Sunday, 12 July 2015

This and that

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post so I thought I should cobble something together by way of a catch up. There hasn't been one stand out thing to write about but there have been some bits and bobs worth mentioning. On the birding front I have had Common Crossbills flying over Billinge and Crawford on a total of 4 occasions with most heading west. There have also been some unusually early flocks of Siskins moving south which are likely to be the forerunners or foreflyers of a large scale irruption this autumn. 

Sitka Spruce produced a bumper crop of seeds last year which meant few Crossbills, Siskins and Redpolls migrated in search of food and led to an almost complete absence of Siskins on garden feeders this spring. A bumper crop generally results in better survival and a good breeding season but is often followed by below average seed production and so provides the circumstances that can lead to large scale irruptions of the associated species.

It really looks like we are heading for one of those autumns/winters where the irruptive species come to the fore and steal the birding headlines. I don't think these irruptions will be confined to a few seed eating species either as I also think the conditions are developing for a good arrival of Waxwings. It may not be quite on the scale of the 2012/13 irruption but I certainly think it could be a good one. Why do I think it could be a Waxwing winter and the simple answer is the cold spring and its impact on pollinators and berry production across much of northern Europe. If the Rowan and Hawthorn in this area are anything to go by the berry crop could be down by at least 50% on last year if not more.

So there are some predictions or perhaps I should say educated guesses based on recent observations. Make of them what you will but right or wrong I will refer back to them later in the year when we know what has actually happened. I certainly think it is a year where some big irruptions are on the cards. One thing we don't have to wait for is to know that it has been an abysmal breeding season for many insectivorous species. I have never known so many warblers singing so late in the season such has been the level of nest failure so far and the woods and scrub near me are what you could call almost titless. 

So what have I been ringing? Well I am still catching Redpolls and Goldfinches coming to the feeders at Crawford although Tree Sparrows have dropped off now that winter cereals are starting to ripen. My last visit to Billinge on the evening of the 9th produced a few Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Linnets along with a fairly good catch of 21 Swallows that came to roost in the willows. As for the garden my local Starlings seem to have gone on their summer holidays and have largely vacated the area despite the constant supply of food. However I have caught a few Woodpigeons in the garden including two that needed fishing line removing from their feet. One of these Woodpigeons also happened to be an unusually dark individual.

Adult male Lesser Redpoll

A duskier than normal Woodpigeon and it does stand out as looking dark in the field.

This Woodpigeon was lucky to be caught and have the fishing line removed before any permanent damage was done.
Moth catches have remained below par to say the least and are a fraction of what they should be at this time of year. The only species that seem to be present in near normal numbers are Buff Ermine and perhaps Ghost Moth. Not much else I can say about the moths or lack of them other than it was nice to catch two Garden Tigers today. Garden Tiger is a declining species that is less than annual in the garden despite its name. However, Poplar, Elephant and Eyed Hawk moths are regular in the garden although they have generally emerged later and in smaller numbers this year.

Garden Tiger 12/07/15

Garden Tiger 12/07/15

Poplar Hawk Moth

Poplar Hawk Moth

Elephant Hawk Moths

Eyed Hawk Moth
Finally, an odd looking Blackbird appeared in the garden earlier today. It looked like it was carrying something until I realised it had a huge growth in its bill. It turned out it was a bird that had been ringed in the garden on 9th May when it showed some signs of a problem with the upper mandible but nothing on the scale of its appearance today. I was surprised to see that it was still able to feed with such a large mass growing from the roof of the upper mandible but it managed to pick up some food from the bird table. However, the growth is clearly taking its toll on the bird's ability to preen and clearly limits its forward vision. It is a surprise it has managed to survive thus far and shows how resilient some birds can be.

No it isn't carrying anything it is a growth on the underside of the upper mandible.

The same bird when it it was ringed on 9th May

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