Monday, 22 June 2015

Bat Conservation Trust

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was recently given the chance to experience Bat surveying when I met a chap from the Hampshire Bat Group while on an evening Nightjar Walk with Hampshire Wildlife trust. I thoroughly enjoyed using the detectors and seeing the bats hawking insects above our heads.

On my return home and as one of my #30dayswild activities I decided to join the Bat Conservation Trust! Well the welcome pack arrived two days ago and what a welcome it is! Car window sticker, Lapel Badge (love these things :D) loads of informative leaflets. Some amazing postcards with cracking photos, not to mention the fab mag too!

Much as the welcome pack is fantastic, the real reason for joining is the great work the trust do for our Bats! With the biodiversity, birds and Natura 2000 directives all under threat we need NGO's more than ever so I urge, nay implore you to reach out and join the Bat Conservation Trust and support their amazing work.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Hudsonian Suprise

This story will do no favours to my insistence that I am not Twitching this year. However when the report of a Hudsonian Whimbrel literally 10 miles from home came in, I was very tempted. I spent the afternoon at work mulling my options round in my head. Finally an idea sprung to life, ask the community on Twitter what they thought I should do........... GO! Was the resounding answer! Next issue was that I really wanted to spend some time with my long suffering wife Kayleigh, and our 20month old boy Bradley.... simple! Take them along too. She doesn't bird and therefore the idea of Twitching is very alien to her, none the less she agreed and with Brads all snug in his car seat and my kit packed we headed for Church Norton.

If you read my last post then you will realise this is much the same place as I went for the Black Winged Stilt and a two minute walk from the Church Yard where I watched Spotted Flycatchers! I know the site well so within 25 minutes of leaving home we were at the car park..... so glad that Kay came with me, the car park was overflowing! Kay agreed to stay in the car, that was she could make sure I could just jump out and the car wouldn't block anyone while I was gone, it also meant that Bradley could stay asleep!

I walked down to the beach and soon found a group of around 30 scopes all peering out in the direction of the harbour. After asking a couple of the guys present they said the bird was hunkered down in the long grass on one of the muddy islands in the harbour. Every so often the bird would poke its head up out of the grass before dipping back down and slowly moving right. It wasn't long before a few guys admitted that they weren't even sure that was the right bird, but all the other Whimbrel in the harbour had been checked and that was the last one left...... Great! We could be watching a completely bogus bird! We needed the bird to fly....... we waited......... and waited...... I began to scan other birds in the area in case we missed one...... then......... ITS UP! 3 of us spotted the right bird, and proceeded to check off the features. The rump was brown and so was the tail, with no white tips to be seen. The other real difference was the underwing, which was cinnamon-brown and appeared completely uniform in flight as opposed to the Eurasian Whimbrels white ground colour

This bird had come from a different part of the muddy island.... we had been watching the wrong bird! The Hudbrel settled nicely on the front of the island in the water and began to feed and preen allowing us all to take in all the features and ensure that this was definitely the right bird! By this point the group had swelled to around 50 birders on the beach all very happy to get their target. A group of 3 Eurasian birds landed close by allowing a nice comparison.

On the walk back to the car I checked briefly for the Spotted Flys but they weren't to be seen. I will still maintain that I am not twitching this year but some things are definitely the exception to the rule! 

Friday, 5 June 2015

Birds and Bats

Apologies this has taken a while to update. I usually update my blog on a Sunday then upload it on a Monday lunchtime, however things have been very hectic the last week so I haven't, until now, had chance to do so.

Black Winged Stilt

Last week ended on a birdy note, watching Hirundines hawking an insect hatch over Ivy Lake, part of the Chichester gravel pit complex. The reason for my visit to the lake was a reported adult Little Gull but alas this was not present when I was. Numbers of Swifts built steadily as I watched and my final count before heading to Pagham was ca.300 birds, quite a spectacle! I headed down the road to Pagham Harbour RSPB where a Black Winged Stilt had been reported on Siddlesham Ferry Pool. Sure enough the bird was up the back of the pool feeding away quite happily. I had been told by a chap at Ivy Lake that this was possibly last years breeding female from Medmerry. However upon observation this appeared to be a 2nd year individual.

