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Monday, 28 December 2009

Bird-ringing at a local Country Park

I assisted my BTO trainer with bird-ringing at a local country park this morning; unfortunately my 07:30 start was delayed by 25 minutes due to an unhelpful sat-nav directing me to the wrong park entrance. I must learn to read a road map whilst driving.
On arrival at the ringing site, the first net round had already been collected and processing had started. My first bag gave me the opportunity to study a winter thrush in the hand in the form of the redwing Turdus iliacus. Redwing are characteristically winter visitors although small numbers breed mainly in Scotland. As a target bird for the ringing session a number of redwing were successfully processed throughout the morning each receiving colour ring combinations as well as a number ring.
Despite a well considered health and safety warning and precise handling instructions from my trainer - I still elected to process the next bird. Somewhat different in both its size and disposition from the redwing, the 3 ♀ sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus was to strong for my less experienced hands and the bird was passed to my trainer to complete the processing. The size of the bird had immediately suggested a ♀ and this was confirmed by its wing length being significantly longer than the max. range for ♂♂ it was aged via the amount of chestnut colouring which was still present in both its wing and tail feathers. The thumb and index finger of my left hand bore the brunt of the hawks displeasure in being handled and the power in the grip of its talons is not something I think I could easily forget.

Later in the morning I had the opportunity to process a small number of greenfinch Carduelis chloris. These birds are simply beautiful in the hand. Greenfinch can be sexed according to the amount and distribution of yellow on the leading edge of the primary wing feathers: on the ♂♂ the yellow extends all the way to the feather shaft whilst on the ♀♀ the yellow does not reach this far across the width of the primary.

Blackbird Turdus merula were also processed including a 4 ♂ whose wing length was indicative of a Scandinavian winter migrant. Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus, great tit Parus major, dunnock Prunella modularis and a single robin Erithacus rubecula made up the rest of the morning's catch.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Blashford Lakes - birding highlights

Highlight of the day: a single water pipit Anthus spinoletta which alighted briefly on the shoreline of Ibsley Water in front of the Tern hide around 12:30. The water pipit is a scarce winter visitor to Hampshire last year having only 8 county records for December (Hampshire Bird Report 2008) - so we were very pleased to have this albeit brief encounter. Other Ibsley Water highlights included a small number of both goldeneye Bucephala clangula and goosander Mergus merganser; 13 snipe Gallinago gallinago - the only waders noted; a single kingfisher Alcedo atthis and two meadow pipit Anthus pretensis.
Elsewhere on the reserve other birds of note included 3(4) chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita feeding over the reed bed seen from the Ivy North hide along with 1(2) cetti's warbler Cettia cetti; 2 goldcrest Regulus regulus amongst a mixed tit flock.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve

songthrush Turdus philomelos
Looking south and west from West Mead hide
aged yellow brain fungus Tremella mesenterica
distant bewick's swan C. columbianus bewickii
a rare sight during term time - a Sparsholt birder
looking north from The Hanger
Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve West Sussex. Highlights including seven bewick's swan C. columbianus bewickii at distance; a single fem. merlin Falco columbarius; sev. (up to 7) bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula; large numbers of teal Anas crecca, wigeon Anas penelope and smaller numbers of pintail Anas acuta. Wader spp. were conspicuous by their absence excepting lapwing Vanellus vanellus in large numbers.