Monday, 5 May 2014

Botley Wood Bird Ringing Again - May 2014

I have now found six common nightingale territories in the vicinity of my Botley Wood study area, so I decided that much of the bank holiday weekend would be spent trying to catch some. The weekend started well with a second new bird of the year caught at a previously unused or unknown location. Unlike the first bird of the year, this bird was a bit more tricky to age, at first glance there were no obvious pale tips to the wing feather coverts, thereby suggesting it was an adult. However on closer inspection a pale covert tip was present on the outermost greater covert, so I aged this bird as a 5.

Common Nightingale - the second new bird of the year

Unfortunately, the good start to the weekend did not continue as this was the only nightingale caught, but at least I did get to colour ring this one. Since my last ringing session, there has been a mass arrival of garden warblers, with a least six males on territory. Despite my nets being located in many of their territories only one bird was trapped and ringed.

Garden Warbler - Botley Wood

Typically adult and juvenile garden warblers undergo a complete winter moult and therefore it is not be possible to age them in the spring. Common whitethroats were also much more evident, with at least four territories present. Three birds were trapped during the session, one new bird and two retraps, one that was ringed in May 2013 and one that was ringed in May 2012. 

Adult Male Common Whitethroat

Ageing and sexing common whitethroats in the spring can be problematic for anything other than an adult male. This bird was originally ringed in May 2012 as a male bird, and therefore being two years since ringing, this bird was definitely an adult. The first give away to its age was the colour of the iris. Svensson describes the colour as orange or reddish-brown, which pretty much describes the colour of this individuals eye.

Adult Common Whitethroat 

In a male bird the throat should be white, and the crown, ash-grey, but admixed with brown, and the breast should have a pinkish flush on the breast. This bird was certainly showing a white throat and when the head feathers were raised up they were extensively grey, but this individual lacked the pinkish wash on the breast. The final feature is that the outer tail feather should be pure white, which it was on the outer web but not the inner web. There was no doubt that this bird was a male though, as on release it flew to the nearest bush a sang.

Adult Common Whitethroat Tail

By the end of the session we had ringed 20 birds which included chiffchaffs, robins, long-tailed tits, blue tits, a blackcap and a female bullfinch. After the session I went for a wander and saw that some moorhen chicks had hatched. There were two chicks and despite the best intentions of their parents they appeared not to have learnt the alarm call yet as they swam straight up to me. Unfortunately moorhen chicks have a tarsus that develops slowly and therefore when they are this small it is not possible to ring them.

Moorhen Chick

This time last year I saw both grizzled and dingy skipper, but I only saw dingy this weekend. The one individual that I saw seemed to have a deformed hindwing on one side, but it still seemed to be flying ok.

Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages

After a good start to the year at Botley Wood butterfly numbers seem to have dropped off, as this weekend I only saw four species, brimstone, orange tip, peacock and the skipper, and only singles of each.

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