Siskin Swarm

After a wet start we had another great day of ringing at Dermot Doran’s farm in Thomastown. With mist nets and perch traps up, and two successfully whoosh catches, we had a huge catch of 97 birds for our morning’s work!

Extracting from the whoosh net

Extracting from the whoosh net. (Emma Shalvey)

 

As well as a massive number of Goldfinches, and good numbers of Greenfinches and Redpolls, 6 Sisikins were caught. This proved a rare treat, as Siskins are seldom caught in these numbers by the IMRG.

Siskin male

Male Siskin (Emma Shalvey)

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll (Emma Shalvey)

Great Tit

Great Tit (Emma Shalvey)

Aging Siskins

Aging Siskins (Emma Shalvey)

Comparing head stripes on Goldfinches

Comparing Head Stripes on Goldfinches (Emma Shalvey)

 

Here’s hoping for a good summer and a successful breeding season!

 

-Darren O’Connell

 

Mute Swan Ringing Days

Another great day colour ringing Mute Swans took place on Saturday 6th of February.  The Dublin City Council parks of North Dublin were targeted.  There were 14 ringed today – 7 Juveniles and 7 breeding adults.

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Processing Mute Swans in Stardust Memorial Park. (Taylor Masalanka)

The colour ringing of the Mute Swans is progressing well with over 100 Swans Coloured ringed to date in Dublin and Kildare.  On April 1st we will be annually recording the breeding adults in a RAS.  (Retrapping Adults for Survival).  This will be a long term project looking at adult survival.

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Processing Mute Swans in Stardust Memorial Park. (Taylor Masalanka)

So far, the Swans have been behaving much as expected.  There is more movement between the bachelor herds of Swords, Tallaght and the Grand Canal than I expected, less so with the herd in Bray.  The very mild winter may be having an unusual effect.  Many of the pairs are quite happy to have last year’s cygnets around in February.  I would have expected that they would have chased them away in January, although there is some cygnet movement in the last week.

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Deirdre MacClean with her Swan. (Taylor Masalanka)

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Taylor and Alan Masalanka

 

-Graham Prole

Mute Swan Colour Ringing

A glorious late September day was enjoyed by all who attended the colour ringing of Mute Swans on Saturday 26th of September. This was the first day of the project and an enjoyable success.  Sites in South Dublin and Kildare were targeted and 35 Mute Swans were Colour Ringed including 7 controls.

Re-sightings can be sent to mute.swan.ring@gmail.com

Colour ringed Swan just been released (Graham Prole)

Colour ringed Swan just been released (Graham Prole)

The colour ringing represents phase 3 of the IMRG Mute Swan Project.   We will be looking at many areas including site fidelity of breeding pairs, dispersal and survival of the juveniles over the coming years.

Phase 1 was Mute Swan nesting Project recorded 42 nests in the survey Zone that produced Cygnets.  This appears to be a significant increase since a comprehensive survey was carried out 25 years ago.

Phase 2 of the Swan Project is ongoing and of those 42 nests, 20 pairs still had cygnets at 12 weeks,  3 do not and we are waiting for the outcome of the other 19 broods

Swan Colour Rings (Graham Prole)

Swan Colour Rings (Graham Prole)

Conditions soft for start to CES

It is that time again of early mornings, meeting in dark car parks before dawn, endless cups of tea and random chats about what was the first bird you rang.
The 2015 CES season started on Sunday the 10th of May with 7 eager ringers (Sean, Ray, Lorraine, Ricky, Declan, Gerry and Rose) listening to the dawn chorus as we set up the nets just before 5 a.m.
This is the 4th year of the CES in Ballinafagh, Co. Kildare and man was it a wet start! Conditions were not ideal but it was dry. I think we all fell at some stage into water or got stuck in the mud.
We started with a great catch of 12 birds, 4 new Reed Buntings, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Willow Warblers, 1 Sedge Warbler and a pair of re-trap Bullfinches.
Following the first great net round we were only catching one of two birds each net round. The cups of tea and bird related banter kept us going till after 10 o’clock. We decided to close the nets a little early as the wind had picked up and it wasn’t safe to catch birds in the nets.
We caught a total of 23 birds which is a great start to the CES season and hopefully our numbers will be higher this year than last year.
Looking forward to the rest of the CES season and I am hoping for a few new species and some interesting recoveries.

Bullfinch (Rosemarie McDonald)

Bullfinch (Rosemarie McDonald)

The total number of birds caught were:
Reed Bunting 4
Long-tailed Tit 2
Re-trap Bullfinch 2 and 1 new Bullfinch
Lesser Redpoll 3
Willow Warbler 2
Sedge Warbler 3
Blackcap 2
Dunnocks 2
Re-trap Robin 1

– Rosemarie McDonald

Great Saltee Island ringing expedition – Friday 24th – Monday 27th April, 2015.

