19 December 2015

Record year at Nanjizal

With the nets now down at Nanjizal for the season, it's a good time to reflect on what was a record year for the site. The final total of 7,898 birds ringed was exceptional, with the top 10 species ringed for the year being:
  1. Blackcap - 1936
  2. Sedge Warbler - 1364
  3. Chiffchaff - 1126
  4. Willow Warbler - 469
  5. Goldcrest - 438
  6. Robin - 284
  7. Swallow - 271
  8. Whitethroat - 248
  9. Reed Warbler - 205
  10. Chaffinch - 181
But totals of several other species were also notable:
  • Hoopoe - 2 (none ringed nationally in 2014)
  • Wryneck - 5
  • Tree Pipit - 7
  • Song Thrush - 81
  • Grasshopper Warbler - 87
  • Yellow-browed Warbler - 22
  • Firecrest - 114 (only 402 ringed nationally in 2014)
  • Little Bunting - 2

Add to that singles of  Nightjar, Blyth's Reed Warbler (the first record for Cornwall), Melodious Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Pallas's Warbler and Common Rosefinch and it really has been a year to be remembered!

Cornwall's first ever Blyth's Reed Warbler

A small amount of preparatory habitat work was done during the winter, but on the whole the site looked ready for the season. Around six years ago, the field margin had been sown with maize, but with the ground becoming too waterlogged, the area was left to fallow. It soon filled in with willowherb and other native species and became excellent habitat for Sedge Warblers, but unfortunately, was cut and sown with rye grass in mid-September. This will obviously have an impact on the breeding birds, but maybe not so on passage birds. It just shows how quickly good, low maintenance breeding habitat can be created in a short space of time.

Spring was a bit hit and miss and there weren't any high numbers of common migrants passing through. I can only remember one notable day when a good number of Grasshopper Warblers appeared. Garden Warblers increased again and reared young for the first time in a few years and Dunnocks had a good, early breeding season. A few unusual birds turned up in spring and two were patch ticks; Squacco Heron and Little Bittern. From photos, the Squacco was different to the bird at Creen Bottom.

The breeding season seemed to be quite reasonable and it was nice to see the Sedge Warblers rear a good number of young, quite different to the national picture. Other species also seemed to have reasonable season, with notable increases in species such as Coal Tit, Redpoll, Siskin and Goldcrest. Once autumn passage commenced, the still and favourable weather, along with increased ringing hours, helped the annual totals considerably, with just under 8,000 birds ringed! The increased coverage was mainly due to the efforts of the ringing group, although two other ringing groups from up-country did visit for an intensive week's ringing.

Record numbers of Sedge Warbler and Blackcap were trapped in the still weather during August and September. A species that seems to have done well everywhere is Firecrest, with 114 ringed on site. Other species that broke any previous annual total by a considerable margin were Cetti's Warbler, Kingfisher, Reed Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler. Presumably this was due to a good breeding season and possibly an expanding range of the latter. The autumn passage of Willow Warbler was far more noteworthy than the spring and Whitethroats didn't seem to be as abundant as last year and totals were down. September through to December saw a good passage of Chiffchaffs in the southwest and this year seemed to be quite a normal year, although local breeding birds didn't seem to be very successful.

This late-autumn Willow Warbler is surely a good candidate for a northern acredula bird
Late-autumn also provided the chance to see Yellow-browed and Pallas's Warblers
together on a couple of mornings
The totals show a good number of unusual birds were also caught, which are always nice to see, although unfortunately they always seemed to appear on busy days when you don't have much time to appreciate them! The most noticeable catch was Cornwall's first Blyth's Reed Warbler, but a Dartford Warbler was a welcome and overdue addition to the site ringing list.

As for controls (birds ringed elsewhere), fewer British Blackcaps than last year were controlled, even though the numbers were higher, and the site saw its first continental Goldcrest in the form of a Dutch-ringed bird. One of the many early dispersing September Robins made its way to Wendover, Bucks, and we also caught our first Sedge Warbler from Shetland. Also of note was a Yellow-browed Warbler recaught just five days after being ringed at Gibraltar Point Bird Observatory in Lincolnshire!

So all in all, 2015 has been an excellent year, with many thanks to all the ringers involved and if you're tempted to visit in 2016 then check out the details on the website.

8 December 2015

Peregrine update

We blogged at the weekend about the unfortunate Cornish Peregrine found in Portugal, so thought a short update was in order. Thanks to the sterling efforts of the Wildlife Rescue Centre at the University of TrĂ¡s-Os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD), this bird was operated on and is now doing well. But what did transpire during the surgery was that it had actually been shot originally, as evidenced by the pre-op x-ray.

Here's hoping all their hard work pays off and MV will recover...

6 December 2015

Portuguese Peregrine and a few old friends

We have recently received a report via BTO of one of our Peregrines ringed this year. GR80973 was one of two chicks ringed near Morvah in July and was sadly found with a broken wing in northern Portugal at the end of November. It is currently in care and we'll post an update as soon as we know anything more...

This is an especially notable movement, as can be seen from the map below of Peregrine movements from the BTO's Online Ringing Report. In fact, this is just the second report of a BTO-ringed Peregrine in Portugal (following one from Co Louth found dead there in 1981), with only one other bird further south; a bird from Northumberland found dead on Lanzarote in 1998.

There's not much other ringing news to report, what with the weather being so poor! But we've been out reading a few rings (coloured and otherwise), catching up with a few old friends. From east to west...
  • Black-headed Gull ES72115 remains at Par Beach Pool. Ringed as an adult in November 1995 it's getting to a good old age now, but still has a way to go to beat the UK longevity record of 32 years!
  • The Black-tailed Godwit flock on the Truro River is now at 65 birds, including at least two colour-ringed birds. One was a male bird ringed at Farlington Marshes, Hampshire, in September 2005 and has been seen most autumns since in Hampshire (July to October) and in spring in Kent (March to April), but rarely in the winter months. It was seen twice on the Exe estuary, Devon, in November 2009 but not since, but has now become a regular on the Truro River, having been seen in December 2012, November 2014 and twice this month. The other was also a male, ringed in July 2010 in Iceland, and has been seen at Devoran and the Truro River in four different winters and also back in Iceland every summer since. Interestingly it has also been seen at Frampton Marsh and Welney on migration.
The Hampshire godwit at Boscawen Park in November 2014 (John St Ledger)
The Icelandic godwit at Devoran in December 2012 (John St Ledger)
  • Down at Devoran, the two regular colour-ringed Curlews remain, ringed in August 2015 in Powys (the first from that project to be seen elsewhere) and in June 2013 in The Netherlands.
  • On Gillan Creek, the roosting gulls haven't received the attention they deserve of late, but it's nice to now that the regular Green R16X is still with us, ringed in France in June 2009 and seen on the Helford and down at Coverack every winter since.