Saturday, 23 January 2016

23rd January 2016

I went to Crawford this morning and set 3 nets near the feeders but there was little doing. I stuck it out for a couple of hours but only caught 11 birds. There were a few small groups of Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Tree Sparrows around but most were likely to be birds that had been ringed on previous visits as they seemed to know the score and avoided the nets. Birds just don't seem to be pushed for food this winter and baited sites such as the one at Crawford are not getting the build up in numbers or the turnover in birds that is usual in a more 'normal' winter. This seems to be the situation elsewhere judging by the reports I have read on some other blogs. Ringings totals (retraps in brackets) were: Blackbird 3 (1); Robin 2 (1); Long-tailed Tit 1; Great Tit 1; Chaffinch 1; Goldfinch 1.

As I got home earlier than planned I decided to take a walk around the water park across the road from my home to see what was about. I started by the car park and checked out the Black-headed Gulls and soon found the regular wintering German ringed bird. This was the only ringed gull I could find among the 95 or so that were there although some stayed on the water and couldn't be checked. A few Coots also came for food including a ringed bird that turned out to one that had been ringed at Comeston Lakes, near Penarth, south of Cardiff (244km south) on 23rd December 2010. This Coot probably came from Orrell or somewhere else in the northwest originally and was forced to move south during the exceptionally cold weather that affected much of the country in December of that year.

The regular German ringed Black-headed Gull

This Coot is now regular in winter at Orrell Water Park and may breed at the site too. It has been recorded at the park several times over the past 3 winters and is one of the dominant birds. Note the intensity of the leg colour which tends to increase with age.
I headed up to the feeding station in the reserve area next and while there were a reasonable number of birds at the feeders it was nowhere near as busy as it can be in a more typical winter. However there were at least 15 Chaffinches and 7 Greenfinches along with 2 cracking male Bramblings. This feeding station has always been good for Bramblings, especially in the second half of the winter, and usually gets 1 or 2 even in years when there are very few in the country.

Both of these male Bramblings looked like they were adults.
I had mainly gone up to the reserve to try and get some better photos of the Water Rail but it wasn't cooperating. I looked for it for some time but I couldn't find it so I settled for photographing a very confiding and pristine adult male Blackbird. The sheen of the bird's plumage was brought out by the wintry sunlight that was filtered through a veil of high cloud. Unfortunately these conditions didn't last long and the cloud subsequently thickened and darkened.

A really smart looking Blackbird showing its plumage at its best.

I carried on looking for the Water Rail even though the light was deteriorating and noticed something pale hanging from the dead remains of some Greater Willowherb. I checked it out through the camera and realised it was a Redpoll, hanging belly up, and it was tearing open the dead pods to get at the seeds. I quickly rattled off a few shots but then it was spooked by a Sparrowhawk that flushed everything nearby. It looked a bit on the pale side but that may just have been an effect of the light and although I suspect it was just a Lesser I settled for recording it as a 'Redpoll'. Unfortunately I couldn't relocate it but it is one to look out for on another day and with a bit of luck it will find the feeders in my garden.

I have seen Redpolls eating willowherb seeds before but it was interesting that this bird chose to do so even though the nearby alders still have a very good crop of seeds in their cones. 
I decided to give up on the Water Rail and set off for home but as I was leaving I spotted it through some partially flattened reeds. It was too gloomy and too far away to try and get a photo so I have broken my usual rule with photographs and used one taken 3 days ago when it was a bit more cooperative and the light was better. 

Water Rail photographed 20/01/16
The weather is going to be unsettled and fairly mild for the next week to ten days so it won't be good for ringing or photography but I will try and make the best of it and find something to blog about.

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