Sunday, 14 March 2010

Typical March

Not much happened yesterday at The Lodge. A bit quiet, with most of the winter visitors having left and the summer warblers not yet arrived.

The roost produced a couple of Chaffinches with long wings - males of 90mm or above - which may be continental birds. Interestingly these were the birds with the highest fat score of 40 -50 on the ESF scale, which is high for a site in our geographical position. So these birds may well have been getting into condition for the journey back to the breeding grounds.

One of the retrap Great Tits caught was originally ringed at the site in December 2006, and caught each winter since, but always before Christmas. This is the first time that it has been caught in the spring. Sometimes you think that the more you ring then the more questions you ask.

In total we caught 20 birds of which only 5 were retraps. Here are the totals:-

Blackbird 2
Song Thrush 1
Great Tit 0 (2)
Dunnock 1
Chaffinch 7 (1)
Long Tailed Tit 2 (1)
Goldcrest 1 (1)
Wren 1

Thursday, 11 March 2010

.... as I was saying and Bruce Almighty

Today Chris and I decided to have half a day ringing at our Blackbrook site, where the Tree Sparrow colony is situated. The weather was cold with the sun breaking out later in the afternoon. Steve and Mandy had told us that Yellowhammers were coming into the Partridge feeders. and before long we had a couple in the nets.

Male Yellowhammer

Like the Chaffinches in the previous blog, Yellowhammers obtain the breeding plumage by the action of abrasion of the feathers. The brown tips gradually wear away to reveal the bright yellow of the feather.

Female Yellowhammer

Like a lot of birds the female of the species is duller, this helps camouflage them while breeding.

We also caught a first year (age code 5) male Great Spotted Woodpecker, which was unusually incredibly quiet, but with cracking markings.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

When Mandy returned from feeding the Pheasants, she let Bruce the Springer Spaniel (and father of two of my dogs) out of the farmhouse. He promptly decided to wee in Chris's ringing box, not a bit was spilt outside the box. We just have to teach him to put the lid down afterwards and he will be a real "Renaissance Man". Hence he's called "Bruce Almighty".

We ended up with a total of 45 new birds (no retraps):-

Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Yellowhammer 6
Tree Sparrow 6
Blue Tit 13
Great Tit 3
Dunnock 6
Robin 2
Blackbird 4
Chaffinch 3
Greenfinch 1

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Worth the wait

We started at our usual Saturday afternoon ringing site on Charnwood Forest at about 1.30pm. The feeders hadn't been filled as our seed supply had run out and in any case we would be moving from this site for the summer in a couple of weeks and didn't want to leave seed in the ringing lab for the mice to eat over the summer.

So no feeders no birds. I thought I would take some photos while we waited for the roost to develop. This is the old Stable Block and our ringing lab is the door and window below the upstairs window.

The Old Stable Block, Charnwood Lodge

I say ringing lab with tongue in cheek, what else do we call it? It's not a hut - far too grand!

At this time of year there are a lot of semi-wild Snowdrops around the site. These will be followed by an equally impressive display of primroses and finally the woodland floor will be covered with bluebells.


Finally, after nearly four hours and only four birds, a Blue Tit, Dunnock, Long Tailed Tit and a retrap Great Tit, but plenty of tea and walnut cake, the Chaffinches started to fly over and come into the roost. Here is a photo of the start of the main roost ride between stands of Rhododendron.

Roost net ride.

Chris went round for the first batch of Chaffinches from the roost only to bring back two Brambling as well. A male and a female, both first years (age 5).

Male Brambling

You can see from this photo one of the strategies some male finches and buntings use to aquire breeding plumage. Instead of having to go through the trauma of a moult , the new head feathers when moulted in late summer and early autumn have brown/grey tips to them. As the feathers abraid during the winter the tips wear and the underlying colour shows through, Black on Brambling and Reed Bunting, Yellow on Yellowhammer and Blue on Chaffinches. Of course the females are subject to the same degree of moult, but the underlying are colours are not so contrasting.

Female Brambling

So, in the end, it turned out quite a good session with a total of 30 birds ringed, (of 10 species), with 16 new Chaffinches, the 2 Bramblings, 3 Blackbirds (one female had the startings of a brood patch - code 1) and a Song Thrush.

So it was worth the wait.