11th March

Today's quiet, overcast dawn looked to have plenty of promise and duly delivered what for this early in the season was a sizeable drop of 100 Chiffchaffs at the Bill; with the addition of a dozen Wheatears, 3 Goldcrests, a White Wagtail and a Reed Bunting on the ground and a steady procession of Meadow Pipits, alba wagtails and Chaffinches, 7 Carrion Crows, 2 Starlings and 2 Siskins arriving in off the sea there was plenty to commend. The sea tried its best to be the poor relation with just 9 Red-throated Divers of interest amongst the trickle of mainly Gannets and Common Gulls on the move.

Two control Chiffchaffs is a good hit rate from only a little over 50 of them trapped in the last few days. We're not expecting to hear back with the ringing details of the French bird we featured a few days ago for quite a time but due to the much improved systems now in place at the BTO we'd heard back with the ringing details of the UK bird we handled at lunchtime today by the end of the afternoon - great work guys! It was a little more interesting than some since since it'd been ringed as a recently fledged juvenile at Abberton Reservoir, Essex, on 17th June last year (and retrapped there a few days later). In contrast to the vast majority of our breeding season Willow Warbler recoveries that are from the northwest of the UK, our breeding season Chiffchaff recoveries encompass almost the entire country, including several others from Essex © Martin Cade:

A bird that isn't doing nearly as well as the Chiffchaff, at least for us, is the Goldcrest. On a mid-March fall day at the end of a pretty mild winter we'd have been expecting a hatful of Goldcrests to be tagging along with all the Chiffchaffs so today's three birds was a paltry return indeed...

...Our all-time ringing numbers show that Goldcrest has always been prone to wild fluctuations in numbers but in the past these were perfectly easy to explain, with massive mortality in the coldest of winters being followed by a gradual recovery. What's puzzling lately is that the winters haven't been at all harsh but numbers are at a real low ebb. The only explanation we can think of is that since our birds are predominantly migrants from far afield - we've had ringing recoveries from as far east and north as Poland and Scandinavia but few if any from breeding sites in Britain - they're either not bothering to travel as far as the western extremities of Europe for the winter or the breeding populations in these areas are badly depleted © Martin Cade:

We're still very much in the honeymoon phase with Wheatears - you never tire of looking at them but for the first few days of each spring passage they really do demand attention © Verity Hill:

Another bird that demanded attention today was this daytime Barn Owl © Verity Hill: