Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Storm Sparrows

I think Storm Sparrow should be a new local name given to the Tree Sparrows that are found on the Fylde as they regularly have to put up with storm conditions when feeding and this morning was no exception. As I battled my way out of the car against the force 7 south-southwesterly wind I didn't expect to see much as I headed down the track towards the feeding station. However I was quite surprised at the number of Tree Sparrows and amazingly I was able to count 217 along with 25 Chaffinch. But that was it, no walk round today, straight back to the car and home.

The short drive home wasn't as straight forward as I thought it would be because as I passed the turning to Rawcliffe Hall I was greeted with the above across the road! I had to do an about turn and go home via the toll bridge at Cartford. Not too much out of my way but it does cost £0.40 to cross!

It's a pity the weather isn't like it was on this date in 1995 when we were still ringing (ringing what's that?) at Clifton Hall. Clifton Hall is a large house with wooded grounds close to the village of Clifton, to the west of Preston. We ringed there from 1983 until about 2000 when the hall was sold. There was a long drive from the main road up and past the house with rhododendron along both sides. We used to put mist nets up in front of the 'rhodies' to catch roosting finches and thrushes and the 25th November 1995 was no exception.

On this particular occasion we had almost complete cloud cover with a light southwesterly wind; perfect conditions for ringing. We arrived early at 11:00 a.m. and put the nets up at the top end of the drive. We used to put quite a length of net up and on this day we probably put up eight nets totalling 440 feet. Once the nets were up we had a walk round and we had a walk through the woodland at the north end of the site as this was often an area where we could flush one or two Woodcocks and today we flushed three. One of these birds dived straight into a net and I ringed a cracking juvenile bird.

Talking of Woodcocks, an adult male that we ringed here on 9th February 1991 was shot near Gorky, Moscow on 14th April 1992! I think to date this is the easternmost recovery of a British ringed Woodcock. It just gives you an idea where some of those birds that you flush on a winter woodland walk come from. From the date, it is possible that this bird was even travelling further east. Astounding!

Anyway, back to our walk round Clifton. We had the usual Nuthatch and Grey Wagtail feeding along the ditch and the Peregrine in late afternoon. Peregrine is a regular here in the afternoon and I assume that it/they come to catch some supper in the form of a Redwing or two. Sparrowhawk is another regular raptor and again it will be making use of the glut of birds roosting for a last feed.

Once we started catching roosting birds it was always difficult trying to count the birds coming in to roost and the counts are always a huge under-estimate in my opinion. My notebook for this day shows 70 Redwings and 200 Chaffinch. I suspect that you could multiply these counts by at least three or four. We ringed a total of 79 birds that included 2 Goldcrests, the already mentioned Woodcock, 7 Blackbirds, 10 Blue Tits, female Blackcap (a winter regular both here and Singleton Hall), 56 Chaffinch and a single Redwing. In addition to the 79 birds ringed we retrapped a further 15.

Those were the days!

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