Wednesday, 27 April 2011


We made the most of the long weekend and Ringed for three days this weekend. We had by far our best number of birds in the net with 43 birds in total. Away from the common residents the Warblers are still coming through with Willow Warblers being the most common. A few Blackcaps are still around with one or two Chiffchaffs still. On saturday we had literally just finished putting the nets up when we looked back and a bird flew into one of the nets straight away. We were surprised to see that it was a Tree Pipit (above), a superb start to the day! The next bird could be considered an even bigger surprise, an adult female Brambling (below). This is a very late record for a wintering species.

Mothing was still quite slow with 9 species recorded. Still, there were a couple of new ones for me, a Herald (above) and Shuttle Shaped Dart (below).

On friday evening Steve sent me a text to say he'd had superb views of 3 young Tawny Owl chicks at a well known spot to us. So after Ringing was finished on the saturday I went over to take a look. Sure enough the chicks were showing fantastically well.
On the Easter Monday I had an excellent hour at the Academy Pools. I finally caught up with the Lesser Whitethroat (above) that had been reported all week, and I also saw a lovely male Whinchat.

Friday, 22 April 2011


I've been spending my lunch breaks this week at Sunderland Football Clubs Academy Pools. It was great to hear the Sedge Warblers (above) back on territory again, with the first heard on Tuesday and as many as four by the friday.
Hirundines are also back feeding on the insects around the pools. Swallows and Sand Martins had been here for a while already but on thursday they were joined by a single House Martin (above), my first of the year.

The start of the week was excellent for Wheatears, with at least 7 individuals seen on the monday. The next day it was down to 3, and they stuck around for a few more days but by friday I didnt see any at all. Common Whitethroats (above) are also back on their breeding grounds, with around 3 or 4 seen/heard along the path to the pools. Also 2 or 3 Groppers were heard reeling in various places. No sign yet though of any Lesser Whitethroats.

LAST WEEKENDS RINGING (16th & 17th april)

Last weekend was very good ringing wise with 19 birds of 8 different species trapped in total. Warblers are starting to pass through in bigger numbers now, and we had four different types in the nets. After the earlier influx of Chiffchaffs it seems they have now been replaced by Willow Warblers (above).
Blackcaps are also passing through in big numbers at the moment and it was nice to get both male (above) and female (below) on the same day.
But the best Warbler of the weekend was this stunning little Grasshopper Warbler (below) that was caught on the sunday. It was actually the first Gropper that John has ringed so he was particularly pleased with himself!
As can be seen in the picture below, the cabin is much more than just a ringing station, its a meeting place and social gathering point for many of the local birders. Its great to be the focal point for the lads and the banter makes the early starts a lot more fun and bearable!

A big big thank you to Steve and Dougie for the superb pictures above.


Mothing is slowly starting to improve as the days (or nights!) are warming up. There were eleven different species in the trap over the weekend, eight of which were lifers for me. The species were (lifers in capitals) RED SWORDGRASS, DARK SWORDGRASS, WHITE ERMINE, Clouded Drab, DOUBLE STRIPED PUG, WATER CARPET, Hebrew Character, PINE BEAUTY, TWENTY PLUME, Common Quaker & STREAMER. Since Nick started the trap up 4 weeks ago I've had 18 new species already! I also put my own moth trap on for the first time this year and got a grand total of TWO moths! Both Hebrew Characters. Nothing too exciting but it was still a garden tick.
Pine Beauty (top) White Ermine (middle) & Streamer (bottom)
Mammal trapping was less successful last weekend with just the single female Wood Mouse caught. But we've still had at least something every time we've put the traps out.

Sunday, 10 April 2011


Ringing on Saturday was REALLY quiet, with only six birds in total caught! Two Chiffchaffs, a Dunnock, Goldfinch, Wren and Great Tit were the only birds we had in four hours of ringing. Mothing was equally disappointing with only TWO species trapped! Hebrew Characters and Tawny Pinion were the only ones. However John Chapman did bring along a moth he'd trapped in his garden, a Muslin Moth, which was a new species for me. We pulled the nets down at 9.30am because we had a meeting with the Lottery facilitator, and while showing her around the Coastal Park I saw my first two Wheatears of the year. It was also nice to see plenty of Toadspawn in the pond.

