Thursday, 8 June 2017

Siskin Movements: Spring 2017

I haven't posted details of any recoveries for a while so I thought it was time to rectify that. I have received quite a few recovery reports for Siskins over the past few months so it made sense to start with that species. Details of 3 of the movements were posted earlier in the spring but as others started to come in I decided to wait and show them all together rather than post details when they were received. All of the movements involve birds that were ringed or controlled in my garden near Orrell, Greater Manchester (purple & white circle on map). 

It is interesting that there are no movements to or from SE England as large numbers of Siskins usually winter in that area. The two recoveries well south of my garden are both in Wales and this suggest that many of the bird that visit my garden winter there and perhaps further south in SW England.

D874496      first year female   Siskin
Ringed         18/03/2014   near Orrell, Greater Manchester.
Controlled    14/02/2017   Witton-le Wear NR, Durham. 143 km NNE, duration 1064 days.

S192064       first-year male     Siskin
Ringed          11/04/2016   Peebles, Scottish Borders.
Controlled     07/03/2017   near Orrell, Greater Manchester. 293 km S, duration 330 days

S144873       first-year female  Siskin
Ringed          12/04/2016   near Orrell, Greater Manchester.
Controlled     30/01/2017   Ffynnon Gro, Llanfynydd, Carmarthenshire. 201 km S, duration 293 days.

S411915       first-year female  Siskin
Ringed          24/02/2017    Sychdyn, Mold, Flintshire.
Controlled     24/03/2017    near Orrell, Greater Manchester. 47 km NE, duration 28 days.

S264860      first-year male     Siskin
Ringed         03/03/2017      Broken Cross, Nr Macclesfield, Cheshire.
Controlled    24/03/2017      near Orrell, Greater Manchester. 46 km NW, duration: 21 days.

S785508     first-year male     Siskin
Ringed         19/02/2017      near Orrell, Greater Manchester.
Controlled    02/04/2017      Dalston, Carlisle, Cumbria. 148 km N, duration: 42 days.

S144876      adult female       Siskin
Ringed         12/04/2016       near Orrell, Greater Manchester.
Controlled    02/04/2017       Cnoc, Argyll and Bute.  324 km NNW, duration: 355 days.

S144643     first-year male     Siskin
Ringed          07/03/2016       near Orrell, Greater Manchester.
Controlled     21/02/2017       Townhill, Dunfermline, Fife. 289 km N, duration: 351 days.

S144511    adult male            Siskin
Ringed         18/02/2016       near Orrell, Greater Manchester.
Controlled    18/04/2017       Millhousebridge, Dumfries and Galloway. 188 km NNW, duration: 425 days.

S144657    first-year male      Siskin
Ringed         08/03/2016       near Orrell, Greater Manchester.
Found          26/03/2017       Pont-rhyd-y-groes, Ceredigion. 152 km SSW, duration 414 days. Dying, found sick,

S552459     adult female        Siskin
Ringed          22/01/2017      near Orrell, Greater Manchester.
Controlled     23/03/2017      Glebe Farm, Salsburgh, North Lanarkshire. 268 km, duration: 60 days.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Starling RAS round-up

Sorry for doing another post about my Starling RAS project but it is virtually all I do in May on the birding front. It has been particularly busy this year with 193 different adult Starlings coming to the feeders in the garden between 21st April and 24th May. This is roughly double the number of adults recorded over the same period in the previous 2 years. This big increase has probably been caused by the dry spring which will have made it a lot more difficult for the adults to find enough soil invertebrates to feed to their young and made them more reliant on garden handouts.

