Nature Blog Network

Siskin Recovery

Always good to hear about one of the birds you’ve ringed. Had an email from the BTO this week to say that a Siskin we ringed in mum and dads garden in April 2009 had been controlled by the North Solway Ringing Group in Ae village, Dumfries and Galloway in May this year. That’s 284km and 1 year 46 days.


View Siskin Recovery in a larger map

A good bird for us here in the garden in South Uist this month – a Waxwing! there has been a pretty large influx of these birds throughout the islands so we’d hoped to catch at least one!

Fabulous bird!

Fabulous bird!

And the reason it’s called a waxwing – because they have red tipping on some of the flight feathers that look just like drops of wax. This bird was a young female and as such she only had three small ones.

Just three small waxy tips

Just three small waxy tips

The weather has been pretty rough so far this month, not much mist netting so far but plenty of Greenfinches getting in the ground traps and we’ve started colour ringing any House Sparrows that we catch as we are participating in the BTO’s Re-trapping Adults for Survival project and it will be easier to keep tabs on them in the breeding season next year – we can re-sight the birds rather than recapture them (they can be very net and trap shy once they’ve been caught once – don’t let anyone tell you birds are stupid!).

We’ve had some fab sunsets just lately

Sunset to the West

Sunset to the West

No mothing so far this month – it’s either been too windy, if it hasn’t been windy it’s been clear and too cold for moths.

I’ll write further at the end of the month with a summary of Novembers birds ringed, although at this point in time we’ll be struggling to hit 100 for the month!

Uist ringing summary – October 2010

The weather was typical for October – lots of windy days but luckily interspersed with days of sun and calm which made us say “wow, what a fabulous place!”. A Snipe turned up one afternoon and spent time happily probing the flower beds at the front. Ian was out but i managed a couple of half decent digi-scoped shots through the window.

Snipe in the flower bed

Snipe in the flower bed

Snipe

Snipe

The ringing was much slower this month, mostly because of the restriction (by the wind) on mist netting. We did, however, manage 118 birds ringed of 15 species. to summarise:-

Species New Retrap Total
Wren 5 4 9
Dunnock 7 1 8
Robin 1 3 4
Hermit Thrush 1 1
Blackbird 10 16 26
Song Thrush 2 2
Redwing 7 7
Blackcap 2 2
Goldcrest 4 2 6
Starling 3 3
House Sparrow 46 25 71
Chaffinch 3 3
Brambling 3 3
Greenfinch 23 5 28
Lesser Redpoll 1 1
Species: 15 118 56 174

The highlight of the month though was probably the Hermit Thrush captured at our ringing site at Loch Druidibeg Nature Reserve – this is probably only the 8th Hermit Thrush to turn up in the UK, the 7th being present at the same time (and found the day before) on the Isle of Barra and i think is probably only the 2nd one ever ringed in the UK. It was in remarkably good condition considering it was about 3000 miles off course, it had 30 fat (ESF) and 2 muscle.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Surprise in the net!

Surprise in the net!

More mundane chores like shopping are made so much better here by being able to do a bit of birding along the way and i think the Co-op supermarket at Creagorry, Benbecula must have one of the most scenic car parks ever.

View from the Co-op car park - looking out over the South Ford

View from the Co-op car park - looking out over the South Ford

On really clear days you can see the mainland – it usually comes as bit of a shock as living here you tend to forget all about the hussle and bussle that must be going on over there. This clear day we were able to pick out the Cuillins on Skye in the far distance (although probably not much in the way of hussle and bussle going on there!).

See the Cuillins in the very far distance?

See the Cuillins in the very far distance?

Ardivachar is a good place to check out for waders, there is nearly always something – we found a Grey Phalarope there this month. A combination of storms and high tides means that vast quantities of weed get piled up on the beach (and phew, it doesn’t half pong), i’m not kidding the weed must be 10 feet deep. The gulls seem to like it, i think it must be the clouds of flies.

I’ve mentioned Locheynort before, the plantation at the end of the road there is like being in another world. Not one but two Red-eyed Vireos turned up there, the first one being found by a birding tour group and then local birder Steve Duffield was amazed to find two feeding together there. A good bird to add to our island list. Quite a bit of stuff passing through while we were there including Pied Fly and Lesser Whitethroat.

