Having made the effort to get up before 6 I am glad to say that today's ringing session was a special one. We met before 6.30 and travelled to a new site (to me) in East Devon . Birds were few and far between in the nets due to slightly windy conditions and only 5 in total were caught. but two were very special. 2 Wren, 1 Dunnock, a lovely Marsh Tit and a Garden Warbler which was very interesting to say the least. Garden Warbler are very closely related to Blackcaps and I was very interested to get the chance to examine one in the hand. As Warblers go this is a big species not a lot smaller than a Dunnock for example and significantly larger and more bulky than a Willow Warbler. They are said to be "featureless" when seen in the field, with no wing bar or eye stripe nor white in the tail, in fact it is said that this lack of diagnostic features is in it's self a feature. First impressions led me to be surprised by the size and then a white belly as well as a faint eye ring.
Regardless of the small amount of birds the quality made up for it and I was very impressed to be able to see both these two species so closely. The two Wrens were almost forgotten even though they are such gorgeous little birds and in the hand equally as interesting as they are in the field. One was a juvenile and the other an adult. I am not surprised that we caught a couple because they were singing constantly with lots of individual territories identified..... too many to count really. If you are interested in identifying Marsh Tit in the hand here is a nice close-up of the underside of the tail which is crucial apparently.
Leaf hoppers are a hard to identify and there are 250 species of them in the UK so I am going to find it hard to put a name to this one. But I have to say that when you have a really good look at them they are fascinating. The one here is only about 1.5mm long and very hard to get a good photo of..... don't I say that about most things?
If this little bug doesn't look like the inspiration for ET then I don't know what does. And below he looks like dangerMouse in a cape! Leafhoppers can be pests in agriculture but in a normal garden I can't imagine that they would do much harm. They suck the sap from plants so if there was a large infestation I am sure that there would be a big impact. Regardless of that I am pleased to see them when I do because they are interesting and make good macro photo subjects.
I took delivery today of my new lens, purchased specifically to try and improve the quality of images from the garden hide at short distances I have to say that so far I am impressed with some of the results. It feels incredibly high quality and the auto focus is so silent and quick. I sat in the hide and managed a few shots and have to say that the end results are really pleasing.
The next image is a House sparrow perched in a Bottle Brush bush at about 15 foot away and then cropped in Photo Shop. I have to say that I like this image as well and it is still quite sharp and quite acceptable.
This evening was a bit of a disappointment because at around 5.45 it absolutely poured down which is no big deal. But at 6 I met Dr Ian to have a look at the Sand Martin colony. Had the weather been acceptable, that is, no rain or high winds we would have ringed some Sand Martins at the colony on the nearby river Exe. . This has now been delayed until next week. I must say that I am looking forward to this very much. It is going to be good to put rings on "my" Sand Martins and then se what/who returns next year. When you consider the immense distance that they travel on their migration it is amazing that they then return again to the same spot on our River. Next week there will be photographs and a report of the session so don't forget to check back to see.
Today has been a good one in the garden for Tit species. I decided to take some experimental photos using a 200mm lens that came with my first camera and am pleased to say that it worked quite well, the final results are a little on the "soft" side as you would expect from a very cheap lens but the principle worked well. I have ordered a high quality 200 mm lens which will be with me tomorrow. This should improve the images taken in my garden even more. I am looking forward to using it. In the meantime I have posted these two images so that we can compare them when I post images with the new lens in the near future. These birds are both juveniles, the first is a Blue Tit and the second a Great. As I sat in the hide waiting I got very excited because I could hear Long Tailed Tits in the apple tree and I was really hoping that one at least would come down on to the feeders and present its self for a photo.......................................................... but no luck and eventually they left the garden. I note that this time last year I had Long Tails in the garden so I can see a pattern there. Later on in the early evening the weather cleared and the sun shone so I decided at the last minute to go out to the moor to continue my Cuckoo study. I heard at least 5 different males calling but didn't have the look of one visiting the tree which I had decided to concentrate on. I did waste a little bit of time though pursuing a pair of Whinchats, the second sighting this year....... and well, you can't resist that can you. I noticed that there was a true pair and it might just be that I have never actually seen a male in true breeding plumage before. As I arrived at the cuckoo tree there he was right at the top and I tried to get as close as I could to him. After a while he flew back over my head to his mate and it gave me the chance to study them both together and note how much more brightly coloured the male is. As I sat in the hide some 30 minutes later he came back on to the top of the tree and I was waiting for him to turn his head in a good photographic pose but unforunately he never did and I cursed as he flew off knowing that I had missed a really good photo opportunity.
A completely flightless, very long-legged cricket, the "Speckled Bush Cricket" is virtually wingless, apart from the tiny brown flaps on the top of the male's body. It is bright green, conspicuously spotted with very dark red speckles. Its song is very high-pitched and barely audible to the human ear. It is well camouflaged among vegetation and usually only seen as it hops to bright outdoor lights or windows at night. It lives on well structured vegetation, tall grasses and shrubs, being found as an adult from mid-July through to the autumn. Eggs are laid in bark and the young nymphs hatch the following spring. A common species throughout southern England and the East Midlands, it is absent from the North. Young hatch from mid-May onwards and mature through 6 larval stages to adult, with about one week for each state and one week for the adult to become sexually mature. Males appear to have a shorter adult life than females. Females can still be around in early November but we do not believe that any survive the winter. I last saw them in my garden on the 20th May. I can say that the ones seen today, several in fact were slightly larger than those 2 weeks ago. I find them very photogenic and am looking forward to seeing adults later in the summer.
Out yesterday at the Sand Martin colony as blogged here I had an interesting and great sighting. I stood talking to a dog walker who's Staffordshire Bull Terrier had disturbed my photographic session. We were just casually glancing in to the water when a large, odd looking fish appeared in the shallows. At first I thought it was a Salmon and then an eel but after just a few seconds I realised that it was a Sea Lamprey. It was large, at least 3ft long and it was very blotchy in appearance with a strangely large and odd shaped tail. here is a description that I downloaded.