A large proportion (118) had been ringed prior to the start of this year's RAS period with 99 having been ringed during the previous two breeding seasons or earlier. Looking at these known age adults 66% were at least 2 years old and 34% were ringed last year, as juveniles, so were breeding for the first time. This is a good sample size and is probably representative of the age structure of the population in this area. As the majority of adult Starlings are faithful to their breeding sites the age structure of the population is largely a function of the adult survival rate so the survival rate for adults in the population will be at least 66%. The actual survival rate is likely to be slightly higher as two adults, both at least 2 years old, have been recorded since the RAS period ended and a few others could have been missed or moved territory outside of the catchment area for my garden. The actual adult survival rate for my population is probably closer to 70%. This fits well with some other studies and shows the RAS project is producing good data for monitoring the annual survival rates of adults in this area.

It is harder to say how the breeding season has gone for Starlings for various reasons; not least because juveniles become very mobile and disperse over a wide area shortly after a fledging. I have ringed 266 juveniles this May compared to 215 in May last year and that is despite broods fledging around a week later this year. However, there is no indication there will be a doubling of the number of juveniles coming to the garden this year, as seen with adults, so productivity may actually be lower than last year as might be expected in a very dry spring when natural food is much harder to come by. The recent rain hasn't improved soil moisture levels all that much so I would also expect juvenile mortality to be higher than it would otherwise be if the spring rainfall had been nearer to average levels.

P45, just one the 266 juveniles ringed this May
My interest in Starlings doesn't end when my RAS period finishes and I will continue to ring and record sightings of colour-ringed birds over the course of the summer. Yesterday I caught a new adult that had already started to moult and is the earliest moulting adult I have ever recorded. It shouldn't really be a surprise that adults are starting to moult earlier as they moult soon after they have finished breeding and the breeding season is averaging earlier now than it used to. There is a chance it could be a failed or non breeder but even if that is the case it is still relatively early for it to be in moult and it is yet another a tiny piece of evidence that birds are responding to changes in our seasons and climate. If nothing else it is a reminder that it is never too early to start checking for moult these days.

Moulting adult Starling photographed 01/06/2017. Both wings were symmetrical.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Awash with Starlings

I am surprised I have not had complaints from neighbours about the number of Starlings that are coming to the feeders as they have been making a right din and a fair amount of mess too. The begging and contact calls of many dozens of juveniles in and around the garden can be loud enough to wake all but the heaviest of sleepers and starts not long after sunrise, which is just after 5am at the moment. As for the mess it is not that bad unless your a stickler for a clean car and clean windows. On the plus side one of my neighbours certainly got great value for money out of his window cleaners yesterday.

Just a few of the adult and juvenile Starlings that were feeding in the garden yesterday morning.
To give you an update on the number of birds involved 163 different adults have been recorded in the garden since 21st April with that number being made up of 94 birds that were colour-ringed during or prior to the 2016 breeding season and the remaining 69 being ringed over the winter or during this breeding season. On top of that there are still a few unringed adults coming to the feeders so the total number of adults using the garden could be around the 180 mark. Judging by the re-sightings of colour-ringed birds many are visiting the garden on a regular or frequent basis and a total of 78 different colour-ringed adults were recorded in the garden on 15th May alone and I am sure I didn't manage to record them all, but it does give and indication of how busy the garden is.

Most if not all of the adult Starlings have fledged young now and a typical brood size seems to be at least 4, so given there are 80+ pairs using the garden they could be feeding over 320 juveniles and it certainly sounds like they are at times. The first juveniles were seen in the garden on the on the 11th but I didn't ring any until the 14th when 7 were caught. Since then the number of juveniles has rocketed, as is to be expected with a species that has a highly synchronised breeding season, and the number ringed over the last 5 days now stands at 99. As productivity appears to be as good as it was last year I am likely to ring another 200 juveniles over the next few weeks but only time and a lot of effort will tell.

The bird bath gets well used at this time of year and needs filling several times a day.

This adult seemed to want the bird bath to itself.

Young Starlings soon return to feeding in the trap after being ringed and as I colour-ring them all there is no need to trap them again.

