Thursday, 29 March 2012

Granby, Monday 26 March

Meeting Jim and Duncan at Granby in the fog, our meeting time of 6.30am was feeling distinctly early, but little did we know that our sacrifice would be well rewarded.

By 9am the early fog had burnt off and we were treated with glorious sunshine for the rest of the day and a temperature range of over 20 degrees. The brightness of the sun brought its own challenges, wreaking havoc with our attempts to decipher the age of some tricky Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings, but these proved excellent learning opportunities.

The Granby Fridge-cum-microwave Experience (DH)

Throughout the morning there had been a steady flow of birds each round making for a relaxed pace. By lunchtime though, captures had declined to a trickle, but after a few rounds attempting to delay what appeared to be inevitable the birds began to flow once again, so we kept ringing. In fact it wasn’t until 4.30 pm with stomachs rumbling and our farmer’s tans becoming burns that we decided to call it a day.

In all we processed 109 birds of which 51 were new. Full catch numbers were (new/retrap): Dunnock 0/4, Blue Tit 2/5, Great Tit 0/19, Tree Sparrow 4/0 Chaffinch 8/10, Goldfinch 1/0, Yelllowhammer 32/19, Reed Bunting 4/1.

Proving the value of consistently ringing at a single site for over 10 years to determining the survival rate and longevity of birds were 7 recaptures of birds first ringed prior to the winter of 2010/2011. These included 2 Chaffinches (2005 & 2008), 3 Blue Tits (all 2008) and Reed Bunting (2009).

The Old Lady of Granby (DH)

However, the highlight was our penultimate bird of the day, a female yellowhammer first ringed 9 years and 2 months ago and quite possibly the oldest living ringed Yellowhammer?


Monday, 26 March 2012

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 25 March

Gary, Steve, Mick P, Duncan and I made another visit to RCP yesterday and had another poor catch. We finished on only 20 birds, 7 of which were retraps. The best of the retraps was a Blue Tit from 2006. It was good to hear a couple of Chiffchaffs singing early on, one of which did find the nets later. The full capture list was (new/retrap): Chaffinch 6/0, Blue Tit 0/2, Yellowhammer 3/2, Great Tit 2/2, Blue Tit 0/1, Blackbird 1/0, Reed Bunting 0/1, Song Thrush 0/1, Lesser Redpoll 1/0, Chiffchaff 1/0.

We plan to make one more visit and then open up at Holme Pierrepont.


Saturday, 24 March 2012

Cropwell ringing with traps

Wind blowing a gale? Drizzling? Got to be at the office in half an hour? Not a problem- just set some garden traps!

Since receiving my C permit I've had the opportunity to try out some of the traps I have constructed and acquired recently. These include a drop-door, pull-string seed feeder trap, a handful of small potter traps, some medium sized spring traps and a large duck trap (from

I must say, it has been fun to find different ways of catching birds without mist-netting; not only have I got a deeper understanding of bird behaviour from watching them around the traps, but I've also developed some nifty commando-style rolls and crawling manoeuvres (a stylish method of making your way to the pull-string at the kitchen window, without spooking the birds!).

I would definitely recommend using traps in a garden environment, especially if you are a new C ringer. I've enjoyed taking my time with each bird and not having to worry about a net loading up with pesky Blue Tits or Starlings! Another great thing is, if there appears to be a bird in the trap when I come home from work I can catch it and ring it there and then, on an ad-hoc basis. It's really flexible.

My first bird was a Starling (which was also a ringing tick!) and I've managed to catch more since and examine the (sometimes) tricky aging and sexing criteria. Here are some images that might help readers of the blog see how the colour of Starling eyes and lower mandible can give an indication of sex. I was hoping to post something on here about tail shape and markings, but haven't had any really extreme examples of any age group.

 adult male Starling (MIB)

adult female Starling (MIB) (and below)

It has also been great this week to ring a female Blackbird with the beginnings of a brood patch and a few days later, find her sitting deep in my hedge, on a nest with three beautiful eggs beneath her.

It's also cool to still have the Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings coming to the garden this far into March as well, they usually only visit during the grip of winter.

male Reed Bunting (MIB)

So if you fancy making some traps, check out this book and get involved! It is really satisfying.

I also want to say thanks to everyone in the group who has helped me get this far. The learning continues...

Ian B

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Granby, Monday 19 March

David, Duncan and myself made the fourteenth visit of the winter to Granby today. There was a ground frost early on, but soon bright and sunny and the breeze quickened and moved around to the southwest later on. My farmers' tan got another blast and my face is glowing as I write. The usual species were singing, a few Fieldfares passed over together with a solitary lost Golden Plover. No Chiffchaffs though or Brimstone butterflies; the day begged for both really.

A better catch than the last though with 48 birds handled. Two-thirds of the new birds were Yellowhammers. While it was good to catch semi-decent numbers of the target species, overall the session lacked variety with only six species handled and only one ring size used! The only retrap of note was a four year old Blue Tit.

Full catch numbers were 31/17 (new/retrap): Dunnock 1/2, Blue Tit 0/2, Great Tit 5/9, Chaffinch 3/1, Yelllowhammer 18/3, Reed Bunting 4/0.


