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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Can you spot the difference?

As part of my research into the survival of Marsh Tits (you can read more about the research here) it is important to record the age of each individual as far as possible. Ageing a bird is often difficult, and may rely on the ability to distinguish differences in the age, wear of colour tones within a tract of feathers. In the case of the Marsh Tit, it is the shape of the tips of the tail feathers that is important.

This Marsh Tit hatched earlier this year. The tail feathers are the original ones that grew in the nest and accordingly show wear of the feather tips as they rubbed against the sides of the nest. The feathers are narrow and relatively pointed. These feathers will be retained until the next moult, about a year after hatching.

This bird is an adult, it hatched at least a year ago last spring. Its tail feathers were renewed by the post-nuptial moult during the summer. They are fresh, without the abrasion of juvenile feathers and, in particular they are broader with more rounded, less pointed tips.

17 Comments:

Blogger Merisi said...

The first photo is of an etheral beauty!

3:13 pm  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

I had no idea about this before. The feathers look so exquisite.

4:52 pm  
Blogger Catharina said...

Wow, that is an interesting bit of information!

5:55 pm  
Blogger Angel... said...

WOW thats so lovely...

10:39 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

I can't actually see the abrasions on the first photo.

Is this what you were doing at dawn yesterday?



(spinge)

8:36 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

Merisi, Ellee, Catharina, Angel, thank you so much. Yes you get quite a different perspective when you have the bird in the hand.

Lorenzo, I agree, it takes some practice to see such detail (that is why it takes so long to get a licence). A hand lens is often useful to see the wear on the edges of the webs.

However the shape of the tips is characteristic, note the difference, for example, between the second feather in from the right on each bird.

9:02 am  
Blogger Carwyn Fowler said...

Everything I know about giving medicine to Heledd was learned from you bird ringing techniques...the trick seems to be to disarm the chick using sufficient coercion, but not enough so as to injure her.

10:48 pm  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

I commented on that March post. But great work, and pics. I love this kind of work, to try to help such creatures. Nature and the environment need to be given more priority, and I believe in doing so, will contribute to the well being of the poor humans on the earth. All a part of an important program, and glad, Maalie, for the good work you do, and that you enjoy doing it.

4:51 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

Carwyn, well it seems at least I might have taught you in your childhood something that is useful ;-)

Ted, many thanks, it is encouraging to have the work appreciated.

8:44 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

Carwyn, I think I would prefer the word "control" to coercion :-)

9:35 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

Carwyn,
your comment brought up a series of memories of my children's early years, especially an intubation where the doctors gave me the choice of either holding my daughter myself or leaving the room. I held her, hoping that it would upset her less if I were not to leave her alone. I suppose pediatricians could profit from Maalie's bird control techniques.

9:57 am  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Actually, I can see the difference - hooray!! But mostly, like Merisi, I see beauty, particularly in the incredible color of the wings!

Happy Thanksgiving Maalie - I wish you were here. We'd fill you with turkey and pumpkin pie - well, that is if I leave my morning tea and get off the couch and go bake!!

12:03 pm  
Blogger Carwyn Fowler said...

Thanks Merisi! It is a tough choice - especially when one is a big softie like me! my trick is to tuck baby's arms away under my own arm, wait for a squeal of protest, and pop the medicine in while the mouth is open. Has taken 11 months to perfect!

Maalie

When giving baby's medicine, I would suggest one is using a form of mild coercion in order to establish physical control.

However, the coercion is proportionate, legitimate and authoritative (not to be confused with authoritarian!).

5:12 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Carwyn, my mother used to hold my nose until I gasped for breath!

5:23 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

Carwyn,
children do make a softie out of most anybody, don't they?

Maalie,
these beautiful feathers reminded me of a poem by Emily Dickinson (yes, Americans do have poets! *g*):

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

5:42 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Merisi, what a lovely poem. These two lines have a particular resonance for me:

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea

6:49 pm  
Blogger simon said...

Again I have learned something new! thanks mate

10:11 pm  

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