Spring Ringing at Bedfont Lakes

It’s all go at Bedfont Lakes as we start this years CES (Constant Effort Sight Scheme). At the main site (the nature reserve on the north side) the reed warblers have returned and are still settling in whilst breeding is in already in full swing for some of the other species. We had our first fledglings of the year over the last two weeks, a species which also happen to be one of the cutest; long-tailed tits in their juvenile plumage, complete with their dark chocolate brown (super hero style) face masks. Fighting against injustice towards all thing small and fluffy 😉

Juvenile long-tailed tit with dark face mask

Juvenile long-tailed tit with dark face mask

IMG_1715Surprisingly we have yet to catch any robin or blue tit fledglings which are usually one of the earliest species to breed. I suspect the blue tits are out there somewhere considering the stage of the brood patches on some of the adult females we have caught. There are a few sedge warblers around (my personal favourite) as well as the resident Cetti’s from last year (let’s hope for another year of breeding success!), blackcaps, chiffchaffs and a couple of garden warblers ringed a few weeks ago. A nice surprise was this lovely male whitethroat, a species usually only caught at the South Side of the park.

Whitethroat

Whitethroat

IMG_4781Another rare catch was this treecreeper from 3 weeks ago, only the third we have caught since I started in January 2014. They are just exquisite up close! Such beautiful markings.

Treecreeper

Treecreeper

We’ve also managed a couple of visits to the South Side of the park this month and last which produced one exciting and one very very exciting (a first for this site) species. Both I’ll admit are prone to being described at ‘dull’ looking birds, however I tend to disagree especially in relation to the former; this very smart looking lesser whitethroat.

Lesser whitethroat

Lesser whitethroat

The latter species? Last, but certainly not least, after my trainer suddenly stopped in the middle of putting the nets up and swore he heard a nightingale singing (despite being the ripe old age of 75 he still puts my bird song ID skills to shame)…. Guess what our very first bird of the day was??? A species I’ve only ever heard in the lovely surroundings of Blean Woods and would never dream of seeing just a few miles away from my house! I’ll confess I really did know what it was at first, somehow I expected them to be bigger, amazing the perspective you get from having the opportunity to get up close to these birds. The rufous tale is a good indication, although it was a lot subtler than I was expecting. Yes a ‘little brown job’ but still a beautiful one and certainly a rare treat!

Nightingale!

Nightingale!

IMG_4749Other none bird related sightings include a lovely little micro moth Ptycholoma lecheana whose beautiful metallic markings caught my eye last week, at least 2 grass snakes seen sunning themselves on the board walk and a brief glimpse of a green hairstreak that I got rather excited about at South Side two weeks ago – just one individual as far as I could tell so I’m not sure if this was an anomaly or if their is a colony of them, either way the sighting was certainly an nice unexpected surprise (the best kind!). We’re back there next week so I will have a good search around.

Ptycholoma lecheana

Ptycholoma lecheana

So really it’s been a very exciting couple of months! I have only one more to go before I leave to spend the rest of my summer on Skokholm Island. As excited as I am I will miss this lovely little unassuming place and the way it never ceases to excite and amaze me; a haven for birds (and for me) in the middle of all this concrete and noise.

Advertisements

Pollen Encrustation on Migrant Warblers

I’ve noticed pollen encrustation around the bills of migrant warblers before – especially chiffchaffs, but this morning at Bedfont Lakes I ringed this male blackcap with the most ginormous bright yellow encrustation.

Blackcap with pollen encrustation

Blackcap with pollen encrustation

It made me wonder; where had he come from? What route had he taken to get here? What had he been feeding on to fuel him for his long journey? The majority of this species spend the winter in the Mediterranean before arriving in the UK in spring, so this sticky mass of pollen could have been collected either before it left or any where along it’s journey here. I read about a fascinating study published last year in which pollen encrustations were analysed from 4 different species of warblers, including blackcaps, upon their arrival to the UK. In doing this information about each birds recent foraging beahaviour can be collected and can give an idea as to what areas they may be using to refuel. This is fascinating stuff and the information can be used to identify stopover sites and inform conservation decisions at these sites. I like BirdGuides take on this study referring to these pollen encrustations as ‘time capsules’. There were 19 different types of pollen found – I wonder which ones this giant yellow lump contained?

The long journeys this little delicate looking feathered creatures manage to undergo never cease to amaze me, they are independent and tough beyond all expectations. They arrive here in spring, spend an exasperating amount of time and energy whilst they’re here and then come Autumn they disappear. It’s this enigmatic quality that all birds have that absolutely fascinates me. I just look at this little blackcap, seemingly tiny and delicate in my hand, and wonder ‘what life have you lived?’

Bedfont Bunting

Due to the weather we have only been able to get out for 3 ringing sessions at Bedfont Lakes so far this year – two at the main nature reserve (where we had several close sightings of a Bittern in flight!) and one at South Side the Sunday before last. This proved to be an exciting one for me as we caught the very first Reed bunting since I started last January; a lovely male! Not as smart as he will look come spring when his head and ‘mustache’ will darken to black, but still quite a looker!

