Friday, 21 December 2012

Late December 2012

December 31st: Rainy afternoon. The best birds were 10 Waxwings, a Rough-legged Buzzard and a Water Rail.

December 30th: Windy. Around were 10 Waxwings.

December 29th: Rain most of day. South went 10 Whooper Swans. On Jackson's Marsh were 5 Water Pipits.

December 28th: Rainy morning, windy afternoon. Flying south were 27 Waxwings and 23 Snow Buntings. The Rough-legged Buzzard and 15 Fieldfares were around. On Tennyson Sands were a Pintail and a Goldeneye.
The persistent rain has resulted in standing water in a number of places on the reserve, including the Plantation.

                                   Flooded path in the Plantation (George Gregory)

December 27th: South went 21 Waxwings, 10 Whooper/ewick's Swans, 4 Stock Doves and a Crossbill. Around were a Rough-legged Buzzard, 7 Goldcrests, a Pintail and a Water Rail.
A prolonged ringing session at Aylmer Avenue yielded 110 birds processed, including a Brambling and 2 Goldcrests.

December 26th: Rainy afternoon. The best birds were 12 Waxwings, 7000 Golden Plovers, a Pintail and a Merlin.

December 25th: Rainy morning. Around were 10 Waxwings, 2 Twites, a Peregrine, 5 Woodcocks, 5000 Golden Plovers, a Pintail, a Lapland Bunting, a Water Pipit, 33 Fieldfares and a Hen Harrier.

December 24th: Rain all day. Around were 8 Waxwings and a Pintail. The huge Golden Plover flock across the River Steeping was disturbed by shooters on Wainfleet Marsh.
The flooded area on Gibraltar Road has increased and has more or less joined up with an enlarged Roadside Pond.

December 23rd: Windy. On Wainfleet Marsh were 16000 Golden Plovers and 2000 Lapwings. Otherwise, the best birds recorded were a 49 Waxwings, a Marsh Harrier, a Hen Harrier, a Merlin, 2 Bramblings, a Woodcock and 25 Corn Buntings.

December 22nd: Rain all day. A Woodcock was at Aylmer Avenue. The Golden Plover flock, mostly across the River Steeping, has increased to 10000 birds.
  The heavy and prolonged recent rain has flooded Gibraltar Road near the Yacht Club, albeit only to a few inches deep. This is on the landward side of the combined sea and tidal river defences, so is not caused by seawater, just by rain. Several times a year the road, car park and paths on the seaward side of the defences are temporarily flooded by seawater at high tides, but this is different.

                                 Gibraltar Road near the Yacht Club (George Gregory)

December 21st: The winter solstice. Around were 500 Golden Plovers. A Long-tailed Duck came in from the north and landed on the sea.
A ringing session at Aylmer Avenue produced the usual finches and tits, including many retraps.
  The World did not end today despite this being long predicted! It looks like another year's ringing coming up in just ten days' time.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Mid December 2012

December 20th: Rain all day, causing flooding on the road near the Yacht Club, a rare event. Little was seen.

December 19th: Flying south were 18 Waxwings and a Lapland Bunting. On the Mere were 520 Teals. Birds around included 2 Snow Buntings, a male Hen Harrier, 300 Lapwings and 500 Golden Plovers.

December 18th: South went 25 Waxwings, a Water Pipit and a Lapland Bunting. Present were 3 Woodcocks, a Cetti's Warbler and a Hen Harrier.
Ringing at Aylmer Avenue produced a moderate catch, including 3 new Bramblings.

December 17th: Landed birds included a Purple Sandpiper, a Cetti's Warbler, a Water Rail, 25 Corn Buntings and a Chiffchaff. Heading south were 28 Waxwings and 55 Fieldfares. Offshore were 50 Red-throated Divers and a Razorbill. In off the sea came a ringtail Hen Harrier.

December 16th: At least 124 Waxwings and 2 Lapland Buntings went south. Around were a Shorelark, a Purple Sandpiper, 12 Corn Buntings, a Chiffchaff, a Cetti's Warbler, 2 Hen Harriers, 7 Fieldfares, a Water Pipit and a Merlin.
A ringing session at Aylmer Avenue was reasonably productive, birds processed including 5 new Bramblings and a retrap Blue Tit at least 6 years old.

December 15th:  Milder. Flying south were 42 Waxwings. Offshore were a probable Surf Scoter (seen distantly) and a Great Skua. Other birds included a Cetti's Warbler, a Marsh Harrier, a Hen Harrier, a Merlin, a Buzzard, a Water Pipit, 11 Redwings, 4000 Golden Plovers, a Lapland Bunting and a Chiffchaff.

December 14th: Windy morning, rainy afternoon. A Pintail was on the Mere. Around were 1200 Golden Plovers, 12 Snow Buntings and a Goldcrest.

December 13th: Still frozen all day. The best birds were 5 Waxwings, a Goldeneye and 2 Pintails.

December 12th: Hoar frost all day. Around were 3 Fieldfares.

