Monday 20 May 2024

Attenborough CES, Visit 3 - Sunday 19 May

The third CES session at Attenborough was carried out under blue skies, full sun and a bit of a breeze. The conditions did not help but even so the catch was very disappointing. The usual 168m of net was erected along with another 18m well away from the CES nets at which we played a cuckoo call. We ended with just 20 birds and 4 of those came from the single cuckoo net, none of them being a cuckoo though! The MP3 lure was very effective at bringing a couple of cuckoos to investigate, but they stayed too high in the canopy to go in the net. 

The birds we did catch were: Chiffchaff 1, Wren 1, Blackcap 3, Garden Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 2, Blue Tit 4, Great Tit 2, Robin 1, Dunnock 3, Song Thrush 1, Blackbird 1. The whole site seems very quiet and  unless there is a major increase in numbers in the next 3 visits this will be the worst CES season ever at Attenborough. After this catch we did not really need any further discouragement for the coming visits but we got it in the form of the first hatch of mosquitoes, they will be out in full force by visit 4!

On a more significant note, today we said goodbye to Jake as he heads over the pond to Baltimore to start a new job and a new chapter in his life. Jake has been an active and respected member since joining us in April 2022, we will miss him but wish him well for the future. To mark the occasion we presented him with a good luck card featuring a Blue Tit on the front, so he can be reminded of just what he is missing when in the USA. Even more memorably Holly made him an ‘American’ style going-away cake called Devil's Food Cake, it was delicious but not one for those on a diet!


Ringing base (HJ)

Net ride (KH)

Jake's Cake (KH)


Wednesday 15 May 2024

Attenborough CES, Visit 2 - Sunday 12 May

Our second CES session at Attenborough was another nice morning, but low on birds. We finished with 17 in total, and some species were notable by their absence - Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Cetti’s Warbler, Dunnock - all heard but not caught.

The birds that did find the net were: 4 Great Tit, 3 Wren, 2 Garden Warbler, 2 Robin, 2 Song Thrush, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Treecreeper.

Entertainment was mostly provided by the invertebrates, with 2 Hornets and 1 Tree Bumblebee successfully extracted from the nets. Lots of damselflies were on the wing, as were Hairy Dragonflies.

The Cuckoo was still present and calling, and we were lucky to see two Swifts in the mid-air act of mating over the ringing base. 


Treecreeper wing, (HG)


Saturday 11 May 2024

Isle of May Visit, 13-20 April

Recently, Kev B, Holly and I had the opportunity to visit the Isle of May with the Cumbrian group. The weather was breezy throughout the week, unfortunately from the north-west. This was far from ideal for bringing in birds or for putting up mist nets. Although it was quiet, we got a few new species from the heligoland traps, including 3 Brambling and 2 Ring Ouzel. On one day we tried a tape lure for the Hoopoe, which had been seen on the island for the past 10 days. However, it seemed uninterested. We also made an attempt for the Storm Petrels, but there was no success on this front either. Spring traps gave us a few Wheatears and Robins. While seawatching by the Low Light, Holly noticed a Puffin stuck in a drainage pipe, with its legs in the air! She managed to rescue it, and passed it to me to ring.

Overall, the trip was a brilliant experience. I enjoyed the isolation and wildness of island life, and sharing it with a great group of people. The best part was being immersed in the life of thousands of seabirds, while trying to count them for the daily log! Thanks to Mike, Frank and Shelagh for including me and all the help while we were there.


Ring Ouzel (J. Phillips)

View from the island (H. James)

Wheatear (H. James)


Wednesday 8 May 2024

Recent recoveries - passerines

Following on from the last post, here are are few details of some passerine recoveries from between April 2022 and December 2023.

We have a few Lesser Redpoll recoveries from around the UK, which is typical for this species as Redpoll are known to disperse and move around to wherever there is food.

- One bird ringed by us in January 2022 at Bestwood was recaught three months later 2022, 317km North in Peebles on the Scottish Borders.

- Another ringed at Skylarks in October 2020 was recaught in July 2022 in Ceredigion, Wales.

