Friday, 31 December 2010

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Flintham Nuthatches

Ewan and I tried for thrushes in an orchard in Flintham on Wednesday. There had previously been masses of Fieldfare, Redwing & Blackbirds feeding feverishly on the fallen apples, and there had also been a Waxwing feeding on apples nearby on Monday. It turned out that the breaking mild weather got the better of us in this respect. However, all was not lost. I pointed out an overhead Nuthatch to Ewan, as they've only just reached Grampian in the last year. He remembered that they were supposed to come to tape; so we gave it a go. Within 30 minutes we'd caught three of them; so ringing ticks all round. New species for Jenny & Ewan and an adult tick for me. The remainder of our 35 bird catch comprised mainly Long-tailed Tits and Blackbirds.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Rushcliffe Country Park, Christmas Eve

We decided on a later start and an early finish to give the birds chance to feed. There seemed to be plenty of birds around generally but each catch was relatively small and we ended on 38 birds of which 24 were retraps. Again most of the birds were tits, only 1 Chaffinch and 5 Yellowhammers were caught, the rest were mainly Robins and Dunnocks. We did have two 4 year old birds, a Blue Tit and a Blackbird - the Blackbird had not been recaptured there before today.

Orchard ringing at North Wheatley - Monday 27 December

Four group members (Jim, Gary, Mick P & Meisha) joined the North Notts Ringing Group on Monday, to ring Fieldfare in an orchard in North Wheatley. We processed 92 birds, roughly half of which were the target species. The rest were mainly Blackbirds and other interesting captures included a Little Owl, two female Sparrowhawks (including an adult female, something you don't often see in the hand) and a Mistle Thrush. Meisha came away with 3 more ringing ticks (Fieldfare, Little Owl and Sparrowhawk) and Gary came away with a few scars courtesy of the Little Owl. Despite the cold and the snow showers, a great time was had by all.
Jim & Gary

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Brackenhurst, Thursday 23 December

A much better catch of 62 birds processed (after the recent 11 bird session). The morning was dominated by Yellowhammers (30) and Robins (18), with nine of the former colour ringed. However, tits & finches were notable by their absence, with only one new Chaffinch ringed. For the record, birds processed were (new/retrap): Blackbird 2/0; Dunnock 0/7; Robin 5/13; Chaffinch 1/0; Yellowhammer 25/5; Reed Bunting 2/0.

With 72% of the Robins being retraps, it shows how short of food they must be and shows the importance of maintaining supplementary feeding when food is short supply. It's obvious the harsh weather is affecting the birds in a big way in that they're doing a combination of the following: moved further to find food locally e.g. the tits may have moved to garden peanut feeders; left the area entirely e.g. thrushes & finches; succumbed to starvation & the cold; going to known food sources. On the latter point, we had several older bird retraps who, being more experienced, seem to know where to go for food.

It was pretty quiet bird wise with a single Brambling first thing, the odd Fieldfare & Redwing, a Great Tit holding territory and one Blue Tit heard. However, Orwins had a few Siskin & Goldfinch in the alders. A Cormorant flew over and both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were hanging about.

Lastly - the first Brack lamb of the season was born today!


Monday, 20 December 2010

Granby, Sunday 19 December

Although the arctic climate has not delivered snow to the East Midlands in the same quantities as elsewhere, the temperature has remained well below zero so we decided to give the birds a chance to have breakfast and we met at 9:00.

It turned out to be a beautiful morning, and despite the late start we managed 50 birds in the sunshine and still packed up soon after 12. However, variety was not on the menu and generally not many birds were flying about.

Scores were (retrap + new): Great Tit 3+4, Blue Tit 4+9, Yellowhammer 12 new, Chaffinch 6+1, Willow Tit 1 retrap, Dunnock 2+5 (3 of the retraps were 2-4 yo, perhaps suggesting adults go to surefire food source in harsh weather) and 1 new Tree Sparrow. Best was probably an elderly female Chaffinch, first caught nearly six years ago.

