Wader Ringing

We spent a late night the other evening down at Farlington Marshes trying to catch some waders. The hope was for Common Sandpipers and Greenshank which have a colour ringing scheme here (as seen in previous blog posts). Unfortunately the night didn’t turn out to be very fruitful but it wasn’t a complete loss. wp_20160916_19_39_07_pro

Placing the nets over the scrape was a little tricky but the aim was to catch the birds coming in to roost when the tide came in.Spread across the whole scrape gave us the best opportunity of catching any incoming birds.

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We managed to catch several Dunlin throughout the evening. There was considerable variation in the size of their bills and overall body size.

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We also managed to bag one Black Tailed Godwit

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Studying a Dunlin in great detail. Unfortunately not a Curlew Sandpiper.

 

All together a very poor show that evening, though conditions were against us. Overall numbers aren’t actually too bad on the marsh at the moment. There have been several good sightings. The Wryneck was reported last week, still lurking in the bushes. As was a Barn OwlPeregrines and an Osprey have been seen regularly over the harbour. Today the water on the lake was quite high after the rain, therefore most of the birds have been roosting half way up the stream, providing excellent viewings of the Curlew Sandpipers which are still around and up to 20 Greenshank. Whilst ringing there was a Spotted Redshank temptingly close to the nets.

 

 

Bringing in the big guns

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We’ve had some big machinery in Swanwick Lakes nature reserve over the last couple of days. Both the Flat Meadow and the North East Meadow needed a cut. Despite having cows munching away for a lot of summer, they just haven’t been able to cope with the amount of grass, especially with these perfect growing conditions that we’ve had. The volunteers have worked hard cutting many areas but the site is just too big.

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So we had to bring in the big guns. A local contractor popped over and used a forage harvester to take off the top of the sward. There was quite a thick thatch developing which stops many plant species from growing and allows the denser, tougher grasses to dominate.

 

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The finished product. It looks a little like a football pitch at the moment but we should get a little bit of an autumnal flush of growth and we’ll put the cows on again before they leave. By late spring next year it should be full of flowers.

The Mighty Meadow Cut Continues

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The Beechcroft volunteers worked their socks off yesterday at Hookheath. We’ve spent a good number of weeks cutting the meadows and raking up all the vegetation and it’s fair to say that it’s very hard going, especially in this muggy weather that we’ve been having!

 

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The sward is typical of a very wet meadow. The stream running through, (a tributary of the Wallington) floods out over the site in winter and remains soggy in places all year. This leads to a vegetation type favoring wetter conditions so there is loads of Mint and Meadowsweet. This means the sward we’re cutting is very fragrant. It also means that it is packed full of invertebrates. Whilst working yesterday there was up to twenty small and large white butterflies floating around and a similar number of Migrant Hawkers feeding on the bugs we were disturbing.

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We’re having to cut some of the meadows despite having cows on site. They don’t favor the tougher plants that have been taking over, so hopefully a few cuts will help solve this problem and the sward will come on leaps and bounds in the next few years.

Cutting reed

Busy day yesterday with the vols on Farlington. As you can see from the earlier blog posts, the birds are really starting to pick up down on the marsh now. With that in mind we wanted to get the works completed to maximize the habitat for them and make it as an attractive place as possible for them to hang out at high tide.

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Lots of short reed on the edge

We were in luck Tues as the tide was out for most of the day so we could spend the morning around the lake. We did flush a few Dunlin and Black Tailed Godwits but on the whole the lake was more or less empty. I wanted to be off a few hours before high tide so our impact was as small as possible. That meant cramming as much in as we could in the morning.

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Getting stuck in creating sheltered bays

The aim of the game was to cut a large patch of short reed and then cut some bays into the longer reed to provide secure and sheltered roosting areas for the waders. You will often see the Redshank and Dunlin crowded around the edge of the reed, so hopefully the bays would provide a bit more space. The right side has not grown in with reed as much this year and this seems to be where a lot of the waders are congregating so we set to work enlarging this.

There is lots of salt marsh plants around the edge of where we were cutting. Hopefully with a little more regular reed cutting, this may spread down and cover this area.

A big thanks to the volunteers for their work yesterday. It was hot and humid work and you never really get used to the smell of the mud at Farlington!

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The finished product, a nice open patch for roosting

To Norway, Farlington Marshes and Norway again….

Members and regular readers of the summer 2016 edition of our Wildlife magazine will have hopefully read my short news article about the Common Sandpiper that was ringed as part of a long term study at Farlington Marshes. As mentioned in that article, Duncan Bell from Farlington Ringing Group ringed an adult Common Sandpiper on 10th August 2013, and fitted it with a unique combination of coloured leg rings. These were used to increase the chances of the bird being recovered would enable the bird to be specifically identified in the field.

