Monday, 17 October 2016

10th to 16th October 2016: the Redwing fest continues

I managed to get out to Billinge every day last week although the last two sessions were very short due to the arrival of rain. A total of 384 birds were caught and these were made up of 372 new birds, 10 retraps, 1 control and an escapee.

Lets start with the escapee and when I saw it in the net, at a distance, I thought I had caught something unusual and in a roundabout way I had. At first I though it was a Lesser Redpoll with an aberrant plumage and then I saw the 'closed ring' and realised it was an escaped cage bird. On closer examination I began to suspect it was a cross between a Lesser Redpoll and Twite and when I got home a search of images on the internet seemed to confirm that. One site was quite disparaging of this particular hybrid saying there is little point in crossing these brown based birds other than achieving a hybrid or words to that effect. I thought it actually looked quite smart but as the saying goes there's no accounting for taste.

Escaped Redpoll x Twite hybrid (or at least that is what I think it is) caught 10/10/2016 

Escaped Redpoll x Twite hybrid caught 10/10/2016.
While on the subject of Redpolls there have been very few Lessers moving at Billinge this autumn with only 4 caught in September and 26 since. Interestingly the majority of these birds have been adults and that was particularly true of last week with 7 of the 9 ringed being aged as such. Low numbers and a predominance of adults suggests that Lesser Redpolls have had a poor breeding season rather than it just being a case of them staying close to their breeding grounds, as in autumn 2014. It will, however, be interesting to see what happens over the rest of the autumn and what ringers report from other parts of the country. Although Lesser Redpolls don't seem to be moving much it does look like there is the start of a major influx of Common (Mealy) Redpolls on the east coast and hopefully some will work their way across to this side of the country over the next month or so, I certainly hope so.

Redwings moved through in good numbers on the 10th, 12th and 13th and those dates produced 169 of the 228 that were ringed over the course of the week. Redwings now top the ringing totals for the month and the year with 553 ringed since 3rd October. I have probably got enough photos to show the variation in the appearance of the coverts and the shape of the tail feathers and will put a post together on ageing them fairly soon. There is certainly more variation in the appearance of the greater coverts than the well known ageing guides describe or show and hopefully the photos will help to fill that gap. The images below are examples of the photos that will be used, one is a first year bird and the other is an adult (or at least I think so) but which is which and what did their tail feathers look like? I am not going to give the answers now so if you really want to know you will have to keep an eye on the blog.

RZ37553 Redwing

RZ37674 Redwing
Whenever there are good movements of Redwings there are usually at least 2 or 3 Sparrowhawks around trying to intercept them. Apart from one ringed on the 6th they have either missed the nets or have got out before I could get to them but that changed on the 12th with a 2nd year male in one net round and followed by a first year female in the next; so a bit like buses none for ages then two in quick succession.

2cy male Sparrowhawk 12/10/2016
1cy female Sparrowhawk 12/10/2016
Goldcrests moved through in moderate numbers with 88 caught over the week; this total was made up of 84 new birds, 3 retraps and a control. The number ringed at the site over the late summer/autumn period currently stands at a fairly impressive 518 and there should be plenty more to come over the remainder of the autumn. There were a few paler and brighter continental type birds and one of these was a control so it may have been ringed on the east coast. In fact the ring number was from a similar sequence to one of last year's controls and that bird had been ringed in Hartlepool, but I will have to wait for the recovery report from the BTO before I know for sure.

Control Goldcrest
One of the other 'continental' Goldcrests caught during the week.
This bird is even greyer around the head and nape.
Ringing totals (retraps & controls in brackets) for the period 10th to 16th October were: Sparrowhawk 2; ; Goldcrest 84 (4); Blue Tit 2; Great Tit 5; Coal Tit 9;  Long-tailed Tit (6); Chiffchaff 3; Blackcap 2; Blackbird 4; Song Thrush 13; Redwing 228; Robin 5 (1); Dunnock 2; Chaffinch 1; Bullfinch 2; Lesser Redpoll 9; Goldfinch 1.

Another 13 Song Thrush were caught during the week including 6 on the 10th.
All were of the greyer continental race T. P. philomelos like this bird.

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