Saturday, 16 June 2018

SNRG in Norway

Many of you know the origins of the ringing group, but for those that do not please refer to the FAQ pages. Those of us whose group membership goes back to 1971 have kept in touch with the group's founder Humphrey Dobinson over the years by letters and emails. However, the last time anyone from the group visited him was when Gary and I dropped in to see him at his house in Swindon in the early 1980s, on our way to Slimbridge to make some swan darvics. Since then Humphrey and his wife Oddrun retired and went to live in Oddrun’s native Norway. Their two children Colin and Kristin had also moved there to work.

I bumped into ex-member Nigel Bosworth just before last Christmas and he suggested we should pay a visit with any other original members that we could contact and were able to make the trip. After consulting with Colin Dobinson we secretly set up a visit to see Oddrun and Humphrey and flew out on Friday 18 May. Four of us made the trip, Gary, Mick T, Nigel and myself.

In 1966 on 7 September, Humphrey took delivery of a new Bedford mini-bus (the Beddy), Humphrey would take us all over the country in this bird-watching and ringing. He spent countless out of school hours, supported all the way by Oddrun, passing on his ornithological knowledge to van-loads of eager pupils. If we called in at his house in Keyworth to do some garden ringing, Oddrun would often supply waffles for us to eat. Sadly such dedication in this way would not be possible to repeat these days as current laws would not allow it. Pupils now miss out as there are no doubt still teachers today that would be prepared to dedicate so much time in this way if they could. The Beddy became a symbol of the Fairham Ornithological Society and the ringing group, much of the ringing we did in those early days would not have been possible without it. It was sad to see the Beddy head south to Swindon with Humphrey and Oddrun in the early 1970s when Humphrey took up a new position at a school there. Humphrey started an ornithological society at his new school and trained some pupils to become ringers but deliberately kept it on a smaller scale than he did at Fairham School.

As time took its toll on the Beddy it was left in a garage in Swindon and stayed there rusting and the interior being damaged by mice for a long time. But a few years ago Colin had it restored to its former glory and now it too has a new home in Norway. According to Colin it cost a ridiculous amount of money to restore but over the years it had played such an important part in the Dobinson family lives that he just had to do it. A magnificent job he has done as well, we saw photos of the ‘before’ condition and have witnessed the ‘after’. Certain alterations had to be made to make it legal for use on 21st century Norwegian roads, such as removing some of the bench seats to allow the installation of a row of ‘proper’ seats with belts behind the front seats and new Norwegian number plates. (Incidentally the new plate is 66.09.07, not just a random number - see the start of paragraph 3!) As we expected Colin had also saved the old UK plates JNN 902D. The Beddy took us all on a trip down memory lane, literally as we went out for a spin. Not least was the memory of how uncomfortable those bench seats were, it made us wonder how we managed to travel so far on them all those years ago. As one of only 3 of its kind in Norway we saw heads turn as we passed, I commented that we were probably turning more heads with the Beddy than we would if we were passing in a shiny new Ferrari! We just felt there was one thing missing but that was soon rectified as Colin accepted a SNRG car sticker which is now displayed in one the rear door windows.

It was a fantastic trip enabling us to catch up with Oddrun and Humphrey and to see Colin and Kristin who were only children the last time we met. It was great to meet Colin's wife, Trude, and their children Hannah and Fredrik at their house for the great BBQ . We were made so very welcome by them all and would like to thank them for their wonderful hospitality. We must also thank them for arranging the fantastic weather, in the four days we were there we hardly saw a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the 20s every day.


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Attenborough Sand Martins, Tuesday 12 June

A later start to mist-netting the Sand Martins at Attenborough after a delayed start to egg laying, but this morning Phil, Mick T and I had a good first session. Few birds are nesting in Face A again but Face B and C had plenty of birds and we caught 52 including 19 retraps and 2 controls. The oldest retrap was a pullus from 2016. We also caught 7 ringed juvs that had fledged from this colony and 2 unringed juvs obviously fledged from a different colony.


Treecreeper nest

I was contacted recently by ex-member Nigel Bosworth about a Treecreeper nest he had found in an unusual location on Barton Island in the River Trent at Attenborough. The nest was positioned between a temporary wall and a support post, part of the toilet block for the Sea Scouts who use the island as a camp. Normally the ringing of Treecreeper pulli is restricted due to possible nest damage being caused when trying to remove the chicks. I wondered about the possibility of ringing these chicks as access was easy. Having checked the manual and not finding the answer I consulted HQ, after a while having had no feedback against ringing them I went out in a boat with Nigel and ringed the 6 pulli - the first pulli Treecreepers the group have ever ringed. Below is some video footage of the nest taken by Nigel, to whom we owe our thanks!


