Monday, 15 December 2014

Crawford - 9th, 13th and 14th December

The 9th was the calm before the storm or the over hyped 'weather bomb' as it was portrayed in the media. I had to take relatives to Liverpool early that morning and thought my chances of going out ringing would be scuppered as a result. Luckily the traffic wasn't too bad and I was able to get back, get my gear and put one net up at Crawford with about twenty minutes to spare before sunrise.

Looking south east from the ringing site as the sun was about to rise on 9th December. I miss more of these photo opportunities than I capture as the best colours only last a short time and I am often busy setting up or ringing .
Given it was a later start than I would have liked and I was only using one 18m net the morning's catch of thrushes was much better than expected. In fact it turned out to be one of the best in terms of birds caught per metre of net used. Redwings were present in good number and made up the bulk of the catch. A few small flocks of Fieldfares made an appearance from time to time but they always approached quite cautiously and I only managed to catch one. Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 9th December were: Redwing 41; Filedfare 1; Blackbird 4 (1); Great Tit 1.

The 13th was the calm after the storm and I should have had the luxury of more time but I hadn't allowed for the frost. The frost had been forecast but it came after rain so it took much longer to de-ice the car than expected. I also had to drive to the site slowly as most of the roads were very icy and hadn't been gritted. I set up 2 nets this time but I needn't have bothered with the extra net as it only caught one Redwing. The catching rate was slower than the previous visit, not helped by the frost and overall sunnier conditions, but I still ended up with a reasonable catch of 18 Redwings. Three of the Redwings were fairly good candidates for the Icelandic race 'coburni' and one of these stood out in particular. Ringing totals for 13th December were: Redwing 18.

Redwing ring number RL86268 was one of 3 birds that showed characters of the Icelandic race 'coburni' and certainly had the blotchiest markings which included the breast and flanks. The undertail coverts were also noticeably more heavily marked and the legs and feet were browner than a typical 'iliacus' which have pinkish legs and feet. I would love to have the race confirmed, or not, from DNA but I will just have to hope one is subsequently recovered in Iceland or that I catch one that has been ringed in Iceland.

Redwing ring number RL86268, not as dark as the two birds caught at Billinge (post here) but darker and blotchier than most. Plus it was fairly long winged.

Redwing ring number RL86268

Redwing ring number RL86268
A fairly typical 'iliacus' caught the same day for comparison.
I hadn't planned on going ringing on the 14th but land owner had his granddaughter visiting and she is really keen on wildlife so I said I would go, weather permitting. The forecast was a bit 'iffy' with the wind due to increase and bringing in heavy showers but when I got up it was dry and much less windy than forecast. The rainfall radar also indicated that the showers would hold off for an hour or two so I decided to give it a go. The showers actually held off for much longer than I expected and the wind remained light so a budding naturalist got to see her first Redwings in the hand.

It is always worth giving ringing demonstrations to encourage the next generation to develop an interest in birds and wildlife.
There seemed to be more thrushes around than the previous day and the catching rate was fairly steady until a male Sparrowhawk turned up and unsettled everything. Birds started to come back after a little while but then a female Sparrowhawk appeared and patrolled up and down the hedgerows near the net so I decided it was time to pack up. I had thought I would get rained off but in the end I was Sparrowhawked off just before the rain arrived. Ringing totals for 14th December were: Redwing 24; Blackbird 1 (1).

With berry crops like this on some of the hawthorns it is hardly surprising there are plenty of thrushes around.
The fields around the ringing site are used for feeding by large numbers of Pink-footed Geese and around 1,200 geese have been present on each of my recent visits. Even though I expect them to be around I can't help but look up every time I hear them flying over. There is something magic about large flights of wild geese and there is no doubt that most if not all of these birds have come from Iceland.

Pink-footed Geese dropping in to feed.

Just a few Pink-footed Geese.

Part of a long line of Pink-footed Geese that had been disturbed from their chosen field.

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