26 July 2021

Four nights, four Stormies to Alderney

Over the years we've shared a few Storm Petrels with the Channel Islands and in total 19 Cornish-ringed birds have been recaught there and seven ringed on the islands have been recaught in Cornwall. In fact, just 56 BTO-ringed birds have ever been found on the Channel Islands, so Cornwall provides a fair proportion of these.

This week we received a rush of reports from Burhou, Alderney though, with four of our birds recaught there on consecutive days:

  • 15th July - bird originally ringed at Porthgwarra in June 2021
  • 16th July - bird ringed at Lizard in July 2012
  • 17th July - bird ringed at Lizard in June 2016
  • 18th July - bird ringed at Lizard in June 2019

Whilst some of these may be wandering non-breeding birds, it's interesting to see birds from 2012 and 2016 which are now breeding age birds. Presumably these are nesting on Burhou, which is in fact the only site that Storm Petrels breed on the islands.

20 July 2021

Back in the marsh

So with a change of tenancy and Covid rules relaxed enough to allow more ringing freedom, three of us ventured into Gunwalloe reedbed for the first non-roost ringing at the site since September 2016. Since that time we've ringed the Swallow roost just twice (in August 2018 and September 2019), so it was great to get back in for some warbler ringing. The site was originally run as a CES (Constant Effort Site) so we hope to restart that in the future.

But as is always the way it has taken a bit of clearance and work to get the reedbed net ride back to a usable condition, including finding the original boardwalk and filling in some gaps. We did still manage to find some poles and guys from years gone by though!

We started early this morning to avoid the heat and with just a small number of nets caught 41 birds before closing up at 9am. Having not ringed at the site for so long it wasn't too surprising to find no local retraps, but we WERE surprised to find two ringed warblers (a Sedge and a Reed), both with AXL rings. The ring sequence did seem familiar and it turns out these were both birds ringed last autumn at Nanjizal (just 30km as the warbler flies), so nice to share some Cornish birds between a breeding site and a migration site.

One of the AXL birds from Nanjizal
Not surprisingly the majority of captures were Sedge and Reed Warblers, but we did also manage a few juvenile Whitethroats and a juvenile Cetti's Warbler. We hope to ring the site more over the autumn so will add updates when we can.

13 July 2021

Busy seabird weekend

This long weekend has been a busy one, with various group members (and even a visitor from up-country) heading out to all parts of West Cornwall in search of (mostly) seabirds.

We started off with our annual gull-ringing trip over to Mullion Island, which was always going to be an unknown as we were too busy colour-ringing Cormorant chicks on our last visit to count the Great Black-backed Gull nests. We headed over in two kayaks and a dinghy, landing in a quiet cove and heading onto the top of the island. Working our way round we ringed just 10 chicks, but at least another 10 were too big to try to catch. Whilst there, we were also able to photgraph a couple of ringed adults, both of which had been ringed as chicks in 2016 but are now breeding on the island. Interestingly, one (L:CN5) had been ringed as a chick on Looe Island, but has been seen a few times around Lizard and Coverack since.

Next stop was a tour of Barn Owl sites around the Lizard, ringing chicks at 10 sites in total. Several of these later broods had just two chicks, in contrast to those earlier in the season that had three or even four chicks.

Back on the seabird theme, the next day found us Kittiwake ringing at Trewavas Head. Half of the team paddled round from Porthleven while the other half walked in with a ladder from Rinsey. We all reconvened at the cliffs to scramble down and kayak round to the main Kittiwake site. With very few birds successfully breeding, we only colour-ringed eight chicks, but at least this is better than the zero of the last two years. We also took the opportunity to read various colour rings at Trequean zawn and also managed to get photographs of two metal-ringed birds. One of these (ET44236) was ringed on the Isles of Scilly in 1999 and had been seen by us at the engine houses colony in 2018 as well, so is a healthy 22 years old now. The other rewmains a mystery at the moment, with the BTO team looking at the possible options for us of what might be a very old bird!

After an extra couple of owl boxes, we then headed down to Porthgwarra for dusk to set nets for Storm Petrels. This is often the busiest month for Stormies and true to form the first net round before midnight saw 45 birds in the nets, so it was a busy session for everyone. In total we ringed 95 birds, with recaptures of a French-ringed bird and others ringed on the Calf of Man (in August 2020), St David's, Pembrokeshire (in July 2020) and one of our own from Lizard (ringed in July 2020). Talking of Stormies, we also heard from the BTO that a bird we ringed at Lizard in August 2020 was recaught on Alderney, Channel Islands on 10th July.

So al in all a very productiove weekend of seabird ringing, contributing to our ongoing colour-ringing projects for some of these species.

4 July 2021

A mediocre Kittiwake season

At the weekend we had an evening paddle out to the Kittiwake colony at Trewavas Head to continue our Retrapping (or resighting in our case) Adults for Survival project. It was the perfcet sea conditions for a kayak, and two of us managed to cover most of the colony in under three hours.

Sadly, as in the past two years, the main site was earily quiet with a lot of birds sat by empty nests or just loafing. Just five nests had chicks, with just four other sitting adults, which is a shadow of the 70 pairs of just a few years ago. We did manage to reread colour rings on 10 birds, all ringed as adults at the same site in 2013, 2015 (2 birds), 2016 (2 birds) and 2018 (4 birds). We also took the opportunity to ring a couple more adults to contribute to the project.

There was slightly better news at Trequean Zawn, where there were at least six nests with chicks and 10 adults sitting tight. Part of this site can only be seen from the sea, so there are no doubt more nesting birds than this. There were more colour-ringed birds here, many with much more interesting histories. Most of these were ringed as chicks, obviously recruiting to a new site away from their natal site. Birds were recorded that had been ringed as chicks at the main colony in 2015 (3 birds), 2016 (3 birds) and 2018 (3 birds), and there was also a chick ringed at the engine houses area of the cliffs in 2017. Interestingly there were also four adults at Trequean that had been ringed as adults at the main site in 2016 and 2017, and still recorded there in 2020.

PP was ringed as a chick in 2015 and has successfully
bred the last three years at Trequean
 Additional to these local birds were three French-ringed birds, ringed as chicks in 2007, 2011 and 2015. These also have interesting histories, with one of them seen previously at Rinsey in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and another (OWM-RNN) that was at the main Trewavas site in 2012-19 before moving to Western Cove, Portreath in 2020.

It'll be interesting to see how the birds get on at the main site and whether or not more move along to Trequean in the future.