Monday, 28 December 2009

Brack feeding station

Or as Andrew prefers - 'Whitelee Woods'. I'll let him take things from here...

I filled the feeders up to the brim on Friday 18 in case you were ringing and they were almost empty today (Christmas Eve). I brimmed them again and noted the following around the site:
20+ Yellowhammer (no colour rings on any that I could see the legs of)
10 Chaffinch
5 Blackbird
5+ Dunnock
4 Robin
Blue, Great and Marsh Tits
2 Woodpigeon
1 Reed Bunting
1 Moorhen
3 Bullfinch (one male, two female) in hedge along lane

Also quite busy in my garden:
40+ house sparrow
12 Starling
8 Tree Sparrow
7 Blackbird
7 Chaffinch
6 Goldfinch
2 Carrion Crow
2 Collared Dove
2 Magpie
1 Great Spotted Woodpecker (female)
1 Song Thrush
1 Tawny Owl (in tree at back of garden calling at 11am today)
And lastly, 5 Grey Partridge, not in a pear tree, but in the field behind my

RCP, Sun 27 Dec

A slightly disappointing morning at RCP, only 42 birds, the breeze did not help and that increased as the morning progressed.
We expected a really good catch after the spell of hard weather we have had. The only things of note were a lack of Yellowhammers in the nets, although they were around and a couple of Lesser Redpoll caught.

Some more recoveries

Highlights of some other recent recoveries include a Common Tern we ringed as a chick at Colwick in 2004 which has been sighted at Seaforth near Liverpool. The Blackcap that we controlled at Holme Pierrepont in April was ringed near Burton-on-Trent as a 3J in July 2008. In March we controlled a Greenfinch at Granby and it turns out it was ringed in Cropwell Bishop and so we have discovered another ringer operating nearby! Perhaps we can persuade him to join us at some point. One of the Black-headed Gull chicks we ringed at Attenborough found its way to the Vale of Belvoir before being found dead 59 days and 26km later. Lastly, a Canada Goose caught at Attenborough in July was ringed near Tamworth, 45km and 110 days later and a Mute Swan found dead at ANR was ringed 59km away in Lincs, 400 days previously.

Owl recoveries

Of 25 recent Barn Owl recoveries just received the average movement was 10km and the average time elapsed was about 400 days. The furthest travelled was 38km and the oldest was 1072 days. A single Tawny Owl had travelled 11km after 727 days.

More Fieldfares

For the second consecutive day, I joined Jez and Carl of NNRG at the North Wheatley orchard in an attempt to catch more Fieldfares. The first catch of the day produced over 50 birds, but the breeze started to pick up and blow the nets. We closed the nets by 11.00 with a catch of just over 70 birds. However, the total number of Fieldfares caught during the two days was just 2 short of 100 birds (98 Fieldfares) which equates to almost 10% of annual UK catch according to Adrian! Many of the other birds caught were continental Blackbirds and we also had some local Robins, Bullfinches and tits.
The two days ringing were a very nice experience with an abundance of birds due to the huge amount of apples and some pears still left on the orchard trees. However, if more apples had been on the ground Adrian anticipated that the catch would have been even higher than that with such ideal conditions (snow, sun and calm weather).

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Fieldfares with NNRG

Nabegh and I joined Jez Blackburn and Jill James of NNRG at an orchard near Retford today (22 Dec) in an attempt to catch Fieldfare. This has become an annual event in recent years, whenever there is very hard weather and ideally snow.
We had a great day with 180 birds caught, around 80 of which were Fieldfares. Even though temperatures were pretty low we were kept warm by the constant net rounds and numbers of birds to process.
Many thanks to Jez and Adrian Blackburn for the invite.
Mick P

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 20 Dec

We arrived at 0730 to be met with a temperature of -5C. First two rounds produced 50 birds then the bright sun and increasing breeze slowed things down. We ended with 70 birds including the first 4 Yellowhammers of the winter, all of which were retraps - 2 from last winter, one from 3 winters ago and one from 4 winters ago. We thought we might have to finish early due to a power cut. No lights in our ringing hut was not a problem as we generally take all the birds outside to age in natural light and the sunlight was streaming through the windows by then.... but the heater is electric, after a little deliberation we decided we would just have to bear it for the last hour!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Rolls-Royce, Saturday 19