This one was in a berberis right in front of a window and was picking midges off the leaves. This and all the photos above were taken through double glazing so aren't as crisp as I would like them to be.
Starlings will continue to take up most of my time until my RAS period ends on 24th May and then I will have a bit more time to get out and about.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Starling RAS update

The first juvenile Starling of the spring was seen in the garden today. This is a week later than last year and 11 days earlier than in 2015. Juveniles have usually been out of the nest a few days before they appear in the garden but the first date they are seen still gives an indication of variation in timing of the breeding season between years. Quite a few juveniles have fledged judging by the begging calls coming from the trees and roof tops round about so an increasing number will be following their parents into the garden in the coming days.

The first juvenile Starling in the garden was probably having its first bath when I noticed it.

I have ringed or recorded an additional 23 adult Starlings in the last 3 days including 10 that were ringed in previous years. This brings the total number of adults recorded since 21st April to 112 with 75 being birds that were ringed in previous years. I am on track for recording more adults this RAS season than in the previous 2 years and this may in part be due to the dry weather having a limiting effect on the availability of soil invertebrates. Adult Starlings are probably turning to garden handouts, like my fat cakes, more than they would if there had been more rain and soil invertebrates were easier to get at.

Not the sharpest of photos as it was taken through double glazing and not the cleanest either, but it does show just how stunningly colourful adult Starlings are.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Starling RAS half time scores

This year's Starling RAS has just passed the half way mark and 89 different adults have been recorded in the garden in the first 18 days. My RAS period is relatively short and runs from 21st April to 24th May but it still requires a plenty of commitment as I usually clock up at least 100 hours of effort over that period. Now if you don't know what a RAS project is you can find out more here and here but in simple terms it allows adult survival rates to be calculated from retrap or resighting data gathered over a number of years from a ringed population of breeding birds.

As I have been running a RAS project for a few years now the majority of Starlings that breed within foraging range of the garden are already ringed with both a BTO ring and a numbered colour ring so most of the effort involves recording colour-ringed birds when they come to feed. My Starlings are pretty well trained and come to a supply of home made fat cakes in a cage on a bird table and hung in a tree near a window. This means I get to do most of the observations from the comfort of an armchair and with a plentiful supply of coffee at hand. Any unringed birds are easily caught for ringing if they enter the cage to feed as the door on the cage is closed via a string that comes in through a window.

Ringed birds like this one (E11) happily feed in the cage as the door is only closed if an unringed bird enters. E11 was originally ringed as a juvenile last year. The fat cakes I make are an irresistible mix of beef dripping, dried mealworms and finely chopped peanuts.
Of the 89 adults recorded so far 65 were ringed in previous breeding seasons with 47 being at least 2 years old and the remaining 18 being ringed as juveniles last year. If those birds are representative of the local population as a whole it means 72.3% are experienced breeders and just 27.7% are breeding for the first time. There is still plenty of time for other colour-ringed birds to be recorded so it will be interesting to see what these figures look like at the end of the RAS period.

D25 has been resighted numerous times this season and was originally ringed as a breeding adult in 2016.
The primary aim of a RAS project is to establish the survival rates of adults but it has to run for at least 5 years before the data gets processed by the BTO and this is only my 3rd year of intensive study. However, the high proportion of colour-ringed birds recorded so far suggests it will produce some useful results in due course.

They really are a smart looking bird. In addition to providing fat cakes I occasionally throw bread, suet pellets and a few dried mealworms on the lawn.

I happened to photograph this Starling having a quick shake.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Cropper and Gropper

Just when I thought I would have more time to post on the blog my 96 year old mother has a fall while stepping up a kerb and comes an almighty cropper, as she would say. Old ladies tend not to bounce very well, and my mother was no exception, but at least she didn't break anything. She was very lucky to get away with a few grazes and some bruising but needs more help and support while she recovers and gets her mobility back. Suffice to say I have not had much time for ringing or posting on the blog and what spare time has been available has been devoted to recording colour-ringed Starlings in the garden for my RAS project.

