Although the past week hasn’t been overly productive in terms of catching and banding birds, it’s still been productive: one small gain at a time. Rather than throw my hands up in exasperation I’m going to simply do what I can do. So today, in bright (and warm) sunshine and almost no wind, I set out to try to catch the birds associated with two known nests. I placed the trap carefully by the first one and made sure the seed was all within the confines of the trap (the little teasers will eat everything OUTSIDE of the trap before they will even consider going in it). And then I sat back to wait and bask in the glorious heat and watch the Arctic come to life – insects seemed to be all over (and the mosquitoes will be here soon, I’ve been reassured) and in the bay the crack and bang of moving ice was everywhere….not long now before the big breakup.
But the bird in this nest was having nothing of vegetable food and especially the bird seed I had so carefully doled out. She left the nest several times to feed but each time she picked up insects, and only insects, before returning to the nest. (I thought that maybe the young had hatched and she was feeding them but a quick glance showed she was still incubating.) So after more than an hour I headed for the next nest.
I thought I was pretty ingenious with this one. I picked up a piece of plywood which I carefully inserted into the nest crack and placed the potter trap on it so it was right next to the nest. Very clever. For two and a half hours I watched the little teaser traipse out of the nest and flit about the trap and the platform. Despite my best efforts, there was a little seed that escaped the direct confines of the trap. Also, the occasional puff of wind would move more out. She picked up everything outside. And then she began to go into the trap but only far enough to get her fill – not far enough to hit the treadle and drop the door behind her. Every now and again she would look over at me and chuckle, just before turning and heading back to the nest. It was one of those days……
David Hussell sent me this picture of a female Snow Bunting using the same nest as the wheatear in the picture above. Two years ago this nest was used by a Northern Wheatear; last year by this Snow Bunting; and this year by another Northern Wheatear!