Saturday, 29 November 2014

Ringing session with a twist.

I am not sure where to start with this post as today's ringing session didn't turn out anything like I expected it to. There have been a dwindling number of thrushes moving over Billinge and I didn't catch a single bird on my last outing (27th) so I thought I would be declaring autumn passage over in this part of the world by today. It has been a fantastic autumn for Redwings at the site but the southward movement of Redwings that had arrived further north had to end some time. However this morning bucked the trend with Redwings passing overhead and calling through the darkness while I was putting up the nets.

Redwing 29/11/14
I had been joined by Paul who had expressed an interest in training to ring but I had warned him that I didn't expect to catch much if anything. Well the birds decided to make a fool out of me with a few Redwings dropping in almost straight away. It wasn't just Redwings as there was a continental Song Thrush amongst them in one of the later catches. A flock of at least 40 Fieldfares narrowly missed the nets and a couple of smaller parties also flew over adding to the migratory feel of the morning. It wasn't just a case of birds moving from their roosts to feeding sites either as the movements went on too far into the morning for that.

Continental Song Thrushes, like this bird, are more olive grey from the nape to the upper tail coverts compared to the British race which have warm brown upperparts.

Continental birds are also much whiter underneath with much less buff on the breast.
We didn't just catch thrushes as there were a good number of Yellowhammers, Chaffinches and Goldfinches about, along with a few Reed Buntings. The real twist to this tale came in the form of one of the Yellowhammers that had an overgrown and twisted upper mandible. Buntings have slightly odd looking bills to start with as the upper mandible is smaller than the lower so it doesn't take much of a deformity to make them look really odd and this was no small deformity. It was a first year bird so this overgrowth had only developed in the last 4 or 5 months or thereabouts. It never ceases to amaze me how birds adapt and survive with such deformities and it was clearly doing quite well as it had a healthy weight (25.1g) and its plumage was in excellent condition.

Yellowhammer with a twist.

It must be really difficult for this bird to pick up seeds.

There was a coating of soil on the end of the upper mandible which suggests it scrapes the ground when the bird is feeding.

The plumage was in pristine condition so it must be managing to preen well enough.

Normal Yellowhammer for comparison.

Paul releasing his first Yellowhammer.
The final surprise was finding a Kestrel in one of the nets when I went to take them down. Kestrels are ever present at the site and are more common than Sparrowhawks but this was the first I have caught there.

Kestrel 29/11/14

Kestrel 29/11/14
Ringing totals (with retraps in brackets): Redwing 14; Song Thrush 1; Yellowhammer 10 (1); Chaffinch 3; Goldfinch 2; Reed Bunting 1 (1); Bullfinch 1; Kestrel 1.

Reed Bunting 29/11/14

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