- One ringed in August 2022 at RSPB Geltsdale in Cumbria was recaught by us in Ramsdale three months later.

- And finally, a bird ringed in May 2021 by Thetford Forest Ringing Group was recaught by us in January 2023 at Bestwood.

A Reed Warbler ringed in July 2022 at Manor Floods was recaught three weeks later at Gironde, France, a distance of 922km. Slightly unusual as we don’t catch many Reed Warblers at Manor Floods.

Gironde was also the source of a controlled Redwing ringed at Ramsdale in 2021, which was recaught in October 2022 in France. Considering we catch around 100 Redwing each Winter, we hardly ever get recoveries of this species.

A Blue Tit ringed by Belvide Ringing Group was recaptured by us at Trowell in January 2023, a distance of 12km. Some studies have shown that only 1.2% of British Blue Tits move more than 20km during Winter, so a movement of 12km is fairly significant for this sedentary species.

A female Cetti’s Warbler ringed by Chew Valley in 2019 was recaught by us at Skylarks in April 2023, a distance of 208km. Cetti’s Warblers are colonising more of the UK as they slowly spread North, and it’s usually the females that move the furthest to establish new territories.

A Chiffchaff ringed on the Isle of May, Fife in May 2023 was recaught by us in Bestwood in October of the same year.

A Blackcap ringed by us at Skylarks in September 2021 was caught by a cat in Chester, December 2022. Presumably we caught this one on its westward migration and it would be interesting to know where it had originated from - possibly further east on continental Europe as seems to be the pattern for many birds wintering in the UK.

A Siskin ringed by us ar Colwick in March 2021 was recaught by Grampian Ringing Group in Aberdeenshire, April 2022. 




Tuesday 7 May 2024

Recent Recoveries - non-passerines

It has been a whilte since we blogged about recoveries. We detail all the most interesting records in our annual report, but we also try to publish information here when we can. Below are some of the more interesting non-passerine recoveries we've had between April 2022 and December 2023. 

A Common Tern ringed as a chick at Attenborough in 2014 was recaught in Senegal in March 2021 - a distance of 4495km! 

We often receive short-distance Barn Owl recoveries as they move between local nest boxes, but here are a couple of notable movements - a chick ringed by North West Norfolk Ringing Group in 2017 was found dead by us in May 2022 near Elston, a distance of 119km. Another was ringed in Buckinghamshire in 2017 and recaught by us in May 2023, a distance of 151km. Interestingly, the longevity record for Barn Owl is currently 15 years, 7 months and 2 days, and if we recatch one individual later this year we might be on to break that record. A male Barn Owl ringed as a 5 in Gotham on 21/05/2009 was recaught on 15/06/2023 - 14 years and 26 days.

Our colour-ringed Cormorants continue to move around, with several sightings of the same individuals making for interesting life histories as we start to build a bigger picture of their dispersal and seasonal behaviour. All birds were ringed at Attenborough:

- Cormorant CVF ringed as a chick in 2015 was sighted at Holt in Norfolk in January 2023. The same bird spent the Summer of 2019 at Cley Marshes in Norfolk.

- Another Cormorant, CZ3, ringed in April 2023 was sighted only two months later in Merseyside.

- CXS was ringed in 2018 and was seen in November 2022 at Suffolk, and then in August 2023 in Essex.

- CX4 was ringed in 2016, and was seen in September 2022 in Conwy, Wales, but was back at Attenborough a year later.

A Black-headed Gull we ringed as a chick at Attenborough in 2008 was found dead in 2022 on the Isle of Anglesey, Wales. We also have sightings of Black-headed Gulls in Nottinghamshire from South Yorkshire, Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, Poland. And a Black-headed Gull we ringed at Attenborough in May 2019 was resighted in Cork.

On the River Trent, we’ve read colour-rings of Mute Swans from Staffordshire and Greater Manchester. 


Barn Owl ringing

Common Tern chick

Monday 6 May 2024

Tawny Owl boxes

Several group members have been checking Tawny Owl boxes in the last week or two and the emerging picture seems to be average occupency and below average brood sizes (mostly 1s and 2s). A female near Kirklington had first been ringed in 2013 and was at least 3 years old then. She has been processed ten times in the same box with only one year with no breeding in the box. The photos below also show the colour variation in adults well.