Also noted were about 25 Lapwing, a few large flocks of Wood Pigeon, a few small flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings and the odd Skylark. Lastly, one Lesser Spotted Ringer in winter plumage. NB - contrast in the upper lip is not indicative of a first year. Quite the opposite in fact.


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Waxwing update

So far, despite quite a bit of recce work and a few flocks found, none of the group has managed to catch any more..... yet. If you do find, or hear of any in the Nottingham area, let one of us know asap. It's vital to get in quick before berries are stripped and the birds move on.

Friday, 17 December 2010


Here's the bird - just the one so far...

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Chasing Waxwings...

Well we spent a couple of hours looking for them this morning around the locations where Mick had seen them and/or been reported on NBW. The berries were finished on the rowan on the sheltered housing where Mick had got permission on Chewton Rd, but they'd not touched 3 rowans just along the road (maybe because there was no roost tree for them to swoop down from?). We looked round Smithurst Rd and also found half stripped trees nr Church St, Eastwood, but still no birds. Our last shot was pretty much the Nuthall/Watnall area and bingo we found c120 birds in a high treetop. The Waxies were going down to two feeding sites that we could see: a front garden sorbus (c20 birds) via a 10m high tree in a roadside garden & an apple tree in the school caretaker's garden. A chance chat with one of the neighbours (who enquired if we were twitchers) led to him contacting the garden sorbus owner who consented to us netting in her garden. Meanwhile we'd been allowed to put up a net in the caretaker's garden. On Jenny's advice we then hung on for the hoped pre-roost feed. This just about materialised with 3 birds by the roadside net and the one bird flew in to it; making Mick a happy fella, plus the apples bought in 2 blackbirds.

Trying again tomorrow so hopefully more news and pics to com...


Monday, 13 December 2010


Many have you have heard about Chris's Bittern already, caught beside the Trent near Clifton Grove. It's now been photographed post-ringing on the Holme Pit by Robert Hoare and many more images are on his great blog here:
And here's a taster. It's hard to miss the ring!

2011 Ringing Courses

The dates for the 2011 ringing courses are now confirmed. Please see: Given they're very popular and were over subscribed last year, it's worth giving them some serious thought now, discussing it with your trainer and get an early application in!
(PS if you don't know the login & password for the ringers' pages just email me - Pete)

Brackenhurst, Sunday 12 December

Unlike Pete last weekend, we did manage to colour ring all the Yellowhammers we caught. But that was partly because there were only 2. In fact we only cuaght 11 birds in total and only two retrap tits in the last round. Whether this was to do with the sudden thaw, or something to do with the bait we're using, who knows?

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 12 December

A relatively quiet day with only 44 birds caught including 29 retraps. Nothing surprising turned up, the best birds being 4 each of Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting plus a Blue Tit ringed 5 years ago.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

BTO rebrands itself...

Bound to spark a bit of lively debate. Say goodbye to the gannet flying over the stormy line-graph sea and say hallo to...

More here:

And here:

Bonsai boxes

I've recently been making model Barn Owl nest boxes for use in talks by the Galloway Nature & Heritage Trust.  These ones are half size and, ironically, took me longer than the full size boxes to make.  However, they look just the right size for the Pygmy Owl introduction project I was planning  . . . .

Cold weather movements

Sustained periods of cold weather always result in a few interesting observations. This morning there were two Curlew on the grass outside my classroom window in Bingham. Goodness knows where they had come from, but they must have been pretty desperate.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 5 December

The first round produced about twenty birds, all were checked to see that their weights were ok. Surprisingly all were fine including the Goldcrest we caught later in the morning that weighed in at over 5 grams. We finished on 58 birds, 28 of which were retraps, Chaffinch being the most numerous species caught with a total of 10 birds. Yellowhammers are increasing with 5 caught, including a bird from last winter. A Siskin was also caught along with 7 Goldfinch, other than that it was generally business as usual but good to see that all the birds we caught seemed to be coping well with the cold.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Brackenhurst, Sunday 5 December

The day may have begun with negotiating the ice-rink back roads at Brack, but we were also greeted by a couple of hungry Barn Owls flying around in the mist. The temperature remained below zero, but being distinctly warmer than the previous week we decided to put up the 3 feeding station nets.