Because I couldn't make Sunday this week I went out on Saturday. I was at the site in Hucknall for 05:30 and had the nets set for Snipe around the boggy area and another net set for anything else well before first light. It was a long wait in the cold at minus 3 degrees C, but it was worth it as I caught another Snipe. Other birds were a smart 3M Yellowhammer, 2 Wrens and a retrap juvenile Song Thrush which was initially caught and ringed in October. I finished at 11:30 having caught just 5 birds. I wasn't disappointed though as the target bird was Snipe and I hopefully learnt a little more about this difficult species.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Unseasonal nestling

An unusual time of year for breeding activity, but blissfully unaware of the snow outside, Penelope Grace arrived at 5:35am on Friday 18 Dec after a very quick and efficient hatching (which is more than can be said for the incubation). She weighed 6lb 10oz, but probably not for long as she has an appetite like her father. An M ring would have probably fit nicely, but the midwife seemed to think that a plastic band was more appropriate (entered as an 'unconventional mark' I think). So Brack activities on hold for a short while...

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

HPP waders

Chris has been out at night recently working the muddy shores of the HPP gravel pits. His considerable efforts have started to pay off. One night last week, he caught 6 Snipe, 1 Jack Snipe, 3 Redshank and 3 Lapwing. He also had 70 Lapwing land right next to his nets. His totals so far this winter are approx 20 Snipe, 2 Jack Snipe, 6 Redshank and 3 Lapwing.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Brack, Sun 13 Dec

It was a beautiful, cold and still morning - just what we had been waiting for - and the first round didn't disappoint with 22 birds. 18 of these were Yellowhammers, and 17 were new birds and as each needed one metal and three colour rings, this kept us busy for a while. Credit must be given to a great team, several of whom had never colour-ringed before. Everyone picked up the procedures quickly and the processing was focused and efficient. From time to time folk were dispatched to check nets and collect more birds, but things didn't really slow up until about midday and we finished on 55 birds, 31 of which Yellowhammers. These are our main target species, not only as they are a species of conservation concern, but also because the colour-ringing project will hopefully yield lots of valuable data (and of course it's our logo bird!).

Our youngest recruit, Archie, joined us again and this time he had his own carabina!

His ringing grip is pretty polished now, and what's more, he can take the pain without flinching...

Towards the end of the morning we caught our resident pair of Marsh Tits and had a chance to go through the identification criteria more carefully than last week. The pale base to the upper mandible is obvious in the close-up photo below, along with the pattern of the tail feather tips.

A Goldfinch had been knocking about near the nets in Orwin's field all morning and Archie had said how he'd never had a good view of one and it would be nice to catch it. So we did. After last week's Long-tailed Tit request was satisfied, I'm getting a bit worried that Archie will begin to think we can produce birds to order.

Other birds around included good numbers of Fieldfares, but far fewer Redwings. The two most notable sightings, however, were both waders. A Green Sandpiper flew over calling and Nabegh disturbed a Woodcock near the feeding station on his way out.
Thanks to Libby and Richard for the pics this week.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Ordering SNRG clothing

Hi all,

Several people in the group have said they are keen to order clothing with the SNRG logo on, however not everyone has found it easy to navigate the website as there is an enormous choice! So a few tips follow.

Firstly, the link is

If you want to order directly, that's no problem at all - just make sure that when you order you specify that you would like the 'South Notts Ringing Group' logo on the item. They have the logo in their computer and there is no extra cost for the embroidery.

However, a bit of money can be saved on postage if you order in a group and I think Ruth is planning on putting an order together fairly soon, so you may wish to email her with details of what you would like.

For those of you overwhelmed by the website, then below are the product codes for items we have ordered in the past. When you go to the website, scroll down to the bottom of the menu on the left and type these codes in the 'search by product code' box.

