Monday, 15 January 2018

Brackenhurst - Sunday 14 January

In between the winds, Duncan, Kev, Kirsten, Sue and myself got another session in at the feeders at Brackenhurst. The weather was cool, calm and cloudy; ideal for ringing. We caught birds steadily over the morning, and finished on a total of 93 birds processed.

Highlights were:-
  • Yellowhammer – 32 birds processed, and we now have had 70+ birds this winter. This is already more than the very mild winters of two and three years ago. So, definitely a correlation between mean temperature and birds coming to the feeders. The oldest retrap was from winter 2013/14.
  • Song Thrush – only our sixth bird in 10 years, but the second of this winter and the first to be caught at the feeders.
  • Great Tit – it's not usual to get an influx of unringed birds this time of year, but 13 is unusual. It shows there’s still stuff to learn about our so called sedentary resident bird species.
  • Chaffinch – we had an old bird originally ringed in winter 2011/12.
  • It can be tricky to determine if Yellowhammers are juveniles or adults. One of the ageing criteria we use is to look for different generations of feathers in their tertials. See photo below which shows a Yellowhammer with different generations, which makes it a juvenile first winter bird.
Species totals (new/retrap) 64/39, total 93: Robin 0/2, Blackbird 3/5, Fieldfare 3/0, Redwing 1/0, Song Thrush 1/0, Blue Tit 5/11, Great Tit 13/11, Bullfinch 0/1, Chaffinch 3/1, Yellowhammer 22/8, Reed Bunting 1/0.


 Yellowhammer showing two generations of tertials making it a first-winter bird. (JL)

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Brackenhurst, Tuesday 9 January

Diaries and the winds meant this was to be the first New Year visit to the feeders at Brackenhurst. It was a cold, dreich January morning, and we never saw the sun at all. However, Kev spotted a Tawny Owl flying away from us in the gloom as we drove up. We were Duncan, Issie, Kev and myself.

Catching was steady through the session with 70 birds processed. Highlights were:
  • 18 Blue Tits – the highest number for some time.
  • Yellowhammers – nice to finally get amongst them this winter with 26 individuals processed.
  • Uncommon species – Treecreeper and Bullfinch are barely annual at the site, and it was nice to see them in the hand again.
We finished on a total of 70 birds, including 34 retraps. The catch was made up of (new/retrap): Treecreeper 1/0, Robin 0/2, Goldcrest 1/1, Blue Tit 3/15, Great Tit 1/3, Chaffinch 3/2, Bullfinch 1/0, Yellowhammer 20/6.

All of the retraps were first ringed at Brackenhurst, with the oldest retrap a Blue Tit after nearly 4 years, ringed as a juvenile in December 2013 and previously retrapped twice in 2014 at the same site.

Jim Lennon

 Treecreeper (Isabel Connell)

Monday, 8 January 2018

Sutton Bonington, Sunday 7 January

I thought we were going to have a team of nine for the first session of the New Year at Sutton Bonington, but two fell ill and dropped out and I was not feeling 100% (by the evening I had lost my voice). Having baited up the site a couple of times over the holidays and not seen many birds there I thought we may end up with more ringers than birds – and I was nearly right!

It was a bitterly cold day, the wind chill making it particularly unpleasant and ultimately the strength of the wind affected the nets too much, enforcing an early finish. The team consisted of Kirsten, Alex, Duncan, Trish, Jake, Gary and I.

We ended with a catch of just 15 including 6 retraps. The catch was made up of (new/retrap): Fieldfare 2/0, Redwing 2/0, Blackbird 1/0, Robin 0/5, Blue Tit 1/0, Great Tit 1/0, Goldcrest 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 0/1, Yellowhammer 1/0. The oldest retrap was from 2015.


Sunday, 7 January 2018

Green Woodpeckers

A quick look through the BTO online ringing and nest recording report shows that around 300 to 400 Green Woodpeckers are ringed annually in Britain and Ireland. A search of our own totals in DemOn (yes, DemOn!) shows that we have ringed 42 new and retrapped 5 Green woodpeckers since 1997.

They are a green-listed bird and by no means rare around here but they are still an unfamiliar bird in the hand and therefore ageing often requires reference to the “Identification Guide to European Non-passerines” by Kevin Baker. However, when faced with single birds of unfamiliar species, it can still be tricky to interpret the descriptions and pictures in this book (unfortunately I still have an “old” copy). But occasionally you get lucky and catch a really helpful bird...

This male Green woodpecker was caught at Hazelford Island on 22 December 2017 and its mixed-age plumage shows very well the different tertial patterns described by Kevin Baker.

Mick P