Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Billinge 12th July 2016: Hare we go

I eased myself into autumn ringing mode with a leisurely 06:30 start and set just a couple of nets in the north east corner of the site at Billinge. The local forecast was for a dry morning but a band of showers was also due to track west, just to the south of the site, so the risk of a sharp shower was never that far away and was the main reason for limiting the footage of netting.

At this time of year you can usually judge how well you are going to catch from the calls emanating from the bushes, especially those of juvenile Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, and it was unexpectedly quiet from the off. There should be plenty of young Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs around by now but the lack of calls suggested otherwise and this was largely reflected in the catch. While I did catch 4 Willow Warblers only one was a juvenile and the other 3 were adult females that had finished breeding. I would usually expect to catch more juveniles than adults by this date so Willow Warblers may have had a poor breeding season in this area, although it is still far too early say with any degree of confidence. The 6 juvenile Chiffchaffs caught was nearer the norm, although still on the low side, but on the other hand the 4 juvenile Goldcrests ringed suggested they were doing ok.

Adult female Willow Warbler
I didn't see or hear any sizeable tit flocks and the few that were around also hinted at below par productivity but again only time will tell and I will have a much better idea of how they and the other species have fared by the end of the month. The ringing totals (retraps in brackets) were: Goldcrest 4; Willow Warbler 3 (1); Chiffchaff 5, Blackcap 1; Whitethroat 2; Blue Tit 2, Great Tit 3; Long-tailed Tit 1 (1).

Juvenile Chiffchaff
On the sightings front the only bird of note was a Siskin flying south and it will be interesting to see what their numbers are like this autumn compared to last year's huge and protracted irruption. However, the most interesting sighting of the morning actually turned out to be a close encounter between a young Brown Hare and a feral cat. It was one of those occasions where part of me wanted to see what would have happened had the hare got within the cat's striking distance but another part of me didn't want anything unfortunate to happen to the hare. Hares don't always seem to see what is straight in front of them (if it keeps still enough) and this was a perfect example of that. It was my movement at the back of the car that caused the hare to stop and turn side on and it sat motionless for at least a minute before turning round and steadily hopping away; I am not sure that it even noticed the cat.

Brown Hare slowly moving down the track directly towards a feral or farm cat. I only had a compact camera with a small zoom so I didn't manage to get any close-ups.
I am fairly certain that the hare would have carried on towards the cat had it not noticed me moving from behind the car. 
Anyway I will now never know how such an encounter would have turned out but at least the hare didn't come to any harm.

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