Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mars And Venus

Saturday morning and at 5am the alarm buzzed in my ear. Fifteen minutes later I was washed, dressed and had made a flask of coffee for the 40 minute journey to meet Andy at Oakenclough. 

By six there was zero wind and a few spots of rain. The rain was nothing to worry about as it quickly petered out and left perfect conditions for ringing. Once gain the ringing was very subdued with nothing in the way of migrants as the weather south of here continues to block migration. 

We ringed just 14 birds of 4 species - 8 Goldfinch, 3 Chaffinch, 2 Coal Tit, 1 Robin. For this time of year it is quite unusual that we caught zero Lesser Redpoll or Siskin today. Even the two Siskins we saw were probably fairly local wintering birds. 

The male symbol ♂ is the astrological symbol for Mars and the female symbol ♀ is the astrological symbol for Venus. Of the three small finches it’s the Goldfinch that is the harder to sex. While male and female Redpolls and male and female Siskins are quite different in their respective looks, the distinction between boy and girl Goldfinches is less obvious. 

To decide ♂ or ♀ Goldfinch we use the amount and shape of the patch of red feathering above and behind the eye combined with the colour of the nasal hairs. Wing length is an additional aid to sexing with a boy wing mostly longer than the girl equivalent, despite some mid-range overlap. The often slightly larger overall dimensions of a male can carry over to the bill whereby the bill of a larger male can be strikingly long. 

None of the above methods are of much use in the field and certainly not in the autumn with moulting adults or brown juveniles that lack any head colouration. 




A local person we saw this morning today told of two regular Siskins on his own garden feeders. He knows of a nearby bird enthusiast and a garden well stocked with feeders that holds many more Siskins, Chaffinches and even a handful of Bramblings. The latter species has been very scarce during this Lancashire winter. 



Apart from the ubiquitous Goldfinch The best I can do in my own garden at the moment is a couple of wary Tree Sparrows that come to snatch a few grains of millet and an equally shy Stock Dove.   

Tree Sparrow


“Otherwise Birding” today consisted of watching a pair of Sparrowhawks in display, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Mistle Thrush 1 Raven and 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Linking today to Stewart's World Birds and Anni's Birding.


Jenn Jilks said...

Our birds are pretty limited these days. Other than the eagle pair last month. THTA was exciting.
Excellent teaching post.
(ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

Angie said...

When I first read the title, I thought "what is Phil up to now?" And a few minutes later, I am educated! I have to say, I am a little jealous that you can be up and out the door in 15 minutes! Hope your ringing numbers go up soon.

David Gascoigne said...

Thanks for the goldfinch seminar, Phil!

Stewart M said...

Tree sparrows are a decent garden tick in my opinion! I loved seeing birds like goldfinch in the hand.

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Betty Crow said...

The goldfinch is much more colorful that the ones around here. A real beauty!

Stuart Price said...

Didn't even know you could 'sex' Goldfinches..........

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Very informative and great photos. Thank you for the little trip outside.

Cathy Keller said...

Thank you for sharing your photos! They are really remarkable! Have a grand week!

Kay L. Davies said...

"boy and girl Goldfinches" — I love that, Phil!
The goldfinches are beautiful but I have a soft spot for sparrows of any kind.
And the Mars and Venus connection is fascinating.
Hugs from here, to you and yours! (Do I remember correctly...grandchildren in the neighbourhood?)
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

NC Sue said...

I'm always surprised when I hear you refer to a bird by a name we use on both continents, and yet the birds look completely different. Our goldfinches have no red at all.
Thanks for sharing at

NC Sue said...

I'm always surprised when I find you referring to a bird by the same name as one across the pond that looks nothing like yours. Your robins and goldfinches look completely unrelated to ours!
Thanks for sharing at

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Would love to bird somewhere near your patch. Those beautiful goldfinch ... and every bird you saw really.

mick said...

It is always a treat to me to see these little birds so close and in such detail. Before this they have just been names in a book to me, Thanks!

Russell Jenkins said...

A really nice description of your identification efforts, Phil. I'm sure if you saw my nasal hair in the field you'd ID me as male. Very interesting and helpful, thank you.

Lady Fi said...

Wonderful shots of the goldfinches!

Rhodesia said...

Interesting info on the Goldfinch, I must take a closer look at ours in the garden. Have a good day Diane

Wally Jones said...

Your severe winter seems to be delaying migration a bit but at least you were able to get out for a bit.
Very interesting discussion on sexing. I'm lost in that world unless the species are dimorphic.
Our weather here has been "too" good. I think many migrants are using the clear nights to return northward. Although, resident bird activity, including returning migrants who breed here, has been increasing daily.

I remain to lazy too blog about it!

Thank you, Phil, for the very refreshing ringing report!

Lowcarb team member said...

Such an informative post Phil, and good for you for getting up so early.
Some great photographs too, I love seeing the different colours and markings of the birds.

With Easter just around the corner I wish you a happy one.

All the best Jan

A Colorful World said...

I didn't know about the male and female symbols being Mars and Venus! And oh how hard it must be for you to determine which gender certain birds are! You are a very fast "up and at'em" morning person, by the way! :-) I loved the Goldfinch closeups!

Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil!:) I declare, your bird photographs are more beautiful each time I visit. Love those Goldfinches, but I have a soft spot for the sparrows.:) Have a Happy Easter!:)

Anu said...

Hello Phil. The really interesting post. Thank you.

Related Posts with Thumbnails