Expect The Unexpected

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Five-fifteen. The alarm buzzed. “What would the day bring?” With luck the forecasts had been right, so through the "office" window I checked the darkened trees for signs of sway. They looked still, while above the street light there were breaks in the ghostly cloud. I heaved a sigh of relief, prepared for the off and for the 35 minute drive up to Oakenclough. For a ringer, the anticipation, the excitement of expecting the unexpected never quite goes away. 

At Okenclough it was still dark at 0630 as outer branches stirred ominously. It was more like 10-12 mph than the 6mph decreed by the experts. That 4+ mph can make a difference when birds with powerful eyesight can spot movement in the fine mesh of a mist net. 

Soon after dawn Redwings arrived. We caught a few in the dark as they continued to arrive in dozens and low hundreds, mostly from the north-west. Fieldfares began to arrive a little later but not in the same numbers as Redwings and certainly not in the numbers we witnessed on Thursday. By 10 am we had caught 14 Redwings and zero Fieldfares, despite counting 900 and 300 respectively. 

About 1030 it was as if someone dropped a curtain to stem the hitherto very visible migration. Birds passing through or overhead dwindled to near enough zero and it was time to pack up from what had been a disappointing catch of 14 Redwing, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Treecreeper, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Long-tailed Tit. 

Chiffchaff 

Treecreeper 

Redwing 

As the figures above suggest, birds other than Redwings and Fieldfares were hard to come by. It was as if all were in a hurry to reach their unknown destination with very few stopping off in our ringing site. As earlier in the week, we noted a strong movement of Woodpigeons heading south-west – circa 550 in 3+hours. 

In addition to thrushes we recorded approximately 60 Chaffinch, 20 Goldfinch, 6 “Alba” Wagtail, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Siskin, 1 Bullfinch, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk. 

Overall we enjoyed an exhilarating week of ringing with 157 birds caught, 99% of which were involved in active migration. Every one of those birds now carries a unique ring, the data associated with each capture is held on the National database, and every one of those birds could well provide more information in the coming days, weeks and years. One already has. 

A Lesser Redpoll Andy caught on Wednesday 17 October 2018, ring number ADA0166, had been ringed 364 days earlier on 18 October 2017 at Middleton, Morecambe Bay, Lancashire. 

On the way home but by barely stopping I clocked up 4 Kestrels, 2 Buzzard and 1 Sparrowhawk. Also, 125 Whooper Swans on Pilling Moss – our winter swans are back with my best count so far. 

Whooper Swans

There's more soon from Another Bird Blog.  Expect the unexpected and you won't be disappointed.



Different Day, Different Birds

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Monday saw a catch of 33 birds up at Oakenclough. Domestic commitments meant I couldn't make it on the next suitable morning, Wednesday, even though I was raring to go. Andy went alone and caught 60 birds, including another 15 Redwings and 8 more Lesser Redpolls. 

With so many millions of birds on a migratory push through the UK and Europe at this time of year there is a guarantee that each visit brings new birds to our nets. 

So with yet another excellent forecast we arranged to meet up again at Oakenclough on Thursday. We were joined today by Bryan H. At 0700 there was a slight breeze from the east with nil cloud and a temperature hovering around 2°C. 

The lack of cloud meant that migration might at the least prove hard to pick up or even non-existent if birds had found their way through the clear starry night. We needn't have worried too much as although small passerines were scarce there was a huge rush of northern thrushes and we kept busy throughout. 

By 11 am we had counted a minimum of 900 Fieldfare and 400 Redwing passing overhead. The thrushes were arriving from east and south-easterly directions and not from the north as we perhaps thought they might. This is suggestive of east coast arrivals with subsequent travel over the Pennines on west and south-westerly headings. 

Although Fieldfares easily outnumbered Redwings in the overall count, we caught proportionally more Redwings. This is due to the larger size of the Fieldfare and its ability to escape from a mist net, but also to its overall wariness when man is around. We also think that Fieldfares have superior eyesight to Redwings and are less likely to find themselves in a mist net, even in the half light of morning. In many countries of Europe, Fieldfares are hunted mercilessly, as are Redwings.  

