Friday, 8 June 2012

New baby...

At last, we have a new arrival. Our newts have bred! After keeping a few Marbled newts Triturus marmoratus for several years, they have finally managed to produce offspring - well, a single eft - but it's all rather exciting. 

Our new arrival
An injection of new blood in the form of three adults led quickly to some interesting breeding behaviour. With the arrival of females the single male newt rapidly gained his full breeding attire and began dancing away at every opportunity: shadowing the female and frequently whipping his tail in her face. I thought that I spotted some eggs on one occasion but as nothing happened thereafter I assumed that nothing would come of it.

Adult Marbled newt
However, last week I peered into the tank and saw this tiny silver thread swimming around - a baby! Over the following week it has grown into a really rather attractive beast, with fluffy gills and a spotted tail. I have added some more water plants so it can take refuge from the ever-hungry adults. Here's hoping for a successful outcome...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

More garden quality...

My second ringing session of the Bank Holiday weekend (in amongst the rain and wind) turned up more quality. Having retreated to the kitchen after checking the nets, I was sitting down to a cup of tea when I heard an almighty noise coming from the garden - I knew exactly what it was....great spotted woodpecker! Sure enough, there he was, looking mightily unhappy at being denied a go at the peanut feeder. As is the case with this species, the feet were in a terrible tangle and it took me some time to extract the bird: the constant screaming most likely woke up everyone in a 200m radius.

Anyway, once safely in the hand I could take a proper look at this cracking bird. The red nape clearly identified it as a male - I had to refer to the ringing guide for ageing techniques. Essentially, as with most bird species it is the presence of feathers of different generations which assists in ageing - in this case, the mix of older, dull and brownish primary coverts amid new glossy black ones led me to age the bird as a 5 - i.e. fledged last year. 

The next few net checks turned up a trickle of blue tits - there are plenty of tits around at the moment and I suspect that several local broods are on the wing for the first time. In amongst this usual fare I had my second ever nuthatch - another piece of quality.

On taking the bird from the net, I was struck by the difference in bill length to the male I trapped previously - the bill was much less robust and I initially wondered if this was a young bird. However, on closer examination the bird had a well-developed brood patch and so was confidently sexed as a female and, given the evidence of breeding, therefore must have been fledged in 2011 or before. Given that I have now ringed a male and female, I suspect that this is the local pair which are likely nesting in the taller trees to the south of the garden.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Productive long weekend...

With a long weekend and a good few days off work to boot, I have been taking every opportunity to get the net up in the garden and, given the terrible weather, two days' ringing have produced some quality birds in my little patch of England.

Bright and early Saturday morning, and what do I find in the bottom panel of the net? A kestrel of all things! I guess it must have been chasing some small bird through the garden and blundered into the net - kestrels are around the village but I've never seen one actually in or over my garden before. I think I was as surprised as it was! After some careful handling I managed to get the bird safely out of the net and into a bird bag without losing any blood...

Needless to say, kestrel is not a bird I am overly familiar with handling in the garden - I have ringed several broods of young birds over the years, but not for some time now. Still, with the Baker guide in hand, I soon set about sexing and ageing the bird. The grey head and chestnut mantle obviously meant this was a male bird, and a combination of tail and flank feather colouration and patterning told me this was a mature adult - hatched in 2010 or previously - i.e. EURING age 6.

So, a cracking if unexpected start to the weekend's ringing session...the remainder of the morning was filled with the usual but still interesting mix of blue tits, chaffinch and greenfinch and, perhaps best of all for me, a nuthatch - my first garden ringing tick.

Nuthatches are such a good-looking bird - the combination of lead blue, chestnut, black and white plumage and that robust, awl-shaped bill gives them a very neat appearance - nuthatches really are one of my favourite groups. Anyway, it was great to finally be able to see one in such close detail - the rich brick-red undertail coverts and flanks made this bird a clear male.