Seems like a long time since writing anything. Quick roundup: lots of Siskins ringed in the garden now: 48 and counting so far, with a very low retrap rate; suggesting plenty of birds moving through. Other local ringers have accounted for another 250-odd and no-one appears to have caught anyone else's bird as yet. Plenty of Siskins around, and all of a sudden. None of us are complaining!
Attended the Southwest Ringers' Conference in Exeter last Saturday, which was pretty good. A range of interesting talks, particularly about the use of ringing as a tool for conservation and monitoring as well as the chance to put a few names to faces and do some schmoozing...
Sunday found me attempting to ring in the garden, then when the weather caught up with me, finally giving in to the temptation to go and see Devon's first King Eider Somateria spectabilis. The bird is (at the time of writing) in North Devon, at the mouth of the Taw-Torridge estuary complex. It's not the best-looking, as it's a first-winter drake (should be S. unspectabilis, really!) , and the views I had would be comfortably described as atrocious, but it's my first new bird in the county for over a year. I didn't take any pictures, so if you want to see a similar bird, check out this link. The photos there are, would you believe, a tad better than the views I had, but it is 'just' a King Eider! The sweeping rain and biting north wind didn't help; nor did the fact that I'd packed only one glove... Otherwise the highlight was an interesting - leucistic? - Rook Corvus frugilegus, which I did photograph and post the obligatory cruddy picture below.
Here's another Rook looking thoroughly miserable in the grotty weather:
I had intended to get to Trew Plantation on the way back to search for Great Grey Shrike, but unaccountably couldn't find the site on my roadmap, so gave in and had a go for the one on Dartmoor instead. Inevitably I got there a touch late in the day and the presence of a noisy crowd of kiddiewinks didn't help. Great that they're thundering round the countryside and getting some quality exercise in, but it's a bit of a bummer when they trash your birding. Ah well... that's life. I did manage to find a smart male Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata before the kids got there! Rounded off the day with a pleasant sunset and a nice chat with a fellow birder who was also shrike-seeking. I was also slightly startled to see the quantity of frogspawn present at such a high point on the moors - some of it will inevitably be frozen and killed, but that also leaves more resources for the survivors. Life's a bitch...!