Friday, 1 May 2015

Early May 2015

May 10th. Flying from the Wash to Tennyson's Sands were 2 Spoonbill. Around, including birds trapped, were a Firecrest, a Wheatear, a singing Grasshopper Warbler, a Turtle Dove and 17+ Jay. Flying south were a Common Buzzard and 300 Swallow.
 A morning ringing session in East Dunes, with James Siddle, produced 6 new birds: a Firecrest, a Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Whitethroat, a Great Tit and a Jay; and 2 retrap Whitethroat.
 Meanwhile at Aylmer Avenue, Mick Briggs carried out the first C.E.S. session of the year with good results. Along with some other nets in the area the total of 20 new birds for the day was a respectable result. They were 7 Whitethroat, 3 Sedge Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Linnet and singles of Wren, Dunnock, Blue Tit and Greenfinch. There was also 39 retraps which were 8 Whitethroat, 4 Wren, 4 Robin, 4 Willow Warbler, 3 Dunnock, 3 Great Tit, 3 Chaffinch, 2 Sedge Warbler, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Blue Tit, 2 Goldfinch and singles of Lesser Whitethroat and Greenfinch.
 Interestingly after the old Whitethroat last week (02/05/2015), which was trapped again today, today there was a Lesser Whitethroat which was originally ringed on 8th August 2009 as a juvenile bird. This means that this bird has been all the way back to just south of the Saharan region of Africa six times. That is an impressive feat: crossing the Sahara 12 times. I would imagine that this is the oldest Lesser Whitethroat ever handled on the reserve but could not guarantee it. Even more impressive is that the bird is a female and so by now must have laid somewhere in the region of 24 eggs (or more). She has certainly done more than her fair share of ensuring the species' continued presence amongst our summer breeding songsters. She has been retrapped by the Observatory team in May of 2011, 2012 (x2), 2013 (x2), 2014 and then again today and always on the same site, and never in a different month. So whether she is a locally breeding bird would seem unlikely; more likely is that she is just passing through on her way north to who knows where?

Firecrest, ringed 10 May 2015.
Photo - George Gregory
May 9th. Increasing south-westerly wind.
 The Spoonbill remained on Tennyson's Sands, along with a Mediterranean Gull and a Little Ringed Plover. Birds around included 180 Brent Goose, a Hobby, 4 Turtle Dove, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, a Common Sandpiper, a Spotted Flycatcher, a Corn Bunting and a Cuckoo. South over land went 530 Swallow, 70 House Martin, 300 Swift, a ringtail harrier sp, a Hobby and 5 Yellow Wagtail, and north a Red Kite. South over sea went a Little Gull, 39 Common Tern, 118 Commic Tern, 73 Sandwich Tern, a probable Red-necked Grebe and a Fulmar, and north a Great Northern Diver. A newly arrived party of 12 Mute Swan eventually moved off south-west.
 A wind-restricted morning ringing session in East Dunes, with James Siddle, resulted in 3 new birds: a Chiffchaff, a Goldfinch and a Whitethroat; an a retrap Whitethroat.

May 8th. On Tennyson's Sands was a Spoonbill. Around were a Short-eared Owl, 17+ Jay, 3 Wheatear, a Tree Sparrow, 2 Turtle Dove, 2 Cuckoo, a Pink-footed Goose, 2 Greenshank and a Whimbrel.
 A morning ringing session in East Dunes provided 19 new birds: 6 Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Blackcap, 7 Lesser Whitethroat, a Robin, 2 Whitethroat and a Linnet; and 6 retraps: 2 Whitethroat, 2 Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Dunnock.

Lesser Whitethroat with large pollen 'horn', ringed 8 May 2015.
Photo - George Gregory
May 7th. Flying south were a Serin, a Turtle Dove and 2 Swift. Birds around, including those trapped, were 27+ Jay, a Tree Pipit and 2 Whimbrel.
 A morning ringing session in East Dunes, with Mike Polling, produced 11 new birds: a Wren, a Willow Warbler, a Blackcap, a Whitethroat, a Tree Pipit, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, a Dunnock and 3 Jay; and 5 retraps: 2 Lesser Whitethroat and 3 Whitethroat. So far this year 15 Jay have been ringed here.
 The demolition of the Field Station continues.

Jay, ringed 7 May 2015.
Photo - George Gregory
Gibraltar Point Field Station being demolished, 7 May 2015.
Photo - George Gregory
May 6th. Strong south-westerly wind.
 Around were a Wheatear and 2 Whimbrel. South at sea went a Velvet Scoter.

May 5th. Increasing south-westerly wind.
 On Tennyson's Sands in the late afternoon were 2 Spoonbill. Birds around, including those trapped, were 20+ Jay, a Wheatear, a Tree Pipit, a Yellow Wagtail and 6 Whimbrel. Flying south were 5 Swift.
 A morning ringing session in East Dunes yielded three new birds: a Willow Warbler, a Tree Pipit and a Blackbird; and 3 retraps: a Lesser Whitethroat, a Linnet and a Wren.

