Friday, 21 March 2014

Bits and bobs

There have been a few bits and bobs of interest so far this week. On Monday an early morning visit to Amberswood Common with John G and Wayne produced several Crossbills that were picked up from their calls as they passed overhead. There were a minimum of 3 birds involved but we couldn't get an accurate count through the tree cover, although I suspect there were actually 4 or 5. I had only remarked that the site looked good for Crossbills a few days earlier but finding them so soon after was still a surprise as none had been reported in the area. A Common (Mealy) Redpoll was also seen the same morning along with 6 of the Lesser variety.

The highlights of a short visit to Scotman's Flash yesterday were my first Sand Martins of the year with 4 flying south and another Common Redpoll that was seen in the company of 2 Lesser Redpolls. Chiffchaffs have been turning up here and there all week and one ringed yesterday had 'pollen horns' which is a clear sign of the bird having recently arrived from warmer climes.

A Chiffchaff with 'pollen horns'.

Pollen horns are a sticky residue that mat the feathers around the bill and result from the bird feeding on insects in flowers and possibly from drinking nectar too.
This morning I was joined by Wayne for a very brief Siskin ringing session in the garden and then we went to survey an area for Willow Tits not far from home and adjacent to the M6. We located one pair and Wayne soon found the partially excavated nest hole. This particular site looks good for at least 2 pairs but only time and much field work will tell. While checking out this area we picked out the flight calls of yet more Crossbills and this time we could see it was a party of 5 flying north. There doesn't seem to have been any other reports of Crossbills in the area or region so the two sightings this week don't appear to have been part of a wider movement. Crossbills breed very early so both of these sightings are likely to have been wandering family parties; if that is the case it would be really interesting to know where they had bred.

The moth trap has been producing routine fare all week but on checking it today there was a new species for the garden in the form of a Grey Shoulder-knot. This species is more common in southern England but is much scarcer and more sparsely distributed in the north west.

Grey Shoulder-knot (Lithophane ornitopus), a first for the garden. 
Moth trap totals this morning were:
Grey Shoulder-knot 1
Satellite 1
Twin-spotted Quaker 1
Oak Beauty 1
Early Grey 2
Dotted Border 2
Clouded Drab 5
Hebrew Character 8
Common Quaker 16

The Satellite (Eupsilia transversa)

Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria)

Early Grey (Xylocampa areola)

Oak Beauty (Biston strataria)

Twin-spotted Quaker (Orthosia munda)
Some colder nights are forecast so moth catches are likely to drop off for a while but the birding should get even more interesting as spring migration 'hots up'.

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