Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Coal Tits on the move.

The highlight of this mornings visit to Billinge was the capture of 15 Coal Tits which is the highest total for the site by some margin. They were all caught towards the end of the session with a flock of 7 being caught at 10am and a flock of 8 an hour later. The previous day record of 8 was only set on 7th October this year so it is clear there is much more movement going on than usual. Some vis-mig sites around the country are recording similar irruptive behaviour so it is a widespread phenomena. It's not just happening in the UK either as Falsterbo Bird Observatory, in southern Sweden, is also ringing above average numbers of Coal Tits and is on track for one of their highest autumn totals.


One of this mornings Coal Tits, 
Ringing totals for 16/10/2018 were: Coal Tit 15; Blue Tit 2; Great Tit 5; Blackcap 1; Goldcrest 7; Nuthatch 1;  Redwing 14; Song Thrush 5; Robin 1;Lesser Redpoll 3. Total 54 new birds.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Sparrowhawk double

It had to be a shorter session than usual at Billinge this morning because I had an appointment to go to but it turned out to be interesting nevertheless. There weren't many thrushes moving but over 2,000 Woodpigeons were counted going south by 9:00am (per CAD). A single Brambling was the first of the autumn and another or the same was heard again later. There were no warblers, not even a Chiffchaff, but Goldcrests found their way into the nets at regular intervals and a total of 13 were ringed. A couple of Sparrowhawks livened things up with a 1cy male being caught first and a 2cy female being caught in the same net an hour later. Catching 2 Sparrowhawks in the same session doesn't happen very often but the 3 previous occasion it has happened have all been in mid October like today's double act. The lively theme continued when a rather feisty Jay was caught and it did its best to take lumps out of me, as they usually do. The last net round produced a group of 5 Lesser Redpolls and, interestingly, 4 of the 5 were adult males which continues the predominance of adults in the Redpolls caught so far this month.

1cy male Sparrowhawk

1cy male Sparrowhawk

2cy female Sparrowhawk

The female Sparrowhawk had an unusual and very hard accretion on the tip of one of its claws. I have never seen anything like this before and have no idea what could have caused it..

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 15.09.18 were: Sparrowhawk 2; Jay 1; Coal Tit 2, Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 1; Goldcrest 13; Blackbird 1; Song Thrush 3 (1); Bullfinch (2); Lesser Redpoll 5. Total 29 new birds and 3 retraps.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Late Willow Warbler

I nearly didn't go out this morning as the forecast said there was going to be more of a breeze than yesterday but the chance of catching more Redwings or something unusual got the better of me. The south-westerly breeze was a bit too strong for the net rides in the top willows so I opted for the more sheltered rides in north-east corner of the site. I set up the first net before it started to get light and unlike yesterday there were the occasional calls of Redwings flying overhead to give me some encouragement.

It turned out to be a much busier morning at the nets than I had expected so I didn't have much time for looking up to see what was passing overhead but at least 200 Redwings went south and many others would have been missed. Redwings were also the most numerous birds in the nets with a total of 19 caught but unlike yesterday there weren't many Goldcrests around and only 4 were ringed. It was almost a repeat performance as far as Coal Tits were concerned with a total of 7 ringed which becomes the second highest day total after yesterday's 8 and it increasingly looks like some are genuinely on the move. The poor autumn for Lesser Redpolls continued with only 3 ringed and 2 of those were adults which, as I said in yesterday's post, isn't a good sign. The most unusual capture was a Willow Warbler as it is a very late date for the species in this area.  It is only the second I have recorded in October but it still well short of the latest which was a bird ringed on 23rd October 2014.

Adult female Lesser Redpoll.

Ageing was straightforward as it hadn't finished moulting with the inner secondaries still growing in both wings. The tertials and coverts were also very fresh and similarly coloured as they should be.

If any further confirmation was required the tail was about as fresh and rounded as they get in adult Lesser Redpolls in autumn.