Ardivachar

Ardivachar

Our next ringing session at Loch Druidibeg was fairly slow although there was quite a movement of birds – Siskin, Brambling, Redwings and Fieldfare all passing over. We were happy to catch a couple of Brambling – a first year male and an adult male.

Adult male Brambling, winter plumage

Adult male Brambling, winter plumage

The difference in the tails between the two birds was quite marked, the adult on the left and the first year bird on the right.

The difference in the tails between the two birds was quite marked, the adult on the left and the first year bird on the right.

More wind and rain then a beautiful, eerily calm day. We added both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers seen in the garden.

Loch Bee

Loch Bee

It’s good to have a house that looks out onto a couple of lochs although it can be quite distracting as we’re always gazing out of the window or running for the binoculars to try and see whats “just dropped in”. The ‘scope is permanently set up in the lounge overlooking the loch at the front. These Scaup appeared one morning and Ian was able to jump over to the croft the other side of the road and get some nice digi-scoped pics.

Scaup

Scaup

I think it was a good choice to use the spare bedroom at the back of the house as an office as it has an amazing view. I think i must be living in rainbow central here as we get so many i’ve almost given up going out to take photos of them. I made an exception for this one.

Rainbow (looking towards Beinn Mhor)

Rainbow (looking towards Beinn Mhor)

We had the first sprinkling of snow on the highest hill in the Uists, Beinn Mhor and we’ve also had our first frost of winter. The quality of the light here is something that never ceases to amaze me – so vivid and clear.

More decent days, one of them even warm enough for Ian to sit outside on the (rapidly rusting away) swing chair to drink his evening beer.

Beer o'clock - outside in October!

Beer o'clock - outside in October!

As the winter nights approach i decided to have a look in the booklet, found in the Co-op, advertising local evening courses. One caught my eye, it was Knit an Eriskay Jumper. The blurb said “helping to keep this unique island tradition and skill alive”. Sounded like an opportunity not to be missed, being taught, in Eriskay, by an Eriskay woman, how to knit one of these traditional fisherman’s jumpers.

Casting on. (Ian couldn't quite believe his eyes that i knew how to knit)

No, i haven't got a Yellow-headed Blackbird in my hand, just about to ring it, i'm casting on my knitting. (Ian couldn't quite believe his eyes that i knew how to knit)

I got the 5-ply wool from Frangipani in Cornwall as they were recommended to me by a regular customer of theirs. They were very pleasant and helpful when i phoned up and the cones of wool arrived in only 2 days.

More nice weather meant we were able to get out birding – Ian was heartily sick of doing work around the house and sorting out the loft…

Found these Corn Buntings in Howbeg.

Found these Corn Buntings in Howbeg.

Ian has still been running 3 times a week, although the cows and sheep have now been turned out onto the golf course so he has to dodge them on his way.

Highland Cow

Highland Cow

We heard that a group of whales had come into Loch Carnan at the north of South Uist and were in danger of beaching. There were fears of a mass stranding. They were watched almost continuously and when we arrived the group had moved further out into the loch. Ian got some digi-scoped shots. It was a pretty amazing sight. The good news is that the group have safely left the loch now and it is thought that they had come in along with a female that subsequently gave birth.

Pilot whales at Lochcarnan

Pilot whales at Lochcarnan

Lapland Bunting still around on the machair and 4 Snow Buntings on the beach.

The last day of the month, another calm one so the garden nets were open. A surprise Brambling in the ground trap. Went out to re-set the Potter trap after processing the Blackbird that had been in it. Stood up and spotted a bird in the double panel just a few feet away. My first thought was warbler and i stepped towards the net but it struggled and shot out into a bush in next doors garden, i ran in for my bins, shouting to Ian, he’d already seen as he was watching from the window. We had the briefest of glimpses of the bird, and even with the help of Bill from next door (the other side) couldn’t relocate it. Our main thinking was Barred Warbler but it’s going to have to be “the one that got away”.

So, that was October. Good birding, lots passing through, not too much getting in our net but the ground traps and Potter traps have been good. Hopefully we should get some decent weather during November – if we don’t Ian will be the proud possessor of an Eriskay jumper before too long. :)

Moths: the trap was only out 3 times this month. On the 12th we captured 10 Small Wainscot and 8 Large Wainscot. The 16th we only had 1 Angle Shades and a Large Wainscot and last night (the 31st Oct) nothing!

