Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Grace Dieu today

Spent a nice few hours today with a net up at our Grace Dieu reserve.

Over the last few weeks there have been a steady flow of Siskins coming in to the feeders, I probably only see 2/3 on the feeders at a time but we have now reached a total of over 20 ringed in the last few weeks. Not a large number compared to  some parts of the country, but a nice species for the group to handle.

There are two large feeders with Niger seed and seven feeders with Black Sunflower. In this area Siskins are a fairly uncommon species, breeding was only proven when group member Andy Smith caught a female with a well formed brood patch a couple of years ago.

Male Siskin, courtesy of Neil Hagley

We catch the majority of our Siskins in the second half of the winter, mainly late February and March. There are definite "Siskin" years, this being a modest one. It coincides with the first half of the winter period seeing record numbers of Brambling being caught. I am not sure if the two are related. The previous record year for Siskins was 2003 when we had recoveries of Siskins ringed from as far afield as Eastern Germany and France as well as a modest number from the UK.

Here are todays totals, New Birds/Retraps

Blue Tit 1/0
Bullfinch 2/0
Chaffinch 5/0
Dunnock 0/1
Goldfinch 4/1
Greenfinch 7/0
Great Tit 1/0
Nuthatch 1/1
Robin 3/1
Siskin 5/1
Sparrowhawk 1/0

At one point I did catch a grey squirrel in the top shelf as it was jumping from one side of the net ride to the other. Luckily, it extracted itself without damage to the net or me!!

Snowdrops on the Grace Dieu reserve

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Field Day

I wasn't intending to catch any birds today (Saturday), snow, windy weather and all that, so I just kept the bird feeders topped up and stuck some apples in the Cotoneaster bush, and also placed some on the lawn where my whoosh net area is. Just an odd couple of Fieldfare now had been taking the last few berries from the bush, I've had up to 5, hence the apples in the hope of keeping them coming to the garden.
A break from doing some houshold chores (a womans work is never done, sob sob!) late afternoon saw me looking out the window onto the garden, checking what was about; low and behold I'd got Fieldfare coming to the apples in the whoosh area, eventually there were 12, blimey the most I've ever had in the garden at once! Sod's law I hadn't got the net set ( well I wasn't intending to catch any birds!) decisions, decisions, would they come back if I disturbed them? I risked the chance and quickly went and set the net and waited, within 5 minutes I had 10 birds back on the lawn settled and feeding, so I took the catch. Two escaped but I had 6 new birds and 2 retraps that I'd ringed on 28th Feb.
Having processed and released the birds I checked the weight of the two retraps from last time, the female first weighed 92.9g and today it was 85.6g, and the male first weighed 104.7g and today it was 97.4g so both had lost overall about 7 grammes since Feb.
The weight of the new birds caught ranged from 89.3g to 113.7g, this latter bird also had a wing length of 159mm which is 7mm longer than the average stated in Svensson it also felt alot 'chunkier' than the others so made me wonder if there is a small population that come to our shores in Winter from further afield than Scandinavia?
Answers on a postcard please.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Linnet flock and Redpoll - wear there's a will

The Linnet flock in the field next to me at Whetstone is incredible. At its peak in the snow it grew to over 250 birds and several weeks on it is still over 100. Through abrasion the males are looking the part as the breeding season approaches. What is abrasion? Visualize a pink feather with a buff tip. As the tip gets weathered and worn the buff browny bit is 'rubbed off' eventually getting down to the pink part. When hundreds of bland tips next to each other wear off the lovely carpet of colour below comes through. Lots of finches and buntings come in to breeding plumage the same way. That's how male Reed Buntings get their blackish heads and Redpolls get pink breasts. Male Redpoll. Nice transformation! Most of the pink feathers you can see had buff/white tips just a few weeks ago. These have since worn off revealing the pink below.