Saturday 31st was a real mixed bag that started with a look thorough my moth trap and finished with a bit of bird ringing in the garden. It has been a few days since I was last able to run my moth trap, which unfortunately also coincided with the weather returning to a more seasonal cold and overcast type, which sadly the catch reflected. Only 22 moths of five species were captured, but that did included three Oak Beauty's and an Early Grey, the latter being the first for the year.
It was then off to Botley Wood for some bird ringing and hopefully the chance to catch some new arrivals....but alas that was not the case. In fact ringing was pretty poor with only four new birds captured, although one of those was a new Chiffchaff.
|Pollen Encrusted forehead of Chiffchaff|
This bird was clearly a migrant that had wintered in warmer climes since it had pollen encrusted around its bill and on its forehead, and there isn't mush of that around in the UK in the winter. This bird had also lost half of its tail, presumably during migration since it was nearly half regrown. The old half of the tail, was not particularly heavily abraded, although some chips were present, and the feathers were broad and rounded, so based on my experience last week, I was included to age this bird as an adult. All of the wing feathers were of the same generation too, which tended to back that up.
|Tail of Chiffchaff|
A retrap Robin, was not a pretty site, since this bird too had lost a load of feathers, this time around its head, which apparently is usually a result of an infestation of feather mites or the bird being diseased...poor thing.
This bird was originally captured as a first year bird in May 2011, so I knew that it was an adult bird which would have undergone a post breeding moult at the end of last summer. It was therefore interesting to see the presence of some pointed tail feathers mixed in with the adult ones. These feathers were fairly broad and all of the same generation, except for one which was still regrowing, therefore would have been replaced last autumn....I think this is another example of being cautious when ageing Robins.
|Tail of Adult Robin|
Whilst waiting by my car for the next net round I noticed the surface of the water in a ditch next to where I had parked rippling, and a strange white ball moving around rapidly under the water. So I sat for a while watching it before figuring out what was going on, a Water Shrew was running along under the overhang of the ditch, before darting into the water to hunt beneath its surface. With the water being so clear it was possible to watch it feed beneath the surface, which was amazing. It was possible to see that when beneath the surface the shrews whole body was enclosed within an air bubble, which is why it looked like a white ball! It was a strange beast that reminded me of a miniature Duck-billed Platypus beneath the surface. Unfortunately the shrew was moving so quickly there was no chance of a photo, but below is a picture of its ditch.
|Water Shrew Ditch|
With the ringing proving to be so poor it was time to close the nets and go for a stroll, Slow-worm's were slow and lethargic due to the lack of any sun to bask in.....
..................and invertebrates were slow and approachable, which was ideal for grabbing a few pics for later identification. Eupeodes corollae (if I have id'd it correctly) is one of the commonest hoverfly species of open habitats and its numbers are often swelled by migration and/or mass emergence in late summer.
It was back home for the afternoon and after a bit of uncustomary DIY, I opened a net for the last few hours of daylight. Three new birds was all that was on offer, two Greenfinchs and an adult Wood Pigeon.
|Scary Eyed Wood Pigeon|
Wood Pigeons are pretty much at plague proportions around my area and are very unpopular with garden bird feeders due to the large amounts of food they consume. This individual was obviously not expecting my net to be open, and I think I was lucky not to end up with a big hole in my North Ron Super Fine!