Tawny Owl chicks in box (AT)

Female first ringed in 2013 (JL)

A photo showing a bird with multiple ages of feathers in the primaries which can be aged as a '10'. (JL)


A very rufous female (PL)


Attenborough CES, Visit 1 - Sunday 5 May

This morning we ran our first Constant Effort Site (CES) session of the year at Attenborough Nature Reserve. The aim of the CES is to gather data on the survival and breeding success of birds nationally, with the dates of visits, number and duration of visits, and number of nets all standardised so that any changes in the data are a result of bird populations rather than ringer effort.

We caught a total of 29 birds (four more than our first visit last year), with a good variety of species: 5 Great Tit, 4 Blackcap, 3 Reed Bunting, 3 Robin, 2 Garden Warbler, 2 Treecreeper, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackbird, 1 Wren, 1 Cetti’s Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler and 1 Dunnock.

The net rides were much drier than last year, and the weather was warm and sunny. We heard a cuckoo, and lots of Willow Warblers even though we didn’t catch any. A range of butterflies emerged in the late morning, we saw our first damselflies, and Josh spoiled us with homemade cake too. 


Comparing Reed Buntings (HJ)



Monday 22 April 2024

Elton Park Farm - Saturday 20 April

It was a pleasant enough morning at this interesting site and the nets were well sheltered from the cool northerly breeze. On our arrival, good numbers of Willow Warblers could be heard in the short rotation willow coppice, though this is some distance from the ringing site which turned out to be rather quiet. The flocks of finches and buntings were not in evidence, although some had been reported the previous day and we had to be happy with just a dozen birds, including Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, a Reed Bunting and 2 Yellowhammer.


Willow Warbler (A. Turnbull)

Holme Pierrepont, Sunday 21 April

We were hoping to get a good first visit in to Holme Pierrepont as the forecast was calm and overcast. When we went to clear the rides back in February we could only get to 3 of the net positions because of the flooding. After seeing how dry the CES rides were at Attenborough last week, I assumed all would be well at Holme Pierrepont, but how wrong was that assumption! We could only get 6 of the usual 9 nets up, but 4 of them only with care as the site was still very flooded. Bright sun and quite a breeze did not help either and we caught just 20 birds. No Reed Warblers were heard singing and none were caught. However, we did get 5 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Cetti’s Warbler.
net ride (H. James)


Attenborough NR, 13 March & 14 April

We made another visit to the Delta at Attenborough on 31/03/24 putting up another long line of 13 nets. A better catch today helped, no doubt, by no mishaps with breaking poles! 52 birds captured, a mixture of the usual woodland species plus 7 Chiffchaffs and the first 2 Blackcaps of the year.

We missed a session at Attenborough on 07/04/24 because of the high winds but returned on 14/04/24. Another long line of nets erected and more warblers singing on site, but the catch was only modest with 28 birds caught. Willow Warblers were heard singing, a scarce bird on the Delta, so I was surprised when we caught one with a ring on. It was originally ringed there 2 years ago, one of only 2 birds caught on the Delta in the last 5 years. 3 Blackcaps and 4 Chiffchaffs were also caught. An inspection of the main CES ride found it looking clear and dry, it was flooded throughout our CES visits last year.


Willow Warbler (K. Hemsley)


Wednesday 17 April 2024


I've set up a remote-fired whoosh net in the garden and managed to catch a couple of adult Rooks. They are extremely wary, and usually appear very early in the morning, seemingly attracted by food and the soft ground around the septic tank. I think these were males on size, presumably the females are incubating. They are very smart birds close up!


Monday 15 April 2024

Elton Park Farm, Sunday 14 April

Today’s visit to the farmland feeding site in Elton was very successful with 71 birds processed in total, including 50 Yellowhammers, one of the target species. The other birds included resident birds such as Blackbird, Dunnock, Reed Bunting and Wren, as well as several Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and our first Willow Warbler of the year. The flock of Brambling we saw on the previous visit had moved on, but it was nice to hear some summer migrants singing in the trees. Unfortunately, 2 of the 3 chaffinches we caught had 'scaly legs' caused by Fringilla papillomavirus. They were released unringed, but it is worrying that we found it here.

