Chicks from the first broods have started fledging and fumbling into our nets, getting shiny new rings on their legs. The blue tits pictured above were not ready to leave their nest in a lifebuoy box yet, but were big enough to be ringed. We put the rings on the left leg for birds ringed as pulli – unfledged chicks. In birds with large broods like blue tits mortality is very high in the first year, so we’re unlikely to see these grumpy little guys again, but it would be all the more special to retrap a bird carrying a ring on the “wrong” leg… Although it may just turn out it was processed by a left-handed ringer rather than ringed when still in the nest!
There are very few nest boxes at Bedfont Lakes Country Park. They’re greatly outnumbered by bat boxes, and sometimes smaller birds like tits will choose a bat box to make their nest in. We bird ringers cannot check those, as neither of us has a licence to handle bats, and if the “bat people” found birds in one of the boxes during their bat roost checks, they also would not be able to do anything about them. We should join forces one day…
The reedbed has been cut on one side of the lake, so we put up one less net this year. Reed warblers seemed slow to arrive and their chicks are not out of the nests yet. We’ve been getting many new, unringed birds, and few returning ones, but we have not caught all of the ones that set up territories on our patch yet. It will be interesting later to see how the number of returning adults has changed compared to the previous years. Below is a photo of reed warbler being sexed – the cloacal protuberance indicates it’s a male. The cloacae of males swell only during the breeding season, allowing us to sex birds that show no difference in plumage between males and females.
While for some people Sundays are all about enjoying a nice roast at a pub, for us it’s a day spent looking at birds’ “naughty bits”. Moving on…
Our reedbeds house mostly reed warblers, but at least two pairs of reed buntings also found some space for themselves in there.
Cetti’s warblers have established themselves in the park and are breeding here this year as well. It was only a few years ago that we caught their chicks in Bedfont for the first time.
This lovely pair of greenfinches could not be ringed due to warts on their feet, which we often see on this species of bird in our area. They still get on fairly well, foraging and breeding as normal, but rings would hurt them and may make the warts worse. The bird on the bottom is a male (yellow on the primary feathers goes all the way to the shaft) hatched at least two years ago, his feathers all of adult-type, with strong colour on the alula and primary coverts. The bird on the top is a female. She has a moulted alula with a bright smudge of yellow, and her primary coverts have a good edge for a female, but there is a moult limit in her greater coverts (I hope it’s not just due to the light in this picture) and her tail was pointed instead of rounded, so we aged her as hatched last year.
Now it’s time for some juvenile birds…
This angry kingfisher flew into our nets twice on the same morning. Its tongue is so short!
I’ll have to try to remember the shape of the spots on the greater coverts on juvenile robins. Adults may also have spots on those feathers, and telling adult spots from retained juvenile feathers is still very challenging for me. Such a common bird, yet so difficult to age.
Juvenile blackbirds started appearing at the same time as the robins.
We found this baby coot in one of the net runs among the reeds. It was too small for ringing, so we just took a picture and moved it off the path. It was very docile. There was a bit of blood on its side, but it could have been the doing of its parents – they peck at their own chicks when annoyed by them. It’s hard not to bond with an animal once you get to hold it. I hope this little cootling will be alright.
We’ve also had some juvenile wrens, their tails not fully grown, looking very much like tiny balls of very fine feathers, wiggly like mini mice. Woodpeckers have fledged and left their nest – the “laughing tree” where the noisy chicks were has gone quiet.
Song thrush chicks are not out yet, and a female we caught was incubating, judging from her puffy brood patch. Here’s a song thrush hatched last year. The greater coverts with orange thorn-shaped spots are juvenile feathers retained from last year.
Besides ringing, we’re always on the lookout for butterflies and other large insects. It’s the time of the year when our nets catch not only birds, but dragonflies too, like this common hawker. I’m not sure whether the slight damage to one of the wings and loss of part of one leg were due to being tangled in the net, or happened prior to it getting trapped.
Lesser stag beetle.
Speckled wood butterfly.
Common carder bee.
And a bonus picture of a chiffchaff, who was unsure about the whole ringing procedure and stayed with us for a couple minutes after processing.