A winters day in Parish Wood
With wind and rain forecast for later on in the day on Saturday, a brief window of opportunity opened up early on in the morning for getting some nets up and doing some ringing in Parish Wood. Even upon arrival at the site by 6am the western side of Parish Wood was still getting buffered by the wind. Thankfully the centre of the wood and northern edge still remained well sheltered. Three areas suitable for nets were found with a 60ft and two 40ft nets put up, including one in the hedgerow on the eastern side of The Old Tip. The feeders had been topped up in Parish Wood over the past couple of weeks thanks to Lucy. This helped contribute to bird numbers being relatively high within the wood. In addition the Hawthorn has had such a good crop of berries this autumn, many of the bushes are still overburdened with their deep red harvest. Consequently the welcome sound “clucking” Blackbirds soon came from the thickets as the sun started to rise. In fact to add to that the combination of a light ground frost, the male barn owl hunting over the tip and four roe deer out feeding in the early morning frost made for a very pleasant start to the day.
Dan and George managed to catch 49 birds before the wind started to pick up and nets had to be taken down around 11am. Although a satisfactory amount of data collection given passerine migration is now largely over at these sites. A combination of 37 new birds and 12 re-traps made up the days birds. To continue 2015’s excellent Long-tailed Tit run a further 11 new birds (2 re-traps) were recorded. This adds to an annual total already in excess of the ringing groups record year count which is now close to 200 new birds (almost all during this autumn/winter). We will be taking a closer look at this species and its demography in relationship to Filey soon, so stay tuned (it’s all going to get very interesting)!
A mixed tit flock consisting of Blue Tits, Great Tits and Coal Tits doing its rounds around the centre of Parish Wood kept bird numbers up in the nets with a total of 13 (4 Re-traps) Blue Tits, 2 (1) Great Tits and 2 very much britannicus (British) Coal Tits ringed from this area. Two new female Chaffinch also made up the numbers from Parish Wood.
In ecological terms tits are a fantastic species group to study, the very occurrence of 3 species wintering together in flocks (as well as Long-tailed Tits) shows a clear degree of niche separation. This allows these small insectivores to co-exist within mixed flocks during the winter months, with one of the most distinctive features being bill morphology. In Coal Tit which is primarily a conifer woodland specialist in Britain, the bill is relatively long and thin by comparison to the shorter thicker bill of the broad-leaved specialist the Blue Tit. This difference is attributed to the need for Coal Tits to probe into conifer seeds (primarily Larch) for seeds or into dense needles for invertebrate prey. Whilst confers are sparse in Parish Wood it is one of a number features which determines niche separation in respect of wider habitats and during the breeding season. The Long-tailed Tit by comparison differs significantly from the true tits in having a completely different bill shape which is short, narrow and deep. This species primarily feeds on the surfaces of trunks, twigs and branches of broad-leafs where it takes prey from shallow crevices. It is therefore beneficial for a narrow bill for accessing this shallow crevice dwelling prey. Bird morphology and ecology will hopefully be a regular theme of this blog.
The hedgerow net adjacent to the Old Tip unsurprisingly caught the bulk of the Blackbirds with a total of 7 new birds ringed (and 5 re-trapped) making up a still fairly respectable 12 birds, with large numbers of birds in the more exposed sections of the hedgerow further north (not suitable for putting up nets). Blackbirds currently are roosting in Parish Wood on an evening before travelling into the hedgerows to feed at dawn where the bulk of the Hawthorn berries are present. Many of these birds appear have remained since October and earlier in November when good numbers came in off the sea to augment our resident British birds. Several re-traps reflected this as did the presence of large birds, with 136mm and 137 mm wing lengths frequent within our catch.
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