Attenborough CES, Visit 4 - Sunday 10 June

The fourth CES visit of the season was carried out on Sunday by Sue, Mick T, Gary and me. The weather was perfect, a bright start but soon after cloud covered the sun and there was not a breath of wind. In a normal year with conditions like this we should have been on for a good catch. We did get the best catch for this years CES season but it only beat visit 2 by a single bird.

Total catch was 26 including 7 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 1/0, Robin 3/2, Dunnock 0/2, Chiffchaff 1/0, Blackcap 1/1, Garden Warbler 1/0, Blue Tit 2/0, Great Tit 5/1, Wren 1/0, Bullfinch 4/1.

The oldest retrap was a Robin from 2016. So closing in on the middle of June and only 3 of today's catch were juveniles: 2 Robins and a Great Tit. The low numbers continue here and around the country. Of note this week was a Wren (the first of the year!) and a Garden Warbler, the first on a CES visit since 2015.

As the photos show there were plenty of invertebrates about to make up for the lack of birds, we also had a brown hawker in the net (successfully extracted) and a hornet which bit through a net strand and extracted itself (thankfully!).


photos by S. Lakeman

Monday, 11 June 2018


I ringed two Buzzard chicks on 7 June 2018 near Bestwood. You can see from the remains that they eat rats too!

Mick P

Monday, 4 June 2018

Ramsdale Park Golf Centre, Sunday 3 June

We held the first ringing session of the year at Ramsdale this morning. The weather was good with no wind and clear skies. The team consisted of Maria, Fiona, Sue, Tom, Gary, Duncan, Mick T and myself. We were hoping for a better catch than the last 3 CES visits we have made to Attenborough which had reflected reports of low numbers from around the country (the total catch in the first 3 visits to Attenborough was 63 compared to 115 for the same 3 visits last year).

The catch rate at Ramsdale was pretty much on a par with Attenborough, very slow throughout the morning. This first visit of the year was the worst numbers total of the last 3 years at this site. We ended with a total catch of (new/retrap) 22/4 made up of: Blackbird 1/1, Song Thrush 1/0, Dunnock 2/1, Wren 1/0, Robin 1/0, Garden Warbler 2/0, Whitethroat 2/0, Lesser Whitethroat 1/0, Chiffchaff 3/2, Willow Warbler 3/0, Blue Tit 1/0, Linnet 4/0. The oldest retrap was a Blackbird from our first visit to the site in July 2015.

Other than a visit made in December 2015 this is the only visit we have not caught a Blackcap here, although we did have our first Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler of the year. Numbers of resident species were low, with no Bullfinch this time at a site which is usually very good for this species. A few juvs were caught but only 19% of the total catch - it was 37% of the total last year. A Cuckoo was around first thing but managed to evade the nets!


 A Lesser Whitethroat (age code 5 - i.e. born in the previous year) that had replaced the two outermost tail feathers on the left

 (both pics S. Lakeman)


A pleasant surprise when checking Barn Owl boxes recently was this beauty. Apparently, they can breed away from water and are often found in Tawny boxes; almost being a nuisance! Can't find any guidance, but presume this is an adult female.


Monday, 28 May 2018

Attenborough CES, Visit 3 - Sunday 27 May

The third CES visit of the season was carried out on Sunday by Alex, Tom, Maria, Jake, Mick T, Gary, and I. No rain was forecast for Sunday morning but it did rain just before we met at the site. Fortunately it stopped and we got all the nets up quickly - but then it went down hill fast, there were very few birds around. I have not confirmed with a check of past data but I think this will probably rate as one of, if not the worst, CES catch we have ever had. Total catch was only 15 including 7 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 0/2, Dunnock 0/1, Blackcap 2/1, Reed Warbler 1/0, Cetti’s Warbler 0/1, Blue Tit 2/0, Great Tit 1/0, Treecreeper 0/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Chaffinch 1/0, Jay 1/0, Reed Bunting 0/1. The oldest retrap was a Blackbird from 2016. Low warbler numbers are being reported around the country but we also seem to have lost many residents over the winter. Last year by visit 3 we had caught 7 Wrens, none so far this year, 8 Robins (including juvs on the first visit), 2 this year and no juvs!


Thursday, 17 May 2018

Century's up!