Anyway I did manage to fit in a short ringing session at Billinge yesterday morning and while it only produced 3 birds it was good to be out. The highlight was a singing Grasshopper Warbler which was my first of the year. It was caught and ringed and resumed singing almost immediately on release. It may have been a passage migrant that was holding a temporary territory but there is just enough suitable habitat for the species to breed should it stay and attract a mate. It is certainly something I will be keeping an eye on when time allows.

Grasshopper Warbler 02/05/2017

Grasshopper Warbler 02/05/2017
The only other birds caught were 2 Willow Warblers, both females. One was a new bird but the other was a retrap that was originally ringed as a first-year bird in August 2015 and was also retrapped as a breeding adult in 2016. Whilst male Willow Warblers have been back on territory for a while now females are still arriving and the new bird was relatively light and showed no signs of being in breeding condition. The retrap was probably a recent arrival too as it was only in the very early stages of developing a brood patch. The only visible migration of note was a single fly-over Tree Pipit which was much less than expected but welcome nevertheless.

As things stand I am unlikely to be able to get out as much as I would like in the near future but a few recoveries have been coming in and there is also the Starling RAS to report on so I will have something to blog about fairly soon or at least when other commitments allow. As the saying goes, if it is not one thing, it's your mother.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Billinge: 9th to 23rd April 2017

Apologies for the lack of updates recently but other things have just got in the way. I put in quite a bit of effort at Billinge in the two weeks following my last post but the results were mixed to say the least. A couple of ringing sessions were reasonably productive while others saw only a handful of birds caught or drew a blank. The cumulative totals for the period were 59 new birds, 15 retraps and 4 controls, although 2 of the controls are likely to have been ringed at sites nearby.

Lesser Redpolls were the most numerous species with 37 new birds and 1 control being caught. The control Lesser Redpoll had been ringed at Clow Bridge in Lancashire last autumn, 41 km to the NE of Billinge. Willow Warbler was next in terms of numbers with 9 new birds and 6 retraps captured. It has been a good spring for Willow Warblers with 23 (15 new birds and 8 retraps from previous years) caught so far this month. Of these 21 were males and only 2 were females with the first male being caught on the 1st and the first female just over 3 weeks later, on the 23rd.

Other captures and sightings of note were as follows:

14th - 2 Siskins were ringed including a female with a wrinkled brood patch which indicates she had already made an early breeding attempt somewhere. I am not aware of any breeding sites near Billinge which makes this record all the more interesting. Is it a failed breeder on the move or could it be breeding nearby?

17th - A short, rain restricted ringing session didn't produce single bird but a late Fieldfare was seen flying east.

19th - A very quiet ringing session produced just 2 Lesser Redpolls but this was offset by a Woodlark seen flying north first thing followed by a couple of Tree Pipits later in the morning. Woodlark is a county rarity and this record, assuming it is accepted, will only be the 3rd record for the county.

23rd - The first Whitethroat of the spring was ringed and a female Blackcap was controlled. I have received the ringing details for the control Blackcap and it had been ringed at Stanford Reservoir in Northamptonshire, 162 km SE of Billinge, on 24th September last year.

The Whitethroat was carrying a passenger in the form of a tick under its left eye.

The control female Blackcap.
Hopefully I will be back to posting on the blog at least once a week from now on.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

One, two, Tree Pipits

Whilst today's forecast of wall to wall sunshine and a light southerly breeze wasn't going to be ideal for mist-netting it did bring the prospect of a fresh wave of early spring migrants. I went up to Billinge at first light and set three nets and was then joined by Mark McD who had asked to see some ringing. Mark has lived in America for many years but was brought up in Billinge and is over visiting family. He only started birding seriously after moving to the States so has quite a few gaps in his British List and he had seen I was reporting some of the species he wanted to connect with on the blog.

