Thursday, 20 June 2019

Meisen Wood: The Young Ones


Nets: 124m
Sound: None
Weather: 9C to 23C some cloud with light wind
Ringers:  CS and EB

Spring, a most anticipated season, has raced by and is essentially over.  Evidence for this was apparent when we opened the nets to a much diminished dawn chorus; volume down, duration shortened and reduced participants in the choral ensemble.  The day’s excellent, well above average, catch presented the explanation: seventy-two of the birds caught were juveniles.  Many choristers of previous dawns have nearly completed their breeding efforts so have no need to advertise themselves and proclaim their territories. 

Species
Ringed
Re-trapped
Total
Blackbird
1
1
2
Blackcap
2

2
Blue Tit
12
3
15
Chiffchaff
1

1
Crested Tit
6
2
8
Dunnock
1

1
G S Woodpecker
7
7
14
Great Tit
6
20
26
Greenfinch
2

2
Hawfinch
2

2
Marsh Tit
5
1
6
Nuthatch
2

2
Pied Flycatcher
1
5
6
Robin

2
2
Song Thrush
1

1
Total
49
41
90

The numbers are above average for several reasons.  Most of the captures came from the nets close to a derelict fountain whose shallow basin we keep topped up with water, a definite attraction in dry woodland; currently the wood is scented by that delightful fragrance particular to pine in prolonged dry periods.  Also we have kept two small feeders going.  This is a partial response to a documentary featuring a well known German naturalist who suggested year round bird feeding as a means, in a minor way, to compensate for the lack of food in the wider environment, a negative consequence of Germany’s intense agro-forestry industries. This is a point that almost certainly applies to many other nations too.

Of particular note is the number of Great Spotted Woodpeckers: the day’s figures included six new juveniles sporting bright red crown feathers.  So far this month we have ringed eleven juvenile Great Spots; and two new adults.  The day’s re-traps included three of those new juveniles one of which had started post-juv moult; moult in these birds is something we are looking forward to monitoring and given the woodpeckers’ tendency for regular re-trapping will hopefully bring some clarity (for us) to moult, and subsequent aging, in this species.

It has certainly been a good year, locally at least, for breeding tits.  All the newly ringed Blue Tits were juveniles – with a wonderful yellow flush through their faces.  And the three re-trapped Blue Tit were birds we had ringed in boxes in the middle of May.  Similarly the new Great Tits were all juveniles and all but two of the re-traps were birds we’d ringed in the last month at various nest boxes.  One of the re-trapped adult Great Tits had been ringed as a nestling in 2016.  This was not quite the oldest bird of the day, that sobriquet went to a Robin originally ringed earlier in 2016. 

Frequently tits are caught as part of a Tit flock and we were delighted to find in the day’s fourth net round a mixed flock of tits that included six Crested Tit and five Marsh Tits.  All the Marsh Tit were juveniles and included one that had been ringed a few weeks back.  Five of the Crested Tits were new juveniles with an adult male which had been ringed in early 2017.  Catching this chirpy crew of Crested Tits was special as our efforts in providing nest boxes for this species have totally failed (so far), but it is pleasing to know they are succeeding somewhere out there in the woods.



Contrary to the morning’s pattern, the two Hawfinches were adults: a male and a female.  The male Hawfinch’s chin feathers were distinctly marked, like a Spanish marquis’ beard.  He had a cloacal protuberance, just; and she a poorly demarcated brood patch: breeding or not breeding that is the question?

Not shown in the table are six more nestling Pied Flycatchers, bringing this year’s total for nestling to forty-two.  With three more boxes with nestlings to ring later in the week this year’s total will be the largest number of Pied Flycatcher nestlings we have ringed in Meisen Wood – so far.  Surprisingly we have never caught a recently fledged nestling and in this respect we differ from much of the published literature.  Numerous Pied Flycatcher studies indicate that fledglings remain in their natal area for up to forty-five days.  The ones we ring seem to fledge and depart.  Though some of those studies reported catching fledglings at distances between 2 and 10km form the natal site; um, 10km to us would be a control.  And the Pied Flys do seem to be departing: when opening the nets we are often accompanied by the warning chip-chip call of adult Pied Flycatchers as we walk through the wood, there were fewer today.

Mist netting is a sampling technique and an inherent variable in any such scientific technique is that some species’ numbers will be skewed, or absent.  Today there were three absentees.  Firecrests were excitedly twittering for most of the morning in the boughs above our ringing table, a ringed male with his fluorescent orange crest most evident, feeding some youngsters (no crests yet). They numbered ten or eleven birds though these miniscule birds are difficult to count in the canopy’s thick foliage.  During the extraction of the aforementioned tit flock a group of Long-tailed Tits deftly avoided the net; this group of some ten individuals included some juveniles too.  Also a small flock of seven crossbills flew over.  These are sporadic visitors to the wood and occasionally come down to net level to drink at the fountain on hot days – to dream the dream; and even better would there be some re-traps from previous visits? 