It’s migration time again, so eight of us set sail for Great Saltee to see what migrants would be passing through. On the boat over, we didn’t bother with much chat about Ring Ouzels, Wrynecks or Scops Owls. Instead, the conversation was centred on the weather, and the 72 hours of rain forecast for the weekend. We landed at about noon and set to carrying all the gear up the 33 steps. I had a rock solid sick note this time, so didn’t have to think up excuses not to carry the water drums up! While we were doing this, the birders had turned up a Whinchat and a Ring Ouzel – not a bad start.

The pond that had been rediscovered this time last year was looking great, and already starting to attract invertebrate diversity both above and below the surface. It was even better after a wee bit of TLC and elbow grease.

A Tree Pipit was Friday’s highlight, ringing-wise, in an otherwise unremarkable day. Nets were open at 06:00 on Saturday morning, and by 09:00 we’d caught a total of not one, but two birds. Both of which were resident Dunnocks.

Tree Pipit (Cian Merne)

Tree Pipit (Cian Merne)

Another group of birders arrived on at 09:00 on Saturday morning with plans to be off the island by 13:00 and before the rain. The number of birds that they managed to turn up reflected what we were getting in our nets – very little. The Whinchat from yesterday and a Whitethroat was the best they could do, and most of them were sitting disappointedly waiting for the boat well before it arrived. We had a total of 6 new birds and 15 retraps for the day.

The misty, showery weather on Saturday afternoon and evening was just what we were looking for – we hoped it would mean a fall of birds to ring on Sunday morning. This proved to be the case, and as the nets were being opened at 06:30 on Sunday morning, the trees were dripping with Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. The breeze wasn’t ideal for catching, but by noon, we had caught 31 birds in the few nets that could be opened.

Monday morning was similar – lots of phylloscs around, especially along the sycamores and at Paddy’s pond. We managed 31 new birds and one retrap before hurriedly getting the nets down and packed when we saw the “Crossán” en route from Kilmore Quay

Whitethroat (Paddy Manley)

Whitethroat (Paddy Manley)

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Over the course of the long weekend, we ringed 104 new birds and caught 34 retraps.

We had time for a quick look at the seabirds too, but it was too early in the breeding season to conduct any sort of meaningful counts. The Cormorants were incubating and there were a few Shags with very small chicks. The kittiwakes and Gannets are well paired up and settled on the cliffs, but the Razorbills and Guillemots are in that phase of making their mind up: a day or two on the cliffs and then a few days in winter mode out at sea.

We also had three moth traps on the go each night and had 12 species, despite the cold. The totals are as follows: 64 Common Quaker, 18 Chestnut, 10 Pod Lover, 7 Common Flat-body, 4 Chamomile Shark, 4 Hebrew Character, 1 Early Thorn, 1 Powder  Quaker, 1 Brown Silver-line, 1 Clouded Drab, 1 Bordered Straw and 1 Muslin Moth.

Our butterfly species list comprised Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Green-veined White, Red Admiral and Peacock.

Our mammal list included Pygmy Shrew, Grey Seal and lots of Rabbits, unfortunately no cetaceans and thankfully no rats.

-Niall Tierney

[Left to right] Darren O'Connell, Niall Tierney, Declan Manley, Katie-Mai Manley, Susan Doyle, Paddy Manley and Cian Merne.   (Kieran Finch)

[Left to right] Darren O’Connell, Niall Tierney, Declan Manley, Katie-Mai Manley, Susan Doyle, Paddy Manley and Cian Merne. (Kieran Finch)

Mute Swan Project An Appeal for Nest Locations in Dublin, Kildare and North Wicklow.

The Irish Midlands Ringing Group (IMRG) Mute Swan Project (cygnus olor) is up and running and so far we have identified over 20 confirmed nesting locations and a significant number of probable nesting locations.  This year, 2015 is the first year of the project and we are concentrating on nesting locations.  It is 25 years since a comprehensive study has been conducted in the Greater Dublin area.

The principle objective is locating as many nesting pairs inside the survey area.  A ‘nesting pair’ will be classified as a pair that produces at least 1 egg.  We are seeking the assistance of the public and requesting them to report the location of nesting swans.

The survey process is totally unobtrusive: (IMRG) would simply like to know where there are swans nesting, if they have cygnets and then if so how many.  Approaching nests is not required, viewing from a safe distance with binoculars or a telescope is sufficient.

We will ascertain if the number of nests has increased.  There appear to be lots of suitable ponds that were not there 25 years ago.

The team of volunteer observers have already being sending reports on the following nesting locations.  So if you have seen other swans nesting in the greater Dublin Area please email your sightings to grprole@eircom.net .  There are other locations that are currently listed as ‘quite probable’.

