Well, it's raining today - and probably tomorrow. That means many other things can be done while the net(s) have to stay closed, like shopping and sheaves of waiting paperwork. On the horizon is the prospect of some spring migration, both inbound and outbound but there is some much needed habitat management to do before then. [For habitat management read 'cutting down the trees and shrubs alongside the netting areas to a height to match the extended nets in order to stop the birds going over the top'.]
|The 'singing' Camellia (Feb. 2015)|
It's now 23 days since my last blog and the preponderence of some species has changed quite noticeably during that time. The birds that have become more numerous are, in particular, the Chaffinch and the Greenfinch. After a slow mid-winter, the colder weather to the north of us seems to have pushed the birds south at last. It also brought many more House Sparrows, Robins and Pied Wagtails to the bird-table and the closest lawn, all in search of a 'hand-out' to keep them in good shape during the frosty period that has existed for much of the time since my last blog.
Back to the Camellia. Oblivious to the squabbling Blackbirds (male v male and female v female) going on below or the combative Robins charging from the bird table to the shed roof above, a small, unobtrusive bird warblers a quiet song from the depths of the evergreen bush. It is the emboldened, 'rising five' Blackcap that has snuck across from the bottom hedge, where he normally gives a far superior rendition of his signature tune. He is endeavouring to irritate his younger fellow Blackcap that warbles against him from the side hedge every morning. What worries both of them, I suspect, is the fact that the third male doesn't join in and the lone, virgin female takes no notice of either of them (so far)!
Here is the sum of my on-and-off efforts since last time. Additional retrapped individuals in brackets.
Collared Dove - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Blue Tit - 2 (2)
Great Tit - 4 (1); beginning to show signs of a brood patch (BP1)
Long-tailed Tit - 4 (3)
Blackcap - 2 (2); new 2CY male & female plus a December 1CY male and the male now in his 5th calendar year.
Wren - (1)
Starling - 2; makes 5 this year - a garden 'rarity'
Blackbird - 6 (8); an influx, plus what looks like 4 local pairs, inc. 2 females with BP1
Robin - 5 (7); again, a sudden influx and some quite small birds among them. No BPs.
Dunnock - 4 (8); it amazes me where they all come from/hide! I had no less than 58 last year.
House Sparrow - 4 (12); still managing to ring new birds (138 new last year)
Chaffinch - 11 (1); even split between the sexes
Bullfinch - 1 (1)
Greenfinch - 6; mainly birds with longer wing-lengths than we are used to suggests these were migrants
Goldfinch - 27 (25)
Siskin - 3 (2)
Of the 179 handlings, 83 were new birds and 73 were already ringed. 23 birds, or less, were caught, therefore, more than once.
Come the spring equinox (in another 4 weeks), I will stop feeding suet pellets, soaked sultanas and dried mealworms and just put out mixed millet and SFH during the summer. By then, the fruit trees may be in flower and the Ivy berries at their ripest. This is usually the time that we say 'good-bye' to the Blackcaps and 'hello' to the Chiffchaffs. A cold snap may make me change my mind about what I feed, however. We are already noticing an increase in amphibian and insect abundance and the grass is trying to grow where we have walked it flat between the back door and the nets.
Next time, I hope we can bring you some news from the water meadows, barring another flood.