Friday 30 December 2011

Granby Longevity Records

The Granby cutting from the bridge. (PML)

The recent capture of an elderly female Yellowhammer got me wondering about what other old birds we have had at the Granby feeding station. The table shows the top ten species longevity records for the site and gives the national records for comparison.

They are pretty much as you might expect in that the oldest birds come from the biggest samples. For example 990 Yellowhammers have been ringed there over last 12 years, so it's perhaps not so surprising that a nigh on nine year old bird has been retrapped. The older Robin retraps are mostly males and, given their territoriality, they are perhaps more likely to be recaught in the spring as they are frequently retrapped. Whereas the Blackbird was only retrapped the once. Disappointingly we’ve had no sight or sound of Willow Tits this winter, but this three year old bird was trapped 14 times over three years. Of the 399 adult Tree Sparrows ringed, only four have been trapped in the following winter and P575873 is the only one caught beyond that. Also, none of the 91 Tree Sparrow pullus ringed in the vicinity have been caught at the feeders.


Granby, Tuesday 27 December

 Robin, age 3 (PML)

Duncan, Ian, Pete and I made the sixth visit to Granby on Tuesday. Weather was breezy from the SSW and overcast for the whole session. The feeders were sheltered from this, but the track nets caught less as a result (only 3 birds after last week's 20 plus!)

The full catch was 55 birds (27 new / 28 retrap).Highlights were the first Reed Bunting of the season and the biggest Blue Tit catch so far. One young male Blackbird was intriguing as it had replaced three inner secondaries on both wings. All the retraps were all from this and last winter with the exception of two Great Tits, one 4 and the other 5 years old.

A good illustration of how similar adult and young Great Tits can look. The bird on the left is a youngster and yet it shows hardly any green on the primary coverts. However, when compared with the primary coverts of the adult on the right you can see the inferior quality of the feathers and, most notably, the rather scruffy, pointed tips. (PML)

Full catch numbers were (new/retrap): Dunnock 2/2, Robin 1/0, Blackbird 4/0, Long-tailed Tit 0/1, Blue Tit 4/8, Great Tit 3/10, Chaffinch 5/4, Tree Sparrow 2/0, Yellowhammer 3/0, Reed Bunting 1/0.


 Without doubt the best weapon against the Granby Fridge Experience is sloe gin made with Granby sloes. Seasonal ringing at its finest. (PML)

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Rushcliffe Country Park, Saturday 24 December

Ruth, Duncan, Gary and I spent Christmas Eve morning at Rushcliffe Country Park. The morning started well but soon slowed down and we ended with 44 birds, 23 of them new. As at Granby we seem to have the local Great Tit population marked with all 8 birds caught being retraps, one of them from 4 years ago and no subsequent captures until today. The full capture list was (new/retrap): Chaffinch 10/3, Blue Tit 3/5, Goldfinch 4/0, Reed Bunting 2/2, Yellowhammer 2/2, Dunnock 1/0, Robin 1/1, Great Tit 0/8.

Friday 23 December 2011

Granby, Wednesday 21 December


Duncan, Libby, Pete and I made the fifth visit to Granby on Wednesday. Weather was calm, damp and overcast for the whole session.

More variety this time with 13 species caught. The full catch was 28 new birds with 30 retraps. Though the catch at the feeders was poor compared to recent weeks as the majority of the the catch came from the additional nets we put up along the railway track bed. This may be down to the milder weather, but there was a big drop in the number of Chaffinches about and only one was caught & ringed this time (also noted in the Retford area). The extra nets produced our best ever catch of Long-tailed Tits with a flock of 18 birds processed. Six of the Lotti's had been ringed last winter, including five in the same catch in November 2011. So, they seem to have fared quite well in the harsh cold last winter. Also of note was four first winter Bullfinches in the track nets. That's now six so far this winter compared to to 14 ringed over the last 10 years at Granby.

Note the male's 4 and the female's 5 retained juvenile greater coverts.

We seem to have the entire local population of Great Tits marked as none were ringed on the day for a change. Full catch numbers were (new/retrap): Wren -/1, Dunnock 1/2, Robin 2/2, Blackbird 2/-, Goldcrest 1/1, Long-tailed Tit 12/6, Blue Tit 3/5, Great Tit 0/9, Chaffinch 1/0, Goldfinch 1/-, Bullfinch 4/-, Tree Sparrow 2/-, Yellowhammer 3/-.

This young Goldfinch had retained 4 juvenile greater coverts, obvious with their buff, not yellow, tips.

One of the best sightings of the day was a particularly bold weasel which came very close to us, although you wouldn't think so judging by the terrible pictures...

There wasn't much else around to see, though a few flocks of Fieldfares and the odd Redwing were still stripping the last few hawthorn berries.


Thursday 22 December 2011

Starting young

The youngest member of the Shiants Auk Ringing Group gets a ringing tick.