Mute Swan (Graham Prole)

Mute Swan (Graham Prole)

Dublin South

Tymon Park x 4 nests
Sean Walsh Park x 1 nest
Marley Park, Rathfarnham x 1 nest
Grand Canal, Bluebell x 1 nest
Park West, Irish Wave x 1 nest
Corkagh Park x 2 nests
Irish National War Memorial Park, Island Bridge x 1 nest
Bushy Park, Rathfarnham x 1 nest
UCD Belfield x 1 nest

Dublin North

Northwood Avenue Santry x 1 nest
Dublin Zoo, Ring Tailed Lemurs Island! x 1 nest
Ashtown, Royal Canal x 1 nest
Castleknock, Royal Canal x 1 nest

Kildare

Dunmurray Springs Golf Club x 1 nest

Grand Canal, Corbally Court, Naas x 1 nest

Finnery Bridge, Athy x 1 nest

Wicklow

Charlesland Golf Club x 1 nest
The intension is to expand the project later in the season, but this will be subject to the receipt of  funding.

We Struck Gold In Thomastown

Following the successful catch at Thomastown a few weeks ago, the IMRG returned to Dermot Doran’s farm last Saturday. As before, the bird feeders, filled with njger seed, attracted tens of Goldfinch and Greenfinch, along with garden tits and other finches. We set two nets around the feeders and a third hidden on the far side of a hedge. By rounding the corner of the house suddenly, we successfully startled a few large flocks off the feeders and straight into these nets. Our most frequently caught bird was Goldfinch, with a total catch of 47 individuals. Just 6 of these 47 were previously ringed. This high proportion of newly caught Goldfinch indicates how big the population in the area is. One of the ringed Goldfinch turned out to be a control and was not one of our rings. This causing ripples of excitement and an interesting topic of discussion over breakfast as everyone speculated about the birds origin. Details of this bird to follow when we find out where it was ringed. Although Yellowhammer were once again the target species for the ringing session, just 1 was trapped (down from last session’s 8). We also had a Pied Wagtail in the net, a species that may be widespread, but is not often caught.

Pied Wagtail (Susan Doyle)

Pied Wagtail (Susan Doyle)

The session totals were:

1 Yellowhammer
47 Goldfinch (including 5 retraps and 1 control)
13 Blue Tit (including 1 retrap)
8 Great Tit
1 Coal Tit
3 Chaffinch
1 Pied Wagtail
3 Robin
5 Greenfinch
3 House Sparrow

After an excellent homemade breakfast provided by Dermot, we returned to the nets until the rain, which had been threatening all morning, began to spit, and the wind began to sway the nets so much so that the birds were  becoming wise to it. Despite the deficiency of Yellowhammer, it was another pleasant morning’s ringing (the Pied Wagtail being a personal highlight for me)and an ideal opportunity for trainees to get their eye in on processing Goldfinch!

Once again, on behalf of the IMRG, I would like to thank Dermot and his wife Mary for inviting us to their garden. With any luck, we will have greater Yellowhammer catches in future sessions.

-Susan Doyle

First Irish Mediterranean Gull in Morocco – 2E18 from Lady’s Island Wexford

Lady’s Island Lake in County Wexford holds Ireland’s largest breeding colony of Mediterranean Gulls.  About 20 pairs of Mediterranean Gulls occur each summer on Inish Island among the thousands of pairs of breeding Black-Headed Gulls and Terns. Eighteen Mediterranean Gull chicks have been colour ringed at Lady’s Island since 2003 thanks to the hard work of Alyn Walsh, Tony Murray and Dave Daly.

2E18 in juvenile plumage (Photo Dave Daly)

2E18 in juvenile plumage (Photo Dave Daly)

On Saturday 7th February 2015, 2E18 one of 3 Mediterranean Gull chicks ringed at Lady’s Island on 5th June 2014 was re-sighted by Ruth Garcia Gorria at the saltpans of Sidi Moussa-Oualidia, Morocco.

2E 18 with its Mammy or Daddy. If I’m competing with pictures of lambs on this blog I better put something cute in this post. (Photo Dave Daly)

2E 18 with its Mammy or Daddy. If I’m competing with pictures of lambs on this blog I better put something cute in this post. (Photo Dave Daly)

This is the first sighting of an Irish or UK ringed Mediterranean Gull in Morocco. 2E18 has flown almost 2,200km from its birth site in Wexford to its wintering grounds in Morocco. Over two thirds of the Western European population of Mediterranean Gulls head south each autumn and winter primarily along the Atlantic Coast of Portugal between Lisbon and the Algarve. So while it is not unusual for Mediterranean Gulls to leave Ireland in the winter, it is unusual for a bird to fly as far south as Morocco as this is close to the southern end of the wintering range  for Western European Mediterranean Gulls. If 2E18 is anything to go by, Wexford Mediterranean Gulls are cosmopolitan, read the Daily Telegraph travel supplement and like to hang out with Flamingos. Oualidia pronounced “Walidia” is a charming little coastal village situated about 2.5 hours south of Casablanca. The village, referred to as the St Tropez of Morocco is spread around the southern shores of an 11km inland lagoon filled by the Atlantic which enters through two breaches in the coastal rock wall. While Wexford is lovely, I think I’d prefer Oualidia in winter. Make your own mind up based on the picture below.

