The BBC forecast for Sunday morning wasn’t too good. By “not too good” I mean inaccurate, and despite the promise of rain I managed to squeeze a few hours ringing out of the dry, bright and calm morning before rain appeared about 10am. The temperature remained at close to 1⁰C for most of the morning in what’s shaping up to be the coldest March for a number of years.
There was the usual stuff, just four species caught 12 new birds - 5 Goldfinch, 3 Reed Bunting, 2 Brambling and 2 Chaffinch. In addition there were 7 recaptures of 5 Goldfinch and 2 Reed Bunting.
The winter ringing totals of new birds Nov to March for those four species at this feeding station now stands at 85 Chaffinch, 60 Brambling, 54 Reed Bunting and 45 Goldfinch. There has been exactly the same catching effort given to all species and the figures show how there is a constant turnover of birds at feeding stations, or indeed in any location where birds feed, whether gardens or farmland situations like this one.
Perhaps most surprising of the above figures is the closeness of the Chaffinch and Brambling totals given their normal and relative abundance, even in years of immigration from Europe. Perhaps this is an indication of how many Bramblings remained undetected in the mixed flocks feeding on the stubble fields of recent months? There were large congregations of finches which upon only casual examination, and given the difficulty in observing them closely for more than a minute or two before the birds took flight, may have appeared to be Chaffinches only.
Of course even a brief view of a departing Brambling doesn’t always reveal the white rump. And a partly hidden finch shape in the top of a tall tree on a grey winter’s day doesn’t always expose the orange tones of a Brambling, more so if it’s an inconspicuous female.
Many Goldfinches are now in immaculate breeding plumage, even as others retain the last of their buff, juvenile head colouration or display last year’s tail.
Goldfinch - second calendar year
Goldfinch - last year's tail
There was another hint of returning Goldfinches today with a couple of older recaptures from previous breeding seasons: also nearby a flock of 40+ Linnets, a species which has been conspicuous by its absence this winter.
Birding-wise the morning was unremarkable, perhaps the most noteworthy being a gang of approximately 90 Fieldfares heading strongly North East. Others: 1 Barn Owl at dawn, 1 Sparrowhawk, 5 Yellowhammer, 2 Corn Bunting, 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers, 4 Buzzard, 35 Woodpigeon, 2 Stock Dove at a nest hole again.
The Stock Dove picture is for Anni, a pal in the USA.
There’s no permanent ringing station here on the moss. There's just the parcel shelf of a hatchback with no Agas or steaming kettles, not a heater in sight, nowhere to warm your icy feet, and absolutely no creature comforts apart from a poorly made flask of rapidly cooling coffee. And it’s hell having to look at all those wonderful birds up close. Honest.
The Ringing Hut
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