Sunday, 20 September 2009

Holme Pierrepont - Saturday 19 September

About time too. The wind-free day we had been waiting for finally came - and what a glorious morning it was. We put up 14 nets and things were slow to begin with, but luckily this was not a sign of things to come. Flocks were active until at least 13:00h and we even found some Long-tailed Tits. We finished on 127 birds (including 15 retraps) and as one would expect, of this total >90% were young birds. The breakdown was as follows:
37 Blackcap
18 Long-tailed Tit
13 Chiffchaff
8 Great Tit
7 Dunnock
7 Robin
7 Blue Tit
7 Reed Bunting
5 Blackbird
4 Bullfinch
3 Chaffinch
2 Great Spotted Woodpecker
2 Song Thrush
2 Reed Warbler
1 Kingfisher
1 Wren
1 Garden Warbler
1 Lesser Whitethroat
1 Spotted Flycatcher

So apart from Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, summer migrants are now very much on the wane. Many of the Blackcaps had fat scores of 4 and 5 and were clearly either on the move or about to leave. At the other extreme, we are still catching Blackcaps that have only just started their post-juvenile moult. Below is an interesting young male bird. It had virtually completed its post-juvenile moult and yet it still showed extensive brown in its crown. These feathers were definitely post-juvenile as some still had sheath at the base. All were black at the base and the brown was in fact a broad fringe.

Otherwise it was a normal juvenile bird and below you can see the single old greater covert in the wing and a couple of faint fault bars across the pointed tail. One of the highlights of the morning was a young Spotted Flycatcher. Although we occasionally ring chicks in the nest at certain sites, catching free-flying birds is not even an annual event these days. For those of us who remember how common this bird once was it seems strange and not a little sad that we are now at the stage where they have become such a rarity. Note the spotting on the greater coverts which is the most obvious clue to its age.
It was in amongst a large mixed flock which also contained Long-tailed Tits. It's interesting to note that although we caught 18 of these, they were in several small flocks and we have still yet to catch or see what one thinks of as a typical big flock (20+) this year.

Other crowd-pleasers included 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a young male Kingfisher. Note the all black bill (no orange base to the lower mandible) and generally blueish (not greenish-blue) colour of the upperparts which enable us to sex it. Aging is based on the brownish (not bright orange) feet and a few remaining dark scallops on the breast.
Michael was out for the first time with us today. Not a bad start! (Note Kingfishers have a habit of lying still for several seconds before flying away suddenly.)Away from the nets things had a very Autumnal feel. As we walked up in the dark about 45 Wigeon whistled overhead and through the morning Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal all put in an appearance. Black-headed Gull numbers have shot up, Meadow Pipits were more obvious too with perhaps 40 or 50 over in small flocks and a couple of Snipe were the first for a little while. Lastly, once the sun came out 3 Buzzards drifted over.

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