Sunday 2 May 2021

House Sparrow RAS - April summary

April was a busy month with 57 colour ringed birds re-sighted and a further ten processed (4 new, 6 subsequent encounters). ‘Brown bib’ as I started to call him, is now P05 and poor old ‘Stumpy’ is still ‘Stumpy’ as he does not have the means to retain a colour ring on his left leg. N41, an adult female from 2018 or earlier, went missing around the beginning of March but turned up without its’ colour ring and so is now P10.

40 of the colour ringed birds were males (41 with 'Stumpy') and 26 were females.

16 of the re-sighted/ringed birds were known to be full adults and 25 of the birds were from 2020 nests. The remaining 26 were birds that could be from 2020 nests or any time earlier.

Much of the re-sighting work that I have done has been from a ‘comfy’ chair while having a morning cuppa. I have found that it is worth looking at different times of the day to record other individuals. I can pick out quite a few birds because certain feathers are worn, broken or simply white but when they do not even have a metal ring (let alone a colour ring), I can hear myself ‘tut’ out of mild frustration.

Although the April mornings were often chilly, the sunshine during the day was warm and I frequently watched the house sparrows flycatching over the lawn; what they lack in ability, they make up for in perseverance. During one spell at the bottom of the garden, I watched a party of at least 6 birds all flycatching in the adjacent field being grazed by cattle. These birds could be seen returning to their nests to feed chicks and then returning to the field.

I have also been looking at my nest boxes and some other breeding locations that I identified last year. Gradually I am starting to build a picture of how many pairs breed and if I am lucky even at this early stage, I can see which birds are breeding where. It is already becoming apparent that ‘parental responsibilities’ and ‘home ownership’ may not be as straightforward as I had previously considered. Colour ringing of a largely sedentary and social species presents an opportunity for more than just survival rates to be calculated.

Today, the 2nd of May, started chilly and quite still and I managed to colour ring another 9 adult birds (7 new birds and 2 subsequent encounters of birds from 2020). 7 of the birds were females and all had some degree of brood patch; these birds help to address the imbalance of males to females seen in April.

My hopes of seeing some young fledge from my most advanced nest box this week have been dashed. The incumbent male (P01) busily went about his feeding duties then went missing sometime after the morning of the 25th of April and after several sorties from a male Sparrowhawk. The female (N53) was last seen on the 27th. Then, on the 28th, three fresh dead chicks at FS stage were on the ground under the box and a single piece of dry grass was poking from the nest hole. Retreating from the vicinity, a new male and a new female were observed entering the box and perching nearby with the male calling frequently. P01 and N53 have still not shown up.