Thursday, 19 October 2017

That's more like it.

Things have been relatively quiet at Billinge since my last post but that changed this morning with the biggest movement of Redwings of the autumn so far. I was kept busy ringing and didn't have time to look up very often so the 1500+ I managed to record was probably less than half the number that actually went through. There weren't many other thrushes with them and only half a dozen Song Thrush were noted along with a couple of small groups of Fieldfares; Blackbirds were surprisingly scarce and no migrants were seen or heard.

There were a good number of Goldcrests around with 22 being caught but they were eclipsed by a Firecrest, which is even rarer than Yellow-browed Warbler at the site. I have ringed over 2,200 Goldcrests in the past 4 years but Firecrests have remained stubbornly scarce and today's is only the 3rd record. When I first realised the site was so good for migrating Goldcrests I thought there was a chance that one or two Firecrests would occasionally tag along with them but that hasn't proven to be the case.

1cy male Firecrest 19/10/17
Other birds around included: a Hawfinch seen flying south by CAD; 2 or possibly just 1 rapidly moving Yellow-browed Warbler that was heard briefly by myself and shortly after by CAD on the other side of the site but didn't hang around long enough for either of us to get any views; 4 Bramblings seen by CAD were the first of the autumn; 2 Swallows, also seen by CAD, are obviously quite late for that species.

Ringing totals for 19/10/17 were: Goldcrest 22; Firecrest 1; Great Tit 1; Blackcap 1; Song Thrush 2; Redwing 53; Chaffinch 1; Lesser Redpoll 5; Goldfinch 1. A total of 87 new birds.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

9th October: thrushed with success.

I had high hopes for this morning as large numbers of thrushes (especially Redwings) arrived along parts of the east coast yesterday and decent movements were also recorded at some of the Pennine vis mig sites. Good numbers are often recorded at Billinge the day after such arrivals and movements so the prospects for this morning looked good. I was so eager to find out I got up when the first alarm went off, was out of the house at 05:30 and had set 4 nets at Billinge by 06:30.

A few Redwings and Song Thrushes were heard calling as dawn approached but not as many as expected and a Song Thrush was the only bird caught prior to sunrise. However, a few small flocks of Redwings and one or two Song Thrushes started to arrive shortly after sunrise and the flocks of Redwings generally got larger as the morning went on. Birds were coming and going in various directions but the majority seemed to appear from the east or south east and while some flocks continued west or northwest others turned and headed south. Around 650 Redwings must have moved through over the course of the morning but it's always hard to keep track of numbers when you are busy ringing. The number of Song Thrush on the move was even harder to gauge and the 12 that were recorded is likely to be well short of the true figure, especially as that number includes 7 that were ringed. As for other thrushes there were a few more Blackbirds around and 4 Fieldfare seen heading northwest late in the morning was a bit of a surprise as it is relatively early date for that species.

Song Thrush

Redwing
When there are plenty of thrushes around they usually attract a few predators and today was no exception. A juv male Sparrowhawk was seen several times before it eventually found its way into one of the nets. A little while later a juv female Sparrowhawk was caught which is a bit more unusual as females often manage to climb out of nets due to their much larger size.

1cy male Sparrowhawk

1cy female Sparrowhawk. If looks could kill this one's would.
There weren't many finches moving and only 1 Lesser Redpoll was caught. Surprisingly, it was another that didn't have a red coloured poll, the amber poll on this individual being a bit brighter than the one shown in my last post.

Lesser Redpoll
The morning may have started slowly but Redwings eventually came through in good numbers and accounted for 38 of the 65 birds ringed. Ringing totals for 09/10/17 were: Sparrowhawk 2; Goldcrest 9; Great Tit 2; Coal Tit 1; Chiffchaff 1; Blackbird 3; Song Thrush 7; Redwing 38; Chaffinch 1; Lesser Redpoll 1.

Other sightings of note included: 320 Pink-footed Geese heading east; 4 Ravens (2 pairs) heading south; 2 Swallows (1 south and the other hanging around feeding); 3 Crossbills heading NNE.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Fat crests and a pink lady.