Totals today: Redwings made up 50% of the catch - 42 birds of 10 species: 22 Redwing, 3 Fieldfare, 1 Blackbird, 5 Goldfinch, 3 Great Tit, 2 Chaffinch, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Coal Tit, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Wren, 

Field Sheet (Part)

The below Fieldfare is a first year male - amount of black in crown feathers, contrast in primary and secondary coverts. Tail feather shape. 

Fieldfare

Fieldfare 

Fieldfare

The Redwing below is a classic first year. Note the “pointy” tail feathers and the whitish notches on the tertial feathers. 

Redwing 

First year tail - Redwing 

Adult tail - Redwing 

Wing Tracts 

Unlike the last two visits here, Lesser Redpolls proved hard to come by. Their visible migration was zero, likewise Chaffinches, even though we caught two of each species. 

Lesser Redpoll 

Out of interest, and to remind ourselves that the Common Redpoll and the Lesser Redpoll are now lumped together (again). 

The taxonomy of redpolls remains unsettled, part of an ongoing debate that recognises several different but very closely related forms of redpolls, considered as anything from one to five species. After a number of attempts and changes of mind by “experts”, the UK/European Lesser Redpoll is now assigned as a geographic sub-species of Common Redpoll by recent genome wide analyses that found differences in gene expression but no genetic divergence. This gives credence to the idea that the essentially plumage forms (like our own rather brown Lesser Redpoll) originated quite recently within a single interbreeding lineage and do not represent species boundaries. 

Well, what do you know? The forecast is good again for Friday. Looks like we are in for more different birds.



Rare As Hen’s Teeth

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
As predicted, a weekend of Storm Callum made for several grey, wet and windy days and left no chance of a ringing session. During this time it seemed unlikely that many of our target birds had made it south to Lancashire through such unfavourable weather systems, despite good numbers of Redwings, Bramblings and Fieldfares in the Northern Isles of Scotland, some 6/700 miles away. 

Sunday afternoon was bright and sunny to further heighten expectations for Monday morning, already pencilled in as the first “probable” day for a rush of birds from the North. At 0630 I met Andy at our regular ringing site near Oakenclough, a hamlet that lies on the very edge of the Pennine Hills. 

Before today at this site we’d handled over 620 birds for the year but with luck September and October see a major arrival of many birds into the UK – mostly finches and thrushes, but also buntings and eastern warblers. This is our chance to bump up the totals and gain a few extra species. 

But it wasn't the anticipated Redwings that topped our catch but our old friend the Lesser Redpoll, a species hard to come by this autumn. Total birds caught - 36 of 11 species. 10 Lesser Redpoll, 5 Redwing, 5 Chaffinch, 4 Blue Tit, 2 Goldcrest, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Great Tit, 2 Coal Tit , 1 Robin, 1 Song Thrush. 

We can only guess why Lesser Redpoll have been conspicuously absent until today but it was good to see them back on site. We saw a total of about 45 this morning, the numbers made of several small flocks which began to arrive only after about 10 am. Our main theory for the lack of redpolls this year is that the hot summer and warm autumn to the north delayed their departure until now. The next few visits up here to Oakenclough should either confirm this or give yet more food for thought if we fail to catch more. 

Lesser Redpoll 

We counted approximately 70 Redwings this morning, less than we hoped for but still nice to see and examine. In what was a slight north-easterly breeze they arrived in small flocks from various compass points but gave little clue as to their routes of travel. 

Redwing 

The Redwings Turdus iliacus we see here have crossed the North Sea from Scandinavia & Russia and arrived in the UK on a broad front - west, central and east before some found their way into Lancashire via the coast or by travelling overland. Icelandic Redwings Turdus iliacus coburnii arrive about the same time by taking a westerly approach to Britain. This sub-species is darker overall, and marginally larger than the nominate Turdus iliacus. 

