Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A rather wet and blustery few days have been brightened up by an extremely confiding Pallas's Warbler touring the gardens around the farm. The bird went missing for a while yesterday and was eventually located trapped in one of the polytunnels at the farm. Rich rescued it and Gis took the opportunity to ring it. The bird only had minimal fat reserves, as might be expected after the extremely windy weather had restricted it to feeding on the ground behind garden walls and hedges. Yesterday was the first calm day for a while and as a result plenty of birds took it as an opportunity to make a move. A minimum of 2800 Starling made spectacular patterns above the South End whilst 59 Skylark, 46 Jackdaw, a Rook, a Hooded Crow, 220 Chaffinch, seven Brambling, 57 Greenfinch, two Siskin, eight Goldfinch, 33 Linnet, seven Redpoll and three Reed Bunting passed overhead. Today we've found a couple of Black Redstarts.

This stunning little sprite was dubbed Phylloscopus proregulus by Pallas. Phylloscopus translates literally as 'leaf-seeker' and proregulus as 'close to regulus'. The regulus in question is the Goldcrest and there are several similarities between the two species, particularly in terms of size (wing lengths and weights both overlap and there is a bias towards males being fractionally larger in both). The two species are also similar in their active behaviour, constantly flitting around branches and leaves, peering into each bend in the foliage and deftly picking out the inverts. (c) Richard Brown

In the hand the wing measured 52.5mm and the tail 38mm, both indicative of a male but so close to the overlap range with females that it's best not to sex it on size alone. It weighed 5.7g (to put that into perspective a 10p piece ways 6.5g!). (c) Richard Brown

Both of today's Black Redstarts were in typical habitat, lurking in and around derelict sheds and rubbish piles. A scarce breeder in the UK, their numbers increased markedly around London after the war when bombsites and derelict building provided perfect habitat. Ringing recoveries have shown that the majority of our passage birds are of a Western European origin and on their way to wintering grounds further South, although some birds arriving now may also overwinter in the UK. Indeed one individual overwintered on Bardsey in 2009-2010. (c) Richard Brown

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