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)