Friday 31 July 2015

Farewell Chris

In a few days, Chris Southall is off to live on Arran where his brother also lives. Chris has been a member of the group for a very long time and is responsible for many interesting captures and some very good recoveries. Chris is an excellent nest-finder and has also notched up some impressive totals in his back garden (look at the number of Waxwings he managed a few years ago...) but perhaps the habitat that most of us will know him from best is Holme Pierrepont. Chris has targeted waterbirds there for many years now and in recent years he has had particular success with Lapwing, Common and Jack Snipe and Woodcock. His patience and perseverance was also paid off here

Best of luck Chris! No doubt the birds of Arran will be queuing up for jewellery.

Monday 27 July 2015

Holme Pierrepont, Saturday 25 July

A big event at the water sports centre today and the Triathlon on Sunday (which will involve Sunday road closures etc.) made us decide on a first visit of the season to the Blott’s (A52) end of Holme Pierrepont today.

Gary, Tom, Alex, Duncan and I cleared the rides, made a couple of new ones and set nets in sunny and breezy conditions. Surprisingly, despite the conditions, we were rewarded with a decent catch of 59 birds made up of all new birds apart from a retrap Bullfinch from 2012.

The species totals were Woodpigeon 1, Dunnock 3, Wren 2, Robin 6, Blackcap 5, Garden Warbler 1, Whitethroat 3, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Reed Warbler 8, Chiffchaff 6, Willow Warbler 10, Blue Tit 2, Great Tit 4, Goldfinch 2, Bullfinch 2, Greenfinch 1, Reed Bunting 1.

Chris popped in to Holme Pierrepont to hand back his rings and say goodbye prior to his imminent move to Arran. Chris will be missed, he has been a long standing, very knowledgeable and popular member of the group, our best wishes go with him. Hopefully he will pop back from time to time to see us, or at least to get away from the midges!


 Greenfinch and young Wood Pigeon (A. Phillips)

Ramsdale Park Golf Centre, Thursday 23 July

Mick P, Gary, Duncan and I carried out a morning session at the Golf Centre today. We set 8 x 18m nets in a line this time in the small area of scrub and another 2 nets away from the scrub. Conditions this time were less favourable with clear skies to start and an increasing breeze but we still managed a catch of 51 birds, 35 of which were warblers again.

The full totals were (new birds): Blackbird 3, Robin 6, Wren 2, Whitethroat 5, Blackcap 11, Garden Warbler 1, Willow Warbler 3, Chiffchaff 14, Blue Tit 1, Linnet 3, Bullfinch 1, and 1 retrap Blackcap from the first visit. Interestingly the 20 Chiffchaffs from the first visit all seemed to have moved on.

Surprising how this small area of scrub, surrounded by the manicured lawns of the golf course, has produced so many warblers (so far much better than our traditional warbler site at Holme Pierrepont) including 34 Chiffchaffs!

Siskins were around again and a Buzzard and Green Woodpecker.


Ramsdale Park Golf Centre, Tuesday 14 July

Late last winter I was contacted by the general manager of the Ramsdale Park Golf Centre in Calverton. Mick P and I went to see him and he was interested in us doing some ringing there and possibly erecting nest boxes. We said we would do a survey visit in the spring but unfortunately we did not get round to it then, so Mick and I went to do an evening ringing session to see what was about.

Not expecting much we set 5 x 18m nets in a line in a small area of scrub and another 3 nets away from the scrub. Conditions were perfect with zero wind and overcast skies. We were surprised by the catch, almost all of them from the scrub area and we finished on 49 birds, 35 of which were warblers, 20 of them Chiffchaffs.

The full totals were (all new): Blackbird 5, Robin 2, Dunnock 1, Wren 2, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Whitethroat 1, Blackcap 6, Garden Warbler 2, Willow Warbler 4, Chiffchaff 20, Blue Tit 2, Goldfinch 1, Linnet 1.

Not surprisingly we are going to give it another go next week but plan to do a morning session. Towards the end of the session we heard a Grasshopper Warbler singing and there were a decent number of Siskins calling.


Sunday 19 July 2015

Recent recoveries

Just the one barn owl has been picked up in the last couple of months, a bird ringed in June 2014 as a chick in Elton, which was found dead in May this year, near Stolon Solar Farm in Northamptonshire.

A Kestrel ringed as a chick at Scarrington Hall last June was found without its head 70km away in Lincolnshire this June.

A Little Owl ringed in June 2012 in Calverton was found dead in nearby Blidworth in June this year.

Passerines have been well represented:

A Blackbird ringed in Helgoland, Germany in March 2014 was controlled in February at Brackenhurst (see here).

A Starling managed 9 days with a ring on before hitting a window in Hucknall, close to where it was initially ringed.

A Reed Warbler ringed at Holme Pierrepont in July last year hot-footed it to France where it was controlled at Charente-maritime 23 days later.