Standard sweatshirts - 762M or GD50
Polo shirt - K400
T-shirt - SS10
Women's T-shirt - SS72
Short-sleeved rugby shirt - FR20
Cap - BB83
Fleece - 881M
Ski hat - BB243

When you have found the item you want, make a note of the size, colour and price that you want, and of course the product code.

It is worth spending a bit of time browsing the site though as you can get pretty much anything in any colour and it's all reasonably priced. HU230 would look cracking with the SNRG logo on!

If you have any questions or want any help, just email me.


RCP all-dayer, 12 December

We spent a whole day at Rushcliffe Country Park today and ended up on 85 birds, including 29 retraps and a couple of oldies in the small Reed Bunting roost catch. It was the normal range of species, though a ringing tick for Duncan came in the form of a Wood Pigeon.  It was the best catch of the winter so far so worth the all day effort.

Daring Dunnock

In the latest batch of recoveries (more of which another day...) Kev received details of the Dunnock we controlled at Holme Pierrepont this year and it turns out it was ringed as a 3 at Rutland Water in September 2007 and therefore had moved 45km!
Although Dunnocks further east on the continent are known to be fairly long distance migrants, in this country the average recovery distance is less than 1km and less than 5% of recoveries are over 1km. Therefore this bird is something of a Ranulph Fiennes of the Dunnock world.
P.S. We've just discovered it was ringed by our friend Candice Barker!

BTO Conference

Last weekend (5-6 December), I attended the BTO conference and was delighted to see Mick Pearson there as well. I also saw many people from various parts of the UK whom I've met previously through ringing (e.g. Sule Skerry, Wash Wader Ringing Group, Suffolk and even people who started ringing with me from the course at the Flatford Mill Centre).
More than 400 participants had gathered in the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick for the BTO Annual Conference 2009 which also marked the Centenary for the start of the Ringing Scheme. The weather out was brilliant in the morning and then it started raining in the early evening, however the atmosphere inside the conference hall was very warm and enjoyable with a lot of presentations by various speakers. The first couple talks were discussing the history of ringing and the process of monitoring birds in the USA (how advanced they are with ringing and tagging - even fitting dragonflies and bumble bees with dataloggers!) and in Italy where with guidance from the BTO there has been a shift from catching birds for food and sport, towards ornithological science. This last talk was followed by an update on the Out of Africa appeal and how the teams are doing and the expected outcome of this work which is carried jointly by the BTO, RSPB, and both the Burkina Faso & Ghana National Wildlife Societies.
These interesting talks were followed by several other shortish presentations from BTO staff about nest record scheme, monitoring Blackbirds in gardens, Garden Birds and the ranking of birds in starting their activities in the gardens (Blackbird came first), CES experience and effort needed and a BTO Atlas update. They were full of information, tables, statistics and brilliant photos.
The evening were closed by the BTO AGM and lastly the dinner which cannot be missed. I left Mick P behind to enjoy the remainder of the Sunday morning sessions which I couldn't manage to attend.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Greenfinch with aberrant moult

Some pics from Mick of another young female bird with some replaced primaries (but not the corresponding primary coverts) and a really obvious moult limit in the alula. Not sure quite what's happening in the tail... We expect young birds not to moult any wing feathers, but the more we look, the more we find doing so, though it is rarely complete and rarely obvious!

Ringing on TV

Mark has just posted this on the ringers' forum. Jim thinks the Hobby ringing is with Adrian and NNRG...

From: Mark Grantham
Sent: Tuesday, December 08, 2009 11:29 AM
Subject: [btoringers] More ringing on TV

People might be interested in two bits of recent ringing on TV and one coming up.

