Monday, December 24, 2012

Finchy fun

There were plenty of finches in the garden this afternoon — Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. I managed to read the ring on one female Chaffinch (ringed in the garden on 6th of this month) and on one Goldfinch (ringed at the end of November); also a few more of ‘my’ Goldfinches, but I only managed to read the first part of their rings. Amongst the Chaffinch there was a ringed first-year female that wasn't one of my birds — I've only managed to read the last two digits of the ring so far; and this first-year female Brambling, the first for our garden!

It's always good fun to try and age the birds that come to the feeders. This male Greenfinch was particularly interesting.

At first glance, it looks like an adult male: all the greater coverts are adult-type; the tail feathers are broad and round (adult-type); the tertials are grey and square (adult type); the primaries are dark and blackish with a nice pale fringe. Look at the primaries again, though; in particular, the longest visible primary. It's a retained juvenile primary. Further clues to the ageing came in the secondaries — though not terribly clear in these photos, you can just about make out that S6 (innermost) on both wings is new, that S1 (outermost) on both wings is new and appears to still be growing(!), and the secondaries in between (S2–5) are browner (rather than grey-fringed) juvenile secondaries.

So, the bird is a first-year male that's undergone a pretty extensive post-juvenile moult including eccentrically moulted primaries and secondaries.

‘Our’ female Blackcap was also still in the garden, stuffing herself with sunflower hearts.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Is it Christmas yet?

The last couple of weeks have been an odd mix of not a lot and quite a bit. Quite a bit of spending money after frying various things (car battery, headlights, MacBook etc) but not a lot of birding (I've been in London and, despite having driven by within a couple of miles of a Buff-bellied Pipit, have seen absolutely nothing of note).

Anyway, it looks like we've survived the end of the Mayan calendar; although potentially more of a health risk, I need to go into town tomorrow... So, in the likely event that I don't make it out alive (look out for me on the news; I'll be the one crushed under the crowd of people squabbling over the last knitted Sarah Lund-style onesie), I'll send my Christmas greetings early. If a 3D Christmas message is good enough for Her Majesty, it's good enough for my blog.

Ooh ooh, actually, before I go, this is kinda cool:

I always assumed 4, 5 and 6 were the product of over-active imaginations.

And, just for laughs, I couldn't leave Tring last week without a quick game of spot-the-difference between these two chaps:

See, all that Dunnock-poking is paying off...

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Birthday blackheads

I've never been one to celebrate my birthday in a conventional way, and today was no exception; on my hands and knees in a park surrounded by pigeons. The prize — when they occasionally strayed close enough — were these:

I say 'these' but the reality was I only caught two Black-headed Gulls in the couple of hours I was there; the adult above and a 1st-year (below). Still, better than a kick in the teeth. Or a panicking pigeon in the face.

I gave up after a Sparrowhawk came zooming through, hellbent on catching a Feral Pigeon. It failed but seriously spooked everything in the process.

Back at home I caught two adult female Chaffinches and a first-year (male) Coal Tit in the garden, as well as retrapping yesterday's Blackbird (who was a whole 30g lighter today than she was yesterday — it's amazing what a cold night does).
Compare the shape and extent of the bib compared to this female bird last week.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


I've had more things stabbed into me than I care to remember this week, and almost as many things pulled back out of me. Rabies, hepatitis A, typhoid, and a double layer of six stitches. Still, it hasn't stopped me from getting out-and-about. Mid-week, on the way back from having my eyes poked at, I called in at Calderstone's park where I had what was probably a Swedish or Danish-ringed Black-headed Gull (certainly not British, not Norwegian and not Dutch). I returned later in the afternoon with a loaf of bread hoping to be able to read the but the gull was no where to be found.

I headed down to North Wales this weekend where I met up with Alex Jones and, for the Friday night, Christopher Bridge. The plan was to catch some Woodcocks but the fields were wet (more of a problem for us sneaking up on the birds than for the birds themselves), the moon was full and bright, and Chris's lamp failed... Still, we managed to dazzle a cow and convince Chris that it was a black panther. The next morning Alex and I headed to Conwy RSPB where we jammed in on a smart drake Green-winged Teal.

A couple of Hawfinches down the Conwy valley and 150 Waxwings in Rhuddlan (opposite the abandoned pub next to the KFC on the roundabout — a far cry to in the park next to the church behind the house in Falsterbo) made for a pleasant day.

Back at home yesterday, a female Blackcap was on the sunflower seed feeder. I opened a net this morning and, despite the wind, caught one bird: the Blackcap. A short while later I also caught an adult female Blackbird, presumably the one that has been hanging around in the garden with 'our' adult male (ringed here this summer and present since).