Despite the rather murky morning, spring had definitely arrived and the garden was a riot of colour. Crocuses ranging from brilliant white through to various shades of purple, from deep violet to pale lilac, cyclamens in shades of pink, brilliant yellow daffodils and pure white snowdrops. The calls of birds in the garden had changed from our last visit, with much more song ringing through the warm air. Still, the reminders of winter lingered, most notably the presence of brambling. Siskins and goldfinch to name a but two species, still flocked to the feeders filled with seed, peanuts and fat balls, but in notably fewer numbers compared with even a week ago. We set our nets around the feeders with the aim of catching a few of the birds still visiting the garden. As the morning progressed the murkiness cleared a little, not so much revealing the sunshine but at least hinting at the promise of it.
The catching did not disappoint with a good variety of species caught. The regulars like blue tit, great tit and finches such as siskin, brambling and goldfinch were joined by some more unusual species to catch in the garden. A stunning male starling, a tiny treecreeper and a monochromatic pied wagtail. All birds we catch regularly at other sites but not so much in this garden. Also on the list was a lesser redpoll, conspicuous in their low numbers in the garden over the last couple of winters, it was lovely to catch one again.
All birds were ringed, aged, sexed and measured. Where a ring was already present its number was recorded in addition to the biometrics being taken and the bird being aged and sexed. The majority of such ‘retraps’ were birds that we had previously caught at this site, but a few had rings with sequences that were not ours. Most of those were siskins that had initially been caught and ringed at other sites within the local area. But one had a ring on that was a little more special. The bird was a brambling. A species we know only comes to our shores during the winter, and that breeds in Scandinavia. But the specific breeding grounds and the route individuals take between such areas is often less clear and that is one of the reasons why we continue to ring birds. This particular brambling had a ring on that had originally been put on somewhere in Belgium. At some point this adult male had been in Belgium, now it was in Norfolk, England. While this is all we can tell about this individual at this stage it is information that is added to the dataset about the movements of bramblings. It is of course also exciting for us as bird ringers to catch a bird with a ‘foreign’ ring on. The information on this, and all the other birds caught during the session, will be submitted to the British Trust for Ornithology. For the Belgium ringed brambling the details will be submitted to the Belgium Ringing Scheme who in due course should provide us with the specific details for this bird.