The two are hard to distinguish in the field but slightly easier in the hand, especially so with direct and immediate comparisons of several individuals. The five today were or all iliacus specimens confirmed by their “normal” appearance and biometrics. 

As autumn turns to winter, Redwings have largely finished their journeys and settle in the warmer and relatively frost-free areas away from the east coast. Hard weather may force them to migrate further, as Scandinavian/Russian birds continue west to Ireland or south into southern Europe. To some degree, Redwings can be somewhat nomadic, with individuals taking different routes in different years when leaving their breeding areas. 

The birding was pretty sparse this morning, the main components of visible migration being Woodpigeons and Chaffinches. Many Woodpigeons flew in a clear north to south west trajectory in groups of 10-60 individuals and a total count of 800/900 in the five hours of watch. Chaffinches totalled circa 150 individuals with once again a clear north to south movement of between 5 and 20 birds. 

Chaffinch

Other highlights included 4 Fieldfare, 3 Buzzard, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker and a “ringtail” Hen Harrier. 

The Hen Harrier is as rare as hen’s teeth here on the edge of the infamous Bowland with its history of persecuting raptors, not least the Hen Harrier with its reputation of being partial to grouse chicks. 

Hen Harrier 

The harrier appeared from the north, quite high up and over the distant hills where it briefly interacted with a Buzzard. As it got closer but still fairly high we could see that it was a “ringtail”, a female or juvenile, and we watched as it drifted out towards the coast in a south-westerly direction. 

Almost certainly this was an individual from Scotland or the North East involved in visible migration. We were pleased that it chose not to linger in Bowland. 

Linking today with Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.


First Redwings

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
This has been a frustrating week of watching and waiting. Watching the weather forecasts and waiting for a morning that might allow Andy and me to get up to hills and catch winter thrushes. Redwings are on the move with small numbers reported from the east coast and Scotland early in the week with a possible “thrush-rush” on the cards any day soon. 

Tuesday evening and the forecast was “iffy” but with a chance of a couple of hours before an increase in wind speed later in the morning. After yet more chart watching we decided to go for Wednesday as the only likely day for at least a week ahead. 

We met up at 0630 to a 10mph south-easterly, far from ideal. But at least it was dry. 

We caught our first Redwings of the autumn but the overall catch was pretty poor due to the ever increasing wind that caused us to pack up at 1030. By this time it was pretty breezy and we reckoned the windy conditions had cost us 30 or more birds. 

We caught just 13 birds: 7 Redwing and then one each of Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Sparrowhawk. 

The Sparrowhawk caught was a first year female. The two sexes take different size rings ,“E” or “D”, because of the different size of male and female and the equivalent variation in the diameter of their tarsi. 

Sparrowhawk 

Sparrowhawk 

In all we saw 70+ Redwings this morning, most arriving from the north, but some unseen. Otherwise, thrushes were absent apart from 2 Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrush and 1 Mistle Thrush. 

It’s a little early in the autumn for west coast Fieldfares despite the usual reports elsewhere of “fieldfares“. These are invariably distant Mistle Thrushes, a similarly sized thrush that at this time of year also migrates in small parties. 

Redwing 

Redwing 

Chiffchaffs continue to be scarce.  Today’s Chiffchaff, a tiny first year, was number 12 for the year at this site.  A very poor showing. 

Chiffchaff 

There seemed to be lots of finches on the move this morning, mainly Chaffinches flying low into what became a fairly stiff breeze. Small parties flew overhead from a north to south direction for at least three hours and totalled 140+ birds. None seemed to stop in the plantation as they hurried through and disappeared out of sight to the south. 

Additionally we noted 30+ Goldfinch, 20+ Linnet, 8 Pied Wagtail, 2 Jay, 1 Kestrel, 8 Lapwing.

Linking today to Anni in Texas and Eileen's Blogspot.