Just over a year after gaining my permit to trap birds in my garden using conventional traps I have managed to reach the 100 mark. Bird 100 was a rather handsome male House Sparrow caught in my potter trap.

The birds have all been caught in a mixture of spring, chardonneret, potter and walk-in traps and it has been an interesting learning experience researching, making and using these. I would highly recommend Hans Bub’s Bird Trapping and Bird Banding: a handbook for trapping methods all over the world, the BTO’s Trapping Methods for Ringers by Peter G. Davis and articles found in the Ringers' Bulletin for anyone interested in making and using their own traps.

The totals caught to date are as follows:

Wood Pigeon - 2
Blackbird - 12
House Sparrow - 5
Robin - 2
Starling – 79

So far there have been no recoveries, but I can hope! It has been a great experience and given me a very different perspective on common garden birds and I now look forward to learning even more as I head towards my full C-Permit.


Bird #100: a male House Sparrow (A. Phillips)

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Attenborough CES, Visit 2 - Sunday 13 May

The second CES visit of the season was carried out by Sue, Fiona, Ellen, Alex, Duncan, Mick T, Gary, and I. The site vegetation was saturated after heavy overnight rain but the day started, and continued, with mainly clear skies and little to no wind. Unfortunately the catch was again slow throughout but this time we could not blame it on the heat. Where are all the birds - particularly the warblers? Total catch was only two better than last week at 25, including 10 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Great Spotted Woodpecker 0/1, Blackbird 3/3, Song Thrush 2/0, Dunnock 1/2, Robin 1/0, Blackcap 2/0, Blue Tit 2/0, Great Tit 2/0, Treecreeper 1/2, Bullfinch 0/2, Jay 1/0. The oldest retrap was a Blackbird from 2010 that we had not caught in the intervening years.


 Jay being processed (S. Lakeman)

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Attenborough CES, Visit 1 - Sunday 6 May

The first CES visit of the season was carried out on Sunday by Sue, Fiona, Alex, Duncan, Mick T, Gary, and I. Not a cloud in the sky all morning and no wind either so the temperature started to rise quickly.

The catch was slow throughout no doubt affected by the hot conditions. Total catch was only half of the first visit last year at 23 (including 7 retraps) made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 5/1, Dunnock 1/2, Robin 0/1, Blackcap 3/1, Chiffchaff 1/0, Reed Warbler 0/1, Blue Tit 3/0, Great Tit 1/0, Treecreeper 0/1, Reed Bunting 2/0. A slow start, let’s hope it gets better on the future visits. The oldest retrap was a Blackcap from 2015, caught in the same net but not caught in the intervening years.

This year we were able to replace all of our rather tired CES nets, following a grant from East Midlands Airport. As a volunteer organisation, we would not have been able to buy new nets without considerable expense to the members. We would like to thank East Midlands Airport for their generous help.


Sunday, 22 April 2018

Holme Pierrepont, Saturday 21 April

It had our second visit of the season to the Grange end of Holme Pierrepont this morning. Another good weather morning, calm and overcast until mid-morning when the sun came out. Tom, Gary, Mick T and I along with Fiona, who came along for a ringing taster session, set two more nets than last week. High water levels still restricted operations a little. The site seemed quieter than last week but Gary and Tom heard a Reed Warbler early on and I thought I heard a Cuckoo in the distance as we were setting nets (one was reported on NBW as well).

Catching was slow throughout the morning and we finished with a total of 25 including 10 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 0/1, Song Thrush 1/0, Dunnock 1/0, Wren 0/2, Blackcap 4/0, Chiffchaff 0/1, Willow Warbler 0/1, Blue Tit 2/0, Great Tit 1/0, Bullfinch 3/2, Reed Bunting 3/3.

The oldest retrap was a Reed Bunting from 2014, the two retrap warblers were both from 2016. So more nets this week, less birds and a dramatic drop in warbler numbers, 26 last week only 6 this week and none of those were retraps from a week ago, looks like they have moved on.


Friday, 20 April 2018

Herons & Cormorants - a new season and a new approach

Our visits to the nesting colony of Grey Herons and Cormorants at Attenborough Nature Reserve have been a little delayed this year as we have been working out how to adapt to changes in the Trust's Health and Safety procedures. On 18 April we had our first attempt at working solely from ladders rather than climbing with ropes.

We found 9 active and 5 probably active Grey Heron nests. The active nests contained eggs or really young chicks, too small to ring so we will return in a couple of weeks. The footage below shows the most advanced nest that we found, the oldest/largest chick being approximately 10-12 days old. It also shows the size variation of the chicks due to the asynchronous hatching of the eggs.

