Friday, 25 December 2015

Bah Humbug

I had hoped to get a net up in the garden for a couple of hours this morning but the rain arrived earlier than forecast and continued throughout the day. Ringing a few birds on Christmas morning is part of my coping strategy for dealing with the festive hoo-ha and fills the gap between sticking the turkey in the oven and dealing with all the usual accompaniments and the arrival of relatives. After giving the turkey an initial blast on a high heat I turn the oven down and cook it slowly which usually gives me plenty of time to do some ringing.

I kept an eye on the garden hoping the rain would ease but it didn't slacken off sufficiently to even consider setting a net up. There was a reasonable amount of activity in the garden despite the wet and mild conditions with a small flock of Goldfinches coming and going and wasting sunflower hearts in ways only Goldfinches can. At one point a small flock of Starlings also dropped in but then, and out of nowhere, a cat appeared and caught one of the Starlings as it settled on one of the bird tables. I banged on the window to try and get the cat to release its grip but it ran off with its prize, clenched firmly in its jaws.

A few seconds later, and despite the commotion caused by the cat, I was surprised to see a juvenile male Sparrowhawk sat in a tree by some of the apples that I put. It sat there long enough for me to grab my camera and get a few ropy shots through the window before it moved further up the tree. It may have been eyeing up the Starlings or had been attracted by the commotion but there it was and on reviewing the photos on the back of the camera I could see that it was ringed!

Ringed juvenile male Sparrowhawk, what a teaser.
Where were you ringed???
Unfortunately the light levels were very low and the photos weren't good enough for me to get any of the numbers but I haven't ringed any Sparrowhawks in the garden this year so it must have come from elsewhere. It doesn't look like any of the juv male Sparrowhawks that I ringed at Billinge this autumn either as none of those had a plumage with so many pale spots. It has presumably come from further afield and wherever it has come from it would obviously be worth catching to find out.

If seeing this ringed Sparrowhawk wasn't frustrating enough I was part way through preparing all of the vegetables when I noticed there was a male Blackcap on one of the fat cakes. This was the first Blackcap of the winter and I had been wondering when and if any would turn up in the garden given the exceptionally mild conditions. Blackcaps are just about annual in the garden in winter with most sightings starting around the Christmas period and running into the first few months of the new year.

First Blackcap in the garden this winter.
Male Blackcap 25/12/2015, a nice Christmas present.
So I may not have been able to ring anything on Christmas Day 2015 but there were a couple of good sightings, although for a ringer it was a case of so near yet so far.

27/12/2015 update - I am still a miserable old sod but I caught and ringed the Blackcap this afternoon. It was surprisingly fat and weighed 20.1g mid afternoon.

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