December 11th: Frozen morning, foggy afternoon. The main birds recorded were 15 Waxwings, 5 Woodcocks and 3 Fieldfares.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Early December 2012

December 10th: Intermittent rain. Around were 6 Waxwings, a Hen Harrier and a Water Rail. Going southeast were 2 Bewick's Swans

December 9th: A Grey Phalarope was seen at various sites. Also around were 15 Waxwings, a Peregrine and 30 Snow Buntings. Flying south were 3 Bewick's Swans.
  It was too windy for ringing today, so it was time to provide the ringing shed at Aylmer Avenue with a new notice board, salvaged from a skip! and to improve the feeding station with two new feeding posts to hold the new large capacity feeders that have been generously donated. We can now accommodate 24 Greenfinches and 40 Goldfinches on just four feeders at two positions. Hopefully this is going to pay huge dividends when we come to the spring finch passage. There seems to still be a very healthy finch flock around, with 10 Goldfinches seen on one of the Niger seed feeders at the same time whilst erecting the new feeder positions. Whilst working on the feeding station today there were two flocks, an eight and, later, a flock of seven Waxwings went over heading south. All the Waxwings this weekend over Aylmer Avenue seem to have landed close to the Mere Hide: perhaps somebody is leaving apples near the hide?

The new notice board in the Aylmer Avenue Ringing Base. Hopefully we will fill this with lots of pictures of interesting birds during 2013.
Photo - Mick Briggs
One of two new feeding positions at our feeding station. The large capacity feeders can accommodate 20 Goldfinches on the Niger seed feeder and 12 Greenfinches on the Sunflower seed feeder at the same time.
Photo - Mick Briggs

December 8th: Cold start. On the Mere was a Water Rail, and on Jackson's Marsh a Goldeneye. Other good birds were a late Ring Ouzel, 30 Waxwings, a Bittern, 2 Marsh Harriers, 20 Siskins, 3 Woodcocks, a Brambling and 100 Fieldfares.
  Ringing at Aylmer Avenue from 10am onwards resulted in 22 new birds and 21 retraps. The new birds were made up of just Greenfinches and Goldfinches apart from a solitary Blackbird. Amongst the retraps was yet another British-ringed control Greenfinch, ring number TR58605. As usual, if you know the origins of this bird, let us know by emailing ringing at Aylmer Avenue, two flocks of Waxwings went south: 12 to 15 at 1.30pm and then a group of 8 at 3pm. Also at 3.20pm a Bittern took of from the Mere and moved off towards Jackson's Marsh.
  One picture that I thought I really had to show readers of the blog was this one showing the build up of thrush excrement around one of the reserve's cattle troughs during the big thrush influx of November. There must have been literally hundreds, if not thousands, of deposits around all four sides of this cattle trough, left as the birds drank from the trough. November 2012 will really last a long time in the memories of those lucky few that witnessed the thousands of Redwings and other thrushes that desended on the reserve.

One of the reserve's cattle troughs showing the build up of thrush excrement around the outside of it, deposited whilst drinking from the cattle trough, several inches thick in places, showing just how many thrushes were on site during November.
Photo 11.11.2012 - Mick Briggs

December 7th: Rain most of day, so reduced coverage. A Hen Harrier, 2 Merlins, a Woodcock, 2 Short-eared Owls, a Snow Bunting and a Goldcrest were around.

December 6th: Overnight snow. Around were 12 Waxwings, 3 Woodcocks, a Hen Harrier, 30 Snow Buntings, a Buzzard, a Siskin and 6 Mistle Thrushes. On Jackson's Marsh was a Goldeneye, and on Tennyson Sands a Pintail. Heading west were 18 Snipes.

December 5th: Cold, with wintery showers in afternoon. Flying south were 10 Waxwings. Other notables were 7 Goldeneyes, 4 Woodcocks, 4 Song Thrushes, a Water Pipit, a Brambling and 2 Buzzards. A Black Brant or intergrade was amongst the Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

December 4th: Frozen start. Waxwing totalled 30, of which 25 went south. On the Mere were 2 Bearded Tit. Other birds recorded included a Marsh Harrier, 40 Snow Bunting, 8 Siskin and a Redpoll.

December 3rd: Rainy then foggy morning. The best birds recorded were 22 Waxwings, a Water Pipit, 450 Golden Plovers and a Gadwall.
  Regular readers of this blog may remember back on the 11th November that we had a Blackbird control from Norway, the 2nd Blackbird from Norway this November.
  Well now, amazingly Sveinung Larsen from Norway has emailed me (Mick Briggs) to let me know the origin of this bird, he said that he couldn't resist leaking the details, although obviously we will still be submitting the control details through the correct channel, to the BTO.
  It was ringed at Utsira, Norway on the 24th October 2012. So that's a 746km movement SSW in just 18 days!
  What a great result and again, just goes to show the amazing power of both the internet and of the blog, and perhaps most amazingly, of the incredible migrations undertaken by birds during the spring and autumn.
  Many thanks to Sveinung Larsen for the ringing details and for getting in touch. It is great to know that fellow ringers overseas are reading our blog. Thank You!
  Also other readers of this blog may like to check out the website for Utsira Fuglestasjon, which has lots of pages in English including monthly round ups with lots of mouth watering pictures of birds that birders over here in Britain can but dream of. The Website can be found at