Whilst we can't be certain, we think that these are all replacement broods due to first breeding attempts failing, perhaps in that really cold snap several weeks ago.

We also checked the Cormorant colony and ringed and colour-ringed 5 chicks from 2 nests.

Happily the new procedures had an encouraging start but more visits are needed to be completely sure.

Mick P

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Brackenhurst, Sunday 15 April

Jim, Duncan, Vicki and I made our way to Brack on Sunday for what was planned to be the last ringing session of the 'winter'. Having had a decent session last week, we were wondering what the day would bring. It seems the Yellowhammers are still reliant on the feeding station, perhaps due to the late spring. We were catching them steadily at the feeders all morning, but otherwise, diversity was quite low, except for a few more Reed Buntings to add to the decent winter totals.

Having had some success with the warblers last week, we put two lines of nets in Orwin's, and had a decent first round, but catching quickly dropped off after that. It was interesting to get some chunky Blackcaps, carrying good amounts of fat, with a bias towards female birds.

Other highlights included the first Sparrowhawk since 2012, a young male bird, and overhead were a few Fieldfare. A Tawny Owl was also calling nearby from beyond Orwin's.

Species totals were (new/retrap) 39/38, total 77: Sparrowhawk 1/0, Goldcrest 1/0, Blue Tit 0/1, Great Tit 2/5, Chiffchaff 3/0, Blackcap 6/0, Wren 0/1, Dunnock 1/0, Chaffinch 1/2, Yellowhammer 20/28, Reed Bunting 4/1.

The oldest retrap was a Great Tit from 2014. More than half the Yellowhammers were already ringed. Of the 28 Yellowhammer retraps, the oldest were: 2014 x1, 2015 x3, 2016 x2 and 2017 x4. This perhaps suggests we are now sampling a much more localised population a we approach ‘yammer breeding season, and also underlines importance of supplementary feeding during the ‘hunger gap’. Worryingly, another Yellowhammer was caught with similar symptoms to the Chaffinch papillomavirus disease. Only small numbers of birds have been encountered with such symptoms so far and hopefully it won't become quite so prevalent as it is in the Chaffinches. The bird in question was released unringed, and measures taken to avoid the spread of infection.

Jim and Tom

 Yellowhammer showing symptoms of presumed papillomavirus (T. Shields)

Holme Pierrepont, Saturday 14 April

First visit to the Grange end of Holme Pierrepont this morning and what a glorious morning it was, so different to the last few days. Sue, Gary, Mick T and I set a limited number of nets (very high water levels) and waited to catch some of the numerous singing Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. We were not disappointed with the catch of the first two, 26 in total, but somehow we managed to not catch any Willow Warblers. They were probably too busy proclaiming territory from the top of the (now) very tall vegetation. A steady morning that saw us end with a total of 47 including 8 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 2/1, Dunnock 0/1, Wren 4/0, Blackcap 18/1, Chiffchaff 7/0, Blue Tit 1/1, Long-tailed Tit 0/2, Goldfinch 1/0, Greenfinch 2/0, Bullfinch 1/1, Reed Bunting 3/1. The oldest retraps were from 2016, a returning Blackcap and a Long-tailed Tit. A few hirundines passed overhead, one Sedge Warbler was also heard along with a Cetti’s Warbler but the biggest rarity was the blue sky!


 Processing a Greenfinch (S. Lakeman)

Sutton Bonington, Sunday 8 April

Calm, overcast and mild conditions for our last visit of the winter. Sue, Alex, Jake, Mick T and I made up the team but the catch was very small, most of the birds seemed more interested in sitting around singing! We did see our first Swallows of the summer along with quite a few departing Fieldfares. Total catch was just 16 including 8 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Woodpigeon 1/0, Dunnock 0/1, Blue Tit 0/1, Great Tit 1/2, Chaffinch 1/1, Reed Bunting 0/3, Yellowhammer 5/0. The oldest retraps were from 2015. At the end of the session we removed the empty feeders.


 Processing Yellowhammers (S. Lakeman)

Monday, 9 April 2018

2017 Report

The 2017 ringing report is now out. If you would like a copy, please email the address at the top of the 'Reports' page - see tab at the top.

Brackenhurst, Sunday 8 April

Always interesting to ring at this time of year, with wintering birds packing their bags to go home and putting on fat, whilst residents are getting ready to breed and the spring warblers are arriving.

