Sunday, 30 June 2013


I've not posted much on this subject this year, because there isn't much to post. As we're hearing in so many places, the season is turning out to be a bit of a shocker. I haven't ringed any Tawny Owl chicks in 2013 and I have only found one pair of Barn Owls incubating so far and I've checked more than half my boxes, including most of my 'bankers'.

My Kestrels seem to be doing a little better and I should have a few broods to ring in the next few days. It will be interesting to see if there are any signs of what they've been eating. 

And I've doubled my Little Owl average - with two broods ringed. But best of all, I caught the mother in the second box and she was ringed. It turned out she'd been one of the chicks Ian & I had ringed in a nearby box in 2012. I wonder if being raised in a nest box encourages you to breed in one?


Attenborough Terns

Duncan and I visited Attenborough NR on Thursday morning to check out the Common Tern platforms and ring any chicks that were ready. Things started well on the Conneries platform with 11 chicks ringed, no chicks flying and 19 eggs still being incubated and no dead chicks. On to the Main Pond platform, 10 chicks ringed, no chicks flying and 9 eggs still being incubated but there were 5 dead chicks. On the 3rd platform on the Beeston Pond we ringed 5 chicks, no chicks were flying, 8 eggs were still being incubated and there were 3 dead chicks. A lot better year than 2012.

We plan a return visit in about 2 weeks when the remaining 36 eggs should have hatched. Many thanks to Graham Bowden of the Notts Wildlife Trust for his skilled boat driving and his assistant Chloe who I
think enjoyed the trip judging by the smile on her face.


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

More nesting pics

A selection of Ian's photos from this rather disappointing season.

 Blackbird nest
 Nestling Blue Tit
 Reed Bunting nest
Nestling Swallow
Nestling Tree Sparrow

Sunday, 23 June 2013

SNRG - The Movie!

The following short film was made for the Attenborough Nature Centre to give a flavour of the ringing carried out on the reserve. It was made by Fearon Cassidy and Crow Crag Productions and was funded by the University of Nottingham Enrichment Fund.

Attenborough CES Visit 5, Saturday 22 June

Gary, Duncan, Pete S and I made the 5th CES visit on the last day of the period 5 visit window - but only just. The forecast was poor so I was somewhat surprised we made it to the site rather than calling it off because it was raining. We erected the nets in a brisk wind with ominous skies above, it took a while as the vegetation had grown fast since our last visit and clearing that along with searching in vain for two poles ate into the time. It seems that even a private and gated site with a moat is still not a safe enough place to leave our poles!

Not surprisingly the rain started as we were finishing putting up the last net but it only lasted a short time, whisked on by the brisk wind. After that, other than the odd bit of drizzle, we remained dry until we went to take down at the end of the session. Then the heavens opened and we got soaked and had to put away 10 very soggy nets - they are still drying now!

The catch was poor but I think the weather conditions on the day were only partly to blame. We ended on 20 birds including 6 retraps. The 'missing' birds were juvs, of the passerines caught only 44% were juvs, at this time of year I would normally expect the ratio of juvs to adults to be much higher. The best birds were a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Reed Warbler ringed originally in 2007.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Clifton Grove Little Owls

Rob Hoare is a dedicated patch-watcher and excellent wildlife photographer. Since the mid 1990s he has been closely monitoring the birds in the Clifton Grove area of the Trent Valley.

Recently Rob has erected some nest boxes to help the local Little Owls as many of the mature trees in the area have fallen and natural nest sites are now rather scarce.

This spring he was pleased to find an adult bird on small young and kindly invited me to ring the chicks this weekend.

It'll be interesting to see how the boxes (and indeed the owls) perform over the coming years, hopefully we can understand them better and get an idea of breeding success and survival rates.


 Photographs courtesy of Rob Hoare and Jan Hennig

Wales, Sunday 16 June

Gary, Mick P, Duncan and I made the trip to Wales on Sunday to ring the Pied Flycatcher chicks. I was not sure what we would find because of the late spring. Mick P had got some information from Tony Cross who rings locally and based on that I made the decision to go about a week later than usual.

Thankfully the timing was just about right with just a couple of fledged nests and about 4 not hatched or not big enough to ring. There were many boxes not occupied (not even by tits!) but we ended with 150 Pied Flycatchers comprising 138 pulli, 4 new adults and 4 adults with rings (3 of them controls). The only other species we ringed was a brood of 6 Redstart, although there were 2 more Redstart nests still incubating. We heard a couple of brief bursts of song from a solitary Wood Warbler but we could not locate it later on and disappointingly for the second year running there were no Buzzards nesting.


