Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Warbler fest and House Martin surprise

I made a half-hearted attempt at getting up early yesterday morning and set the alarm for 05:30, after couple of snoozes I eventually got up and went to the site near Billinge and put up a couple of nets. It was a glorious morning with a light breeze and little in the way of cloud cover but on the down side the clegs and horse flies were out in abundance and certainly made their presence felt, literally.

It seemed fairly quiet at first with few birds calling but a steady stream of birds were caught and ringed over the next few hours. In fact it turned out to be a really good session considering I was only using 2 nets totalling 32m in length. Warblers made up the bulk of the 44 birds caught and included 14 Blackcaps, 7 Whitethroats, 9 Willow Warblers and 4 Chiffchaffs. Best of the rest were a Yellowhammer, a Willow Tit and 5 Goldfinches. The Willow Tit was a  retrap and one of the Goldfinches was already ringed but was one I had originally ringed in my garden, 2 km away, last December.

This juvenile Whitethroat had almost completed its post juvenile moult although most had only just started.

All the Blackcaps caught were juveniles like this one and had only just started their post juvenile moult so will be around for a few weeks yet.

Most of the juvenile Willow Warblers were close to completing their post juvenile moults like this bird and could be migrating south before the end of the month.

This adult female Chiffchaff  looks rather scruffy in its heavily worn plumage but had just started its complete moult. It will replace all of it feathers over the next few weeks before migrating.

Adult female Yellowhammer.

This male Goldfinch was originally ringed in my garden on 01/12/13.
As the wind remained light I went back to another part of the site in the evening to see if the Swallows were still roosting in the willows. I set up the usual 2 nets and waited for the birds to arrive. Before the Swallows started to gather another 5 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Whitethroat were added to the day's warbler total. Swallows started to arrive as usual but in smaller numbers than there had been last week when up to 1,000 were present in the roost, around 150 Swallows eventually gathered and 28 were caught before they finally settled.

I had noticed a few House Martins amongst the Swallows just before they settled so I played House Martin song on one of the MP3 lures and 2 juveniles were caught almost immediately. This was the first time I have caught House Martins in a roost situation and it will be interesting to see if I can repeat this at this site. Very little is actually known about the roosting habits of House Martins, there is some suggestion they roost in trees and also that they roost on the wing. Both may be true at times but it is really difficult to establish what they actually do and nobody really seems to know for sure. It is certainly one of those mysteries I would like to help unravel.

A poor photo of one of the juvenile House Martins. Where do they roost?

Ringing totals for 21/07/14 with retraps in brackets.
Chiffchaff 6
Willow Warbler 12 (2)
Blackcap 14
Whitethroat 8
Goldfinch 4 (1)
Yellowhammer 1
Willow Tit (1)
Robin 2
Blackbird 1
Swallow 28
House Martin 2
Total 78 (4)

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