Early on Saturday morning I extracted this little beauty from the mist nets at our constant effort site (CES) near the River Kennet in Berkshire. At first glance, and from the location, you could be forgiven for thinking that this spring migrant that has flown all the way from sub-saharan Africa to southern England looks like a yellow Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus but its wings are far too long at 79mm.
It has the look of a Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus or a Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix but it’s too big to be the former and rather too yellow to be the latter and lacks the prominent eye-stripe (supercilium) of both.
Have you guessed yet? After consulting our copy of Svensson, triple-checking the biometrics; wing length, margination, wing-point, wing-formula etc. Quickly taking reference photos and a quick call to our trainer, we concluded that it’s actually a rather rare (for southern England) Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina.
A few of you have been kind enough to enquire how my bird-ringing training is coming along. That’s bird-banding if you are reading this in North America or Australia.
Well after gaining my T-permit (training permit) from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in April things got off to a pretty good start, particularly at the constant effort site (CES) but unfortunately illness in August and September meant I had to take a short break. However, since October things have picked up again.
The stars are of course the birds. The male Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula is a particular favourite of mine. In fact I really love this bird and it always gladdens my heart when I see one in the countryside, or rarely in my garden, so it is a real privilege to be able to hold one in my hand.
It’s still early days for me of course and it’ll probably take me a couple more years before I can apply for my C-permit.
As for the title of this post, it is a reference to the song of the male Bullfinch, part of which is thought to sound like a squeaky gate. Have a listen here although the relentless ‘chiffing’ of the Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in the background makes it difficult. However, the critical note is right at the beginning at 00:02 and repeated again at 00:14.
Detail of Lego Dodo
On Saturday I attended another insect identification course, this time on Solitary Bees and Wasps. These informative courses are run the Hampshire Arts and Museum Service at Chilcomb House. One of the real treats for me is that the keeper, Christine, allows us a lunchtime peak at the natural science collections. This time she let me handle a femur (thigh bone) from a Dodo Raphus Cucullatus a flightless bird which although only ‘discovered’ in 1598 was extinct by 1662, just over 60 years later. This particular bone was probably recovered from the the Mare aux Songes swamp in Mauritius around 1860. I must say I did feel rather melancholy holding it in my hand.
Sadly many more beautiful creatures continue to join it or find themselves on the ever expanding critically endangered list. Despite the losses we really haven’t learnt much as a species.