With a long weekend and a good few days off work to boot, I have been taking every opportunity to get the net up in the garden and, given the terrible weather, two days' ringing have produced some quality birds in my little patch of England.
Bright and early Saturday morning, and what do I find in the bottom panel of the net? A kestrel of all things! I guess it must have been chasing some small bird through the garden and blundered into the net - kestrels are around the village but I've never seen one actually in or over my garden before. I think I was as surprised as it was! After some careful handling I managed to get the bird safely out of the net and into a bird bag without losing any blood...
Needless to say, kestrel is not a bird I am overly familiar with handling in the garden - I have ringed several broods of young birds over the years, but not for some time now. Still, with the Baker guide in hand, I soon set about sexing and ageing the bird. The grey head and chestnut mantle obviously meant this was a male bird, and a combination of tail and flank feather colouration and patterning told me this was a mature adult - hatched in 2010 or previously - i.e. EURING age 6.
So, a cracking if unexpected start to the weekend's ringing session...the remainder of the morning was filled with the usual but still interesting mix of blue tits, chaffinch and greenfinch and, perhaps best of all for me, a nuthatch - my first garden ringing tick.
Nuthatches are such a good-looking bird - the combination of lead blue, chestnut, black and white plumage and that robust, awl-shaped bill gives them a very neat appearance - nuthatches really are one of my favourite groups. Anyway, it was great to finally be able to see one in such close detail - the rich brick-red undertail coverts and flanks made this bird a clear male.