 All photos by Gary Goddard

Recent Recoveries

A first year Waxwing ringed in Tyne and Wear in November 2012 was recaptured in Clifton in February 2013 having traveled 239km. Another young Waxwing ringed in Newtown, Powys in December 2012 joined the Clifton party and was also recaptured in February 2013 having travelled 151km.

A young Woodcock ringed at Holme Pierrepont in December 2012 was shot dead in the Vsevolozhsk district of Leningrad in April 2013 having travelled 2083km.

A Tawny Owl chick ringed in Wysall in May 2012 was found at Rushcliffe Country Park in January 2013 in poor condition but was re-released in a healthier state the following month.

A Barn Owl chick ringed in Muston, Leicester in July 2012 was found dead at Scrooby, Bircotes, Nottinghamshire in April 2013 having moved 57km.

A Reed Bunting which was ringed at Bestwood in December 2012 was controlled at Palterton, Derbyshire in March 2013 having moved 21km.

A young Lesser Redpoll ringed at Bestwood in November 2011 was controlled at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire in May 2013 having traveled 152km.


Monday, 10 June 2013

Holme Pierrepont, Sunday 9 June

An overcast sky with a slight breeze awaited Duncan, Tom, Alex, Gary, Nabegh and I at Holme Pierrepont yesterday. It was good to see Nabegh safe and well, I'm sure most of the group have been concerned about him whilst he was in Syria.

It took a while to erect the nets as some of the rides had grown over despite our clearance efforts in the spring. Water levels were still high so the end nets of the runs into the reeds could not be erected unfortunately and the 'campers' and all their associated trash were still around.

However a good catch was made including juvs of resident species and warblers. We ended on 75 of which 63 were new. All the usual warbler species were caught except Chiffchaff. Unusually no returning Reed Warblers were caught; they were mostly new birds. The only two we did catch wearing rings were a British control and a French control. Other interesting retraps were a Cetti's from 2012 and a Green Woodpecker from 2009. We decided not leave any poles on site because of the campers.


All photos by Gary Goddard. The caterpillar is that of 'The Drinker' moth.

The Tawny Owl season

Here are the scores from the East Midlands Tawnovision jury, based on our first visits to 173 nest boxes:


Tawny Owl 14 (17%)
Jackdaw 25 (30.5%)
Stock Dove 14 (17%)
Great Tit 1 (1.5%)
Grey Squirrel 16 (19.5%)
Empty 12 (14.5%)

= Total 82

Tawny Owl breakdown: 1x 4 pulli, 1x 3 pulli, 1x 2 pulli, 2x 1 pull+1 egg, 3x 2 eggs, 2x 1egg, 2x addled/abandoned egg, 1x adult sat tight and 1x roosting/late nesting bird


Tawny Owl 19 (40%)
Jackdaw 2 (4%)
Stock Dove 7 (14.5%)
Grey Squirrel 10 (21%)
Empty 10 (21%)

= Total 48

Tawny Owl breakdown: 1x 3 pulli, 6x 2 pulli, 1x 4 eggs, 4x 3 eggs, 7x 2 eggs


Tawny Owl 11 (26%)
Jackdaw 7 (16%)
Stock Dove 9 (21%)
Grey Squirrel 15 (35%)
Empty 1 (2%)

= Total 43

Tawny Owl breakdown: 1x 3 pulli, 1x 2 pulli, 6x 1 pulli, 1x 2 eggs, 2x addled/abandoned egg

  • only one Short-tailed Field Vole was found cached
  • carrion found included the head of adult Carrion Crow and hind leg of adult hare
  • no cached juvenile birds (other than remains of corvids and stock dove) 
  • late breeding of resident birds (inc Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird) means no 1Js for the Tawny Owls to hunt
  • total failure on high ground in Lincs Wolds
  • seemed to fare worst in mature deciduous woodland
  • mature 3yr+ adults breeding in boxes hardly used, perhaps implying they've moved out of home territories in search of food over winter and tried to breed elsewhere?
  • in east Lincs it's the worst breeding season since the late 1980s
  • of all the other boxes checked by SNRG, only 2 were occupied by Tawny Owls 
Jim Lennon and Adrian Blackburn


Living in the southwest of the county, the largely arable triangle of countryside south of Newark (bordered by the A46, A1 & A52) had been largely unexplored territory until I joined Jim and Pete S to check a just few of the hundreds of Barn and Tawny Owl nest boxes that Jim monitors across Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

Any Barn Owl chicks would not yet be large enough yet to ring, so our focus was the Tawny Owls which start their breeding season much earlier.

The day started pretty well, finding a female brooding two chicks in just the third box we checked. We also found a pair of Barn Owls in one of the boxes we were passing, but since they can abandon their nest if disturbed early in the nesting season, we left them alone.