Recent Recoveries

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
There’s no birding or ringing for a day or two thanks to continuing poor weather so I’m posting information about a couple of recent ringing records. One is a Sand Martin at Cockerham quarry, the other a Linnet from our Linnet project at Gulf Lane, Pilling/Cockerham Marsh. 

Linnet 

We ringed Linnet number S800115 as a juvenile male on 10 August 2017- Biometrics: Wing: 81.0 mm. Weight: 17.8 g. Time: 10:00:00 hrs 

Our Linnet was recaptured on 04 May2018 at Walney Island Bird Observatory, Cumbria. Although the distance between the two points is negligible, the date of both the original ringing and the recapture are much more interesting. The month of August points to a juvenile dispersal, maybe from Cumbria but with a possibility that the bird’s place of birth was further north. The timing of its return on a northward track during May is within the peak of period of Linnet spring migration and when S800115 may have headed back to or near to its place of birth. 

I'm afraid that such recoveries often provide a few answers but inevitably throw up new questions. At least the bird is still in circulation and presents a small chance that should it be captured for a third time, more information on its travels may become known. This latest recovery fits into two previous recoveries and north/south movements to or from Gulf  Lane.

Linnet from Shetland 

Linnet to Lochinver

Linnet to Walney Bird Observatory

Duration: 267 days Distance: 23 km Direction: 300deg (WNW) Finder: Walney Bird Observatory, 9095 

Sand Martin 

On 23rd May 2018 we caught a French ringed Sand Martin at Cockerham Quarry.

Paris ringed Sand Martin

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) - Ring no: 7193238 Ringing details- Age: 4 (adult) Ringing date: 10 August 2015 Site name: Hiers-Brouage, Charente-Maritime, France Ringer: Paris, -11

Sand Martin

Hiers-Brouage to Cockerham

Ring number 7193238 was recaptured at Cockerham on 23 May 2018. Duration: 1017 days Distance: 910 km Direction: 352deg (N)



The Rats Are Winning.

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Grotty weather again today, so nothing doing in the birding or ringing stakes.

Instead, here’s an interesting study on cats versus rats. Cat lovers and bird lovers rarely agree, but in this case it seems that pussy cats are not the ultimate rat catchers but prefer instead to eat a bird or a mouse. 

Pussy Cat

Journal Reference: Michael H. Parsons, Peter B. Banks, Michael A. Deutsch, Jason Munshi-South. Temporal and Space-Use Changes by Rats in Response to Predation by Feral Cats in an Urban Ecosystem - Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2018. 

"Like any prey, rats overestimate the risks of predation. In the presence of cats, they adjust their behaviour to make themselves less apparent and spend more time in burrows," says the study's lead researcher Dr. Michael H. Parsons, a visiting scholar at Fordham University. "This raises questions about whether releasing cats in the city to control rats is worth the risks cats pose to wildlife." 

People have long associated cats as the natural enemy of rats. However Australian and US researchers say cats prefer smaller, defenceless prey such as birds and smaller native wildlife -- which makes cats a threat to urban ecosystems. 

"New Yorkers often boast their rats 'aren't afraid of anything' and are the 'size of a cat'," says Parsons. "Yet cats are commonly released to control this relatively large, defensive and potentially dangerous prey." 

Brown Rats

"Until now, no one has provided good data on the number of city rats killed by cats," adds co-author Michael A. Deutsch, from Arrow Exterminating Company.  "But the data have been very clear as to the effect of cats on native wildlife." 

When feral cats invaded a New York City waste recycling centre, the researchers took the opportunity to correct the record. Their team was already studying a colony of more than 100 rats living inside the centre, by microchipping and releasing the animals to study their life history. When the cats entered the research area, they set up motion-capture video cameras to quantify the effect of the cats on the rats -- the first time this has been studied in a natural setting. 

"We wanted to know whether the number of cats present would influence the number of rats observed, and vice versa," says Parsons. "We were also interested whether the presence of cats had any effect on eight common rat behaviours or their direction of movement." 

