The nights are drawing in. With the clocks going back darkness is catching up with the end of the working day and is hot on the heels of the end of the school day. It leaves little time between the school run and nightfall. Little time, but still time. Time to be out in the reed bed, watching streams of gulls coursing through the blue grey sky heading for roost, watching swirls of black crows circling overhead before settling in trees beyond our boundaries and listening to the cackling calls of geese settling on the pools for the night.
Amongst the reeds and trees at Cranwich evening was drawing in, with pinks and yellows among the blues and greys of the darkening sky. The nets had been set to try and catch Reed Buntings coming into roost, with a good number seen on previous visits. Often a notoriously difficult species to age based on moult we were aiming to catch a few and take a close look at different feather tracts. Of course nothing ever goes strictly to plan, and while we did catch a few Reed Buntings the bulk of the catch was made up those ever cute Long-tailed Tits, affectionately known as ‘fluff on a stick’.
There was however another delightful surprise in one of the nets. We hadn’t seen them or heard the distinctive pinball ping of this species in over four years. Yet here they were, a male and female Bearded Tit right where if we ever thought we were going to get Bearded Tits breeding on site this would be the place. Of course there is no sign these two have been breeding, with pretty comprehensive nest recording going on onsite through the year. As before it is more likely that they have dispersed from larger reed beds.
It’s always a privilege to handle any bird, yes even those bitey Blue Tits, but there is something extra delightful about handling birds like this.
Once ringed the pair are released, with the hope that one day we might just see them, or one of their compatriots, a little earlier in the year. They disappear quickly into the reeds, and it is not long until we hear that distinctive ‘ping’ across the evening air.