1 Sep 2015

Autumn movements

After a fantastic week in Majorca where we had Wryneck, Serin, Crossbill, Cetti's Warbler, Hoopoe and Sardinian Warbler almost daily from our hotel balcony we arrived back late Saturday afternoon to unsettled weather and the sounds of Meadow pipits migrating overhead! Sunday saw a Chiffchaff in the garden and a walk round the local patch on Monday in the rain produced a Stonechat and a flyover Golden Plover. It looks like autumn is definitely on the way!

Whilst tidying up in the garden I took the opportunity to erect a couple of small mist nets. Not many birds were caught but they did include this juvenile Great Tit that was ringed in the garden as a pullus in the nest box installed for House Sparrows high up on the garage wall! It was unusual in that it showed a moult contrast in the greater coverts as most Great Tits would have replaced them all by now. It was also moulting its tertials and tail which is common in Great Tits. The tail also showed growth bars / fault bars indicating that it had struggled to feed during the re-growth..

A nice surprise were two juvenile Coal Tits. These don't breed closer than Stanney Woods which is about 1.5 km away and are obviously dispersing birds. These had completed their post juvenile moult and showed a contrast between the new adult type inner greater coverts and the outer retained juvenile ones. One had 3 retained greater coverts and one had 4. Interestingly in this species the retained juvenile greater coverts are longer than the new adult ones.

Another sure sign of autumn and post breeding dispersal was the presence of a juvenile female Nuthatch!

Whilst in the garden I started thinking about how I could prevent Grey Squirrels destroying the feeders and eating all the seed. I came up with a cunning plant that seems to work. As long as the feeders are far enough from the tree trunk or another launch pad they can't jump and hang on.

Whilst we'd been away the they'd chewed through the stainless mesh of the peanut feeder so I wrapped it in 10 mm x 10 mm stainless weld mesh that s 1 mm in diameter. The birds can get their bills in but the squirrels can't reach the peanuts! The plastic bottles worked a treat and every now and then I heard a crash and lots of rattling as one of the rodents tried to reach the sunflower hearts and slid off. One nil to me I think.

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