I assisted my BTO trainer with bird-ringing at a local country park this morning; unfortunately my 07:30 start was delayed by 25 minutes due to an unhelpful sat-nav directing me to the wrong park entrance. I must learn to read a road map whilst driving.
On arrival at the ringing site, the first net round had already been collected and processing had started. My first bag gave me the opportunity to study a winter thrush in the hand in the form of the redwing Turdus iliacus. Redwing are characteristically winter visitors although small numbers breed mainly in Scotland. As a target bird for the ringing session a number of redwing were successfully processed throughout the morning each receiving colour ring combinations as well as a number ring.
Despite a well considered health and safety warning and precise handling instructions from my trainer - I still elected to process the next bird. Somewhat different in both its size and disposition from the redwing, the 3 ♀ sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus was to strong for my less experienced hands and the bird was passed to my trainer to complete the processing. The size of the bird had immediately suggested a ♀ and this was confirmed by its wing length being significantly longer than the max. range for ♂♂ it was aged via the amount of chestnut colouring which was still present in both its wing and tail feathers. The thumb and index finger of my left hand bore the brunt of the hawks displeasure in being handled and the power in the grip of its talons is not something I think I could easily forget.
Later in the morning I had the opportunity to process a small number of greenfinch Carduelis chloris. These birds are simply beautiful in the hand. Greenfinch can be sexed according to the amount and distribution of yellow on the leading edge of the primary wing feathers: on the ♂♂ the yellow extends all the way to the feather shaft whilst on the ♀♀ the yellow does not reach this far across the width of the primary.
Blackbird Turdus merula were also processed including a 4 ♂ whose wing length was indicative of a Scandinavian winter migrant. Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus, great tit Parus major, dunnock Prunella modularis and a single robin Erithacus rubecula made up the rest of the morning's catch.