A bird in the hand

Today’s guest picture is a scan of the birthday card my brother would have sent me if events and illness had not conspired against him.  It is very suitable.   Now I’ll have to try to remember to send him one next year.

card from A

Birds were on my mind when I got up as Dr  Cat Barlow had sent me a text to say that she would be bird ringing at the Moorland Feeders if the weather conditions were right.  The weather conditions were right – still and cloudy, perfect for keeping the nets as well disguised as possible.  Cat’s bird ringing is part of a huge nationwide volunteer survey of bird populations and health in Britain.   I like it because it lets me get close to birds in the hand which otherwise might be hard to spot in the bush.

When I got there, Dr Barlow had already been hard at work and was busy ringing birds in her car.

Dr Barlow

So good were the conditions for netting birds that she had to stop ringing and go and collect the next set of birds before they got too cold.  You have to be very careful of the bird’s health when ringing in cold weather.  I admire her fortitude immensely as the disentangling of the birds from the nets must be done with great care and patience and with bare hands even when the temperature is  1° as it was this morning.  Add to that the delights of being pecked by blue tits and having your hands punctured by the razor sharp claws of woodpeckers and you can see that among those lining up for training as would be bird ringers will not be numbered yours truly.

Still, it is interesting to watch and I drew my car up beside hers so that I could get a mugshot or two before the birds were released.

Male blue tit
A male blue tit
Female blue tit
A female blue tit, not quite so vividly coloured
Cat releasing a bird
Cat giving all her attention to carefully releasing a chaffinch
The catch of the day, a 4.5 gm goldcrest, the tiniest bird I have ever seen.

The remarkable thing about the goldcrest was that it weighed less than the amount of yeast that I put into a one pound loaf of bread.

coal tit
A coal tit, another tiny bird but bigger than the goldcrest
great tit
A great tit

The moorland feeders play host to a good colony of woodpeckers.  Cat has ringed 25 over the past few years and this male was a previous customer.

woodpecker male

Woodpeckers do not take kindly to being netted and shout a lot and peck the hand that feeds them too.

woodpecker male

There was a new female member of the woodpecker tribe to hand as well today.

female woodpecker

Cat ringed and released about 50 birds today but I am not so hardy as she is and left before she had completed the task as I was quite chilly enough even with my gloves on.

Cat and Daniel, who was helping her, are planning to build a proper bird hide at the feeder station so that more people can come and enjoy the many birds that come to feed there.  I am looking forward to using it myself.

When I got home, it was almost lunch time so I picked a leek and got a couple of our few remaining garden potatoes out of the bag and made another pan of leek and potato soup.  It is going to be a blow next month when we have to go to the shops and pay ready money for our potatoes.  The good crop this year has lasted much longer than usual so we can’t complain.

The weather in Scandinavia must be quite good because we still don’t have any waxwing visitors and in the absence of bramblings, repolls and siskins, the garden bird population is still chiefly our resident chaffinches.

There are quite a few of them though coming from right….
…and left

The weather was just pleasant enough to tempt Mrs Tootlepedal out on a manure mining expedition and when she returned, she set about some more tidying up of the borders so the garden is looking well cared for.  I was pleased to see a shy primula poking its head up after the surrounding sedums had been cleared.

These are spring flowering plants by habit so what they are doing here now is a mystery.

I was looked at my compost bins and felt very pleased at how well they have done since being turned.  They are ready to be used as a mulch whenever Mrs Tootlepedal feels the need.  Behind the bins, a solitary snowberry gleamed.


I realised as I looked through my photographs for the day that I had missed a very important shot from yesterday’s sunny afternoon.  Looking out of an upstairs window where she was sewing panto costumes, Mrs Tootlepedal had noticed a seasonal marker.

It was a man from OffSanta, the Christmas regulatory body, checking our neighbour’s chimney for Santa suitability.

Hard work but someone’s got to do it. We can’t have the jolly fellow stuck in an inappropriate orifice.

In the evening, we settled down to watch the telly.  We are in a short season of dance and Danish treats and as always, I shall be sad when they both finish in a few weeks.

The flying bird of the day is a familiar feathered friend

flying chaffinch









Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

28 thoughts on “A bird in the hand

  1. The bird that is called a Goldcrest there is what we call a Golden-crowned kinglet here.They are tiny buggers, always on the move, which makes it hard to get a good photograph of them. Your coal tits are very similar to our chickadees.

    I hold those who do the ringing (Banding on this side of the pond) in high esteem. It takes a great deal of skill and patience to handle the birds without injuring them, as well as recording all the information. Please pass on a word of thanks to Dr. Barlow the next time you see here if you would.

  2. Happy belated birthday Tom. Thanks for continually informing and amusing us . Too bad about the lost Sandycam but you are still managing to take great pictures.

    1. Thank you for the birthday wishes. It was a good quality camera that fitted in a coat pocket and I hope that its replacement will be as satisfactory.

  3. Catching up after two days of a BT broadband failure here, and being floored by an annoying chest infection. Gorgeous goldcrest! Looks like the ringers were ultra busy today.

    1. The birds were filling the nets so quickly that Cat had to take them down sooner than usual for fear of being overwhelmed. We seem to have been the only people in Eskdale not affected by the recent internet problems. I hope your chest has cleared up. There seems to be a lot of it about, as they say.

  4. Ah, the bird ringing photos took me back to my childhood when my Dad would do the same. I used to wonder what the birds made of their shiny new jewellery.

  5. Bags of birds hanging in a car – not something I would have expected to see anywhere but on your blog! The Goldcrest already looks small, but the way you described it by comparing its weight to the yeast you use for a loaf of bread is a wonderfully effective way to show how truly tiny it must be.

    1. As Dr Barlow untangles the birds from the nets, the bags are clipped to her and it is always fun to see her gradually getting submerged in birds in bags on a busy day. The goldcrest is unbelievably tiny.

  6. The close-up photos are great and Dr. Barlow’s abilities are impressive. I’d be quite worried about harming the little critters, if I were to attempt any such thing, especially in the cold.

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