Sunday, 31 January 2010

Mighty Hunter thwarted by Nimrod

Now David lives at the Nursery and in Nov 2008 was still sleeping when I put the nets up. The modest first round brought the site's first Brambling and expecting it to be first of several it was it was processed and released. David arrived vowing revenge. It was the only Brambling of the winter (!) and until last week there have been no regular sightings in 'our' part of Woodford just north east of the AVRO factory (British Aerospace in modern parlance). On Saturday David was poised with the whoosh net trigger like 'tail end Charlie' in a WW2 Lancaster waiting for the one Brambling and a Meadow Pipit to move a couple of feet into the catching zone, when the silence was shattered by an RAF Nimrod taking to the skies. No Brambling. It was a lack lustre weekend with only Bullfinch (Jan total 36 birds) reaching double figures. Fieldfares and Redwing reappeared in a pre-roost assembly of about 40 birds so the whoosh net moved back into Richard's orchard on Sunday. In an inch of early morning snow the thrushes were very reluctant to feed, but eventually David fired on a single Fieldfare and just managed to keep the female Sparrowhawk from having it for breakfast. This was the second attempt to take a bird from the whoosh net with David, out of the hide, only a few feet from the birds. Nimrod is yet one more excuse for poor catches.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Nursery Boys fight back

Margaret is not happy. Well she lives up this track at Dobcross and got stuck in the snow as we made our modest contribution to the Fieldfare totals. What can one say? Michael on the other hand, lured by Kane's offer of a few Coot and group first Tufted Duck, took his eye of the ball a little and gave the Nursery Boys a bit of elbow room. The Greenfinches have moved on, the Fieldfares have moved on, so our three nets 9m, 4m, and 12m whoosh were aimed eagerly at our priority species Reed Bunting. Unlike Michael down in Alderley Edge with a dozen or so, we had rarely seen more than three, but last Saturday was a bit different. We ringed nine (and a retrap) and followed this up with two more on Sunday. Now The Prof writing in the Cheshire and Wirral Atlas would have us believe that he has them all at Runcorn, apart from when he lets a few go to either Woolston or the coast; so how come two dozen are slumming it in the north east of the county when we don't even have a dot on our tetrad in the Winter distribution map? In addition we ringed seven new Bullfinches (thirteen for the year so far), six Goldfinches, five Lesser Redpolls and eleven Siskins. For our sins David pulled the trigger on four Wood Pigeons, before the flock descended (!), and demonstrated his handling skills by nearly let one fly up his nose: He has seen the error of his ways and realised that a pane of glass in a greenhouse just might not hold a fleeing 550 gram bird.
Of more interest to Jake was the fact that on release every Reed Bunting flew directly to the small phragmites bed, in contrast to the tits which headed for the wood and the Blackbirds for the laurel hedge. Our haul of two Song Thrushes was equal to our whole 2009 total, but having ringed eleven Jays since the middle of October it was a surprise not to add to the total. 77 birds processed on Saturday was only 7 short of our daily best tally for the site.
News of our exploits brought Nev, Justin, and Clive along on Sunday, and although we failed to repeat the performance 25 new and 37 retraps added one or two 'old friends' to our year's total.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Ice Station Woodford

With a night time temperature just two degrees above that at the South Pole and early morning showing minus 16 inside the greenhouses all the apples in the orchard were frozen solid and the thrushes were busy looking for freshly chopped bits in the nearby gardens. Meanwhile we had given away half of our non-frozen supply to the Shelter Belt Boys, who began to rub our noses in it. Firstly Michael had 8 Reed Buntings in a small cleared patch in his back lawn and beat our 2009 total in a morning, then followed this up with a session with Hugh in sunny Great Warford with a 96 bird total including 21 Greenfinches, 21 Blackbirds, 10 Fieldfare, and 7 Mistle Thrushes of which 4 including a retrap were in one of the two nets deployed.
The Nursery Boys looked on in envy.

YT, DH, JG, MM and HP

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Fieldfares at the Nursery

NE Cheshire is not the most inspiring place for bird ringing in the summer as our total of 12 warblers out of 1118 new birds in 2009 shows. In winter however things are a bit better with a couple of decent roosts round the Nursery holding 1000+ finches and 100 or so thrushes. A couple of snowfalls and minus 6 Celsius temperatures saw us leaving the Lesser Redpolls to get on with the nijer seed as we tried for the thrushes. The cleanest surface for the whoosh net was on the bungalow front lawn, but only the Blackbirds were regularly on the feed line. A constant stream of shouting dogwalkers and their barking friends and the clatter of car doors from the next door neighbours had the Redwings and Fieldfares leaping into the treetops before they could settle onto our chopped apples, and we had two near misses only to show for a few mornings' effort. Next door down the track towards the airfield Richard has a large bungalow with an old orchard behind and Richard kindly let us have a go there. The ground was covered with hundreds of windfalls but with most of them covered with snow the Fieldfares were squabbling over the spoils in front of the net. In spite of a few small technical problems, over a couple of days, we ringed 13 new Fieldfares and retrapped one. The retrap had lost 3 grams in weight overnight showing how hard life can be at this time of year; they can now have a few days to put their weight back on before we try again.
Together with the total from the Great Warford Shelter Best boys we have 10% of our group's 43 year Fieldfare total, and Jake and Clive finally had an opportunity to sex and age them.