A bit on general ringing (with an insight into the BTO archives in the 'attic' which might be of interest) was on InsideOut and is available via Demog Blog:

A bit on Stone-curlew ringing in the Brecks was also on Animal 24:7 recently and is on iPlayer for the next week or so: /b0072238

Animal 24:7 will also be showing a piece on Hobby ringing on electricity pylons this coming Friday (21:15 on BBC1): /b00pdhf1

Sorby Breck Ringing Group

This is a neighbouring group in Derbyshire and Mick has recently been ringing snipe with them. I have added the link to their website to the 'Links' section of the blog. There's a lot to look at!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Brack - Sat 5 Dec

Thankfully the ongoing deluge paused for Saturday morning. As I type this though, I'm wondering if I'll be swimming to work tomorrow. It was a beautifully clear start to the day, though strangely quiet and the first net round to the feeding station produced only 4 birds. We had also put a line of nets up in Orwin's and this produced a trickle. However, by 10:30 we had still only caught 12 birds. It's never a problem having a slow morning though as we were able to look at the birds carefully and not feel under pressure.
Joining Tina, Andrew, Michael and myself this morning was my colleague's son and budding ornithologist, Archie Hall. Not only did Archie help us release the birds expertly, but he also helped us to identify some of them. He had already spotted his first Redwing on the walk down and half way through the session a large flock of Fieldfares flew over us - another new one for him.

By about 10:30, we started noticing a little more activity around us. Flocks of Starlings appeared with the thrushes, a Great Spotted Woodpecker came through and a Buzzard drifted past. We could also hear Long-tailed Tits along the Dumble and we commented that a flock in the nets was what we needed to boost the day's numbers. Archie really hoped they found the nets too as he'd never had brilliant views of this species, so imagine what it was like when we found 16 of them lined up in the Orwin's nets. And as a small bonus, Archie's first ever Marsh Tit was with them.

We took down soon after this as the wind picked up, finishing on 31 birds.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Mick hits the Jackpot!

Well... Jack Snipe....
I  went to Williamthorpe Ponds with Geoff Mawson of Sorby Breck last week and managed to do a couple of Common Snipe, a Jack Snipe and a few Lesser Redpoll. Whilst there I took the opportunity to pick his brains. This resulted in me visiting the small boggy area at my Rolls Royce site well before dawn on Tuesday morning. I had nets up by 06:00 and two Common Snipe in them not long after!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Bleak weekend

Well it was never going to be a record-breaking weekend for ringing, but the forecast did keep us guessing a bit. In the end we cancelled Brack and considering there is no shelter there, this was probably just as well. Although much of the morning was dry, the few localised downpours were fairly violent.
Kev and gang did head out to RCP and the start was delayed by rain, and then a mid-morning furl was required as well. About 20 birds were ringed.
It was perhaps Mick, who stayed at home, who had the most to report. He managed to open a net between showers and the first drama was when a Sparrowhawk bounced! He also caught a young Goldfinch still in post-juvenile moult. This species's breeding season just seems to go on and on...

Finally, he caught a couple of Collared Doves.

Let's hope the weather is kinder next weekend.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Update from Mick's garden, 27-11-09

I managed to put a net up for a couple of hours today. It was the best session of late and I finished on 8 birds, 5 new and 3 recaptures. Of the new birds 3 were Goldfinches and 2 were Greenfinches.
The Greenfinches were interesting. They were a 3M and a 4M. The tails were a good example of Svennson's explanation of the tips of the outer web of the 5th TF, with the juvenile feather tapering off and the adult feather remaining broadly rounded. Also, the young bird had moulted several tail feathers and you can see the contrast between old and new feathers in the pic.

There were also obvious differences in the quality of the feathers and amount of abrasion. Lastly, the 4M had clean grey tips to the primary coverts and a bright yellow alula.
The recaptures were all Goldfinches that I ringed in September (of 116 ringed I have only recaptured 9). After sexing and ageing them on their characteristics in the hand, I looked back at the ringing data and to my relief my records tallied and it's good to have the opportunity to follow the development of specific birds as they get older.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Lennon blog goes live...

Jim & Elaine have now established a blog from their little island home:

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Trying to ring in the November gales...

