Sunday, 20 February 2011

Persistance Pays out, Super Siskins in!

Persistance did indeed pay off today! Having ringed Siskin at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve in November last year, I've been desperate ever since to catch more - but I've drawn a blank every time. That is, until today!

Above: A male Siskin

Above: A female Siskin

There are three factors here, a) the weather conditions must have been right, b) natural food sources could be dwindling and c) they are starting to put on weight for migration. Probably a combination of all three, but which has the greater bearing?

Evidence collected during ringing activities showed that the Siskins aren't storing fat ready for long distance migration (yet - therefore 2 factors are left). I can only make an educated guess that the longer winter goes on, the fewer natural food sources there are (in this case Alder seeds) and that today's weather conditions (on the colder side due to wind chill) meant they wanted an extra food supply (i.e. the nyger seed I provide or in this case my brother provided in the form of a christmas/birthday present).

Totals for today (retraps in brackets): 45 birds of 6 species:

Blue Tit 6 (1)
Great Tit 3 (1)
Chaffinch 1
Long Tailed Tit 16
Goldfinch 2
Siskin 15

I haven't been very successful with Long Tailed Tits over the same period - they moved through the netting area during Autumn but then stopped only to move through today. Interestingly, the two flocks that moved through today did not have any rings on them so are presumably different flocks to those that came through during Autumn. Does that mean that the post breeding but pre-dispersal flocks have moved elsewhere and new flocks have entered the territory?

Flocks of Long Tailed Tits have certainly been around in the intervening period but I have not seen them in the immediate netting area or caught any. Answers on a postcard please! Preferably from the current location of previously ringed Long Tailed Tits and c/o BTO!

Also noted today was the lack of retrap Blue and Great Tits (only 1 each) - where do the new birds keep coming from and where are the old ones? Natural dispersal, feeders elsewhere locally, bad/good weather?

One thing is for sure, with the milder weather we are experiencing, the feeders are taking longer to become empty!

Mount Everest Jigsaw

Luckily, I didn't need months of training and an oxygen tank to help me complete this challenge! Perhaps I'm the youngest Briton ever to complete this jigsaw?!?

Thank you Jill for my birthday present.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

February so far

More severe wind has left me slobbing around at home when I'd much prefer being out and ringing. However, yesterday I did find some shelter at Priory Country Park and put a few nets up.

The following turned up (in order of appearance):

Long Tailed Tit 2
Blue Tit 11
Dunnock 2
Chaffinch 3
Great Tit 7
Song Thrush 1
Treecreeper 1
Blackbird 2

Above: A male chaffinch. 2 were found in the net at the same time. A single female was ringed later on.

Above: A Song Thrush.

Above: A treecreeper (the best bird of the day).

Above & Below: Two different Great Tits. The one in the photograph above, I noticed, has a partially bleached (?) tail. The photograph below is a 'normal' Great Tit tail.

In all, 21 new birds were ringed with 8 retraps (the longest known age being a Blue Tit hatched in 2008).

January ringing highlights

The weather has been variable recently, to say the least. December was freezing and with all the snow, this stopped ringing activities. By the new year the snow had gone and a session Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (SSNR) on 8th Jan produced just 3 birds; a Coal Tit, Blue Tit and this:

Above: A Kingfisher that had survived the December freeze!

Severe wind (no, not anything to do with my digestive tract) has been the main problem in January. MT and I made an attempt for Waxwing (2 attempts) and Tree Sparrows (1 attempt) but with waxwings being difficult to catch and the wind, we drew a blank. Birds 3, Ringers 0. Being positive, we did see a lot of waxwings and got to know Shefford a bit better!

I also went looking for a Bittern at Priory Country Park (it's been seen there regularly since just before Christmas) but I drew a blank.

Instead of chasing Bedfordshire rarities, I wanted to chase Siskins at SSNR.

SSNR on 22nd Jan: 4 Blue Tits, 5 Great Tits and 1 Coal Tit. No Siskins (200 + still around).

SSNR on 30th Jan: 4 Blue Tits, 2 Great Tits, 1 Robin, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Coal Tit and 2 new species ringed for the site, 2 Goldfinch and 1 Blackbird. No Siskins (still around though between 100-150).

Above: The first Goldfinch ringed at SSNR.

Above: The first Blackbird ringed at SSNR.

Above: A female Chaffinch.

A combination of the time of year, weather (wind, rain, warmth), increased natural food sources and unknown factors, means reduced catches but with a Kingfisher and 2 new species for SSNR, I feel the effort was worth it. There's still time for Siskins in the next month or two... I hope!

Jigsaw Puzzles

Having not done any puzzles for a while. I was keen to spend some time relaxing and keep the brain ticking over and had just chosen one that I'd done a year or two before when one of my volunteers (John) and I decided to swap puzzles. I think he's done better out of the deal as I have loads of bird puzzles (at least 3 times as many as him) but I'm not complaining. I had fun:

Above: First up was the tit family. I have ringed Great Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Coal Tit and Bearded Tit but, as yet, not Willow Tit and Crested Tit.

Above: I vaguely remember going to Lindisfarne when I was a lot younger and lived a lot closer than I do now. I don't remember the details but it is a great place for wildlife. I don't see many round puzzles, so why is it so many of the bird/wildlife ones lend themselves to being round? Interesting question but I don't have an answer...

Above: RSPB Sparrows. The most difficult of the 3 puzzles as the detail of the picture makes the pieces much harder to place. House Sparrows are in serious decline. One of the reasons for this decline is increased bio-security around farms making scenes like the one in this puzzle rare.