5 December 2023

Start of the winter Chiffs

It's not often we start our winter sewage works ringing in December, but a couple of weekends of cold weather recently gave us the chance to venture out to a couple of sites.

Gwennap is often our most productive site and a few hours last weekend saw us catch 101 birds, including 59 Chiffchaffs. Of these, just four were birds ringed in previous winters, predictably all at the site. The highlight though was a smart Grey Wagtail which was already carrying a ring, but not one of ours. It had actually been ringed as one of three chicks in a nest in Budock Water in April, 9km from Gwennap.

The Grey Wagtails in the nest (Sam Pitt Miller)

This last weekend we were then able to get into Brew sewage works, near Sennen, right down in the far west. It needs a calm day to net this exposed site, so we have to make the most of the chance. A short morning produced 61 birds, of which 45 were Chiffchaffs. Being so close to the autumn ringing site at Nanjizal, several of these were already ringed, which gives a nice insight into the arrival timing of wintering birds (more on that later). Most were from this same autumn, but four were ringed at Nanjizal in autumn 2022, so were returning birds.

Brew is also our best site for Siberian Chiffchaffs (tristis race) of which we caught two, both of which were quite subtle birds (as below), not the cold grey birds we sometimes see.

30 July 2023

Barn Owl 2023 update

After one of the strangest springs weather-wise, the Barn Owl season seemed to be all over the place in 2023. We had regular sites unoccupied, non-breeding birds at some sites and some exceptionally late broods. Even now we have a few sites where we need to revisit to ring chicks!

With some new funding from the FiPL project (Farming in Protected Landscapes) managed by the Cornwall AONB, we are continuing to expand our monitoring, this year onto the Roseland peninsula, with some new ringer recruits this year as well from the National Trust.

Our totals for the year were still quite impressive (note we've knocked off a couple of the early years to make space):

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Sites visited 41 47 64 85 87 106 93 112
Unoccupied 11 12 23 34 36 43 35 34
Occupied, no breeding 7 8 5 4 3 4 5 4
Average clutch size
(where observed)
4.6 4.6 5.3 5.2 4.7 4.6 4.5 4.5
Average brood size
(where observed)
3.5 2.8 3.0 3.3 3.0 3.2 2.8 3.1 3.2
Chicks ringed 70 47 90 132 119 177 133 189 193
Adults ringed/recaught 17/8 14/9 21/14 18/14 16/15 22/17 19/17 20/22

Unsurprisingly there was again some variety in the brood sizes across the area, with the highest average again along the north coast fared the best though (average brood size of 3.7), followed by the east of the county (3.5, compared to just 2.3 last year) and then 3.0-3.1 elsewhere.

There seemed to be more movement between sites this year, with one adult even on its third site in as many years! The movements between bixes (mostly birds ringed as chicks dispersing) are shown here.

14 July 2023

Stormies on the move

Last month saw us able to mist net Storm Petrels down at Porthgwarra on two nights, catching a total of 119 birds. Of these, 113 were unringed, three were ringed by us in previous years and three were already wearing rings from elsewhere:

  • ringed on Great Saltee Island (Co Wexford) three days earlier
  • ringed on Little Saltee Island (Co Wexford) in July 2022
  • ringed at Torre de Hercules in northern Spain in July 2015, although since then it had managed to lose a foot, a surprisingly regular phenomenon in Storm Petrels!

Two birds we ringed on the same night were also recaught 21 days later on Bardsey, also on the same night! Another was then recaught on Lundy Island 29 days later, alongside birds we'd ringed here in July 2016, June 2017 and August 2020, which may well now be recruited as breeding birds on the island.

Hopefully more Stormies to come next week, with a public ringing session likely to be on Monday or Tuesday, so see here for details.

24 May 2023

Strange goings on at Mullion Island

We took the opportunity of a fine evening to do a quick Great Black-backed Gull nest count on Mullion Island yesterday. Quite bizarrely, almost the first breeding bird we saw on landing was this Canada Goose, which actually had a nest with six eggs.

Nest with a view!

This is the first time we've even seen Canada Goose on the island, so quite a aurprise. At the other end of the island, we also found a second pair, but with an apparently failed nest with just one egg found near the empty nest.

As for the gulls, we covered most of the island, bar two areas close to nesting Shags, with a final count of 64 nests (178 eggs/chicks). Most were clutches of three eggs, some of which were just hatching, with just two small chicks seen.

Surprisingly we only saw one colour-ringed bird (L:DD2), which was a chick ringed on the island in 2018. Since then, it's been on its travels, seen on Ares beach in northern Spain in January, September and December 2020 and then at the nearby Playa de Santa Cruz in January 2021, so nice to see it back breeding.

Coincidentally, on a non-birding kayak earlier in the day (but always with camera at hand) we also recorded L:DD1 near Rosemullion Head, which is the first time it's been seen since being ringed on the island in 2018.

18 May 2023

Herring Gull and Kittiwake wanderings

We've not blogged anything for a while, but with a quiet winter devoid of Siberian Chiffchaffs there's not much to report! But this week we've had a couple of exciting colour ring sightings, so thought we'd share.

On 4th May we heard from the assistant warden at the newly-accredited Lundy Bird Observatory, with news of one of our blue-ringed Herring Gulls; W:377, which was ringed as a chick on a roof at Tregoniggie Industrial Estate, Falmouth in June 2020. It is a bit of an explorer though, having been seen locally until August 2021, before being report on the French coast in February 2022. The next winter (January 2023), it was reported from a French landfill site, before returning to the coast in March. It was last reported there on 6th April before swapping France for Lundy.

W377 at Stithians in August 2021
W377 at Marais de Suscinio in February 2022 (Catherine and Michel Marcaul)

Newly-moulted W377 back at Marais de Suscinio in March 2023 (Anne-Sophie Hochet)
W377 on Lundy in May 2023 (Luke Marriner)

Then on 15th May, we had a report of one of our Trewavas Head Kittiwakes, seen pair bonding and attending the beginnings of a nest maintenance on Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry, Ireland. KJ was ringed as an adult at Trewavas Head in 2017 and bred there (when the site was doing well) until 2020. As the main site started to fail, it then moved a short distance along the coast to Trequean Zawn in 2021, but then wasn't seen in 2022.

KJ on its travels (Brian Power)

We rarely see movements between our sites and Wales/Ireland as it's far more likely for us to share birds with the French colonies. In fact, this is our first Kittiwake to be found in Ireland and only the second Cornish-ringed bird to make the trip.