Duncan, Tom and I had a lovely morning at Brack yesterday with calm, overcast weather, and a steady flow of birds. We handled 66 birds of 13 species. Highlights were:
  • A female Blackcap control (i.e. ringed elsewhere). The Blackcaps had been eating berries, we think Ivy, (see picture). This is something usually associated with autumn birds.
  • Our first Swallow of the year sighted.
  • Half the catch was our target species, Yellowhammer. Most of the adult males were developing cloacal protuberances.
  • A ‘pair’ of Treecreepers. These can be aged by the size of the white spots on the their primary coverts (see picture). The one with the large spots is a juvenile-type Treecreeper born last year, and the other with small spots an adult-type bird.
Species totals: 66 birds processed (33 new/33 retrap), comprising: Goldcrest 1/0, Blue Tit 0/1, Great Tit 1/5, Long-tailed Tit 0/1, Chiffchaff 1/0, Willow Warbler 1/0, Blackcap 4/1, Treecreeper 1/1, Wren 1/0, Dunnock 1/0, Chaffinch 3/5, Yellowhammer 16/15, Reed Bunting 2/5.

The oldest retrap was a Chaffinch from 2014. The Willow Warbler was the fifth for the site and the first since 2011. Only three Blackcaps have been caught previously, one of which had been wintering. Lastly, we rather unexpectedly flushed a pair of Mallard in the copse and the female only narrowly evaded capture when she bounced out of the net.


 Blackcap, with a hint of breakfast...
(J. Lennon)
Treecreeper wings (J. Lennon)

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Sutton Bonington - the last few weeks

The weather at weekends has hampered operations at Sutton Bonington over the last few weeks. We cancelled any visits during the first and third weekends in March because of the snow cover, allowing the birds to feed undisturbed in the adverse conditions. We did manage to get out on the second and fourth weekends and also this Easter weekend, but even these visits were not all in great conditions. On the visit yesterday Duncan and I experienced probably the best ringing weather conditions for some time being cold to start, overcast, very little wind and for once no rain until after we finished!

The various teams this year have consisted of Maria, Kirsten, Duncan, Sue, Jake, Tom, Gary and I. The total catch over the last 3 visits has been 112 including 50 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Woodpigeon 1/0, Redwing 1/0, Robin 1/1, Dunnock 1/5, Wren 0/1, Blue Tit 1/2, Great Tit 2/5, Long-tailed Tit 0/7, Greenfinch 0/1, Goldfinch 1/0, Chaffinch 3/1, Reed Bunting 9/8, Yellowhammer 40/19, House Sparrow 2/0. The oldest retraps have been from 2015.

There has been a surprising drop in the number of Robins and Dunnocks. Did the snow cover take its toll? Or are they more interested in staying on territory now?

The Yellowhammers are still coming in to feed but many are now busy singing on the top of the hedges, so next weekend will probably see the final session of the winter at this site (weather permitting of course) and the removal of the feeders.

Thanks again to Maria for keeping the feeders topped up during the week.


 A young Yellowhammer which appeared to have lost the tips of its rectrices, perhaps along a fault bar. (S. Lakeman)

 A Blue Tit which appeared to have the intense blue plumage typical of a male bird, yet had a wing length of only 60mm, which would be very small for a male. (S. Lakeman)

Friday, 30 March 2018


And so the breeding season begins... We have a great working relationship with our sister group, North Notts Ringing Group, and we help each other out when we can. And so it was today when we ringed two Raven pulli at a regular site of theirs. It is quite a team effort and many thanks to Andy, Adam and Will for their help. Ravens are typically very early breeders and a rough calculation suggests that this pair laid eggs in mid-February. These two were also fitted with yellow colour-rings and we would love to hear of any sightings in the future.


Last winter I began trying to target ducks, particularly Wigeon as it is a BTO priority species, at a site in Shelford.

It’s been very disappointing with very little success, but of the two Wigeon ringed last winter, I have retrapped one of them this winter. This gives an indication of site fidelity (and longevity I guess) but it was also a great opportunity to compare plumage, though male Wigeon are probably one of the easiest ducks to age on plumage.

FS03176 was ringed in February 2017 and aged and sexed as a first winter male. This bird was retrapped in December 2017 and so is obviously in its second winter. The pictures below show some of the plumage differences.

I had been inspired by an article in the Lifecycle magazine about catching ducks in a static trap with a funnel entrance. I had hoped it would be more of a success allowing other group members to attend, but it’s still a work in progress! My totals over two winters are Mallard 9 (3), Wigeon 4 (1), Moorhen 3.

