Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Granby, Saturday 9 February

On Sunday morning Duncan, Emma and myself joined Jim for a session at Granby. The early sunshine didn't last long and soon the clouds blocked out any warmth the sun might have provided. However, as ringers this was not unwelcome as the net would be less visible and resulted in a steady session with the capture rate sustaining late into the morning. The relaxed pace gave us lots of time for training and watching the other wildlife. Particularly impressive was the flock of 400 Woodpigeons that regularly blackened the sky and sounded like thunder each time they were disturbed in some way.

We finished with 63 birds of 8 species and with the majority being recaptures. Amongst the retraps were two Blue Tits first ringed in 2010 and 2007 respectively.

Also observed was a singing skylark. Full list of observations available here.

Totals were 28/35 (new/retraps): Dunnock 0/2, Robin 3/4, Blackbird 5/2, Long-tailed Tit 0/2, Blue Tit 3/9, Great Tit 5/13, Chaffinch 2/1, Yellowhammer 10/2.


Monday, 25 February 2013

Granby, Sunday 24 February

Granby, of course, was much colder than Brack the day before and lived up to its Fridge Experience reputation. This time it was Duncan, Emma, Ruth, myself and Dave Hallam from Sheffield. Weather was around freezing, overcast, with light wind. These combined are good portents for ringing at a winter feeding station and so it more or less proved.

We processed 74 birds of 12 species, but again the Yellowhammer total of 17 birds was less than expected in these conditions and makes me wonder if they suffered in last summer's breeding season as badly as the tits and warblers. However, we had a few goodies in Green Woodpecker, Redwing, Treecreeper and Brambling to leaven the usual fare. Most notable retrap was a Yellowhammer from 2008, and we had the following from 2010: Yellowhammer, Blue Tit (2), Robin (2) and Great Tit.

Ringing totals were (new/retraps): Green Woodpecker 1/0, Redwing 1/0, Blackbird 5/2, Robin 2/5, Dunnock 0/2, Wren 1/0, Treecreeper 0/1, Blue Tit 1/7, Great Tit 6/9, Bullfinch 1/0, Brambling 1/0, Chaffinch 10/3, Yellowhammer 10/7.


Brambling, Treecreeper and Green Woodpecker (Ruth Walker)

Brackenhurst, Saturday 23 February

Gary, Mick, Duncan, Pete Stanyon and I gathered at Brack on Saturday for the first of the winter student ringing demonstrations. The weather was overcast and cold, but calmer than predicted. Ringing wise it was a little quiet, with for example only 10 Yellowhammers processed whereas would have expected two or three times that number on a frosty morning this time of year. Still, there was a steady flow of birds and all the c20 students who popped down got to see birds being ringed and help release them.

We handled 43 birds of 10 species, with the usual mix plus a single Bullfinch. The oldest retraps were a Robin & Great Tit from 2010.

Ringing totals were (new/retraps): Blackbird 0/1, Robin 0/4, Dunnock 2/2, Wren 1/0, Blue Tit 1/5, Great Tit 5/9, Tree Sparrow 1/0, Bullfinch 1/0, Chaffinch 1/0, Yellowhammer 4/6.


Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 24 February

Gary, Nick, Steve and I made another visit to RCP but were disappointed with yet another poor catch, the new feeder site has made no difference. We had a small catch of mostly retraps and just 6 new birds. We decided it was not worth spending any more time and money at the site this winter so we will not be making any more visits.


Saturday, 23 February 2013

Nest Record Scheme training courses

The BTO are now taking bookings for this year's Nest Record Scheme training courses in Cheshire, Fife, Norfolk, Northern Ireland, and Surrey. Details and booking forms are available at:
The courses are aimed at both new and established ringers/recorders wanting to improve their nest finding skills.

More Waxwings

Chris invited me to his house this morning to give him a hand catching more of the Waxwings that were feeding on the apples he has put out in his garden. Conditions were not good due to the strong wind but at one time there were over 30 birds in the garden.

We only managed to catch 2 but you can never get enough of these stunning birds, a 5M on the left and a 5F. We have not seen the red tail tips on age 3 or 5 birds before, only on adults males.

Hope to have another try at catching them before they leave any time soon now.


