Thursday, 29 March 2012

First re-trap house sparrow

I learned a valuable lesson tonight. When you mow the lawn, make sure you can still find the holes that your ringing poles came out of! Having not done this, I decided that the only sure fire way to ensure the poles were in the correct place was to pop the nets up for an hour. I wasn’t expecting a lot as it was a little too sunny and breezy…and I wasn’t disappointed.

I may not have caught much this evening, but what I did catch was quality. The first two birds in the net were a pair of house sparrows, one of which was sporting a shiny silver accessory on its leg – my first re-trap. Guess this female wasn’t as net shy as they are billed to be, or maybe her mate thought he knew better on the directions and just wouldn’t listen when she said ‘you don’t want to go that way’!

The male was a feisty one, whereas the female was very calm and sat there looking as though she knew that she’d been here before and would be released in a matter of minutes. The male had a bit of a CP going but the female didn’t have a brood patch yet. She had put on 2.5g in the past 11 days though.

My third (and final) bird of the evening was a goldfinch – a new species for the garden. The sexing of this bird seemed quite straight forward (female) but the ageing was a little more tricky. The feathers all appeared pretty fresh but the shape of the 5th and 6th tail feathers and the outer three GCs hinted at this being a first year (no OGCs though).

Female goldfinch (on shape of red behind eye and gey nose hairs)

Non-adult shape of 5th and 6th tail feathers?
I have decided that ringing is a bit like learning to drive a car. You pass your test and think you know how to drive. You then go away, buy a car and realise that now you have to learn how to really drive. Ringing by myself is turning out to be a little like that. When I find myself saying ‘well I think it’s an adult female’ and realise that there isn’t anyone there to tell me if I am right or wrong, I have to turn to Svensson (or Baker) and in the process, I learn something I didn’t know before (or had forgotten). All I need to do now is learn to trust my own judgement.

I predicted that ringing by myself would be a steep learning curve and I was right…but, it isn’t half fun. Now, if only I could train my memory to remember things better!


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Evening in my garden

I was home from work a little earlier than normal this evening so I thought I would try popping the nets up for an hour. I only caught two birds, both female greenfinches, another new species for the garden. I have to admit to finding the ageing of them a little tricky. I think the first was an adult bird due to its tail being quite broad and the primary feathers being in pretty good nick; however, the shape of the 5th tail feather looked more like the juvenile shape in Svensson. This bird had a brood patch starting. 

Adult wing?
Adult tertials?
Adult tail?
Brood patch starting
The second bird I am pretty confident was a first year bird due to a feint fault bar on the tail, thin tail feathers and poorer quality primary feathers.

First year tail with faint fault bar (doesn't show up very well on pic)
First year tertials?
First year wing?
If anyone can confirm my ages from the photos, or has an alternative theory, please leave me a comment.


Sunday, 18 March 2012

My First Solo Ringing Session

A text at 4am this morning confirmed what I had been expecting – it was raining in Nottingham and ringing at Granby was cancelled. A quick look out of the window established that it was raining here in Chesterfield too, so I switched off the alarm and went back to sleep. At 7am, it was still raining and looked set fair for the day. Happily, I was wrong and by 8.30am the rain was gone, the threat of more rain was receding and I decided to attempt my first solo ringing session in my garden.

I could see and hear lots of birds around and about as I carefully put up the nets. We had left the base sections of the poles and the guys in place after last weekend’s session which made it very easy to put the nets up – once I had remembered which side the Jap net went on and which side the NRSF went on! As I was tying the guy for the third net, I saw something jump into the 10’ net; my first bird of the morning before I had even finished putting the nets up. As I set the nets another two birds failed to see them and I was smiling. By the time I made it back inside, I had six full bird bags (and I hadn’t even got the rings out yet!).

The first birds I processed were a pair of long-tailed tits, one of which was one of the two birds I ringed last week – my first re-trap! Surprisingly, its mate was un-ringed which means I have at least three individuals visiting my garden, rather than the single pair that I thought I had. The next bird processed was the first bird in the nets and a new species for the garden; a first year robin complete with OGCs and a fault bar in the tail.

