Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Ringing on the Marsh 04/05/15

05:20 meet at the gates of Farlington on Monday morning for ringing. Although early on, the wind was a little high, it was forecast to drop by around 7am so decided on the point field again. The weather was clear, with a south westerly wind. After the last session that resulted in 4 birds we were all keen to see what migration had delivered to the Marsh.

On the walk around to the field, there were Whitethroat & Sedge Warbler singing from everywhere, a group of breeding plumage Dunlin were fast asleep on the shore of the lake and a couple of Mute Swan took off and headed East towards Hayling. The tide was all the way out and the calls of Whimbrel could be heard from out on the mud.

We set the nets in the usual rides and before we had even guyed the poles a Sedge Warbler ploughed into the net! Things were looking good. Our main species for the Point field are Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Sedge Warbler & Whitethroat. All seemed to be in the field in reasonable numbers, although Mipits seem to peak in Autumn. After a couple of net rounds we had ringed a couple of Linnets, a resident male Cetti's and a female with brood patch... already beating the last sessions total.

This cracking male Whitethroat was next into the nets, although a re-trap, it was a very interesting exercise for us Trainee's on ageing and sexing Whitethroats. As this bird was previously trapped by us we could there and then check the book to know what last years age code was and the measurements of the wing chord etc.. On looking at all the features this bird was aged as a 6 male, meaning it is an adult bird. Upon cross referencing with the stats from last year this seemed to correlate nicely. With a pinkish hue to the breast, the eye colour and the head colour this was confidently identified as a male bird. Upon release he sat on a patch of Bramble only two metres away and began singing as well.

Bird song is an area of my birding that requires improvement and seeing birds as they sing is useful for me to be able to visualize the species and associate it with the song/call. This year songs and calls have become my focus to get to grips with, although I realise it requires more than self taught and Xeno Canto recordings to nail it in the field.
The session before this one, Duncan and I were discussing Skylarks, I was asking how you would go about ringing them. Duncan said that traditional nets don't work and that one of the only methods that has yielded many results is single panel nets low to the ground. This make sense as much of a Skylarks life is spent in near vertical flights whilst singing, or bounding across the floor. It was therefore a massive shock when Jason came back from a net round with a 'small Thrush' sized bird clutched in the ringing grip. I don't think I need to tell you all, dear readers what it was...... that's right..... A Skylark. And in the top panel of a 3 metre net to boot. A similar experience happened in the tail end of 2013, when ringing in the North field. I had been asking Duncan about catching Water Rails, he again said that they occasionally crop up but around 1 every 3 years. On the first net round of that morning, there was.... you guessed it..... a Water Rail. I think next week I may have to start a conversation about ringing Golden Winged Warblers................! To see a Skylark up so close was a real treat and well worth the 5am start, considering they often get confused with Meadow Pipits they are surprisingly big in the hand. The bird was ringed and winged before posing for a few photos. The bird obviously a bit grumpy or maybe even embarrassed to have been trapped and ringed!

Another nice surprise of the day was another re-trap Whitethroat, this time an adult female that I had personally rung the year before. It is staggering to think that she has been all the way down to Africa and back again, a feat most humans would fail to achieve under their own steam! She had a well developed brood patch so she was processed, photographed and released close to where she was found in order to return to her nest asap. She was a very good weight possibly pointing to the possibility of still carrying an egg. Its nice to see returning birds to the marsh, it means the habitat is still viable and hopefully this year they will have a good breeding season here after last seasons wet start.

The Marsh itself is looking great at the moment, the Gorse is just giving over to seed, the vegetation is all flourishing and there are birds literally everywhere. With the vegetation all growing up, some of the rides are overgrowing slightly within a week of us using them so needed some attention. A Stoat proved a distraction for a few moments when I saw it crossing the path in front of us in the distance. Stoats are a very rare occurrence on the reserve so nice to see other wildlife eking out a living as well as the birds!

The session continued with more Linnet, a male and a female trapped together. These were processed and released together as were evidently a pair, a retrap Sedge and a retrap Whitethroat, then a Mipit hit the net. A nice new bird for Duncans study of Meadow Pipits on the reserve. The bird was aged as a 4 meaning it hatched before the current calendar year but its exact age is unknown. Close attention was paid the greater coverts for contrast. After deliberation and processing the bird posed briefly for some photographs and was then released back onto the reserve. 

As we were packing down all the kit and packing our bags to head home a Small Copper Butterfly dropped in below us. This is the first of this year for me and first on the reserve of the year too. Peacocks have been very evident the last two sessions so refreshing to see something a little different.

A cracking session and nice to have some migrants back!

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