Barn Owl recovery

Quite an interesting Barn Owl recovery just in. The remains of a chick ringed in a Gotham box in June 2011 were found in Staffs, 51km away this January, 603 days later.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Rushcliffe Country Park, Sunday 17 February

Catches have been poor for a while at RCP, but the feeder we moved had been in position for over two weeks, so would it help increase the numbers caught? Gary, Tom, Duncan and I went to find out and soon had the answer.... unfortunately not. We had a total catch of just 19 birds, only 5 of which were un-ringed. However, it was nice to catch a control Lesser Redpoll and 2 new Coal Tits. We intend to go again next week but if there is still no improvement it is likely to be the last visit we make.


Brackenhurst, Friday 8 February

Under a red sky and with a light frost on the ground, Jim, John and I setup nets around the feeding site at Brackenhurst. The calm, overcast conditions were only broken by the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker tantalisingly close by. Waiting for the first net check we listened to a light dawn chorus and watched a few Yellowhammers and Collared Doves moving along the hedgerows. Approaching the nets for the first time our early start was rewarded with a bumper catch of over forty birds including a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Tree Sparrow and the highlight of the day, a first-winter male Brambling.

The bulk of the birds though were Yellowhammers with 24 ringed during the morning which provided an excellent opportunity to hone our skills and discuss the nuances of ageing this tricky species. Remarkably, half of the Yellowhammers were adult females and in total 71% were adults. Could this be the result of a poor breeding season last year?

We finished with 64 birds including three 2 year old Long-tailed Tits and a five year old Robin. Twenty three species were observed during the morning with the highlight being a female Sparrowhawk flashing along one of the hedges. Full list available on eBird

Ringing Totals were (new/retraps): Great Spotted Woodpecker 0/1, Blackbird 5/6, Robin 1/1, Dunnock 1/2, Long-tailed Tit 0/5, Blue Tit 0/2, Great Tit 3/6, Tree Sparrow 1/1, Chaffinch 3/1, Brambling 1/0, Yellowhammer 19/5.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Granby, Sunday 3 February

Ian, David, Emma and I finally made a visit to Granby at the third time of asking. Not sure it was third time lucky as there were not that many birds around. Probably a combination of the milder weather and stiff winds, which calmed later and it was reasonably sheltered in the cutting.

For all that, the morning was steady with 47 birds processed, which gave an opportunity to have a good look at them. Great Tit and Chaffinch made up half the catch, with Yellowhammers thin on the ground and no Tree Sparrows. It was also useful to have some known age Dunnocks to look at and a juvenile female Greenfinch that had moulted its primaries. Majority of the retraps were from last two winters (including two Great Tits that were ringed in nest box nine along the track last year), but we also trapped a three year old Dunnock and a four year old female Great Tit that was found while cleaning out nest boxes.

Totals were (new/retrap): Blackbird 3/3, Robin 2/2, Dunnock 3/4, Blue Tit 0/2, Great Tit 1/11, Greenfinch 1/0, Chaffinch 11/0, Yellowhammer 4/0.

Other sightings included 2 Ravens, 2 Cormorants and a single Buzzard overhead.

Adult Dunnock (David Hodkinson)


Chris phoned me on Friday evening and asked if I would like to join him at his house on Saturday morning and help try and catch the Waxwings that were coming to his garden. He had put apples out for them to feed on and had been told by a neighbour the birds had been visiting his garden for the last couple of days.

When I arrived at 08.00 he already had one in the net, and as more hit the net our first catch was 11 birds, 10 unringed and 1 control.

When I left we were up to 15 birds caught and had seen over 60 in the tree in the garden.


Ian's small boxes

Over the festive period Jim was kind enough to build me ten Tree Sparrow nest boxes for a site in Cropwell Butler. Whilst waiting for the snow to melt I treated them and the other morning I spent a pleasant, sunny, if not cool and windy morning putting them up.

The Grove is an estate on the outskirts of the village and has an excellent mix of grassland and native hedgerows with some mature trees and younger plantations, there is also a decent sized pond. Happily I have seen and heard Tree Sparrows here on many occasions over the years I have lived in Cropwell Butler, so let's hope they take to the boxes, and even if they don't I'm sure something else will, and as some of you know, nest records are of particular interest to me.

Sightings from the day include 2 Little Owls, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and a mixed flock of Linnet, Goldfinch and Lesser Redpoll. The pond hosted over 100 Widgeon, 30 Teal, 4 Mallard, 15 Coot, 10 Moorhen and 55 Greylag Geese. Fieldfare and Redwing were also present in good numbers.

I am very grateful to Mr and Mrs Samworth for granting me access to this beautiful estate and to Jim for the boxes. Roll on Spring, it'll be really exciting to record the progress of the nests and hopefully ring the chicks.