If I thought ringing on Saturday was disappointing Sunday was actually even worse! Only FIVE birds trapped in total, a Robin, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Goldfinch and a Blue Tit. Mothing was better but really only slightly. Three species trapped, Hebrew Character, Common Quaker and Clouded Drab. After the mammal trapping success of last weekend we borrowed a trap from Andy/WWT and John set it on Saturday night. When we checked it this morning we discovered it had caught a Wood Mouse. One trap one catch. Cant argue with that! So we've borrowed a few more traps and we'll put them out on the weekends that we ring. It was nice to see my first Swallows of the year this morning, always a welcome sight. We also had a fantastic surprise when a Marsh Harrier flew past the coast giving us excellent views. Great stuff.


Had an excellent lunch break on thursday. With the gorgeous sun shining high in the sky it brought the Butterflies out en masse. Seven different species were seen including my first Speckled Woods of the year. The others were Large White, Small White, Green Veined, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Orange Tip. A good number of birds were around as well with 3 Chiffchaffs being joined by my first Blackcap of the year.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


Just checked the pond and the Frogspawn has started to hatch!

Sunday, 3 April 2011


Clare met up with us at 7.30am this morning to check out the traps we'd set on the mound. Incredibly out of the 10 traps we'd set 5 of them had caught something! Clare said that was a very good result, and we were expecting 1 or 2 at the most. The mammals we'd caught were 4 Wood Mice and 1 Common Shrew. All animals were released completely harmless and happily skipped off to get on with their daily routine. The whole Group thoroughly enjoyed the experience and all agreed to do a lot more trapping in the coming months.


Another 5.30am start on Saturday as we had to put the nets out from scratch. Its surprising how long this takes! It wasnt a great start as it absolutely lashed down with rain early on, but we stuck it out and waited for it to lift before finally getting the chance to put them up. Unfortunately we had light showers off and on for most of the morning, and in the end we were beaten by an increasingly heavier gale and finished quite early at 10.30ish. Species caught were Dunnock, Goldfinch, Blackbirds, Chaffinch and the highlight 3 Chiffchaffs. 9 birds were trapped in total.
Sunday morning we had a 6.00am start as the nets were already up we just had to unfurl them. As we got out the car we saw a big male Fox leaving the mound, a superb start to the day! Today we were joined by Adrian as he was down from Scotland for the weekend visiting relatives. Again it was a relatively quiet day for birds trapped. Species caught were Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Blue Tit & Goldfinch. Like yesterday 9 birds in total. But the undoubted highlight of the day was getting the chance to ring my first bird!!! As Adrian is a qualified trainer he kindly allowed me to ring the last bird of the day - a female Chaffinch. It was an absolute thrill to get the chance to do this and something that will stay with me for a long long time.

After the Ringing I had a quick visit to Marsden and saw my first Sand Martins, Kittiwakes & Razorbills of the year. And then on the way home I saw my first Pintail at Boldon Flats.

Chiffchaff (top) Blue Tit (middle) & Chaffinch (bottom)


Nick started the Moth Trap at Whitburn Coastal Park again last weekend after the Winter break. Obviously its still quite early in the year but its still attracted a number of species including Hebrew Character, Clouded Drab, Common Quaker, Red Green Carpet, Satellite, and my favourite so far Oak Beauty.

Satellite Moth (top) & Oak Beauty Moth (bottom)


On Thursday night Clare Rawcliffe from the STyneside Countryside Team met with the Group at Whitburn Coastal Park to give us some training on trapping small mammals. First we familiarised ourselves with the traps themselves, how to put them together, how to set them, how to release etc. Then we went over what type of bedding material to use, and what food to use as bait. Then we had a brief session on what species were likely to be caught and how to identify them. We were then shown the correct way to handle the creatures before finally setting them free. After the training we took ten traps out to the mound and baited them before placing them in several promising looking areas. The plan was to pre-bait the traps (ie put food in them but not set them to trap) for a couple of nights so the mammals can get used to them and then properly set them on the Saturday night and check if anything had been caught on the Sunday morning. Roll on Sunday morning!