Tree Pipit, ringed 5 May 2015.
Photo - George Gregory
Tree Pipit, ringed 5 May 2015.
Photo - George Gregory
May 4th. Around, including birds trapped, were 14 Jay and 5 Whimbrel. A Spoonbill was on Tennyson's in the morning. At Mill Pond a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling at first light whilst at Aylmer Avenue a total of 5 more Jay flew south during the morning. A Barn Owl was hunting the freshwater marsh for much of the day whilst two Cuckoo called from the same area and a Tawny Owl was heard calling mid afternoon.
 A morning ringing session in East Dunes provided 8 new birds: a Whitethroat, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, a Linnet and 4 Jay; and 3 retraps: 2 Whitethroat and a Lesser Whitethroat.
 At Aylmer Avenue, Mick Briggs was ringing on this Bank Holiday Monday and finished off with just 10 new birds: 2 Sedge Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Greenfinch and 2 Goldfinch. There were also 8 retraps: 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldfinch and singles of Blackbird, Great Tit, Chaffinch and Greenfinch.
 The most remarkable bird of the day, though, was the retrap Blackbird at Aylmer Avenue. The bird was clearly an adult male with a bright yellow eye ring, bright yellow bill, uniform jet black plumage all over and even a pronounced cloacal protrubence (male genitals). Upon checking the database, you can imagine the shock when it appeared the bird was ringed in 2008 by George Gregory as a juvenile female. It was then retrapped 3 times during 2010 as a breeding female by Mick, retrapped again in 2012 by George as a breeding female and again by Mick in 2013 as a breeding female. And yet here it was: clearly a breeding male.
  Now, according to the worldwide web, female birds have two ovaries but only the left ovary produces eggs. If this ovary is damaged for some reason, the right ovary can occasionally then develop into a testis, and the bird will start producing male hormones and will eventually become a male bird capable of fertilising a female's egg. I didn't know this and can't really believe that I have seen such a bird in the hand. I just wish that the bird had been photographed before release. The sex change wasn't realised until after the bird's release but the ring number was checked thoroughly due to the obvious age of the ring number. This is not an April Fool's joke and the Observatory Ringer in Charge, Mick Briggs, is in complete amazement about this bird.

Lesser Whitethroat, ringed 4th May 2015.
Photo - Mick Briggs
Sedge Warbler, ringed 4th May 2015.
Photo - Mick Briggs 
May 3rd. Strong but decreasing south-easterly wind, with rainy spells.
 On Jackson's Marsh were a Spoonbill, 4 Black-tailed Godwit and a Ruff. Around were a Turtle Dove, 5 Reed Warbler, 4 Sedge Warbler, 2 Grey Partridge and a singing Corn Bunting. The first Swift of the year flew south.

May 2nd. Birds around included 3 Turtle Dove, a Cuckoo, 5 Jay and 6 Whimbrel. North at sea went a Red-throated Diver, an Arctic Tern, 48 Little Tern, 15 Sandwich Tern, 9 Gannet and 11 Auk Sp, and south 2 Great Crested Grebe. At Aylmer Avenue there were 2 Cuckoo and 2 Turtle Dove singing, whilst 2 Jay flew south early morning. Mid morning just before the rain arrived, 20+ Swallow were feeding around North Car Park.
 A morning ringing session in East Dunes produced 3 new birds: a Lesser Whitethroat, a Whitethroat and a Jay; and 5 retraps: 2 Lesser Whitethroat, a Whitethroat, a Wren and a Linnet.
 Meanwhile, over at Aylmer Avenue, Mick Briggs was ringing, closing the nets just before the un-forecast rain arrived. This resulted in 28 new birds, which were 8 Chaffinch, 6 Linnet, 5 Goldfinch, 3 Greenfinch, 2 Woodpigeon, 2 Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Whitethroat. There were also 17 retraps: 5 Chiffchaff, 3 Goldfinch, 2 Dunnock, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Linnet and singles of Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Greenfinch.
 It is interesting to note that the Observatory has now ringed nearly twice as many Linnet as any other species this year showing that they have had an incredible 2014 breeding season and a very kind winter. Linnet numbers ringed at Gibraltar Point are usually quite low but have really started to increase in the last year or two.
 On the other hand though, Greenfinch numbers have dropped through the floor, with the lowest totals ringed for more than ten years. Has the east coast population finally succumbed to the deadly disease that has decimated numbers further inland?
 One of the most travelled birds I have ever handled was in a net today, a Whitethroat that was originally ringed all way the back on 21st Aug 2011 as a juvenile. This means that it has been all the way to sub-Saharan Africa (this species is common in Botswana during the winter months) in the winter of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, and back again, a distance of at least 72,000km! It has never been caught in between being originally ringed and today. The chances are that it doesn't breed at Gibraltar Point and is in fact just passing through on its way north. What an amazing bird! Please see photos below.

Woodpigeon, ringed 2nd May 2015.
Photo - Mick Briggs
Linnet, retrapped 2nd May 2015.
This male Linnet was originally ringed on 31st May 2014 as an adult so is now starting its third breeding season. It has not been retrapped in between so who knows where this bird has been spending its time during the winters.
Photo - Mick Briggs
Whitethroat, retrapped 2nd May 2015.
This bird was originally ringed all the way back on 21st Aug 2011 as a juvenile. This means that it has been all the way to sub-Saharan Africa (this species is common in Botswana during the winter months) in the winter of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, and back again, a distance of at least 72,000km! It has never been caught in between being originally ringed and today. The chances are that it doesn't breed at Gibraltar Point and is in fact just passing through on its way north. What an amazing bird!
Photo - Mick Briggs
Jay, ringed 2 May 2015.
Photo - George Gregory

May 1st. Around were 11+ Jay, a Merlin, 6 Whimbrel, a Greenshank and a Cuckoo. Flying south were a Wood Sandpiper and a Tree Sparrow.
 A morning ringing session in East Dunes, with Mike Polling, resulted in 2 new birds: a Willow Warbler and a Linnet; and a retrap Wren.

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