Monday, 23 April 2012

One Week Rolled Into One Post

A busy week, but not really with regards to birds. First of all, I can't resist posting this picture of a Hazel Dormouse in a state of torpor, found in a nest box that was due for cleaning. This lovely little arboreal mammal didn't seem to mind being weighed and clipped, and slept happily through it all.......

Hazel Dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius

On Friday, I was on the Pond Survey Course at Woods Mill run by the SWT. It was a fascinating day, with lots learnt, and also lots found, my favourite being the Smooth and Palmate Newts; the first pictures being of a male Palmate Newt. It is possible to I.D it as a male Palmate due to the presence of the thin filament present on the end of it's tail, and it's black webbed rear feet.

Palmate Newt, Lissotriton helveticus

When it comes to the females, it is slightly trickier to separate the Smooth and Palmate. The most reliable way is to look at the throat. The female Smooth Newt has an orange pigment present in the throat, and it is often (but not always) spotty. The female Palmate lacks both spots and any pigment, giving the throat a much more reddish colour.

Palmate Newt, Lissotriton helveticus
Smooth Newt, Lissotriton vulgaris

Unfortunately we didn't find any Great Crested Newts but we did find an egg (under the supervision of a licence holder I must add). All three species of newt lay their eggs one at a time onto a piece of vegetation, then fold the leaf around the egg to protect it from predators. The Great Crested Newt egg is easy to identify, as it is bright white, compared to the others which are a duller colour and almost impossible to separate.

Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) Egg

And to finish, something bird related. Ringing on Saturday was quiet, but it's not always about quantity. Blackcaps, Chiffcahffs, Long-tailed Tits, Blackbirds and two Song Thrushes were all caught, but the highlight was this Reed Warbler, the first of the year. Even better was that this bird was ringed at Steyning for the first time in 2007! Great to see it still coming back.

Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus

On a final note, we had a wonderful day out walking the Seven Sisters on Sunday. Despite it being very windy, the sun was out and so were the birds, and we had great views of Wheatear, Stonechat, Raven, Meadow Pipit and Skylark, and the Fulmars put on a wonderful display! A very happy day indeed.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Snipets of Sussex

A few days birding around Sussex during the Easter week were fairly quiet, but very enjoyable. First stop was a sunny Pagham on Wednesday, which was very quiet with the usual waders and ducks around; none the less a lovely day! The Little Egrets were calling from their usual colony location in the trees at the end of the North Wall, and there were some lovely Black-Tailed Godwits in their smart summer plumage.

Black-Tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa

A visit to Pulborough Brooks on Good Friday turned up a few unusual species , in the form of some Barnacle Geese and a lone Pink-Footed Goose, leaving it late to return to it's breeding grounds!

Pink-footed Goose, Anser brachyrhynchus with Barnacle Goose, Branta leucopsis

There were also two Little Ringed Plovers out on the North Brooks, along with Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal, Widgeon, Lapwing and others. The trees were alive with the songs of Blackcap, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff as well as some nuthatches setting up territories and showing very well, including this rather fluffy individual.

Eurasian Nuthatch, Sitta europaea

Two Egyptian Geese also put in an appearance, before the tame Water Rail posed in the sun outside the visitor centre!

Water Rail, Rallus aquaticus
Water Rail, Rallus aquaticus

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Mumbling Saturday

A Saturday ringing session at The Mumbles, and the weather was somewhat overcast and chilly, fairly standard for the end of March but not like the weather we've had recently. Overall a fairly quiet day, but with three firsts for me and some real gems. A steady trickle of Reed Buntings, Blue and Great Tits and a few Greenfinches were the only birds for the first few hours. Then on the same net ride on the same round, a brilliant male Yellowhammer and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker were caught. This is the first woodpecker I've had in the hand, but the Yellowhammer was even more special, possibly the first one ringed on this site for 30 years. Then, just to top it off, a female was caught on the next round. Possibly a pair looking for a territory? 

Female Yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella
Male Yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella

Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major

After these birds, a few new Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap were rung, and then on the final net round another migrant, a first for the year and a new species for me; a Willow Warbler. This little bird is very similar to the Chiffchaff, and is very difficult to tell apart if not singing. The Willow Warbler is generally brighter in appearance, a more greeny breast and a clearer eyestripe can sometimes be a giveaway, and the legs are sometimes lighter than a Chiffchaff's; even in the hand though this bird was a difficult one. The only properly reliable way to tell (other than song) is by the length of the wing. A Willow Warbler has a much longer wing, with the primary wingtips extending much further down the tail. This longer wing is needed as they generally migrate further than the Chiffchaff; as far as South Africa. This generally gives the bird a sleeker, less upright appearance than that of a Chiffchaff.

Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus
Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus