November 26th was the day the BTO notification that our bird ringing would cease with “immediate effect.” The now almost annual outbreak of bird flu in our geographical area had struck yet again in Preesall/Pilling, just a few miles from our coastal ringing sites in Pilling and Cockerham.
Luckily we have our ringing site at Oakenclough on the edge of the Bowland Hills that is well outside the 10km control zone and so unaffected by the ban, except that until now inclement weather prevented ringing here too.
This upland site is close to a reservoir, the water catchment placed strategically to collect the maximum amount of water from both rain and run off from surrounding land. The open situation of the site also means a fair amount of windy weather too; rain and wind, the nemeses of bird ringers everywhere.
At last, a bout of high pressure promised a few days of settled weather and ringing, even though we knew that mid-winter catches at this site are small in numbers. I met up with Andy at 0700 in the blackness of morning, less than a week from the shortest day and the Winter Solstice of 21 December. Soon the days get steadily longer, lighter, warmer and may be even drier?
The first net round brought a couple of always nice to see Redwing into the nets but none of the 50+ Fieldfares that stopped briefly before continuing to the east.
Just as expected our catch was low in numbers with just eleven birds, 3 Coal Tit, 2 Chaffinch, 2 Redwing, 2 Goldfinch, 1 Goldcrest and 1 Wren. At least we managed a spot of ringing; and as a bonus the sun appeared.
Birding was pretty quiet with Barn Owl, a single Siskin and the aforementioned Fieldfares the highlights. On the way home I noted near Nateby a pair of Kestrels at roadside poles. As I carefully stopped hoping for a photo the male flew across to a tree which held a good sized crow nest; a tree worth keeping an eye on in the coming months. Kestrels begin their courtship in the cold winter months to ensure their bond is secure before the breeding season begins. Pairs usually mate for life.
Looking forward, we are on countdown, hoping to hear soon that the ringing ban is lifted at our coastal site. But in any case Iwill be visiting soon to top up the supplementary food.
Failing that we will return to Oakenclough for another dozen or so birds. Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog.