30 April 2014

Nesting day and inland Ravens

Today was a day for checking various nests and it turned out to be a pretty varied one! En route to the cliffs we checked up on or Mute Swan nest at Helston Boating Lake, which is now up to a full clutch of five eggs. A second nest has also sprung up and a bit of gentle persuasion of the sitting parent to lift her bum revealed three eggs.

This was followed by our regular check of Rinsey Cliffs, where a few more Shags and Herring Gulls had completed clutches, and then onto a few Barn Owl boxes. Three of those checked had birds in: a lone male, a regular female on three eggs and a new female on five eggs. One site was unoccupied (as it was last year), but the ivy around the box produced a Song Thrush on five eggs!

The highlight though was a corvid hotspot found by local nester Simon Taylor (see his nesting blog here). This inland site (a couple of old engine houses) has a few pairs of Jackdaw, a Magpie on eggs and perhaps two Raven nests.

Raven nest somewhere at the top of this engine house!
It was never going to be easy to see what was in the nest, but a bit of cobbling together gave us a mirror on a stick, lashed to an extension pole, on top of a ladder! Sadly despite the effort we still couldn't make out what was in the nest, so the only thing for it was to retire and find a suitable spot to get the 'scope out...

Heath Robinson method of nest-checking
Luckily we could just about see through one of the old windows and into the nest, which was home to three whopping Raven chicks looking pretty close to fledging. Now we know about this site, it's one Simon will monitor next spring, so watch this space.

28 April 2014

Truro Dipper chicks

Summer is really getting going now and we've recently been out ringing our first pulli (nestlings) of the year. Whilst most of our other nestbox birds (tits) are still building, our Dippers are already feeding rapidly-growing chicks. We only monitor a couple of boxes near Truro, but both of these had chicks to ring last week.

Dipper nestbox-checking

The three chicks in this first box (from four eggs) were just sprouting flight feathers, but those in the second box (only two chicks out of five eggs...) were a few days behind, still being pretty naked. Two chicks from five eggs is a bit disappointing, but Dippers normally produce 2-3 fledglings per breeding attempt (per BTO BirdTrends page), so this isn't too bad.

22 April 2014

Rinsey Shags six weeks late

The long wait is finally over, with several pairs of Shags apparently laying at Rinsey over the last week. There are only 14 pairs in the main zawn at the moment, with at least eight of these now on eggs, including four pairs on a full clutch of three eggs. This is a good six weeks later than last year when our first egg date was 8th March!

It looks like our first Herring Gulls are also laying now in the zawn, but they (perhaps wisely) sit very tight, so it's not so easy to check clutch sizes. But at least two pairs have a single egg, with a dozen more birds probably also incubating.

12 April 2014

Mullion Cormorants

Yesterday a small boatload of us made our first visit of the year to Mullion Island. With our outboard not quite in a usable condition yet, so thanks to Luke for rowing us out! Whilst it might seem a bit early in the season, Cormorants have a very long and extended breeding season so an early visit is essential to make an accurate count of nests.

Once on the island, we were greeted by well over 80 Cormorants around the main 'colony', which seemed to have shifted slightly along the top of the island (or was that just my imagination?). In total we counted 52 active nests, which compares well to the 24 counted last year.

Most of these nests appeared to have complete clutches of three or four eggs, with one even having five eggs which is pretty unusual. The earliest nest was also in the process of hatching, with three naked chicks hatched and the final chick just breaking out of the egg. But the timing is much later this year, as our first visit last year (on the earlier date of 6th April) saw 14 out of the 24 nests already with chicks, with several big enough for ringing. So with incubation of around a month (thanks BTO BirdFacts), watch this space to see how the later season progresses...


Downscaling a bit, we also had chance to check two of our Dipper boxes near Truro. Both were on eggs last time we visited and nothing had changed, with clutches of four and five eggs. With incubation of just 17 days it won't be long until these clutches both hatch.

Dipper nestboxes are simple but effective!

4 April 2014

New French Kittiwake at Rinsey

We regularly see French-ringed Kittiwakes in our study colony at Rinsey Cliffs, and already this year we've seen two. One (OYM,NWR - Orange, Yellow, Metal, Black, White, Red) is a regular, seen several times in 2012 and 2013, but one seen yesterday was a new bird for us.

Shocking photo of YBM,YRL on a pretty hard to observe ledge!
YBM,YRLwas ringed as a chick at Point du Raz, Plogoff, in 2005 and is the oldest French bird so far at Rinsey. Since ringing it's not been seen again in France, so chances are it's been somewhere in the southwest breeding in recent years, so it'll be interesting  to see if it hangs around. We've seen an older bird at nearby Trewavas Head (ringed in 2002) but haven't had a chance to get there yet this year.

1 April 2014

'Almost Easter' eggs

OK, so it's not quite Easter yet, but April always seems very spring-like, so what better time to recheck a couple of Dipper boxes we inherited from a decades-old project. A couple of weeks ago both were built, lined and ready to go, and this afternoon both were occupied. A judicious bit of chatting ensured one female slipped away on approach, revealing four eggs, whilst the other female sat tight (in the box you can just about see under the bridge below), so one to visit another time...

So with incubation of 17 days, it hopefully won't be long before we'll be ringing our first nestlings of the year!