28 April 2017

Trewavas Kittiwakes

It's always nice to be back out on the cliffs and today saw a couple of us out checking up on our Kittiwakes at Trewavas Head. This has to be the best place to run a boring old monitoring project, deep in the heart of Cornish mining country.


But an abseil down to one site and a scramble/coasteer to another was pretty productive and we managed to read 19 colour rings on birds in the two colonies. Most were birds we'd ringed ourselves in previous years, but 'EC' resighted today was a bird originally ringed as a chick on Gugh, Isles of Scilly in 1996, so now over 20 years old and still going strong!

Just some of the 50 pairs of birds at Trewavas Head, although none have yet started breeding proper
We also caught up with three French-ringed birds, all of which are regulars at Trewavas Head, ringed at Point du Raz in Brittany in the last 10 years. The bird below, WWN-OWM, was ringed in 2007 and has been seen at Rinsey and Trewavas since 2012.


Just to add to the Cornish-ness of the day, the walk out saw a pod of over 40 Bottle-nosed Dolphin, including a few calves, cruise past and the walk back saw two Choughs enjoying the updrafts from the cliff edge!

7 March 2017

Mullion Cormorant in France

With so much time taken up recently putting up Barn Owl boxes it seems like an age since we blogged. But news today of one of our Mullion Island Cormorants gave cause to put pen to paper.

TBP was ringed as a chick on the island in April 2016 and hadn't been seen since before being found dead with a neck injury in France on 3rd March. This is the second of our birds to be found in France and the furthest movement to date. Perhaps not surprisingly, birds do tend to stick to the English Channel area but it's surprising they don't stray further north.

The only other recent sightings have been a bird roosting on Helston Loe Pool (along with up to 16 Cattle Egrets!) and a bird that has spent the winter at Chard Reservoir in Somerset.


Adults are already sitting on nests on the island so it won't be too long until we're back out starting our 2017 monitoring.

We don't have a photo of TBP when ringed,
but it probably looked very like TBR

3 February 2017

Big boxes on the Lizard

Stuck in the middle of the usual winter storms, our winter mist-netting has been rather limited, so we've been occupying ourselves with our big nestbox projects. Thanks to funding from Paradise Park in Hayle, we've been able to start replacing old and siting new Barn Owl nestboxes around the county. This winter we've only put up eight new boxes, but with requests for boxes still coming this is just the start! This does take the number of sites we monitor up to 84 though, so it's going to be a busy summer...

Most of the boxes are being sited in large open barns in areas where we know Barn Owls frequent, so we're hopeful that take-up will be quite high. Below are just a couple of examples of the boxes we've put up, and you can see that this isn't always a simple procedure!



As an aside from the Barn Owls, we've also just started a project to put up Kestrel nestboxes, as many of the sites we visit have the potential to hold both species. This is a bit of a new thing for us, with the first Kestrel box going up at a farm on the Lizard yesterday. Unlike Barn Owls, Kestrels really do like a room with a view, so the box below is in the perfect location!
We know it looks wonky, but it's the photo - honest!

22 January 2017

Wonderful Waste Water Works

After a very busy Chiffchaff morning at Carnon Downs works, now seems like a good time for an update. Perfect conditions this morning allowed an amazing catch of 73 Chiffchaffs, including no fewer than eight tristis race birds! Our catch also included two controls from Nanjizal (45km as the Chiff flies), including a tristis ringed on 1st December. Equally interesting was the recapture of a bird ringed at Gwennap works on 5th January; the first time we've recorded any bird moving between two sewage works sites! It may only be 4.5km between these sites, but for all the time we've netted at various sites this is a notable first.

After such a big catch, we then decided to work out our Chiffchaff totals for the year. It turns out we've ringed 151 Chiffchaffs, including 14 tristis birds. This is a bit artificial though, so the more sensible totals are for the whole winter; 211 Chiffchaff ringed, of which 22 were tristis! These totals really do go to show how important these sites are for wintering Chiffchaffs. Just for fun, below are a few of the recent tristis birds, some taken in apparently poor light...

Two very different-looking tristis


Two tristis, with a collybita for comparison

5 January 2017

Parisienne chic at the sewage works

It only seems right that our first ringing session of 2017 should be rather similar to our last ringing session of 2016, so it was off to the sewage works this morning. In two nets we managed to catch a non-too-shabby 67 birds, which included no fewer than 31 Chiffchaffs.

The only slightly shabby thing about the morning was the state of the forehead of the bird below, as it seemed to be moulting in new head feathers. But it may just be Parisienne chic, as it was already wearing a French ring, so it'll be fascinating to see where it's from!


There are just 26 records of French-ringed Chiffchaffs being found in the UK, with two of these being in Cornwall, including one we recaught at Carnon Downs sewage works back in February 2012.