Sunday, 1 April 2012

Mumbling Saturday

A Saturday ringing session at The Mumbles, and the weather was somewhat overcast and chilly, fairly standard for the end of March but not like the weather we've had recently. Overall a fairly quiet day, but with three firsts for me and some real gems. A steady trickle of Reed Buntings, Blue and Great Tits and a few Greenfinches were the only birds for the first few hours. Then on the same net ride on the same round, a brilliant male Yellowhammer and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker were caught. This is the first woodpecker I've had in the hand, but the Yellowhammer was even more special, possibly the first one ringed on this site for 30 years. Then, just to top it off, a female was caught on the next round. Possibly a pair looking for a territory? 

Female Yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella
Male Yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella

Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major

After these birds, a few new Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap were rung, and then on the final net round another migrant, a first for the year and a new species for me; a Willow Warbler. This little bird is very similar to the Chiffchaff, and is very difficult to tell apart if not singing. The Willow Warbler is generally brighter in appearance, a more greeny breast and a clearer eyestripe can sometimes be a giveaway, and the legs are sometimes lighter than a Chiffchaff's; even in the hand though this bird was a difficult one. The only properly reliable way to tell (other than song) is by the length of the wing. A Willow Warbler has a much longer wing, with the primary wingtips extending much further down the tail. This longer wing is needed as they generally migrate further than the Chiffchaff; as far as South Africa. This generally gives the bird a sleeker, less upright appearance than that of a Chiffchaff.

Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus
Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus

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