in and a visit to a castle instead. One House Martin butterfly-netted from the apartment balcony, just for a change.

Tuesday - very windy again, but we did get some nets up at the river valley site that we'd visited on the first two days, though the ones we'd planned to put over the water for assorted sandpipers and plovers were just too exposed. 54 birds processed.

Wednesday - still very windy, so a sheltered Avocado orchard this time. Scorchio, and a colossal catch of Chaffinches left us closing the nets after the second round. 116 birds processed, new species: Iberian Chiffchaff. That was a hard session!

Iberian Chiffy
Thursday - still very windy, so off to another well sheltered Finca, with a river and surrounded by mountains. 74 captures.

Friday - my last day, and miraculously the Levanter wind had gone in time for a visit to the agricultural plain of La Janda, close by the windiest place in Europe - Tarifa. This proved to be the hottest day yet at 44 degrees by the time we'd finished. 61 captures, new species: Short-toed Lark, Fan-tailed Warbler, Linnet and Calandra Lark.
The eponymous bit
Short-toed Lark
Corn Bunting
Calandra Lark