In The Garden: Saturday, 18th September 2021

I was not planning to ring in the garden this morning: I was hoping for a session at Ravensroost Meadows luring for Swallows and House Martins, but my car had other ideas and burned the clutch out as I returned from setting up a couple of feeders at Lower Moor Farm for next week’s ringing demonstration last Thursday. Quite astonishingly, although the instantly recognisable stink of a failing clutch kicked in as I left the site, I managed to get the car home and parked up in its usual position before the clutch failed completely. Now the pedal goes to the floor and won’t return, so the gears can’t engage. My friendly local mechanic will, hopefully, have it fixed before next weekend.

As a result, I decided to set up in the garden. Just 2 x 6m nets, one either side of the feeder set up: an arch feeder support with 2 x Sunflower Hearts; 1 x Fat Balls feeders (X1 on the diagram) and 1 x Peanuts (X2 in the apple tree). This is my setup:

The nets are red 1 and 2. Interestingly, only net 1 caught any of the birds. I did notice flocks of Goldfinch flying in and out but their ascent and descent has been virtually vertical, so I have caught a few, but only a fraction of what is actually coming in to the garden.

This was my favourite catch of the morning:

Collared Dove juvenile

Since the ringing group came into its current structure, at the beginning of 2013, we have ringed only 6 Collared Doves: 2 in Andy Palmer’s garden in Warminster and 4 in my Purton garden. It isn’t that they aren’t common, they are, but they are very good at getting out of mist nets. This is a juvenile: the iris is a dark brown colour, which is a diagnostic feature.

Apart from that, a number of Woodpigeons managed to blunder into the nets. One key feature of the Merlin nets I use in my garden: they are strong enough to hold these heavy birds without ripping: they all weighed in at just under half a kilogram. All three were juveniles: but one was very young. As you can see from the photograph, it doesn’t yet have its white collar:

Woodpigeon juvenile

The rest of the catch was as expected: Blue and Great Tits and Goldfinch, as follows: Woodpigeon [3]; Collared Dove [1]; Blue Tit 2[12](4); Great Tit [2]; Goldfinch 3[8]. Totals: 5 adults ringed from 2 species, 26 juveniles ringed from 5 species and 4 birds retrapped from 1 species, making 35 birds processed from 5 species.

There were actually 27 juveniles processed. One of the Blue Tit retraps was a juvenile ringed just 6 days ago in my session at Blakehill Farm. Some post-fledging dispersal going on. It is of interest to me because of some recent discussion after the release of a paper looking at the possible impact of feeding robust resident birds on those that do not participate and are less aggressive (everything is less aggressive than Blue Tits), e.g. Blue Tits vs Marsh Tits. I intend to blog about this when I have reread the paper and done a bit more analysis from our group records.