The 3rd and 4th may have been a bit windy but I managed to find enough shelter in some of the net rides on the east side of the site at Billinge. These net rides were sheltered from the worst of the stiff westerlies by higher ground, including the hill summit, and tree/shrub cover provided the additional shelter required. Unsettled conditions can produce interesting birding with some birds being held up or forced down by the weather and others battling through and the only way to find out is to get out there. 

The first bird caught on both days was a Song Thrush and the greyer tones and slightly smaller size of both suggested they were of continental origin. There were a decent number of Goldcrests present and 19 were ringed over the two sessions. Many of the Goldcrests were carrying quite a bit of fat with 8 weighing 5.8g or more and the two heaviest birds weighed in at 6.3g. Birds in this weight range are carrying more than enough fat to fly to southern England in a single non stop night flight and some may even go on to winter in France. Interestingly, a recovery report showing a movement of one of this autumn's Goldcrests came through just the other day, it was ringed on 2nd September and found dead 18 days later in Hampshire, 267km SSE of Billinge. Full details of this and some other recoveries will be posted in due course.

A Stonechat that suddenly appeared on a fence line on the 3rd was the first of the autumn but it didn't linger and quickly moved on. There was a bit of movement overhead despite the strength of the wind and showed how strong the urge to migrate can be. Meadow Pipits and Chaffinches were the most numerous species on the move but a few Lesser Redpolls were also heading south and 4 were caught. One of the Lesser Redpolls had a bit of a pink flush to some of the breast feathers and it almost had me thinking it was a male for a second, but on further examination it was obviously an adult and didn't have any pink in the cheeks or on the rump, concealed or otherwise, which ruled out the possibility of it being a male.

It isn't always appreciated that adult female Lesser Redpolls can have pink feathers on the breast and or rump in addition to those that are more commonly present on the cheeks. However, the pink, when present, is never quite as strong or as extensive as it is in adult males and is usually only noticeable at very close range (generally arms length or less). It is all too easy to rely on the sexing criteria that are given in Svennson and forget some of the other literature that has been produced and younger ringers may not even be aware of some of it. A very useful paper on the subject was published back in 1981, link here: M. Boddy (1981) Ageing and sexing British lesser redpolls, Ringing &Migration, 3:4, 193-202, DOI: 10.1080/03078698.1981.9673780 

Adult female Lesser Redpoll. The pink centres to some of the breast feathers aren't as obvious in the photograph as they appeared in the hand but you can still see they are there.

A side view of the same adult female Lesser Redpoll. 
One of the other Redpolls that was caught was interesting for not having a red poll. There was a slight amber cast to some of the feathers of the fore-crown but it was only very slight. This pigment variation is fairly uncommon but individuals like this do crop up from time to time although the poll is usually a bit more yellow or amber than it was in this case. While this is a first year bird it is trait that I have seen in adults too and I suspect it is more common in females, although it obviously makes sexing birds very difficult outside the breeding season.

Lessser Redpoll without a red poll 03/10/17

The amber coloured cast to the poll is there but it was very slight and barely noticeable in this individual.
One thing that has been a feature of late September and now early October has been a general lack of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. There seems to have been a slightly earlier and more complete departure of these two species, and Blackcaps in particular, with fewer late birds coming through or lingering compared to the last couple of autumns. The more unsettled weather and lack of easterly winds have almost certainly played a part so it will be interesting to see if this trend continues through the remainder of the autumn.

So an interesting couple of mornings and well worth the effort even though the combined total was a relatively modest 46 birds. Species totals (retraps in brackets) for 3rd & 4th October were: Goldcrest 19; Blue Tit 3; Great Tit 2 (1); Coal Tit 3; Chiffchaff (1); Song Thrush 2; Robin 1; Dunnock 2 (1); Chaffinch 6; Lesser Redpoll 4; Reed Bunting 1.