Recent Recoveries

The most recent batch of reports from the BTO comprised 10 recoveries and 1 control.
As usual, the bulk were made up of owl recoveries, with 5 Barn Owl and 1 Little Owl. Not suprisingly 5 of the recoveries were dead birds, 4 of which were ringed as chicks and failed to make it beyond their first 6 months; life really is quite tough for these birds.

Probably the most interesting was a Barn Owl ringed at Upper Broughton in July 2011 which travelled 82km in 2 months where it flew into power lines and died in South Yorkshire, illustrating just how far young birds can disperse after fledging.

Happily one Barn Owl ringed at Barton-in-Fabis in 2008 was still doing well at Elton this summer.

Other birds included a Tree Sparrow ringed as a chick at Attenborough in June found dead in a nestbox a month later and a juvenile Sedge Warbler ringed at Bestwood in August trapped in Grantham during the same month and putting on a bit of weight ready for migration.

Speaking of migration, a juvenile Blackcap ringed at Holme Pierrepont this September turned up at East Bedfont in Greater London having travelled 174km in just 7 days whilst gaining weight also, this bird really was heading somewhere!

The control was a Reed Warbler ringed as a juvenile at Marston Sewage Works in Grantham back in July 2010 which we picked up on 3 July 2011 at Holme Pierrepont, again strongly suggesting that birds return to the general area where they were born / were present at previously.

This is the kind of stuff that makes ringing really interesting.


Granby, Sunday 18 December

Duncan, Ian and I made the fourth visit to Granby on Saturday. Weather was frosty with sleet & drizzle early on, but fairly calm.

For a change , the majority of the catch was tits. The full catch was 17 new birds with 26 retrapped; down on previous visits. A big drop in the number of Chaffinches trapped accounts for this. Twelve of the thirteen Great Tits were already ringed. The poor showing for the Dunnocks continued with just one retrap. All the retraps were recent bar Great Tits from 2008 & 2009.

Full catch numbers were (new/retrap): Dunnock -/1, Robin -/4, Blue Tit 3/6, Great Tit 1/13, Treecreeper -/1, Chaffinch 7/2, Tree Sparrow 1/-, Yellowhammer 5/-


Tuesday 20 December 2011

Attenborough, Tuesday 20 December

Tim, Ruth and I set a couple of nets behind the Attenborough Visitor Centre this morning for a couple of hours aiming to catch some Tree Sparrows. We had better netting conditions than when we tried a couple of weeks ago but still only caught 13 birds, six of which were retraps and only 3 of which were Tree Sparrows. However, it has become the norm to catch something a little different at this site and today was no exception. We had a retrap Great Spotted Woodpecker, a control Tree Sparrow and a Sparrowhawk. Ruth ringed the Sparrowhawk, which was apparently her second and exactly two more than Ian has managed to do. Ruth sent a text to Ian to let him know and received an immediate response, unfortunately it would not be appropriate to repeat it here.

Monday 19 December 2011

A little bit of SNRG history

Many of you will know that the ringing group was started in 1971 by Humphrey Dobinson who started the Fairham School Ornithological Society (the Bird Club). Humphrey spent much of his free time taking pupils out on field trips and our transport was usually his Bedford (the Beddy) minibus. Humphrey now lives in Norway and recently his son Colin arranged for the minibus to be restored, the restoration made it on to Norwegian television and can be viewed on I can't help with the translation of the commentary but to some in the group this will bring back many happy memories.

Friday 16 December 2011

2010 Ringing Report

Our ringing report for last year is now available and members should have had it sent to them already. Anyone else interested in a copy, please email me directly on pleonard at care4free dot net (expanded address to avoid detection by spam software...).

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 11 December

On Saturday the forecast indicated we were not going to get a session in on Sunday, heavy rain being forecast from early morning. So it came as no big surprise that the forecast was wrong again and a full session was completed, it only started raining when I was nearly home. Unfortunately the lack of rain was almost matched by a lack of birds as we ended with a catch of 45 birds, including 31 retraps, most of them recent. This was our lowest catch this winter and with few new birds. The best of the few older retraps being a Yellowhammer from 2006. The full breakdown of the catch was (new/retrap): Robin 0/3, Goldcrest 1/0, Blue Tit 0/4, Great Tit 0/16, Chaffinch 7/3, Goldfinch 4/0, Greenfinch 0/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Yellowhammer 1/4.

No visit is planned for next Sunday because of another event taking place at the park but weather permitting we plan to hold a session on Christmas Eve.


Sunday 11 December 2011

Granby, Saturday 10 December

Duncan, Ruth and I made the third visit to Granby on Saturday. Weather wise it was the usual winter GFE (Granby Fridge Experience), but nevertheless bright and sunny with less wind than predicted. And also enlivened by Pete & Penny dropping in.


