Blog Category | Ringing
We finally topped the thousand birds ringed today. Not bad against some difficult weather conditions. Admittedly they are nearly all Blackcaps so there will be absolutely no excuse next year for mis-ageing juveniles at home. We have also got our act together in splitting Iberian from normal Chiffchaffs. All juvenile Chiffs are coming through here dressed in bright yellow similar to Willows and so even in the hand it has not been easy. With the Willows and Iberians gone last month, only basic Chiffs should be going through now. The hope that we could catch more Red-necked Nightjars has faded although a European Nightjar (pictured) was lured into the nets before dawn yesterday. The use of tape lures has been with mixed results. The weather plays a more significant part with nightjars and we have tried a variety of calls to attract migrants. This has not been an exact art and where we have played typical northern woodland calls, there have been Blackcaps. Clear though is that nets without tapes have caught less.
With Julia and Robin Springett at a Trafalgar night, I am now preparing to check all our data transferred to a memory stick from Jew's Gate this afternoon. I have no faith in this exercise without my IT guru Mark Cutts. I may just tweet the results!
No blog from Gib would be complete without the obligatory phot of a Barbary Macaque. Less for the theft of an apple, we have been unaffected by these guys who merely pass through under the nets.
The current weather patterns are predicted to remain and so time to do something completely different. Having dropped off Carl and Ann Powell at the airport, we joined the cross border queue and later drove to La Janda - a birding site of some repute. Stinking hot day but driving through the rice fields at midday we were too wrapped up in Calandra and Crested Larks, Fan-tailed Warblers, storks and Griffons to worry. Of a total of 50 species within a few hours, highlights included a flock of over 1000 Glossy Ibis (pictured), Great Spotted Cuckoo, Black-shouldered Kite and a single Black Stork. Jury is still out on a single bird perched on a telephone wire (pictured below) for which we have three 'stake my life on it' opinions. A great day though and welcome break.
Ringing was resumed today but some enlightened individual had untied all our net guy ropes and ties in our absence. More a gesture of some kind than criminal damage but all nets had to be retied in the dark and so delaying our start. No wind means no birds and so we painfully climbed to a total of 40 ringed before drawing stumps. Charlie Perez joined us and once more gave us an insight into local peculiarities of moult, ageing and sexing, Gibraltar style. My juvenile female Black Redstart picture of 2 days ago therefore reverts to just juvenile despite my protestations! Garden Warblers should be aged on their tertials rather than tail. To address the balance, we did convince him that there was a way of sexing juvenile Nightjars by wing and tail pattern!
We now stand at 900 birds with little prospect of making the thousand with the current wind strength and direction but a final burst is needed before the weekend.
Apologies should not be necessary for this shorter missive and our two readers can therefore get an early night. Yesterday's catch was a little similar to the previous day, a total of only 27 birds, but a chance retrap of the Wheatear allowed me to check out the less than distinctive plumage of a juvenile bird. To our raptor watch were added 15 Griffon Vultures circling quite low - a spectacle after endless Booted Eagles. We have also been troubled by a predator and so the cat trap was set for the third night running. While opening the nets I checked the trap to find a very large and angry, but well fed feral occupant. Some nice people from Avian Control took it away.
Today's slow start under clear skies (nice for stargazers, rubbish for ringers) picked up later and our second Black Redstart (pictured) was caught. Another juvenile and therefore an almost total grey plumage less for the tail which also helps to prove a female bird. At lunchtime, 4 Blue Tits were found in one of the nets. The first had been ringed at Jew's Gate, second and third by ourselves in the last few days and the fourth was unringed - quite a mix. Thirty birds in all and the Blackcaps just keep on coming.
Today was Carl and Anne Powell's last full day and Robin returns tonight. Carl never did get his C to A assessment as the paucity of birds at Jew's Gate made it impractical. One day!
Last blog of this week and it sees us at a low ebb. The wind has changed again and we have gone from manic to depressive in a day. These current westerlies just prevent anything moving, keep us in sunshine early in the day when we need cloud cover, and even preventing raptors from crossing the Straits. We had to lay off our recorder and raptor counter early for some sightseeing, leaving self, Julia and Carl to patrol the mostly empty nets. Not all bad news, as we caught a juvenile Black Redstart (pictured) and spent some considerable time working out why it was not a Common. Not difficult but with a first for the trip we have to ensure that records are 100% before submitting to the Gibraltar Ornithologic and Natural History Society. A more IT savvy reporter would have a picture of both to compare the two. It's not going to happen!
With early furling of nets and unable to download our data as the Jew's Gate site were playing data catch-up, we decided in desperation to do some sea watching. Fifteen minutes was enough to clock Cory's Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Morocco Cormorant and endless Yellow-legged Gulls. No cetaceans. Besides, Ann Powell had been promised an ice cream and wasn't going to let us renague on the deal. What a disappointment to miss a further hour and a half looking at the sea! On return to Bruce's Farm we were treated to a fly past of an African Monarch, more commonly seen at the Botanical Gardens. For those with an interest in bird food I include a photo below.
Tomorrow sees the return to UK of Sue and John Wells and we lose Carl Powell for the day to Jew's Farm where temporary resident ringer Ray Marsh will give him the once over. Mark Easterbrook's blog from Cyprus comes out on Sunday night and so I will create some blog space resuming Monday night when Robin Springett returns to us.
Sitting in stifling afternoon heat having entered 145 records into the Jews Gate computer, Andrew's blog makes us all here yearn for cooler climes, winter thrushes and, dare I say it, variety. After 78 Blackcaps and 47 Robins, I made an unseemly grab for the single Wren that rose to the rarity value of the only Orphean Warbler (pictured) caught today.
Yesterday lacked numbers but included two new species for the trip - Northern Wheatear and Reed Warbler - to accompany Bonnelli's Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Stonechat. The large number of Pied Flies has dwindled considerably and been replaced by Robins. Even the Sardinian Warblers have almost disappeared. We are not exactly blase about Nightjars - how could you be with such cryptic plumage and affronted attitude accompanied by loud hisses and a gape that seems larger than the bird itself - but today's European Nightjar was the first to be released without a photo record.
Hardly mentioned have been the raptors, but with John Wells here as the non-ringer, he has been able to spend more time on the raptor count than the rest of us. The result has been an impressive record of fly-by birds from sparrowhawks through harriers to eagles, and today, Egyptian Vultures to add to the GONHS data base. He has also assumed the post of cat catcher from Mark Cutts, while Sue Wells continues to record - today for two and a half hours before getting a leg stretch!