The researchers examined 306 videos taken over 79 days. Although up to three cats were active beside the rat colony each day, only 20 stalking events, three kill attempts and two successful kills were recorded in this time. Both kills took place when cats found rats in hiding; the third attempt was an open-floor chase where the cat lost interest. 

The videos also revealed that in the presence of cats, the rats spent less time in the open and more time moving to shelter. "The presence of cats resulted in fewer rat sightings on the same or following day, while the presence of humans did not affect rat sightings," says Parsons. In contrast, the number of rats seen on a given day did not predict the number of cats seen on the following day. 

"We already knew the average weight of the rats was 330 g, much more than a typical 15 gm bird or 30 gm mouse," says Parsons. "As such, we expected a low predation rate on the rats -- and our study confirmed this." 

"We are not saying that cats will not predate city rats, only that conditions must be right for it to happen," adds Deutsch. "The cat must be hungry, have no alternative less-risky food source, and usually needs the element of surprise." 

The findings could explain why people continue to release cats as "natural" rat control tools. "People see fewer rats and assume it's because the cats have killed them -- whereas it's actually due to the rats changing their behaviour," says Parsons.

"The results of our study suggest the benefits of releasing cats are far outweighed by the risks to wildlife," he adds. The research team plans to continue collecting data as part of their long-term study and will update their findings as new information becomes available. 

Pussy Cat

"Much more research is needed to better understand the city rat problem, we hope our successes will compel others to perform similar studies in other venues," says Parsons. But for now, in the battle of New York City cats and rats it appears the rats are winning. 

Linking today to Anni's Blog and Viewing Nature With Eileen.

The Rats Are Winning.

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Grotty weather again today, so nothing doing in the birding or ringing stakes.

Instead, here’s an interesting study on cats versus rats. Cat lovers and bird lovers rarely agree, but in this case it seems that pussy cats are not the ultimate rat catchers but prefer instead to eat a bird or a mouse. 

Pussy Cat

Journal Reference: Michael H. Parsons, Peter B. Banks, Michael A. Deutsch, Jason Munshi-South. Temporal and Space-Use Changes by Rats in Response to Predation by Feral Cats in an Urban Ecosystem - Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2018. 

"Like any prey, rats overestimate the risks of predation. In the presence of cats, they adjust their behaviour to make themselves less apparent and spend more time in burrows," says the study's lead researcher Dr. Michael H. Parsons, a visiting scholar at Fordham University. "This raises questions about whether releasing cats in the city to control rats is worth the risks cats pose to wildlife." 

People have long associated cats as the natural enemy of rats. However Australian and US researchers say cats prefer smaller, defenceless prey such as birds and smaller native wildlife -- which makes cats a threat to urban ecosystems. 

"New Yorkers often boast their rats 'aren't afraid of anything' and are the 'size of a cat'," says Parsons. "Yet cats are commonly released to control this relatively large, defensive and potentially dangerous prey." 

Brown Rats

"Until now, no one has provided good data on the number of city rats killed by cats," adds co-author Michael A. Deutsch, from Arrow Exterminating Company.  "But the data have been very clear as to the effect of cats on native wildlife." 

When feral cats invaded a New York City waste recycling centre, the researchers took the opportunity to correct the record. Their team was already studying a colony of more than 100 rats living inside the centre, by microchipping and releasing the animals to study their life history. When the cats entered the research area, they set up motion-capture video cameras to quantify the effect of the cats on the rats -- the first time this has been studied in a natural setting. 

"We wanted to know whether the number of cats present would influence the number of rats observed, and vice versa," says Parsons. "We were also interested whether the presence of cats had any effect on eight common rat behaviours or their direction of movement." 

The researchers examined 306 videos taken over 79 days. Although up to three cats were active beside the rat colony each day, only 20 stalking events, three kill attempts and two successful kills were recorded in this time. Both kills took place when cats found rats in hiding; the third attempt was an open-floor chase where the cat lost interest. 

