Net gains

Today’s picture shows the afternoon sun in the walnut tree.

sun on walnut

The morning was once again grey and cold and at 2° C, it was too cold for cycling.  The birds, for whom hunger maybe more of a factor than fear of the sparrowhawk, were back in force.

blue tit, siskin and goldfinch
Blue tit, siskin and goldfinch

Dropscone came round for coffee and when he left, I decided to go to the moorland feeding station to see if I could see any interesting birds up there.  By this time, the day had brightened up a lot and the morning mists were rolling away from the hills.

Misty hill

I noticed that Dr Cat Barlow had her nets furled and ready for ringing and I just had time to get the camera out and take a couple of bramblings…


…before she appeared.  She was keen to get on with some ringing as the wind was very light but of course, as chance would have it,  I had only brought up my long lens so while she unfurled the nets, I dashed home to pick up my standard lens and, with it, Mrs Tootlepedal who hadn’t seen a ringing before.

When we got back the nets had been set for 15 minutes.


Only the sharpest eyes can see the nets but if you look carefully, you can see at least seven birds who also couldn’t see them in time.

It takes a skilled handler to untangle the birds, who surprisingly come to no harm.

Untangling a bird

There were no woodpeckers today.  Instead there were a number of blue tits.

blue tit in a tangle

These are Dr Barlow’s least favourite birds to ring.  Not only do they get most entangled in the nets, making them hardest to free but they are also little savages and miss no opportunity to peck the hands of those that feed them.


A kestrel hovered overhead but soon got bored and flapped lazily away.

The birds, when freed, are stored in little sacks.

bag lady
Our own bag lady

They remain extremely calm and the bags can be hung from a hook on the boot of the car without any problem.  Mrs Tootlepedal took a keen interest in the classification and recording of the captured birds.  You can see the bagged birds on her right.

Two heads

While the recording was in process, the feeding birds returned within minutes of the nets being lowered.

siskin watching us

The birds are ringed..

A male chaffinch

…and then checked for the signs that tell the expert ringer the age of the birds.

wing inspection

Subtle changes in the moult and markings may give a clue but sometimes the ringer just has to say that they can’t be sure.

The wings are measured…

wing measuring

…and then the bird is weighed and freed.  All this is carefully written down and used as part of a national scheme to track bird populations across the country.

Here is a ring in place on a blue tit.

blue tit ring

The ring number is unique and any one netting this bird in the future will be able to tell exactly where and when it was netted before.

The bird makes its break for the trees.

blue tit going

The smallest bird of the day was this coal tit.

Coal Tit handful

Not all the blue tits were so keen to go.  This one stayed around with its beak sunk into Cat’s hand.

savage blue tit

You wouldn’t think that Cat had been feeding it for a year.  The life of a bird ringer, as far as blue tits are concerned, is a life of pain and sorrow.

It was very chilly even though the wind was light and the sun was out but Cat’s dog, Cricket, watched the whole proceedings with great patience.


Mrs Tootlepedal and I, who are not so hardy,  left Cat to it and went home to get warmed up.  I was thinking of cycling as it was just warm enough to avoid ice but I was so cold that the thought of going out again was not attractive.  Besides, I had about eighty photographs to reduce to a manageable amount for the blog.

The goldfinches were at their usual combative behaviour at our feeders.

Goldfinches bristling

Even with an ISO of 5000, it is hard to freeze an angry bird at this time of year.

Goldfinch stand off

You just have to be lucky.

It was very nice to see a good complement of birds back in the garden today after two rather thin days.  Cat says that hunger will beat the fear of sparrowhawks most of the time.

In the afternoon, Dr Tinker came round to tell me about the recent arrival of the Northern Bullfinch.  I shall keep an eye for it but as we haven’t seen any normal bullfinches yet, I am not going to hold my breath.

In the evening, I went to the Archive Centre with Sandy.  Jean was not at her best and decided to stay at home.  Sandy and I worked away in companionable silence, he at his pictures, I at the newspaper index, until it was time to adjourn to the Douglas for a glass of Deuchars.  As usual, it was very welcome.

Sandy is preparing a new window display and as the Centre printer had run out of ink, we used my new printer to produce the display photos.  They will look pretty good when they are up.





Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

5 thoughts on “Net gains

  1. However disparaging you are of your photographic efforts, I thought the goldfinches having an argument were excellent.

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