    Oualidia Lagoon (Photo Elakramine)

Oualidia Lagoon (Photo Elakramine)

Fledged Mediterranean Gulls have an annual survival rate of over 80% per annum so it is possible  that 2E18 may be around for at least the next ten years. Hopefully 2E18 will have sense and continue to winter in beautiful warm Morocco however this is by no means certain as many juvenile Mediterranean Gulls change their wintering location from year to year and really only become site faithful upon reaching adulthood at 3 years of age.

Many thanks to Alyn Wlash, Tony Murray, Dave Daly and Ruth Garcia Gorria.

-Sean Kingston

Stable Ringing Conditions on Valentines Day

We were planning a ringing trip to Sean Walsh Park to ring the Mute Swans, before last years Juveniles were chased away by the dominant pair.  It would be interesting to see if they would go to different Juvenile crèches or stay together.  However, there was an oil spill and 13 of the Mute Swans were brought to one rescue centre for cleaning.  With permission secured, we went up to find they were all in a horses stable and we ringed all 13.  10 Adults and 3 Juveniles in total.  The real work will begin next week when they are released back, trying to track their movements.  It will be interesting to see if they recognise me and run/swim/fly away.  Maybe with so much recent human contact they will allow me close enough to photograph their rings.

Mute Swans waiting for their rings

Mute Swans waiting for their rings

A Promising New Ringing Site

Last Sunday, the IMRG started ringing at a new site in Thomastown, Co. Kildare. This site is the home of BWI Kildare Branch member Dermot Doran who has been feeding large numbers of garden birds during the winter months. Yellowhammers are a very common sight here, with up to 33 being present at any one time this winter.

We arrived on site for 8am and had 2 mist nets set up beside the feeders by 8:30. Just as we finished setting up the nets the birds eagerly returned to the feeders, which were full of nyjer seed and the large amount of wheat on the ground around them. The first bird into the net was a Yellowhammer but much to our dismay it escaped the net before we managed to extract it.

Male and female Yellowhammer feeding on wheat. (Lorraine Benson)

Male and female Yellowhammer feeding on wheat. (Lorraine Benson)

As we were waiting for the first birds to be caught, Dermot kindly showed some of us around his sheep farm, where he has been lambing since late December. This was an amazing experience for those who have not come from a farming background and have not seen day or hours old lambs before.

Newborn Lamb with mother. (Lorraine Benson)

Newborn Lamb with mother. (Lorraine Benson)

Back out to the nets, and we had a nice first catch of around 10 birds including 2 yellowhammers.  Excited to see these beautiful birds in the hand, we consulted the books to find out that tail shapes revealed these to be a juvenile, pointed tail, and an adult, rounded tail. Then it was on to the head colour to determine the sex of the bird, in this case both birds heads were very similar in colour, neither had the very bright yellow of an adult male. We age these as an adult female and a juvenile male.

Male Yellowhammer. (Lorraine Benson)

Male Yellowhammer. (Lorraine Benson)

As the morning progressed we had a steady stream of birds into the nets, including more yellowhammers. Birds caught during the session were:
4 Blue Tit;
11 Chaffinch;
1 Coal Tit;
1 Dunnock;
20 Goldfinch;
3 Greenfinch;
6 House Sparrow;
2 Robin;
4 Starling;
8 Yellowhammer.

It is good to see the Yellowhammers thriving in this area. In Declan Manley’s garden, not 15 miles away, the Yellowhammers have all but disappeared. There were none ringed in 2013 or 2014, while 40 ringed in 2012, 28 in 2011 and 12 in 2010. It will be interesting to find out what has happened in Declan’s garden that has pushed them off, as it would seem that they have not left the general area as we had presumed previously.

On behalf of all of IMRG I would like to thank Dermot for letting us ring in his superb garden, and to his wife, Mary, for making us a fantastic breakfast when we were there. I hope we can go back to this site soon to try catch more Yellowhammers and to try recatch some of the ones that were ringed this time.

(Left to right) Dermot Doran, Paddy Manley, Declan Manley, Darren O'Connell, Sean Kingston, Rosemarie McDonald.

(Left to right) Dermot Doran, Paddy Manley, Declan Manley, Darren O’Connell, Sean Kingston, Rosemarie McDonald.

Paddy Manley

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