The back of an adult bird is jet black whereas this seemed quite dull, its legs too were dull pink in comparison to the adult and the head, nape and the neck seemed a smudged brownie colour. Although not the speculated breeding female of last year, it is not outside the realms of possibility, given its proximity and age, that this bird could be one of last years juvs. The Ferry Pool was fairly quiet, a few Icelandic Godwits about, Avocet, Greenshank and a number of Shelduck were also present. A little galling then that a Red Neck Phalarope was found at the same site the next morning with the lingering Stilt! However a nice addition to the day was a couple of Spotted Flycatchers at Church Norton, not a species I encounter often in my neck of the woods but a very welcome site.

Saturday saw ringing resume at Farlington Marshes and owing to our success north of the A27, this is where we erected the nets once again. It is Juvvie season on the reserve now and we had a number of fledglings in the nets, including Great Tit, Greenfinch and Robin. We still had numbers of Reed Warbler through the nets which, as they undergo a complete moult in Africa are impossible to age older birds unless clearly Juvenile or previously ringed. This means they go into IPMR as age code 4 meaning: Hatched before current calendar year - exact year unknown. There were a few more unusual catches as the session wore on. One of our net rides was very near to a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major, nest, so we kept a special eye on that net having witnessed parent birds attending to the young with food. We were right to keep an eye on the net as the female parent bird was trapped. Knowing as we did the growing young she had in the nest we processed and released her back to the same spot to ensure the supply to the young birds was not substantially interrupted. She took with her half of Duncans finger having decided he was suitable for a Wood pecking demonstration!
 On our way back from releasing the Woodpecker we saw an elongated shape sitting in one of the net pockets, I was charged with extracting the bird and as I got close I realised it was a Swallow, Hirundo rustica. Jason had the pleasure of ringing the bird. It turned out to be a male with CP, and characteristic tail streamers. Having only ever seen them on a telegraph wire or in flight, occasionally at a nesting site, it was amazing to see this bird up close and appreciate its stunning colouration and perfectly streamlined build. Having been ringed the bird was released back to hawk insects with all the grace and finesse of an aerial ballet dancer!

Tail Streamers
Male Swallow
 Our next unusual bird was a Lesser Whitethroat. Far more skulking than its extroverted cousins, the Common Whitethroat, with all together more subdued plumage. The primaries and coverts are a dull brown/grey to the Commons russet tones. The eye also differs, with the Lesser lacking the distinct white eye ring of the Common. Both species breed on the reserve with the Lesser breeding in smaller numbers. It is nice to see that through our ringing work we know there are at least 2 breeding pairs this year, with the distinct possibility of more that have avoided our nets.

The session continued with a total of 15 different species being caught and ringed, this is a very good diversity of species for such a small site. The notable absence was that of Sedge Warblers. Two weeks ago we had a number of individuals caught, leading to speculation that these were passage birds and we had just had an influx that week.

Wednesday evening I joined the Hampshire Wildlife Trust walk in search of Nightjars and Woodcock at Havant Thicket. I am not usually one for group birding walks as I find the noise of 30 people walking and talking impedes the experience somewhat, there again, they are excellent at introducing people who, perhaps have limited exposure to such birds to the delights of roding Woodcock and churring Nightjar. This perhaps sounds a little pretentious but hey each have their preferred style when doing something. For me I would go alone or maybe with a friend and walk slowly around the reserve taking in the birds going to roost, the crepuscular animals foraging and the nocturnal wildlife coming to the fray. I hung around the very back of the group and soon I had heard the churring around 60m off the track, I showed a couple of the other participants and they seemed chuffed to be hearing it for the first time. The one part of the walk that fascinated me was the chap from the Hampshire Bat Group. Bats have always interested me but I must admit to being a little intimidated by all the detectors and sonograms. However, I am pleased to announce dear readers that I will in fact be purchasing a Bat detector very soon and starting my journey into another obsession. Although the detector the chap had was around £1000 and showed realtime sonograms that you could record and download, I was using a simply Magenta Bat5 detector and had great fun as Common Pippistrelles whirred overhead hunting. My friend, Trevor Codlin I know, has been a long time Bat surveyor so I am hoping I can chat to him regarding what is involved and some ID/ detecting tips etc…..

All in all I have had an excellent week and look forward to ringing this weekend, weather permitting!

Lesser Whitethroat
Juv Robin
Greater Spotted Woodpecker or 'Fleshpecker'

Juv Greenfinch
Juv Great Tit