The first round produced 20 birds immediately and the first thing we did was check a few weights to establish the condition of the birds. The result? All in rude health and even our first little female Blue Tit weighed in at over 10g which was a relief. However, one must wonder whether the weaker birds have simply all perished by now after such sustained cold weather.

The sky quickly cleared and although a dazzling sun rose, it held little heat. Nevertheless, we checked the nets at very regular intervals and pulled birds out in threes and fours. Yellowhammer proved most numerous with 12 new and 1 retrap caught. And in joint second place were Robin and Dunnock with 9 of each trapped, including 7 retrap Dunnocks. This species is perhaps benefiting more than we realise from the feeding station.

Tits were remarkable by their absence (2 retrap Blue, 2 retrap Great) and Chaffinches also seemed scarce (we only trapped 3 new birds). However we did catch a single Tree Sparrow and we finished on 42 birds processed.

In general birds were thin on the ground. A few small flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings were around and a single Great Spotted Woodpecker called. However, many regulars were not recorded such as the Marsh Tits. Richard and Oscar were lucky enough to flush a single Woodcock. We also welcomed Carol and Emma Hollier from Southwell who came to watch.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Sunday at Gary's

When I picked Meisha up at 06.20 as planned the temperature was only -8. By the time we got to Brack it was -10 so after a short discussion it was decided not to put nets up and return home to the warm. After a bit, Meisha and I put a single net up in the back garden and had a slow catch during the morning with the thought in mind that captured bird could be kept warm in the house while being processed. We finished on about 20 birds for the day at the MEA ringing station.

After I had taken Meisha home I caught a Blackcap - the first for the station as was a Wren ringed by Meisha, she also had 2 new ringing ticks House Sparrow and Starling.


Brackenhurst, Sunday 28 November

What with it being -11.5 C at Gonalston just before dawn, we decided not to disturb the feeding station and so abandoned this session. Pete will try again next weekend...

Granby, Saturday 27 November

Duncan and I set forth for Granby on Saturday expecting northerly winds and no snow, but as you now know we got little wind and a couple of inches of snow. For various reasons we did not start ringing until 09:00 am, but still managed 64 birds. However, with more folks it would have been more like a hundred. The evidence of a good tit breeding season was there again with 24 Blue Tits (18 retraps) and 14 retrap Great Tits. The first Greenfinches of the winter appeared, with eight new birds ringed. Other highlights included a second winter male Sparrowhawk, which brushed my leg as it went in the net (!) and the first Tree Sparrow of the season.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Recent recoveries

Amongst a selection of recoveries just received are about 10 relatively local Barn Owl records including three after 3 years and one after 5 years. A Blackcap ringed in August last year at HPP was found in Lincs this spring and a Pied Flycatcher from Wales last year was trapped at Portland Bill this spring.

Unusual redpoll

This striking Lesser Redpoll has been caught twice in Derbyshire. More remarkably though, it was ringed by Bryn Roberts in 2009 as a 5 with only two white greater coverts and then the photo was taken by Geoff Mawson when it was retrapped it this year. I had never realised that leucism could be progressive like this. Anyone care to comment? Thanks to Jim & Jack Street for passing it on.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Brackenhurst, Sunday 21 November

It was a blustery and surprisingly bracing morning at Brack. Birds weren't exactly falling out of the trees, but we caught enough to keep us happy and finished on 38, 27 of which were retraps - a fairly similar scenario to Granby and RCP. Great and Blue Tits made up the bulk, but we also caught Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch and Bullfinch. Of four Yellowhammers trapped, 3 were retraps and all were adults. A single Goldcrest was a new one for Andrew.

Also around were several Siskins, and although a tape lured them to within a few feet of the nets, they never actually went in. Large numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings circulated, occasionally flushed by both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Ian kicked a Woodcock out of Orwin's but before the nets were up and single Redpoll and Mistle Thrush flew over.