Stavanger Museum, Norway Ring number 7576514 on a Blackbird controlled at Aylmer Avenue on the 11.11.12.
We now know that 18 days earlier this bird was ringed at Utsira Fuglestasjon, 746km away!
Photo - Mick Briggs

December 2nd: Another frosty start, but warming up very slowly on a very still day. Waxwings totalled 65, whilst a Bittern was seen flying between the Mere and Tennyson Sands. Other good birds were 58 Snow Buntings, a Lapland Bunting, a Cetti's Warbler, a Hen Harrier, a Marsh Harrier, 2 Bramblings, 2 Merlins, a late Ring Ouzel, 50 Corn Buntings, 659 Pink-footed Geese, a Fieldfare and a Shag.
  A ringing session at Aylmer Avenue produced very similar results to yesterday, with more Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Chaffinches, although yesterday's Brambling was swapped for a Siskin, and there was also a new Song Thrush. Also, instead of a control Greenfinch as yesterday, there was a British-ringed control Chaffinch, ring number Y702209. We were unable to find out on the spot where this one was ringed so if you ringed it, let us know by commenting on this post or emailing
  As the autumn comes to a close, most of the nets have been taken down for the winter, and as the last of the nets were taken down in one of the net rides at Aylmer Avenue, Liv and Dave Vincent and Mick Briggs were treated to a flyover (at only 20 feet) by a Bittern heading from the direction of the Mere towards Tennyson Sands. Then just seconds later 10 Waxwings flew over (also at just 20 feet), heading south. It was almost as if the birds were giving us a "Top Quality Flypast" to celebrate another successfull year's ringing! For Liv Vincent, it was two life ticks in under a minute: she was a Very Happy Scribe!!!
  With unusual behaviour being observed, both from Bittern - flying about in broad daylight over the dunes, and Water Rail - visiting the Warden's garden pond, are we about to have a proper cold snap, possibly just in time for a White Christmas?
  Also of note today was this cracking example of Evernia prunastri, also know as Oak Moss. (See picture below.) This is a species of Lichen found throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere. Oak Moss grows primarily on the trunk of Oak trees but is also found on the bark of other deciduous trees and some conifers. Many of the Hawthorns at Gibraltar Point have them but this is a really good example of the thalli (branches) of Oak Moss which are flat and strap-like, resembling the form of deer antlers. They are rough when dry and rubbery when wet and they are used extensively in modern perfumery.
  In the countries of South Central Europe, they are harvested and exported to the Grasse Region of France where its fragrant compounds are extracted. They are a key component of "Fougere" and "Chypre" class perfumes.
Evernia prunastri, also known as Oak Moss, a species of lichen on a Hawthorn tree on 2nd December 2012
Photo - Mick Briggs

Evernia prunastri, also known as Oak Moss, a species of lichen on a Hawthorn tree on 2nd December 2012.
Note the flat deer antler-like thalli
Photo - Mick Briggs
The cold start to the day had obviously effected the shyness of this Water Rail which had decided that it was brave enough to visit the Warden's garden pond in front of his kitchen window on 2nd December 2012
Photo - Sam Wilson

December 1st: Rain until 10am, then feeling chilly in the 10mph north-westerly wind. Flying south were 78 Waxwings and 3 Goosanders. On the Mere was a Water Rail. Around were a Merlin, 300 Golden Plovers, a Woodcock, 10 Snipes, 40 Snow Buntings and 4 Twites.
  A ringing session at Aylmer Avenue resulted in 33 new birds. The catch was entirely made up of finches apart from a solitary Blackbird: there were 4 Chaffinches, 22 Greenfinches, 5 Goldfinches and a first-year male Brambling. Amongst the 35 retraps was a British-ringed control Greenfinch wearing ring number BR32639, a sequence that would of appeared to be a pretty old. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, we were able to find out within 30 minutes that the bird was originally ringed in August 2011 at Frampton by Alan Ball, so it was not really so old after all.
  Two of our Niger seed feeders were replaced with 20 port versions. Hopefully this will keep our Goldfinch flock happy this winter. The finch flock visiting the feeding station still appears to contain 70+ Goldfinches and 120+ Greenfinches. At one point, a Waxwing headed south over the feeding station though it was too high to get caught in a net.
  Also today, the year's ringing total went though the 9035 barrier, making 2012 the second highest year total ever.
Happy-looking Goldfinches on one of two new Niger seed feeders on 1st December 2012.
Photo - Mick Briggs
Adult male Chaffinch ringed on 1st Decmeber 2012
Photo - Mick Briggs
One of our resident Goldfinch flock ringed on 1st December 2012
Photo - Mick Briggs