Saturday, 23 July 2016

Acros on cue.

I wasn't going to go out this morning but an ideal weather forecast and the likelihood of more warblers being on the move was just too tempting to pass up. We are at a time when more juvenile warblers will be dispersing from their natal areas and some of the early migrating species will be starting to head south in earnest, so I decided to go up to Billinge again. As I was driving towards the site I could see it was shrouded in fog, which hadn't been forecast, so I just had to hope it would lift and burn off quite quickly.

I arrived at the site just after 06:00, with the fog already starting to thin and lift, and I was greeted by a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. I don't think they have bred on site this year although one had been reeling in the spring in a different part of the site but that bird was only heard on one day for certain. Wherever it had come from it was the first record for the autumn and a good start to the morning.

Further promise of a good session came while I was putting up the nets with a few phylloscopus warblers flitting around and young Willow Warbler and Blackcap trying out their voices. I set the usual 3 nets in quick order and on going back to the first net I found it had already caught 7 Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff, all of which were unringed.

It always feels like autumn migration has got going properly when you catch a species that doesn't breed at the site or even close by and is out of its usual habitat. Well that happened a few rounds in when a 1CY Reed Warbler turned up in a net and was quickly followed by an adult in the next net round. The nearest breeding site is a few kilometers away and although Reed Warblers can happily feed in willows it is far more unusual when those willows are at a dry site and near the top of a hill. I have only caught 6 Reed Warblers at the site in the previous 2 years but interestingly 5 of those were caught in the last week of July with the other being at the end of August.

1CY Reed Warbler. 
Adult Reed Warbler.

The dry willow scrub habitat at the ringing site with the farmland in the distance giving an idea of its elevation.
Two Reed Warblers had already made it a very interesting session but then I caught an adult Sedge Warbler and a little while later a juvenile found its way into a net. I obviously don't catch many Sedge Warblers either but these two are within the range of the 10 previous autumn records which run from 22nd July to 22nd August. Interestingly, the first Sedge Warbler was caught on 22nd July in both 2014 and 2015 so the two today were very much on cue.

Adult Sedge Warbler.
1CY Sedge Warbler
While the Reed and Sedge Warblers were the icing on the cake the cake wasn't bad either as can be seen in the totals below. The turnover of  Willow Warblers and Blackcaps has been greater than expected with 62 Willow Warblers and 50 Blackcaps ringed at the site in just the last 7 days. Once again it was a relatively titless session with Long-tailed Tits continuing to be absent.

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 23/07/16 were: Sedge Warbler 2; Reed Warbler 2; Blackcap 15 (1); Willow Warbler 15 (1); Chiffchaff 7 (1); Wren 1; Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 2; Chaffinch 2; Goldfinch 17; Lesser Redpoll 2; Reed Bunting 1.

Juvenile Lesser Redpoll. The two juveniles ringed today add to the evidence of successful breeding at the site.

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