Male Reed Bunting at Bedfont South Side

Male Reed Bunting at Bedfont South Side

IMG_4076 IMG_4077I am used to seeing these guys at Kempton Nature Reserve where they happily feed on millet from a feeder strategically placed in the reeds. You can often see 10 – 12 at at time especially in winter which is a real pleasure.

Reed Bunting at Kempton

Reed Bunting at Kempton

10177523_10150395349054978_435618912532780493_n

However they are more of a rarity at Bedfont (I wonder why?) so this was a treat.

Another treat was this glorious Goldfinch! Also ringed at South Side. We often hear and see them around but rarely catch them in the mist nets, I think we have caught about 3 in the last year so this was lovely to see, especially one looking so smart! This was a male as you can see from the first photo the red mask extends back beyond the eye, where as in the females it generally stops. However this can be quite variable and there are other features to look for, though it’s not always clear cut as I have mentioned before in this post.

Male Goldfinch showing the red masking extending behind the eye

Male Goldfinch showing the red masking extending behind the eye

IMG_4079 IMG_4080I am very much looking forward to seeing what else 2015 brings! 🙂

Festive Birds

The last ringing session of 2014 was at the South side of Bedfont Lakes and proved to be full of treats, for me the opportunity to ring 3 new species 🙂

We had been crossing our fingers for some redwing during the last session at this site however we were without luck. This session, however, we only had to wait a few minutes after putting the nets up before we caught not one but two! I apologise as I somehow did not manage to get a frontal shot of the redwings as I was too preoccupied with learning how to age these birds; we were lucky to get an adult and a juvenile (born 2014) which gave the opportunity for a nice comparison. Most notable are the white/cream markings on the tips of the tertial feathers and greater coverts which are much more distinct in the younger bird, seen on the left in these photos.

IMG_3752

Juvenile (left) and adult (right) redwing

IMG_3756

White/cream feather tips more distinct in the juvenile (left)

IMG_3754Here is a nice shot of a redwing on Hampton Common I took a few years a go to make up for the lack of frontal photo! Not a ‘close up’ but still shows how lovely these bird are.

484360_10150278665164978_358469206_n

Redwing on Hampton Common 2011

Shortly afterwards we had another treat, a male and a female bullfinch – Mr and Mrs 😉

IMG_3759

Female bullfinch

IMG_3763

Male bullfinch

IMG_3760 IMG_3764After a couple of Robins by now we were joking that somehow the festive season must only be attracting birds with red markings – either that or it was my trainers bright red Santas hat reeling them in 😉 our suspisions were confirmed after this beast of a green woodpecker! One of my favourite birds and the study subject for my dissertation.

Green woodpecker

Green woodpecker

IMG_3776

And that was the end of my first year of bird ringing! It has been fantastic. I honestly feel privileged to have this experience and to work with such lovely and knowledgeable people. Looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings!

If you are interested in getting involved with bird ringing yourself then you can go to the BTO website to search for trainers in your area.

Golden Crested Birds and Mysterious Red Capped Mushrooms

As the warbler activity has died down at Bedfont Lakes – aside from our resident Cetti’s warbler, a few chiffchaffs (one a retrap that was ringed back in April so thought to be a resident rather than a wintering visitor) and a male blackcap, tit activity seems to have increased. This is a great opportunity for me to get familiar with ageing great tits and blue tits and of course the chance for an adorable long-tailed tit group photo that is sure to brighten up anyone’s day!

Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus

Long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus

Two Sundays ago I was also delighted to have the opportunity to ring my first ever goldcrest!

Goldcrest, Regulus regulus

Goldcrest, Regulus regulus

This individual was shortly followed by two more….

IMG_3531

Gorgeous! Considering the autumnal colours all around I thought the beautiful golden yellow crest of this tiny bird went nicely with the red, orange and brown hues of several species of fungi I discovered growing close by; my favourite of which being this lovely Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes

IMG_3555

Velvet Shank, Flammulina velutipes

IMG_3560 IMG_3564More of a mystery, however is this red capped mushroom growing in large numbers on woodchip, thought to be a Russula sp possibly beechwood sickener; the trouble is there are no beech trees around, however I think the spores are likely to have come in on the woodchip which may contain beech. I’m informed that the woodchip is made up of willow from the park itself but also from wood that is brought in from all over the borough, so who knows what could be in it! IMG_3538 IMG_3534IMG_3745IMG_3742IMG_3738Any suggestions would be welcome!

Another nice find was what I believe to be Turkeytail fungus Trametes versicolor

IMG_3607

Turkeytail fungus, Trametes versicolor

IMG_3609

Warblers of Bedfont Lakes

After a fantastic spring and summer of bird ringing at Bedfont Lakes most of the warblers (aside from the resident cetti’s warbler) have left for their long journey to their wintering grounds. Before they leave they have a fair bit of fattening up to do so this is the time when ringers start  noting the weight of these migratory birds and giving each individual a fat and a pectoral muscle score. This is a new learning experience for me and a few weeks back was a great opportunity for me as we caught over 102 birds at Bedfont Lakes South Side between 4 of us (and sadly I had to leave early that day!), including 36 blackcap and 25 whitethroat! This allowed me to compare individuals varying fat and pectoral muscle build up and get to grips with how they feel and look.

