Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Galloway Common Gull Study

Yesterday I was given the go ahead from the BTO to start a very exciting new project - to study the site fidelity and juvenile dispersal of Scottish breeding Common Gull. I will be conducting this study by monitoring a number of sites in Galloway with a combined effort of nest recording and colour ringing.

As this is the first year of the study there are some significant costs involved and so I have started a Kickstarter fundraising page and I'd really appreciate any donations and shares/links to the page from my friends, followers and supporters. There is a lot more information about the project on the website (see the link below) and there are also some really exciting rewards up for grabs when you donate.

Thanks for your support 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Just Oot The Back Door!

 On Monday afternoon I was joined by members of my new ringing team to try out a new catching site at Stirling University….just ootside my flat. I had been feeding up the site with a mixture of seed and nuts for a few weeks in hope of attracting a good variety of birds and was excited to try it out. This was the first time that I’d been mist netting properly since recovering from a bad hand injury last summer so I was a little nervous at first but luckily I now have a very supportive team of ringers around me who are incredibly encouraging and helpful towards me which in turn helps me gain my confidence back.


We soon erected four mist nets and retreated to our ringing station to await our first feathered visitors…which didn’t take long. We soon had a good number of birds coming through including a nice partially leucistic male Blackbird which has been submitted to the BTO’s Abnormal Plumage Survey



As we had a good steady flow of birds throughout the afternoon I was able to learn some new ageing and sexing techniques from Chris, who is a very experienced and knowledgeable ringer. It’s very interesting to ring with other ringers as everyone has their own approach to ageing and sexing. I feel that the more experience gained with other ringers, the better the depth of knowledge you gather – which overall makes for a better ringer.

Male Goldcrest

A great afternoon was had ringing over 60 birds of 13 species including a bonnie pair of Long-tailed tits.

Mr & Mrs

A couple of highlights for myself included my first Great Spotted Woodpecker……shortly followed his mate…

Male on the left, female on right.

Stunning plumage

Ouch….the male Woodpecker was in a particularly grumpy mood!

Another personal highlight was ringing my first Nuthatch!


Nuthatch are not so common North of the border but are doing well around the Stirling area, breeding on campus in recent years.


This male Nuthatch was particularly special for me as whilst living in Wales many years ago I caught an unringed Nuthatch but as my Dad was visiting at the time I though I would give it to him to ring, thinking that another would come along sooner or later…….4 years later!!!


All in all we enjoyed a delightful afternoon’s ringing and will definitely be back soon but with birds starting to nest and migrants returning it will soon be time for me to get the old nesting stick and be prepared for the funny looks off passers by as I clamber about in the bushes and up trees in search of nests for the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme.


Monday, 2 February 2015

Summing up The Siskin

Just a quick update on the Siskin today:

It's been almost a year since I was sat at my bedroom window at university catching Siskins - See Here. In the end I ringed over 350 and now have had time to play with Google Earth and map the controls/recoveries. I managed to catch 16 controls between March and May last year and as you can see from the map below they came from all over the UK.

Siskin Controls

Since metal ringing, a number of Siskins I ringed have been recovered elsewhere, mostly within Scotland.

Siskin Recoveries

So far this Winter Siskin numbers at garden feeders have been exceptionally low according to the BTO’s Garden Birdwatch. I’m hoping that they will return soon as I'm counting the days until they return to the university and find my new feeding station. I now have my mist net endorsement and so am ready and waiting for them! Hopefully I will get some more interesting controls and recoveries. Fingers crossed!


Excuse the ‘naked’ nails but I had to share the little beauty, one of the many juveniles I caught in the garden back home (Stranraer) this summer. Such colourful characters.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Roaming Redpolls


I’ve been waiting all Winter for the return of our Redpoll flock in Stranraer. It’s been a very quiet Winter for them here with few Siskin and Goldfinch. The usual Blackcap (or Fatcaps as we call them) arrived in early November as usual and appear to have not moved off the suet feeder since arriving…hence the name!

Normally at this time of the year we have a flock of 300+ Redpoll in the garden noisly feeding away on Niger seed. Last year however was very different as the flock which we would expect to have arrived in late October, to be gone by early April, instead turned up at the end of April and stayed on until the beginning of June, some even staying on to breed!




Last Winter was fantastic for ringing in the garden and either in anticipation of the flock arriving back soon or in memory of what used to be I’ve decided to create a post about last Spring’s ‘Roaming Redpolls’




As I had a short break (just 1 week) between University finishing and and my annual summer migration to Manchester last May I took the opportunity for some garden ringing (with members from North Solway Ringing Group). In 3 sessions we managed to newly ring over 200 Redpoll which is a new garden record.





As well as the Redpoll we also caught a good number of Siskin and Goldfinch, catching our first (freshly out of the nest) juvenile Siskin of the year.



