Sunday, June 6, 2021

A French Bonus

Saturday. The bright, sunny, and wind-free morning was perfect for a return to the Sand Martin colony at Cockerham where a motionless mist net would be hidden in the shade of the quarry face. 

Andy and I had decided to return knowing that unlike the last visit, there would be youngsters this time.  At first we caught no young, just adults coming and going on their early morning forays. 

Very soon along came “MUSEUM PARIS” with number 8998514, an adult female. The French ringed Sand Martin was a bonus, almost certainly ringed at Loire Atlantique where the River Lore meets the Atlantic Ocean, where ringers catch large numbers of migrating Sand Martins  on their journeys to and from Africa. 

Sand Martin

An hour or so later we’d caught 31 Sand Martins - 24 new ones, 6 recaptures, and Paris 8998514. Included in the 24 new Sand Martins were 11 birds of the year (juveniles) the remainder all adults. All are now on the database and with luck we should receive details of the French ringed one from the French ringing scheme soon. 

Sand Martin - juvenile

Sand Martin - juvenile
The martins kept us both fairly busy in taking them from our single 60 foot net and then processing each one by age, sex, breeding condition, wing and weight.  

Wing lengths varied with the shortest juvenile wing length of 84mm and then up to 105, the tinier wing lengths an indication of their age. During database input three of the juveniles threw up a DemOn message as potential errors on wing length measurement. The measurements were correct  and provided a clue to the fact that the young martins were very recently fledged and yet to complete their growth to adulthood.       

Meanwhile adult wings ranged from 103 to 111mm. The eleven juveniles weighed consistently heavier than the adults so it looks like the current fine weather is producing plenty of insect food. Juveniles - 12.3gms to 14.6gms adults from 11.8gms to 13.8gms. 

There was little time for birding except to note two pairs of Oystercatcher and a single but vocal Whooper Swan, the latter a left over from winter. By rights the Whooper Swan should now be several hundred miles away in Iceland. 

Whooper Swan

A pair of Little Ringed Plovers flew in briefly but left quickly when the resident pair of Oystercatchers started throwing their weight around. We think the plovers flew off in the direction of Conder Green where at least one has been present since April without any reports of breeding success.  

Little Ringed Plover

Back home in the garden there was a nest full of 5 Greenfinch chicks at an ideal age for ringing. 

It’s good to report that around here at least Greenfinches are doing better than for a number of years. The songs and calls of Greenfinches are back on the soundtrack of garden birds and I do think we have a small colony of the species in local gardens and hedgerows. 

“Trichomonosis is the name given to a disease caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae. It has been recorded in a number of garden bird species and is widely acknowledged to be the causal factor in the rapid decline of the British Greenfinch population first noted in late summer 2006.” 

Let’s hope that Greenfinches are making a real comeback. A cause for celebration.



Wally Jones said...

I think I have had an epiphany on why I never took up bird ringing. Your descriptions of how you go about it sounds a bit like "hard work".

On a serious note, the efforts of ringers around the planet continue to add valuable data used by scientists to not only improve the lives of birds, but to advise on how to better manage the world's dwindling natural habitats.

Kudos to you, Phil, and your dedicated colleagues.

The news about the Greenfinches sounds promising!

A new week us upon us! Take good care.

italiafinlandia said...

A couple of Greenfinches spent the winter in my Finnish garden. How brave!!

eileeninmd said...

It is nice to hear good news on the Greenfinches, or any bird.
The Sand Martins and Plover are cute, love the Whooper Swan and your pretty Greenfinch.
Take care, have a happy new week!

NCSue said...

I'm always amazed to imagine how you manage to catch birds for banding. Nice shots! Thanks for sharing at

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

it's always amazing to see the birds in your hands

jp@A Green Ridge said...

You and your co-workers are diligent and are the bird adults. I've only been lucky enough to witness one bird banding (other than Eagles, of course). It was for the Saw-Whet Owls caught that night lured in by the recording of an adult male's call. To be in the field and witness such work would be beyond belief, Phil!!

Veronica Lee said...

Fabulous photos, Phil!

It's amazing how you are able to capture birds for banding.

Rhodesia said...

Interesting post especially for me knowing the Sand Martens are visiting you.
Sorry I have not been keeping up with blogging or following, just too busy in the garden during the day and in the kitchen when I move inside. I have quite a few photos that I have taken but just no time to blog them, I will get there eventually!
Meanwhile, take care and keep well, Diane

Lowcarb team member said...

Lovely to see the Greenfinch.

All the best Jan

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