As it turned out he wasn't disappointed as 6 Lesser Redpolls, a lifer for Mark, were caught on the first net round and included 2 cracking adult males. There didn't appear to be a great deal moving overhead apart from a few Redpolls but the faint calls of stratospheric Siskins suggested there was more going on than was apparent. That was confirmed when a Tree Pipit turned up in one of the nets, another lifer for Mark. and the first one I have ever caught at the site in spring. I see and catch a good number of Tree Pipits in the autumn, predominately first year birds, but they are much less numerous and frequent in spring, as is to be expected.

Tree Pipit, a lifer for Mark, my first of the spring and the first ringed at the site in spring.
Mark had to go at 09:30 but we came across a Blackcap in full song at the SE corner of the site as he was leaving. This was the first singing Blackcap of the spring for both of us and almost certainly fresh in. Signs of migration didn't end there as another Tree Pipit was caught in the next net round. Just seeing a Tree Pipit this early would have been reward in itself but catching two was tremendous, like the weather. 

Tree Pipit number 2

Those tell tale pink legs and short hind claw.

This bird may have just arrived and still has some way to go but it could be on its way back to Africa in as little as four months time.
I wasn't going to go out again in the morning as I was going to overindulge tonight but I am hitting the Earl Grey instead and will be out again at dawn.

Ringing totals for 08/04/17 were: Great Tit 1; Willow Warbler 2; Tree Pipit 2; Lesser Redpoll 10. 15 new birds and no retraps.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Another Mealy

I made the effort to get up to Billinge at first light this morning and set 3 nets but my optimism didn't look like it was going to be rewarded with only 7 birds being caught in the first couple of hours. I had hoped some Redpolls would be on the move but there was nothing moving overhead and not a great deal moving through the bushes either. Things hadn't improved much by 09:30 so I started to think about packing up but then 3 Redpolls went north and rekindled my optimism. Better still the next check of the nets produced a nice Mealy Redpoll so any thought of packing up was put firmly on hold.

Mealy Redpoll 06/04/17

Mealy Redpoll 06/04/17

Mealy Redpoll 06/04/17
The remainder of the morning saw further improvement with a little trickle of Redpolls heading north and a better catching rate. While I didn't catch any more Mealies a total of 7 Lesser Redpolls were caught including one that had been ringed elsewhere. With a bit of luck I should get confirmation of where this bird was ringed back from the BTO tomorrow, although I do have good reason to believe it was originally ringed in East Sussex.

The control Lesser Redpoll was a cracking male. Details of where it was ringed will be posted in due course.
Chiffchaff numbers had increased since my last visit and all 5 that were caught were retraps from previous years (1 from 2015 and 4 from 2016). One of them had a cracking pollen horn. This bird must have spent a lot of time with its face in flowers, feeding on insects and probably drinking nectar, whilst fattening up for the return journey.

JTA492 Chiffchaff had the best pollen horn I have seen so far this spring

JTA492 Chiffchaff
The final tally of 18 new birds and 19 retraps was well worth the effort and made up for the slow start. Ringing totals (retraps or controls in brackets) were: Woodpigeon 1; Blue Tit 2; Great Tit 1 (3); Coal Tit (1); Long-tailed Tit (3); Chiffchaff (5); Willow Warbler 2 (1); Robin (2); Chaffinch 2 (2); Lesser Redpoll 6 (1); Mealy Redpoll 1; Goldfinch 3; Yellowhammer (1).

07/04/16 update

The recovery report for the control Lesser Redpoll arrived today as predicted and it was originally ringed as a first-year at Icklesham in East Sussex in October 2011. This makes it just under 6 years old which is a good age for a Lesser Redpoll. The current longevity record in the BTO online report for 2015 is not much older at just over 6 years between time of ringing and recovery and that bird would have been around six and a half when recaptured. Full details and a recovery map will be posted in due course.

Monday, 3 April 2017

1st to 3rd April highlights

1st April
A day of showers but a brief ringing session at Billinge during a dry interlude produced my first Willow Warbler of the year, a new Blackbird and a retrap Great Tit. At least 2 other Willow Warblers were recorded at the site along with a singing Blackcap (per CAD). On returning home I was greeted by another Willow Warbler that was singing in the gardens behind the house.

