Friday, 3 October 2014

From 300 to 30 birds

A better day at Ffynnon Gro today.

Since returning from Arctic Norway this is the second ringing session I have had in the garden. The first was not so good with 10 birds, but today 34 birds were caught and processed over 13 species.  It is a different ball game all together compared with 300 birds or more each day when I was in Norway.

Goldcrests have not been common at all. In 2013 I only processed two birds and to date this year I am up to 3. This obviously is not a lot but I think these numbers will increase more before year end. I have seen a few and heard some as well so I think there are quite a few around.

Similarly Chiffchaff numbers in 2013 were zero but this year I have processed 11 birds and there still might be a few around before they all migrate for the winter, before returning next spring.

Goldfinches have been kinder to me. In 2013 I processed 37 birds and this year it is 75 birds to date. It would be nice to reach my target of 100 birds this year. This Goldfinch was still in pin as are many other species at the moment. I think the good weather we have had during the summer may have extended the breeding season resulting in extra broods.

I was considering at one stage to apply to the BTO for a Marsh Tit RAS. I was in the belief that there were a few birds about but after a promising start last year the numbers remained static with only a couple of records for 2014. Total now being 12 birds. The nest boxes I put up in the spring were suitably adapted for Marsh Tits but proved to be disappointing. However on a positive note I will try again next spring. Anyway it was nice to catch this one today.

I also caught and processed 2 x Willow Tits. These are the first I have had in my garden at Ffynnon Gro since I started ringing here. The Marsh Tit has a white spot on its mandible, the Willow tit does not. The Willow Tit has a creamy white feather pane on its wing. The Bib on a Willow Tit is slightly bigger and less clean cut than that of a Marsh Tit. The white on the side of the head and neck of a Marsh Tit is more of a buff colour on a Willow Tit. The 6th Tail Feather is shorter than the 5th 4th and 3rd tail feather on a Marsh Tit but is equal to or slightly longer on a Willow Tit. Separating the two species was not easy. Much reference to books and the internet was made before I came to a conclusion.

I caught this female Chaffinch in the net today. It was photographed only before letting it go, no processing was undertaken.
I have published this information below once before on a previous post. I thought it prudent to post it again in the circumstances to inform viewers of my blog what it looks like. I have seen many birds around feeders these days with the virus. The health of the birds does not seem to be affected other than lameness in the leg. I do not know what the resolution is to this problem. 

"This Chaffinch was a little difficult to remove from the net because it was badly wrapped around the Viral papillomas on its right leg which is one of the worst I have seen for some time. This bird was not ringed, just photographed and then released.

The research I have done on FPV is written below for information relative to this horrible disease. Hygiene is extremely important and after handling I thoroughly washed my hands and then applied anti-bacterial hand hygiene gel. Whilst out in the field I would advise taking this gel with you as a precaution.

Warts: (Viral papillomas)

Agent: The Fringilla papillomavirus (FPV)

Epidemiology: The epidemiology of the disease has not been studied.

Species susceptible: Chaffinches and, to a lesser extent, bramblings. In a large survey of birds captured for ringing in the Netherlands, papillomas were found on 330 (1.3%) of some 25,000 chaffinches examined and both sexes were affected. However, cases usually occur in clusters and quite high proportions may be affected in outbreaks.

Clinical signes: The disease causes warty outgrowths on the foot or to tarsometatarsus (the bare part of the leg). Usually only one limb is affected. The growths vary from small nodules to large irregular shaped and deeply-fissured masses which almost engulf the entire lower leg and foot and which can distort the toes. Affected birds usually seem in otherwise good health but some may show signs of lameness and hop mainly on the unaffected food and digits may be lost. The warts grow slowly and may progress over many months.

Pathology: The growths have a similar structure to warts in mammals and are due to excessive growth of the keratinised layers of the skin.

Impact on populations: It seems unlikely that this disease has an impact on population densities."


  1. Hi Charles,

    Once I caught a chaffinch with a severe FVP on both legs. I treated it with Bogena/Beaphar anti air sac mite which contains ivermectine 0,12%. Although this medicine is specifically for air sac mite, it worked very well and the outgrowths disappeared completely.

    Best regards,
    Erik Maassen

  2. Hi Erik

    Thanks for the information, I will research it. How did you apply it? Was it by dipping their legs into it, or was it orally. Please don't think I am being rude but if it was a wild bird how did you know the bird recovered was the same one because it could have been a different.

    Thanks for looking at my blog

    Best Regards Charlie

  3. Hi Charlie,

    As a Dutch ringer I am allowed to keep decoys for ringing. I took this bird home and could follow the recovery process. You put a few drops (quantity depends on size of bird) on the naked skin there where the (under) wing meets the body.
    I found this solution on a website of a crosbill breeder. Crossbills can have a similar problem with the legs and this medicine worked for them as well.

    All the best,

  4. 550 new Goldfinches ringed in my garden so far this year. Perhaps you will retrap one? After all, you netted one of our Siskins! atb Errol aka cardew ellis.

  5. I cannot find the control you refer to. When was this. I am wondering if the information has been passed on to me. Thanks for commenting and like you I do get quite a few Goldfinch as well so a couple of controls would be nice.