Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Attenborough CES - updates

CES Session 2 - 16 May

Mick T, Kevin, Gary, and I carried out the second CES in a break in the appalling weather we have been having this spring. Catching was steady throughout the morning with another new Song Thrush being caught and the first Garden Warbler of the year also processed. Birds overhead included Hobby and the first few flocks of Swifts.

Bird processed (new/retrap):
Wren 2/0, Long-tailed Tit 3/1, Robin 2/1, Garden Warbler 1/0, Blackcap 4/1, Great Tit 2/2, Blue Tit 3/0, Reed Warbler 1/0, Dunnock 1/1, Song Thrush 1/1, Blackbird 2/0, Treecreeper 0/1.

CES Session 3 - 23 May

A gap in the poor weather allowed us to get out to complete the third CES session. Catching remained slow throughout the morning with only 25 bird being processed. The variety, however, was nice with Goldcrest, the first juvenile of the CES sessions and another new feisty Jay being caught. The latter chewed through Alex’s fingers whilst both being extracted and processed – somehow more senior ringers felt that this would be a “good experience” for him!

Bird processed (new/retrap):
Jay 1/0, Blackbird 1/0, Great Tit 2/1, Blackcap 5/1, Reed Warbler 2/0, Blue Tit 4/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Chiffchaff 3/0, Wren 2/0, Goldcrest 1/0.

CES Session 4 - 31 May

Mick T, Kevin, Gary, and I made it out for the fourth CES. Despite the recent warm weather, most of the morning was quite cold and overcast, the cloud only lifted as we started to close the nets. Despite this, catching was steady for most of the morning, but only a handful of juveniles were caught. Given the poor spring this may be a portent of a poor breeding season, but only time and data will tell. Other birds included the first Cuckoo of the year heard and a Buzzard overhead.

Bird processed (new/retrap):
Blackbird 1/1, Dunnock 3/1, Blue Tit 3/1, Great Tit, 1/1, Robin 2/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Garden Warbler 1/0, Blackcap 1/0, Chiffchaff 4/2, Long-tailed Tit 8/4, Wren 1/1, Treecreeper 1/0, Cetti’s Warbler 0/1


Examining Blackcaps (A. Phillips)

CES Long-tailed Tit release


Saturday, 15 May 2021

Brackenhurst Tawny Owls

Some nice footage of a Tawny Owl feeding young at one of our Brackenhurst boxes here: 

This box has also held Kestrels and Stock Doves over the years. In 2021, the owls raised 2 chicks and the female was also trapped and ringed.

Sunday, 9 May 2021


Towards the end of February, I was working from home and when I noticed a Siskin on one of the sunflower heart feeders. This was the first Siskin I’d seen in the garden (other than flyovers) since the first winter we moved in, when I'd recorded a single bird on one occasion. 

A few days later, I was ringing in the garden, not catching much, when a female Siskin flew into the net. It was accompanied by a male, which evaded capture, but was a great surprise and it was pleasant to ring my first Siskin since the faraway days of ringing at Rushcliffe CP.

In the following days, more and more birds arrived and soon, the garden was alive with a constant buzz of wheezing Siskin song and pew-pew calls. The next chance I got, I put a net up and managed 10 birds one morning before the sun rose above the nearby houses and stopped play. The birds didn’t go anywhere and the in following few weeks I caught 44 new birds and retrapped a few in the process. Towards the end of the period I was catching more retraps than new birds, so I presumed I’d marked most of them. Unfortunately other commitments meant I couldn’t trap quite as much, although by the beginning of April, numbers were starting to dwindle. It was interesting to note that after I thought they’d disappeared, some birds returned from time to time, which led me to think these could be local breeders.

I haven’t seen any more in the garden for about 3 weeks so presume they have disappeared, but it was nice to be lucky enough to have them choose my garden to fill their ‘hungry-gap’ at the end of the winter. Hopefully they’ll be back one day...

The photos below show some of the ageing criteria for these birds.

A first-winter female with 2 old greater coverts and typical juvenile tertials with ill-defined edges and wear. Also note the pointed tail feathers with the limited green of the female:


A first-winter male, also with 2 old coverts. The tail is more adult-like than many juvenile tails, nice and round, but the wing gave it away as a young bird. Some of the 1st winter males also seemed to have grey feathers mixed in with the black crown: 

And an adult female with no moult limit (though the photo almost appears to show one – this wasn’t the case), a nice rounded tail, and tertials with much more defined edges than that of the young bird above: 



Friday, 7 May 2021


Group members will know that I like to get out ring-reading when I can, and although the extent of what I do is pretty small, I get a great deal of pleasure from finding ringed birds and reporting them, and it gives a little extra value to my birding.

I don’t get out as much as I’d like, but the main areas I cover are Trent Bridge and Victoria Embankment, Stoke Bardolph, and other sites I usually bird at like Holme Pierrepont and Colwick. The main target is Black-headed gulls, and over the years I have managed to find a few birds. Rewards are slim and it can be very disappointing to find a big flock, hungry for bread, without any ringed birds. Finding a ringed bird, especially if its got a handy colour ring on, is therefore very rewarding.