First garden robin
Two house sparrows came next, followed by another new species for the garden, a blue tit. My third new species for the garden was a chaffinch, or rather two chaffinches, one adult female and one first year male (not caught together). Four more house sparrows joined the party and the second of last weekend’s long-tailed tits also came back to say hello.

First garden blue tit
By mid-morning, it was brightening up fast and a breeze was starting to make itself acquainted with the nets, particularly the NRSF. Just as I was contemplated taking them down, one half of my regular collared dove visitors came to sit on the fence. It clearly wanted to drop down onto the seed on the path but kept seeing the net and veering away at the last minute. I stood in my kitchen, watching it with baited breath for a few minutes until it finally decided it could take the nets; it couldn’t and luckily for me, this week it didn’t bounce.

As this was a new species for me, I had to spend a little time familiarising myself with the ageing and sexing criteria before deciding that it was a 4M (I think). It had a bright ruby red eye, a distinctive black collar, no obvious fringing on the feathers and pretty bright legs. Its general appearance was more pinkish than olive hence my thinking it was a male. Feel free to leave me a comment if you disagree – I would welcome any tips on this beautiful species.
Pinkish head, black collar with slight white
fringing, ruby red eye - adult bird?

Quite bright leg colour.

Beautiful collared dove posing for a picture
before flying off.
I took the nets down after processing the collared dove as the wind was getting too strong and was in danger of bending the poles! Final tally for the day was fourteen (new/re-trap): long-tailed tit 1/2, robin 1/0, house sparrow 6/0, blue tit 1/0, chaffinch 2/0, collared dove 1/0.

All in all, a very successful and enjoyable first solo ringing session!


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Garden ringing

My first garden ringing session started around 8am this morning when Jim and Ian arrived. After scrutinising the garden, Jim disappeared to his Landrover and returned with a 10’ net which we put up across the garden with a 40’ running lengthways, with the feeders on the inside. The garden had been packed with birds earlier, so my expectations were high.
My garden with two nets ready and waiting to be inundated.
It’s not often in life that we moan about the weather being too nice, but ringers are a little different (!) and bright sunshine, with a gentle breeze, was perhaps not what I would have requested for the morning. However, it made for a lovely ringing session even if it did make the nets a little too visible. The neighbour’s two cats each came to visit a couple of times but after being chased away by Ian, they soon got the hint and left us in peace!

The first bird to jump into the net was a female great tit, followed quite quickly by a starling, which behaved itself surprisingly well! After a lot of discussion and after consulting Svensson, we decided the starling was a first year bird. A dunnock came next, which was already showing signs of having a CP (although not up to full breeding season standards!), then a long tailed tit and a house sparrow. After five birds, I’d had to crack open four different ring sizes! It was fabulous to be able to see a house sparrow in the hand as that was a new species for me and Ian (who ringed the second bird to oblige).  A collared dove bounced out of the net (gutted) and lots of other birds displayed their aerobatic prowess by taking evasive action at the last minute to dive over, under or around the nets (damn that sunshine).

First bird in the net.
First ever house sparrow!
By mid-morning, the birds had clearly decided to go out for the day and enjoy the weather so we had to resort to amusing ourselves. Jim helped me to set up my IPMR database and gave me a brief refresher course. Ian then grabbed my guitar (that I cannot play I hasten to add) and treated us to an impromptu acoustic set…or was he serenading Jim?

Spot the Luton town fan with a Nottingham Forest mug in his hand!
We then decided to try adding a second 40’ net on the right hand side of the garden to enclose the feeders on three sides and we set up the potter trap that Ian had kindly made for me. Unfortunately, neither caught and we took the nets down early afternoon having caught eight birds. Full catch details (all new birds): great tit - 2, long tailed tit - 2, house sparrow - 2, starling - 1, dunnock - 1.

I have to say a huge thank you to Jim and Ian for coming all the way to Chesterfield to help me with my first garden session and to Jim for lending me his nets and poles. I can’t wait for my next session!


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Ready to ring...

So, my rings have arrived along with two poles from the BTO. These, along with two poles and two nets lent to me by my very kind trainer Jim Lennon, means that I am ready to go. My first garden ringing session is planned for Sunday. Fingers crossed the weather will be kind and the birds will be obliging!