Thursday, June 4, 2020

Garden Time

Monday 25 May 2020 produced a tiny catch of birds at Oakenclough during our first visit of the spring. We planned a return for this week as we knew from experience there would be more Willow Warblers and other species along pretty soon. 

Andy and I met up at 0630 to zero wind, full cloud cover and a promise of no rain. We ringed just 13 birds - 9 Willow Warbler, 2 Great Tit, 1 Blackcap and 1 Garden Warbler. 

The highlight of the morning was the last named species - yes, a Garden Warbler Sylvia borin. 

“So what’s the big deal?” I hear the cry from afar. 

Garden Warbler

The big deal is that seven or eight pairs of Garden Warblers bred in the plantation here every year until the mid-2000s when they were gradually pushed out by invasive rhododendron that overwhelmed the entire area. Other species forced out at that time included the Common Bird Ringer, Yellowhammer, Bullfinch, Tree Pipit and Lesser Redpoll. There was also a drastic reduction in the number of breeding Willow Warblers from 15/20 pairs down to single figures. 

And then in 2012/2013 the owners United Utilities (UU) invested money in trying to eliminate the rhododendron and followed it up with a replanting scheme of native species. It was a thankless and massive task that took many hours of manual labour working in difficult terrain. Even now, the evil rhododendron is attempting a come-back and will surely succeed unless UU begin an ongoing and periodic regime of destruction. 

The significance of today’s Garden Warbler is that our bird was a female in prime breeding condition; a full brood patch at this the appropriate time of year rather than the species' usual appearance as an uncommon spring or autumn migrant. Fingers crossed that we catch the corresponding male, the youngsters and that the Garden Warbler has returned. 

Garden Warbler 

Over the years 1996 to 2019 our tiny group of ringers have ringed over 370 nestling Willow Warblers at Oakenclough. During that time finding, recording and ringing the nestlings became a project in itself where no mist nets were employed and no adults caught. 

Today we chanced upon a further nest that held 6 young Willow Warblers of an ideal size for ringing. Therefore our nine Willow Warblers consisted of 3 new adults and 6 nestlings. 

Willow Warbler nest 

Willow Warbler

The single Blackcap was a new adult male, the two Great Tits recently fledged youngsters. 


Great Tit

Other birds today - 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Grey Wagtail. 15 Greylag, 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Swallow, 4 Chaffinch, 2 Goldfinch.

Linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog and Eileen's Views of Nature.


Rhodesia said...

Sounds like a pretty successful day to me, well done. Nothing dramatic here and I have not seen the owl for a week again but I hear it often. So many trees around and full of greenery that I can barely see the barn where I suspect they are!! Keep safe, Diane

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil

I was thinking your post would be your garden birds. Sounds like you had a great sightings. The Garden Warbler is a cutie. Beautiful collection of birds and photos. Have a great day and happy weekend ahead.

eileeninmd said...

BTW, the Rhododendron is not considered invasive in my area.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy birding.

Mike Attwood said...

Interesting post Phil. I did not realise the rhododendron was that bad. I have often visited Leith Hill in Surrey in the past and now I think about it there was a lack of wildlife. Stay safe. Mike.

Stevenson Q said...

My dear friend Phil! I am very very much amazed on how you hold them! I have never held a bird before ever and our patron saint on the city, Saint Francis of Assisi is always shown to have birds on his hands and shoulders and I am always amazed by it. I hope that garden warbler can can catch a nice man to breed with :) That blackcap looks very handsome I must say! Love how jet black his 'cap' is! Hugs to the coming weekend Phil!

Anu said...

Hello. Great photos. The Willow warbler nest looks interesting. This year there are a lot of blackcups in Finland.
Have a nice weekend!

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil

Beautiful photos of the birds, they are all beautiful. It is neat seeing a closeup of the nest. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your day, wishing you a great weekend.

Mae Travels said...

Very fascinating how your bird-banding (as we call it) leads to so much understanding of the environment and its challenges.

be well... mae at

Elkes Lebensglück said...

Interesting and fascinating post!!!
Greetings Elke

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I'm so happy that you found nests and were able to do some banding! I rarely see a bird's nest but I am always on the lookout! Enjoy your weekend!

Jean said...

Hope you find lots more garden warblers! Cute little birds. And the rhododendron doesn't stage a comeback. Hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

Lowcarb team member said...

I always enjoy seeing the variety of birds …
I must admit I didn't realise rhododendron were bad like that … but I do now!

Enjoy your weekend.

All the best Jan

Linda said...

Interesting post. I didn't know rhododendron could be so invasive.

Anni said...

The warbler is beautiful! And I hope that UU continues to work for their population to make it a success story!
You sharing this post with us at I'd Rather B Birdin this week is much appreciated!

Adam Jones said...

Very good news on the Garden Warbler Phil. Hopefully they can sustain a successful return before the rhododendron overwhelms their breeding area. Never an easy bird to find by sight, but I've seen more this year than in any other year. That may be due to me walking and listening more during lockdown.

Wally Jones said...

First, it's wonderful to read your post which seems like a "normal" day in the life of the UK's premier ringer.

How good to have found a Garden Warbler with the hope of more to come! Any chance of UU allowing volunteers to help in land maintenance? Better question: any chance of recruiting able-bodied volunteers for such hard work?

Fantastic find on the Willow Warbler nest and successful ringing of the family!

We've been quite wet this week as Tropical Storm Cristobal moved northward through the Gulf of Mexico. No complaints. We need the rain.

A new week is upon us already! More birding just around the bend ...

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

This is great news. Thanks to you I learned something today. I didn't know what "ringing" meant birdwise. Fortunately my friend Mr. Google filled me in.

Fun60 said...

Good news on the warbler front. I have watched great tits flying from tree to tree most days during lockdown.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

The garden warbler is a cutie for sure.

NCSue said...

I always enjoy seeing your photos and learning about the birds on your side of the water. Thanks for sharing at

Lady Fi said...

Sweet shots.

EricaSta said...

Thank you for sharing, Phil. Great captures for Our World on Tuesday.

Stay healthy.

My Post

Traveler In Me said...

A good day indeed. Especially the sighting of the Garden Warbler which is a sign of hope.

Native plants and trees must be encouraged as others do become invasive and do not fit well in the eco system of the area.

Related Posts with Thumbnails