Monday, 2 October 2017

German ringed Black-headed Gulls

I walked across the road to Orrell Water Park this afternoon to see if the regular German ringed Black-headed Gull had returned for a 6th winter. There were about 50 Black-headed Gulls waiting on the edge of the lake by the car park so I threw them some bread to bring them closer and I soon spotted one with a ring. I managed to get some photographs of it in the melee of feeding gulls and on checking them on the back of the camera I could see it was regular wintering bird that has been recorded more than 60 times over the last 5 winters.

IA141745    Black-headed Gull (ringed as an adult male)
Ringed              29/04/2012  Bohmke und Werder, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.
Photographed   02/10/2017 Orrell Water Park, Orrell, Greater Manchester. 1102 km W.
I soon noticed there was another ringed Black-headed Gull but it kept weaving between the other gulls and was a bit more difficult to photograph. I must have taken around 100 photographs before I thought I had secured the full ring number and address on the ring. On returning home I reviewed the photos on the laptop and was able to work out the full ring number and it was a German ring from the Heligoland ringing scheme (ring address Helgoland, Germania).



I have submitted the details of the ring number to BTO and hopefully I will get the ringing information back fairly quickly but it can take several months when a foreign ringing scheme is involved. When I do get the details back I will post them on the blog.

September Ringing Totals

I have been quite active over the last couple of weeks but not had time to blog about any of the ringing sessions for one reason or another. There were no major surprises and Goldcrests dominated most of the Billinge catches as usual, although a Spotted Flycatcher caught on the 23rd was both unexpected and a late(ish) record.

Looking at the month as a whole the total of 777 new birds ringed at Billinge is only 1 short of the total achieved last year and was much better than expected given the weather. Goldcrest took top slot with 269 being 32 up on last September's total while 2nd placed Chiffchaff was 32 down with a total of 143. Blackcap numbers were well down with 40 ringed compared to 88 last year but on the other hand 2 Spotted Flycatchers and 4 Redstarts continued the autumns's exceptional run of records for those species. It was a disappointing month for controls with a single Goldcrest being the only bird caught that had been ringed elsewhere (ringing details have yet to be received).

BILLINGE RINGING TOTALS SEPTEMBER 2017
Species
New
Retraps/controls
Sparrowhawk
1

Great Spotted Woodpecker
1

Jay
1

Goldcrest
269
12
Blue Tit
44
6
Great Tit
39
11
Coal Tit
12

Willow Tit
1

Long-tailed Tit
18
1
Chiffchaff
143
10
Willow Warbler
16

Blackcap
40

Whitethroat
2

Wren
3

Blackbird
7
1
Song Thrush
10
1
Spotted Flycatcher
2

Robin
22
2
Redstart
4

Dunnock
4

Grey Wagtail
5

Tree Pipit
2

Meadow Pipit
11

Chaffinch
42
1
Bullfinch
6
1
Greenfinch
6

Linnet
2

Lesser Redpoll
7

Goldfinch
23

Yellowhammer
25

Reed Bunting
28

Total
777
39

I also ringed 138 birds in my garden during the month with 91 Goldfinches claiming top slot there. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Goldcrests on a high.

When I checked the weather forecast on Saturday night the weather for Sunday morning was due to be dry and if any showers developed they would only be from late morning onwards, but when I got up at 5am it was chucking it down. A check of the Met Office rainfall radar revealed a narrow band of showers tracking across the country from Newcastle area on the NE coast and running southwestwards towards Liverpool and north Wales, taking them over my home and the ringing site at Billinge in the process. There were gaps between the showers so I decided to head up to the ringing site as it looked like there may be a dry slot just after sunrise. Before smart phones and mobile Internet I would have gone back to bed but having the ability to check almost real time rainfall radar has changed things and makes it possible to take advantage of opportunities that would have been missed in years gone by.

