Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Sun Shines on the Moss

I picked Charlie up at 4:15 this morning, meeting Steve at Kings Moss at 4:45 full of anticipation of a good session up at the plantation. We managed to get all of the nets up within the hour, just as dawn broke and the birds started to sing. We started with a dog-leg at the pond, especially for Chiffchaff, and the two feeding stations. By 6am, we were joined by Leah Williams, a trainee from the MRG, who was after an opportunity to ring with other ringers......and she chose us!

 Steve Tyrer - not a morning person

The first net round yielded a couple of Yellowhammer from the hedgerow and a variety of finches, but no significant numbers until we reached the pond, where three Chiffchaff were waiting along with a Reed Bunting. There was lots of bird song, Yellowhammers were giving it beans all around, as were the Robins, Song Thrushes, Skylarks and Wren with the occasional call of a Grey Partridge or Buzzard.

After the first net round, the catch rate picked up and remained steady throughout the morning.The fourth Chiffchaff presented with a tick above its eye, which I managed to delicately remove.

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) with tick

The unusual capture of the morning was a colour-ringed Coal Tit that turned up at the hedgerow station. The juvenile bird had purple on the left and orange on the right but no BTO ring, which we found unusual, so we concluded that it had likely escaped from a collection. We added a BTO ring and took the decision not to remove the colour rings as to avoid the risk of harming the bird.

Coat Tit (Periparus ater)

The Yellowhammer continued to come at a steady pace, most being caught out in the field along the hedgerow, with the majority being male. So far we have ringed thirty three Yellowhammer at Kings Moss since we started ringing here in September 2011, twenty two of those have been caught in the last fortnight. We find it curious that so far we haven't caught a single retrap with the exception of two birds today that were ringed on the same day.

 Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)

 Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

One of the more concerning aspects of our ringing session today was the number of Chaffinches that we had to release unringed due to the presence of the papilloma virus. The papilloma virus causes growths on the feet and legs making ringing impossible and unsafe - but interestingly, the birds seem to otherwise be in good health. We have caught birds with the condition at Crosby Hall recently and The Woodhams in the past however never in the frequency that we encountered today. In total eight different Chaffinches were released unringed and this suggests that there is a high incidence of the virus in the local population. This photo shows one of the worse cases we encountered today, but it doesn't compare to this case that the BTO brought to our attention in 2009.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

The birds weren't the only creatures with the power of flight that were active today. A large number of ladybirds were found pretty much anywhere you looked, including in the nets. As the air temperature warmed up the butterflies came out to play, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood amongst those that stayed still long enough to be identified.

Ladybird on the Moss

Plant life was also starting spring to life, the Blackthorn is now with flower, Willow is in leaf and Coltsfoot is starting to spring up everywhere. Spring is most definately here and finishing on over one hundred caught, I drive home with the windows down, the eyePod on the stereo and a great big smile on my face!

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Chiffchaff -  4
L.T.Tit -    (2)
Dunnock -   3   (2)
Reed Bunting -   2   (2)
Chaffinch -   13   (2)
Goldfinch -   14   (4)
Great Tit -   5   (6)
Yellowhammer -   13
Bullfinch -   (2)
Blue Tit -   4   (4)
Coal Tit -   2   (1)
Greenfinch -   14
Blackbird -   2

TOTAL:   76   (25)

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