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 21 November

It was good to have Nabegh out ringing with us again at RCP, he is back for a two week visit. The morning produced another steady catch but numbers were down on the last two visits with only 44 birds caught, 27 of these were retraps! Of these only 1 was of particular interest, a Yellowhammer originally caught in the spring of 2009. This was interesting as it is the earliest date we have ever caught the species at the site, they do not normally appear until into December. With the early date of the first Reed Bunting last week could this mean that natural food sources are scarce this winter? The best birds of the morning were 3 Siskin caught together.


Granby, Saturday 20 November

The second visit to Granby was again Tree Sparrow & Yellowhammer free ringing wise. Though this time the latter were roosting at the feeding site, and both were heard overhead. Anyway, we managed 38 birds of just six species. Blue and Great Tit dominated with 11 new Blue Tits; which must be some sort of record. Otherwise it was mainly Chaffinches. Highlight birds were four year old retrap Blue & Great Tits. Snow & cold later in the week should bring in more birds to the feeding stations.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Brackenhurst, Sunday 14 November

We had 37 birds, which included 16 from Orwin's, and 20 retraps. Highlights were: juv male Sparrowhawk, 10 Dunnock (2 new only); first Tree Sparrow & Greenfinch of the winter; tape luring 3 Goldfinch in Orwin's where we caught most of the tits! Oh, and everyone had a larf when I inadvertently let the Magpie escape!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 14 November

A frosty start greeted us as we arrived at the park. Surprisingly the first net round produced only a few birds and each catch throughout the morning remained steady. The result was a total of 58 birds netted, half of them retraps. Nothing unusual caught but 3 Reed Bunting at the site in mid November is the earliest date in the last 3 years. One of the Reed Buntings was a retrap from 2007, it has also been caught in 2008 and 2009. Four more birds were caught by hand giving a new species to some of the trainees, 3 Mute Swan and a Coot.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 7 November

The first session of the winter at RCP produced a reasonable catch of 49 birds starting with a 25 bird first round including 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Blackcap and 2 Coal Tits. We have only ever caught 5 Coal Tits previously at the park and the last was three years ago. (I've noticed them in several unusaul places recently - perhaps they've had a good breeding season? Pete).

Most of the birds caught were Blue & Great Tits and Chaffinches - no buntings and the only other finch species caught were a Greenfinch and 2 Goldfinches. Of the 49 birds 12 were retraps including a Blue Tit ringed 26/05/03 and caught most years since except for 2009.

Siskins were heard going over and a large flock of Pink-footed Geese, maybe the same birds that flew over Granby!?


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Granby, Sunday 7 November

I'd forgotten my rule about Granby - that you should always wear one more layer than you think you need. It was pretty fresh out there first thing, but Jim, Duncan & I had a very pleasant first session of the season.

The bait had only been out a few days (and we'd already suffered some vandalism of the hoppers!) so our catch of 38 birds wasn't bad really. Amongst these were 10 Long-tailed Tits, a Willow Tit and 2 Goldcrests. Having not ringed there last winter, any retrap instantly became a little more interesting and we caught a Blue Tit and a Long-tailed Tit from 3 and 2 years ago respectively.

Sightings included about 50 Skylarks in loose flocks, several Meadow Pipits, several hundred Redwings and Fieldfares, about 8 Brambling, 25 Golden Plover and 170 Pink-footed Geese heading south-east. Amazingly, we did not see or hear a single Yellowhammer or Tree Sparrow. One particularly odd bird seen was a leucistic male Reed Bunting - a very pale buff bird with only the shadow of the head pattern and almost white flight feathers.
Jim charms a Goldcrest.
 Duncan holds his finger out hoping to do the same, but they've all headed back to Norway looking for somewhere warmer than Granby.