Uist ringing summary – September 2010

Also the answer to the question what do House Sparrows have in common with The Borg? (You know The Borg – Star Trek, 7 of 9, “we will assimilate you” etc.). Plus moths and birding…

Sadly we could’nt quite make it to a round 300 birds ringed for the month – when we think about the ones that got away it should have been easily over 300 – the times when there were 3 Meadow Pipits in the net but when we got there only one was left and the self-extracting Kestrel would have been a nice catch.

Species New Retrap Total
Swallow 13 13
Meadow Pipit 160 4 164
Pied Wagtail 12 1 13
Wren 8 2 10
Dunnock 2 2
Robin 3 3
Stonechat 1 1
Blackbird 9 7 16
Song Thrush 8 8
Garden Warbler 1 1
Blackcap 1 1
Yellow-browed Warbler 1 1
Chiffchaff 1 1
Goldcrest 3 1 4
Starling 36 36
House Sparrow 8 8
Linnet 1 1
Lesser Redpoll 11 3 14
Reed Bunting 17 17
Total spp = 18 296 18 314

The month started off really well – we ringed 36 birds in the garden on the 1st September, 30 of which were Meadow Pipits. This month we’ve been employing a whole range of trapping methods apart from our mist nets we’ve been using walk-in traps, potter traps and spring traps.

We were lucky enough to receive permission from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to ring on their national nature reserve at Loch Druidibeg, South Uist where there is a plantation. We have to plan our visits there according to the weather as it can be pretty exposed when the wind is in certain directions.

The sparse trees you can see ARE the plantation!

The sparse trees you can see ARE the plantation!

We only captured 6 birds on our first visit there (2 Wren, 2 Robin and 2 Goldcrest). The second visit only 5 made their way into the net – but we were very happy with the first bird of the day:-

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Our third visit of the month to Druidibeg was more productive and we captured and ringed 10 birds and were able to give a ringing demonstration to the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) who were carrying out some land management work on the north side of the road. Our catch including this lovely Stonechat

Stonechat

Stonechat

One of our aims when re-locating here was to be able to contribute to the various surveys and census’ that are carried out on a long-term basis. The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) seemed like a good place to start, this is co-ordinated by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and we did our first count on the 18th September. Part of the way through our count we had a text from a friend to say he’d found a Lesser Yellowlegs at Kildonan. We didn’t feel we should dash off halfway through our count so called in at Kildonan on our way home and luckily the bird was still there and only about 20 feet from us, happily feeding in a rock pool.

Our neighbours were away to the mainland and before leaving brought us some goodies from their garden. Here is a picture of the meal i made from their produce.

Our neighbours gave us purple potatoes, broad beans and kale. We supplied the boiled ham :-)

Our neighbours gave us purple potatoes, broad beans and kale. We supplied the boiled ham :-)

The crofters have been very busy this month harvesting and baling their crops.

Oatfield on the machair

Crop on the machair

There are quite a few places on the islands here that traditional stooks are made.

There are quite a few places on the islands here that traditional stooks are made.

Mothing has been a challenge with the very variable weather, if it wasn’t too wet it was too windy and we only managed to get the trap out 4 times during September. It seems like long gone are the nights with 300+ moths in the trap. We had some interesting catches though.

Angle Shades - what a stunner! The photo really does not do it justice.

Angle Shades - what a stunner! The photo really does not do it justice.

Brindled Ochre

Brindled Ochre

Large Wainscot

Large Wainscot

and this lovely micro moth:-

Agonopterix yeatiana. And thanks to local moffer John K for the id on that

Agonopterix yeatiana. And thanks to local moffer John K for the id on that

Perfect reflections on a calm day

Perfect reflections on a calm day

The beach at Ardvule

The beach at Ardvule

Well i never have been the elegant sophisticated type...

Well i never have been the elegant sophisticated type...

This Chiffchaff was a surprise find in our garden net - plenty of fat so was obviously going places.

This Chiffchaff was a surprise find in our garden net - plenty of fat so was obviously going places.

Another of the months warblers, also very fat, was this female Blackcap.

Another of the months warblers, also very fat, was this female Blackcap.

