Siberian Chiffchaff 11th January 2019
The welcome arrival of a stable anticyclone over the UK and ideal weather conditions for ringing coincided almost exactly with a debilitating back injury, which also pinched the nerves to my right arm and confined me to the house for the next two and a half weeks! However, by the 11th, cabin fever had got the better of me and I felt up to driving to South Milton and getting a few nets up. The discomfort was tolerable and my worries about reduced mobility proved groundless. The birds cooperated as well, arriving in the nets in a steady trickle and managing to remain relatively straightforward to extract. 40+ birds processed in four hours is just one every 6 minutes and I can manage that pace all day.
In the event Chiffchaffs dominated the catch, making up 31 of the 41 birds trapped. This equals the previous winter Chiffchaff record set on January 26th last year. One of the birds was a classic Siberian Chiffchaff and there was at least one more, un-ringed bird present, which avoided the nets. Maybe next time! Final totals were: Blue Tit 2, Cetti’s Warbler 1, Chiffchaff 30, Goldcrest 1, Long-tailed Tit 2, Robin 2, Siberian Chiffchaff 1 and Wren 2.
In addition, there were 13 buzzards displaying over Horswell Wood, 11 Teal flushed from Ham Ditch and 3 Water Rail present. Reassuringly, after two very quiet years, at least two male Cetti’s Warblers were singing from opposite ends of the ringing area so fingers crossed for a more productive year.
The first of three Siberian Chiffchaffs trapped on 26th January 2018
At last, a dry day with winds, which were low enough to get some nets up. In fact, at times in mid-morning it felt positively balmy. The sunny periods were enough to produce swarms of midges, whirling about in mating dances on the leeward sides of taller trees and a north-westerly breeze drifted them towards the net ride beside the sewage treatment plant. Things were looking good for decent numbers of Chiffchaffs. These midges are a major component of their winter diet, often turning their droppings black, when the midges are swarming. When the sun goes in the midges disappear and the warblers disperse making them harder to trap.
The second Siberian Chiffchaff
In the event, the morning’s tally of 47 birds included 30 Chiffchaffs, 4 Firecrests and 2 Goldcrests. Three of the Chiffchaffs showed all of the characteristics of tristis and two of them obligingly gave the characteristic short “peep” call when released.
A lovely day but not many birds. Just 14 new birds were ringed including: 5 Chiffchaff, 3 Firecrest, 2 Goldcrest and 1 Reed Bunting.
Also on site: another 20+ Chiffchaff, 1 Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Redwing, 5 Water Rail, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Tawny Owl and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker. There were 3 Hares in the middle of the field to the south of the reedbed and a weasel ran across the footpath by the sewage treatment works.
Siberian Chiffchaff, South Milton Ley, 18th December 2017
A glorious, sunny day at South Milton Ley. Just a little frost on the ground first thing and some ice on the mist net poles but very little breeze and almost perfect conditions for mist-netting. The numbers of wintering Chiffchaffs are beginning to build up around the Sewage Treatment Works with over thirty present, including at least one new Siberian Chiffchaff.
32 new birds were trapped including: 15 Chiffchaff, 1 Siberian Chiffchaff (the third tristis of the winter), 3 Goldcrest and 3 Reed Bunting. Also 1 UK control Blue Tit, 1 re-trap Cetti’s Warbler and 2 Firecrests present
Siberian Chiffchaff, South Milton Ley, 5th December 2017
A forecast of low winds from the south, rather than the cold northerlies of the previous few days, tempted me out today. Winter looks to have arrived in earnest at South Milton Ley with the phragmites all turned brown, most trees without any leaves and, for the first time since the spring, not a sign of a dragonfly or butterfly. The hedgerows around the reserve have all been stripped of their berries and the thrushes have moved on.
Adult female Cetti’s Warbler, South Milton Ley, 5th December 2017
Ringing was slow but steady enough to stave off the cold. 29 new birds were trapped including: 13 Chiffchaff, (including the second tristis of the winter), 1 Firecrest, 5 Goldcrest, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Song Thrush. Also 1 UK control Goldcrest, 2 returning wintering Chiffchaffs and 2 re-trap Cetti’s Warblers.
Cetti’s Warbler – the only passerine in the UK with ten tail feathers rather than the usual twelve.
Another clear night with light winds and a heavy frost gave migrants little reason to drop into South Milton but at least the sight of Jupiter and Venus side by side on the eastern horizon brightened up my journey to the reserve. I have been gradually increasing the number of nets in use as the bird population is quite low at the moment and the bulk of the wintering Chiffchaffs have yet to arrive. This was the first outing for two new 18m nets, purchased from Merlin Ringing Supplies. More about them later.
36 new birds were ringed including 6 Goldcrest, 2 Firecrest, 2 Cetti’s Warblers (both females), 12 Chiffchaff, including the first Siberian Chiff of the winter and 1 Redwing. A Blue Tit with a UK ring was controlled. I’m sure it won’t have come far but it’s the first one I have trapped at SML with a ring I didn’t recognise.
Siberian Chiffchaff – South Milton Ley – 13th November 2017 (photographed in shade)
The same bird (photographed in sunlight)
This is a blog which concentrates on the day-to-day bird ringing activities at South Milton Ley Nature Reserve, a 16 hectare reedbed in south Devon. The title reflects the fact that it takes me about an hour to drive to the site from my home and a further hour to set up all of the nets. This makes for some very early starts, particularly in the summer months!
If you stumbled across this website whilst looking for up to date information about the birds recorded here, at South Huish Reserve, South Efford Marsh, Thurlestone Bay or simply in the general area I recommend visiting Mike Passman’s excellent website: Thurlestone Bay Birds