The weather caused us to cancel the session at RCP on Sunday but we made plans to have a go at Attenborough on Monday morning, despite a poor forecast. It was breezy to start with - too breezy really for any successful mist-netting but Tim had already caught a Moorhen. We put the net up anyway and retired to the comfort of the visitor centre. We finished at about 10.00 with 8 birds and 5 of those had been caught by hand. No prizes for guessing which they were:

1 Tree Sparrow
1 Chaffinch
1 Dunnock
1 Moorhen
3 Coot
1 Egyptian Goose


Sunday, 22 November 2009

AGM & Social

It was a pretty good turn out for our annual chin-wag and booze-up and we covered a broad range of issues in the serious part of the evening concerning how the group is run. Kev will be circulating minutes to members soon in case you were not able to make it.

But then it was onto the important stuff and for the second year in a row members provided a superb spread of food and particular mention should go to Alena Sexton for her continental snacks (sorry - can't remember their proper name!) and Ruth's marvellous cake.

We were then treated to a very entertaining slide presentation from Gary covering his and the group's ringing activities over the last 20 years or so and we also looked at some of my slides from Zambia. Finally we tipped the cleaning staff (below) who did a very professional job. Thanks to Mick for hosting us at RCP once again.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Tina's work on Yellowhammers

This is Tina's latest poster presentation on her Yellowhammer studies. It's really great for the group to have an involvement in things like this - just hope everyone can read it. Try clicking on it, then clicking again to zoom in.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Brackenhurst - Sun 15 Nov

Despite its best efforts, the rain never quite reached us and we managed to get the nets up in good time and the Chaffinches seemed to be queuing up in the trees as we got organised. Off 22 birds processed, 12 were in the first round and the remainder provided a satisfying trickle through the morning. Although many birds have clearly not yet felt the need to seek out the feeding station, it's quite nice to have the odd steady morning so that you can look at birds carefully and not feel under pressure. The total comprised 8 Chaffinches, 4 Great Tit, 2 Blue Tit, 3 Dunnock and 1 Blackbird. Finally, 4 Yellowhammer were the first of the season and of course we were glad of the time to fit colour rings.

These were the first two, both males, an adult on the left and a young bird on the right. Although there is some difference in the intensity of the plumage colouration, this is not a particularly useful aging character. In fact it can be downright misleading. Note however the tails - the adult's is fresh, strong, well-marked and rounded whereas the youngster's is faded, narrow, pointed and abraded.

We also managed to find time to clear some rides though the rapidly regenerating copse in Orwin's and it will be interesting to see how future catches compare with last year when it was much shorter.

Other things flying about included a couple of Buzzards, about 80 Fieldfare, 20 Redwing, 5 Meadow Pipits, 10 Skylarks, 12 Bullfinch, 10 Tree Sparrow (almost at the feeding station), a Marsh Tit, a Siskin and a couple of Cormorants over. 


Rushcliffe Country Park - 15 Nov 2009

After meeting at 0700 and then waiting for the rain to stop we eventually had the feeder nets up and open by 0800. There seemed to be plenty of birds around and the first round produced about 10 birds. From that point on the clouds broke up, the sun came out, the breeze picked up and it all went downhill from there. Despite me telling a few people we finished on 26 birds it was wishful thinking as we only had 21. The pick of the bunch were 4 Goldfinch and a Bullfinch. As the birds dropped off we completed the ride clearance ready for next Saturday, weather permitting we should get 10 nets up next week.


Attenborough ducklings

An unusual sighting from Tim in the last few days at Attenborough was this slightly unseasonal brood of Mallards. There have been a couple of other such broods in the last few years. Must be climate change...

Christmas is coming...

Thought members might like to see a painting by our very own Tim that might make you feel festive...

Not sure why it's unringed though...

Monday, 9 November 2009

Rushcliffe Country Park - Sun 8 Nov

Six of us made it out this morning and we caught about 35 birds. Perhaps the most interesting was a Goldfinch that was moulting strangely and which was the cause of much discussion.It had moulted its tail, tertials, secondaries, primaries 1 - 6 and the small alula feather. It also had some gold flecks in the red of the crown (which Gary has seen in adults). So the debate centred around whether it was an adult with arrested moult or an early hatched juvenile which had seized the opportunity to have an extensive moult. Unfortunately I don't have photos and I'm not sure what the final verdict was!