The videos also revealed that in the presence of cats, the rats spent less time in the open and more time moving to shelter. "The presence of cats resulted in fewer rat sightings on the same or following day, while the presence of humans did not affect rat sightings," says Parsons. In contrast, the number of rats seen on a given day did not predict the number of cats seen on the following day. 

"We already knew the average weight of the rats was 330 g, much more than a typical 15 gm bird or 30 gm mouse," says Parsons. "As such, we expected a low predation rate on the rats -- and our study confirmed this." 

"We are not saying that cats will not predate city rats, only that conditions must be right for it to happen," adds Deutsch. "The cat must be hungry, have no alternative less-risky food source, and usually needs the element of surprise." 

The findings could explain why people continue to release cats as "natural" rat control tools. "People see fewer rats and assume it's because the cats have killed them -- whereas it's actually due to the rats changing their behaviour," says Parsons.

"The results of our study suggest the benefits of releasing cats are far outweighed by the risks to wildlife," he adds. The research team plans to continue collecting data as part of their long-term study and will update their findings as new information becomes available. 

Pussy Cat

"Much more research is needed to better understand the city rat problem, we hope our successes will compel others to perform similar studies in other venues," says Parsons. But for now, in the battle of New York City cats and rats it appears the rats are winning. 

Why Skiathos?

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Keen eyed readers will note how the header picture changed. I swopped the Glasson Dock Common Tern for a Skiathos Yellow Wagtail. 

Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) is familiar to British birders but throughout Europe there are many overlapping races and intergrades of Yellow Wagtail, whereby literally dozens of races and sub-species have been described. This makes identification and assignation difficult, especially at migration time in Central Europe in the case of juveniles like the one shown.

I'm thinking that the header bird, the one below, may be Motacilla flava beema, also known as Sykes’ Wagtail, especially since other Yellow Wagtails I saw fitted the same criteria. Yellow wag experts out there may wish to comment? 

Yellow Wagtail

Otherwise, birding on Skiathos Island proved rather unexciting during very hot, clear weather and wall-to-wall sunshine – not the best conditions for dropping migrants onto an off-shore island. So I returned home with very few bird pictures. 

We saw lots of Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchats, Yellow Wagtails, Red-rumped Swallows and Barn Swallows, together with Buzzards, Willow Warblers, Kingfishers and the inevitable Eleonora’s Falcons. Unlike other years Red-backed Shrikes were few and far between where by locals told of a long hot summer where a successful breeding season may have finished early. 

Spotted Flycatcher 

Red-backed Shrike 

A developing storm on our last day saw thousands of Red-rumped Swallows overhead as they descended below cloud level to escape the incoming turbulence. We left Skitahos just in time because since we returned home Cyclone Zorba laid waste to a number of places on the Peloponnese mainland including parts of Athens. 

There was a knock-on effect to Skiathos where we heard that tourists out to enjoy the last week of the Skiathos season have had a pretty raw deal from cloud, rain and wind.

Today, Sunday, from Skiathos. "The main road is closed at Acropolis, at Kolios and at Troulos due to flooding and water escaping from the mountain into the sea. Power disruptions due to the weather. 102 mm of rain today to add to the 53 mm of Saturday." 

Nonetheless we asked the lovely Anna to reserve our room for next year as we have no reason to doubt the question of “Why Skiathos?”. 

Why Skiathos?

Skiathos Town

No Name Gyros

Big Aselinos Beach

Skiathos 

Skiathos donkey

Bourtzi Skiathos

Ouzo

Yes, we will be back.  And very soon.

So will Another Bird Blog with more news, views and photos.

Linking this post to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.



Colder than Greece

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
Boreas the Greek God who brings winter winds tried his best to stop us leaving Skiathos on Tuesday night and early Wednesday. But by Wednesday lunchtime he’d run out of puff but the leftover headwind meant the plane had a flying start and didn't need a refuel at Kavala as planned. Most unusually, Manchester was bathed in sunshine when we landed an hour early. 

