Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Recent recoveries

The latest batch comprises a 3 year old Barn Owl, a Blackcap ringed as a juvenile at Holme Pierrepont last summer that hit a window in Long Eaton this April, a sight record of an Egyptian Goose at Attenborough four years after it was ringed there and a Reed Bunting, ringed at RCP in January 2010 and caught in Lincolnshire 69km away in March this year.

Tim's epic ride...

A bit off topic here, but many of you will know Tim, group member and Attenborough NR resident. He's about to undertake a crazy ride for charity...

On 17 June 2011 my brother George and I will be cycling 1700km across Europe in order to raise £17,000 for SANDS (the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society). SANDS are a little known charity that is very close to our hearts and we have a very personal motivation for carrying out our challenge…

On 17 January 2010 my sister Gemma gave birth to a beautiful baby girl called Tilly-Rose at the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill. Sadly, due to complications in the last few days of pregnancy, Tilly had already passed away. This news came as a devastating shock for Gemma, her husband Rick and our entire family. Fortunately SANDS were on hand at the hospital to provide specialist care and support for my sister during this awful time, along with a private room away from all the usual joys of the maternity ward.

Every day in the UK 17 babies die, the tragic victims of stillbirth or neonatal death. This is a statistic that is showing no signs of decreasing, and behind each number is a family rocked to the foundations by the death of their baby. This is why we have focused on the number 17. We will start our ride in London at the head office of SANDS on 17 June 2011 exactly 17 months after Tilly passed away. We will cycle 1700km across Europe to Brno in the Czech Republic and have set ourselves the target of raising £17,000 for SANDS through sponsorship.

Our journey will take us from London to Dover where we will catch the ferry to Calais. From here we will follow the Europa Radweg R1 – a 3,500km cycle trail that runs from Bulogne-sur-Mer in France to St Petersburg in Russia! We will cycle through France, Belgium and Holland along the North Sea section of the trail. At The Hague the R1 takes us further inland towards Arnhem and then on to Germany. We will follow the trail as far as Lutherstadt Wittenberg, just South of Berlin. From here we will pick up the River Elbe – one of the largest rivers in Central Europe. The Elbe will take us almost 500km through the picturesque landscapes of East Germany and on to Prague in the Czech Republic. A final day resting in the Czech capital will be followed a 200km cycle to the city of Brno, and our final destination.

We would urge anybody to help support us by pledging a donation. Being a small charity, the money will go such a long way. The money we raise will help support anyone affected by the death of a baby. It will enable Sands to work in partnership with health professionals to improve the quality of care and services offered to bereaved families, and will help to promote research and changes in practice that could help to reduce the loss of babies’ lives.

For more information, to follow our progress online or to make a donation please visit


PS Yes, we'll be keeping a bird list along the way...

Holme Pierrepont, Sunday 29 May

I listened to the wind through the night and it was still blowing when I got up just after five and it continued through the morning making life pretty difficult. We put up a reduced selection of nets so that we could check them more frequently than usual, but by about 10:30 we gave up and took them down. Considering this, we did well to catch the 31 birds that we processed. Most were adult male birds, with many females still tight on eggs. However we did catch a couple of newly fledged Great Tits. Also caught were Reed, Sedge, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff and an adult male Greenfinch - the first for a little while.

Butterflies and dragonflies were virtually absent, courtesy of the weather, but a few hundred Swifts spent much of the morning hawking only just above net height and a single Hobby dashed through at one point. Perhaps the only other sighting of note was 3 Pochard on the water.


Nextbox pics

A couple of pics from Duncan from his trips out with Jim.

Greenland Wheatear

Whilst out searching for nests in Hucknall last week, and feeling pleased that I had found a Meadow Pipit with 4 eggs, a Wheatear caught my eye. Fortunately I had one of Chris`s spring traps with me and some mealworms. Within 15 minutes it couldn't resist the bait and entered the trap.

Weighing a little over 40g and with a wing of 99mm, it was an enormous bird. These figures, coupled with the characteristic late timing of the bird left me in no doubt that this was a 'Greenland' Wheatear, a large race that migrates up to Iceland and Greenland, passing through a little later than the more southerly breeders as they are waiting for their summer haunts to defrost. Another indication that she still had some serious flying to do was her fat score, which was 6!

Mick P

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Barn Owls again

It's good to be back handling Barn Owls and the early visits are always interesting as you get a chance to see more adults. Here are pics of a pair from a box near Stathern. Other things that help to sex them are the whiter tail of the males and of course the female had a whacking great brood patch. (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

The female was in moult as can be seen from the uneven primary tips in this and the next picture. Although most birds wait until breeding is over before undergoing moult, Barn Owls often start during the breeding cycle.  Thanks to Ian for the pics.

Attenborough CES, Sunday 22 May

Not a lot to report from the CES visit to ANR on Sunday. The wind got stronger as the morning went on and when we heard a large tree crash to the ground I decided it would be safer not only the birds, but also for the ringers, if we cut the session a little short. It sounded like a large fire-cracker going off, branches snapping as it hit the ground.
Blue Tit chick from a nestbox checked during the visit.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Garden visitors

Slightly off topic, but these guys have been making an appearance in my garden lately, at around minight, to feed on peanuts.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Box checking, 20 May

 Kestrel clutch
 I thought only their mother would love them, but Ian seemed very taken by these baby Jackdaws too.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Linby Linnet nest

Here are some pictures of a Linnet nest I've been monitoring. I ringed the chicks on 15 May.
Mick P

Monday, 16 May 2011

Attenborough CES, Sunday 15 May

The morning started bright with only a slight breeze and the first bird out of the nets was a Cetti's Warbler, so all seemed well. Unfortunately it did not last, the breeze strengthened, the skies clouded over and it started to rain. The rain eventually made us take the nets down early and we ended with 32 birds of which 22 were new. The usual mix of birds, the only surprise, other than the Cetti's was a Whitethroat. Thanks to Ian for the pics.
The only British passerine with 10 rather than 12 tail feathers.
Examples of baldness in birds like this Great Tit are not that uncommon and there are various possible causes including mite damage, fungal infections and nutritional deficiency.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Tawny Owl update

Looking at the incoming data so far, a few thoughts on the situation with Tawnys this year. There would seem to be quite a bit of variation across the county, with birds generally doing less well in the north perhaps due to deeper and more prolonged snow cover. Also, things have been a bit unpredictable with a few birds breeding in new locations and some dependable sites being vacant such as Flintham Woods.