Willow Warbler 01/04/2017

2nd April
Totals for a longer ringing session at Billinge (using just 2 nets) were: 1 Common (Mealy) Redpoll, 3 Lesser Redpolls, a retrap Chiffchaff (originally ringed as a juvenile 24/07/16) and a retrap Willow Warbler (originally ringed as a first-year 23/07/16). There was very little in the way of visible migration but 3 Crossbills and a Sand Martin went north. A Wheatear was also seen leaving the site and heading off north.

Not the frostiest Mealy Redpoll but a Mealy nevertheless.

Mealy Redpoll (left) and Lesser Redpoll (right).
Back home a Red-green Carpet, 2 Caloptilia stigmatella and a Caloptilia elongella were the pick of the moth catch.

Red-green Carpet

Caloptilia stigmatella. Micros are not my forte but some are fairly easy to identify.

Caloptilia elongella. This species can be difficult to separate from Caloptilia betulicola but I am fairly confident this one is elongella.
3rd April
Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for another session at Billinge were: Willow Warbler 1; Chiffchaff 1 (1); Blackcap 1; Lesser Redpoll 2. The retrap Chiffchaff was originally ringed as a first-year on 20/09/16. There was virtually no movement overhead despite the seemingly perfect conditions and just 1 Siskin and 2 Meadow Pipits were recorded going north during 4 hours of observation.

Female Blackcap. The feathers around the base of the bill were matted with pollen residue, a sure sign of a recently arrived migrant. 

The new Chiffchaff had relatively pale legs rather than the text book dark brown or blackish legs.

Back home the moth trap held a surprise in the form of a Water Carpet; a new species for the garden. Having run a moth trap in the garden for many years the catching of a new species has become an increasingly rare and sometimes less than annual event.

Water Carpet: a first for the garden!!!

All in all an interesting few days and a good start to the month.

Unusual Hebrew Character

The Hebrew Character (a moth for those that don't know) is named after the black, roughly saddle shaped mark in the middle of its forewing. There is some variation in this marking and there may also be some variation in the general ground colour of the forewing but the Hebrew Characters I usually catch in the garden are what you might describe as much of a muchness.

When I checked the moth trap on the morning of 31st March there was a reasonable catch that included a Red-green Carpet, a Small Quaker, an Early Grey, 8 Common Quaker, a handful of Clouded Drab and a similar number of Hebrew Character. When I am recording the contents the trap the common species like Hebrew Character don't usually get much of a second look but on this occasion one of them really stood out as looking very different.

Unusual looking Hebrew Character.

All the same but different. I hate to think of how many Hebrew Characters I have seen over the years (probably in the low thousands by now) but the unusual looking specimen in the middle was a first for me.
When faced with what appears to be an unusual variant in moths there is sometimes the possibility that it isn't a variant and it turns out to be a different species or if it is a variant that it is a distinct, named subspecies or named form. That isn't the case with this unusual individual and it appears to be a very rare form or aberration that hasn't been named.

There is an image of a similar looking individual on the UK Moths website (link here) which is simply described as an 'unusual form' but that is the only reference to anything similar I can find.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Lesser Redpoll recoveries

A couple of recovery reports for Lesser Redpolls came through today. The first shown is particularly interesting as it involved a bird that was ringed as a juvenile in Pembrokeshire back in August 2013 so is likely to have hatched in that part of the world. It was recaptured by a ringer in East Sussex in October 2013 and not heard of again until it turned up in a net at Billinge last Saturday.

