Sunday, 24 August 2014

The lure of Tree Pipits.

I have been really frustrated by the weather over the past week or so to put it mildly. Just as we were getting into the peak migration period for Tree Pipits the weather pattern changed and low pressure dominated bringing wetter and windier conditions. Unfortunately this part of the country has been dogged by frequent showers coming in off Liverpool Bay on a stiff north westerly wind with the showers being most frequent in the mornings. When the showers have cleared it has generally been far too windy and too late in the day to contemplate any ringing. However, I have done what I can and even gone ringing for very short periods between the showers on some of the calmer mornings. On the plus side some of these outings have resulted in good catches of Willow Warblers that were grounded by the showers.

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) and number of Tree Pipits recorded:

15th - Linnet 14, Willow Warbler 10 (1), Chiffchaff 3, Blackcap 1, Bullfinch 2, Chaffinch 2, Reed Bunting 1, Tree Pipit 3. At least 11 Tree Pipits were recorded heading south.

16th - Willow Warbler 13, Whitethroat 3, Linnet 2, Goldfinch 3, Robin 1, WillowTit 1. No Tree Pipits ringed but 3 went south.

20th - Willow Warbler 13, Goldcrest 1, Tree Pipit 2. A total of 4 Tree Pipits seen in this very brief ringing session.

21st - Willow Warbler 4, Chiffchaff 3, Goldfinch 1, Robin 1. At least 7 Tree Pipits went south but none were caught.

22nd - Willow Warbler 4, Chiffchaff 2 (1), Goldcrest 2, Garden Warbler 1, Sedge Warbler 1, Jay 1, Chaffinch 2, Tree Pipit 3, A total of 7 Tree Pipits recorded.

With 8 Tree Pipits ringed from a minimum of 32 recorded it is clear that many have pushed through despite the unpromising wind direction and very showery conditions. Had the weather been more favourable it is likely that the number of Tree Pipits seen and ringed would have been higher. Having said that another 8 Tree Pipits ringed from a total of 32 recorded is still a significant number for the county, never mind one site. It will certainly change the status of Tree Pipits as a migrant in this area, especially when the previous catches and sightings are taken into consideration.

The only glimmer of hope in the weather forecasts for drier and calmer conditions was with a ridge of high pressure that was due to sit over the country today (24th). Fortunately the forecast came good and I was out well before first light to make the most of it. Today was either going to be a day of delight or a day of disappointment but as it turned out it was somewhere in between. The Tree Pipit floodgates didn't open as I had hoped they would and there was little in the way of visible migration despite the seemingly good conditions. Two Grey Wagtails went south but other than that it was just the occasional Tree Pipit and I mean occasional. A total of 8 Tree Pipits were logged up to 11am, when I packed up, and 5 of those were caught and ringed which is good but just not as good as I had hoped given the conditions.

A stunning adult Tree Pipit.

The only juvenile Tree Pipit caught today. The median coverts on this individual are old juvenile feathers having paler fringes with no olive tones.
It has only taken me a little under 3 weeks to go from being delighted with 1 Tree Pipit to expecting to catch them in double figures but that is how things have gone. I have now ringed 40 Tree Pipits since 4th August which is a phenomenal number all things considered and there could still be some good catches to come. Surprisingly 4 of the 5 Tree Pipits caught today were adults and it will be interesting to see what the proportion of adults to juvs looks like at the end of the autumn.

Most of the adult Tree Pipits were only just finishing their moult and had some remnants of feather sheath at the base of the 2nd primary.
And another stunning adult Tree Pipit.
The morning ended with 24 birds ringed as follows: Tree Pipit 5, Meadow Pipit 1, Willow Warbler 5, Chiffchaff 5, Whitethroat 1, Blackcap 1, Chaffinch 3, Coal Tit 1, Reed Bunting 1 and Nuthatch 1.

Juvenile Meadow Pipit

Willow Warbler


Female Nuthatch and the first I have ringed at this site although they are common in mature woods nearby.

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