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Wendover CES4 – 3rd June 2019


560 ft of nets in 6 rides.
Nets open 03:49 – 9:49
Weather: Wind light, Rain none, Cloud scattered. 
New
Retraps
Total
Blackbird
2 (2 x J)
2
4
Blackcap
3 (1 x J)
2
5
Blue Tit
13 (8 x J)

13
Bullfinch
1
1
2
Chiffchaff
3 (3 x J)

3
Dunnock
6 (6 x J)
4
10
Great Tit
2 (2 x J)
2
Robin
7 (7 x J)
3 (2 x J)
10
Song Thrush
3 (1 x J)
2
5
Whitethroat

1
1
Total
40
15
55

An above average catch for CES#4 with the total of 55 comparing with a historical mean of 41 (range 21-62).  Good contributions of juveniles from the resident species of Blue tits, Dunnocks and Robins.  Also the first juvenile Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs.

Ringers Adam, Pete + Christine as scribe.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Meisen Wood: Mid – May



Nets: 130m
Sound: None
Weather: cool to warm (persistent cold E wind)
Ringers:  CS and EB

May is a busy time ringing and we thoroughly enjoy the mix of normal mist netting sessions combining with Tawny Owl box visits, our passerine nest boxes to check and Kestrel boxes as well. This May has been particularly busy: the Tawny Owls have had an excellent breeding season, the best we have recorded; and our passerine boxes seem to have a good occupancy rate too.

The captures table below is from two ringing sessions – the totals in both sessions were slightly above average.

Species
Ringed
Re-trapped
Total
Blackcap
4
1
5
Blue Tit
1
5
6
Bullfinch
2

2
Chaffinch
4

4
Chiffchaff
1
1
2
Crested Tit
1

1
Dunnock

6
6
Firecrest

1
1
G S Woodpecker
1
7
8
Great Tit

11
11
Greenfinch
14

14
Marsh Tit
1
3
4
Mistle Thrush
2

2
Nuthatch

6
6
Pied Flycatcher
5
15
20
Robin
3
2
5
Song Thrush
2

2
Willow Warbler
1

1
Wren
1
2
3
Total
43
60
103























The Mistle Thrush is special bird for us because they are the first of the summer’s returning passerine migrants.  Their arrival at the end of February is our indicator that the seemingly interminable cold winter is really going to end!  When a Mistle Thrush sits at the top of a pine in the first few days of March and sings it’s fluting song with much gusto – noticeably thrush like, with long cadences in its chords - it cheers us up no end while doing garden chores.  Their habit of perching at the top of trees and singing, often in stormy weather, has earned them the colloquial name: stormcock, which according to folklore was supposed to forewarn of coming bad weather.  CS’s father used to consider that poppycock and thought the bird just had a personal sense of joie de vivre – a pleasant thought.  

Each spring we enjoy the Mistle Thrushes’ joie de vivre expression from high in the canopy and have considered it improbable that we would ever catch one of these heralds of spring; as they seem reluctant to descend from on high.  So having two Mistle Thrush simultaneously in a net was totally surprising.  Both were males, with substantial cloacal protuberances, and may have been disputing breeding territory boundaries when they blundered into the net.  Each year several do breed on-site and nearby, and earlier in the month we had observed a Mistle Thrush collecting moss and flying off in the direction where they were caught.



Pied Flycatchers continue to arrive.  The re-capture figures are mostly for first re-captures and include two birds that were ringed as nestlings in 2016 and 2018.  The re-capture from 2016 was particularly pleasing as it is the first re-capture this year of a bird that was not ringed in 2018; we are finding that statistic a tad disturbing. Though these are not phenomenal numbers they give some vindication to our efforts at encouraging their breeding by providing nest boxes – currently nine boxes are with birds on eggs; and several others have males singing in proximity to unoccupied boxes. 

Fourteen new Greenfinch is a surprisingly high number for May and we speculate that these are some of the many Greenfinch that were locally abundant during the winter and have remained to breed; certainly the females had the start of brood patches and several males are pronouncing their presence with their nasal song. 

As the Greenfinch are about to initiate their breeding efforts some birds have completed their first broods as evidenced with the year’s first fledglings being caught. The first fledgling captured was a Marsh Tit.  Simultaneously the three re-trap Marsh Tits had nearly completed their primary moult with moult scores of 42, and two of 46; ah, the seasons roll ever onwards.

Pleasingly this year the nest boxes in Meisen Wood have produced good number of tits; currently we have ringed 150 Great and Blue Tit nestlings with more to come as many are currently too small to ring.  And there are still the Kestrel boxes to visit and Swallows - though initial observations indicate their numbers are down – indeed hirundines in general were late arriving and in low numbers.  We look forward to collecting this valuable data through the rest of May and into early June particularly as some of the time will be spent with visiting ringers.