Blog Category | Ringing
A totally mixed day today with some great catches and a disaster. As seen by the opening photo, we managed to net an Ortolan Bunting. These are hardly ever seen on Gibraltar and if they turn up any year, it is only in ones or twos. A great bird but I spent ages ensuring that, as a first year bird, I hadn't confused it with Cretzschmar's or Little or a host of others. Satisfied, it was ringed, biometrics taken and quickly photographed. According to Mark, it was a 'Twitter bird'. This apparently means that I have to be indoctrinated into 'social media' before he leaves on Saturday. I can't wait.
The Ortolan unfortunately knocked a very nice Whitethroat into second place. As the first of the trip, it again had to be looked at carefully but was a welcome addition to our list. A total of 63 birds ringed today and would have been more if a feral cat had not got into the nets. Shades of early Ascension days and just as distressing to see the damage that they can do. Suffice to say that a trap is out and the wardens warned.
Last point - has anyone seen John Hughes? Meant to be visiting us but we have no contact information.
A pause to give Mark's Cyprus blog some space and to recognise what a real blog should look like. So much information and consistently great photos.
Here we are on day 10 and two more housemates join us in Bruce's Farm - Carl and Ann Powell. Their arrival coincided with Mark's work experience day when he inspected something in the Dockyard. Never to miss an opportunity he joined us on the hill in uniform but surprisingly didn't try ringing Blackcaps for obvious reasons. His two mornings away coincided with the largest number of birds netted in one round. At this rate we are having to download data to IPMR daily at Jew's Gate and gives us a chance to compare numbers and species caught. This is getting a little embarrassing as the winds seem to favour us and they have had a week of poor results.
Today of course, Carl ringed all we could throw at him and he has caught up with most of the good birds such as Redstart but we could only get him one retrapped Iberian Chiffchaff. Yesterday's Willow Warblers failed to put in a repeat performance and must have moved on. Mark's face on one net round gave away that he was holding something special and I was therefore surprised that he offered it up after the promise of a beer. Not exactly a rare bird in Britain but I have never ringed Grasshopper Warbler until this one and spend some time looking at the differences with Lanceolated Warbler. It's all in the under tail coverts and tertials and did not take long to work out. A lovely bird and photogenic as the attached shows. A beer worth spent.
We now have two chefs - bad for all our waist lines and I have already failed on the no beer on weekdays rule, foolishly mentioned on Ascension and already picked up by our one avid reader!
With Carl and Ann Powell due out here shortly, the last thing I am going to mention is the weather. For a reasonable number of birds, we need an easterly wind and this is not due to return until the end of this week. Today started wet and got wetter until the early afternoon when the sun and wind helped to dry us out. We had managed a productive hour from first light picking up a steady flow of Sardinian Warblers, Pied Flies, Blackcap, Wrens, Iberian Chiffchaff and Blackbirds (never seen so many of the latter in one place), while watching the progress of squalls in the harbour below, the Bay, and the Straits further out. Anticipating trouble as the winds got up, it was a job to get all birds out and nets closed in time. In a break, and because we have yet to have a day without moving nets, we moved 2 unproductive nets from the bottom of the hill to the top. More emotional moments and all eyes on Mark and his teddy (see earlier blogs). At last the rain stopped, the sun came out and a female Sparrowhawk obligingly flew into an upper net. Not much causes me to run uphill but in this case and blowing out of every orifice, I caught her - a beautiful 2nd year female. The ringing day finished with an adult male Redstart in fresh and striking plumage.
Well, not quite the end of the day. A visit to La Linea and an 'all you can eat' Chinese restaurant was preceded by a viewing of White Storks nesting on platforms beside the road and a spiral of up to 40 birds over local wetland. Slept all the way back!
It had to happen - the weather has turned and so last night we decided to go into Spain for some inland ringing this morning. Two and a half hours in the queue to cross the border did nothing for our collective sense of humour but fish and chips collected and eaten at the home of John Hale in Malaga Province managed to restore spirits...and a few beers. Mark Cutts and I stayed with John overnight and severely dented his beer stocks while Julia and Robin overnighted around the corner at their house in Casares. By the time we had opened 13 nets in John's 14 acre garden we had still no idea of the landscape but as dawn broke, a fantastic panorama of rocky hills and scrubland opened before us. Lesser Kestrel and Blue Rock Thrush were overtaken in interest by low flying Griffon Vultures (pictured) and then by large flocks of feeding Crag Martins with the occasional Red-rumped Swallow and House Martin.
Despite rain overnight, bird numbers were down this morning again, mostly due to the westerly wind but the pleasure of walking through such interesting countryside, compensated. A new bird was Cetti's Warbler, common enough in the UK but we were never going to ring it on Gibraltar. A retrapped Cetti's was ringed by Julia 10 days previously. We left John in his idyllic surroundings to return to the Rock and check that our furled nets remained so.
With the prospect of going over to Spain to ring tomorrow morning, we are hastily back from Middle Hill and a quick repack of kit. No time compromised as the change in wind to a Westerly and little early cloud, reduced the numbers of birds considerably. Even the raptors were scarce today. Nevertheless, of the 23 birds ringed this morning, one new one for the list was Whitethroat. The fresh birds that we see in the fields at home look a little tired and worn here and it is surprising how many local birds simply do not move far. The combination of well travelled and local species that moult twice if hatched early in the year, makes for some interesting debates, Sardinian Warbler and Blackbirds in particular. Pied Flycatchers (pictured), Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler and Redstart made up some of the other numbers. A control Blackcap was very surprisingly ringed by Julia 2 years ago at Jew's Gate.
Despite having all nets up and in the right place, Charles Perez helpfully suggested that the line of four on the steepest slope should be moved three feet to the left to get closer to the vegetation. We all agreed and Mark Cutts' teddy remained intact so hopefully Sunday's ringing should produce better numbers.