Wednesday 14th December 2021

Tristis 1

After three weeks with two named storms and seemingly endless days of wind and rain, I finally escaped the house and got in 3 hrs ringing at South Milton Ley before the next band of drizzle swept in. In reality, it was windier than I had hoped for and, with leafless trees and the reeds having died back for the winter, the breeze was sweeping up the valley unimpeded, keeping most birds on the opposite side of the sewage treatment works to my net rides. Just 10 new birds were trapped, which is not a good return on the six litres of fuel it takes to get there and back from Plymouth. There were compensations though; First out of the net – 2 tristis Chiffchaffs followed by 5 collybita Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests and a Blue Tit.

Tristis 2

One of the Chiffchaffs had an overgrown upper mandible. This is first time I have seen this in in over 2,500 Chiffs I have ringed there. It didn’t seem to have affected its feeding though with a healthy winter weight of 7.7g.

Finally, in May this year I heard a female sparrowhawk soliciting food from a nearby male quite close to one of my net rides. On two subsequent visits I heard what I assumed to be nestlings begging for food and saw the female carrying prey into the same, inaccessible clump of trees. When I mentioned this to the reserve manager, he was, to say the least, dismissive, telling me “Sparrowhawk has never bred inside the reserve.” Not one to take kindly to having my field skills questioned, I had been waiting for the leaves to drop before investigating further and the lack of birds today gave me the perfect opportunity.

Nest located and photographic evidence secured!

Sparrowhawk nest

It was a few metres from where I had expected to find it and the tree was surrounded by impenetrable bramble, which was a shame as I’d been hoping to get close enough to look for rings in regurgitated pellets or to get a ladder up to look in the nest itself. Never mind. It was a moral victory anyway!