Sunday, 27 November 2016

More Redwings

I did go up to Billinge this morning and there was a flurry of activity in the period half an hour either side of sunrise that was similar to that seen at Crawford over the past 3 days. Around 200 Redwings were involved, the majority in 3 flocks, but there were only a dozen or so Fieldafare. A total of 19 Redwing were caught which wasn't bad all things considered. There wasn't much else around and the site is starting to look pretty bleak now that the trees have lost most of their leaves and the herbage is dying back. The only other birds caught were 4 Goldcrests with one clearly being of continental origin judging by its appearance and size.

This continental Goldcrest was a female and had a wing of 56mm which is longer than any British female and most British males for that matter.

The very pale face, grey nape and paler underparts are quite distinctive.
I have finally finished the article on ageing Redwings which can be accessed via the relevant tab under the blog header.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Ringing update

I have not posted anything about my ringing activities recently but I have been quite busy despite the period of unsettled weather. The garden has been very productive with the feeders attracting a lot of Goldfinches and I have ringed 62 in the last couple of weeks along with few of the other resident garden species. The most unusual garden visitor, however, was a female Brambling which proved to be an adult when caught. I have also been getting quite a few Starlings coming to the fat cakes which is unusual for my garden at this time of year and this has allowed me to colour-ring 19 new Starlings as well as obtain over 50 re-sightings of further 21 individuals that were colour-ringed over the past couple of years.

I have not done much ringing away from the garden prior to the last few days because the weather hasn't been suitable, apart from the odd hour or two here and there which I took advantage of for garden ringing, but with the onset of settled conditions on Thursday (24th) I decided to see if there were any thrushes at the farmland site in Crawford. I set a line of 2 nets by the hawthorn hedge at first light and used audio lures for to attract any Redwings and Fieldfares that may be near by or passing over. There were a lot more thrushes around than I had expected and I caught 25 Redwings, 7 Blackbirds and a female Sparrowhawk in just over an hour. I saw well over 200 Fieldfares in total but, frustratingly, those that dropped into the hedge stayed just above net height. I packed up just after 9 am as I had other commitments but most movement had already stopped by that time.

Many of the Redwings have soil on their beaks which shows they are spending plenty of time feeding on soil invertebrates.
I went back yesterday morning (25th) and the same set up produced 37 Redwings and just 1 Blackbird in similar amount of time. Again there were a lot of Redwings and Fieldfares moving over the site in the period from first light to about half an hour after sunrise. I presume the ringing site is near or in between a roost site and favoured feeding locations as the movement slows down at sunrise and more or less stops not long after. The clear conditions has also seen some nocturnal movement as I have had Redwings calling overhead when I have been loading the car each morning so there is a chance some of the birds were migrating, although I suspect they are mainly local movements as previously outlined.

Another visit this morning saw a similarly brief but even bigger movement of thrushes that involved well over 200 Redwings and at least 350 Fieldfares. Unfortunately, I was extracting birds from the nets when some of the bigger flocks came over and those birds veered away when they saw me. The catch was still very good and was made up of 27 Redwings, 1 Fieldfare, 1 Blackbird and a Great Tit. Again nearly all the birds were caught in the first hour.

89 Redwings ringed in 3 mornings is good going in late November

There was a good frost this morning

There are plenty of berries around on the hedges as we have not had much in the way of frost prior to the last few days.
Although the conditions are forecast to be good again in the morning I am going to give the site a rest. It doesn't mean I will be having a rest as I may go up to Billinge to see if similar movement happens there as some of the Crawford thrushes were heading in that direction and it is only about 3km between the two sites.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Rapid Redwing recovery in Spain

I have just received a recovery report for a Redwing that was ringed at Billinge on 16/10/2016 and had reached northern Spain just 4 days later. It was found in Barakaldo which is just to the northwest of Bilbao and 1132 km south of Billinge, giving it average rate of travel of 283 km per day. It was reported as being found freshly dead but that doesn't mean it reached Spain on the day it was found so the movement could have been even quicker.

RZ37816 Redwing (aged as a first year)
Ringed        16/10/2016  Billinge Hill, near Billinge, Merseyside.
Recovered  20/10/2016 Barakaldo, Vizcaya, Spain. Found freshly dead 1132 km south.

Many thousands of Redwings migrate over Billinge each autumn and I have always been of the opinion that most were likely to be heading for wintering grounds further south in Europe rather than within the UK and this recovery adds weight to that view. It is the 2nd movement of a Redwing from Billinge to Spain in the same autumn with the previous recovery involving a Redwing ringed on 17/10/2014 and found in Fitero, northern Spain, 1272 km south, on 30/11/2014.

Whilst on the subject of Redwings I can now report that I have nearly completed an item on ageing Redwings in autumn. I have decided it merits its own page rather than just appearing as another post so a 'Redwing ageing' tab will appear under the blog header when it is finished and I hit the publish button. So if viewing lots of images of the wings and tails of Redwings is something that could interest you then please look out for the new tab.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

A late morning Firecrest

The forecast was for near calm conditions so I headed up to Billinge again this morning. I arrived half an hour later than planned and Redwings were already leaving their roost before I had time to get the first of the three nets up. So not the best start to the day but at least the forecast was spot on with hardly a leaf turning on any of the trees.