Y415223                     Lesser Redpoll
Ringed as a juvenile   10/08/2013  Ty Rhyg, Rosebush, Pembrokeshire.
Caught by ringer         29/10/2013  Litlington, East Sussex.      368 km ESE
Caught by ringer         25/03/2017  Billinge Hill, Merseyside.     227 km NE (from Ty Rhyg)

The second recovery involved a bird ringed at Billinge during the big irruption of autumn 2015, so is likely to have originated from further north in England or Scotland, and was caught by a ringer in Suffolk earlier this month.

Z854359                      Lesser Redpoll
Ringed as a 1Y male   23/09/2015  Billinge Hill, Merseyside.
Caught by ringer          14/03/2017  Culford School, Suffolk.     264 km ESE,

A recovery report for a Siskin and a Robin were in the same batch but they, along with a couple of controls that are in the pipeline, will be the subject of another post.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Mirror mirror on the car: part 3

The Dunnock was full of the joys of spring again this morning and doing his best to impress. I couldn't see if he was showing off to a female as he was on the far side of the car, near the hedge, and only visiting the wing mirror on that side of the car. I can only presume a female was skulking around there, somewhere.

As he was putting on a regular performance at the same wing mirror I decided to try and get some video. He was sat by the window of the drivers door when I went to the car and only flew off when I opened the passenger door to set up the camera. It only took a couple of minutes to get set up and the Dunnock returned to the wing mirror and started performing almost as soon as I went back in the house. I went out and repositioned the camera a couple of times and the bird returned almost immediately each time. Three of the best clips have been edited together and can be seen in the video below. Unfortunately the camera didn't pick up any sound through the closed window.

The car wing mirrors seem to be a big part of his courtship behaviour now so I am not going to cover them or close them in just yet but I will keep an eye on the situation. It will be interesting to see if his behaviour continues as we get further into the breeding season and if it brings him any success with the ladies.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Mirror mirror on the car: part 2

The Dunnock was at it again this morning but it soon became apparent it wasn't a simple case of a bird attacking its own reflection in a mirror, far from it. Dunnocks have complex mating systems and may be monogamous (pairs), or engage in polyandry (two or three males with one female), polygyny (one male with two females), polygyandry (two or three males sharing two three or four females). The behaviour of this particular bird appears to add another variation to those mating systems.

When I saw it by one of the car wing mirrors again this morning it would have been easy to assume that it was simply treating its own reflection as an intruder, which is what I had thought the other day. The difference today was that I noticed there was another bird nearby, presumably a female. I watched for a while, taking photos as I did so, and realised it was seeking out and displaying to its reflection but only on the side of the car that could be seen by the female.

A grotty photo but then it was another miserable wet morning and it was taken through double glazing and two windows of a car. The other Dunnock was in the hedge which can be seen in the background.
As the presumed female Dunnock moved round the car so did the displaying male, seeking out its reflection as it did so. The wing flicking the bird engaged in was akin to that of displaying male trying to drive out an intruder but also that of a male in one of the complex mating systems involving more than one male. It didn't just use the mirrors and displayed to other reflective surfaces too.

Now this may seem far fetched but this bird seemed to be trying to impress the female by displaying to its own reflection in the absence of another male or males.

King of the car.

To try and confirm what was going on I covered the wing mirror on the far side of the car.

When the female Dunnock went to the far side of the car the male Dunnock went to the far mirror even though it was covered. This suggests its behaviour wasn't a simple reaction to the accidental encounter of its reflection. This bird seemed to have learned where it could encounter its reflection in relation to the position of the female and went there in order to impress the female.

What no mirror.
The fact that the male Dunnock went and sat in front of the covered mirror when the female was on that side of the car shows it was actively seeking out its own reflection and where, in the male Dunnock's mind, it would find a potential intruder/second male (in the form of its reflection) to react to and so impress the female. Now the thought of that is really interesting. This male Dunnock is effectively using the reflective surfaces of the car to display against in order to impress a female. Perhaps some male Dunnocks put on a better display if they perceive they are in a complex mating system rather than a simple monogomous relationship. How the female perceived this is anybody's guess, especially as she wouldn't have been able to see the reflections.