An unexpected visitor…

Today at the bird station, although there weren’t many birds, it was an interesting day.  When I stepped out into the half light at 5.30, for a moment my heart leaped. I thought the wind, which has been stunting our ringing efforts over the few days, had eased off. But alas, as I walked around the building to open the first net, I realised the wind was still here, holding the nets open, preventing the capture of passing birds. I carried on with the normal routine of checking the nets and the weather – which I’ve come to realise is almost as important as the nets. Between each round, I review the latest radar images for incoming rain. If the forcast predicts rain, we watch the skies closely and the nets must be closed if it does start to rain.

A hungry fox in the garden (poor quality)

A hungry fox in the garden (poor quality)

While checking the weather from the comfort of the station, I glanced out the window and spotted an unwelcome visitor. It must be said that nature is very adaptable, and very smart. Hungry animals (such as foxes, mink, and birds of prey) quickly realise what’s happening at the nets and do their best to take advantage of the pre-caught, easy meals. This fox made his way towards the empty nets and didn’t seem very bothered by me, when I arrived to chase him away. I later learned that the local tourists feed the foxes regularly, making them very tame. A fox can be a big problem close to a ringing site, and can easily kill many birds and destroy the nets in the process. Thankfully this time, he didn’t do any damage.

Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus) - eye colour is important in determining age

Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus) – eye colour is important in determining age

Towards mid morning the weather was looking very doubtful. Around 9am the rain clouds drew close and we were forced to close the nets early. Although I only caught a total of 9 birds today, I did meet some new species and got to take some time studying their subtle differences. I recaptured a local Crested Tit (Topmejse), and examined it’s eye colour closely to try and determine age. I also caught 3 Redstart at the same time. Two males and one female, allowing me to compare their feathers and attempt to determine age. It’s always easier when you have multiple birds to compare colour, feather shape, wear etc. Tomorrow will be my last day at the station, and right now, the weather is looking promising. During the night the wind should drop off, and hopefully the birds will agree to a short visit to our lovely nets!

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

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