Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Back In The Hills

2020 was a frustrating year of stop-start ringing at our site Oakenclough, situated at the western edge of the backbone of England, the Pennine Hills.  The year was one of consistently poor weather – cold, wet and windy with a distinct lack of sunshine. The poor weather coupled with the many non-visits caused by lockdowns resulted in ringing totals below our pre-Covid projections at the beginning of the New Year. 

Despite these setbacks we managed a creditable total of 679 captures, 619 new and 60 recaptures (subsequent) birds. The most ringed species Meadow Pipit, followed by Willow Warbler and Redwing a close third. Prior to today the last visit to Oakenclough was on 26 November 2020. Below is a table of the birds caught and one that shows the range of species in a typical year, early spring to December.


Above - 2020 at Oakenclough

This morning and for our first time in 2021 we hoped to catch early migrant species such as Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Meadow Pipit. (“Mipits” as they are named by students of visible migration.). Mipits have been migrating north this week - see Arnside and Silverdale Blogspot.

With luck today we might expect to also capture both Lesser Redpolls and Siskins, two species strangely absent during 2020.

I met Andy at the unearthly hour of 0600 in the half light of a dull cloudy morning. We left at 1130 after a rather slow session and 18 birds caught: 9 Goldfinch, 4 Meadow Pipit, 2 Robin, 1 Dunnock, 1 Chaffinch and 1 Long-tailed Tit.

Although we caught four Meadow Pipits their northward movement was far from obvious, best described as a “dribble” of some 15/20 individuals all morning. Meadow Pipits' diurnal migration in spring takes place from mid March through to mid April and often takes place high in the sky, out of range of human vision; almost certainly, our 15/20 was an underestimate of true numbers, even at this, the early days of their migration.

Meadow Pipit

It was good to see Goldfinches again, a species difficult to find of late. Unlike most years, Goldfinches have been absent from my own garden for months, returning only in the last week or so. So too Greenfinches, already prospecting our conifers where they nested last year.


Today's Dunnock, a first winter female, still carried last year's tail. The tail bore evidence of a period of poor nutrition during the nesting period of 2020.

Dunnock's tail - March 2021


Even in the hand a Robin will display their red breast to best effect in case the ringer is a rival.


If Lesser Redpolls and Siskins were around today, we didn't see or hear any. Nor Chiffchaffs or Goldcrests.  All the more reason to try again soon.  

Linking today to Eileen's Blogspot and Anni in Texas.


Mike Attwood said...

Very interesting Phil. Some of the birds you mention have been absent from my patch for two years. Its nice to know that they are somewhere. Stay safe.

Angie said...

Your goldfinches are so handsome, and I love your robins as well - the size makes them more adorable than the American Robins!

Rhodesia said...

Odd that we have suddenly had an 'invasion' of Goldfinches and Greenfinches having nor seen then for about 3 years! 'Our' Dunnock is so shy I very seldom see it (I only ever see one) but it is around.
Good luck with this years ringing, cheers Diane

Wally Jones said...

The Meadow Pipit's handsome streaking is similar to our two Pipit species (American and Sprague's). The former is common in winter migration, the latter almost never reported here.

Surely the decline in reporting/ringing this year is somewhat due to less birders/ringers afield due to the plague?

Here's hoping we all experience improvement by year's end - or sooner!

I almost didn't read your post as I got hung up on that Barn Owl perched atop the page. Fabulous bird superbly photographed!

italiafinlandia said...

your header image is great!
I truly envy... :)

eileeninmd said...


Your numbers seem good to me, 619 "new" birds tagged. I love your Robin and the pretty Goldfinch. Beautiful photos and birds. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, enjoy your day! Have a happy weekend!

Shiju Sugunan said...

Such fascinating beauties!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

You've done very well considering the challenges this year. Your Goldfinch and Robin are more colorful than ours! Very beautiful photos. We have dozens of Goldfinches at our feeders this morning..oh happy day!

Anni said...

Being such a strange year for all, I think your numbers are impressive. Well done. All the time, such frustrating circumstances, the birds wait for no man. Right? Just have positive thoughts & outcome, we'll get past this.
I want to send you my thanks for sharing this week. Happy Birding!!

Lowcarb team member said...

Well done, with Covid things have not been easy or straightforward.
Lovely pictures here but my favourite bird is the robin.

All the best Jan

Related Posts with Thumbnails