We captured this Garden Warbler early in the month

We captured this Garden Warbler early in the month

Not too many of these around here - Dunnock

Not too many of these around here - Dunnock

Another view from Ardvule. Next stop Canada.

Another view from Ardvule. Next stop Canada.

And one of the birds we captured late in the month, this stonking adult male (it was still moulting) Lesser Redpoll.

Adult male Lesser Redpoll

Adult male Lesser Redpoll

LOTS of these Fox Moth caterpillars around at the moment

LOTS of these Fox Moth caterpillars around at the moment

This caterpillar is, as yet, unidentified:-

Not had chance to go through my book yet to see what this is.

Not had chance to go through my book yet to see what this is.

And finally, just what do House Sparrows and The Borg have in common? Well i reckon House Sparrows must have a collective memory. Last month we captured 38 House Sparrow the vast majority in the ground trap. This month only 8 House Sparrows and the ones that have gone in the ground trap, whether they were ringed or not, have easily found their way back out. Mmm. How do they do that!?

photo

Uist ringing summary – August 2010

Not a bad start to our ringing here in Uist, we did our first ringing on the 16th August and have been catching at two sites – our garden and the garden next door. The two gardens couldn’t be more different – Bill has been in his house 30 years and the vegetation is, for this windswept place, pretty amazing! In contrast our house is only 5 years old and there is virtually nothing. We didn’t really hold out much hope of catching much here in ours but have been very surprised indeed.

Our totals for August are:-

Species New Retrap
Total





Swallow 1

1
Meadow Pipit 26

26
Wren 4 1
5
Robin 2 1
3
Blackbird 15 2
17
Song Thrush 4

4
Willow Warbler 3

3
Goldcrest 1

1
House Sparrow 38 3
41
Greenfinch 2

2
Lesser Redpoll 42 3
45
Reed Bunting 6

6





12 144 10
154

The majority of the Meadow Pipits, Lesser Redpolls and House Sparrows have been captured in our own garden.

Goldcrest, captured in Bill's garden

Goldcrest, captured in Bill's garden

Conditions have been pretty midgy at times, some of the early mornings with hardly a breathe of wind being the worst. Our brilliant bug shirts that we got in Canada last year are working a treat though.

at least these midgies aren't like the mozzies at Delta last year - they are not able to bite through your clothes!

at least these midgies aren't like the mozzies at Delta last year - they are not able to bite through your clothes!

A surprise in the net was this Swallow

A surprise in the net was this Swallow

This Greenfinch had been feeding on the Rosa rugosa hips

This Greenfinch had been feeding on the Rosa rugosa hips

Norma gave me some lettuce plants, hope they grow, i'm trying to keep them as sheltered as possible.

Norma gave me some lettuce plants, hope they grow, i'm trying to keep them as sheltered as possible.

and finally here’s a pic of me in the kitchen, baking again

Busy in the kitchen

Busy in the kitchen

The worrying thing about this apron is i didn’t buy it, Ian already had it so i think it must be his :-o

Miss Whiplash :-o

I’ve changed my name to Miss Whiplash this week and with very good reason. Are you thinking figure-hugging black leather trousers and top , thigh high stiletto boots, whip in hand at the ready?

South Uist's single track road

South Uist's single track road

No, the reason for the name change is more due to the injuries i think i must have sustained due to Ian’s driving – i don’t think he’s quite got the hang of the single track roads here on the island yet :) We’re driving happily along then he spots a car coming towards us. His thought processes seem to go like this – “Mmm what to do, make it to the next passing place or no maybe we’ll use this one right here” I say “aaarrrgh” as the brakes are slammed on!!

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks. We managed our first bit of bird ringing courtesy of our neighbour who has a fabulous garden – sheltered and loads of vegetation. Bill also very kindly lets us use his shed to do our ringing in.

Fabulous day weather-wise. Could almost be a scene from Spain...

Fabulous day weather-wise. Could almost be a scene from Spain...

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit

LOTS of Blackbirds around. This is a juvvy bird.

LOTS of Blackbirds around. This is a juvvy bird.

Bill has been in his house for 30 years and there are some great things in his garden. This lichen took my eye.