I set 3 nets in the top willows and while I thought I would only get a dry hour or so, at most, the showers that were heading in my direction largely skirted the site and the session remained dry, apart from the odd very light sprinkle. Technology and an old fashioned eye on the sky really paid off and the session ended with a total of 57 new birds and 3 retraps. Goldcrests led the way with a total of 34 being the highest of the autumn so far. The species is what you might call a bread and butter bird at the site in autumn and while catches of 10 to 20 are not unusual in September and October catches of 30+ are much less common. Today's catch of 34 brings the number of Goldcrests ringed this September to 148 and we are only just over half way through the month.


1cy male Goldcrest

1cy male Goldcrest
Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 17/09/17 were: Goldcrest 34; Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 2; Chiffchaff 8 (1); Blackcap 6;  Long-tailed Tit (1);Wren 1; Blackbird 1 (1); Robin 1; Chaffinch 1; Bullfinch 1;Reed Bunting 1.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

More Goldcrests on the move.

There was a brief lull in the unsettled weather this morning so I headed up to Billinge to make the most of the calmer conditions. I set 3 nets in the top willows but used a different net configuration to the one I have been using recently as the breeze was due to strengthen from mid morning. It would have been a fairly quiet session but there was a rush of birds about an hour after sunrise that boosted the totals and accounted for nearly half of the 50 birds that were caught over the course of the morning.

The catch was dominated by Goldcrests (19) and Chiffchaffs (14) as is often the case at this time of year and one of the Goldcrest, a 1cy female, was a control (a bird ringed elsewhere). I suspect this Goldcrest may have been ringed on Walney Island (68km NNW of Billinge) as the ring number was fairly close to one I have had from there before, although that is only an educated guess at this stage and I will only know its origin for certain when the recovery report comes through. The best of the rest were a Grey Wagtail, the first Willow Tit for a while and 2 Yellowhammers.


Control 1cy female Goldcrest HDB637

1cy Willow Tit
There were a few more Meadow Pipits moving overhead than there have been so far this autumn but it was still not much more than a trickle and petered out as the breeze picked up. A few Reed Buntings were also on the move early on and was the first obvious movement of that species this autumn and resulted in 3 being caught. However, it very much had the feel that the weather was holding up diurnal migrants and more would have been moving had the conditions been clearer and the breeze hadn't increased so much.

Ringing totals (retraps/controls in brackets) for 10/09/17 were: Goldcrest 17(2); Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 1; Willow Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 1; Chiffchaff 13(1); Willow Warbler 2; Blackcap 1; Wren 1; Grey Wagtail 1; Chaffinch 1; Greenfinch 2; Yellowhammer 2; Reed Bunting 3.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Billinge 7th September 2017

The 7th provided a brief interlude in the current run of unsettled weather so got up at daft o'clock to make the most of it. I set the usual 3 nets in the top willows at first light and the following few hours produced a decent catch of 60 new birds and 1 retrap. Ringing highlights were a Redstart which continued the exceptional run of records of that species, 3 Grey Wagtails was a good total as I didn't see more than 6 going south and 4 1cy Coal Tits hinted at the start of some movement in that species.

The Redstart was the 6th to be ringed this autumn and to put that into context only 4 were ringed during the previous three. Interestingly 5 of the 6 have been females.

1cy Coal Tit, noisy individuals and the occasional small group are usually seen or heard heading south on fine days through much of September and well into October.
There was very little movement overhead but there were a few interesting bits a pieces in the form of a group of 3 Song Thrush flying very high to the west, 2 Tree Pipits going south and a Crossbill also going south. There were surprisingly few Meadow Pipits going over and a trickle amounting to no more than about 30 were noted heading SSW. The only other sighting of note was another Redstart that was seen after I had packed up and was carrying my gear back to the car.