The first net round only produced 1 Blackbird and clearly wasn't helped by the late start which mean't I had missed the best chance of catching some Redwings. The catching rate remained fairly slow for the next couple rounds although there was some quality with a Fieldfare and a Grey Wagtail finding their way into the nets. The Grey Wagtail was a big surprise as there are no water bodies at the site and it must have been attracted to the size 11 puddles in the muddy part of the net ride where it was caught. There didn't seem to be any Goldcrests around to help make up the numbers and it was a little after 8am before the first 2 were caught.

The catching rate didn't really improve as the morning went on but another Fieldfare, a couple of Lesser Redpoll and a few more Goldcrests provided just enough interest to keep me going. Things then ground to a halt with nothing captured for a good hour and I was thinking about packing up when 2 Goldcrests and a Firecrest turned up in the nets. This encouraged me to stay on longer and another 3 Goldcrest were ringed, bringing their total to a respectable ten. When I eventually went to take the nets down a flock of Long-tailed Tits had been just been caught and gave the ringing totals a last minute of extra time boost. Sticking with it certainly paid off in the end with the Firecrest being the stand out highlight.

1CY female Firecrest, this is only the 2nd Firecrest to be ringed at the site making them rarer than Yellow-browed Warblers! 
Information from other ringers suggests there has been a small influx of Firecrests into the region in recent days.

A cracking little bird and one that made today's ringing session even more worthwhile.

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 13/11/2016 were: Goldcrest 10; Firecrest 1; Blue Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 9; Wren 1; Blackbird 5 (1); Fieldfare 2; Grey Wagtail; 1 Bullfinch 1 (1); Lesser Redpoll 2. Total 33 new birds and 2 retraps.

While I catch quite a few Grey Wagtails during their peak passage in September this was the first I have caught at the site in November and without the aid of an audio lure.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Billinge: 8th & 11th November 2016

We may be at the tail end of the autumn but we haven't quite reached the end, just yet. I am still ringing at Billinge now and again but only when there is little or no wind in the forecast. The trees at the ringing site have lost more than 50% of their leaves so there is a lot less shelter than there was and I have to be even more picky about the weather as a result.

The 8th provided suitable conditions and I had 3 nets set up by first light. There were a few thrushes moving first thing but Redwing and Fieldfare totals combined only just got into 3 figures. A few Blackbirds were present with one of the birds caught having a long wing length suggesting continental origin. A Woodcock, flushed near one of the net rides, was only the second sighting of the autumn and may well have been newly arrived. However, the sighting of the morning was a Waxwing which was a site tick for me and also my first of the autumn. It wasn't a huge surprise given the numbers that have been coming into the country and it certainly looks like a we are in for good Waxwing winter.

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 08/11/2016 were: Goldcrest 9; Great Tit 2; Blackbird 2 (2); Redwing 2; Robin (2) Chaffinch 1. Total 16 new birds and 4 retraps.

The 11th was more productive in terms of numbers ringed and Goldcrests topped the totals again with 15 ringed. This is a very good number for the date and shows that some are still moving. The total ringed this autumn now stands at 722 and there could be a few more to come.

And they keep coming. I never expected I would catch so many Goldcrests when I started ringing at the site.
Other than Goldcrests there was little evidence of migration save for a couple of hundred Woodpigeon heading north. Late movements of Woodpigeons are often in a northerly direction and it is tempting to speculate that these movements involve birds that previously went south and then return north for some reason. However, it is one of those mysteries of migration that we don't have the answer to and may never fully understand.

Other sightings of note were limited to 7 Brambling and 21 Mistle Thrush. The Bramblings were taking seeds from alder cones in the manner of Redpolls and this is something I have seen Bramblings do before at this time of year. The 21 Mistle Thrush was by far the largest flock I have seen for some time and was a bit of a surprise as it has been a poor autumn for this species at the site.

Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 11/11/2016 were: Goldcrest 15; Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 2; Coal Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 3; Wren 1; Blackbird 1 (2); Fieldfare 1; Song Thrush 1; Redwing 3; Dunnock 1; Chaffinch 1. Totals 31 new birds and 2 retraps.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Billinge: 3rd November 2016

A short ringing session at Billinge got off to a great start when the first bird out of the nets turned out to be a control Goldcrest. I could hear there were a few around and the next couple of hours produced another 14 new birds and a retrap, making 16 Goldcrests in total. That is a decent number for early November and shows some are still on the move.

This is the 4th Goldcrest to be controlled at the site this autumn. I am still waiting for information on when and where two of the previous controls were ringed so I will have details of 3 to post when they eventually come through.
There weren't many thrushes moving and only a few were caught but they included a Fieldfare so that also added value to the session as I don't catch many. The next net round produced another good bird in the form of a female Blackcap. It wasn't carrying much fat so could be a bird that has migrated here for the winter but there is also a chance of it being a tardy summer visitor; either way a good record as November Blackcaps are few and far between in this area.

Adult male Fieldfare

Only the 16th ringed at the site this autumn.

Today's female Blackcap.
I was already very happy with the session when a Woodlark flew over and made it even better. I first picked it up on call and then watched it fly over me as it headed south and was lost to view. It must have u-turned soon after as I heard it come back over the west side of the site but I didn't manage to see it again as it was on the other side of the hill from me. It is probably the first record for the site and it was certainly the first there for me. I had been in two minds about going out this morning as I had a meeting to go to at 10am so wouldn't have much more than a couple of hours with the nets up but I am certainly glad I made the effort now.

Ringing totals (retraps and controls in brackets) for 03/11/16 were: Goldcrest 14 (2); Blue Tit 1; Blackcap 1; Wren 1; Blackbird 1; Fieldfare 1; Redwing 5. 24 new birds, 1 retrap and 1 control.