An October Willow Warbler is rarer than Yellow-browed Warbler at Billinge.
Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 08/10/2013 were: Coal Tit 7; Blue Tit 6; Great Tit 8 (2); Long-tailed Tit 7 (4); Willow Warbler 1; Chiffchaff 2; Goldcrest 4; Blackbird 1; Redwing 19; Song Thrush 2;  Robin 2; Chaffinch 1; Lesser Redpoll 3. Total 63 new birds and 6 retraps.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

First Redwings and a glut of Goldcrest.

There have been some reasonable arrivals of Redwings on the east coast and in the northern isles over the last week so I thought there would be a good chance of seeing and possibly catching my first of the autumn at Billinge this morning. I was so keen I got up extra early and had the first net set up in the top willows before it started to get light but I didn't hear any nocturnal flight calls of Redwings or any other thrushes for that matter. I quickly set another 3 nets (my usual set up of 3 nets generally becomes 4 once Redwings start to arrive) and while I still didn't hear any Redwings flying over there were 2 or 3 Song Thrushes calling in the bushes as it it started to get light.

Initially there wasn't much moving through the bushes or overhead but that changed after the sun was up and it became quite an eventful morning. There wasn't a huge amount moving overhead but there was a quite a bit more than there has been recently. A Redwing, my first of the autumn, was heard shortly after sunrise and groups of 4, 2, 4 and 15 were seen subsequently. A couple of high flying Song Thrushes and 4 equally high flying Blackbirds were also seen and likely to be migrants from the continent. The morning was punctuated by the occasional calls of Siskins and Meadow Pipits but the stand out highlight was a flock of 19 Crossbills which passed me at eye level and close range as they flew SSW over the SE flank of the hill. Other birds on the move included small numbers of Woodpigeons, Goldfinches, and Chaffinches.

The nets were quite productive and produced one of the best catches of what has been a below par autumn so far. Highlights were 26 Goldcrests (the highest day total this autumn by some margin), a Redwing (obviously the first ringed this autumn), 3 Song Thrush (all likely migrants) and 8 Coal Tits (the highest day total for the site and suggestive of irruptive movement). Also of note were 2 Lesser Redpolls but only because they were both adult males; there haven't been many Redpolls this autumn and the appearance of adults without any first-years doesn't bode well for the rest of the autumn.


It was a return to something like normal numbers of Goldcrests today but the big question is will it last or is it just a one off improvement. One thing is certain only time tell.


It is always good to see and ring the first Redwing of the autumn and hopefully there will be some really big movements to come. The forecast for the middle of next week (Wednesday into Thursday) is looking promising at the moment and may bring the first really big arrivals of the autumn, lets hope so.
Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 07/10/2018 were: Coal Tit 8; Blue Tit 3; Great Tit 7; Long-tailed Tit 2 (4); Chiffchaff 2; Goldcrest 26 (1); Wren 2; Redwing 1; Song Thrush 3; Robin 3; Bullfinch 3; Lesser Redpoll 2; Goldfinch 1; Reed Bunting 2. A total of 65 new birds and 5 retraps.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Billinge: 1st October 2018

A light northerly breeze and generally clear conditions weren't likely to produce many birds so I wasn't surprised when a session in the top willows started off very slowly. Only 9 birds were caught in the first couple of hours so I decided to pack up early but then a flock of 8 Long-tailed Tits was caught in what was going to be the final net round and tempted me to stay a bit longer. I am certainly glad I decided to stay as the catching rate wasn't too bad for the next couple of hours, although it was largely made up of tits.  However, there were a few Goldcrests too and they included a bird that was already wearing a ring from elsewhere which was the clear highlight of the morning. The final total of 44 new birds and 1 control was much better than expected and was a good start to the month.


The control Goldcrest had a ring number with prefix KHV and it looked like a very new ring so may have been ringed quite recently. With Goldcrest numbers being very low this autumn I thought my prospects of getting any controls or recoveries would be very low too so this bird was a very welcome surprise.


