Friday, 28 October 2011

Siskins Return and Common Redpolls Continue

Just ten new birds caught at home on Saturday morning showing that there is still not much coming to my feeders!  This involved a Dunnock, six Goldfinch, a Song Thrush, a Blue Tit and amazingly a Common (Mealy) Redpoll!  This was a first for my garden and was a very pristine immature male (below).
My next visit to Leith Hill with Martin again produced a bounty of Redpolls although much reduced from last week.  A total of 34 Redpoll were caught of which 32 were Commons and just two were Lesser and one of these Lessers was a retrap from 28th Sep which was only the second caught this autumn.  Same site retraps of this species are uncommon in autumn and winter because they are generally moving areas all the time in search of food.  A selection of photos of these Commons are shown below:
Bird1 - Adult male

Bird 1 - Adult male

Bird 2 - 1st winter

Bird 3 - Unaged

Bird 3 - Unaged
Other species caught included 11 Goldcrests, two Long-tailed Tit and after a couple of weeks absence five Siskin.  These were all first year birds and four of which were retraps having been originally ringed here on different dates between 22nd August and 27th September.

Birds ringed:
Dunnock - 1
Goldfinch - 6
Blue Tit - 5
Common Redpoll - 33
Lesser Redpoll - 1
Great Tit - 1
Goldcrest - 11
Long-tailed Tit - 2
Song Thrush - 2

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Common Redpoll Galore

An amazing morning on Leith Hill which started with my first two Redwing of the winter (below), typically being adults as the first arrivals.  Crests also had a good showing with 18 Goldcrest and another Firecrest.
But the highlight was another onslaught of Redpolls, but this time I was able to devote more time and caught 134 by 10am!  Although this was a huge count what was more amazing was that 112 were Common Redpoll (below)!  I was very grateful to have Martin Gray and Wes Attridge with me so that we could discuss the finer points of this species ID. 
Adult Male Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll with Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll with Common Redpoll
This sudden arrival of this species was quite unexpected as the normal trend is for them to migrate over from Scandinavia to the Northern Isles and the north east coast and steadily more south, but this hasn't happened.  The only other place to have been catching large numbers of this species is Dungeness Bird Observatory where they have been catching them since 15th October so are these birds arriving from the south-east?  Another interesting confusion was that the majority of these birds were unusually smaller and variably coloured compared to the standard fare for this species to the point where there is a greater resemblance to Lesser Redpoll.  This is also the same as birds caught at Dungeness (pictures here) and starts thoughts as to the origins of these birds.

One of the few Lesser Redpoll caught was already bearing the ring L977558.

Sightings during the morning included 120+ Fieldfare, 1 Woodlark, 100 Crossbill, 2 Woodcock, 5 Brambling and 200+ Redpoll.

Birds ringed:
Redwing - 2
Goldcrest - 18
Firecrest - 1
Robin - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 20
Common Redpoll - 112
Redpoll sp. - 1

Monday, 17 October 2011

A Morning to Remember

Just a quick posting about this mornings visit to Leith Hill which was cut short due to the large number of birds present.  As I put up the two nets just prior to first light I was not expecting to have finished after the first net round!

On returning to the nets they had been swarmed mainly by Redpolls and Goldcrests and just shy of 100 birds were caught!  Myself and helper Colin set to work extracting and closing the nets as we went and in the end we caught 94 birds.  This included 71 Redpoll including one retrap from 14th Oct and 16 Goldcrest including a British control DHC979.

This part of Leith Hill was absolutely alive with birds with sightings including c200 Redpoll, c100 Siskin, c100 Crossbill, 10 Meadow Pipit, 1 Wheatear, 5 Skylark, 50+ Goldcrest, c100 Redwing and 2 Fieldfare.

Birds ringed (retraps/controls):
Redpoll - 70 (1)
Great Tit - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Blue Tit - 3
Siskin - (1)
Goldcrest - 15 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 1 (1)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

International Control

Within the last ten days I have done five ringing sessions to try to make the most of the abundant autumn migration and managed to avoid the really windy conditions.

On Leith Hill the large influx of Lesser Redpoll continued with another 65 caught over two visits along with just six Siskin, four Goldcrest, nine Long-tailed Tit and a Firecrest (above) amount others.  Whilst the highlight was a Lesser Redpoll that had been originally ringed in Belgium 11535633 (below) - my first international control that I have caught.  A third visit to Leith Hill was too windy, so I relocated to the sheltered Rhododendron Wood where a Nuthatch, five Goldcrest and 25 Blue and Great Tit were caught in an hour and half as well as a control Blue Tit L991303.

The two other ringing sessions were in my home garden catching 91 new birds of which 46 were Blue and Great Tit, 14 Goldfinch, two Song Thrush, eight Goldcrest, 13 Greenfinch and probably my last three Chiffchaff of the year.

Birds ringed:
Lesser Redpoll - 65
Siskin - 6
Blue Tit - 51
Dunnock - 3
Goldfinch - 14
Great Tit - 28
Chaffinch - 1
Wren - 5
Goldcrest - 17
Chiffchaff - 3
Firecrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 9
Greenfinch - 13
Nuthatch - 1
Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 2

Thursday, 6 October 2011


What a difference a week makes!  Three short pre-work sessions at Leith Hill proved very productive with 165 new birds caught.  The 28th September visit produced the first ten Lesser Redpoll of the autumn, along with two Siskin, a male Nuthatch and large counts of nine Goldcrest and 14 Chiffchaff.  The Nuthatch which was caught had a very interesting head colouring that comprised a lot of white/creamy plumage along and behind the eye, which I had never seen before (below).
Two days later I caught six more Goldcrest, eight Siskin and 57 Lesser Redpoll and was highlighted by a control Lesser Redpoll L852356, while session three on 3rd October caught another 51 Lesser Redpoll.  Both of these sessions had to finish early as there were at least another 100 Lesser Redpoll were circling about the nets and would have been too much to handle.  In total 118 new Lesser Redpoll were ringed and there was a huge variety in the plumage, but there was also an interesting variation in the colour of the 'poll' (the forehead). All but three had a red poll  of variable shades from blood red to soft red (below top).  Two birds had what I and others refer to as a golden poll (below middle) which I have seen a number of times before, but another had what I could only describe as a 'firepoll' which was half and half (below bottom).  I can't think of how this has been caused or whether this has been seen before!

Adult male Lesser Redpoll
A day at home on 2nd October produced 28 new birds which included another Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, two Nuthatch, eight Greenfinch, three Wren and a Blackcap.  Also caught a control adult female Goldfinch L614106.

Interestingly, over the last 6 or 7 weeks there has been a huge decrease of birds coming to feeders at home and at a number of gardens up on Leith Hill, especially tits and finches.  Where have they all gone, are they making the most of the availability of natural food, have they moved further afield or have they suffered the worst?

Birds ringed:
Lesser Redpoll - 118
Siskin - 10
Blue Tit - 3
Coal Tit - 1
Robin - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Blackcap - 1
Great Tit - 2
Goldfinch - 3
Dunnock - 1
Chiffchaff - 18
Goldcrest - 16
Wren - 4
Nuthatch - 3
Greenfinch - 8
Song Thrush - 1
Blackbird - 1