Unfortunately it was another 4 hours until we found another box occupied by Tawny Owls and with only one chick this proved to be the last of the day.

Both the females were recaptures, one ringed in the same box last year, and the other had also being in the same box in Flintham, but not trapped since 2006!

However not all the other boxes were empty. Among the 21 boxes we visited during the day, we found the white eggs of Stock Doves, the beautiful light blue and brown speckled eggs of the Jackdaw and a few too many kittens of the non-native Grey Squirrel!

Twenty-one boxes is too small a sample to be drawing meaningful conclusions about the season and possible causes, but the cold weather this spring and the wet last summer are both potential candidates. It will be interesting how the national picture looks at the end of the season when meaningful conclusions should be possible.


Saturday, 8 June 2013

Bungalow Swallows

I do consider myself lucky to live on a street which sees good numbers of Swallows each summer, zipping over my pond and waking me with their calls each morning. These birds presented me with perhaps my easiest nest-find of the season, but considering that their nest, eggs and young are so beautiful and interesting I pounced on the opportunity to learn more about this charismatic species.

As I watched, the adult birds flew straight up the drive and into the tunnel-like entry by the front door of my neighbour's bungalow, amazed at the 'emergency stop' they must perform on every visit to reach their neat nest which they had plastered into the top corner of the passageway.

Below are some photos documenting their progress. Perhaps I might recapture them swooping over my pond for food in the later months of the season?



Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Attenborough CES Visit 4, Sunday 2 June

Gary, Duncan, David, Tom and I carried out the 4th CES visit on Sunday. A fine morning, if a little breezy later on, but unfortunately a poor catch was made. There seemed very few birds moving around resulting in a catch of just 20, including 8 retraps. Main highlights were the season's first juvenile birds: singles of Robin, Dunnock and Long-tailed tit. We also caught a control Garden Warbler and the first Jay the group has caught at the site. Hopefully by the time we do visit 5 there will be a few more juvs about.


Attenborough CES Visit 2, Sunday 19 May

Like Jim, the late season has affected my posting too it seems... On the second CES session we caught 28 birds in total of which 21 were new and 7 re-traps. Breakdown as follows (new/retrap): Blackbird 2/0, Robin 1/0, Dunnock 0/3, Wren 2/1, Reed Warbler 0/1, Blackcap 2/0, Garden Warbler 1/0, Chiffchaff 3/0, Great Tit 4/0, Long-tailed Tit 3/0, Treecreeper 3/0, Bullfinch 0/1,  Reed Bunting 0/1.


Granby, Monday 6 May

As everything's behind this year, this posting should fit the trend...

I went to Granby, with Chris Sharp, for the latest ever netting visit at the feeders in the hope of catching some old retraps. This was partly successful with two Chaffinches from 2010 and a 2008 Yellowhammer. Most birds were in breeding condition. It was also nice to handle a few warblers with Whitethroat being a new species for the site

Totals were 20/15 (new/retraps): Willow Warbler 3/0, Whitethroat 3/0, Blackcap 1/0, Dunnock 1/1, Long-tailed Tit 0/1, Robin 0/1, Tree Sparrow 1/0, Chaffinch 3/6, Yellowhammer 7/5, Reed Bunting 1/1.


Monday, 3 June 2013

Unusual Blue Tit nest

Christine sent this picture home from work. The Blue Tit has at least 6 small chicks but was not spotted until last Friday, so during nest-building, laying and incubating the bin was in constant use. How the adult has not been burnt or the nest ignited no-one knows. There is now a notice on the bin asking people not to use it and an alternative has been supplied. Christine asked if I wanted to ring them but I don't think there is any need as any fledgling will be easily identifiable by the coughing and wheezing.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Reed Warblers

This morning myself and Tom met at Holme Pierrepont and put on our waders to check the reed beds for Reed Warbler nests.

Considering I promised myself I was really going to "go for it" this year, I was a little surprised that we located just five Reed Warbler nests.

As with many species this year, the birds are much later than previous years, (considering I was ringing large chicks with Pete on 15 June in 2012) the nests we discovered today were either ready for laying or contained just one single egg. Only one nest had a full clutch of four warm eggs.

To add to the challenge, the water level had risen somewhat and often came over the top of my waders, we also noted that there was very little new growth in the reed bed (perhaps stunted by the cold spring?), which could account for the low number of nests.

The day did bring us a bubbling female Cuckoo and later a calling male Cuckoo as well as Common Tern, Cinnabar Moths, hundreds of low flying Swifts and various Coot and Swan nests, so all in all lots of fun.

We hope to do another round in a few weeks and see if the Reed Warblers have picked up.