13th – After two days of strong gales overnight Northerly winds brought in a further deluge of Thrushes and finches. Ringing totalled 118 birds, Redwing dominated figures again with 50, other highlights were 4 Fieldfares, 5 Bramblings, 1 Bullfinch and a Sparrowhawk. The total also incorporated the 3000th Blackcap ringed since the ABO began in the spring of last year. In the afternoon a fine Water Pipit showed well feeding in the outflow just below the Longis car park jetty and 20 Siskins were seen in Barrackmasters Lane.
14th – Without any other committments I was all set for a dawn til dusk ringing session at Mannez quarry. I wasn’t expecting too much given the overnight and continuing westerly winds, I was wrong ! It was another of those amazing migration days, throughout the morning mixed flocks of Chaffinches and Bramblings some over 100 strong. Starlings and Redwing flocks well into the hundreds! Also a single Ring Ouzel, a handful of Skylarks and Siskins passing overhead. Mid afternoon a Short eared Owl hunted the quarry sending Thrushes in all directions. Ringing with trainee John Wier (nice job John) we returned 141 new birds, 88% of them from 3 species, 78 Redwings, 29 Chaffinches, 17 Bramblings. Also 5 Blackbirds, 4 Song Thrushes, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Firecrest and 4 Siskins.
The chance to experience 17 Bramblings in one session does not come along too often so it was a great opportunity to look at some of the identification criteria.
Old Greater Coverts (OGC’s) are fairly easy to see on Bramblings (easier than on Chaffinches at least). Photo below of a first winter male brambling showing the two outer unmoulted greater coverts (more brown with buff/white leading edge and tips) against the inner moulted greater coverts ( black with orange tips).
It was however the tail that stood out as the most obvious ageing indicator. Tail feathers of course should not be taken as the only pointer towards ageing in case they have been replaced, but the more birds we did, it became clear this can be very useful. The photos below are both from male Bramblings though the same features extend to females. An adult on the left and 1st winter on the right. TF1 , (the two central tail feathers) have black centres on the adult (left) and have quite rounded tips. The first year bird on the right has very little black, especially towards the tips which are rather grey and sharply pointed. There is not a lot to separate tail feathers 2-6 on either bird, though the adult tail feathers are broader both birds have pointed tips, the adult to a lesser extent, but unless you are lucky enough to catch an adult and juvenile together for direct comparison, looking for pointed tips to TF2-6 is probably not too helpful.
In general the new Demongin guide has been very useful for several species, we did not find the suggested pattern of the mantle feathers to be useful for ageing Bramblings as there is considerable variation. Though the guide does say “use with caution”.
15th – West winds continued overnight and throughout the day. Another Hawfinch was seen in Barrackmasters Lane. Ringing at Mannez produced another 8 Bramblings and further singles were ringed at Barrackmasters lane and Essex farm. A big surprise was a Great Northern Diver flying SW overland along the south coast from Mannez lighthouse towards Longis bay.
16th – A new wave of migrants in overnight, still dominated by starlings, thrushes and finches but also Firecrests, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. At Rose farm 4 new Firecrests took us over 400 of this species ringed since we began in April last year. It continues to be a good year for migrant Bullfinches with another first winter female ringed. We also ringed our first Moorhen this year. There was a late movement of Chiffchaffs that included 10 ringed at Rose farm and a small party of 5 Long tailed Tits headed down the Bonne Terre Valley. A Coal Tit was seen in Barrackmasters Lane,
17th -NE overnight and once more a rush of Thrushes through. It’s frustrating to witness so many birds moving and have just 1 of our 4 main ringing sites manned but hopefully all that will change next year once we are officially open with our new observatory accommodation housing mad keen ringers ! A silver lining came by way of a call from a local resident that a Snow Bunting (photos below) had been seen in the small rough ground car park leading to Saye beach. I was delighted the bird was still present and a typically tame individual as is often the case with this species. Returning back to the Obs there was a Black Redstart on our north wall and from the ringing room I noticed the Water Pipit back on the longis car park jetty. Paul and Catherine Veron had 3 Woodlarks flying over the IMPOT fields.
18th – Another large thrush and finch movement. Redwings galore, flocks of Chaffinches and Starlings passing over Mannez reserve from first light until mid day. A Woodcock flushed from the pathway near to the Mannez hide. 122 birds were ringed at Mannez again mostly Redwings and Chaffinches but also singles of Firecrest, Chiffchaff and Reed Bunting.
19th – With NE winds and showers overnight it looked promising for another influx of migrants. We have got used to birds in their thousands this autumn but this morning was a comparatively quiet affair. Even so, 6 new Firecrests, a Brambling and a Tristi’s Chiffhchaff were amongst the birds ringed so hardly room for complaint. Late on 2 Sandwich Terns fishing in Longis Bay.