Friday, 18 January 2013

My bird ringing in 2012 - Priory CP Review

Well, the weather made it a tough year - and not just for me - for the birds too. Massive amounts of rain over the spring and summer meant breeding was not very successful for most species, but those that could find enough food (Blackbird being one of them) did well. A few planned ringing sessions got cancelled too but I found enough gaps inbetween the wet and windy spells to put more effort in than last year.

The Constant Effort Scheme was operated again (it has been going for 20 years now). Unlike many other people who take part in this scheme across the country, I was among the few who completed all 12 timed visits (plus a couple of extra).

Some effort was put in trying to catch House Martins and Swallows next to the main lake. However, several attempts proved a complete failure. Not a single bird of any species were caught! Unusually low numbers of hirundines (swallows & martins) were passing through on return migration after a poor breeding year and this, along with perhaps choosing a poor site for catching these species, left me scratching my head. There's always next year!

It was my intention to ring at a feeding station during the autumn/winter. New, squirrel proof feeders were required and duly bought. They had been up about a month before they disappeared. It was quite a while before I found 1 and a half of them deep in the brambles. The other 1 1/2 are out there somewhere I'm sure. However, given their disappearance and the cost of replacing them, the feeding station idea was abandoned for this winter.

Total birds handled at Priory CP in 2012 were as follows:

Total New: 640 Total Retrap: 346 Overall total: 986 New for year: 767 No. of species: 33

A species list (along with no.'s of each caught in 2012 can be found on the Priory Country Park page of this blog or by clicking here).

Of special note are the following:

1. A Corn Bunting was ringed (the first at Priory since 3 were caught and ringed in 1991). This was a new species for me and more effort will go into catching this species in the future. Corn Buntings are on the decline and their conservation status in the UK is RED because of a historical decline in numbers and more recently, a breeding population decline. They are hard to catch and I doubt that many have been ringed in Bedfordshire - there has definitely been no recoveries of this species in Bedfordshire as the BTO online ringing reports confirm. However, there will be more about this species in a later post...

Above: A Corn Bunting

2. Only the second Kestrel to be ringed at Priory was caught in 2012. Unusually, the bird was frequenting the area around the ringing site and perching low down in the trees. The first was ringed in 2003.

3. Only the second Jay to be ringed at Priory was caught this year (the first was ringed in 2000). This year was unusual in that there was an 'erruption' or mass migration of Jays across the country. Record numbers were being observed migrating. There is conjecture as to whether these birds are foreign or british ones, however I have read that there is no evidence to support that these were foreign birds.

4. Lesser Redpolls - previously a total of only 9 had been ringed at Prioy before 2012. However, effort has gone into ringing this species and a total of 28 individuals were ringed in 2012. In addition, the first Lesser Redpoll of the year here was a control (i.e. somebody else's ring!). I am eagerly awaiting the original ringing details of this bird.

Above: The controlled Lesser Redpoll


Blackcap: Ringed in Sept 2011 at Priory, this bird was captured at Grafham Water in May 2012 - presumably it was breeding there.

A Mallard ringed on the Embankment in 2003 was found dead at Priory in March 2012.

Awaiting details of the control Lesser Redpoll.

Details of the controlled Goldcrest from December 2011 came through this year, it was ringed at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) in September that year.

Now for the down side - most species didn't manage a good breeding season. I haven't delved too deeply yet into the data as I have a lot of background work to do before I can say anything with confidence, however the totals were down on 2011 for most species. In the wet weather, most species would find their food sources washed off the leaves (e.g.. caterpillars that the Tits feed on) however a few might find more food (e.g. more worms for the Blackbirds).The national preliminary CES results can be found here.

For the first time in 22 years, no Willow Warblers were caught at Priory.

Ringing in Priory Country Park has started for 2013. News will be posted in due course. Here's to a good year (he writes as it snows!).

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