Alex T.

Yellowhammer (A. Turnbull)

Yellowhammer (A. Turnbull)

Saturday 13 April 2024

Portland Bill trip

Josh and I stayed at Portland Bird Observatory for a week-long ringing trip at the start of April, hoping to catch and monitor the returning spring migrants. Although the weather was far from ideal (very windy all week with rain on and off) we enjoyed a steady trickle of Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps alongside the mostly-resident birds such as Dunnock, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Robin and Great Tit.

The highlights were two stunning male Redstarts and a female Sparrowhawk. Birds seen but that evaded the mist nets were Ring Ouzel and Serin. One male Blackcap weighed a whopping 22.8g with a fat score around 6 or 7, which makes you wonder how much further North he was planning on travelling. Nearly all of the other Blackcaps weighed around 17-18g.

What was slightly different for us was that at Portland they play-safe on ageing Chiffchaffs in spring because they do a pre-breeding moult. Although the pre-breeding moult is usually confined to body feathers, Svennson says 5% of birds can moult a few greater coverts. This means that any bird returning could have at least two ages of greater coverts. Moth traps were set every night but returned little in numbers (understandable given the weather).

As it was my first time visiting Portland, what struck me the most was the social aspect and company of fellow ringers and naturalists who were also staying at the Obs. It was great to chat with others about their ringing experiences and learn so much. Thanks to the wardens, Martin and Jody, for their hospitality and guidance.




It's that time of year again when we join forces with NNRG to ring Raven chicks at their undisclosed site. This year the birds had chosen a new nest site which proved a bit difficult to locate. However, last week it was eventually found and four chicks were seen. 

On 10 April, Kev B, Holly, Jake and I joined Adrian and Tara from North Notts RG, the site manager and the Access Techniques team to ring the chicks. The Access Techniques team are very proficient and Andy soon reappeared with the chicks. I was surprised to find that there were 5 large, healthy chicks, a first for this site as the broods have always been smaller. 

Whilst the adults kept watch from nearby, the chicks were ringed (unfortunately only one could be colour-ringed this year due to problems with the supplier) and returned safely to the nest. 

I will continue to monitor the nest so its outcome can be added to the nest record and submitted to the BTO.

Many thanks to Andy and Anthony for taking the photo of the birds once they were safely back in the nest.

Mick P


Wednesday 3 April 2024

Elton Park Farm - Saturday 30 March

Jim, Alex and I met Ben at the farm in Elton on a cold but bright morning, hoping that the day would bring plenty of birds coming to the feeding site, especially as the supplementary feeding elsewhere on the farm had stopped for the season. Ben had been feeding the site regularly and had seen plenty of birds coming and going, including some Brambling.

We set the nets, with some affected by a stronger than expected breeze, but nonetheless we managed a decent first round, which dropped off subsequently, with a steady trickle of birds for the remainder of the morning. There were indeed plenty of Brambling, with birds calling around the copse all morning, but only one found the nets. A few Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting added to the mix along with a couple of pairs of Bullfinch.

Later in the morning we put on a tape for Chiffchaff and managed to catch 4 birds during the session, along with an unexpected male Blackcap, that was caught without any use of sound lures.

All in, it was a pleasant early spring morning with the sunshine keeping us very warm and even stirring awake several butterflies with Brimstone, Orange-tip and Peacock seen.

Total new birds ringed were Blackbird 1, Blackcap 1, Blue Tit 1, Brambling 1, Bullfinch 4, Chaffinch 1, Chiffchaff 4, Long-tailed Tit 1, Reed Bunting 4 and Yellowhammer 13. There were also 3 retraps, a Blackbird and 2 Dunnock.


Brambling (A. Turnbull)

Reed Bunting (T. Shields)

Yellowhammer (T. Shields)

Chiffchaff (T. Shields)