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Non-ringing Day

A productive day with 9 of us out. We spent the morning behind laptops helping everyone get their heads around IPMR and trying to work out the best way of sharing out the ominous task of historical data entry. Six of us then moved on to Holme Pierrepont to continue fighting the war against encroaching scrub. Whilst there, several Chiffchaffs sang, 3 or 4 Sand Martins came over, a Woodcock was flushed and Water Rails were heard. We left the site ready for action in a couple of weeks time.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

BTO Demog Blog

Many of you will already read this blog regularly, but this is a good excuse to remind others about it as our early Tawny Owl has had a mention:

Add it to your favourites!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 11 March

Libby, Steve, David and myself braved the constant sunshine and soaring temperatures to put in a session at RCP this morning and had a steady catch with 42 birds caught; 22 new and 20 retraps. We had to turn off the heater in the hut and were in t-shirts by the end of the morning. Birds caught were (new/retrap): Chaffinch 4/6, Great Tit 2/5, Dunnock 1/1, Reed Bunting 4/2, Yellowhammer 2/2, Goldfinch 2/0, Blue Tit 3/4, Greenfinch 3/0 and Wren 1/0.

Only other birds of note were 2 Ravens over the Park, Mick T tells us they were a first for RCP.


Ruth's new blog

With a fresh C permit in her hand and a garden slightly out of our area now, Ruth has started her own blog here:

And the link is also in the links section to the right of your screen.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

More on our early Tawny Owls

The BTO has advised us that only 10 Tawny Owl chicks have been ringed earlier than 5 March according to their computerised records which go as far back as the 1970s. However, two of those was in January!


Congratulations Ian!

Well done to Ian who has just received his C permit. Birds of Cropwell Butler beware...

More gulls

A few more late pics of NNRG's gull sessions from Jackie Lawrence.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Granby, Thursday 8 March

Visit 14 to the GFE, except it was pleasantly warm and Duncan and I were peeling off the layers while we there. This was not that long, as by 10:00 am we had only handled 12 birds and closed the nets early. It was pretty quiet, bar the usual suspects singing and a couple of small flocks of Redwing & Fieldfare.

The only bird of note was our old lady of the hedgerows (see pics below), Yellowhammer R183609, who we re-caught on the first session this winter, but was originally ringed at the site on 12 January 2003. At 9y 1m 26d she's not far off the longevity record for Yellowhammer in Britain and Ireland set in 1982 of 11y 9m 28d.

Full catch numbers were 5/7 (new/retrap): Robin 0/1, Great Tit 0/5, Chaffinch 1/0, Tree Sparrow 1/0, Yellowhammer 3/1.


Our nine year old Yellowhammer (JL)

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Very early Tawny Owl

Whilst doing winter maintenance work at Brackenhurst, Simon Taylor found a Tawny Owl sitting on four eggs at Brackenhurst on the 10th January. Its very unusual to find them breeding this early, and this far north, and often we'd still be clearing squirrel dreys out of the boxes in order to allow the TOs to breed at the more usual time of March onwards.

Anyway, went to have a look see on Monday with low expectations after the recent cold weather, which got even lower when told on site that 'pigeons' had been going in and out of the box. However, this was all knocked in to a cocked hat when I found a single FS chick in the box. Going by how clean the box was, I'd say the other eggs and or siblings had been recycled.

I checked with the BTO's Dave Leech to see how early our bird was in national terms. Dave advised, that ringing wise, on the Nest Records Scheme database, that this is the joint earliest ever recorded - two more records on 5th March in 1974 and 2003, on the 6th and two on the 10th, then the rest are from 26th March onwards (4,829 in total). However, there may be a few older ones on the Ringing DataBase, and I'm looking in to that with the BTO.


Friday, 2 March 2012

Recent recoveries

A mixed bag of recoveries this week. An Aslockton Barn Owl, ringed in July 2011 became a road casualty 12km away this January, and a Hucknall Blackbird ringed in November 2011 was taken by a cat in Leicestershire, also in January. A Goldfinch ringed in Clifton Wood in March 2008 was captured at Gibraltar Point in March 2011, and we now know that a Reed Warbler which we controlled at Holme Pierrepont in July 2011 was initially ringed in Hondarribia, Spain as a juvenile in August 2007.


New traps

Tried some of the new traps Jim ordered last week and it looks as if they work well.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Latest Shiants Recoveries

As so many of the Group have been to the Shiants in recent years, I thought you'd be interested in the latest recoveries from the Shiants Auk RG.

We had our first recovery from the hundred plus Shags we've coloured ringed in the last two years. Trouble was it were dead! However, maybe the bright red CR caught the eye of the chap walking his dog on the mainland beach 44 km away. Two Razor pulli were also washed up in Denmark & Holland, having travelled 1131 km and 881 km respectively. Scant reward for having fledged flightless and then swam with their Dad over the top of Scotland and then . . . . According to the Migration Atlas Shiants chicks tend to be found further south in their 1st winter. So a recovery almost into the Baltic, in the case of the Danish Razor, is uncommon. Finally, a 2009 ringed Storm Petrel was controlled on North Rona 141 km to the north (next stop Iceland etc) last July by the Sule Skerry RG. I was on there meself in 2009 when we controlled a Shiants bird that SARG had ringed two weeks previously (too tired to notice at the time).