Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The weekend - 16th/17th

Saturday morning was another early start for a mist netting session with our trainer. Both of us had had long and busy days on Friday (me doing uni work and going out for drinks with my flatmates, Chris twitching the Orphean Warbler in Pembrokeshire), so the 05:45 wake up wasn't particularly welcome, but it turned out to be well worth it!
We met Steve at the farm for 07:45 and set 3 60ft nets and a 40ft. Whilst we were setting the 40ft, Steve came back from setting his nets, with a large bag around his wrist and big smile on his face. He said that there was a new species for me in the bag, and one that he had only caught in mist nets 3 times. This perplexed me and Chris to begin with, but then it jumped around and Chris knew what it was immediately...a Woodcock!

Nets set and back at the truck, I got the stunning bird out and ringed and processed it. It was quite the handful as they're an incredibly wriggly species, so I was very glad of all my big species handling practise over the summer!

Poor photo in low light, but a stunning bird and nice to see it in daylight at all !

After this lovely start to the day, we had a good session all in all. 63 new birds were ringed and 16 were retrapped. My personal totals were:

                                      Species            Extracted      Ringed
                                      Blue Tit                  7                 11
                                        Wren                   2                   1
                                     Goldcrest               2              [2 retrap]
                                      Dunnock                               [1 retrap]    
                                     Woodcock                                   1     
                                    Song Thrush           2                   1
                                      Great Tit                3                   4    
                                      Chaffinch              3                    4         
                                   House Sparrow                              1      
                                        Robin                  2                    1

I got some great extraction practise and managed to get some pretty tricky birds out. I feel that my confidence with extraction and processing is growing with every session and so is Steve's confidence in me.

After the session, Chris and I went exploring down the local river in hopes of finding more dipper sites. Although we didn't see any dippers, we did find a bridge that looked perfect for winter roosting and had a large, fresh nest that suggested they'd bred there this season. Field signs all down the river proved that they do use it regularly, so we hope to go back to at night sometime soon to check the bridge.

A beautiful autumnal river - fantastic afternoon walk

Chris attempting not to get wet as we cross downstream - I just walked along the tree

Sunday was mainly a work day - I've got a lot of uni work piling up and Chris has lots of jobs to get on with. However, we did manage to get away from the laptops at dusk, and went to recce the Tal-y-bont river for more dipper. We'd already recced it a month before and found 5 dippers up the whole river and several good roosting bridges. However, we hadn't found any dippers under the accessible bridges and so this recce was to confirm that they were roosting under the 30ft high bridge that we suspected they were under.

As the sun set, we found stood on top of the bridge and watched 2 dippers playing in the water down stream. They're such a charming species and so much fun to watch. To our surprise, the first bird to head upstream came out of nowhere, shot below me on the down river side of the bridge and never seemed to reappear from the other side. This process happened for 4 more birds (all from down stream) and confused us thoroughly. We then decided that we'd have to get under the bridge to see if we could see them. There's no direct way from the bridge to the river, so we had to walk through the local village, down to the rail bridge and then through the river, back downstream, for 300m. We never do have normal dates :-D With severely bramble cut hands, and a welly boot full of water, we made it to the bottom of the bridge and stared up into the girders in search of just one of the 5 birds. Either they weren't there, or were tucked safely away out of sight, but we couldn't see any of them. Faeces under the bridge seemed to suggest that the birds land on the rocks at the edge of the river, and then fly straight up to the bridge. This was the only explanation we could think of for our observations.

Unfortunately, this means the birds are inaccessible for lamping, and we'll have to think of a new plan once one of us has our mist net endorsement. We're hoping to get some advice from Steve at some point, but doesn't seem worth it yet.

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