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Common Sandpiper – Farlington Marshes. August 2013 (Duncan Bell)

On 6th March 2016 Duncan received an email from the International Wader Study Group requesting information on this bird. Rune Nilsson, a Norwegian birder had recorded it breeding on 1st July 2015 on the River Vismunda near Lake Mjøsa, in Norway, and submitted an image of the bird to confirm his sighting.

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Common Sandpiper – Norway. July 2015 (Rune Nilsson)

On 21st July 2015, Rob Skinner (our Reserves Officer at the time) saw the same bird back at Farlington Marshes, feeding along the stream, which we were pretty excited about. Whilst this was not the first Common Sandpiper movement between Hampshire and Norway, to our knowledge this was the first time that a Hampshire ringed bird has been recorded on its breeding ground and back at the place of ringing. But the story doesn’t end there….

In July 2016 Rune contacted Duncan again to inform him that the same bird was indeed back at its breeding ground. He included a series of photos and maps of its location, the site  where the bird breeds and the bird itself.

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Common Sandpiper – Norway. July 2016 (Rune Nilsson)

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Breeding location in Norway (Rune Nilsson)

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The 2016 nest site is approximately 100m downstream and in the bushes on the left bank, in the distance is the busy E^ highway which connects Norway south-north. (Rune Nilsson)

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View of river from the same location as above but looking towards Lake Mjøsa (Rune Nilsson)

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Common Sandpiper on 15th July 2016 in Norway (Rune Nilsson)

We suspect that this bird is a male since it has now returned to the same breeding site for two consecutive years, and hope that it will do so for many years yet. The Common Sandpiper is a moderately common passage migrant in Hampshire; with a few birds regularly wintering. The national longevity record is 15y, 1m, 5d set in 2007, with the oldest recorded bird in Hampshire being 8y 0m 0d (18/08/1977 – 18/08/1985), a bird ringed and retrapped at Farlington Marshes. We are very grateful to Rune for keeping Duncan informed with sightings of this bird and hope to be able to give further updates in the future.

Super Charm

WP_20160830_10_49_54_ProBusy day down Farlington doing odd jobs that we have meant to get done for a while. Somebody, who shall remain nameless, (me😦 ) drove the tractor into a gate and snapped the post. So the first job of the day was to fix that.  Nothing like a warm day to dig a deep hole!WP_20160830_11_21_20_Pro

 

The guys got stuck in though and in no time we had got a new post in place, ready to hang the gate next week. We also uncovered the grit tray in the reed bed by the hut. This took some finding and thrashing around in the reeds but it is now ready for the winter. Bearded Tits switch to a diet of seeds in the winter, when all the invertebrates have died off in the cold weather. You will often see them on the reed top taking the seeds. They need grit to digest this, helping them grind up the seeds in their stomachs. They especially go mad for Oyster shell.

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After lunch we headed out onto the marsh to collect an old gate that served no function anymore. Whilst we were working there a huge charm of Goldfinches, a super charm if you will. There was lots of juvenile birds with them, so they have obviously had a good season. There was also a good number of Yellow Wagtails  with the cattle. Whilst on site I saw a Curlew Sandpiper on the stream by the building and we were told that 7 Avocets were on the lake and there was a Wryneck in the bushes.

 

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Sandpipers and Stints on the Marsh

As Chris eluded to in his last post, autumn migration is now in full swing, and that is particularly evident in the wading birds on Farlington Marshes. Over the weekend I noted that impressive numbers of Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints were being recorded along the south coast of Hampshire, so on Saturday evening I nipped down to the marsh to see if I could get in on the action. High tide was around 8pm so I arrived at 6:30pm and headed straight to the stream, a favoured place for waders.

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Curlew Sandpipers – Farlington Marsh

As it turned out I had made a good choice and the first two waders I saw were two Curlew Sandpipers, followed by a Little Stint. They were feeding along the stream edge and giving some excellent views. They all appeared to be juvenile birds, unfortunately in the failing light my pictures do not highlight the striking plumage of them, particularly the Little Stint.

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Two Curlew Sands and a Little Stint

The birds were feeding in close proximity to each other and at one point a Curlew Sand stepped on a Little Stint pushing it completely under water – needless to say the stint looked a little put out by this incident. I continued to watch the group, and try and get some reasonable images in the failing light when a couple more Curlew Sands joined the group, followed by three more Little Stints.

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Little Stints – Farlington Marshes

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Little Stints – Farlington Marshes

With the light failing fast and the tide rising I worked my way along the stream to the lake and added another Little Stint to the tally; four Curlew Sands and five Little Stints. A mobile Ruff was a welcome addition to the list, but that was the only other species of note for me. Amongst the usual suspects the other wader species recorded included over 300 each Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank, over 100 Lapwing, Grey Plovers, Oystercatchers, Curlew, Dunlin, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank, well worth a visit if you have the time.