Having realised that I cannot use Somerford Common for the BTO’s Winter Constant Effort Site trial, because it precludes the use of sound lures, and it is my best site for Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling, last year it was also my best site for Redwing, all of which required the use of lures, I have decided to trial it in my back garden. Today’s weather was perfect, the nets are already set up, so I can start at 7:00, and have breakfast, tea, coffee and other essential facilities on hand: a win : win situation.
It was a decent session with the Blue Tits arriving early on, and a couple of Goldfinch soon after. One of the interesting factors is the count of birds when ringing, compared to the counts made for the BTO’s Garden Birdwatch Scheme. My GBW count for Blue Tits for this morning is two: because that was the maximum I saw at any one time, whereas the session delivered 14 of them (six ringed and eight retraps). The key to the GBW figures is that the numbers are known to be inaccurate, but the inaccuracy is consistent across all counts. What is important for GBW is the proportion of counts in which the species appears, whereas ringing allows, through catch, mark, recapture, for an approximation of the population size / dynamics.
One of the things I have noticed with Blue Tits this autumn is the number of them that have moulted all bar one of their greater coverts. However, it is not the outer one that is retained, it is the second one from the distal edge:
(It looks clearer in real life!)
The real reason that I wanted to ring the garden today was that the Starlings have been gorging themselves on the fat balls in the garden, so I reckon they owe me the chance to ring a few. Three of them obliged. I was joined for coffee at 9:30 by my friend and C-permit trainee Steph. She was taking a day off from her new business (Cotswold Canine Care in Cirencester), and popped in to ring a few birds and have a chat. We were having a lovely chat when we were interrupted by a text from Jonny Cooper, with a picture of a stunning bird – but that is his story to tell in a different post and I am not going to spoil the surprise. Suffice to say that once Steph left, just after 10:30, the birds decided that they had had enough and disappeared as well.
It has been a decent session: I was delighted to catch my third Great Spotted Woodpecker for the garden (in 10 years!) and, overall, it was a reasonably varied catch: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Blue Tit 6(8); Great Tit 2; Coal Tit (1); Wren 1; Dunnock (1); Starling 3; Chaffinch 1; Goldfinch 5. Totals: 19 birds ringed from 7 species and 10 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 29 birds ringed from 9 species.
I left the nets open for a few more hours but, as my wife was working in the garden, no more birds were caught, and I shut them just as the rain arrived only getting slightly wet but recognising that I need to reproof my waterproof, as rain trickled down my neck through the hood!