Only 2 Willow Warblers were caught and this one hadn't finished its pj moult but it had a weight of 9.4g and enough fat to migrate a good distance.
Ringing totals for 07/09/17 were: Goldcrest 9; Blue Tit 8; Great Tit 2; Coal Tit 4; Chiffchaff 14 (1); Willow Warbler 2; Blackcap 2; Whitethroat 1; Robin 2; Redstart 1; Grey Wagtail 3; Chaffinch 6; Goldfinch 6.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

2nd is better than 1st

The ringing session at Billinge on the 1st was good but the 2nd's proved to be even better. It was similar in many respects but had the added bonus of some infrequently caught species in the form of 2 Redstarts and a Spotted Flycatcher. Both are scarce passage migrants in the area these days and I consider myself lucky if I catch one or two of each over the autumn. The 2 Redstarts brought this autumn's total to 5 which is exceptional as I have never caught more than 2 in previous years and the Spotted Flycatcher was the second of the autumn. Interestingly, the Spotted Flycatcher was caught in the same part of the same net as the previous one and while no more than a coincidence such 'deja vu' type occurrences always stand out and stick in one's mind.

Both Redstarts were 1cy females.

1cy Spotted Flycatcher. Only the 6th to be ringed at the site in the last 4 years.
Once again Goldcrests dominated proceedings with most of the 23 new birds and single retrap being caught in the first couple of hours. The retrap wasn't from the previous day as some might expect and was originally ringed on 13th August when part way through its post-juvenile moult. At this time of year there are frequent movement of Goldcrests through the site and it is rare for any to hang about for more than a day once they start moving.

Chiffchaff was the second most numerous species with 14 new birds and 1 retrap being caught and while numbers were down on those of the 1st it is still a good total for that species. Once again the retrap hadn't been ringed recently and had been ringed as a scruffy juvenile on 9th July this year which gives an indication of how long it takes them to complete their protracted post-juvenile moult.

There were more Robins about than there have been recently and the 5 ringed is a sign they were on the move. The first half of September usually sees quite a few Robins pass through site, more so following a good breeding season, and is largely made up of displaced birds that are looking for somewhere to carve out a winter territory but may also include some genuine migrants.

The weather is looking pretty ropey for the next week so opportunities to get out ringing could be very limited to say the least. Is this going to be a year we don't get an Indian summer ? 

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 02/09/17 were: Goldcrest 23(1); Blue Tit 2(1); Great Tit 6; Chiffchaff 14(1); Willow Warbler 4; Blackcap 4; Spotted Flycatcher 1; Robin 5; Redstart 2; Tree Pipit 1; Chaffinch 4; Goldfinch 4; Reed Bunting 1. A total of 71 new birds and 3 retraps.

Friday, 1 September 2017

A good start to September.

I arrived at Billinge a little later than planned but early enough to get the nets up just before sunrise. A Goldcrest was calling as I lugged my gear up to the net rides in the top willows and a dozen or so Swallows were exiting their roost as I approached the first net ride. It had been a cool, clear night and could have resulted in a clear out of birds but I heard another Goldcrest and a couple of Chiffchaffs calling as I was putting up the second of the three nets so I was reasonably optimistic about the prospects for the morning. As I was putting up the last net a Chiffchaff flew into it before it was fully open which was another promising sign.

As soon as the last net was set I went straight back to the first and found 5 Goldcrest, 3 Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler had been caught. On completing the first round of the nets 12 Goldcrests, 8 Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler had been extracted which was a cracking start to the morning and the new month. Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs were clearly on the move and more filtered through the bushes over the next couple of hours and kept me quite busy.  The catching rate slowed to a more steady pace from about 09:30 and I packed up just over an hour later when a check of the rainfall radar confirmed a hefty looking shower was heading my way.

1cy Chiffchaff
The final total of 70 new birds and 3 retraps included 21 Goldcrests and 24 Chiffchaffs with the later being a new day record for the site. Goldcrests continue to look like they have had a very good breeding season with today's 21 following record totals in July (19) and August (42) so, weather permitting, it could prove to be a record September too.

1cy male Goldcrest
Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 01/09/17 were: Goldcrest 21; Blue Tit 4 (2); Great Tit 1 (1); Chiffchaff 24; Willow Warbler 4; Blackcap 5; Tree Pipit 1; Chaffinch 6; Goldfinch 3; Reed Bunting 1.

