SUNDAY 24TH JANUARY
I have been planning some garden ringing for a week or two now, the first of 2010, but was spurred into action this morning by the sight of the Chaffinch's massing over the stump when I first looked out the kitchen door. We usually have between a dozen and twenty of these birds attending our feeders but here was a far bigger flock than that, of between 60 and 80 birds. The weather was dry, overcast and still, almost perfect conditions for mist netting so I wasted no time in getting a 40' net set between the trees. As it turned out the net could have been sited better as the birds were showing a preference for being on the stump no matter where else seed was placed. I had hopes that these birds may possibly be from the many fennoscandia chaffinches that swell our local numbers in winter. However wing lengths in the majority of the birds pointed to a local population although a notable number of them were carrying good fat deposits, a possible indicator of a migrant flock. It was good to see the distinctive black foreheads of the males breeding plumage coming through, the winter plumage wearing away to reveal the more colourful summer one.
Later in the day I put on the Redwing tape lure which had 3 birds in the trees within 10 seconds but as last time they frustratingly stayed in the tops of the trees and didn't come near the net. A nice flock of 80+ Fieldfares passed over and some of them responded to the lure but again none near the net. The only other thrush activity was a female Blackbird that was caught and ringed. Other captures included a Great Tit and a retrapped Blue Tit which has been caught four times now in the garden since its original capture in the autumn, also a Dunnock and Greenfinch and to Molly's delight a Collared Dove. Notable by their absence was the House Sparrows with not one in the net or being seen - strange. But the day belonged to the Chaffinches with a total of 42 ringed along with singles of the other birds mentioned. 24 of the total Chaffinch ringed were male, 57% - again a figure that hints a local birds as migrant flocks in the UK are predominately male, with large numbers of females traveling further into Ireland.