Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Tree Sparrows Just Get 'Cuter'!, 16th November 2008

We had another ringing session today at our feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss and the Tree Sparrows were definitely not playing ball! Numbers were similar to recent weeks and I counted 128 birds flying away from the feeding station after we had put the nets up. All we ringed were 2 Tree Sparrows and a single Chaffinch. The weather didn't help much either as it was a little breezy and from a northwesterly direction so we had to have the nets a fair way from the hedge to prevent them snagging on the Hawthorns. This meant they were a little more visible and probably had an adverse affect on the catch. Looking at the forecast for the next week we won't get there to ring anytime soon so hopefully the next time we put some nets up the Tree Sparrows will have forgotten what a mist net is!

Despite the lack of ringing this morning the birding was good and a number of birds seemed to be arriving from the north. In fact over the previous evening every time I went out to my garage to get a bottle of liquid refreshment from my beer fridge Redwings were on the move and so were a few Snipe. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to estimate numbers based on contact calls so all I do is when I hear a call I stand and wait for a minute and count the number of calls during a minute and record the time and number of calls per minute in my notebook. For example last night over my house in Thornton Cleveleys, Redwings were calling at a rate of 12 calls per minute at 1930, 1 call per minute at 2020 and 3 calls per minute at 2300. I think you get the idea. At least it gives some idea of the density of passage if nothing else.

Anyway, back to this morning. Thrushes were certainly on the move and as I put nets up in the dark Redwings were calling along with the odd Snipe. As dawned arrived we had 50 Redwings and 484 Fieldfare fly between south and west. A number of the Fieldfares were also flying high with Woodpigeons. Pink-footed Geese were also on the move this morning and continually moved south. Numbers totalled 3,219, but there were a lot more further west that were impossible to count because of the distance involved.

Whooper Swans were also a feature of the morning. We had a group of 7 and 9 go southwest and then we had a larger group of 23 go west. Raptors were represented by singles of Kestrel, Merlin and Buzzard. The Merlin was my first on the farm this autumn. In the past I have witnessed some fantastic 'dog-fights' here between Merlin and Skylark, including on one occasion when the Skylark dived into the woodland to try and escape the Merlin and the Merlin followed it in and shot out the other side minus the Skylark.

Driving off the farm Phil and I stopped at the south end to look at a flock of birds feeding in a potato field and then flying into the hedge. The loose flock included 12 House Sparrows, 10 Blackbirds, 40 Chaffinch, 5 Song Thrushes, 2 Corn Buntings and a resplendent male Brambling. Nice.

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