Monday, 9 April 2018

Tales of the unexpected.

I had an unexpected visitor in the garden on the 6th in the form of a Blackcap. I had been keeping an eye on the feeders when I suddenly noticed there was a male Blackcap feeding on the fat blocks. There hadn't been any Blackcaps in the garden during the winter nor had I encountered any of the summer visiting variety this spring so it was my first sighting for the year, anywhere. As it seemed quite at home feeding on the fat blocks I suspected it could be a bird that had wintered in the UK rather than one that had just returned to breed as I wouldn't have thought the latter would recognise the fat blocks as food. Obviously it is only a suspicion but I think it is a reasonable one.

Not the sort of feeding behaviour you would expect to see if this were a returning summer visitor or at least that is my thinking. 

It looked to be an experienced garden hand-out junkie and chose the fat block over the apples that were available.
I put a net up in the garden the next morning (7th) with the primary aim of catching Siskins as a few were still visiting the feeders. The first bird caught was a Blackcap and it was almost certainly the bird I had seen on the fat blocks the previous day. It was a 2nd calendar year bird, so hatched last year, and it was carrying a moderate amount of fat with a score of 3 on the ESF scale. More importantly it now has a ring on it so there as a chance of finding out which type of Blackcap it is, winter visitor or summer visitor.

I only caught one other bird before rain curtailed proceedings and that was a Siskin, the target species, and it was the fattest Siskin I have caught this spring. It weighed 17.0g which means at least one third of its weight was fat. Siskins that attain such weights are likely to be of Scandinavian origin or from further east as it is far more fuel than would be required if it was just returning to Scotland to breed.

Yesterday (the 8th) I went up to the site at Billinge in the hope there would be a marked increase in warblers and some Redpolls moving through. Unfortunately the session was marred by fog which was very slow to clear and when it finally did some banks of fog or murk lingered in the surrounding areas. There were one or two more Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers singing but that was about it and there were no Redpolls or anything else on the move overhead. However, it wasn't a complete waste of time as I did catch a bird that I would never have predicted, and that was a Fieldfare. They are pretty scarce on this side of the country once you get into April and they are never easy to catch so ringing one today was totally unexpected. It wasn't the only Fieldfare present as another was heard and seen through the gloom along with a Redwing.

Fieldfare 08/04/2018
Ringing totals (retraps in brackets) for 8th April 2018 were: Goldcrest 3; Blue Tit (1); Willow Warbler 1; Blackbird 1; Fieldfare 1.

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