Garden Goldfinches: Monday, 19th September 2022

Because today was a bank holiday, I thought some of the team might be available for a session this morning. As it turned out, nobody was available, so I decided to set up a few nets in the back garden. I set two x 6m and one x 3m nets in a triangle around the feeding station yesterday evening and opened them at 7:15 this morning. It was just as well, to be honest, as my arthritic right ankle decided to play up last night and into today and working one of my sites solo would have been no fun. Five minutes later I was extracting the first bird of the morning from the 3m net:

Juvenile female Goldcrest, Regulus regulus

This was followed by a Blue Tit and then a Goldfinch. Goldfinch became the predominant part of the catch. A slight digression: for the last dozen years I have taken part in the BTO’s Garden Birdwatch (GBW) scheme. For each day I count the maximum number of birds of each species seen in my garden at any one time. Today, for example, I have put down two Blue Tits and 14 Goldfinch for the GBW records. In the session I have ringed 15 individual Blue Tits and 31 Goldfinch. Interestingly, my GBW number for Goldfinch was recorded at 9:35 but, when I went out to extract those that had hit the net, I extracted 16 of them, so there were actually more than I had seen. Conversely, our GBW record for Woodpigeon for today is seven, but I caught just one.

Today’s catch has turned into the biggest to date for my garden. The nets were open until noon and then again from 14:00 to 17:30. The afternoon session was much quieter than the morning, with just 15 of the 60 birds caught. My previous highest catch was 50 birds, of which 45 were Goldfinch, on the 26th October 2016.

The Goldfinch catch was almost entirely made up of juvenile birds, with just a single adult ringed and two retrapped adults in the mix. One of those juveniles had seemingly fledged very recently, as it had not started its post-fledging moult. There were several in the very early stages of that moult, all the way through to those that had completed.

As well as the excellent numbers of Goldfinch and Blue Tit, there were several other highlights. The first two Greenfinch of the year at any of my sites arrived at 8:45. Two juveniles, a male and a female. It is over four years since I have seen any evidence of Trichomonosis in the local Greenfinch population. This year we recorded three possible breeding pairs visiting our garden: when you see six of them, three of each sex, all together on your feeders at the same time, you can be pretty confident that is a minimum number. To catch two birds that fledged this year and seem to have paired up already (they were in the same net, just a few centimetres apart, is pretty reasonable evidence) is pleasing.

At 10:45 I had a double hit of the unusual: firstly, a retrapped Woodpigeon from May 2020 and then this bad boy:

Juvenile male Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus

This is the second juvenile male that I have caught in my garden. The previous one was in October 2019, and I have now ringed 10 in total in my ringing career, not quite one per year.

The list for the day was: Woodpigeon (1); Sparrowhawk [1]; Blue Tit 3[12](1); Great Tit 1[1]; Coal Tit [1]; Robin [2]; Goldcrest [1]; Starling 1; Greenfinch [2]; Goldfinch 1[30](2). Totals: 6 adults ringed from 4 species, 50 juveniles ringed from 8 species and 4 birds retrapped from 3species, making 60 birds processed from 10 species.

There were a couple of small disappointments: a Stock Dove that bounced off the nets and a complete no-show of the Jackdaws. Normally when I put out fat-balls and mealworms they dive in straight away. Today: not a sign of them. It is almost as if they knew!!!

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