Sunday, 1 April 2012

Kites, long bills and the first warblers

The last couple of weeks has seen an eruption of Red Kite sightings over the Leith Hill area with up to 25 individuals passing through on spring migration, whilst the first Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap have arrived back from Africa.  Also seen was a Ring Ouzel and a Stonechat at Coldharbour cricket pitch thanks to Ray Smith and Derrick Robinson.

Ringing at Leith Hill was done in three sessions with two visits to the heath and a demonstration to the Working Holiday volunteers at Henman Bunkhouse.  The two prior produced another 80 new Redpoll, but a definite change has occurred with Lessers hugely dominating the catch and the last session on 25th involved not a single retrap showing migration was fully underway.  One of these Lessers was sporting an absolutely huge bill (below top).  Other species caught included six Siskin, four Chiffchaff, a Blackbird, a Song Thrush and four more control Redpoll!  A number of the Chiffchaffs caught had a lot of olive pollen stuck to their face where they had been feeding on the nectar as a valuable food source on their migration whilst around the Mediterranean (below bottom).
Whilst the visit to Henman Bunkhouse produced just ten birds which included a Siskin, a Marsh Tit (below by Paul Stevenson), two Treecreeper, two Goldcrest and two Chiffchaff.
Marsh Tit - note the pale spot at the base of the upper mandible which is the
clincher for me in separating from Willow Tit which has an all black bill
The two visits to North River were both productive with twelve new birds on each visit which included four Goldcrest, seven Chiffchaff, a Treecreeper, a Redwing, 2 House Sparrow (below top) and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  The latter two were new species to be caught for this site and another new species was added with a control Goldfinch (below bottom) having been ringed in my garden last October.  This Goldfinch was also sporting a rather large bill.

After having consistently heard Bullfinch on our visits to North River we finally caught our first (below), but unfortunately this bird had a big case of scaly foot (a virus that creates huge growths on the legs mainly seen in Chaffinches) so obviously couldn't be ringed.

Birds ringed:
Lesser Redpoll - 49
Redpoll sp. - 24
Common Redpoll - 7
Siskin - 7
Great Tit - 3
Chaffinch - 1
Marsh Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 2
Robin - 1
Wren - 5
Goldcrest - 6
Chiffchaff - 13
Treecreeper - 3
House Sparrow - 2
Blackbird - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Redwing - 1
Song Thrush - 2

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