There have been two decent Common Tern recoveries: a bird ringed at Attenborough as a youngster in June 2014 was controlled in Huelva, Spain only 40 days later... clearly wanted out of the UK! Another Common Tern, ringed as a chick in July 1999 at Attenborough, had its ring read in the field at the same site, very nearly 16 years later in June this year. This bird still has 17 years to go to beat the longevity record, but it shows how faithful birds are to the site they were raised. It would have clocked up a good few thousand miles going from Attenborough to West Africa and back every year for 16 years.

Away from the group's area. a female Pied Flycatcher, caught on this year's nest box expedition on 7 June, had been ringed a day shy of a year previously on 8 June 2014 not too far away in Shropshire.


Holme Pierrepont, Saturday 11 July

We held another session at the Grange end of Holme Pierrepont today. Duncan, Gary, Sue and I set all the usual nets under a clear sky with a light breeze blowing. The site and particularly the reed beds sounded quiet again. It was 0900 before we caught the first Reed Warbler, otherwise catching was steady but the breeze increased during the session and the sun got hotter. It was nice to have the first juvenile Cetti’s of the year.

We ended on 65 (54 new/11 retrap) made up of: Blackbird 2/2, Dunnock 1/0, Wren 3/0, Robin 2/0, Blackcap 15/1, Garden Warbler 2/0, Cetti’s Warbler 1/0, Reed Warbler 4/2, Sedge Warbler 2/0, Chiffchaff 1/1, Long-tailed Tit 4/3, Treecreeper 2/0, Blue Tit 8/0, Great Tit 2/1, Reed Bunting 5/1. The oldest retraps were only 2 years old.

To compare with the data on the last report:
65 birds caught, 28 of which were migrant warblers (43%) and 75% of the warbler catch were juvs, mostly Blackcaps.

Again in this modest catch for this time of year the number of warblers is well down on previous years but the percentage of warblers that were juvs improved over the last catch. Notice the continuing lack of Reed Warblers, making up just 9% of the catch today.

Other birds around were Curlew, Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and a calling Cuckoo.

The vegetation away from the reed beds has gone wild this year. During the last session Duncan and I cleared the ride behind the base for the 12m net and we set it today. The vegetation there is just under 3m high this year.


Thursday 9 July 2015

Holme Pierrepont, Wednesday 8 July

Owing to a big event being held at the Water Sports Centre last weekend we went for a midweek session at Holme Pierrepont this week. Duncan, Gary and I set all but one of the usual nets under a grey sky with a light breeze blowing. The site and particularly the reed beds sounded quiet. Catching was steady but not spectacular and the breeze increased during the session but we ended on 56 (45 new/11 retrap) made up of: Blackbird 1/1, Dunnock 1/1, Wren 3/0, Robin 5/0, Blackcap 8/1, Garden Warbler 5/1, Whitethroat 2/1, Reed Warbler 4/2, Sedge Warbler 2/0, Chiffchaff 1/0, Willow Warbler 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 1/1, Blue Tit 5/2, Great Tit 3/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Reed Bunting 2/0. The oldest retraps was a Blackbird from 2009, which we had not seen again until today.

We were pondering on what was missing and having had a quick look at the last two years catches at this time of year and one from further back I came up with the following:

Today 56 birds, 28 of which were warblers (50%) and 57% of the warbler catch were juvs.
2014 94 birds, 61 of which were warblers (65%) and 75% of the warbler catch were juvs.
2013 88 birds, 53 of which were warblers (60%) and 66% of the warbler catch were juvs.
2009 140 birds, 101 of which were warblers (72%) and 80% of the warbler catch were juvs.

So not only did we catch less than other years but the number of warblers is well down on previous years and the percentage of warblers that were juvs was also down. Particularly noticeable was the lack of Reed Warblers, at this time of year they would normally make up 30-60% of the total catch but today it was just 10%.

Other birds around were Oystercatcher, Buzzard, Green Woodpecker, Cetti’s Warbler and a calling Cuckoo.



I have found this year pretty poor for nest recording. Not only have I struggled to find many nests most of the ones I have found have failed at some point. Therefore I was particularly pleased that this Sparrowhawk nest was successful (well almost!).

The nest was found on 27/05/2015 and contained 5 warm eggs, these were still there on the 09/06/2015.

I hoped I could plan my next visit right and there would be chicks which were big enough to ring. This is particularly important with sparrowhawks due to the different ring sizes for the sexes, it also prevents too many visits, minimising any disturbance.

A visit on the 26/06/2015 resulted in 4 chicks and an addled egg. The age of the chicks allowed them to be sexed and the appropriate ring fitted. All the chicks were equally developed with yellowish legs, approx. 10 mm of primary feather, a few mm of tail feather showing and a few contour feathers just becoming visible. There were 2 males weighing 110 and 125 grams and 2 females weighing 165 and 170 grams. The average weights for adult sparrowhawks are 150 grams for males and 260 grams for females.

Further discrete visits from a distance on 04/07/15 and 08/07/2015 showed all the chicks looking well and standing on the nest. I apologise for the poor “digiscope” photo taken on the 08/07, it was the best view I could get.

I may carry out one more discreet visit in a few days before submitting the nest record which will make a valuable contribution to the 60 or so submitted to the BTO each year.

Mick P