There was some catching up for me when I met Andy at Oakenclough on Friday morning where the temperature hovered around 6° rather than the accustomed 25° of Greece. In two weeks of my absence Andy had dodged the rain and caught over 250 birds with the usual good mix of species including Bullfinch, Meadow Pipits and yet more Mistle Trushes. 

It was a similar story today with 33 captures of 12 species, only one of which was a recapture from recent days - 8 Chaffinch, 6 Meadow Pipit, 6 Goldfinch, 2 Mistle Thrush, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap, 2 Dunnock, 1 Treecreeper, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Great Tit, 1 Blue Tit and 1 Song Thrush. 

We have discovered that we can catch Mistle Thrushes up here in the Pennines, more so in the autumn when the species is on the move and when small parties or single birds pass overhead or stop off at our ringing site. These birds may be the remnants of post-breeding flocks that disperse towards the coast or lowlands for the winter whereby we have seen up to 60-80 on occasions. Equally they may be pure migrants from further afield but it is impossible to be sure to which category an individual belongs. 

The six of this week have all been of first year/juvenile age. 

Mistle Thrush 

Mistle Thrush 

The single Song Thrush (a first year/juvenile) seemed to have some weakness in the feather structure of both wing and tails. The outer primary feathers were very worn and faded while the tips and ends of every tail feather had completely worn away. 

Song Thrush 

Song Thrush 

Song Thrush

90% or more of the Meadow Pipits we catch in the autumn are first year/juveniles with their characteristic mix of juvenile and post-partial moult feathers. Below is a fine example of an adult wing in September; this adult has completed a full moult so that all of the coverts, secondaries, primaries and tertials are of the same age and colour. The whole wing looks uniform across its width as opposed to a first year wing with a mix of feather ages. Similarly, each tail feather is new and fresh as well as wide at and near the tips. The tail of a September juvenile/first year is straggly, thin, and worn with a much more pointed appearance. 

Meadow Pipit - adult 

Meadow Pipit 

The morning was rather clear with a good number of birds passing high overhead. Mostly, and from their calls they appeared to be Chaffinches, as confirmed by Chaffinch being the most ringed bird of the morning. Otherwise we caught not a single Redpoll or Siskin, but 3 Linnets seen here is very unusual. 

Chaffinch 

Take a look at that pointy tail – another first year/juvenile female Blackcap. 

Blackcap 

Chiffchaffs have been so scarce this year that it was most pleasing to catch two this morning. Both juvenile/ first years. 

Chiffchaff 

Birding in-between ringing clocked up lingering summer visitors in the shape of 4 Swallows and a single Yellow Wagtail. 

Otherwise, 8 Pied Wagtail, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Nuthatch, 5 Cormorant, 40 + Lapwing and 300+ Greylag Geese on and around the nearby reservoir.

Linking today with Anni's Blog and Eileen's Blogspot.



Boomerangs

Posted on - In Another Bird Blog
September means Skiathos where Sue and I join the Boomerang Club, people who return year after year to this very special Greek Island.  Don't forget - click the pics.

Skiathos is the most popular of the Sporades, the group of islands east of Volos and north of Evia on mainland Greece. The island of Skiathos is actually an extension of wooded Mount Pelion 100 miles away on the mainland and the scenery reflects this. Skiathos is a green island with pine forests and abundant water with fig, olive, plum, and almond trees, as well as grapes. 

 Skiathos

Leaving Skopelos

Skiathos embraced tourism many years ago where on glistening beaches, wooded hillsides and in peaceful valleys are a number of the finest hotels in Greece. We stay in one such place that shall remain our secret.


Skiathos has much to offer people of all ages and nationalities from Northern climates seeking a blast of September sunshine. We find ourselves amongst fellow Brits, East Europeans, Finns, Danes, Norwegians and even the occasional German. Luckily we don’t do lying on the beach so the sunbed issue never arises, but the queue for the bus to lively Skiathos Town at 1800 hours can be problematical. 

"Every September Skiathos holds the Katsonia Festival held in memory of the submarine Lambros Katsonis sunk on 14th September 1943 close to Kastro, the former capital of Skiathos located on the northern tip of the island." 

