I caught my first Chiffchaff of the year in Hucknall on Sunday which appeared to have a moult limit in its greater coverts but on checking both wings I found it to be asynchronous indicating that some had been lost accidentally and not as part of a moult.
Then today I ringed my first pulli of the year in Arnold, 2 Collared Doves (both FS). However, the nest is very exposed so I don't hold out too much hope for their survival....
An overcast morning, with light winds from the south east made for a good ringing session at Granby yesterday. Overall, we handled 127 birds of nine species, including the first ever Green Woodpecker for Granby. This kept Ian, Pete, Ruth and I busy enough through the morning, but we still had time for Ian & Ruth to gain some net putting up practice by themselves; which paid off for Ian anyway who got to ring the male Green Woodpecker which was attracted to their nets by a tape lure.
Yellowhammers and Great Tits were again the main species caught, accounting for a third and quarter of the catch respectively. Amongst them were four year old Yellowhammer and five year old Great Tit retraps. The capture of 22 new Chaffinches was far and away the best catch of this species since the hard weather before Christmas. Also, Reed Buntings continue to increase with, for Granby, a staggering 13 new birds (and 2 retraps including the leucistic bird). This may not sound a lot, but in the last month we have ringed as many Reed Buntings at Granby as have been ringed there in the last nine winters which were considerably milder. Not sure what you attribute this to, but maybe the agri-environment schemes are having an effect, but as Pete wondered is the newly adjacent short rotation coppice benefiting them in some way?
Reed Buntings are rarely easy to age, but the following individual showed several features that indicated it was a young bird. Note the contrast in the tertials and the replaced tail feather that is fresh and round. This is due to accidental loss, but is clearly a different shape to the juvenile tail feathers even when wear is accounted for.
Total number of birds processed was 127 (75 new / 52 re-trapped), which is broken down as follows: Green Woodpecker 1/0, Dunnock 0/2, Long-tailed Tit 1/0, Great Tit 4/24, Blue Tit 1/8, Tree Sparrow 6/0, Chaffinch 22/1, Yellowhammer 27/11, Reed Bunting 13/2.
Away from the nets the first signs of spring migration were noted with at least one Chiffchaff singing and several Meadow Pipits overhead going north. Good numbers of Fieldfares were on the fields, but Redwings were fairly scarce. A single Golden Plover was heard and although we recorded regular Greenfinches, this species seems to spurn the feeders these days and is a rarity in the nets. Quite why this is, who knows? But in the early days they outnumbered Yellowhammers.
Anyway, all in all nother excellent morning's ringing, and the third 100 plus bird session in a row for me.
PS lastly - my attempt at a flight shot as we released the GW:
An overcast morning with only a light breeze looked promising for a repeat of last weekend's good catch. Unfortunately it was not to be with only 23 birds caught, 14 of which were retraps. No idea why it was so poor, the species list was (new/retrap): Reed Bunting 4/6, Bullfinch 1/0, Dunnock 1/0, Goldfinch 1/0, Blue Tit 1/0, Song Thrush 1/0, Yellowhammer 0/8. At least a sign of summer was heard when a Chiffchaff started to call.
It wasn't just us chasing Waxwings the other day. Whilst waiting this young Sparrowhawk went into the nets. It was sexed as a male on size (its wing length was 199mm) but on closer inspection we also found a single adult male rump feather.
The forecast of overnight frost and a calm day, boded well for a good Yellowhammer catch at Brackenhurst yesterday and so it proved to be. We had our best ever Yellowhammer day at Brack with 86 birds processed. Overall, we handled 139 birds of 11 species, including some migrants. This kept Duncan, Mick and I busy through the morning, but we had help from Pete when he popped in with his family. (This was Penny's first encounter with a Yellowhammer...)
The Yellowhammers accounted for 60% of the catch, with Great Tits second again. Amongst the Yellowhammer retraps were three birds that had originally been ringed as adult males in March/April 2008, and they are only re-trapped in those months. Perhaps evidence that they are returning to near their breeding territories. Interestingly, we also had a Yellowhammer with a bill deformity (not dissimilar to a Crossbill) which is not something we've come across before.