Along with the 200+ Redpoll we also processed 18 controls (birds ringed elsewhere). 2 of these controls were particularly special as they were from Brussels! The first foreign controls ever caught in our garden (see here for map).


P1080184 P1080326


I recently received the details for the other controls and they revealed an interesting North Westerly movement (see map).


Redpoll Map2 (1)


All-in-all it was a very successful week of garden ringing and definitely worth the 40kg odd of Niger seed they consumed…or threw on the ground!




Just today via Twitter I heard that some Redpoll have started to appear in a garden not to far away – could this be the very first ‘scouts’ of our flock? Will they all return again? Or will this Winter score a blank?! Only time will tell but the new traps have been built, plenty of rings are in stock and the garage is piled high with Niger seed…so we’re ready for them!




Special thanks to the BTO for the ringing details and to Kane for the UK recovery map.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Whooper Hugs


Last Thursday I joined the team at WWT Caerlaverock for their annual swan catch. The main aim of the catch was to capture, ring and health screen Whooper swans as part of WWT's long term ongoing study on the species - looking into the movements, family structure, health & body condition of the birds.

It was my first time at Caerlaverock since they finished the new Sir Peter Scott hide and it is looking fantastic, well worth a visit.

After the team was briefed we all gathered, quietly waiting for the morning feed to take place by the swan pipe. Everything went to plan and we soon had a nice catch of 104 Whoopers and 30 Mutes.


There were a surprising number of new Whooper swans caught during the catch, many of these birds could well be on passage and 'calling off' at Caerlaverock en route further North to their breeding grounds in Iceland.

All birds were swiftly processed and released with Whooper Swans also being colour ringed. Any colour ring sightings of Whooper Swans are greatly received by WWT and can be submitted to: colourmarkedswans ‘@’

Whooper Swan
Full biometrics were also taken from the Whooper swans – this included head and tarsus measurements as well as recording the weight of the birds captured, this allows WWT research staff to look at the pre migration weights of the swans prior to their departure and allows the weight to be compared to those taken at the start of the Winter when the birds first arrived.


The average Whooper swans weighs between 7 - 14kg. Most swans caught during the catch were showing a good healthy weight in preparation for their migration back to Iceland.


WWT's well organised catching team at work.

Whilst processing the birds it was a great chance to have a look at their bill patterns. Most people will know of the Bewick’s swan’s unique bill patterns but most aren't aware that Whoopers too have this unique patterning and can also be individually identified by their bill patterns. The three patterns seen are: dark neb, yellow neb (most common) and penny neb (my favourite).


It was great to get up close and personal with my favourite swan species again and also to get out with ringing with other members of The North Solway Ringing Group. Big thanks to WWT for inviting me along.


With Whoopers on the move I think last weekend was the last time I’ll be see the 2013/14 wintering swans. I’m hoping to get out to Iceland this summer to see some Whoopers in their breeding grounds which would be amazing and would love to see some familiar birds from Caerlaverock or Martin Mere, you never know!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Noisy Neighbours

As I write this blog post at my desk in my small student room at university, beside me on my wee windowsill there is a noisy, chattering group of bonnie bright yellow Siskins squabbling as they feed away on an array of sunflower hearts and niger seed. Perhaps a very noisy bunch of neighbours to have but who needs window boxes full of flowers when you can have a windowsill full of these charismatic tropical looking avian delights?!


I’ve been very lucky this year in terms of which room the university has placed me in as I am directly opposite a mature mixed woodland which is abound with wildlife from Roe Deer in the early mornings to Redwing in the afternoon and Tawny Owls at night with regular flocks of Pink-footed geese overhead. As there is so much wildlife, in particular birdlife, outside my window I decided to place a window feeder up in the hope of attracting some colourful visitors.


One feeder soon lead to two, three, four and now five as my window is filled with Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Tits, Robins and of course those beautiful Siskins. So as you can imagine being a keen C permit ringer it wasn't long before I built my first trap and hung it outside my window.

P1110370  P1110361

Expecting to catch the odd Blue and Great Tit I was quite surprised when I started to catch the Long-tailed Tits and Robins.



Before long the Siskin flocks started moving into the nearby woods and taking over the feeders. After the windowsill starting becoming very yellow… and loud I put up a couple more traps and soon started catching a good number of Siskin.


In just a few sessions I have now ringed over 150 Siskins of which I was never expecting anywhere near that number – so much so I have currently stopped ringing as I’ve ran out of rings!


I have also, so far, caught 7 UK controls (birds ringed elsewhere by other ringers).


I love now that, on my days off, I am able to wake up, set the traps and be catching these beautiful birds in the comfort of my own wee room in my pyjamas! Now that’s ringing in style…


I love catching these ‘British Canaries’ – they always brighten up my day!

*I will update my blog when I get details back from the BTO about the controlled birds.