Billinge 22nd - 30th August 2017

I have managed to get out nearly every morning since my last post although some of the sessions were affected by fog, delayed and/or curtailed by showers or a strengthening breeze. A total of 200 birds were ringed and another 13 were retrapped over the period which is reasonable number given the mixed weather conditions and the limited number of nets used. There were no major surprises although sylvia warblers were in short supply throughout. Chiffchaffs took over from Willow Warblers as the most numerous warbler species as is usual in late August and all the less frequently caught species were what could be termed the usual suspects.


Species
New
Retrap
Species
New
Retrap
Goldcrest
18
1
Blackbird
2
0
Blue Tit
11
1
Song Thrush
2
0
Great Tit
15
2
Robin
5
0
Coal Tit
2
0
Redstart
3
0
Long-tailed Tit
0
3
Dunnock
1
0
Chiffchaff
54
3
Tree Sparrow
1
0
Willow Warbler
20
1
Grey Wagtail
2
0
Blackcap
8
0
Tree Pipit
9
0
Garden Warbler
0
1
Chaffinch
21
0
Grasshopper Warbler
1
0
Bullfinch
6
0
Reed Warbler
1
0
Greenfinch
3
0
Nuthatch
1
0
Linnet
3
0
Treecreeper
2
0
Goldfinch
5
0
Wren
1
1
Yellowhammer
3
0
Total for the period: 200 new birds and 13 retraps

Ringing highlights and noteworthy sightings were as follows:

22/08/17 - At least 12 Tree Pipits were on the move despite early fog and generally poor visibility but only 1 was ringed.

23/08/17 - This session was also affected by fog, some light drizzle and stayed quite murky once the fog cleared. It went so dark at one point birds went very quiet and some seemed to go to roost. However, this visit produce the first Redstart of the autumn, a 1cy female, amongst a catch of only 15 birds. At least 7 Tree Pipits headed south despite the conditions and 2 of them were caught. As the light drizzle stopped there was an unexpected sighting of a flock of 11 Dunlin flying low over the site and heading NNE, they may have been disorientated in the very murky conditions or simply been forced down by the very low cloud.

25/08/17 - Chiffchaffs really took over from Willow Warblers with ringing totals of 14 and 1 respectively. Another 2 Tree Pipits were ringed from a total of 6 recorded.

27/08/17 - Grey Wagtail passage got going with at least 4 passing over the site and 1 was ringed. Interestingly, similar movements were reported from sites across the country. Another 2 Tree Pipits were ringed from a total of 9 recorded. A juvenile Tree Sparrow was an unusual capture although a few had been recorded flying high over the site on the previous 2 days.


The first Grey Wagtail ringed this autumn
28/08/17 - A 1cy Reed Warbler was well away from its usual habitat and was only the 2nd to be ringed this autumn. This species is a scarce but regular autumn passage migrant at the site and 9 of the previous 13 records have been in the narrow period 23rd to 31st July with the remainder being on widespread dates in August. This session was also noteworthy for being the first of the autumn without a Willow Warbler being ringed or recorded.

1cy Reed Warbler
29/08/17 - A short, rain delayed session produced a Blackbird with an interesting plumage and not much else.


This 1cy male Blackbird is similar to what is sometimes referred to as the 'Stockamsel' variety. Had this bird been seen later in the autumn or during the winter it may have been thought to be of continental origin but there is virtually no chance of that in late August.

Its post-juvenile moult was almost complete.

It had a wing length of 131 mm which is towards the longer end of the range for locally bred birds but is not exceptional by any means.

1cy male Blackbird. A locally bred 'Stockamsel' type.
30/08/17 - Highlights were a Grasshopper Warbler and 2 Redstarts. At least 9 Tree Pipits were recorded 2 of which were caught. A few Grey Wagtails were on the move but only 1 was caught. There was a little flurry of Willow Warblers with 8 being ringed and this was more noteworthy as it followed a total absence of the species on the previous two days and was the only day that they outnumbered Chiffchaffs during the period.


