Nocturnal Wader Ringing
With the onset of the dark nights of winter part of the ringing team have started experimenting with the feasibility of ringing Woodcock Scolopax rusticola and Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago on the Rocket Pole Field and the Old Tip sites. Woodcock in particular are susceptible to the “Dazzle and Net” technique, with Snipe also potentially being targeted by the same method. Additionally the use of mist nets to catch nocturnal terrestrial waders is also being tried on these sites, with some success with snipe.
The dazzling technique basically involves going out on wet and windy nights, when mist netting is not possible and using the beam from the torch to distract the bird before placing a large landing net over the top of it. Historically terrestrial waders have been under represented by ringing effort within the bird observatory, meaning any progression may yield some important data.
So far ringing over the past month ringing these terrestrial waders has largely been restricted to dazzling due to heavy winds and lots of rain on evenings. This is particularly as mist netting on the Old Tip in particular is showing some potential for catching Snipe. This year has been rather quiet for Woodcock resulting in relatively few opportunities to catch them. Although the dazzling technique appears to be productive if conditions are good and birds are present. Snipe appear to be far less prone to being caught like this at Filey though, although we are certainly on a steep learning curve and are making progress all of the time.
Neither species breed within the recording area and it is likely that progressive ringing may reveal some interesting recoveries in other parts of Britain and Europe. It would also be interesting to see the extent of site fidelity in these two species. Woodcock tend to move through the observatory area into more suitable wooded habitats with Snipe wintering in wetlands and wet grassland in small numbers. The Woodcock in particular are likely to be birds from the continent, with British birds being sedentary. The nearest notable populations being in the North Yorkshire Forests, few birds travel further than 20km from where they are born. Continental Woodcock however move in large numbers from north east Europe to western Europe with large breeding areas in Russia and Scandinavia being vacated during the winter months when the ground freezes and foraging becomes difficult. This increases the likelihood that most birds associated with the recording area are continental. Snipe are both a short and long distance migrant from within Britain and the continent. Hopefully we can start piecing together some records from these species.
As well as ringing these species we have also rung Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Interestingly wandering the fields at night has also revealed many records of other species including Red Fox Vulpes vulpes, Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus, Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus , Pipistrelle bat Pipistrellus spp., Great Crested Newt Triturus cristatus, Common Frog Rana temporaria, Common Toad Bufo bufo, Short Eared Owl Asio flammeus, Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus and Barn Owl Tyto alba. Perhaps the most unexpected find so far was a Bittern Botaurus stellaris on Carr Naze pond. We are looking forward to what we find using this technique, particularly in October.