Well, another Hawfinch season has come to an end, bruised and bitten fingers slowly healing!
2015 has been something of a revelation though, for a number of reasons. Firstly, our year's total of 184 new birds is a record for this project, even beating the first year's number by some margin. Secondly, I've had the real pleasure of enjoying my whoosh-netting permit for it's first season........186 self-caught Hawfinches later and I'm starting to deal with extracting ten biters from a whoosh-net in one go.......on my own. Thirdly, we had the company of research scientist Will Kirby during the breeding season, who was radio-tagging and tracking some of our birds as part of the wider study on the species currently being conducted by the RSPB. Largely as a result of Will's involvement, we extended the trapping season into the summer period, catching 46 fledged juveniles from late-June to the end of July, adding another dimension to this project and hopefully some interesting future data.
One of the sixteen female birds we tagged. The intention being to follow these birds back to their nests, monitoring breeding outcomes and gathering data on site selection.
The long and short of it: Above - Will's tracking work revealed some fascinating site selection, such as this quite unexpected nest site low in a Hawthorn in 'ffridd' type habitat; Below - a more typical site, high in a large Oak, requiring a fully extended ladder and a Red Bull-fuelled A.V.Cross!
The two young in the nest located in the large Oak above. Unfortunately all three nest we managed to erect nest cameras on failed in three days of exceptionally wet, cold and windy weather in early-May. Later nests appeared to fare better though, with good numbers of juveniles noted generally later in the season.
As well as the record ringing totals for the year, it's been another exceptional year for re-sightings, with over 400 positive sightings of colour-ringed birds in the locality. The majority of these have been in Trevor and Chris Bashford's garden in Dolgellau which continues to draw an extraordinary number of birds to the small amount of sunflower seed provided each day, with over 160 different birds recorded in the first five months of the year alone! The only negative news from this Hawfinch hotspot being two very worrying cases of likely Trichomonosis noted in visiting birds, which we can only hope does not become a serious threat to this species.
Exciting news of a second movement of one of our ringed birds to Norway emerged in May, thankfully this individual still being alive and well, unlike the previous long distance traveller taken by a Tawny Owl! (more news on this movement to follow).
J33, one of 46 fledged juveniles colour-ringed during June and July. Hopefully this sample will help add insight to the survival, breeding and movements of locally bred birds.
The next challenge is to extend the trapping season into Autumn and early-Winter, with a likely site in mind and bait ready. We'll keep you posted.