1cy female Redstart 30/08/17

1cy male Redstart 30/08/17
S881488 adult Tree Pipit. This adult had retained 2 old lesser coverts. Apparently it is not uncommon to see this in adult Tree Pipits. There is certainly no doubt about the age of such birds. 

S881488 adult Tree Pipit. The tail feathers were much more rounded than those of the adults shown in my last post.

S881489 1cy Tree Pipit

S881489 1cy Tree Pipit. The 2nd outermost tail feather was missing on the right side of the tail. The shape of the tail is similar to the adult above but the contrast between the light and dark areas on the tail feathers isn't quite as strong. This difference in contrast can be a useful feature when ageing, according to some guides, although it isn't an easy difference to get to grips with and reportedly takes plenty of practice.


S881489 1cy Tree Pipit

Monday, 21 August 2017

Tree Pipits come to the fore

The last couple of days have seen a marked increase in the number of Tree Pipits on the move at Billinge with a minimum of 10 recorded yesterday and 30+ today. It is not easy to keep track of numbers when you are busy ringing and it doesn't help that many don't call when flying over so I am sure I will have missed a few on both days. The increase in numbers on the move was also reflected in the ringing totals with 5 ringed yesterday and another 12 today.

Today's total of 12 ringed is the 2nd highest day total for the site and has only been bettered twice; on 14/08/14 and 17/08/15 with 13 ringed on both of those dates. Half of today's Tree Pipits were adults which is quite unusual but it gave me an opportunity to photograph some of the plumage features used when ageing birds in autumn. More information on ageing Tree Pipits can be found here, here and here (the latter being the best in my opinion) They are fairly straightforward to age once you get your eye in and fully understand their moult, especially if you get to handle quite a few, but I would say they are not as easy to age as Meadow Pipits.


S881408 1cy Tree Pipit. The fringes of the unmoulted median and greater coverts are quite worn and very pale (a cold bleached straw colour) when compared with those of the adult below and is probably from an early brood. It should be noted that the margins of median coverts and greater coverts of juveniles from later brood are less worn and can be more olive-buff like adults.


S881401 Adult (2cy+) Tree Pipit. Adults have fresher and more olive-buff fringed median and greater coverts.

S881401 2cy+ Tree Pipit. This adult was interesting in that it hadn't replaced 2 lesser coverts which stand out as being very worn and bleached.


S881401 2cy Tree Pipit. A closer look at those retained lesser coverts. They are very worn and have a narrow and bleached white fringe and shouldn't be mistaken for retained juvenile feathers. Birds like this can easily trap the inexperienced and unwary.


S881401 2cy+ Tree Pipit tail. Fresher and generally more pointed than the typical juvenile tail except for the central pair which are usually a bit more rounded when fresh compared to the central pair of a worn juvenile (see tail of S881408 below) but be aware some juveniles replace the central pair of tail feathers.


S881408 1cy Tree Pipit wing. This bird hasn't replaced any of the median coverts, greater coverts or tertials so there are no obvious moult limits to make ageing easy. Even the outer row of lesser coverts are all old. You just have to rely on wear and colour with birds like this.


S881408 1cy Tree Pipit tail


S881410 2cy+ Tree Pipit tail.


S881410 2cy+ Tree Pipit wing.

Ringing totals for 20/08/17 were: Sparrowhawk 1; Goldcrest 3; Blue Tit 9; Chiffchaff 6; Willow Warbler 15 (1); Blackcap 1; Whitethroat 2; Treecreeper 1; Wren 1; Tree Pipit 5; Chaffinch 1; Linnet 2; Goldfinch 2.

Ringing totals for 21/08/17 were: Chiffchaff 2 (1); Willow Warbler 6 (1); Whitethroat 1; Nuthatch 1; Tree Pipit 12; Chaffinch 4; Bullfinch 2.


Juvenile male Sparrowhawk 20/08/17
Juvenile male Sparrowhawk 20/08/17


Nuthatch 21/08/17