Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Surprise 'Sibe'

I was joined by Wayne for a Redpoll ringing session at the baited site near Scotman's Flash this morning or at least that was plan. We erected 2 nets near the feeders and another net further away with an MP3 lure playing redpoll song. The idea of the set-up being that we would either catch birds coming to the feeders and or attract any others passing over to the lure and with a bit of luck both. The feeders had clearly been well used since I had last topped them up so we were optimistic about our chances of catching a few birds although the current fine spell of weather could have caused them to disperse or move on.

We heard the first Redpolls before we had finished erecting the nets but it was only a couple of small groups. There didn't seem to be that many birds about and the initial 2 rounds of the nets only produced 5 new Lesser Redpolls. Similarly, there seemed to be very little in the way of newly arrived migrants and literally nothing on passage overhead; no pipts, finches or wagtails of any description. A few Sand Martins were seen along with the odd Swallow but they didn't appear to be going in any particular direction in a hurry so may have been local breeders.

Quite a few Lesser Redpolls were attracted into the net by the MP3 lure and may just have been intercepted on their way to the feeders but interestingly we only caught unringed birds in this net whereas birds caught in the nets by the feeders were close to a 50:50 split of retraps and new birds. It may be that there were a few Redpolls on passage with some being attracted to the lure but if there were they must have been passing over a considerable height.

On approaching the net with the lure at about 07:30 we could see we had caught a couple of birds. One was obviously a Lesser Redpoll but the other was totally unexpected and a complete surprise.

What have we here then.
OK I have strung this out for long enough, it was a Siberian Chiffchaff as you may have guessed from the post title and a proper one at that. Proper in that it that it was the classic grey-brown and white of a 'tristis' without a hint of yellow and what little olive green there was being confined to the fringes of the primaries and tail feathers. Also it was just finishing its moult as some of the body feathers were still growing and partially 'in pin'. This late moult is also characteristic of Siberian Chiffchaffs from what I have read.

Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita tristis)
Separating Chiffchaff races is not easy and there is a degree of overlap between tristis and abietinus in particular. A quick search on the Internet will find loads of articles on the subject some of which are much more helpful than others but beware some of the photographs and descriptions may leave you even more confused. Anyway in the absence of DNA confirmation I am as happy as anyone can be that this is a 'classic' Siberian Chiffchaff.

Ringing totals for the morning with retraps in brackets:
Lesser Redpoll 15 (6)
Willow Tit 1 (1)
Chiffchaff (tristis) 1
Robin 1
Reed Bunting (1)
Total 18 (8)

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