Sunday, 21 August 2016

Billinge: 15th to 18th August 2016

Four similar sessions at Billinge on consecutive mornings produced smaller catches than of late. The number of Willow Warblers moving through the site has dropped markedly compared to the highs of last week and was largely responsible for the lower totals.

Willow Warblers - adult left and first year right. Adults generally have whiter bellies than first year birds but ageing this species also involves checking the wear and shape of the tail feathers.
The main target species was Tree Pipit and although 15 were ringed over the four mornings this was less than expected. The passage of this species usually peaks at the site in mid August but has turned out to be weaker than in previous years so far. It remains to be seen how things will turn out and hopefully there will be some good movements to come.

Tree Pipit
Robin is a species that doesn't get mentioned in this blog very often but one ringed on the 15th and another 3 on the 17th hinted at the dispersal and passage that will be a feature of September. The site doesn't hold many breeding pairs or wintering individuals, especially in the vicinity of the net rides, so the majority of birds caught are dispersing or on passage.

Less frequently caught species included a Nuthatch (the 2nd of the year), a Willow Tit (the 5th individual of the year but only the 2nd juvenile of the autumn) and a Reed Warbler (the 5th of the autumn with the previous 4 being in late July).

First year Willow Tit.

A view of the underside of the Willow Tit's tail and included for those interested in separating Willow Tit and Marsh Tit in the hand. It is all to do with the relative distances between the tips of the tail feathers and distance between the tip of the longest and shortest tail feather in particular. Willow Tits usually have more rounded corners to the tail and this results in more of the tips of the tail feathers being visible on the underside of the closed tail. This particular Willow Tit had a tail that was closer in appearance to that usually illustrated for Marsh Tit and demonstrates why separating these two species can be tricky for those who rarely handle them as they are more likely to consider such features.

First year Reed Warbler
Last but not least 2 Wood Pigeon nestlings were ringed on the 17th with the nest being noteworthy for being very low down in a hawthorn at just over a metre off the ground. A similarly low nest was found in the same area at this time last year and it is tempting to conclude that the same pair may have been involved in each case.

Combined ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 15th to 18th August 2016 were: Woodpigeon 2 pulli; Goldcrest 2; Blue Tit 4 (1); Great Tit 3; Coal Tit 2; Willow Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 3 (3); Chiffchaff 6 (1); Willow Warbler 29; Blackcap 3; Reed Warbler 1; Nuthatch 1; Wren 1; Robin 4; Dunnock 1; Tree Pipit 15; Chaffinch 8; Linnet 9; Yellowhammer 1; Reed Bunting 2. Total 99 new birds and 6 retraps.

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