Gulls, gulls, gulls (oh, and a few terns too)

Black-headed Gull and Common Tern Ringing ~ 30th June 2014 ~ 

Today I had the chance to go out to one of the islands on the pond next to our CES site to ring all the Black-headed Gull and Common Tern chicks we could find - and boy did we find a fair few!

Just to word of warning to all you ringers out there: if you are ringing Gulls/Terns they leave you lots of presents in the form of guano and regurgitated bits of fish so make sure your washing machine is empty for when you get home so you can just chuck all your clothes in asap!!

We (Terry the boat operator, MC and I) headed out to the main island at about 09.30 and didn't get back to shore until about 14.30. It was an incredible experience and one that I won't be forgetting any time soon!

Instead of writing any more, I will just let the photos and their captions do the talking:

This young Black-headed Gull still has its egg tooth (just visible on the tip of
its bill) and was too young to be ringed so we put it back where we found it.
Four Black-headed Gull chicks prior to release. 
This Black-headed Gull chick was almost fully grown and ready to fledge. 
A comparison between two different ages of Common Terns. The one on the left is older
and quite close to fledging, meanwhile the one on the right is only about two weeks old.
This is one of the the older Common Tern chicks we ringed.
This is one of the younger Common Tern chicks we ringed.

The totals for the day are:

Black-headed Gull - 104
Common Tern - 7
Mute Swan - 1

As always, thank you very much for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! Don't forget you can 
keep up to date with my activity on FacebookTwitter and my website here.


A Focus On...Birds of Prey ~ 25th June 2014 ~ 

At the last minute I decided to enter a competition being run by A Focus On Nature (AFON) where the first place prize was a trip to Scotland to help with the ringing of some Golden Eagle chicks. I thought it was worth a shot and I quickly came up with an idea of what to write. The only problem was that my idea of what to write about was about something that I myself have never actually witnessed, nor do I imagine I will ever have the privilege of seeing.

Anyway, enough of my rambling; here is what I did manage to write (please leave a comment with your thoughts on it - thanks!):

Like a ghost, the grey-winged beauty flies elegantly over the heather-covered moor. Wind batters the bird but still it persists, with purposeful, beating wings it powers across the land. The sleek grey shape with stark, black wing tips stands out like a sore thumb against the endless backdrop of flowering heather, deep purple in colour. Suddenly and without warning it flies upwards, climbing higher and higher before somersaulting and plummeting back down towards the earth at breakneck speeds. At the very last second pulling out of the dive and heading back up towards the sky.

Minutes pass, but entranced by the constant climbing and falling of the male Hen Harrier, like it's on some kind of mad, invisible roller coaster, those minutes seem like hours; slow and never-ending - every second to be savoured.

You could spend a lifetime out on a windy moor watching male Hen Harriers perform their sky dance display, however due to relentless persecution and the culmination of other factors over the last decade, many people will never have the opportunity to immerse themselves in this breathtaking experience and observe this magnificent creature.

Persecution. Habitat loss. Lack of understanding. Inability to act.

Our wildlife deserves better: it's time for a change.

So, the folks at the RSPB and Birders Against Wildlife Crime who helped AFON judge the entries must have thought mine was half decent, as they awarded me second place and the opportunity to travel to the midlands to help with the ringing of some Barn Owl chicks. Of course I jumped at the chance and spent the afternoon with Howard (chief Barn Owl ringer), Clare (another AFON member) and Lucy (co-founder of AFON) visiting three Owl boxes and observing and helping with the ringing of all three broods of chicks.

Here are some photos from the day:

The sharp talons that Barn Owls rely upon for the swift
dispatching of their prey.

Lucy with a Barn Owl.

"There were four in a bed" - four Barn Owl chicks
just chilling out after being ringed.

Clare with a Barn Owl.

Howard looking at the Barn Owl's wing to see whether the
primaries and secondaries are fully grown or not.

A group shot of us all. L-R= my lovely chauffeur, me, Lucy and Clare.

As always, thank you very much for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! Don't forget you can 
keep up to date with my activity on FacebookTwitter and my website here.

Raptors, owls and other goodies...

Salisbury Plain ~ 15th June 2014 ~ 

On Sunday I had the opportunity to go out with a small group of other bird ringers onto Salisbury Plain to check some bird boxes and see if anything was nesting in them. We checked about 8 different boxes and most had something using them. It was a fantastic day with excellent company and not only did I get to handle 5 new species: Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Kestrel, Jackdaw and Stock Dove, but I also saw my very first Montagu's Harrier, plus it was a male which made it even more special.

Many thanks to those who made it such a great day, and thanks again for inviting me!

My totals for the day were as follows (re-traps are in brackets):

Tawny Owl 4
Barn Owl 3
Kestrel 2
Swallow 2
Jackdaw 1
Stock Dove (1)

Here are a few of the photos that I took:

3 of the 4 chicks from the first brood of Tawny Owls that we ringed.

A close up of the bird on the right in the image above.

One of the Tawny Owls from the second brood.

An almost full grown Barn Owl chick.

A not so full grown Barn Owl chick. From a different
brood to the one above.
A very fluffy Kestrel chick.

The whole chick from the image above.

One of 3 feisty Jackdaw chicks that we ringed.

3 of 4 chicks from one of the Swallow nests we checked.

As always, thank you very much for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! Don't forget you can 
keep up to date with my activity on FacebookTwitter and my website here.

CES Session 4

Ringing ~ 6th June 2014 ~ 

Once again we set up nets the night before and got to the site very early so that we had enough time to get the nets open by sunrise.

As with the previous few sessions, the first two net rounds were a bit quiet, but the numbers picked up once it began to warm up. By 8am we had caught a total of 21 birds including a mixture of new and re-trap Reed Warblers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and quite a few young Blue Tits.

The last couple of net rounds were a bit slow, the highlights being our first young Chiffchaff of the year and yet more young Blue Tits - they seem to have been very successful at our site as we re-trapped 5 out of 6 Blue Tits that we ringed as pulli in a nest box.

When taking down the nets, we foolishly forgot to take any bird bags with us! So, surprise surprise, what happened? Oh yes, we caught a family party of Long-tailed Tits in the last net, meaning that MC had to go back to our base and grab some bags while TB and I set about extracting the birds.

Thanks goodness for tits, is all I can say after this session, for without them the numbers would have been pretty abismal!

The totals for the morning were as follows (re-traps are in brackets):

Blackbird - 1 (1)
Blue Tit - 8 (6)
Chiffchaff - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Great Tit - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 6 (3)
Reed Warbler - 2 (3)
Robin - (1)

Here are a couple of photos from the session:

Juvenile Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

The same young Long-tailed Tit as above

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 

As always, thank you very much for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! Don't forget you can 
keep up to date with my activity on FacebookTwitter and my website here.