Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Surprise Surprise!

On Tuesday I met Andy at 0600 for our first ringing session at Oakenclough since early spring, an unproductive period for ringing when the weather was predominately cool and wet.  We don’t normally head up to the hills until a little later when real autumn migration begins rather than the summer time of post-breeding dispersal.  The post-breeding species list can be rather short here at 800 metres above sea-level but increases substantially when finches and thrushes from further north begin to appear. 

But with recent good weather and signs of a productive breeding season we decided to give it a go. This proved a good decision as the morning became very interesting with a catch of 40 new birds. We had zero recaptures from previous visits. 

When we arrived all seemed quiet with little no bird song or even contact calls but as both the sun rose and the temperature gauge climbed we began to catch with a morning dominated by warblers. 

We finished soon after 1100 with a catch of 40 birds of 12 species: 11 Blackcap, 9 Willow Warbler, 2 Garden Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 5 Chaffinch, 2 Robin, 2 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit, 1 Treecreeper, 3 Wren and 1 Tawny Owl. 

Willow Warbler 




The biggest surprise of the morning came with a Tawny Owl languishing in the bottom panel of the mist net at 10 0’clock, a time when all Tawny Owls should be tucked away and fast asleep. Upon examination and measuring we ascertained that the owl was a juvenile born this year. A wing length of 265mm and a weight of 335 grams determined a male; a female is bigger than the corresponding male. 

 Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl 

We no longer catch many Garden Warblers so it was good to catch two. There was one adult male Garden Warbler and a juvenile, which is far from proof of breeding on site, but possibly so. 

Garden Warbler 

Garden Warbler

Garden Warblers bred here at Okenclough on an annual basis until the late 1990s when invasive rhododendron overran the landscape of bramble, bracken, bilberry and hawthorn. Slowly but relentlessly the site became unsuitable for a number of species like Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Tree Pipit and Garden Warbler, and they were pushed out by the all-conquering intruder. The rhododendron beat us too and we were forced to abandon the site in 1997.   

Then in 2012/13 the land owners North West Water began a programme of rhododendron clearance and replanting of native species whereby, and after an absence of many years, we returned to the site in 2014. 

Since then we have captured almost 3900 birds including two Garden Warblers in 2018 and now two more in 2019.  It would be nice to think that Garden Warblers have returned for good as the site is now suitable for them. Time will tell.

Linking today to Anni's Blog and Eileen's Saturday Blog.


natalia20041989 said...

Those first ones are especially cute! Have a lovely day:)

eileeninmd said...


I did not know the rhododendron was invasive there. I am glad they have a program to clear the land of the invasive plants. Beautiful birds, I love the Owl. Great photos. Have a great day!

italiafinlandia said...

Nice to hear good news from your report.
The shots of the baby birds are always lovely to see... the Robin in particular.
Have a good weekend with many captures!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Good morning Phil: You had a first rate morning of banding with a nice range of species, but I am sure that the star of the show would have been the Tawny Owl. I cannot even imagine visiting the nets to find an owl there! I hope this successful morning's work is an augury of a productive season ahead.

JP @ A Quiet Corner said...

When a species makes a "comeback" it is always a "feel good" for those who care...:)jp

Rhodesia said...

Wow, it does sound like a successful day. I am amazed though that you caught the Tawny Owl, a youngster that still has a few things to learn me thinks 😉
The only ringing I ever did was with my Veterinarian boss in Rhodesian days and we always had nets across part of a dam to catch waterbirds.
Have a good day Diane

Sami said...

The Tawny owl is so cute.
Great work!

eileeninmd said...


The Tawny owl is so cute and I love the pretty Goldcrest. Looks like a great ringing day. Beautiful birds and photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your day and weekend.

sandyland said...

can't keep food out now whistler ducks , yard birds and sandhill cranes

Bob Bushell said...

Fantastic birds, they are precious. I love the Garden Warbler.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

The Tawny Owl is just precious! I showed the photo to my hubby just now and we are still oooohing and aaaahhhing! Enjoy your weekend!

Lowcarb team member said...

Well, that certainly was a successful day.
Loved seeing all of your photographs, especially the Tawny Owl.

Enjoy the weekend.

All the best Jan

Anni said...

They don't call me hootin' anni for nothing! That owl...oh that owl. I would have been over the moon with joy!! All your finds, ringing...a very GOOD day.

Have a beautiful week ahead, and thanks for joining us at I'd Rather B Birdin'.

Angie said...

Phil - so pleased for you that you had a successful ringing session. The Tawny Owl looks a bit sleepy, if I am allowed to draw a human parallel! I don't think I have ever seen a close-up of an owl's talon - impressive, to say the least!

NCSue said...

You always share such fascinating information, and photos are a delight.
Thanks for sharing at

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