Monday, 18 July 2016

That's more like it.

Back to back sessions at Billinge yesterday evening and again this morning produced the goods with a combined total of 106 birds ringed and just 4 recaptures. Yesterday's session only started at 19:30 with 2 nets erected in the young willows that are colonising the higher part of the site. This area can be very productive in the evening, even with such a limited amount of netting, as it is a favoured feeding area for phylloscopus warblers, when they are about, and it usually holds an early Swallow roost.

Both Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were around in reasonable numbers and 6 of each were ringed along with 4 Blackcaps, 5 Linnets and a Goldfinch. I didn't think any Swallows were going to come into roost as only a few were seen on the run up to sunset but then about 80 quickly gathered just after the sun had set and 45 were caught. Interestingly 10 were adults of which 8 were males, 1 was a female and one was left unsexed. One of the adult males was a retrap and had been ringed at the roost as a juvenile on 21st July 2014.

Swallows mainly use this site for roosting in July, when they are still breeding, and I suspect it develops as a nursery roost for juveniles reared at nearby farms and they are accompanied by the off duty adults. This may account for the relatively high proportion of adults and for the majority of those adults being males. This is only a pet theory but an early roost with a high proportion of adults has developed each summer since I started ringing at the site in 2014 and in that year the roost started at the end of June. Yesterday was the first time I have checked for the Swallow roost this summer so I don't know when the roost started this year.

This morning I set 3 nets in the north east part of the site and the catching was fairly steady from the off. Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps accounted for 34 of the 43 birds caught during the morning with the majority being juveniles. All the Willow Warblers were nearing the end of or had just completed their pj moult so could have included some birds that had dispersed or migrated from elsewhere rather than them all being locally bred. Once again there were very few tits around and there were certainly no signs of any tit flocks developing. Long-tailed Tits, in particular, were conspicuous by their absence with none seen or even heard during both ringing sessions.

Combined ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 17th & 18th July were: Swallow 44 (1); Meadow Pipit (1); Goldcrest 1; Chiffchaff 20; Willow Warbler 15 (1); Blackcap 13 (1); Whitethroat 2; Blackbird 1; Blue Tit 2; Great Tit 1; Linnet 5; Goldfinch 1; Lesser Redpoll 1.

1CY Willow Warbler just finishing its post juvenile moult.

Adult female Blackcap

Adult Meadow Pipit looking strikingly brown and white in its worn plumage. It was a retrap and had been ringed last autumn, as a juvenile, when it would have looked very different.
This is what it would have looked like when ringed in autumn 2015.
Adult female Lesser Redpoll. Lesser Redpolls have bred at the site for the first time this year and this female had an active brood patch so is still breeding.

It also had a passenger in the form of a flat fly (hippoboscidae).  These parasites seem disproportionately large on small birds.

They don't look any better the closer you get. They sometimes leave their host when the bird is being handled and temporarily take up residence in your hair - just one of the many joys of ringing.

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