Saturday, 8 December 2012

A day of two halves

I went to Longshaw with John G this morning hoping for another good catch of Bramblings and Chaffinches. I had been keeping the site well fed all week and the weather forecast was good for this morning at least. We had 3 nets up by first light but when the first birds started to arrive it was quite clear they were fewer in number compared to the last few weeks.

Catching rates were slow and were not helped by frost forming on the nets. This turned them white for a while until the sun rose above the tree line. We packed up at around 11am having only caught 23 new birds and 12 retraps, around a third of last week’s total. Only 2 new Bramblings were caught along with 12 new Chaffinches.

Longshaw ringing totals, recaptures in brackets.
Chaffinch 12 (1)
Brambling 2
Greenfinch 2
Blue Tit 2 (5)
Great Tit 2 (1)
Blackbird 2 (2)
Dunnock 1 (1)
Robin 0 (2)
Total 23 new birds and 12 retraps

I decided to go to Haigh this afternoon as the wind was still very light and the forecast was for much stronger winds tomorrow. John had better things to do so I went alone and had two nets set up by 12:50 which is usually a quiet time of day in ringing terms. There were plenty of birds about and the ringing totals didn’t disappoint in sharp contrast to Longshaw this morning. A total 21 Bramblings were caught including 2 retraps. Interestingly one of these ‘retrap’ Bramblings had actually been ringed at Longshaw on 18/11/12; a movement of 9km northeast.
A net full of Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla)
Short distance movements such as this are interesting in their own right. I have been feeding both sites equally well and there are other feeding stations closer to this bird’s ringing site including Kings Moss on the other side of Billinge Hill used by Pete Fearon (blog here). It makes sense for wintering birds to familiarise themselves with food availability over a fairly wide area. This will enhance their chances of survival should any one food supply become exhausted as would happen with natural food sources. It will be interesting to see if there is more interchange between sites over the winter.

One thing that has surprised me is how well we have done for Bramblings relative to other feeding stations in the northwest. The ringing total now stands at 144 Bramblings for this winter but, clearly, the birds are still moving around and numbers at other sites are likely to increase as the winter progresses.

A single Siskin was caught and was the first for the winter at this site; it was an adult male and a little gem. It had found the nyger feeders and it is hoped many more will follow before the winter is out. The ringing totals were excellent for an afternoon but could have been even higher as the session was curtailed at around15:30 when drizzle arrived.

male Siskin (Carduelis spinus)
Haigh ringing totals, recaptures in brackets.
Brambling 19 (2)
Chaffinch 10 (2)
Greenfinch 13 (5)
Goldfinch 2
Siskin 1
Bullfinch – (1)
Blue Tit 5 (4)
Great Tit 1 (3)
Lotti – (2)
Coal Tit – (1)
Blackbird 1
Total 52 new birds and 20 retraps.

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