Monday, 31 January 2011

Brackenhurst, Sunday 30 Jan

Sunday was a cold, overcast, morning with not a breath of wind – perfect for ringing, which usually seems to mean barely a handful of birds! However, on this occasion we struck lucky, which is just as well as I’d managed to convince some of the local student population to get out of their beds early on a Sunday morning to come along and have a look at what we do. The first net round produced 21 birds (19 more than the sum total of our efforts on the Wednesday a couple of weeks ago) including a new Redwing and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker first caught a couple of winters ago.

During the morning the catch was steady but consistent and we ended at lunchtime with a total of 88 birds of 12 species as follows (new/retrap): Yellowhammer (27/7), Great Tit (10/0), Blue Tit (5/8), Blackbird (7/1), Long-tailed Tit (1/6), Dunnock (4/0), Chaffinch (3/0), Goldfinch (3/0), Robin (2/1), Redwing (1/0) Great-Spotted Woodpecker (0/1) and finally a retrap Goldcrest from Orwin's.Ten new Great Tits at a site like this is pretty amazing and it makes you wonder if many of the locals have dies off in the bad weather and these are wandering survivors that have discovered the food source. They were all young birds which also makes sense.

Thanks to David H for the pics. Feedback from the students was good and they seemed to enjoy the session, so much so that they even gave us chocolate at the end!!


Sunday, 30 January 2011

First nests of the year?

I saw both Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove sitting on nests in Harby today. They seem to keep going virtually all year, but it's still a good sight and snowdrops out beneath the pigeon's tree in our garden.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 23 January

Another poor catch again at RCP today. There seemed to be plenty of Yellowhammers around and a few Siskin but we only caught 2 of the former and none of the latter. Catching fizzled out by 11.00am and the last couple of rounds produced only 3 birds in total. We ended on 30 birds, 19 of which were retraps, the best retrap was a 4 year old Reed Bunting that surprisingly we have not seen since 2007. It was also nice to see the return of some Chaffinch to our nets. The total catch was as follows (new/retrap): Dunno 0/3, Blabi 1/2, Robin 2/2, Greti 3/2, Bluti 1/4, Lotti 0/1, Chaff 3/1, reebu 0/3, Yelha 1/1.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Granby, Sat 22 January

It's with a little trepidation that we set out at the moment after several sessions with low totals. However, a couple of mornings of frost, coupled with still, overcast conditions meant that if we didn't catch this morning, something was very wrong. So it was with some relief that the first round produced a dozen birds and we continued to catch steadily all morning, finishing on 71 birds processed of 9 species.

Yellowhammers put in a fairly good show, mainly early on, with 16 birds ringed and 2 retrapped. It is interesting to note (though I offer no analysis) that 12 were male and the only adult we caught was female. About half the catch comprised tits; mainly Blue (5 new / 16 retrap) but also Great (7/4) and a single Willow Tit - a regular at the moment. Whether or not it was the male that was singing for much of the morning I don't know, but it was good to hear this often over-looked vocalisation repeatedly through the morning. Unlike the distinctive 'zee-zee-zee' call, the song is a purer 'tiu tiu tiu tiu tiu', repeated fairly quickly, but without any particularly arresting qualities!

This individual is looking particularly smart at the moment. Note the all black bill, the matt cap, the buffy wash to cheek (with no clear demarcations behind ear-covert) and underparts, the 'bull-necked' appearance, the stonking pale wing panel and the graduated (fan-shaped) tail - which is perhaps more obvious from below:

Marsh Tits tend to have only the outermost tail feathers shorter that the rest.

We also trapped the following: Dunnock (2/3), Robin (2/2), Blackbird (3/3), Chaffinch (4/0) and a single new Greenfinch (something of a rarity these days...). Retraps of note included two 5 year old Blue Tits (one ringed in a nest box 1km away) and a 4 year old Great Tit.
Away from the nets it was relatively quiet. the odd Lapwing and Reed Bunting came over as well as a single Redpoll. A Treecreeper was with a flock of Long-tailed Tits and average numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings pottered about. A covey of 14 Red-legged Partridges were sensibly hurrying in the opposite direction to the sound of shotguns. Highlight of the day was the nostalgic return of the camping stove and a bacon butty breakfast fit for kings.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

VBOC Newsletter

Copies of the latest Vale Barn Owl Conservation Newsletter are now available from:

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Monday, 17 January 2011

A few more Waxwings...