Mick P

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Marsh & Willow Tits

An article in the latest issue of British Birds examines the identification of Marsh and Willow Tits. It finds that some of the established separation criteria are less reliable than thought due to large degrees of overlap and the differences seen in juvenile plumage (cap colour and gloss, cap shape, bib shape, lower mandible colour). However, it finds that cheek pattern and colour and the colour at the base of the upper mandible are both helpful. Of course various biometrics still help in the hand too. Have a look at the pic below.

PS In case any of you were wondering - I've looked at the pics of that bird we caught at HPP a couple of years ago and we were right - it was definitely a Marsh Tit!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


A nice note in the latest issue of British Birds...

Some recent recoveries

The latest batch of recoveries included a wide variety of species - more than just Barn Owls! A Holme Pierrepont Blackbird found its way 5km to Woodthorpe, a Bunny Tree Sparrow was found after 251 days and a Brack Yellowhammer found its way 5km to Morton. A Kingfisher was 'seen' (goodness knows how...) at Colwick just over a year after having been ringed at HPP and a Sand Martin was caught at Attenborough about a year after being ringed near King's Lynn, 118km away (and after a quick jaunt to Africa). Barn Owls are in there of course, with the most notable being one 2 yr old and two 4yr olds, travelling between 10 and 37km. But perhaps the star bird was a Common Tern ringed in Oxfordshire in 1997and seen at Attenborough this year.

Monday, 2 November 2009

RCP - Mon 2 Nov

After yesterday's foul weather, we managed to get in the first session of the winter at Rushcliffe Country Park today. The morning started still and bright and we set the usual nets. Mick T had warned there were not many birds about and the breeze started to get up from mid-morning but we finished with just over twenty birds caught, half of them tits. A Sparrowhawk was hanging around looking for a meal, but it managed to evade capture as usual!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Spanish Backcap controls

We've just been sent details of the two British-ringed Blackcaps that we caught in Spain. Both young birds from the south of the country.


X312153   BLACKCAP   3M, 19.9.2009, SU1285, Wilts

X763133   BLACKCAP   3J, 2.8.2009, TQ0173, Bucks

Thursday, 29 October 2009

2008 report

Each year the group produces a report for the Notts Birdwatchers annual bird report. As some of the group are not members of NBW, we though it might be good to post the report here. Just click on the pages for a larger view. In future we will aim to get this report out slightly earlier than 10 months after the year it summarises!

Brackenhurst, Wed 28 Oct

Well, a beautiful day and an impressive turn-out for the first session of the season. We began down at the feeding station for 3 or 4 hours, got everything set up and caught a handful of birds.

Most were new birds with Chaffinch, Great Tit and Dunnock being most numerous and not a single Blue Tit! We also caught a retrap Great Tit that was almost certainly ringed as a chick in one of the boxes earlier in the year.

The majority of young Dunnocks were still in post-juvenile moult as was the single Wren caught. Another interesting bird was an old retrap adult Great Tit that had forgotten to moult a couple of inner secondaries on both wings.

Bullfinches were particularly obvious around the site, although we only caught one young female. She was a very calm individual and although this sensitive species isn't always suitable to hold for photos, she was so relaxed we were able to get a pic or two.
Good numbers of Fieldfares and a few Redwings and Song Thrushes were flying about. Skylarks were also obvious and a couple of Siskins came over. Yellowhammers were around in small groups, but not yet in the feeding area. We finished with an excellent catch of Autumn leaves...

Up at Andrew's house at the farm, the plan is to colour-ring some House Sparrows as Brack has some history of studying this species here.

We put up 3 nets and caught 20 birds, 12 of which were House Sparrows, one of which was a retrap, ringed as a chick in a box nearby.

A Grey Wagtail kept teasing us by flying near the net and we also caught an intriguing Dunnock.

This was clearly a young bird with a dull eye, flimsy tail, black-tipped primary coverts and the like, yet it had moulted several primaries and secondaries symmetrically. Looking quickly at the literature, this would appear to be very unusual.