Lichen growing on a bush in Bill's garden

Lichen growing on a bush in Bill's garden

Our first migrant - a Willow Warbler

Our first migrant - a Willow Warbler

We spent the first couple of weeks without furniture but the day finally arrived when the removals lorry was due to arrive. We went down to Lochboisdale to see the ferry come in and make sure the lorry was on there. The usual ferry that plies the Oban to Lochboisdale route, the Clansman, was out of action so the Lord of the Isles is standing in at the moment.

The Calmac ferry Lord of the Isles coming in

The Calmac ferry Lord of the Isles coming in

The Lord of the Isles docking - and we could just about see the removals lorry

The Lord of the Isles docking - and we could just about see the removals lorry

Ready to unload

Ready to unload

Yay! We have furniture!!

Yay! We have furniture!!

The furniture van arrived on the Tuesday night, the two removals men, Rob and Darren, parked the lorry on our driveway ready to unload the next day. They were not able to leave the island again until Friday morning so had a little time exploring and i filled them up with a cooked breakfast each morning.

We spent a few days unpacking all those boxes we had carefully packed up. On the Friday we had our first gale. Ian made me laugh as he said at about 10am “i bet it doesn’t get any worse than this does it?”. I just laughed. At that point the wind was only about a steady 30mph – just a little breezy. It worsened as the day went on and at the peak was gusting to force 10.

What little vegetation we have was getting blown about a little.

What little vegetation we have was getting blown about a little.

We had a couple of sessions mothing, the best being an incredible 444 moths of around 30-odd species.

Pebble Prominent was new for us

Pebble Prominent was new for us

Pink-barred Sallow

Pink-barred Sallow

Magpie moth

Magpie moth

Haworth's Minor

Haworth's Minor

and as the name suggests, a very beautiful moth:-

Beautiful Golden Y

Beautiful Golden Y

The sky and the weather are always changing here, the quality of light never ceases to amaze me it’s so clear. Just beautiful.

Late one evening looking from the house, the distant hills you can see are on the Isle of Barra.

Late one evening looking from the house, the distant hills you can see are on the Isle of Barra.

This Mute Swan family - 2 adults and 3 young came right to our fence. We think they were trying to find their way from the loch at the back of the house to the loch on the other side of the road. Unfortunately the land is all fenced off, don't know if they made it or not.

This Mute Swan family - 2 adults and 3 young came right to our fence. We think they were trying to find their way from the loch at the back of the house to the loch on the other side of the road. Unfortunately the land is all fenced off, don't know if they made it or not.

Last weekend we helped out with the twice a year goose count. The Greylag Goose population has exploded here and causes all sorts of problems for the local crofters. The geese get into the crops that are grown on the machair and not only eat the crops but also crap in it which then makes it unpalatable for the stock that are fed on it during the winter months. See the Machair Life+ Project website for lots of information on the unique machair habitat and also about the goose problem and what is being done about it.

Most normal people who retire look at getting a comfy old person type vehicle, perhaps a Rover, a smart Mercedes or Audi, but not Ian, his retirement vehicle of choice is the Vauxhall Combo van :-)

Most normal people who retire look at getting a comfy old person type vehicle, perhaps a Rover, a smart Mercedes or Audi, but not Ian, his retirement vehicle of choice is the Vauxhall Combo van :-)

With a kitchen now full of all mod cons i was able to do my first batch of baking – for this i chose one of my favourite recipes, one that we ate constantly at Delta Marsh Bird Observatory over the previous 4 years – Cinnamon Bun. Mmmm, yum!!

Cinnamon Buns, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Cinnamon Buns, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Even though we have very little vegetation in our own garden the ringing hasn’t been too bad at all. There have been plenty of Lesser Redpoll’s coming to feed on the Pampas Grass, no matter how windy or rainy it is. In fact we’ve had not a bad variety of birds in the garden – Reed Bunting, Pied Wagtail, Wheatear and Meadow Pipit. And how many people can say that they can most days see Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier from their kitchen window. Brilliant!

Lesser Redpoll on the Pampas Grass. We've also put a feeder up in the middle of it so the birds will still have something when the Pampas seed runs out.

Lesser Redpoll on the Pampas Grass. We've also put a feeder up in the middle of it so the birds will still have something when the Pampas seed runs out.

Finally this Common Darter dragonfly which we found in Bill’s garden

Common Darter

Common Darter

Ah well, back to the unpacking….