Following a last minute sighting and agreement from the householder, I managed to catch 5 Waxwings in Hucknall this morning. 

I'd watched them yesterday lunchtime to see where they were feeding and flying off to etc, so this morning I put up a 6m net on the front garden and a flock of c.60 descended into the (now almost bare) ornamental rowan. At times there were approx 25 birds feeding on the berries on the floor but I couldnt twinkle them into my net, they flew past me back into a tree. I hastily repositioned the net resulting in a catch of 4 and one more a little later on.

Many thanks to the house owner for permission. They had the privilege of watching up to 100 Waxwings in their front garden yesterday afternoon!

Mick P

Friday, 14 January 2011

Brack, Wed 12 Jan - Where have all the birds gone?

What an odd season this is. As I type it's mild, damp and a Song Thrush is in full song outside and yet only days ago temperatures were sub-zero and everything was frozen solid. The catch at Brack on Wednesday was perhaps ther worst ever with only two birds caught and several ringers I've spoken to are experiencing similar disappointing catches, not least the group members who visit Rushcliffe Country Park. Also, many people are mentioning to me how quiet their garden feeders are. So although Wednesday's ringing seems almost embarrassing to mention, there is undoubtedly a story unfolding here which is worth documenting. So where are the birds? Have we witnessed an enormous die off caused by the cold weather? Have birds been displaced? With the sudden mild weather have birds returned to the hedgerows to feed? Perhaps once ringing results from across the country are collated for the period we will begin to get a clearer picture, but in the meantime any data, even a catch of two birds, is significant and adds to our understanding.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Spanish Reed Warbler details

It's good to know Spanish ringers read our blog! So, following their request and just for them, here are the full ringing details of our recent recovery:

Age: 3
Ringing date: 18-Aug-2007
Site name: Hondarribia, Guipuzcoa, Spain
Co-ords: 43deg 21min N 1deg 49min W
Ringer: San Sebastian, -11

Attenborough, Monday 10 January

Mick P & I had a session at Attenborough Nature Centre this morning and caught 35 birds (with only two retraps!). There was a good selection of species including Goldfinch, Great, Blue & Long-Tailed Tits, Great-Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Robin and even a Wood Pigeon. It was a shame we ran out of time really as it could have resuted in a bumper session! The most exciting part of the morning had to be getting speared by the Great Spot (which drew blood - again).

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 9 January

Another poor catch today at RCP, only 35 birds, 24 of which were retraps. Yet again we failed to catch a single Chaffinch, the only finches caught were a Goldfinch, a Bullfinch and an unexpected Lesser Redpoll. We did catch 8 Yellowhammer and 3 Reed Bunting but only 2 of these were new birds. The rest of the catch was made up mostly of Tit's and relatively recently ringed retraps. Thanks to Ruth and David for pics.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Granby, Sunday 9 January

It was a beautifully clear morning, with what we thought was Jupiter shining very brightly (though happy to be corrected on this - it wasn't flashing though, so fairly sure it wasn't heading for East Midlands...). It was also breezy, but not enough to stop us netting.

It was quite a contrast to the previous session, perhaps because the snow had gone (though the temperature remained stubbornly low all day), as we only processed 36 birds. However, these arrived steadily throughout the morning and it can be good not to feel under pressure sometimes and enjoy looking at the birds properly. 

Blackbirds were very much in evidence and a 3 year old retrap was a bonus. We also caught a 3 year old Blue Tit and a 4 year old Great Tit. The full stats are as follows (new/retrap): Dunnock 1/0, Robin 2/2, Blackbird 4/1, Blue Tit 2/6, Great Tit 3/6, Tree Sparrow 1/0, Chaffinch 2/0, Yellowhammer 4/1, Willow Tit 0/1. 

Fieldfares were still very obvious and although some were still taking berries, many were down in the fields searching for worms. Redwings, however, were present in only single figures. Several Reed Buntings were about, though Skylarks and Meadow Pipits seemed to have been displaced by the cold weather. A small flock of Lapwings came over and 2 Kestrels and 2 Sparrowhawks were knocking about. A single Brambling was heard and we flushed a Woodcock from further down the cutting. 