Two birds of note are one retrapped that's at least 7 years old, it was ringed & filmed by BBC in 2007 at Hawton. Then a chick ringed at Hawton in 2007 was caught for second year at Long Bennington.


Barn Owl update

Over the last two days I've have been checking, with Duncan & Ian's help, some of the Barn Owl boxes to get a feel as to how they might be doing this year in south Nottinghamshire. We checked 11 boxes covering seven territories, and 6 were occupied by Barn Owls: four on completed clutches and two on small chicks. Average clutch size is 3 to 4. Based on last year, I would have expected five pairs, so overall it was quite encouraging with birds off to a quick start. Also there's apparently good survival of adults as four of the females were retraps and the other two had been ringed as pullus last year. Lastly, Duncan finally got to ring adult Barn Owl after having processed 9 of them!
 A retrap female near Cotham - she was in moult and on 4 small chicks.
Ringed as a 5 last year.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Jackdaw invasion!

A short film of a story that unfolded recently in a box Jim went to check recently...

Jackdaw invading occupied Tawny Owl box

And a picture of the star of the show. (No, not you Duncan...)

Goldfinch nest

Some pics of a Goldfinch nest I've been monitoring. Chicks were ringed on 6-5-11.
Mick P

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Osprey platform

I've been diversifying my nestbox-making into Osprey platforms! This spring I designed and made a platform to go up on one of the Notts Wildlife Trust's Trent valley reserves. The design is an amalgam of advice from Osprey ringers, research on the web at mainly north American sites and a very useful site visit with Tim Mackrill and colleagues at the Rutland Water Osprey Project. With eventual ringing etc in mind, I've offset the platform to allow safe access to the nest.

The thinking is that the Rutland birds will sooner or later start to spread out, and this is the first of what will be a string of boxes along the Trent river valley corridor in Notts & Derbyshire. The young males from there are apparently proving adept at attracting passing Scottish female Ospreys.


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Recent recoveries & controls

In the latest batch are 4 Barn Owls including a 4 year old bird and one which moved 31km into Leicestershire. A couple of fairly local Blackbirds included a 2 year old bird. A Goldfinch was tracked within the group - ringed in the Meadows and trapped 15 days later in Clifton. Two Kestrel movements were from Shelford to Tollerton after 4 years and Ashford to Hassop in Derbs over 3 years. A Derbyshire Reed Bunting found its way to Bestwood, but overshadowing that was a Barton in Fabis bird that was caught 153km away in Swindon!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Attenborough CES, Sunday 1 May

On a morning more suited to flying kites than erecting mist nets we persevered and completed the first CES visit of the year. Some ride clearance was required so the big team we had out helped make the clearing and net erection as quick as possible. The first bird into the nets as we were setting them was a control Blackcap, so not a bad start and the Cetti's singing near the nets also helped raise spirits.

As the morning went on the wind got stronger, the sun brighter and the catches smaller but we ended with 36 birds, 25 of them new birds. The full breakdown (new/retrap): Bullfinch 3/1, Blackcap 4/2, Dunnock 0/3, Wren 3/1, Garden Warbler 3/1, Long-tailed Tit 1/1, Willow Tit 1/1, Treecreeper 2/1, Chiffchaff 2/0, Great Tit 2/0, Robin 1/0, Blackbird 3/0.

The Cetti's Warbler sang all morning moving from one side of the nets to the other but unfortunately managed to navigate under or over them each time!


Sunday, 1 May 2011

Holme Pierrepont, Saturday 30 April

Glorious sunshine and not so glorious wind rather limited our catch today, although we used the time constructively to get most of the remaining poles and guys in place across the site.

Our total of 26 birds was certainly not unprecented for this time of year and in fact there is often a bit of a dip after the main wave of migrants has passed and before the first youngsters start to appear. However, what we lacked in numbers we made up for in variety with 14 apecies trapped. Break down as follows (new/retrap): Garden Warbler (0/1), Blackcap (1/0), Whitethroat (0/2), Sedge Warbler (1/1), Reed Warbler (1/4), Willow Warbler (1/1), Chiffchaff (0/2), Blue Tit (1/0), Chaffinch (0/1), Bullfinch (0/1), Song Thrush (0/3), Blackbird (1/0), Long-tailed Tit (0/1), Reed Bunting (2/1).

Also around were a pair of Gadwall looking saucy, a Cuckoo, several Common Terns and several Lesser Whitethroats. Although we only caught one, Garden Warblers seemed to be particularly noticeable and singing in many places.


More Hucknall pulli

Some more local pulli ringed today, a brood of 2 Wood Pigeons at Bestwood and a brood of 4 Dunnocks in Hucknall. The Dunnock originally had 5 eggs but 1 failed to hatch.
Mick P

Box checking technique

After a couple of awkward climbs and boxes that were tricky to see into, I decided to reach up and poke my phone through the hole to help me check the contents. The following two pictures were the result of this useful technique - not great quality, but quick, easy and cuts down disturbance when birds are incubating as in the first pic.