Sunday, 18 November 2012

Winter Bird Ringing - 18th November 2012

With the autumn migration pretty much over, bird ringing at the usual ringing area at Titchfield Haven has now finished. Typically that would be the end of ringing at the Haven for me and I would move to other sites, but this year there is a back up plan in place. Over the last couple of years a nearby field has been sow with Quinoa, the crop failed last year due to the dry weather, but this year the crop did very well, and subsequently a decent crop of bird food is present.

Field of Quinoa

Over the last few weeks the numbers of reed buntings present have steadily increased to the point where over 100 were present, so we thought we would try and catch them. The weather was amazing this morning, a crisp, clear, still and frosty morning, so we met up early to set the nets before first light. The weather conditions were ideal for bird ringing and as the sun got up the birds began to arrive, reed buntings were first, followed by brambling, lesser redpoll, chaffinch and bullfinch.

Female Reed Bunting

The session began well, with a handful of reed buntings, a dunnock and chaffinch. Sexing reed buntings is generally straight forward since male birds have white visible in the collar, a largely olive or greyish rump, a black band on throat feathers and around two-thirds of each crown feather is black. But despite handling quite a few reed buntings some of them can be quite tricky to age.

Juvenile Type Tail Feathers

Adult birds usually moult completely post breeding and replace both wing and tail feathers from the end of July to September. Adults therefore tend to have fresh primary tips and tail feathers, whereas juveniles are worn, in addition the feathers in juvenile birds are narrow and pointed. However, the variability in the pointedness of tail features and extent of abrasion on individual birds is great. The image above shows juvenile type features, they are pointed and worn, whereas the tail below has broad and rounded tail feathers that show little wear and therefore are indicative of an adult bird.

Adult Type Tail Feathers

The session was going well and it was not long before we had ringed over 20 reed buntings, four chaffinch's, two dunnock a robin and a superb adult male common kestrel. This bird was in fantastic condition, and looked stunning with his grey head, and tail with its black sub-terminal band.

Adult Male Common Kestrel

An interesting footnote for this blog is the re-capture of a reed bunting that I ringed in my garden on 11th March 2012. This bird was re-trapped at Titchfield Haven on 30th October at Titchfield Haven, not a massive movement but still its always nice to have one of your birds controlled.

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