There haven't been many Redpolls on the move so far this autumn and today's was the first adult male.


Adult male Lesser Redpoll


Noisy Coal Tits are often a feature of clear days in late September and much of  October but how many actually move very far is open to question.


Photographs of Great Tits rarely appear in the blog but I had to include these two as they show how different the intensity of the yellow can be. Both were first-year females. I have looked back at the sexes of the Greats Tits that were caught in September and there was a clear preponderance of females; of the 44 handled 31 were females,12 were males and 1 was left unsexed as it hadn't completed its post juvenile moult.
Ringing totals for 01/10/2018 were: Coal Tit 4; Blue Tit 8; Great Tit 6; Long-tailed Tit 9; Chiffchaff 2; Blackcap 1; Goldcrest 10 (1 control); Blackbird 1; Dunnock 1; Bullfinch 1; Lesser Redpoll 1. 44 new birds and 1 control.

Late September

The last few days of the month saw no significant change at Billinge and, like the month as a whole, can be summed up as disappointing. The ringing totals below tell the story with the only highlight, although it is not much of one, being the 15 Goldcrests caught on the 27th; their highest day total in what has been an exceptionally poor month for that species. I know I have gone on about the low numbers of Goldcrests in recent posts but that is because their numbers have been very low compared to previous years. The total for this September ended up at 71 which is very poor when compared with previous September totals of 258 in 2015, 237 in 2016 and 269 in 2017. They will bounce back in time but how quickly will depend on the severity of winter weather going forward.


September
26th
27th
28th
30th
Total
Goldcrest
12
15
4
7
38
Blue Tit
4
2
5
3
14
Great Tit
2
2
3
3
10
Long-tailed Tit
12
-
-
2 (1)
14 (1)
Chiffchaff
4 (1)
2
4
2
12 (1)
Blackcap
3
3
3
-
9
Treecreeper
-
-
-
1
1
Wren
-
-
-
1
1
Song Thrush
-
-
-
1
1
Dunnock
-
1
-
-
1
Chaffinch
3
1
-
-
4
Lesser Redpoll
-
1
-
-
1
Reed Bunting
1
-
1
-
2
Total
42
27
20
21
110


Lets hope we get some easterly winds to help improve things in October and looking at some of the long range pressure charts there is a chance, and it is only a chance, that there will be a brief spell of easterlies this coming Saturday and a longer period around the middle of the month.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Billinge: 25th September 2018

The prospect of catching more Redpolls tempted me out again this morning and the usual 3 nets produced 34 birds in just over 3 hours but no Redpolls were ringed.

Highlights and observations of note were as follows:

  • A Willow Warbler was ringed and is a fairly late record but still well short of the latest for the site which was on 23/10/2014.
  • Goldcrests just managed to scrape into double figures for the first time this month with 10 ringed but it still looks like the UK population has taken a tumble as double figure totals should be the norm for much of September. Interestingly, 9 of the 10 Goldcrests were females.
  • This was the first session of the autumn without a Blackcap being ringed and none were seen or even heard.
  • Tits are starting to show signs of getting itchy feet with Coal Tits becoming much more vocal and flighty. While I sure some do move others may just go through the motions and turn back or only go a relatively short distance.
  • Great Tits also showed a sex bias today with the 7 ringed all being females.
  • There was next to no visible migration despite the clear conditions and fairly light breeze with only a handful of Meadow Pipits, a few Skylarks, 4 Reed Buntings, 2 Siskins and 3 Redpolls being noted.
Ringing totals for 25/09/2018 were: Coal Tit 3; Blue Tit 4; Great Tit 7; Willow Warbler 1; Chiffchaff 4; Goldcrest 10; Chaffinch 2; Yellowhammer 2; Reed Bunting 1.

Willow Warbler 25/09/2018