It can be an interesting time of year, ringing wise, with migrants coming and going, and resident birds getting down to breeding. We had instances of this in Orwin's, with two Chiffchaffs singing, one of which was ringed, and six Redwing turning up in the nets there. The latter were all first winter birds, and one suspects the adult Redwing are already on their way to Scandinavia.
Also, rather surprisingly, two new male Great Spotted Woodpeckers were ringed.
Total number of birds processed was 139 (80 new / 58 re-trapped), which is broken down as follows: Great Spotted Woodpecker 2/0, Dunnock 3/3, Blackbird 1/0, Redwing 6/0, Chiffchaff 1/0, Great Tit 6/15, Blue Tit 3/3, Chaffinch 3/2, Yellowhammer 52/34, Reed Bunting 3/0.
We also saw the first Commas of the year, though no Brimstones yet.
All 'n all, an excellent morning's ringing.
Looking down towards the ringing area from Brack's eastern boundary. What a gorgeous day!
I was cycling home on Sunday from a 30 mile bike ride along the Erewash Valley Trail. Despite having picked up a puncture somewhere in Ilkeston, I was quite content with the fact that I'd managed to spot some Water Voles along the way in the Nottingham Canal and the sun was still shining. I turned on to Long Lane in Attenborough for the final stretch of the trip and as I approached the Cemex plant a familiar sound came from the trees above - 150 Waxwings!
I tracked them down to a feeding spot on Milton Crescent where they were gorging themselves on the berries of an ornamental Rowan. I tried calling Kevin and Mick P, but nobody was answering. I feared that we would lose our oppurtunity to ring these birds, then at around 5:00pm the birds moved off to roost.
Mick P called me back later that night and we decided to try an early morning netting session. Arriving at 7:30am on Monday morning, the waxies had beat us to it and were already sat in the tree. Within half an hour of getting the nets up, we already started to catch some birds. A mixture of juvs, adults, males and females. We continued to catch small quantities despite most of the flock (c.100) flying over the nets.
We ended up with 17 birds and one House Sparrow. Not bad for a mornings work.
We returned Tuesday afternoon following further sightings on the street, yet despite increasing the number of nets we had up (and 80 or so waxwings flying overhead) we only caught a Blackbird...some you win, some you lose!
The weather forecast had been pretty awful, but thankfully it was wrong and it turned out to be a perfect ringing day. The birds trickled in steadily and we finished on exactly 100 birds. We could have caught more had we not had to leave due to other engagements which was a pity as the last couple of rounds started to produce the older retraps.
Yellowhammers made up a third of the catch and Great Tits almost a quarter. 6 Reed Buntings was the best ever day total for the site and Great Tits continue to outnumber Blue Tits. We caught a second Great Tit retrap from nestbox 8 in as many visits but star bird was an old Chaffinch, ringed as 3M on 14/11/2004 and not caught since.
Break down of the catch (new/retrap) as follows: Yellowhammer (26/7), Great Tit (6/17), Blue Tit (5/10), Chaffinch (8/1), Reed Bunting (5/1), Tree Sparrow (5/0), Blackbird (3/0), Dunnock (1/0), Wren (2/0), Robin (1/0).
We spent quite a bit of time looking at alulas today. Firstly on Yellowhammers it would seem to be useful when aging birds as youngsters often have a visible moult limit, but usually only at the smallest of the the three feathers. Most young birds seem to replace this feather, but not the larger two (so the alula score is still zero). But as can be seen below (I hope), the fringe of this smallest feather is golden yellow, matching the replaced lesser coverts and contrasting with the buffy fringe of the middle feather. Furthermore the central part of the feather is dark grey as opposed to the browner juvenile feathers. We did catch a single youngster that had not moulted this feather today, and it had a clear ginger-brown fringe.
