Saturday 17 November 2018

Icelandic Redwings & Sparrowhawks

I only had time for a brief ringing ringing session at Billinge this morning but it turned out to be well worth the effort. A total of 12 Redwings, 3 Goldcrests and 1 Sparrowhawk were caught in little more than an hour which isn't bad going for mid November, especially as only 2 nets were used. The Sparrowhawk was a new female and another that failed to do the usual last minute climb out of the net and escape trick. However, it was the fact that 3 of the Redwings were stand out examples of the Icelandic race, coburni, that made it particularly worthwhile.

The upperparts of Icelandic Redwings tend to be a shade darker overall but it is the much heavier (blotchier) and more extensive streaking of the underparts, dark brown legs and toes, and well marked under-tail coverts that make them really stand out from continental birds (nominate race iliacus).
Icelandic birds average bigger too but in my experience wing length is of limited value as most will fall in the overlap between the two races. This bird had a wing length of 126.5 mm and was noticeably bulkier than the iliacus that were caught at the same time. However, it still falls within the overlap as iliacus can have a wing length of up to 129 mm (yes 129 mm and I have caught one that big myself) although most publications used by ringers only give an upper limit of 126, 127 or 128 mm. 

November and mid November in particular seems to be a good time for Icelandic Redwings at Billinge; my first were recorded in mid November 2014 (link here)

Today's 1cy female Sparrowhawk was the 4th female of the autumn.

While on the subject of Sparrowhawks I managed to get a photograph of a cracking little male that caught a Goldfinch in the garden a few days ago. It was already wearing a ring and I was able to read part of the number which suggests it is one that I ringed at Billinge in autumn 2015 but that is as far as I could narrow it down.

Male Sparrowhawk 12/11/2018

Easterly winds have set in and are forecast to continue for a good few days so it will be interesting to see if they bring anything unusual this way. They could pep up thrush movements initially, if nothing else. I just hope they are not too strong and give me the chance to get some nets up.

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