A bit of variety

The clouds of varying shades of grey chased each other across the sky. The sun played hide and seek with the patches of bright blue in between. April showers swept across the trees, spiky hedges and opaque polytunnels of the farm. Finally things were starting to look green, tiny leaves covered by bare skeletal branches of the hedges, pale pink and white blossoms covered the trees. Bird song filled the air; busily they dart from hedge to grass to tree and back, disappearing into secret corners where their nests are hidden.

Dodging the showers the nets were up, but as always the question was what would we catch? This may always be the question on every ringers mind, but at this time of year for us it’s even more so. Things are in a state of flux, winter migrants are or have left for their breeding grounds, summer birds are returning but not all are back yet. Residents are spreading out through the countryside, setting up and maintaining breeding territories.
 
Plenty of lesser redpolls still moving through at the farm

The result? Well the star of the winter show, the brambling, seem to have left, but there are still  plenty of redpolls having their last fill before heading north. Plenty of siskins add their green and gold to the feeders, some piling on the fat reserves ready to leave, while others are already into the full swing of breeding.

Female siskin – some had brood patches
others were piling on fat ready to leave

Female chaffinch, greenfinch, great tit, goldfinch, siskin and robin all show evidence that breeding is underway, the feathers on their breast have been dropped and the skin engorged ready for incubating eggs.

Summer migrants have also made an appearance; swallows recently returned from Africa, dip and dive over the cottage roof, while in the net we catch a female blackcap.

Female blackcap (with her brown cap!)

Added to the mix were nuthatch, coal tit, blue tit and even a female great spotted woodpecker, her all black head setting her apart from the males of the species.

As the horizon darkens ominously, promising more than a light sprinkling, it is time to close up. The nets are safely wrapped up, the kit is tidied and stowed away. As large, heavy rain drops start to patter against the roof of the polytunnel we leave the birds to find shelter for themselves and head home for a well earned bacon and egg sarnie.


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