Monday, 26 March 2012

A Room with a View and Botley Wood

Well you will have probably realised from my lack of posting over the last week that I have not had much to write about, which in part was due to me being stuck up in the Docklands part of  London manning a stand at the Excel Exhibition Centre, and also because I have been very busy with other things recently. The exhibition was Ecobuild, which was very interesting, as I got to meet some very interesting people and at the same time got to see some of the latest attempts to make development greener. I was based on the biodiversity pavilion and got to meet representatives from the Bat Conservation Trust, Swift Conservation and The Wildlife Trusts as well as numerous general visitors. As you may well have guessed, there were not many birds to see around the centre, other than hundreds of Feral Pigeons. Breaks were few and far between, but I was able to do a little bit of birding in the morning from the window of my accommodation. My room was on the eighth floor which gave me great views over the soon to be Olympic Village, from my window I managed to see a Pied Wagtail, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull and a Carrion Crow....oh yes nearly forgot, and more Feral Pigeons!!

The Olympic Village

As you can imagine, on returning home I was pretty keen to get out, and so returned to Botley Wood for a bit of ringing. The weather this past week was amazing and the warmer temperatures have certainly brought things on. Butterflies were evident, with Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell recorded, along with my first Slender Groundhopper and Green Tiger Beetle of the year.

Slender Groundhopper

There also appeared to have been a mass arrival of Chiffchaffs as they were singing everywhere, so it was hardly surprising that I caught one. Interestingly though, this bird was a retrap that was originally captured in July 2011, whilst undergoing its post breeding moult.

Adult Male Chiffchaff

Knowing that this bird was an adult gave me the ideal opportunity to look at its features and make sure I know how to age them. So, the first thing to remember is that both adult and juvenile birds undergo a partial moult in the winter, which may involve the replacement of tertials, but will never involve the replacement of the primaries and secondaries in sequence. According to Svensson (1992), due to the durable quality of adult feathers, both primary and tail feathers should be well kept, dark grey and glossy, and the tips of the primary converts broad and neatly edged greenish.

Adult Chiffchaff Wing
Well, the primary tips were chipped and bleached but were not excessively worn, and the primary coverts were broad, rounded and neatly edged green. In addition the tertials were very fresh, thereby indicating that they had been replaced on the wintering grounds.

Adult Chiffchaff Tail

The tail feathers were also broad, rounded, dark and generally in good condition, although the outer tail feathers were more abraded. So an interested exercise, hopefully I will catch a first year bird next week for comparison.

Another species which was very obvious was the Bullfinch. I must have seen at least six different birds, all of course in pairs, before eventually catching a stunning adult male. This bird was immaculate and a real treat to handle, seeming to be completely unperturbed by the ringing experience.

Adult Male Bullfinch

Just as I was leaving I noticed a Long-tailed Tit nest in a bush by the gate. Contractors working at the site have been clearing back vegetation, which seems a ridiculous thing to be doing in the bird breeding season. They had obviously noticed this nest, and highlighted its location, then cleared all the vegetation from around it leaving it completely exposed in a narrow strip of vegetation. I popped my finger into the entrance and could feel at least five eggs, I suspect that if the birds are still using this nest, the resident magpies will feast on the chicks as they get bigger!

Long-tailed Tit Nest

It would have been nice to think that whoever had cleared back the vegetation would have had the commonsense to leave a bit of cover for these birds.....but sadly that was not the case!!

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