Thursday, 24 May 2018

First 100 juvs and counting.

The first juvenile Starling caught for ringing this morning was the 100th of this season and it was quickly followed by another 24. Productivity seems to be good despite the cold start to the spring and many pairs have 4 juveniles in tow. I haven't had time to total up the number of colour-ringed adults that have been resighted since 21st April but it is at least 130 and in addition another 40 new adults have been ringed and colour-ringed for the RAS project. 

A typical scene on the lawn taken through the window. A similar number of birds were feeding on the suspended fat block and bird table out of the shot
There are usually around 30 Starlings in the garden at any one time but well over 100 individuals visit over the course of a day and the true number could be over 200. They are currently getting through 2kg of home made fat blocks,15 or so shop bought fat balls and the odd loaf of bread each day. The warm and very sunny weather we have been experiencing is helping the Starlings get through the fat blocks and fat balls a bit faster than they otherwise would as it is softens them as the day warms up, so I am currently making batches of the home made fat blocks 3 times a week to keep up with demand.

Melt 6 blocks of dripping in a large jam pan.

Add about 7 margarine tub size scoops of meal worms.

Then add about 20 crushed shop bought fat balls.

Mix well until you have a nice even consistency and fill old margarine tubs to form blocks.

The result is yummy if you're a Starling and should be given how much it costs.
It is not just the Starlings that benefit from the feeding regime and we have one or two Hedgehogs that visits the garden every night to feed on any crumbs from the fat blocks that fall to the ground and don't get cleared up by the Starlings. I also put out a few meal worms for them in a purpose made feeding station.

The current run of sunny weather has resulted in a few of the young Starlings flying into windows from time to time and one of my neighbours upstairs windows in particular. Thankfully the young Starlings don't fly that fast so there haven't been any injuries or fatalities or at least none that I am aware of but they have certainly left their mark on the glass.

My neighbours will get value for money from the window cleaners the next time they come round. I may also have to power wash their garden path by way of a thank you for their tolerance not least because the Starlings are extremely noisy in addition to being a bit messy; the noise being more noticeable as most people have some windows open because of the very warm weather.
That's all for now as I have another batch of fat blocks to make and lots of other stuff to do.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Quick Update and Starling RAS progress.

Apologies for the lack of posts recently but I have been busy with one thing or another and there has not been a great deal of interest to report on the migration front. The dearth of migrants at Billinge and other sites I visit has continued with hirundines being particulary scarce. While it has not been a silent spring it has been a pretty quiet one and it wouldn't surprise me if national population declines are reported for many species when all the data is in.

Much of my ringing effort over the last 3 weeks has been directed towards my Starling RAS project and I have clocked up around 75 hours of recording colour-ringed Starlings feeding on the fat blocks in the garden. As I have been running the project for a few years most of my local Starlings are colour-ringed and I have resighted 100 Starlings that were ringed prior to the start of this year's recording period with over 25% of those birds being more than 3 years old. It didn't take long to record the first 60 or so individuals but after that it became more like looking for a needle in a haystack as it gets progressively harder to pick out any that haven't been recorded before from all the ones that visit the fat blocks on numerous occasions each day. In addition to recording all the previously ringed birds I selectively trap and ring any unringed Starlings to add them to the study population with 20 new adults being ringed and colour-ringed so far.

With at least 70+ different Starlings coming they are currently getting through 1.5 to 2 kg of home made fat blocks each day. This will increase as more young fledge.

It is often a bit of a scrum at the fat blocks with the birds jostling for position. This can make reading the codes on the colour-rings quite difficult.
The timing of breeding has been pretty much as expected and the first adult was seen carrying food on 21st April and this was soon followed by many others. The first young started to fledge about 6 days ago and the first juveniles started to follow their parents to the the fat blocks in the garden in the last couple of days. This is very similar to last year and just over a week later than 2016, which was an earlier than average breeding season anyway. While the severe cold spells in the early part of this spring delayed the onset of breeding in many resident species it doesn't appear to have had much of an affect on Starlings, in this area at least, or that is the initial impression. It still remains to be seen what the fledging rates and brood sizes are like overall so it will be later in June before we get a more complete picture.

Adult male A12 is one of the many regulars and was originally ringed in December 2014. This male has been recorded numerous times in each breeding season since being ringed.

The first juvenile ringed in 2018. This bird was caught earlier this morning (14/05/2018). The first juvenile was ringed on the same date last year and on 7th May in 2016.