Yet again the majority of the catch was Chaffinches & Great Tits, with birds being caught steadily through the morning 'til we packed up early at midday. The full catch was 57 - 32 new birds with 25 retrapped. Fifteen of the 16 Great Tits were already ringed, so I guess we now have the local population well marked. The Yellowhammers are starting to build up with five caught, no Dunnocks were caught again. So that's three in three visits. It does look like they got hammered by the dry weather this year.
Virtually all the retraps were from the last year or so, bar a Great Tit from 2007. Typically, for an old bird, it turned up late morning. There were plenty of thrushes roosting when we arrived and the first five Blackbirds of the winter were trapped. We also ringed the 14th ever Bullfinch at the site; all bar one have been captured before the New Year.
Full catch numbers were (new/retrap): Blackbird 5/1, Robin 0/1, Blue Tit 1/7, Great Tit 1/15, Chaffinch 16/1, Greenfinch 3/-, Bullfinch 1/-, Tree Sparrow, Yelllowhammer 4/1.

Friday 9 December 2011

Recent recoveries

The most recent batches of recoveries from the BTO are dominated by Barn Owls (21 of 27). About three quarters of these were female, which is to be expected as we mostly just catch the females in boxes in the breeding season, with the males roosting elsewhere. Usually, when we catch new breeding birds, especially females, they are first summer birds, but this year there were: 4 first summer, 3 second, 2 third, 1 fourth & 1 fifth summer females. Some of these weren't in the same box last year as there were different females in them then and they would have bred elsewhere since fledging. This is uncommon and I put it down to the bad snow and cold we had last winter, in which birds presumably moved off their winter territories and/or lost their mates, went in search of food and stayed put wherever they ended up. Of the 5 males controlled, one was 5 and the other 6 years old. The Barn Owl movements varied between 4 and 93 km, with the median distance being 15 km. Most recoveries were movements within our study area (south Notts and Vale of Belvoir), but there were also 3 from Lincs, 1 from Cambridgeshire & 5 year old male from South Yorks.

Aside from the BOs, we also had a Jackdaw pullus from Kersall that hit an overhead wire near Southwell 12 km away at one of the farms where we have boxes. A typical Kestrel recovery is one found dead in a barn in its first winter. So, no surprise when 2009 Kestrel chick from Brackenhurst was found 5 km away in a barn near Southwell in September. Of more interest was another 2009 Kestrel chick from Bunny that was caught in a Barn Owl box with chicks near Bottesford; a movement of 24 km. There are very few live recoveries of Kestrel and this adds to our knowledge on their dispersal. In addition, there were also two local recoveries of Long-tailed Tit and a Yellowhammer on the Brackenhurst Campus.


Monday 5 December 2011

Attenborough NR, Monday 5 December

Strong breeze forecast, not good for a session on the peninsula at the back of the visitor centre. Tim and I decided to give it a go for a couple of hours but the breeze was really too much and we managed only 9 birds including 2 retraps. The breakdown of the catch was (new/retrap): Woodpigeon 1/0, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1/0, Blue Tit 1/0, Great Tit 0/1, Tree Sparrow 4/1.


Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 4 December

A brisk breeze to start with that slowly increased throughout the morning appeared to affect the catch, this was the first session this winter with less than 80 birds! The session ended with a catch of 53 birds, including 29 retraps, most of them recent. The best of the few older retraps being a Great Tit from 2005, which was also caught in 2006 but has evaded the nets every year since. The full breakdown of the catch was (new/retrap): Dunnock 0/1, Redwing 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 4/1, Coal Tit 0/1, Blue Tit 2/6, Great Tit 2/14, Chaffinch 5/2, Goldfinch 3/1, Greenfinch 5/0, Bullfinch 1/0, Yellowhammer 1/2, Reed Bunting 0/1.

Interesting to see Jim's comments on the blog regarding the lack of Dunnocks at Granby. I mentioned to Gary on Sunday that we did not seem to be catching many Dunnocks at Rushcliffe, so having done a little checking - after the first four visits in 2010 we had caught 8 individuals, in 2011 it has only been 2.


Sunday 4 December 2011

Granby, Friday 2 December

Duncan, Libby and I made the second visit to Granby on Friday. The weather was initially calmer than predicted, but blew up later. It was pretty chilly with ground frost at dawn, but maybe the very mild autumn has made us soft.

Again, the catch was dominated by Chaffinchs & Great Tits, with most of the birds being caught around the middle of the day. The full catch was 39 new birds with 25 retrapped. The 31 Chaffinches (22 were male) processed is the highest ever for a single session at Granby, and is even more unusual for being in the autumn as higher Chaffinch catches have tended to be in the spring. Also, there were no Dunnocks caught on the first visit and only three on this (two were adults). To account for this, it may be that they had poor winter survival and then a poor breeding season due to the drought like conditions we've been experiencing.

Most of the retraps were from the last 12 months. The exceptions were a Blue Tit ringed as a chick nearby in 2006, and singleton Great Tits and Chaffinches trapped in 2008. Full catch numbers were (new/retrap): Wren 1/-, Dunnock 1/2, Robin 0/2, Blue Tit 3/4, Great Tit 4/13, Treecreeper -/1, Chaffinch 28/3, Greenfinch 1/-, Yelllowhammer 1/-.

There was not much else around bar Redwing, and occasional Skylark, Tree Sparrow, Bullfinch, and Reed Bunting. If the weather's okay, the next session will be Saturday 10 December.