Friday, 7 August 2015

TREPI time

August started off fairly quiet with unsettled weather holding up many migrants but a welcome change in the weather to clear conditions overnight and this morning was just what was needed to get passerine migration going again. The sharp drop in temperature overnight resulted in pockets of mist and a heavy dew this morning and it was like walking through a car wash as I made my way through the saturated bushes to the net rides at Billinge.

I soon had three nets up and a couple of Sedge Warblers in the first net round made for a good start and indicated that some new migrants had dropped in. Catching was fairly steady and mainly involved the usual species but an adult Garden Warbler was also notable, being a scarce passage migrant at the site, and only the second to be ringed this autumn. Also of interest was a Willow Warbler that was wearing a ring from elsewhere and is the first of this species to be controlled at the site.

Sedge Warblers don't breed at the site and only a few turn up on passage. It is always interesting to catch migrants like this in bushes on a dry hillside rather than in their usual lowland wetland habitat. 
Adult Garden Warbler

Control Willow Warbler. If you are using rings starting with the letters HLA then the details of its capture today will be coming to you very soon.
Now it was around this time last year that I started to catch Tree Pipits at the site and I soon discovered that it was an exceptional location for the species with a total of 57 ringed and over 133 recorded during autumn 2014. As I hadn't ringed at the site previously I didn't know if it was going to be a regular occurrence or if 2014 was a 'one off' due to exceptional circumstances including the particularly productive breeding season of 2014. I caught the first Tree Pipit of last year on August 4th and today has provided the first really good conditions for the species to be on the move this autumn so it was a delight when 2 turned up pretty much on cue and both were caught. Now I don't want to count my Tree Pipits too early but it certainly is a promising start.

The first Tree Pipit of autumn 2015 and hopefully the first of many

One interesting aspect of the Tree Pipit passage at Billinge last autumn was that it started and peaked earlier than at many of the well watched coastal and inland 'vis mig' sites. It will be interesting to see if the same happens this year.
Ringing totals (retraps/controls in brackets) were: Tree Pipit 2; Sedge Warbler 2; Whitethroat 1; Garden Warbler 1; Blackcap 7 (3); Chiffchaff 5; Willow Warbler 8 (2); Goldcrest 1; Blue Tit 2; Great Tit 2; Treecreeper 1; Chaffinch 7; Goldfinch 2. Total 46 comprised of 41 new birds, 4 retraps and 1 control.

Whilst walking between the nets I noticed that a group of caterpillars had defoliated one of the small willows.

Spot the caterpillars
The culprits were these Buff-tip (moth) caterpillars. 

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