Memorial to the sinking of Lambros Katsonis 

"Whilst trying to intercept a German troop transport during World War Two, the Lambros Katsonis was sunk by the German submarine chaser UJ-2101. This tragic event resulted in the drowning of 32 crewmen, including the ship’s captain, as well as 15 other crew captured by the Germans. 

Amazingly, three of the ship’s crew – Lt. Eleftherios Tsoukalas, the ship’s executive officer, and petty officers Antonios Antoniou and Anastasios Tsigros managed to swim to the shores of Skiathos, an epic feat which took them nine exhausting hours. They hid on the island until they eventually managed to return to Egypt and rejoin the Greek fleet.” 

For beach lovers there are over 60 sandy beaches in Skiathos, including Koukounaries rated 7th best beach in the world and best in Greece. Banana Beach just around the headland is the island's only naturist beach, perhaps because it is more remote and very sheltered. Most of the beaches are easy to reach by bus or moped as they are generally alongside the only main road on the Island and reached by following a track or dirt road. 

Ligaries or Kechria?

Jimnys

Skiathos

The remotest north-coast beaches like Ligaries, Mandraki and Ttsougria are accessible only by jeep, dirt-bike, foot or donkey. We hire a Jimny jeep for our stay even though there is an excellent bus service that plies frequently between Skiathos Town and Koukounariés resort, 7.5 miles west. The buses call at 26 numbered stops where our own is Bus Stop 16, the small resort of Agia Paraskevi at the entrance to Platanias valley.

The often crowded bus, standing room only, is an essential Skiathos experience where the aromas of a day on the beach, mozzie cream, wasp deterrent and a meal of garlic mushrooms & tzatziki make for a heady experience. 

Skiathos Bus

The Jimny is essential for exploring the more remote parts of the island where their remoteness involves often tortuous, bouncing progress over terrain badly rutted by winter storms that cascade off steep hillsides onto unmade tracks below. 

Skiathos jeep

To Evagelistria

View from Kanapitsa

The success of the first Mamma Mia filmed in 2007 around neighbouring Skopelos created a sort of mass-hysteria when people who loved the movie travel to Skiathos looking for the island depicted in the film. The cultists may not find those actual scenes, rarely meet up with Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan or Donna, but are never disappointed. 

Mamma Mia

In Skiathos Town cafes, gyro joints and tavernas line the sunny boulevard where pristine yachts shine in the everlasting sun. Goldie Hawn is rumoured to be a regular in Fresh Café, hot from her $30 million yacht moored off-shore. We can vouch for the coffee and the wedge of marbled cake that arrives with each order but we have yet to meet Goldie. 

Skiathos

Eating out each evening without worrying about the washing up is something of a bonus. And it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

Souvlakia  

Taverna Maistrali 

No Name Gyros - Skiathos Town

Skiathos is a beautiful island where the only drawback is the difficulty of arriving or leaving due to the airport's notoriously short runway and summer thunderstorms that emanate from the hot mainland. Delays and cancellations are the stuff of legend. Touch wood. We have experienced the spectacular thunderstorms that light up the night sky but not the resulting delays. 

Skiathos Landing 

The birding here is casual, an adjunct to the holiday of relaxation and the vibes of Greece. Yes, there are birds to be found, especially since I seem to be the only birder on the island. Just as we like it. 

Woodchat Shrike 

Eleonora's Falcon 

 Yellow Wagtail

Red-rumped Swallow 

Red-backed Shrike 

Spotted Flycatcher

Hobby - http://www.luontoportti.com

Honey Buzzard - http://www.luontoportti.com

Boomerangs

Come late September the island winds down from the hectic five months of tourism when many businesses close and their owners return to Volos, Thessaloniki and Athens for the winter.

Ferry to mainland Greece

Skiathos subsides into normal as those left on the island breathe a sigh of relief until it’s time to start all over in May of the following year.

Back soon in Blighty. Now watch the video for a real feeling of Skiathos.