Monday, 10 March 2014

Spring fever

Today was always going to be too nice to do anything other than get out and make the most of it. I have never known a more eagerly awaited spring but it is hardly surprising after the miserable, wet and windy winter we have endured. Spring fever is evident in many birding blogs and websites and I am showing some symptoms too. In my case a sure sign of spring fever or should I say migration fever is a willingness to be up before first light several mornings on the trot but then it isn't often that good birding and good weather coincide in the UK.

This morning I went to the baited site at Longshaw with Wayne (WP), a trainee ringer. There had been a good number of Chaffinches and a few Bramblings present when I had topped up the feeders yesterday afternoon so I hoped to catch a few this morning. We put up the usual nets and waited for the birds to arrive whilst listening to the background chorus of Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren and Treecreeper to name a few. The first round of the nets only produced a Dunnock and a Chaffinch and the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds weren't any better. There were a few finches around and we had a group of 7 Bramblings circle the area but they were reluctant to come down for some reason. Although the ringing was slow there were a few birds on the move including 2 Grey Wagtails, 4 alba Wagtails, 2 Lesser Redpolls, 4 Linnets and Skylark. A Chiffchaff was almost certainly new in and sang occasionally and up to 4 Buzzards circled overhead.

We had only caught 8 birds by 11:20 and I began to think we should have packed up earlier when we suddenly started to catch a few finches and Wayne got his first Brambling, a fine male. This first Brambling was soon followed by another 4, all equally fine males, along with a good backing cast of Chaffinches and Greenfinches. We ended up with a total of 34 birds, 26 of which were caught in an hour and a half around midday when catching normally tails off! This is the second time this has happened at this site recently so I am going to try an afternoon session next time to see how we get on.

male Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
None of the Bramblings were carrying much in the way of fat so they may be around for a week or two yet.
Ringing totals for 10/03/14 with retraps in brackets -
Brambling 5
Chaffinch 14
Greenfinch 5
Bullfinch 1
Wren 1
Goldcrest 1
Dunnock 1 (1)
Long-tailed Tit (1)
Robin (1)
Great Tit (2)
Blue Tit (1)
Total 28 (+ 6 retraps)

Spring fever takes many forms and it also caused me to put the moth trap on last night for the first time this year. There was a very modest catch of 3 Common Quakers, a Clouded Drab, a Hebrew Character and an Oak Beauty but a good start to the season nevertheless. Hopefully this year will be a much better year for migrant moths, it certainly couldn't be any worse than last year turned out to be. I will run the trap most nights now until early November or perhaps a bit later depending on how the year goes.

Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi)
Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta)
Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica)
Oak Beauty (Biston strataria)

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