Saturday, 30 May 2015

Bird ringing database reaches 10 million plus!

The vast EURING Data Bank of bird ringing data has just reached 10 million records!   

The ringing of birds has contributed a vast amount of knowledge (see here for history). "Ringing helps investigate how long birds live and when and where they move, which is vital information for bird conservation. Placing alight, uniquely numbered ring around a bird’s leg is a reliable and harmless method of identifying birds as individuals. Some projects use colour rings to allow identification without catching birds." British Museum website

British Museum website

Our humble grey wagtails will add to this vast database. We ringed 5 small chicks on day 5 after hatching and by day 12 they were fully grown and had left the nest to follow their parents along the small stream, learning where and what to eat!

Here are two nest sites, one under a tussock on an old bridge buttress, and one right under a small bridge.

And here were the young from the tussock nest all ready to leave the nest any day.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Feed me, feed me, feed me!

Feed me, feed me, feed me! they are saying. These are gorgeous song thrush chicks and there are five of them squeezed into the neat, mud-lined nest.The photo below was a quick inspection only 4 days before - what a difference and it's amazing how fast they grow! We ringed them with the correct BTO ring and carefully tucked them all back into their nest. Another few days and they will leave the nest, able to fly.

4 days previously!

The nest is tucked under a bridge in the top of some trailing ivy.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Beetles on the menu

Buzzards spent a lot of time eat invertebrates as can be seen from these pellets. Looking like little jeweled conglomerates or one of Hubert Duprat's caddisfly cases, these buzzard pellets are a made of the elytra of many beetles, including violet ground beetles.

And here is a close-up

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Lapwing chicks

Lapwings calling are for me one of the great sounds of Spring. All the lapwings have chicks now and if you are quiet and watch from inside your car or from a distance you can spot them tottering about. At the slightest sign of danger the chicks dive into a rush tussock and stay hidden until mum or dad says it's ok to come out. This marshy field was a great spot for them and we ringed two broods of chicks, 2 in each. At the far side of the field a pair of lapwing were mating so that will be birds that have lost their first clutch and will re-lay.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Mystery Bird revealed!

This was your Mystery Bird'd you do?

Spot on - a funky female goosander!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Funky beetles!

Funky beetle No. 1: The Red-breasted Carrion Beetle

Two of these curious, red-brown beetles were clinging to/gnawing on an old bird skeleton and were ID'd from a great website here. Interestingly, it says that this species is a "common woodland species, feeding on carrion and rotting fungi" as the two I found were on moorland, several km from any woodland. 

 In the pic below you can see how it has retracted it's head.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Name that Mystery Bird!

Ok, here is your Mystery Bird.

And two picture clues (answer to follow).

Oystercatcher fluffballs on a shingle bank near you!

The first oystercatcher chicks of the summer have been spotted! More info on oystercatchers here and here. Somewhere on the shingle, in amongst the stones....


two little fluffballs are doing their best

to be invisible!

Friday, 22 May 2015

More of these peculiar pellets...

Any ideas please as these are still a mystery to me. I found some just like these four weeks ago in the same boggy flush in a damp Mollinia field on the edge of a moor and I'm still baffled. They are about the size of a AA battery and full of something that looks likes scales.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Big Drinkers

Scotland is known to be a country of big drinkers. Right enough! These big drinker moth caterpillars are truly fine hairy beasties deserving of the Scot's name hairy  oobits. Cuckoos love them!


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Shortie bred

Check out the latest post on the brilliant Cat Barlow's Making the most of the Moorland's blog! There are lots of great short-eared owl pics including this one by Bryan Benn of the owlet in the rather spartan nest.

And here is a very lucky ringing trainee just about to take the owlet back to its lair!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Down by the river side...

Saw a likely looking shillet yesterday as I headed back home and sure enough, tucked away in a tiny depression were these beautifully patterned, camouflaged eggs. There is a second nest upriver and I could see an adult incubating. They must have relaid quickly as only a week or so ago these gravel bars must have been totally submerged, taking all eggs away with it. Watch this space for an update; until then, can you guess who's nest this is?

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The wonder of small things

Pondskater footprints on the natural oily film of a puddle....
...a beautiful, filigree drawing.
Thanks Cat for drawing my attention to it!

Feeling down on his luck....or just hoping for chips?


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Looking back at last year's owlets...

On the 22nd May 2014 there were five tiny fluffy long-eared owlets, one unhatched egg and two voles in this old crow's nest in a Scot's pine tree out on moorland. Check out the tiny stubby wee wings of the chick with its back to us. The oldest one is about 10 days old.

13 days later the chicks were all blinking orange eyes and snapping beaks! The oldest one here is only a day or two from leaving the nest, around day 24, when they take to the nearby branches and call from there.

We arrived just in time to ring them. Somewhere, Mum and Dad were hiding in the trees nearby but we never saw them. Up at the nest the chicks were all alert and they were carefully taken down the tree to be weighed, measured and ringed with a unique numbered metal BTO ring. The five fine healthy chicks were then returned to the nest to snooze away the rest of the afternoon till dinner time!

Saturday, 9 May 2015



The forest edge was very busy with robin song till dusk, then all went quiet. Somewhere out there, long-eared owls chicks squeaked hungrily for food. A tawny owl called twice then fell silent as my boots brushed the dead bracken. Following the forest edge uphill, I stopped to listen every 100m but all I heard was the gentle rushing of streams trickling off the moor. With such a clear, starry sky there would be a frost later and deciding to call it a day I strode back across the hill, pausing to marvel at the strange cry of a roding woodcock.

Spider dance moves

OK, so please excuse the rough cut but check out this arachnid's funky moves!

This male Black palp wolf spider was waving those palps and shivering them. 
For proper footage with David Attenborough see here.

Friday, 8 May 2015


Lovely hearing the first tree-pipits and redstarts joining in the chorus today. On the subject of song, saw this at The Baltic a year or two back - its so good! People learned the very-slowed-down songs then they recited it and the film was speeded up to the original speed - genius!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Long-eared owls!

Can you spot the nest?

Two weeks ago I went looking in through a wood for long-eared owls in the day found nothing. Last night I went at dusk and before I reached the edge of the trees I could hear the characteristic "squeaky gate" call of the young owlets. As they came from three different places I could tell that the birds had already left the nest. Mum and dad owl arrived and sounded a bit cross so I took a GPS and left. Here are more calls and here is a great site for more info on these owls.

Next day we returned to see if we could spot one of the fledglings - not a chance! They could have been anywhere up there in the wildly swaying trees. I did find the nest, a scrappy thing so it is (an old pigeon nest?) and under the tree were plenty pellets and white spots of owlet poo. And there was a dead vole and a dead shrew and sadly also a fourth owlet that must have fallen from the nest. And strangely enough, there was the old remains of an adult owl too. So the nest....'re right - it's that little bundle of sticks about 12m up.

Cool catts!