Sunday, 23 January 2011

Manor Farm Country Park, Hampshire - January 2011

Well here we are heading towards the end of January 2011 and the freezing temperatures would lead you to believe that it was still the middle of winter. Well I guess strictly speaking it still is, although the lengthening days and hazel catkins always give me optimism that spring is just around the corner!

Hazel Catkins ©T. D. Codlin

Bird ringing this month at Manor Farm has been limited to just three sessions with a sum total of 53 new birds and 25 re-trapped birds captured. This total included 15 different species with the star bird being a cracking male bullfinch, although goldcrest, greenfinch, redwing and a single female sparrowhawk made up an excellent supporting cast. 

A flock of around 30 greenfinch's are currently wintering at the site; they are coming down to the ground to feed on discarded animal feed. A greenfinch that I captured in February 2003, was recaptured a year later at Edenbridge in Kent, 99 kilometres to the east, hopefully some of this years birds will provide some more interesting data, although only four birds were captured in January, so I guess this would be fairly unlikely.

Male Greenfinch ©T. D. Codlin

The target species during the winter months over the last few years has been the redwing. A group of us have been capturing and colour-ringing birds in order to study how they move around during the winter months and whether the same birds stay in the same flocks. Birds are ringed with a metal ring and a single coloured one on the right leg, and two coloured rings on the left leg; all on the tarsus. Success has been limited to date, with several birds observed at the three ringing locations, but one bird ringed at Southampton Common in the centre of Southampton, was sighted in Alton, Hampshire - so keep your eye peeled and let me know if you see one.

Head Shot Showing Delicate Patterning of Redwing at Manor Farm ©T. D. Codlin  

A species which has been highly conspicuous this winter is the robin. Last year only ten birds were captured at the site, whereas seven different birds were captured in January at Manor Farm, with less effort. A similar pattern emerged in my suburban garden in Fareham, where during December 2010, 13 different robins were captured.

First-year Robin Captured at Manor Farm ©T. D. Codlin

The longevity record for the robin based on bird ringing data is 8 years 4 months and 30 days, at Manor Form the record is 5 years 106 days, so a little way to go yet.

I always find it difficult to know when to close my nets and head home, usually its when the numbers of birds captured slows down and the lure of a hearty breakfast beckons, and January 22nd was no exception. However, no sooner had we packed up, two hawfinch's dropped into the ringing area.

Classic Silhouette of a Hawfinch at Manor Farm on 22nd January ©T. D. Codlin

This is the second time I have recorded this species wintering at the site in over 30 years, the last (and first) being the winter of 2008/9. It is always nice to see such great birds at the site where I began birding many years ago, hopefully if these birds hang around I will get some better pictures to share.

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