I have found birds that have been ringed in numerous countries, including Poland, Norway, The Netherlands and Denmark, as well as a small number of British ringed birds. It isn’t always easy, and along the way I have misread some colour-rings and therefore lost the chance at finding out life-histories. Most frustrating is attempting to read unfamiliar metal rings, and just this year I have found 3 Finnish metal-ringed birds that were always too flighty to get a full code from. (Finnish rings have an alpha-numeric code separated with a full stop, just to make things complicated!)

Bycatch from this activity includes ringed geese and swans. The Canada Geese are all from the Nottingham Uni project, but I feel I have added value to their project by regularly reporting birds, though sightings from this project have dropped off somewhat, perhaps due to the birds not being ringed for the last few years. In March I stepped up efforts and in doing so discovered a few flocks of Mute Swans, so managed a few ring numbers there too – particularly easy as they allow you to actually handle the ring to get the code in some cases! I have also read rings of Common Gull, Little Egret, and on wider excursions, waders such as godwits and Avocets. Frustratingly, every Grey Heron and Cormorant I check never seems to have a colour-ring (sorry Jim!).

I just wanted to give a brief outline of my experience of ring-reading, and encourage others to give it a go. I gave it a lot more effort to the end of last winter and hope to continue this effort later in the year. All you need is a site with plenty of birds hanging around, a few loaves of bread, and a bit of patience... Happy hunting!



Thursday, 6 May 2021

Attenborough CES visit 1, Sunday 2 May

After a year’s absence from Attenborough, it was nice to be back carrying out the first CES season of 2021. The weather was almost ideal when Gary, Kev, Mick Pearson and I met at 05:50 with no wind and a little cloud.

Pete Stanyon and the Attenborough volunteers had done a brilliant job clearing the rides and we managed to get all the nets up and guyed before 07:00. Catching was steady throughout the morning, with the first Reed Warbler of the year caught, and with a Jay, Cetti’s Warbler and a Treecreeper adding to the interest. Unusually, no Dunnocks were trapped. In total 31 birds were processed,  comprising 26 new and 5 recaptures.

The totals were as follows (new/recapture):

Blackbird 1/1, Blackcap 6/0, Blue Tit 4/1, Cetti’s Warbler 1/0, Chiffchaff 3/0, Great Tit 1/1, Jay 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 2/0, Reed Warbler 1/0, Robin 1/1, Song Thrush 2/0, Treecreeper 1/0, Wren 2/0





Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Recent recoveries

Now ringing and birding is a lot less restricted, our recoveries are coming in a little more regularly once again. As predicted before Christmas, the Lesser Redpolls that were ringed in huge numbers in the autumn are beginning to get picked up by ringers elsewhere. Sorby Breck ringers in particular are catching very high numbers of Redpoll, especially at their site at Ramsley, and they have controlled two birds ringed by our group in the autumn. These birds were both ringed at Bestwood by Mick, in November and December, and one was controlled at Blackburn Meadows near Rotherham at the end of December, and another at Ramsley in April.

Other Redpoll recoveries include a bird ringed at Bestwood in December, recovered a few miles north at Bilsthorpe only a week later. A bird ringed at Holme Pierrepont on 11 October was recovered in Shropshire in April, and another HP bird, ringed on 16 October was contolled in Edwinstowe in January. Birds are still being caught in decent numbers so we can probably expect some more movements to be reported soon.

Other passerine recoveries are summarised below:
  • a Chiffchaff, ringed on 31 August last year at Ramsdale was caught by French ringers at Dourges, Pas-de-Calais in the beginning of October
  • another bird ringed at Ramsdale on the same date, a Goldfinch, was recently found dead in Woodborough, at the end of April
  • another Goldfinch, ringed in Tom’s Colwick Garden in January, was retrapped by Sorby Breck ringers at a site near Sheffield in April
  • a Blackbird ringed at Attenborough in 2016 was found dead on the reserve in February this year
  • Probably the most interesting recovery here, involves a Fieldfare, ringed in Cropwell Bishop by another ringer in 2018, and resighted at Devonshire Farm in February. The birds metal ring was read in the field and shows that this rarely recovered species can be faithful to an area in successive winters, as the two sites are only a few kilometres from one another.
Of the few raptor recoveries we have had, a Kestrel ringed in Owthorpe in 2014 is perhaps the most interesting, found dead this year near Beeby in Leicestershire.

More ring-reading from Tom resulted in a Rutland Water-ringed Black-headed Gull being seen at Trent Bridge in November. It had been ringed as a chick in 2019, and had been seen the previous winter at Clumber. The Norweigian Common Gull (J18V), ringed in 2016 and seen last winter at Trent Bridge, was seen again at the same site in March this year. Further afield, the Black-headed gull, ringed at Attenborough in 2019 that spends its time in Cork, has been seen again at the lough in Cork this last winter period.


Wednesday, 14 April 2021


An early breeder, we have ringed Raven nestlings at one site since 2014. To date 21 chicks have been ringed and the average brood size has been three. Nineteen have also been colour-ringed. We've had one recovery so far, a chick from 2014 was found dead in a sheepfield in West Yorkshire, 73 km away. 

Jim & Christian


Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Cormorant movements

As can be seen from the map below, reproduced from the 2020 report, Cormorant CX4 (5268887 - purple line) is highly mobile, regularly commuting between Merseyside and the south-east coast. It has now been seen again at Havergate Island NR in Suffolk where it seems to like spending the winter.