Thursday, 20 July 2017

Billinge: 17th & 18th July 2017

17th July
I am not getting any better at the early morning lark and only got to site at 7am. The weather was glorious and it was very warm from the off. I quickly set 3 nets in the top willows but there was distinct lack of warblers calling in the bushes which suggested there were fewer around compared to my last visit. On the other hand there had been a marked increase in the number of Goldfinches with at least 60 feeding on the knapweed in the vicinity of the net rides.

A total of 46 new birds were caught with all but one being juveniles. The single adult was a moulting female Willow Warbler. The ringing totals confirmed that there were fewer warblers around but this was offset by a good catch of Goldfinches. The biggest surprise was a near total absence of tits, not that I am complaining, with only 2 caught and hardly any others seen or heard.

Juvenile Goldfinch

One of the juvenile Goldfinches had white sub-terminal patches on the three outer tail feathers. These patches were once thought to have some age related significance and while the number of patches Goldfinches have varies between 1 and 3 the presence of 3 was considered to be something that was only found in some adults. Juveniles like the bird above clearly show that can't be the case and serve as a useful reminder. A more recent study suggested birds with 3 patches were always males and while males may have more and or bigger patches on average there is more overlap than that study found and I have caught females with 3. I am sure these tail patches have an important role as birds spread their tail and show them off when they do the clockwork like pivoting display but they are not the help we would like them to be when it comes to ageing and sexing Goldfinches in the hand.
Totals for 17/07/17 were: Goldcrest 1; Great Tit 1; Coal Tit 1; Chiffchaff 6; Willow Warbler 7; Blackcap 6; Wren 3;  Greenfinch 1; Goldfinch 20.

18th July
With thundery and then showery conditions forecast from mid-week I decided to fit in another visit and try the rides in the NE corner of the site. It was another very warm morning and the biting insects were really on form but it turned out to be very quiet on the bird front. The catching rate was really slow and I packed up at 10am, following 2 blank net rounds, and having only caught a total of 14 new birds in the earlier rounds.

Again there were hardly any tits around and warblers were also very thin on the ground for this part of the site. Tits are supposed to have had a reasonable breeding season but I haven't seen or heard any sizeable tit flocks as yet but that doesn't mean they are not out there, somewhere. It was just one of those mornings that produced a below par catch, as happens now again, and it will be a while before we really know what sort of breeding season it has been overall.

One of the Dunnocks was a recently fledged juvenile.

The flight feathers were not fully grown but it could fly quite well and was caught in the top panel of a mist net.

It will still be dependant on its parents for food so it was released very close to where it was caught.
Overhead there was no movement to speak of but a single Yellow Wagtail, a scarce bird in this area these days, went south as did a Siskin.

Ringing totals for 18/07/17 were: Goldcrest 3; Blue Tit 1; Chiffchaff 2; Willow Warbler 1; Blackcap 1; Wren 2;  Dunnock 2; Chaffinch 1; Bullfinch 1.

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