Monday, 1 February 2016

It's grim up north

To say the weather has been grim is a bit of an understatement and we now have storm Henry to contend with. It wouldn't be so bad if there was the odd calm day in between the storms but unfortunately it has generally stayed quite windy and I have done very little ringing as a result.

On the plus side I have spent more time watching the birds in the garden and noted an increase in the number of Siskins visiting the feeders. There have been up to nine which is a really good number for the time of year as I don't usually get Siskins in the garden before the second week of February in a good Siskin winter. In many respects getting Siskins in the garden is a sign of spring as they can be quite early breeders and they need to fatten up before migrating back to breeding areas in Scotland and and northern Europe. Some birds start heading back to their breeding grounds before the end of February and there can be a big turnover of birds in late February and throughout March. In 2013 I ringed 102 Siskins in the garden between 9th February and 30th March and in 2014 the total was even higher with 179 ringed between 18th February and 4th April.

Male Siskin
It was quite frustrating having the Siskins in the garden and not being able to put a net up for even an hour, so on Wednesday night I rigged up a trap using an old budgie cage and hung it in a tree with one of the feeders inside. Next morning I was up early and was pleased to see that the birds were not put off by this new garden feature and 3 Siskins went inside to feed shortly after arriving in the garden and were caught. As soon as they were ringed and released another 2 Siskins went in the trap and were duly ringed. Pleased at having caught 5 in the space of 10 minutes I took the trap down as it had proved its effectiveness but it did just look like an old budgie cage stuck up a tree. I need to make something that is more refined and less obtrusive if it is going to become a semi-permanent fixture in the garden.

Not being able to put a net out for the Siskins was not the only frustration as there have also been 3 Lesser Redpolls coming to the feeders over the last week and one of them is ringed. I have never ringed a Lesser Redpoll in the garden so this bird is a guaranteed to have been ringed elsewhere. In fact I have never had more than the occasional singleton in the garden before and then they have usually been one day wonders so having 3 visiting on a regular basis could be the start of them becoming regular winter visitors. Redpolls have become more frequent visitors to gardens across the country in recent years so getting them in my garden is somewhat overdue.

A very poor photograph of one of the  Lesser Redpolls but it is the best I have been able to get so far.
I hadn't seen the Belgian ringed Blackcap in the garden for a four days (27th to 30th) and I was beginning to think it had moved on or had been predated but it suddenly reappeared yesterday. I don't think I had just not noticed it as it had been visiting the feeders regularly throughout the day so was hard to miss; I would usually see it while I was having my first cup coffee in the morning. I have no idea where it has been but I can only presume it has been favouring neighbours gardens.

A soggy Blackcap photographed yesterday through a rain lashed window. I got enough photos of the ring to see the number and be sure it was the same bird.
Hopefully we will see an end to this miserable weather but any respite seems to be a long way off at the moment. 

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