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Recent Recoveries

As usual, Barn Owls feature prominently with a dozen reported. Amongst these, the eldest was a four year old bird and the furthest afield went to Shropshire. Of two Kestrels found, one barely made lived a month after fledging, whereas the other lasted 3 years and moved 14km. A Mute Swan ringed at Ruddington found its way to Attenborough but then appeared to be eaten by something and a couple of Tree Sparrows were found at the Bunny colony a year after ringing.
The two longest movements were both migrant warblers. A Sedge ringed as a 3 at Holme Pierrepont on 18 July, was caught just 5 days later on 23 July on the south coast at Icklesham in Sussex. Then a Reed Warbler ringed in Spain in August 2007 as a young bird on southward migration was trapped at HPP in July 2010 presumably about to start off on its fourth trip to sub-Saharan West Africa.

Home Farm, Brackenhurst, Tuesday 4 January

The aim was for a leisurely ringing session in Andrew's garden while we did IPMR stuff and maybe colour-ringed some House Sparrows as part of the ongoing NTU project based on Home Farm. However, 54 birds in three or four hours put paid to that notion. We CR'd the three House Sparrows who deigned to go in to the nets; there has been 20 plus in the garden 'til the nets went up. The rest of the catch was mainly tits (inc another Coal Tit), Robins & Dunnocks. However, three non-passerines in the shape of Kestrel, Wood Pigeon and Great Spotted Woodpecker added a bit of spice to the catch. Also, one of the Great Tits had an interesting upper mandible.

More on Brackenhurst, Friday 31 December

Another dull, calm day with plenty of birds about. We had a decent team out, so also had five nets up in Orwins. The overcast conditions allowed us to catch four out of the five UK thrush species you might expect here. Similar numbers of Yellowhammers were caught to that of Granby the day before, except nearly a third were retraps. However, with the extra folks we managed to colour ring them all, with 30 plus birds being done. The tits had come back from their hols in Southwell or wherever, though interestingly unlike the day before nearly all the Blue Tits were un-ringed birds.

The individual species ringing totals were (new/retraps): Dunnock 2/3, Robin 1/4, Blackbird 1/0, Fieldfare 1/0, Song Thrush, Redwing 3/0, Long-tailed Tit 1/2, Blue Tit 6/19, Great Tit 4/3, Marsh Tit 0/1, Tree Sparrow 1/1, Chaffinch 9/1, Yellowhammer 29/13, Reed Bunting 0/3.

Thanks again to Ewan for the pics and for spotting the single Waxwing flying overhead!


More on Granby, Thursday 30 December

Sorry this is a bit late - just had lots on!

Things looked good for the ringing, what with the snow just gone and it being still and overcast, and so it turned out with 121 birds processed. With the good conditions we put some more nets along the track, this and the apples I'd put down improved the thrush catch. The tits seem to be holding out well here with most Blue Tits, for example, weighing more than 11 gm. At 39 new birds, this was easily the best Yellowhammer catch of the winter so far, but it was surprising there was no retraps even considering there had been no ringing here last winter. The most notable retrap was a five year old male Chaffinch, which has been caught every winter at the site.

Just for the record the species ringing total were (new/retraps): Dunnock 2/2, Robin 4/3, Blackbird 7/0, Fieldfare 2/0, Blue Tit 6/19, Great Tit 3/13, Tree Sparrow 8/0, Chaffinch 9/3; Bullfinch 1/0, Yellowhammer 39/0.

Thanks to Ewan for the pics.


Monday, 3 January 2011

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 2 January

A small party paid a visit to RCP yesterday and were rewarded with another disappointing catch of just 38 birds, over half of which were retraps. What is surprising given the amount of seed available to the birds at the site is the lack of seed-eating species present. We did not catch a single Chaffinch which is the first catch this winter without one and probably the first winter catch we have ever had there without one. Only one finch was caught, a Goldfinch, six Yellowhammer and three Reed Buntings, the rest were mainly tits. Where have all the finches gone? I guess possibly moved south or died as they do not seem to be visiting our gardens either. The best retrap was a five year old Blue Tit.

Brackenhurst, Friday 31 December

We processed 91 birds and managed to colour-ring c30 Yellowhammers. Also caught a few thrushes as well as  some new tits and Chaffinches. More to follow - Jim

Granby, Thursday 30 December

121 birds processed including 39 Yellowhammers and 2 Fieldfares - more details to follow. Jim