Mick P

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Sibthorpe, Saturday 24 March

Despite the very mixed forecast, conditions turned out to be quite manageable for some netting in Jim's garden this morning. Thanks to some tactical preparation the previous evening, nets were unfurled and open soon after first light and the birds started arriving at the feeders straight away.

At this transitional point in the calendar it was interesting to catch some birds coming into breeding condition with several CPs and some developing brood patches (e.g. Dunnocks), whilst others had significant fat deposits and were clearly preparing for migration (e.g. Chaffinch and Blackbird).

Jim had also put up a couple of feeders and nets in a neighbouring garden which was a good, sheltered spot and with the help of a sound lure we caught a few Greenfinches there. Pleased with this, we also reminisced about the days when Greenfinches were your bread-and-butter birds in the garden and hundreds could be processed fairly easily.

In total, we processed 31 birds (21 new/10 retrap), comprising: Great Tit 1/1, Chaffinch 2/0, Blackbird 1/1, Song Thrush 1/0, House Sparrow 2/5, Robin 2/0, Goldfinch 3/0, Dunnock 1/1, Greenfinch 6/1, Starling 2/0, Tree Sparrow 1/0.

The Tree Sparrow was the first to be ringed in the garden since some juvenile birds trapped in June 2016.


 Starling and Tree Sparrow (PML)

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Brackenhurst student demonstrations . . .

. . . no, not over lecturers’ pension rights, but bird ringing demonstrations for the students at NTU, Brackenhurst. Many of them use the Yellowhammer data we collect in their statistics lessons, and the demos allow students to see them in the hand as well as learning about the aims of the Ringing Scheme.

Wednesday 14 March
Despite the blowy south-easterlies, Kev, Louise and myself netted 61 birds. Conveniently, they came in a steady flow through the morning, and our three groups all got to see birds in the hand and release birds. Thirty-eight of our total were our target species, Yellowhammer. The eldest ringed bird was 4 years old. We also ringed nine Reed Buntings.

Species totals: 59 birds (45 new/14 retrap): Robin 1/0, Blackbird 1/1, Blue Tit 0/1, Great Tit 2/1, Goldfinch 2/0, Chaffinch 2/1, Yellowhammer 28/10, Reed Bunting 9/0.

Wednesday 21 March 
Colder and calmer initially, then breezy from the west. I thought we would catch more birds than last week, but Gary, Kev, Kirsten, Max Collins and I only managed 36 birds. However, there were fewer students this time and it was enough for them. Yellowhammer (20) and Reed Bunting (6) again dominated the catch. It's been our best winter for ringing Reed Buntings. Not sure why, but perhaps the colder winter and seed mix have both played a part. A nice surprise was to ring a Brambling; only our fourth at the site. The oldest birds were a Robin and a Yellowhammer, both from 2014.

Species totals: 36 birds (18 new/16 retrap): Robin 0/1, Dunnock 1/0, Blackbird 1/0, Great Tit 1/1, Goldfinch 2/0, Chaffinch 1/1, Brambling 1/0, Yellowhammer 8/12, Reed Bunting 3/3.

Jim Lennon

 Brambling and student group at ringing station

Monday, 5 March 2018

Sibthorpe, Sunday 4 March

Tom and I dropped by Jim and Elaine's house on Sunday just as the snow began melting and the birds began singing. We spent a pleasant 3 or 4 hours netting at the feeders in the garden and we found most individuals in rude health, despite the cold snap.

We processed 41 birds (24 new/17 retrap) comprising: House Sparrow 13/9, Robin 1/0, Greenfinch 1/0, Great Tit 1/1, Goldfinch 5/0, Chaffinch 1/0, Blue Tit 0/3, Dunnock 1/3, Fieldfare 1/0, Reed Bunting 1/0.


adult female Fieldfare (PML)

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Sutton Bonington, January & February 2018

Sutton Bonington has been rather disappointing for the last two months so I thought a summary would be better than a visit by visit account. A combination of a few things, not many birds at the start of the year, nets not necessarily positioned in the best place and the weather. Two of these are much improved, the birds are now there and new net positions seem to be catching much better. The one thing we have not been able to do anything about is the weather. Our visits are restricted to a Saturday or Sunday and despite trying to follow the forecasts and pick the best day we have been hampered by the wind, rain or snow on every visit so far this year. Yesterday was no different, despite clear skies from the start it was bitterly cold and the easterly wind increased as the morning went on billowing out the nets. I think we were all glad to finish even though we had the best catch of the year with 50 birds.