Then for some time we've been scratching our heads when trying to determine alula scores for Great Tits. The middle feather (which scores 1) is nearly always straight-forward with retained juvenile feather being slightly greenish-blue. However, the larger feather is very similar when replaced. Today we caught a young Great Tit that appeared to have replaced the large feather on one wing but not the other. The differences were slight, but noticeable:
Away from the nets, spring was attempting to make itself known with several bumble bees, some tiny bunnies, displaying Lapwings, and singing Skylarks. Other birds of note were several Buzzards, Golden Plovers and a lone Cormorant overhead.
After some very disappointing sessions at the Park this year I was not expecting a great deal but it was nice to find my pessimism was unfounded. The nets were quickly erected and we caught steadily throughout the morning. A short spell of rain almost made us take down very early but it passed and the morning slowly brightened to a lovely spring day. Lots of birds singing but no summer visitors yet! We ended on 75 birds, 37 of which were retraps. The catch was predominantly Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting but a cracking male Common Redpoll was a nice surprise. The retraps contained a good selection of oldies the best being a Reed Bunting ringed at Bunny 21/12/2003 and caught at the Park previously 29/01/06 and 03/01/10.
The predicted bright, cold morning did not really happen with the weather being dull & overcast. The ringing was steady with up to eight birds each round, which amounted to 35 birds handled. However, it allowed us more time to look at the birds and colour ring all the new Yellowhammers. I suppose the highlights of the catch were getting a few Chaffinches and Tree Sparrows for a change. There were a 20/30 Fieldfare and Redwing about, but only male Blackbirds were noted perhaps suggesting the females are getting down to breeding.
Totals processed were 35 birds (23 new / 12 re-trapped). Broken down as follows: Dunnock 0/2, Great Tit 4/5, Blue Tit 3/1, Long-tailed Tit 1/0, Chaffinch 4/3, Tree Sparrow 4/0, Yellowhammer 7/0, Reed Bunting 0/1.
To celebrate our 40th anniversary we thought we'd try to post a few pics from the early days. These were taken in Widmerpool in the late 1970s. First up are Mick T, Terry Southall (Chris's brother) and Kev with an average late morning round at the feeders...
Perhaps not surprisingly, the latest batch include a number of cold weather casualties. Of the 8 Barn Owls recovered, about half were young birds found locally. A couple of other youngsters moved further afield before succumbing with a 1 Kirklington bird travelling 48km into Lincolnshire and a Costock bird moving 99km into the same county.
Besides the owls, a Long-tailed Tit ringed as a 3J at Holme Pierrepont was found dead in West Bridgford garden in cold weather, 7km away.
And then, most surprisingly, we already have details of our Belgian Cetti's - pasted in full below. One can only guess its route to HPP, but it would seem likely that it crossed the channel in 2009 whilst undergoing post-juvenile dispersal and then moved up to the Midlands the following Autumn.
Species: Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Scheme: BLB Ring no: 11139774
Ringing date: 01-Aug-2009
Site name: Koksijde, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Co-ords: 51deg 6min N 2deg 39min E
Sex meth: S
Finding date: 10-Oct-2010
Site name: Holme Pierrepont, Nottinghamshire
Duration: 435 days Distance: 328 km Direction: 309deg (NW)
Nine of us met for an afternoon at HPP yesterday for a few hours of habitat management. With no control over the water levels we are fighting something of a losing battle against the encroaching willow and birch scrub, but at least we can keep it down to net height. The weather was a bit grim, but we did really well and particular thanks must go to Gordon for coming along with his chainsaw and George. We even saw a few birds with Red-crested Pochard and Bittern both seen.
I went to John and Anne's garden in Hucknall again this afternoon to try for the Brambling. I must admit I wasn't very optimistic as I live nearby and I get very few birds in my garden in the late afternoon. Happily I was proved wrong, finishing on 17 birds including a young male Brambling and a control male Lesser Redpoll (ring number T668180)!