Monday, 21 September 2015

Low 'Vis' Weekend

The weather forecast for the weekend had been looking really good with a large ridge of high pressure positioned over the country and the prospects of clear blue skies. The conditions looked like they would be perfect for migrants to be on the move at Billinge and I was hopeful of getting my first good catch of Meadow Pipits of the autumn. I was really keen to make the most of the weather and was up early on Saturday and had 3 nets set by first light. It was a bit misty but I expected that to burn off quickly once the sun was up. Unfortunately the mist lingered and got worse with visibility restricted to around 2 miles for the first couple of hours or so.

The low visibility had its impact on diurnal migrants and only a few pipits, wagtails and finches pushed through. The bushes seemed to be fairly quiet but there was another little rush of Goldcrests first thing with all but 1 of the 14 ringed being caught in the first hour. One of the Goldcrests was unusual in that it had a slightly longer and down-curved bill that give it a striking appearance. A few Chiffchaffs moved through later in the morning when the mist had started to lift with one being a control and the 3 new Robins were all likely to be migrants. There were a few more Linnets around than of late with birds moving between nearby feeding areas and a few of these were intercepted towards the end of the session.

The bill of this Goldcrest was a bit longer and heavier looking than normal but it was the down curve that made it look really unusual.
Its unusual bill has a little bit of a Treecreeperesque look to it.

Control Chiffchaff HVR169.
Small numbers of migrant Robins have been a feature of recent visits. The site doesn't have many resident Robins and the few there are don't usually frequent the ringing areas so any new Robins that are caught are pretty much guaranteed to be migrants.
Ringing totals (retraps/controls in brackets) for 19/09/15 were: Meadow Pipit 2; Grey Wagtail 2; Robin 3; Blackcap 1; Chiffchaff 5 (2); Goldcrest 14; Chaffinch 1; Linnet 6; Lesser Redpoll 3 (2). Total 37 new birds, 3 retraps and 1 control.

There was meant to be a bit more of a breeze on Sunday and I hoped that would help keep the mist away but when I got up I could see it was foggy and not just misty. I thought twice about going out given the conditions as I knew the fog would make the nets much more visible. Anyway I decided to give it a go just in case the fog lifted when the sun came up.

I put up the usual nets and caught 2 Blackcaps and 2 Goldcrests in the half light but then the fog started to have more impact as the light levels rose. I didn't catch anything in the next net round and thought about packing up but I decided to give it just a bit longer on the off chance the fog would clear. At about the same time a flock of about 50 Linnets gathered in the trees near one of the nets so I decided to play a lure and they immediately came down to investigate. On checking the net I found I had caught 18 Linnets and while I think the fog made the lure more effective it also made the net much more visible so both helped and hindered the catch at the same time.

All bar one of the Linnets caught were first year birds like this bird. The partially concealed red feathers on the breast show this bird is a male. 

1CY Linnet.
By the end of the morning there was a flock of about 90 feeding in a nearby field. 
The conditions slowly improved as the morning wore on but it came too late to stimulate much in the way of movement. Matters weren't helped by lingering fog that affected some of the surrounding areas, especially towards the north and east of the site. The final total of 47 birds was very good given the conditions and was largely due to the 25 Linnets that were caught. 

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 20/09/15 were: Sparrowhawk 1; Robin 2 (1); Blackcap 3; Chiffchaff 3; Goldcrest 6; Blue Tit 1; Greenfinch 1; Linnet 25; Lesser Redpoll 3; Yellowhammer 1. Total 46 new birds and 1 retrap.

Juvenile female Sparrowhawk. Always a delight to catch and always a bit of a handful.

Sparrowhawks often manage to climb out of nets just when you are nearing them and females, being larger, usually find it easier to escape than males. Luckily this one didn't get away but it got very close to doing so.
Now look into my eyes, my eyes.

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