Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The curtain call.

As I type, the team is currently on their first flight back towards the UK. Our flight just before midday local time meant we had a couple of hours to play with before departing so we again opened our feeder net in the hope of a few more birds.
As has been the case for most of the trip, the birds were late risers so the usual Finch flock didn’t develop before we had to depart, however 6 new birds were caught. Our final processed bird was a juvenile female Greenfinch before our drive to Kirkeness airport, which proved eventful when around 50km in, the bumpy roads Pasvik is famed for took their toll and gave us a flat tyre! Luckily it was a quick fix job and following a 30 minute delay, we were on our way.
We entered the trip nearly 2 weeks ago not really knowing what state of migration was expected at such a northerly latitude. After 11 days of ringing, we can probably be comfortable in saying by this point most of the migrant birds had departed, resulting in low day and total counts. Despite the quantities and density of birds being very low, it is clear that a number of species move through the area later in the autumn that have otherwise been overlooked before, and the team was very happy to see and process a number of very rare birds for the region. Yellow-Browed Warbler and Olive-Backed Pipit were both new species for South Varanger and our thoughts is that the single birds we caught of both these species were just the tip of a large iceberg. With many having gone undetected in the past, and would simply not have been present on our earlier trips in August.

Olive-backed Pipit (CR)

Yellow-browed Warbler (CR)

Although known to be present within the Øvre Pasvik National Park, Black Woodpecker are notoriously difficult to trap, so the male bird that was processed was of great significance to the Norway ringing scheme and represented the first to be ringed during the Varanger ringing project.

Black Woodpecker (CR)

Many species were believed to be scarce breeders within the park, so data on juvenile Robins, Dunnocks and Song Thrush all prove valuable to understanding the avifauna present within Pasvik and Varanger. The significant numbers of Great Tits were interesting, and the 3 Russian controls perhaps indicate towards some sort of movement of the species, we look forward to receiving the details back from these birds. In total, 361 new birds were ringed of 25 species, plus a further 14 retraps on previous years and 3 controls from Russia. A summary of the totals is below.

Species
9th
10th
11th
12th
13th
14th
15th
16th

18th
19th
20th
Totals
Reed Bunting
9
21+1
20+2
13
-
-
7
8

2
8
-
88+3
Willow Tit
5+1
11+1
1
-
-
2
3
8 +3

3 +2
4+1
-
37+8
Siberian Tit
(2)
3
4
-
-
-
(1)
2

-
-
-
9 +3
Great Tit
23
4
19
11
9
14
2
10

8 +2
19+1
3
122+3
Meadow Pipit
11
3
6
-
-
-
2
-

-
-
-
22
Magpie
2
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

-
-
-
2
Dunnock
1
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

-
1
-
2
Garden Warbler
1
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

-
-
-
1
Willow Warbler
1
-
-
-
-
1
-
-

-
-
-
2
Redwing
2
-
2
-
-
1
-
-

-
-
-
5
White Wagtail
-
1
2
-
-
1
-
-

-
-
-
4
Greenfinch
-
2
-
3
4
6
-
3

7
9
3
37
Brambling
-
1
-
-
1
1
-
-

-
1
-
4
Yellow Browed Warbler
-
-
1
-
-
-
-
-

-
-
-
1
Redstart
-
-
1
-
-
-
-
-

-
-
-
1
Robin

-
1
-
-
1
-
-

-
-
-
2
Rustic Bunting
-
-
-
1
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
1
Siskin
-
-
-
1
-
-
-
-

-
-
-
1
House Sparrow
-
-
-
-
3
7
-
-

-
1
-
11
Song Thrush
-
-
-
-
-
-
1
-

-
-
-
1
Olive Backed Pipit
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
1

-
-
-
1
Fieldfare
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
1


-
-
1
Black Woodpecker
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

1
-
-
1
Bullfinch
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

2
-
-
2
Common Redpoll
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

-
3
-
3

55+3
46+2
57+2
29
17
35
15+1
33+3

23+4
45+2
6
361+17

Away from the ringing, it is clear that the Pasvik National Park is a superb area for wildlife, as well as all the specialised high latitude species, such as Hawk Owl, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit and Moose, the area provides habitat for a wide range of desirable species, such as most of the European Grouse, 3 Crossbill species, Cranes, Grosbeak, many Woodpecker species, Bears, Wolverine, Lynx. A list to make any mouth water! What a region to visit.

Moose (HJH)

Aurora Borealis (CR)

So that brings the Varanger ringing project to a close for 2016. As always, a huge thank you to Biotope (http://www.biotope.no/) for the opportunity and logistics to allow us to work in this superb national park and further afield. Also, thanks to Pasvik Camping at Vaggetem (http://pasvikcamping.no/), for the warm welcome and for providing such a superb base for our ringing operations and wildlife watching. It really is comforting to know you have a warm cabin to stay in when it is -5 degrees outside! 

We eagerly look forward to the start of the project again in 2017. Until then!

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