I thought this would be a nice time to look at some of the different species of warblers at Bedfont and some of the differences between the juvenile and adult birds. Starting with my favourite – the sedge warbler.

Juvenile sedge warbler

Juvenile sedge warbler

As far as I figure, generally juvenile sedges have more yellowish buff colouring especially on the underparts but from the photo above it is hard to tell if this is indeed a juvenile or an adult (I found it tricky!),  you would need to look closer at the feathers; new, fresh wing and tail feathers and ‘fluffy’ under tail coverts can sometimes be a giveaway, although not always obvious to me. With this species a good clue is the spotty ‘necklace’ most juveniles have – not so much in the one pictured above but you can see here in the one below a line of small dark spots going across the breast.

Juvenile sedge warbler with 'necklace'

Juvenile sedge warbler with ‘necklace’

Really these are beautiful birds, their creamy colouring and dark markings are just fantastic. Definitely have a soft spot for them!

Reed warblers seem to be the most common warbler ringed at the main sight (the Nature Reserve on the North side of the Park). Again new, fresh wing and tail feathers and ‘fluffy’ under tail coverts can indicate a juvenile bird but also in this species the juveniles are usually a more rufous or rusty colour, especially on the upper parts and rump as you can see in this next photo (juvenile on the left).

Juvenile vs adult reed warbler

Juvenile (left) and adult (right) reed warbler comparison

Another indication of age with this species is eye colour – the iris is a grey charcoal colour in their first year then changes to a more olive brown as you can see in this adult bird.

Adult reed warbler

Adult reed warbler

I haven’t managed to get a good photo showing the iris of a juvinile reed warbler but i did get this adorable one of a very newly fledged bird, how cute?! He hasn’t even grown his tail feathers yet!

Juvenile reed warbler

Reed warbler fledgling

Only a little bit more developed is this rather fluffy juvenile cetti’s warbler…. This year was the first record of cetti’s breeding at this site!

DSC_0220

Juvenile cetti’s warbler

Again the juveniles in this species have a darker grey iris as opposed to the brown iris of the adults.

Another common warbler species at bedfont are blackcaps. I mentioned in previous posts (this one and this one) that the juveniles have a duller brown cap, as opposed to the chestnut in the adult females and black in the adult males. The juveniles are are generally more brown and fluffy compared to the adults and have fluffy undertail coverts that are a light brown (or ‘mocha’ as I call it!) colour as opposed to grey in the adults.

Juvenile blackcap undertail coverts

Juvenile blackcap undertail coverts

Blackcap fledgling

Juvenile blackcap

Adult female blackcap

Adult female blackcap

IMG_0864

Upperparts of adult female blackcap

In the last 10 months I have been ringing at Bedfont I haven’t seen many willow warblers but I know the juveniles generally have more yellow underparts and generally brighter yellow colouring all round. This juvenile is a good example, and stunning in in the sunlight!

Juvenile willow warbler

Juvenile willow warbler

Juvenile willow warbler

Juvenile willow warbler

In my experience ringing at Bedfont other warblers that seem to be fairly common are chiffchaffs and whitethroats, the latter only at South Side. Along with willow warblers, other warblers not as common are garden warblers and lesser whitethroats. In fact I think I’ve only seen a handful of adults. In any case, it was a treat as they are both beautiful, smart looking birds – not at all ‘grey and dull’!

IMG_1136

Lesser whitethroat

IMG_1654

Garden warbler

It’s been an amazing spring and summer and now I am looking forward to see what new learning experiences autumn and winter bring!

First Reed Warbler Fledglings at Bedfont

After missing bird ringing at Bedfont Lakes last Sunday (the 15th) I was gutted (for missing it) but at the same time ecstatic to hear that they caught a juvenile Cetti’s warbler, sure evidence that the male Cetti’s we caught back in April and re-trapped several times had indeed found a mate and bred successfully. This is the first record of breeding Cetti’s at this site so we are all chuffed!

This week we also got a good number of juvenile robins, blackcaps, blackbirds and the first reed warbler fledglings of the season, 3 from the same net that were presumed to be from the same brood as they were all at similar stages of development i.e. hadn’t even fully grown their tail feathers yet so perhaps only a day or more old, very sweet!

Juvenile blackbird

Juvenile blackbird

I’ve mentioned before that the juvenile blackcaps look very similar to the adult females but as they develop the black feathers in the caps of the male start to appear (as you can see in the cap of the juvenile male on the right in the photo below) which means we are able to start sexing these young birds.

IMG_2394

Juvenile blackcaps, female (left) and male (right)

We also had to rescue this beautiful Emperor dragonfly from one of the nets, they tend to get caught and then clamp their jaws down and wont let go!

Emperor dragonfly

Emperor dragonfly

IMG_2408

I’m not ringing next week as I’m off to Pembrokeshire on Wednesday for a week of hiking, camping and bird watching! Very excited 🙂