Wednesday 29 May 2013

Starling Update

The Starling nest I mentioned in my Nest update post yesterday has seen all five birds fledge this morning and they are now wandering around the garden.

The first sign was around 8:30 this morning when a young Starling appeared on the window ledge of the office window, with another two appearing near the drive mid morning.

A quick check of the nest at lunchtime and it was empty. If I see more than five youngsters in the garden it may indicate the other nest has fledge too as the byre was pretty quiet when I visited.

Blackbirds next hopefully.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Common Rosefinch

My birding friend down in the village gave me a quick call this afternoon to say that he had seen either a female or first summer Common Rosefinch in his garden. It had quickly disappeared into the undergrowth and subsequent attempts to find it had drawn a blank.

I had a quick look in my garden just in case it had moved away from the village but to no avail.

Nest update

It has been a while since I posted any news about what has been going on around my home and my patch so I thought I would start with an update on what some of the breeding birds around here are doing.

First of all there is my Blackbird nest. I first spotted the adults taking nesting material into one of the banks that borders my garden on the 29 April. Then on the 1 May I located the nest which looked like construction had finished.When I passed the nest on the 2 May I spotted that the first egg had been laid with a second egg appearing the next day and a third the day after that. Then I had to go away for a few days. When I returned I found that there were five eggs on the nest. This meant that laying had been completed on the 6 May and therefore the eggs should hatch somewhere between the 18 and 21 May. Right on cue on either the 18 or 19 May all the eggs hatched. The next milestone will be when they fledge, which should be somewhere between the 30 May and 3 June. Yesterday, 27 May, my ringing trainer came up and we ringed the chicks who were all looking healthy and their feather development was going well.

Next, Starlings. I had noticed a number of Starlings visiting our byre back in April but with no obvious signs at the time of any nests it was thought that they had decided not to use the byre. Then in mid May I noticed that there were adults taking food into the byre. An initial look didn't come up with anything and any chicks that were there were keeping very quiet when the parents weren't about. Watching from the house at one point I spotted four adults go in with food in very close succession so there must be at least two nest in the byre somewhere. Subsequent observations from the house have seen six adults entering the byre so there are probably three nests in there. By the 20 May the chicks were starting to get vocal while the parents weren't about. Tracing where the sound was coming from plus the rapidly developing poo trail identified where two of the nest were. One was in a cavity right up in the apex of the roof and the other in a cavity next to one of the windows. On looking into the latter cavity four chicks could be seen. A second look on the 25 May showed that there were five chicks in the nest. A further check today (28 May) showed that there were still five chicks with quite advanced feathers. Not knowing exactly when they were hatched makes it difficult to predict when they will fledge but looking at the feathers I would say that fleding isn't too far away. As far as a third possible nest goes I have still to locate where that might be.

On the 25 May I noticed a pair of House Sparrows with food disappearing behind the gutter near the front door. A close look showed a possible small cavity that they were disappearing into. With careful listening I could hear the chicks. I have no idea how long it is since they hatched or when they are likely to fledge so I will just need to keep my eye on the garden for a load of young Sparrows appearing.

The final nest is in a field adjacent to my land. This field has been left alone by the farmer so far this year so it has the remenants of the stubble left over from last year. At the beginning of May I noticed that there was an Oystercatcher sitting amongst the stubble. Over a few days of observation it seem to spend most of its time in the same spot, with short periods of time where it would get up and walk about. A second Oystercatcher was always close by. On the 11 May, after my short trip away I went and investigated the area that I had seen the Oystercatcher sitting in. As I approached both Oystercatchers started getting quite vocal and moved away from the area. It didn't take me long to find the nest, which contained three eggs, in a shallow hollow. The eggs were well camouflaged so I marked the position with my GPS to make it easier to find on subsequent visits. Soon after I cleared the area one of the adults returned to the nest and resumed incubating duties. I was able to keep an eye on the nest location from the house and could see the adults taking it in turn to sit on the eggs. I paid a second visit to the nest on the 26 May and there were still three eggs. Again not knowing when the eggs were laid I don't know for sure when they will hatch. It should take somewhere between 24 and 27 days for the eggs to hatch. If the adult had been sitting on three eggs when I first spotted it on the 4 May then the eggs could hatch as early as today (28 May), if however the last egg was laid on the day I first visited the nest (11 May) then they won't hatch until possibly the 7 Jun. A further brief visit to the nest today showed that the three eggs were still in the nest so I will have to monitor the nest from the house and watch for any signs that the eggs have hatched.

Details of the Blackbird, Starling and Oystercatcher nests are being recorded as part of the BTO Nest Record Scheme (NRS). For details on this and how to become involved visit the BTO NRS website.

Sunday 12 May 2013

A trip to NRBO

I have just got back from my first visit to the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory (NRBO) having spent five days over there (5-9 May).

This post will cover just my birding activities, I have put a post covering my ringing activities on my other blog - Orkney Ringer

The Observatory

As the name implies the Observatory (Obs) is located on North Ronaldsay, the Northern most island in the Orkney island group.

North Ronaldsay is well-known as one of the best birdwatching sites in the country and the variety and number of birds that arrive here on migration in Spring and Autumn can be spectacular.

The Obs, which is situated in the Southwest corner of the island, was established in 1987 and its aim is to study and record the migrant birds that pass through Orkney's most Northerly island each year.

The Observatory

Guest Dining Room
The Obs Cafe/Bar

Visitors are welcome to stay at the observatory which includes guest house accomodation, a hostel and camping area. For full details visit their website 

The Obs is one of the two main ringing sites, the other is just up the road at Holland House.

As well as the usual mist nets and whoosh nets used to catch the birds the Obs also makes use of Heligoland traps. This consists of a mesh funnel that the birds move down through until they reach a catching box. When not in use there is a trap doo on the catching box that is closed to prevent the birds from getting caught in when the trap is not in use. The funnel is open so that the birds can get in and out when the trap is not in use.

Heligoland Trap

To be continued :-)