The various teams this year have consisted of Maria, Kirsten, Alex, Duncan, Sue, Trish, Jake, Tom, Gary and I. Total catches for January and February have been 155 including 62 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Fieldfare 3/0, Redwing 3/0, Blackbird 3/0, Robin 2/12, Dunnock 4/8, Blue Tit 7/9, Great Tit 3/5, Coal Tit 1/0, Goldcrest 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 0/13, Greenfinch 2/0, Goldfinch 2/0, Chaffinch 6/1, Reed Bunting 12/7, Yellowhammer 43/7, House Sparrow 1/0. The oldest retraps have been from 2015. It is at least good to see that half the birds caught have been Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings.

Thanks to Maria for keeping the feeders topped up during the week.


 The ringing Base and processing Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings (S. Lakeman)

Brackenhurst Update

Times, they are a changin . . . . Orwin's is being planted up as woodland by Brack students (see pictures), one of three new woodlands going in on the estate this winter. Generally new woodland is to be welcomed, but personally I think Orwin's should have been kept as permanent damp grassland giving another habitat on the estate and more in keeping with the landscape character of the dumble and historic farming patterns. Having said that the emergent woodland will suit bird species like Whitethroat and Willow Warbler.

Results from our last three ringing visits to the supplementary feeding station are follow:-

Saturday 20 January - Species totals: 29 birds (13 new/16 retrap):  Treecreeper 0/1, Robin 0/1, Fieldfare 2/0, Redwing 1/0, Blue Tit 4/6, Great Tit 2/6, Chaffinch 0/2, Yellowhammer 2/2. Team – Duncan, Issie, Jim & Sue.

Monday 5 February - Species totals: 45 birds (25 new/20 retrap): Long-tailed Tit 1/1, Goldcrest 1, Robin 0/3, Blackbird 3/1, Fieldfare 2/0, Blue Tit 2/4, Great Tit 2/8, Chaffinch 5/0, Yellowhammer 6/3, Reed Bunting 2/0. Team – Amy, Jim, Kev & Maria. 

Thursday 22 February - Species totals: 107 birds (64 new/43 retrap): Treecreeper 1/0, Robin 0/2, Dunnock 3/0, Blackbird 2/2, Blue Tit 2/2, Great Tit 7/9, Chaffinch 4/2, Yellowhammer 34/26, Reed Bunting 8/0, House Sparrow 1/0. Team – Abbie, Duncan, Jim & Tom.

A few highlights
Frost equals good numbers of Yellowhammers ringed & retrapped.
Reed buntings are back, we had none in 2014/15.
Oldest ringed birds were Chaffinch (2015), Great Tit (2014), and three Yellowhammer (2014).
As ever, massive thanks to Simon Taylor for keeping the seed hoppers topped up. We and the birds greatly appreciate it!

Jim Lennon

Monday, 12 February 2018

Recent Recoveries

As usual, our recent recoveries have included a lot of local Barn Owl movements, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary.

Perhaps the most interesting recovery of the latest batch we have received is that of a Kingfisher that was ringed at Holme Pierrepont last July. We don't get many recoveries of this species, and the bird in question made a long movement down south and was found in Studland, Dorset in January. It was, unfortunately, dead when picked up.

Another Attenborough Cormorant has been re-sighted, this time a bird colour-ringed in July 2016, seen twice at Rutland water in January.

An Attenborough Heron, ringed in April last year has been found dead in Gower, South Wales in December.

An adult female Pied Flycatcher, caught at a nest-box at our site in Wales last summer, had originally been ringed the previous summer in Herefordshire as a chick.

A House Sparrow, ringed in Gary's Garden as a youngster last June, was found dead in a nearby garden on Christmas Day.

Another bird from Gary's Garden, a Goldfinch, has been controlled by ringers in France, at a site in Wirwignes, pas-de-Calais in December. It had originally been ringed in January.

A Blackbird ringed at the beginning of 2015 at Newthorpe, has been controlled by ringers on the Isle of Wight at Hasely Manor, where the Isle of Wight ringing course is held. It was controlled on the 11th June.

A Long-tailed tit, ringed in some allotments in Leicester in March last year, was controlled by the group at the winter site at Sutton Bonington on the 17th December.

Finally, a Blue Tit ringed in the nest by Birklands ringers in Bestwood Country Park during May last year, has been caught by Mick at his site nearby in November. He also controlled another Birklands Blue Tit on the same day, a 1st year bird that had initially been ringed at the country park in October.


 The Kingfisher that went to Dorset...