Gib blog

Many of you have visited Gibraltar Point Bird Observatory if not to ring, to go birding. Mick Briggs has now set up a blog for the obs which may whet your appetite for a few weekend jaunts:

Brackenhurst, Saturday 6 Nov

We had 50 birds processed on our second visit to Brack today, with about 10 of those coming from the Orwins nets. Quite a few retraps from the first visit two weeks ago, including the two Coal Tits. Other birds were two Marsh Tits (one was two year old retrap), Redwing (it liked the Fieldfare tape!) and four Yellowhammers (all colour-ringed). All the Yellowhammers caught so far have been adults (six), which though it's early days makes me wonder if they've had a poor breeding season.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Recent recoveries

Amongst a recent batch of recoveries were a handful of local birds such as Kestrel, Black-headed Gull Yellowhammer and a Tawny Owl found after 3 years. Also there were Barn Owls found 3 and 4 years after being ringed as chicks and one which moved to Leicestershire after a year and two others which moved to Yorkshire and Lincolnshire after 3 years. A young Blackcap ringed at HPP was found the following year, also in Lincolnshire.

As Kev has noted, we have had some strange recoveries before (such as birds that have been caught in lobster pots) but the Robin ringed by Mick P in Arnold is the first we've had to be run over by a lawnmower!

It's not often we ring Moorhens, let alone get them recovered, so a bird ringed at Attenborough in 1997 and recovered in Rufford this year, is impressive. Only the leg bone and ring were found so it's not clear how long the bird had survived, though an interesting extra detail is that it trns out the recovery was submitted by my wife's second cousin!

However, all these are eclipsed by a Chaffinch ringed as a 3M at Granby on New Year's Eve 2008 and recovered in Norway in August of this year! (See map below.) Furthermore, it was released after hitting a window, so keep your fingers crossed that it returns to Notts this year!

Tim and his celebrity ducklings....

Many of you may have spotted this in the media already, but here a a few more links to the unseasonal brood of ducklings at Attenborough which hatched on Monday 1st November and proked another media frenzy for Tim...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

More on Moorhens...

I managed to catch an adult moorhen this morning at Arnot Hill Park which completes the progression through the birds moult as adults undergo a complete post-breeding moult finishing in October/November. The underparts are then ash-grey, fringed white, especially on the belly.

The head, chin and nape are ash-grey and the mantle and back olivaceous-brown with a sheen to the feathers. The iris is deep crimson, they have a red band on the tibia and the 9th primary is broad and rounded (moorhen have 10 plus 1 vestigal primary feathers).

The most obvious difference of course is the red and yellow bill. This bird couldn't be sexed on its wing length of 176mm.
Mick P

Monday, 1 November 2010

Holme Pierrepont, Sunday 31 October

We caught 54 birds in total, including 31 retraps. Other than 3 Redwings and 5 Blackbirds most of the birds caught were tits. Highlight of the morning was when Chris came over from his haunts on the main lake having caught a Jack Snipe, which Duncan was lucky enough to ring.
Also around were 4 Brambling, the odd Siskin and Redpoll, 2 Jays, 2 Sparrowhawks, loads of Redwing and a Green Woodpecker.
Gary & Kev

Friday, 29 October 2010


I have managed to study 3 Moorhens over the past few months. The first one back in July was a young juvenile whose flight feathers were only about half grown (unfortunately no pictures). The next two were netted at Arnot Hill Park in Arnold with the help of Chris one of the park rangers. Both were hatched this year (age code of 3). Hopefully the photos show the development and progression through the partial post juvenile moult of the body feathers ('Moult in Birds' by Ginn & Melville).

The first bird, FS03241, was caught in September and is showing a mixture of white and brown/grey feathers on the belly and breast, off white under the chin, upperparts olivaceous brown with little sheen and a greyish- brown iris.

The second bird, FS03242, was caught in October and has less white on the underparts, though still marked, and the upperparts show a mixture of juvenile brown and adult type ash- grey feathers especially on the head and nape. The iris is pretty red, by January it should be crimson. This bird has a wing length of 185mm which indicates it may be a male.

The 9th primary feather was narrow and pointed on both birds. ('Identification Guide to European Non-Passerines' by Baker) Neither bird had the red band on the legs or the red and yellow bill as seen on adults.

This is part of the on going study of the birds of Arnot Hill Park and our thanks go to Chris and Michael, the park rangers, and to Gedling Borough Council for their support.

Mick P