Monday, 18 January 2016

17/01/16: Water Rail and BLB Blackcap steal the show.

I woke to find there was a decent covering of snow so I decided to have a walk around the park across the road from my home before everybody and their dogs decided to do so. I headed up to the small reserve area to see if the Water Rail would put in an appearance before the site got too busy but as a made my way there it was clear that many dog walkers were already out and about.

The wintry scene that greeted me as I made my way through the park.
There was no sign of the Water Rail at first but Robins were following me around hoping I had some food in my pocket. I have loads of photos of Robins but it is hard to resist taking more when they pose in the snow, so now I have even more.

The feeding station was attracting quite a few birds as you would expect and my eyes were drawn to two Starlings that were feeding from a fat filled coconut. Both were birds I had colour-ringed in my garden last year as part of my RAS (Retrapping Adults for Survival) project.

B80 was ringed in the garden on 26/05/15 and was a breeding adult male when ringed. The base of its bill has already turned blue even though the breeding season is some way off.
It didn't look like the Water Rail would show for me but then I noticed it lurking under some overhanging branches. Eventually it moved into a more open area and I manged to get a few shots.

The Moorhen looked the more nervous of the two as it made its way past. 

A Grey Wagtail was feeding in the same area but the light levels were too low to get any really good shots.

Bathing and feather maintenance is important whatever the weather.
After bathing it was time for a good scratch and a preen.
On getting home I grabbed a coffee and was watching the birds in the garden when I noticed a ringed male Blackcap on one of the fat cakes. I assumed it was the male I had ringed in late December even though I hadn't seen it for a couple of weeks. I decided to try and grab a few photos of it to see if I could read the ring number and luckily I managed to get a few good shots quite quickly. On reviewing them on the back of the camera I could see the ring number was above the address rather than below it which meant it must be a foreign ring !!!! (the address would be above the number if it were a British ring of that size). Obviously it wasn't the bird I had ringed in December as I had initially thought and I was so glad that I had decided to photograph it. 

Where are you from.

It also fed on the ground below one of the feeders but this was too far away to get good images of the ring even when it was showing the ringed leg.

Although the ring is upside down you can make out a 2 and a 9. I rotated the image to make it easier to read.

The ringed leg of the Blackcap was often obscured while it was feeding and after a short bouts of feeding it would disappear for a while making the task far from easy. I thought about putting a net up to try and catch it but decided against it as there was a bit of a breeze and with so much snow on the bushes and on the ground the net would have been easier for the bird to see. The camera seemed the best option in the circumstances and while I was waiting for the Blackcap to feed I photographed a few of the other birds that were visiting the garden.

Male Starling
2CY male Blackbird
Male Siskin.
The odd Siskin has been visiting the garden in the last week but there were several today. Hopefully they will be daily visitors from now on and numbers will build up as we move towards the spring.
Long-tailed Tits
This Grey Wagtail is a regular visitor to the garden and feeds on scraps that have fallen from the feeders.
A few hundred photographs and a few hours later I still wasn't sure if I had managed to get the full number or the address on the ring. I loaded all of the images onto my computer and sifted through them. It was impossible to make out the numbers on the ring in most of the images but with a lot of cropping and a bit of manipulation there was just enough detail in some of them to make out all of the numbers and a few of the letters of the address. I was confident I had the full number but I couldn't quite make out the address which is just as important when it comes to tracing a ring. However, when I looked at images of foreign rings on the web and compared them with mine I soon became certain that it was a Belgian ring and the letters I could read were from the middle part of the word 'Brussels'.

The 2 was the give away that the numbers were above the address and those letters on the lower line of the address appear to be part of the word 'Brussels'.
Cropping and manipulation of this image revealed the last two numbers - 8 and 6.
I went through the images several times and manipulated the usable ones in different ways and I am now happy it does say Brussels and it is a Belgian ring. I will be submitting the details to the BTO in the next few days and I will post details of when and exactly where the bird was ringed in due course.

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