Monday, 15 January 2018

Brackenhurst - Sunday 14 January

In between the winds, Duncan, Kev, Kirsten, Sue and myself got another session in at the feeders at Brackenhurst. The weather was cool, calm and cloudy; ideal for ringing. We caught birds steadily over the morning, and finished on a total of 93 birds processed.

Highlights were:-
  • Yellowhammer – 32 birds processed, and we now have had 70+ birds this winter. This is already more than the very mild winters of two and three years ago. So, definitely a correlation between mean temperature and birds coming to the feeders. The oldest retrap was from winter 2013/14.
  • Song Thrush – only our sixth bird in 10 years, but the second of this winter and the first to be caught at the feeders.
  • Great Tit – it's not usual to get an influx of unringed birds this time of year, but 13 is unusual. It shows there’s still stuff to learn about our so called sedentary resident bird species.
  • Chaffinch – we had an old bird originally ringed in winter 2011/12.
  • It can be tricky to determine if Yellowhammers are juveniles or adults. One of the ageing criteria we use is to look for different generations of feathers in their tertials. See photo below which shows a Yellowhammer with different generations, which makes it a juvenile first winter bird.
Species totals (new/retrap) 64/39, total 93: Robin 0/2, Blackbird 3/5, Fieldfare 3/0, Redwing 1/0, Song Thrush 1/0, Blue Tit 5/11, Great Tit 13/11, Bullfinch 0/1, Chaffinch 3/1, Yellowhammer 22/8, Reed Bunting 1/0.


 Yellowhammer showing two generations of tertials making it a first-winter bird. (JL)

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Brackenhurst, Tuesday 9 January

Diaries and the winds meant this was to be the first New Year visit to the feeders at Brackenhurst. It was a cold, dreich January morning, and we never saw the sun at all. However, Kev spotted a Tawny Owl flying away from us in the gloom as we drove up. We were Duncan, Issie, Kev and myself.

Catching was steady through the session with 70 birds processed. Highlights were:
  • 18 Blue Tits – the highest number for some time.
  • Yellowhammers – nice to finally get amongst them this winter with 26 individuals processed.
  • Uncommon species – Treecreeper and Bullfinch are barely annual at the site, and it was nice to see them in the hand again.
We finished on a total of 70 birds, including 34 retraps. The catch was made up of (new/retrap): Treecreeper 1/0, Robin 0/2, Goldcrest 1/1, Blue Tit 3/15, Great Tit 1/3, Chaffinch 3/2, Bullfinch 1/0, Yellowhammer 20/6.

All of the retraps were first ringed at Brackenhurst, with the oldest retrap a Blue Tit after nearly 4 years, ringed as a juvenile in December 2013 and previously retrapped twice in 2014 at the same site.

Jim Lennon

 Treecreeper (Isabel Connell)

Monday, 8 January 2018

Sutton Bonington, Sunday 7 January

I thought we were going to have a team of nine for the first session of the New Year at Sutton Bonington, but two fell ill and dropped out and I was not feeling 100% (by the evening I had lost my voice). Having baited up the site a couple of times over the holidays and not seen many birds there I thought we may end up with more ringers than birds – and I was nearly right!

It was a bitterly cold day, the wind chill making it particularly unpleasant and ultimately the strength of the wind affected the nets too much, enforcing an early finish. The team consisted of Kirsten, Alex, Duncan, Trish, Jake, Gary and I.

We ended with a catch of just 15 including 6 retraps. The catch was made up of (new/retrap): Fieldfare 2/0, Redwing 2/0, Blackbird 1/0, Robin 0/5, Blue Tit 1/0, Great Tit 1/0, Goldcrest 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 0/1, Yellowhammer 1/0. The oldest retrap was from 2015.


Sunday, 7 January 2018

Green Woodpeckers

A quick look through the BTO online ringing and nest recording report shows that around 300 to 400 Green Woodpeckers are ringed annually in Britain and Ireland. A search of our own totals in DemOn (yes, DemOn!) shows that we have ringed 42 new and retrapped 5 Green woodpeckers since 1997.

They are a green-listed bird and by no means rare around here but they are still an unfamiliar bird in the hand and therefore ageing often requires reference to the “Identification Guide to European Non-passerines” by Kevin Baker. However, when faced with single birds of unfamiliar species, it can still be tricky to interpret the descriptions and pictures in this book (unfortunately I still have an “old” copy). But occasionally you get lucky and catch a really helpful bird...

This male Green woodpecker was caught at Hazelford Island on 22 December 2017 and its mixed-age plumage shows very well the different tertial patterns described by Kevin Baker.

Mick P