Young Birds & a Couple of Oldies: 10th & 11th May 2023

I don’t do a lot of nest finding in the breeding season: I am always worried that I might accidentally expose the nest location to a predator. However, I am happy to do my Barn Owl boxes and to check on those nests that are otherwise open to view, like Swallows or box nesting titmice.

Rosie has been monitoring a Robin’s nest in the tool shed at Clattinger Farm, since she found them nesting in a plastic container. It is a pretty safe place to nest as access is through the window being left cracked open. Large enough for Swallows, House Sparrows and Robins to get through but not so for a predatory bird. The young were blind and naked on the 29th April and too young to ring, so we left them until we came back from Portland Bill. Yesterday evening we visited them to see if they were ready for ringing. Not only were they ready, their flight feathers were two-thirds grown and I expect they will have fledged by the end of next week. We ringed these four and then left them in peace:

The Swallows are back in force, with half-a-dozen actively building / repairing old nests within the stable block. Hopefully we will have some youngsters to ring in there in the next few weeks. One set that we will definitely have a possibility of ringing is a Blackbird’s nest. She is currently sitting on eggs in a nest immersed in a wall of ivy in the barn. Hopefully they will hatch and we will have a brood to ring in the next week or two.

Yesterday afternoon I received an email from the RSPCA Oak & Furrows Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. They have a Tawny Owl ready for release, and a whole bunch of young birds that have been brought in having fledged prematurely. I went over to check on the birds, ring those that were ready to be so, and discuss the others.

The Tawny Owl is definitely ready to go, flying around the pre-release enclosure and turning a few aerobatics at the same time.

It is a male bird that fledged last year.

In the “nursery” I was pretty astonished to see just how many juvenile Starlings there were. They are being inundated by well-meaning people finding Starlings that have come out of the nest and, rather than putting them somewhere safe where the parents can find them, they have been collecting them up and delivering them to Oak & Furrows. I didn’t ring them as my agreement with them is to focus on birds of prey, Corvids and the occasional unusual specimen.

However, I did ring juveniles of Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Rook and Magpie: all of which will be releasable in the next week or so. There are a couple more Magpies to be ringed next week and a juvenile Tawny Owl who will probably get ringed in a fortnight’s time.

The highlight for me was, though, the opportunity to ring a couple of Swifts. I have not done them before. They take the same rings as Kingfishers, and for the same reason: they have the shortest legs imaginable on a bird. It is the only ring applied using fingers, not pliers, and are gently rounded again by fingers. I suppose that when you spend your life on the wing the evolutionary pressure is for streamlining rather than for leg development. Both birds had been found grounded, underweight and dehydrated. Thanks to the care given by the excellent team at Oak & Furrows, they are now back to a median weight and will be released in the very near future.

The working relationship with Oak & Furrows enables me to improve my knowledge of birds that I don’t get to ring in the normal course of my ringing sessions. I value it, and I think they value the inputs that I can give about the birds in their care.

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