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.
Stephen checking the wing feathers to see if the Treecreeper, Certhia familiaris, is an adult or juvenile
One of my school friends has been on my mind a lot recently. Horribly I found out via Facebook that he passed away last August and of course I regret I haven’t spent more time with him in recent years.
Last week was all early mornings. So it was a challenge to get out of bed again at 6.00am on Saturday to meet up with the aptly named John Swallow of the Berkshire Downs Ringing Group who’d I’d got in touch with via the excellent (BTO) British Trust for Ornithology website. John had very kindly invited me to join him in the Kennet valley for an early morning bird ringing session. Something I’ve wanted to get involved with for ages. I’ve always been interested in birds, in fact they were my first love. I spent many happy hours watching and sketching them when I was a nipper.