Sunday, 11 July 2010

Fuer Denise...

It's been a fun couple of weeks! The autumn ringing season's started up, so summer's out the way and we can concentrate on the fun of migration again - only semi-joking. Slapton started up last week, with a good first day - 133 new birds and another 20-odd retraps from previous years. Included within this total were about 25 new Ceti's Warblers - they seem to have had a decent year to put it mildly. Not included was this little baby: a Garden Warbler which could barely flutter along the path ahead of us. Carefully put into the scrub and left to call it's parents in, it was last seen chirping its way towards the sea, along the line of willow beside the road.

Juvenile Garden Warbler 

Female Reed Bunting. An old bird which is beginning to develop male patterns and colours in it's head markings

We were also pleased to see a brood of no fewer than 9 very young Tufted Duck heading down the channel with their mother. At the edge of the open ley, the whole family began to learn how to take the business of being a Tufted Duck very seriously indeed: nine fuzzy little ducklings attempting to dive for perhaps the first time was highly entertaining! Several managed to get the hang of getting under quite rapidly, but had problems staying under - their down must trap a lot of air - so would resurface with so much speed that they left the water entirely. Others struggled with the concept of diving: they would take the proper Tufted Duck leap into the water, but misjudge their strength and do something of a half-somersault, going under on their backs instead of headfirst...

Tufted Duck brood

Midweek I helped lead a Nightjar walk on the edge of Dartmoor. We met up at 9:30 p.m. and strolled across the heath at a birder's pace, making all of 200metres per hour. After a diminishing chorus of Mistle Thrush and Blackbird, with a smattering of Willow Warbler and Redpoll, the light drew out into a fine sunset and the first Nightjar began singing from some distance down the valley - sounding rather like a faint two-stroke engine, churring up and down in tone. As usual with the first of the evening, he soon petered out into silence, but then a male appeared from below us and slowly sauntered past us, wings flicking like some giant tropical swallowtail butterfly. He circled round us at about 50m distance in the fading light, then disappeared back into the valley in the same silent fashion. After a little while, two more appeared from above us, chasing each other around and about in near-darkness. A third bird briefly joined in and we were treated to a spectacular display of nocturnal aerobatics and the rather treefrog-like 'gwoink' flightcalls, with accompanying song from a couple of more distant males.

Green 'unripe tomato' spider, found along the edge of the heath

Sunset over Trendlebere Down

Today was spent on a speculative attempt to confirm the presence of breeding Willow Tit on Dartmoor. Several of the group met up at a site where a couple of the survey group had heard birds earlier in the year and put up a couple of nets to ring. Bizarrely we managed to catch a single juvenile Willow Tit, as well as seeing/hearing at least three others in the same area. By far the best result yet on any site, and finally proof-positive that they still cling on on the edge of the moors. A very instructive bird to see in the hand too!

Juvenile Willow Tit. Note particularly the bull-neck, the long black cap reaching far down the nape, the lack of a pale spot on the bill and the chunkiness of the bill as well.

Finally, some pictures of the garden, as the title goes. (Cue music)

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