For Mick Briggs, Bank Holiday Monday was to be spent trying to catch Wheatears at the Field Station and Storm Ridge.
Unfortunately there were no willing Wheatears but ten minutes after the Spring Traps were set, the resident female Stonechat decided that a meal worm for a ring was a fair deal and duly entered one of the traps.
She was quickly ringed and processed and found to be a 2nd year bird with a good brood patch, confirming that the resident pair are indeed attempting to breed on the Old Saltmarsh.
The traps were left in place and a long wait ensued, after a couple of hours it was finally realised that the male Stonechat had figured out how to take the meal worms out of the spring traps, without setting them off!
A battle of wills then ensued with Mick Briggs repeatedly replacing meal worms and the male Stonechat reapeatedly taking the meal worms without setting them off, which the Stonechat seemed to think highly amusing! It must if been thinking "these free meal worms are great and that stupid human that keeps leaving them in such an obvious place must be a nutter!"
The main problem was that the male Stonechat was only visiting the particular perch that the traps were under every hour or so but eventually though the Stonechat was caught on the 8th meal worm theft attempt, he triggered the trap and was again quickly ringed and processed. Again the male Stonechat was found to be a 2nd year bird with a good "cp" (Cloacal Protuberence). Both birds were of the resident British race.
It had taken all morning for both birds to be caught and still no Wheatears visiting the correct perchs from which they would see the mealworms in the traps and so the day was called a day with 2 birds processed, both New birds and both Stonechats!
It was interesting that both of the Stonechats were 2nd year birds, could these be youngsters that have originated from the Norfolk population that is currently doing so well? See the recent B.T.O. blog post on Stonechats in Norfolk to see how they are doing.
These 2 were the 58th and 59th Stonechat ever ringed by the Observatory and hopefully there will be some chicks to ring very soon - watch this space for more news.